Saturday, May 31, 2008

This Week in Texas Methodist History June 1

Bud Robinson Receives the Second Blessing in a Cornfield June 2, 1890

A powerful religious movement often called the Holiness Movement engulfed Texas and much of the rest of the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.. Most of the Protestant denominations were influenced by Holiness, but since its theological underpinnings were derived from John Wesley, most of the action, especially in the early years, was played out in the Methodist denominations.

Fortunately for Texas Methodist historians, one of the leading Holiness preachers left an autobiographical record that is full of insights into the movement.

Bud Robinson’s Holiness journey began in 1886 at Alvarado with the preaching mission of Dr. W. B. Godbey. Robinson learned of the “second blessing” or sanctification and yearned to receive that blessing. He finally decided that if he would preach sanctification, he would receive it. He did so for two years. Finally on June 2, 1890, four years after hearing Dr. Godbey, Bud Robinson received the second blessing while working in a cornfield in Hill County. One can read the compelling story at

Robinson then felt the need for more education so that he could be a better preacher. He entered the preparatory department of Southwestern University in September 1891. The reader will find that described at

Although Robinson was at times affiliated with the MECS, MEC, and Salvation Army, the Church of the Nazarene became his home. He became a powerful evangelist and best selling author who continued to spread Holiness for decades. One may read a short bio at

Saturday, May 24, 2008

This Week in Texas Methodist History May 25

John M. Barcus, Jerome Haralson, Robert Shelton, R. M. Morris Begin Church Location Tour May 30, 1887

The dispossession of Native Americans, railroad construction, and occupation of western Texas by immigrants from the East occurred very rapidly. The Civil War caused the abandonment of the forts that protected farmers on the western fringe of the expanding farmers’ frontier. The expansion resumed in the 1870s. 1880-1882 was an especially important period for railroad construction. The Southern Pacific, Texas and Pacific, and Fort Worth and Denver City lines all finished important segments of their lines, and the Santa Fe connected Galveston and Belton. Settlement proceeded rapidly along those rail line, and where settlers went, so did Methodist preachers. Cities all along the rail lines mentioned above date the origin of their churches to those years.

One of the most interesting travel documents from the period is a memoir John M. Barcus wrote for the Texas Methodist Historical Quarterly (vol. 1, #4, April, 1910). In that memoir Barcus described the trip he and his presiding elder, Jerome Haralson, and two other preachers took through a portion of the Weatherford District in May and June, 1887. The purpose of that trip was to organize the settlers into churches.

The trip began at Graham on May 30 and proceeded to Seymour, and Vernon. The party crossed the Red River at Doan’s Store on the way to Mangum, the county seat of the disputed Greer County. (In 1896 the Supreme Court ruled that Greer County was not in Texas.) The party drove its wagons westward to Mobeetie where they held a preaching mission. There were more settlements to the west of Mobeetie, but the preachers turned around and retraced their route.

The two week excursion took on many aspects of a camping vacation. They crossed the Pease and Red River bottom lands where they had to cope with quicksand. They camped in the tall grass prairie without a single stick of firewood. Huge herds of pronghorns provided a diversion. They saw settlers grouped in tent cities waiting for title for their land. Barcus reported trying to cook a jackrabbit. Even hours of cooking couldn’t make it tender.

Friday, May 16, 2008

This Week in Texas Methodist History May 18

General Conference Disappoints Texans in Request for Resident Bishop, May 1874

The General Conference of the MECS met in Louisville, Kentucky in May 1874. Among the business items that affected Texas were John McLean’s proposed name change of the Trinity Conference and the creation of the German Mission Conference. The name change was not controversial and passed easily. The Trinity Conference became the North Texas Conference, a name it still bears. The creation of the German Mission Conference was mainly a response to the formation of the Southern German Conference by the MEC at its General Conference in 1872. The new mission conference included both Texas churches and those in Louisiana (New Orleans).

Texans were disappointed on another matter. They wanted a bishop.
They were not alone. Most of the other conferences west of the Mississippi River joined them in a push to elect a bishop or two who would live in the West. The majority of MECS members lived in the East. A majority of the denomination’s colleges, publishing efforts, and prominent pulpits were also in the East. It was natural, therefore, that bishops tended to be from the East.

Bishops lived wherever they wished and most wished to remain near family and previous residence. The only time most Texans ever saw a bishop was when one came to conduct annual conference.

One solution would be to expand the number of bishops and elect a western man. The General Conference did just the opposite. Bishops Andrew and Early had died since the last General Conference. The 1874 General Conference chose not even to replace them. One delegate even commented inappropriately that the two deaths were part of God’s providence in reducing the expenses of the denomination.

There were no new MECS bishops in 1874 or in 1878. That meant that the bulk of episcopal leadership fell on the five men who were elected in 1866 (Marvin, Wightman, Doggett, McTyiere, and Roberts) and John C. Keener who was elected in 1870. .

What about Texans’ wish for a resident bishop? Finally in 1886 newly elected Bishop Joseph Key moved to Waco.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

This Week in Texas Methodist History May 11

Committee on Boundaries recommends redrawing of conference boundaries in Texas May 11,, 1894

Since 1939 the task of determining annual conference boundaries has been a function of jurisdictional conference. Before that date general conference performed that task. A lion’s share of the work of the General Conference Committee on Boundaries of the MECS from 1858 to 1910 dealt with conferences in Texas. Texas was by far the largest state in the MECS. It was the one that was most transformed by population changes so it was natural that its conference boundaries would have to be adjusted periodically.

