Saturday, November 26, 2011

This Week in Texas Methodist History November 27

Texas Annual Conference Superannuated Preachers Honored in Verse December 1, 1886

Bishop Joseph Key convened the 46th session of the Texas Annual Conference at 9:00 a.m. on December 1, 1886, in Giddings Memorial Methodist Church in Brenham. Sixty-nine clerical and ten lay delegates answered the roll call. The following committees were appointed:

Public Worship
Books and Periodicals
District Conference Relations
Bible Cause
Conference Relations

I. Z. T. Morris, Wesley Smith, and I. G. John were directed to meet with members of other annual conferences to investigate the organization of a Texas Methodist historical society.
The fourth day of conference fell on a Sunday so visiting Methodist preachers filled pulpits of other denominations. H. M. Dubose preached to the Baptists. J. W. Heidt of Southwestern University preached to the Presbyterians. Weems Wooten preached in the German church of the MEC, and M. S. Hotckiss to the African American MEC. Bishop Key led a love feast in the Giddings Memorial Church.

Josiah Whipple, a pioneer preacher from the Republic of Texas days, was granted superannuation. He had joined the Illinois Conference in 1839 and transferred to Texas with his Presiding Elder, John Clark. By 1886 he had served many of the most important posts in the Texas Conference and was, in the language of the era, “tired and worn out.” He died in 1894.

An anonymous poem addressed to the superannuated Texas Conference preachers appeared in the local newspaper at the conclusion of annual conference.

Ye men of faith with years and labor crowned,
Whose heads have bowed beneath affliction’s rod
And Bleached with sunshine from the hills of God,
While you in whitened fields the sheaves have bound,
And scattered seeds for others’ harvests round;

I sit with reverence at your way-worn feet
And with unfeigned meekness yearn to feel
The impress of your holy, quenchless zeal;
To catch your words with faith and love replete
And feel the pulse of inspiration beat.

(three stanzas omitted)

Your tents are worn and soon must be laid by,
Your armor bright in the last battle fall.
And you no more shall answer to our call,
But when the muster roll is called on high.,
You’ll gladly answer, “Master, here am I.”

Saturday, November 19, 2011

This Week in Texas Methodist History November 20

Jesse Boring Addresses Mass Meeting in San Antonio November 23, 1860

Soon after news of Abraham Lincoln’s election to the presidency reached San Antonio, anonymous handbills appeared

The citizens of San Antonio are respectfully invited to attend a meeting to-morrow evening at half past seven o’clock, in front of the Menger Hotel, to take into consideration the present position of the South.

At the appointed hour a large crowd did assemble. After a presiding officer was selected, the speeches began. The first speaker was the Rev. Dr. Jesse Boring, a fifty-three year old Georgian who had come to San Antonio only two years before. His frail, sickly appearance did not match the energy with which he had served his church. He entered the itinerancy at age 18 and was appointed to the Chattahoochee Circuit in Alabama. As he gained experience, he received appoints to larger churches. Like many of his colleagues, riding circuit broke his health and in 1832 Boring received an easier appointment, Milledgeville, at that time the capital of Georgia.

In 1849 he was appointed superintendent of the California Mission. After several years in California, he returned to Georgia, and in 1858, Boring and Hamilton G. Horton transferred to Texas. The 1858 General Conference authorized the division of the Texas Conference. Its southwestern churches were to be organized into the Rio Grande Mission Conference (today’s South West Texas Conference). Horton was appointed to the dangerous Uvalde Circuit (see column for July 30, 2011) and Jesse Boring to the Methodist church on Soledad Street in San Antonio.

Boring had a dual appointment. He was not only the preacher, but he was also charged with organizing San Antonio Female College which met in basement of the church. He was thus a well-known public figure in San Antonio.

The reporter for the San Antonio Ledger and Texan who covered the mass meeting shared Boring’s political views. The reporter stressed that Boring did not unleash his powerful oratorical talents, but spoke calmly and dispassionately. His argument was that the Lincoln election had, in effect, dissolved the Union already. Boring finished, and a union speaker named Anderson followed him. Other sppeakers, both pro and anti Union continued long into the night. Meanwhile a resolutions committee was organized which produced a resolution in favor of disunion.

When the Civil War began, Boring, who was also a physician, enlisted in Henry McCullough’s division as a military surgeon. The troops were initially assigned to guard western and southwestern Texas, but in 1862 were sent to Fort Nelson, Arkansas. Boring served as both doctor and chaplain in the Confederate service, and when peace was restored, he was appointed to Goliad and elected a delegate to the 1866 MECS General Conference. His next appointment was to the Medical Department of Soule University which was located in Galveston.

The rigors of circuit riding, missionary travel, and army camp life finally caught up with Jesse Boring In 1868 he returned to Georgia and served twenty more years. He is credited with establishing orphanages in both Decatur and Macon. His last days were spent with his daughter and son-in-law in a small Georgia town. He is buried in Atlanta.

Jesse Boring would be high on the list of number of annual conferences in his 60- year career. His conference affiliation is as follows:

South Carolina (admitted 1827)
Rio Grande Mission
West Texas
North Georgia (superannuated 1887)

Boring claimed to be a founding member of five of those conferences.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

This Week in Texas Methodist History November 13

Rev. G. S. Wyatt of Tulia Reports on Flu-Shortened Annual Conference, Nov., 1918

The 1918 session of the North West Texas Annual Conference reflected some of the unsettled conditions of the end of World War I. It was eventful enough for the pastor at Tulia, the Rev. G. S. Wyatt, to write a report for the local newspaper, the award winning Tulia Herald. Perhaps part of the reason he wrote the informative article is that almost none of the lay delegates from the Panhandle districts attended annual conference that year.

