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.


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