Saturday, April 12, 2008

This Week in Texas Methodist History April 13

Peter Moelling Asks General Conference to Help German Methodists in Texas
April 14, 1866

As delegates to the MECS General Conference of 1866 assembled in New Orleans in April 1866, they were confronted with a series of the most daunting problems ever considered in a General Conference. The General Conference of 1862 had been cancelled because of the Civil War. The corps of Bishops was aging and unable to give vigorous leadership. African American members of the denomination were leaving to join other denominations by the tens of thousands. The denomination schools and missions had been devastated by the war. Recruitment of new ministers had all but come to a halt in the war years. Church revenues had fallen to mere fractions of pre-war giving.

As the delegates confronted these serious problems, a preacher from Texas took the floor to add one more problem to the list. He was Peter A. Moelling of Galveston. Moelling was well known to the group through his editorship of the Christliche Apologete before the war and his published travel account Reise-Skizzen in Poesie und Prosa . Gesammelt auf einer siebenmonatlichen Tour durch die Vereinigten Staaten von Nord Amerika. 1858.

Here is way the New York Times reported Moelling’s appeal:

Rev. Peter Moelling of Texas submitted a long letter. . .in reference to the German missions under the superintendence of this church. . .He said that they were poor and even wanting many of the necessaries of life, but their religious principles had not forsaken them as had their fortunes during the war. They had been appealed to by the Northern Methodist Episcopal Church . . .to go with them, promising them all the means necessary to meet their wants, and supply them with missionaries without any cost. . .it was a great temptation. . .
Two weeks later the General Conference replied to the plea for help. The reply was basically, “We’ll do all we can, but don’t expect much. We’re broke.” The General Conference did shift all the German charges to a district in the Texas Conference. Before the war both the Rio Grande Mission Conference and the Texas Conference had German districts.

The Texas Annual Conference of the MECS met in Galveston in the October following the General Conference in April. Enoch Marvin, who had been elected bishop in New Orleans the previous April, presided. The minutes of that conference show that Peter Moelling, William Harms, Edward Schneider, Carl Biel, and Gustavus Elley located. August Engel, another German Methodist preacher, was put on the supernumerary list. The following January three of these Germans joined the newly-organized Texas Conference of the MEC. I guess Moelling was right—the inducements offered by the northern church were tempting.


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