The site of the Annual Conference was changed “because of the conditions related to the end of the World War” from Lubbock to First Methodist Abilene. The change was, in fact, due to the flu pandemic. The mayor of Lubbock banned large assemblies so the conference was moved to Abilene on three day’s notice. Naturally there were many absentees and the conference was shortened to three days at the insistence of Abilene city officials. One should remember that in this era most conference attendees stayed in private residences. Any germs that visitors might bring thus had the potential to spread throughout the entire city. The conference received eight transfers from other conferences as twenty-three ministers transferred to other conferences. Bishop James Cannon, who had been elected at the MECS General Conference earlier in the year, presided.

The 1918 General Conference submitted two constitutional amendments to the annual conferences. The North West Texas Conference voted 95 to 0 to extend full laity rights to women. It also voted 94 to 8 to change the wording of the Apostle’s Creed to eliminate the words, “Holy Catholic Church.” The first amendment received enough votes in the other annual conferences to pass. The amendment that would have struck “Holy Catholic” from the Apostle’s Creed failed.

The conference heard two reports about conditions in Europe. Wyatt reported that Dr. Selectman (sic) of California reported on his visits to the doughboys in the trenches and praised their morality, cleanliness, and courage. Selecman was soon to return to Texas as pastor of First Methodist Church, Dallas, then president of SMU, and then bishop.
Bishop Cannon also reported on his inspection trip to France. He praised General Pershing’s policy of not allowing U. S. troops to drink liquor and visit “districts with bad women” as did the French and British troops.

As part of the conference looked back at the Great War just ended, another part of the conference looked forward to a crusade of progressive Christianity, the Centenary Campaign. The various Methodist denominations banded together to conduct a huge campaign for missions in 1919, the centennial of the Methodist mission to the Wyandots. (See column for May 20, 2007). The North West Texas Conference was been assigned a goal of $416,000, and part of the conference was devoted to building support for that fund raising effort.

The denomination sent three of its heavy hitters to Abilene to support the Centenary Campaign. W. W. Pinson, Secretary of the Board of Missions, Secretary Neil of the Sunday School Board, and Rev. Frank Onderdonk, director of the Mexican Mission. The speakers were there to lay the groundwork for the solicitation that was to occur the following May. Each church was encouraged to conduct an every member canvass to collection donations for mission work in Latin America, Appalachia, Africa, war-ravaged Europe, Asia, Native Americans, and northern industrial workers. The same crusading spirit that had rallied Americans to “make the world safe for democracy” was directed to “winning the world for Christ in our generation.”

Saturday, November 05, 2011

This Week in Texas Methodist History November 6

Texas Annual Conference Holds Very Special Memorial Service, November 6, 1932

A special part of every annual conference is the memorial service. The conference sings “And Are Yet Alive” and later remembers the members and spouses who have gone on to their heavenly reward. Family members of the deceased receive special invitations to the memorial service, and the entire conference is reminded of the faithful witness of its departed members.

The Texas Annual Conference memorial service of 1932 had special significance. It was meeting in Navasota with Bishop Hiram Boaz in the chair and D. L. Landrum as the host pastor. The opening day, Thursday, November 3, was routine. Roll was called. Visitors were introduced. Those visitors included Atticus Webb of the Anti Saloon League, Mrs. W. C. Godbey of the W.C.T.U., and Dr, D. R. Glass of Texas College in Tyler. He represented the C.M.E. Church, and received the customary collection for that sister denomination.

The annual conference conducted its usual business of committee reports, resolutions, and worship. Then, on the last day of the conference, Sunday, November 6, the conference moved from the Methodist church to the town cemetery. The memorial service was a very special one. It was held at the grave of Dr. Martin Ruter, the head of the Texas Mission of the MEC who came to Texas in November, 1837 and died the following May.

At 2:30 in the afternoon the memorial service began in the cemetery. The conference sang, “There is a Land That is Fairer Than Day.” C. A. Tower gave a prayer. The first tribute was delivered for the life of James M. Wesson who is interred in the same cemetery (see post for July 16, 2006). J. W. Mills gave an address on the life and labors of Martin Ruter and concluded by laying a wreath on the grave.

Then the Texas Conference members and spouses who had died during the previous year were honored. G. Z. Sadler spoke without a manuscript of the life of Weems Wooten who had requested that no formal memoir be prepared. Then the memoirs were read. A. A. Tharp read one for A. G. Scruggs. W. E. Hassler read W. W. Horner’s, and D. S. Burke read Mrs. J. P. Skinner’s.

The memoirs were over, but the service continued. G. Z. Sadler told the conference about C. L. Spencer. Spencer was the local preacher who had rescued Ruter’s remains from the abandoned cemetery in Washington on the Brazos and reinterred it in his own plot. Spencer’s tombstone is beside Ruter’s.

The conference then walked about 40 yards to the northwest of Ruter’s grave to that of James Wesson. They sang “O Think of a Home Over There,” and D. H. Hotchkiss laid a wreath on the Wesson grave. P. T. Ramsey then pronounced the benediction bringing to an end to the open air memorial service.

The conference reconvened in the church to hear an address by Bishop James Cannon on prohibition. By November 1932 Cannon’s reputation was greatly tarnished, but he had survived the U. S. Senate investigating committee, subpoena, and public apology at the 1930 General Conference and was now in Navasota to rally the dry forces. (see column for May 4, 2008). The final session of the 1932 Texas Annual Conference did not begin until 8:15 p.m. It was late in the night when the final appointment was read. Bishop Boaz read, "H. E. Floyd --- Winona." Thus ended a very long, eventful day in Texas Methodist history.