Saturday, September 28, 2013

This Week in Texas Methodist History  September 29

Tennessee Annual Conference Meets—Sends Four Missionaries to Texas  October 3, 1838

Tennessee was one of the most important source regions for immigration to Texas during Mexican rule and during the Republic.  There were well-known Tennesseans such as Davy Crockett and former Tennessee Governor Sam Houston.  There were also many less prominent residents of Tennessee who came as farmers, merchants, and even Methodist preachers.  Some of the motivation for immigration came from the Panic of 1837 which created economic difficulties for many Tennessee farmers.  The initials GTT (Gone to Texas) were chalked on many cabin doors in the state. 

The Tennessee Annual Conference convened on October 3, 1838 in Huntsville, Alabama,  and provided a much-needed boost to the missionary forces in TexasLittleton Fowler, Jesse Hord, Isaac L. G. (Ike) Strickland, and  S. A.  Williams all transferred from the Tennessee Conference to the Texian Mission of the Mississippi Conference.  The previous summer the MEC bishops decided to take the Texian Mission from the Board of Missions and give it to the Mississippi Annual Conference—thus necessitating the transfers into the Mississippi Conference.

The Mississippi Annual Conference did not meet until the first week of December.  There was no bishop present, but the minutes reveal the following appointments to the Texan Mission.

Littleton Fowler, Presiding Elder
Abel Stevens, Houston and Galveston
S. A. Williams, Nacogdoches
R. Alexander and I. L. G. Strickland, Washington
Jesse Hoard (sic), Montgomery
J. P. Snead (sic), Brazoria

Sneed was already a member of the Mississippi Conference.  Stevens was a member of the New England Conference.  His most recent appointment was Providence, RI.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

 This Week in Texas Methodist History  September 22

Methodist Student Federation Officers Meet in Fort Worth, September, 1924

Methodist  students from eleven Texas institutions (McMurry, SMU, University of Texas, Lon Morris College, Texas A&M, Sam Houston State Teachers’ College, East Texas State Teachers’ College, North Texas State Teachers’ College, Texas Women’s College. College of Industrial Arts and Southwestern University) met for five days at a campground on Lake Worth at the beginning of the 1924-1925 academic year.  They were all officers in Methodist organizations on their home campuses. 

Their planning retreat happened to include September 12, and that coincidence provided hours of late-night discussion for the college students.  September 12 was the date chosen by the War Department as “National Defense Day,” in which all regular army units and National Guard units engaged in practice mobilization.  There was no imminent (or even long range) threat and the event was mainly a gimmick to honor General J. J. Pershing who had announced his retirement for Sept. 13.

 For those of us who have lived in the post-1941 militarized world of standing armies and huge military appropriations, such a mobilization doesn't seem controversial.  Attitudes in 1924 were different.  The horrors of World War I were a painful, recent memory.  All over the world were young men whose missing limbs, blindness, scarred lungs, and shell shock (the old term for PTSD) were a constant reminder of the insanity of war. 

In 1924 historians and other interpreters were trying to make sense of the Great War.  Almost all the interpreters agreed that one of the most important causes of the war was militarization, including increasing armaments and frequent mobilization of forces.  The “Guns of August” had been preceded by military maneuvers and practice mobilizations by the European armies.

The Methodist college students attending the Methodist Student Federation in 1924 were too young to have fought in the war, but during their formative years they had been bombarded with war news.  It is little wonder that many of them studied the Gospels and dedicated themselves to working for world peace.

With such  historical memory it is little wonder that National Defense Day generated opposition not just from idealistic college students, but also from a wide swath of the population.  The governors of Maine, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Colorado all publicly denounced National Defense Day.

Governor Sweet of Colorado even refused to issue orders so the Colorado National Guard could participate.  Governor Al Smith of New York wavered and finally agreed to include his state’s National Guard.  He also asked the public to go to church and pray for goodwill among nations.  Religious bodies, including the Methodist Episcopal Church General Conference of 1924, passed resolutions against National Defense Day. 

One of the retreat speakers was Jack Doty, an assistant history professor from SMU.  His lecture was “Christianity in International Relations.”   In Nov. 1919 Doty and fellow student George Thomas were named the first Rhodes Scholars from SMU. Doty was thus speaking as one with European experience.  Since Doty’s lecture was held on National Defense Day, the discussion that followed focused on the event.  Although no resolution was offered, the reporter covering the event wrote that the group felt that the event should not have been held. 

