Saturday, July 25, 2009

This Week in Texas Methodist History July 26

Peter W. Gravis Debates Infant Baptism—500 Head of Cattle at Stake July 29, 1866

Peter Gravis was one of the most interesting frontier circuit riders. He joined the Texas Conference in 1859 and received appointments to Blanco and Llano. He volunteered for the Confederate chaplaincy, but returned to the itinerant ranks in 1865 and was appointed to the Stephenville mission. That circuit became part of the new Northwest Texas Conference in 1866.

Gravis referred to the Anglo settlement frontier as “outside territory” or the “outside row” and used that phrase in his memoir, Twenty-five Years on the Outside Row. He said, “As I was light for running and small to shoot at by the Indians, the bishop gave me the outside row.”

In April 1866 Gravis organized a church in Dublin, Erath County, which until that time had been a Baptist stronghold. Controversy erupted. The other denomination issued a challenge in which it offered 500 head of cattle to anyone who could prove the doctrine of infant baptism from scripture. Naturally Gravis took up the challenge. On July 29, 1866 a bond was signed and a day for set for Gravis to expound on the scriptural basis of infant baptism.

Crowds came and listened for two hours as Gravis proved to the satisfaction of the listeners that infant baptism was scriptural. He did not get the cattle. The bond had used the work “give” rather than “pay,” and that was the loophole the judges used to invalidate the bond.


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