Saturday, May 19, 2012

This Week in Texas Methodist History May 20

General Conference Staggers to Adjournment in Dallas, May 26, 1902

Remaining delegates at the 14th General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church South must have breathed a thankful sigh of relief as Bishop Alpheus Wilson delivered the benediction and adjourned the conference sine die.  The Conference convened on May 6 and spent most of its time on the contentions Publishing House reparations question and the election of two bishops, Elijah Hoss and Coke Smith. 

Texans of the era lived in the hope that one of the new bishops would establish a residence in Texas.  It wasn’t going to happen.  Coke Smith was the brother of a U. S. Senator from South Carolina.  Hoss had been president of Emory and Henry, a professor at Vanderbilt, and editor of the Nashville Christian AdvocateTexas had few charms for men who had been so close to the levers of power.

The General Conference created the office of Deaconess, thereby imitating the 1888 action of the MEC.  It also appointed a board to consider forming a fire insurance board for the denomination. 
Delegates began leaving Dallas in droves on Sunday, May 25.  On Monday, it took some parliamentary sleight of hand to declare a quorum.  As the delegates were becoming nervous about missing transportation arrangements, two unfortunate incidents marred the decorum of the event.

Anson West of the North Alabama Conference conducted a lengthy rant against the creation of the Order of Deaconess.   Included in the rant was “Departure from Divine order leads to infidelity, anarchy, and ruin.”   The speech might have ended the issue.  After all, the General Conference action was not going to be rescinded.  Pro-deaconess delegates (remember that the delegates are all men.)  then moved that West’s rant not be included in the minutes of the General Conference.  The conference dragged on while delegates debated that issue. 

At 1:45 p.m. Bishop Wilson’s gavel came down, delegates began saying their good byes, and a disturbance erupted among the Virginia delegates.  Fisticuffs had broken out.  Henry Sessler Hoss, the twenty-year old son of the newly elected bishop Elijah Hoss, had been biding his time throughout the Conference.  Adjournment meant that he could accost his father’s main rival, in the Publishing House controversy, James Cannon, Jr. Henry Sessler Hoss, a Vanderbilt student demanded an explanation for remarks Cannon had made about his mother in the denominational paper which Cannon edited.  Cannon brushed Hoss off, telling him, “Send your father.”  Hoss then struck Cannon.  –a sorry end for General Conference.

Regular readers of this column will remember that James Cannon was elected bishop in 1918.  His episcopal service was marred by multiple scandals, and in 1930 when the General Conference came back to Dallas, he had to apologize to the General Conference. (see May 4, 2008 post)  Cannon and Hoss did not have to face the awkward situation of serving together as bishops.  Hoss retired because of ill health in 1918.  Bishop Hoss lived with his son Dr. Henry Sessler Hoss in Muskogee, Oklahoma, until his death in 1919.   The younger Hoss had opened a medical practice there.  Unfortunately Dr. Hoss outlived his father only three years. 


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