The General Conference of 1894 witnessed an unusual amount of action on Texas boundaries. Economic and demographic changes were changing the face of Texas, and the denomination needed to keep up with the times. Let’s set the stage.

Texas in 1894—Texas was moving west. The three trans-Texas rail lines (Texas Pacific, Southern Pacific, and Fort Worth and Denver) had all been completed. Those companies were disposing of their bonus lands by creating towns and selling off farms and ranches along those routes. Farmers in the sandy lands of East Texas were relocating to the more fertile western lands. The coastal plains were still sort of a backwater, avoided as unhealthy and too poorly drained for farming. There was hardly hint of the petroleum discoveries of the coastal plains that were to transform that region into an intensely urbanized/industrial region.

The North Texas and Northwest Texas Annual Conferences were the ones that benefited the most from the settlement of western Texas. Eventually (1910) the Northwest Texas Conference was to divide into two conferences, creating the Central Texas Conference from its eastern portion.

Population imbalances had grown to the point in 1894 that the East Texas and Texas Conferences both asked the General Conference to enlarge their territories at the expense of the larger conferences. The East Texas Conference request was granted.

On May 11, 1894 the Committee on Boundaries recommended the transfer of Marion, Cass, Bowie, Morris, Titus, Camp, Upshur, Wood, Rains, and the northern half of Van Zandt Counties from the North Texas to the East Texas Conference. W. L. Clifton of the North Texas Conference offered an amending trying to retain Mt. Pleasant and Pittsburg for the North Texas Conference, but his amendment failed. The committee also recommended that churches in Dallas County south of the Trinity River such as Oak Cliff be transferred from the NWT to the NT Conference and churches in Tarrant County north of the Trinity River such as Arlington. be shifted in the other direction.

The General Conference approved the committee report. The changes in conference membership took place later that year. The actions of 1894 were a stopgap measure. In 1902 continuing membership imbalances led to the merger of the East Texas and Texas Conferences.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

This Week in Texas Methodist History May 4

General Conference of MECS meets in Dallas, May 1930.

The 2008 General Conference of the UMC in Fort Worth naturally brings to mind the three other General Conferences to meet in the Metroplex. The MECS met in Dallas in 1902 and 1930. The MC met in Dallas in 1968 to unite the EUB and MC into the UMC.

Texas Methodist historians are interested in the 1930 meeting because two Texans were elevated to the episcopacy, A. Frank Smith of Houston First and Paul Kern of Travis Park San Antonio. The third bishop elected was Arthur J. Moore of Birmingham, Alabama. Smith and Moore became the most powerful bishops of the middle third of the 20th century.

The election of these two relatively young men who would each serve until retirement in 1960 was little noted by the national press. The attention of nation was riveted on one of the most dramatic episodes ever to occur in a Methodist General Conference, the tearful apology of Bishop James Cannon, Jr. The apology was a condition of a compromise designed to avoid a church trial after the Committee on the Episcopacy had voted for such a trial.

The church trial was ostensibly on the charges of participating in a “bucket shop” operation of fraudulent stock market operations during the 1920’s, but, as is often the case, there were many other currents running through this episode.

The most controversial was Cannon’s open and enthusiastic political involvement. Prohibition of alcohol was his main issue, and to promote that cause he broke with other Southern Democrats to work for the election of Herbert Hoover in the election of 1928. He also was intensively involved in Virginia state politics. After Hoover’s election, documents surfaced that implicated Cannon in a money laundering operation in which the Republican Party had supplied the Anti-Saloon League with funds for the campaign. It also appeared that some of those funds had stuck to Cannon’s fingers as they passed through. Combined with lingering stories about war profiteering on flour speculation during World War I, a public feud with fellow bishop Collins Denny, and even uglier rumors (supported by incriminating letters) about adultery with his secretary, Cannon’s detractors had plenty to work with. (Cannon married his secretary after his wife’s death.)

In spite of all his baggage, Cannon had plenty of support at General Conference His position was that he was being persecuted for his prohibitionist views. The public apology in Dallas in May was followed by an appearance before a U. S. Senate investigating committee in June. He had been summoned because it appeared that his stock market “investments” were financed with some of the money given to the Anti-Saloon League by the Republican Party. Although he came to the committee voluntarily, he refused to answer their questions. On his second day before the committee, he dropped the bombshell. He announced, “I’m leaving. You can issue a subpoena if you wish.” The Senate committee did not follow through. Cannon had won again.

That victory was short lived. In 1931 a federal grand jury indicted him for violating campaign laws. He was accused of borrowing $65,000 for the 1928 campaign and keeping $48,000 for himself. He eventually was found not guilty, but his effectiveness as a political operative and a bishop was over. His latter episcopal duties included extended voyages to foreign missions. He died in 1944.
One can read many more details in Prohibition and Politics: The Life of Bishop James Cannon, Jr. Robert A. Hohner, (1998)

**Texas footnote. Cannon lived briefly in San Antonio after his election to the episcopacy in 1918. He presided over Mexican missions and the Northwest Texas and New Mexico Conferences. He moved to Nashville in 1919.