This Week in Texas Methodist History June 28
Most readers of this column will be aware of the 1939 union of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Methodist Episcopal Church South, and the Methodist Protestant Church that created the Methodist Church. Perhaps less well known are the efforts from the World War I era through the middle 1920s to achieve union between the northern and southern branches of Methodism.
The MEC and MECS authorized a Joint Commission on Unification. That commission met from 1916 to 1920. The Commission’s plan for unification was presented to the 1924 General Conference of the MEC meeting in Springfield, MA. The delegates voted to adopt the plan 802 to 13—evidence of overwhelming support. The ball was now in the MECS court. The next regular session of the MECS General Conference would not be until 1926. Proponents of union felt they had momentum, and at the 1922 MECS General Conference delegates had instructed their bishops to call a special session of General Conference if the MEC approved the unification plan.
The MEC General Conference vote triggered the instruction so on May 20, 1924 the MECS bishops issued a call for a special session of General Conference to convene on July 2, 1924 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Not so fast said four dissenting bishops (Candler, Denny, Darlington, and Dickey)! We don’t think that the General Conference instruction to us is constitutional. They filed a minority report objecting to the call by the majority bishops (Boaz, DuBose, Mouzon, Moore, Ainsworth, Cannon, Beauchamp, Hay and McMurry). At the time there was no Judicial Council that could answer the constitutional question. Ironically, the unification plan did include the creation of a Judicial Council. After tense debate the plan was approved 298 to 74, a comfortable majority, but far less robust that the MEC approval two months earlier.
The bishops were instructed to take the plan of union to the annual conferences during the calendar year 1925. The special session, having completed its business in three days, adjourned. It was the shortest General Conference.
In 1925 the Texas Conference met at First Methodist Jacksonville. Bishop John M. Moore presided. The fact of his presiding created a delicate situation. Moore had been one of the most active proponents of unification since the creation of the 1916 Joint Commission. He later wrote, "My activity for ten years in behalf of Unification very naturally raised the question as to what would be my attitude and action in making the appointments of anti-unificationists."
On the morning of the second day Moore perfected the roll of delegates, seated the clergy and lay delegates in separate sections of the sanctuary, and appointed E. L. Ingrum and P. S. Wilson tellers and J. H. Carlin secretary. Jesse Lee moved that the vote be taken by ayes and nays, but H. C. Willis moved for a written ballot. Willis’s motion prevailed. The conference roll was called, and as each clergy and lay delegate’s name was called, that person walked to the chancel and deposited a written ballot. The tellers then retired to count the ballots.
The tellers completed their work quickly so that before the noon recess, they were able to report 205 for unification and 103 against.
Those votes were added to the votes from all the other annual conferences of the MECS. Unification received a majority—4,528 to 4,108—but fell far short of the 3/4 super majority required. Union with the MEC waited fifteen years. Perhaps that was for the best. In those fifteen years the Methodist Protestant Church entered the unification talks and became part of the Methodist Church created in 1939.