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.”


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