Methodist college students of 1924 had lived through heady times.  They had seen Christian progressivism triumph with the prohibition of alcohol.  They had seen women get the vote in both civic elections and elections for General Conference delegates.   Many had devoured the works of Social Gospel writers such as Charles Monroe Sheldon and Walter Rauschenbusch.  The next compelling crusade seemed to be peace.—a vital religion demanded it, and they were ready to give their lives for the cause. 

Personal note:  As I wrote this blog, I was reminded of my link to the student idealism of the era through my aunt and uncle, the Rev. Charles and Ruby Hardt.  They lived out the gospel through a life of missionary service to war-torn Europe and pastoral ministry in the West Texas and then Southwest Texas Conference.  Among their other contributions to the cause of world peace is an endowment administered by the Southwest Texas Conference intended to promote the issues at the core of Jesus’ teachings—peace

Saturday, September 14, 2013

This Week  in Texas Methodist History  September 15

Texas Methodists Mourn Slain President  September 19, 1901

On September 14, 1901, the United States was plunged into mourning by the assassination of its president.  William McKinley was the third president in 36 years to fall before an assassin’s bullet.  

Governor Sayers proclaimed Sept. 19 as the official day of mourning in Texas and asked that businesses close between 11:00 and 1:00 that day so that communities could hold joint memorial services.  Since William McKinley was a Methodist, and Methodist churches often had the largest seating capacity of any church in town, Methodist churches all over Texas were filled on 11:00 a.m.on September 19, 1901. 

The main memorial service was in the Texas State Capitol.  Governor Sayers presided, and the venerable John Reagan gave the principal eulogy.  Reagan and McKinley had served in the U. S. Congress together and developed a personal friendship in spite of their partisan differences.  Among his remarks, Reagan said, “If we have to have a Republican president, I’m glad it was McKinley.” 

The Houston Post reported on services throughout the state, at Bellville, Caldwell, Eagle Pass, Bryan, Jefferson, Wortham, Fort Worth, and so on.  Each service began at 11:00 and featured prayer, a psalm, and usually a memorial oration from some local politician.  The favorite hymns used in the services included, Nearer, My God to Thee; Lead, Kindly Light; and It Is Well With My Soul.

The services were union, or what we would call today, “interfaith.”  Houston services were held in the Methodist church whose pastor Sam Hay introduced the pastor of First Baptist Church who gave the main address.  In Palestine Rabbi Weiss participated.  Such unity did not extend to race.  African Americans and whites held separate services.

Each community also gave the service some particular twist.  In Fort Worth Confederate and Union veterans sat together.  Most communities appointed a committee to write resolutions which were read at the services.   In Brenham, there was a 21 gun salute fired at a city park.  In La Porte the Grand Army of the Republic (a Union veterans organization) marched from their hall to the Methodist church.  McKinley was also a veteran of the Civil War.

McKinley’s Methodism was very much part of his public persona.  One of his most difficult decisions was whether to annex the Philippines after the Spanish American War.  In a widely-quoted passage, McKinley related how he prayed over the decision and then decided that the United States had an obligation to Christianize the Filipinos (ignoring their Roman Catholic heritage). 

McKinley’s legacy has been overshadowed by his successor, Theodore Roosevelt, and his principal political opponent, William Jennings Bryan.  The flamboyant TR and the “Great Commoner” have been more attractive subjects for historians and biographers.  There are some historians, however, who have tried to elevate McKinley’s status in our historical consciousness.  Historians of U. S. foreign policy point out that it was during his administration that the United States acquired its overseas empire and thus became a major imperial power.  Political historians point out that in 1896 McKinley ushered in a new era of presidential campaigning.  His manager, Mark Hanna, raised large amounts of corporate cash and used that money to buy favorable press coverage.    Imperialism and the influence of corporate money on the political process—Maybe McKinley was the first modern U. S. president.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

This Week in Texas Methodist History  September 8

C. L. Ballard Provides Ammunition Against “Evangelistic Marauders,” September 10, 1903

As last week’s column noted, the turn of the 20th century was probably the high tide of revivalism in Methodism.  Some Methodists thought it unfair that members of other denominations snatched recent converts into their churches after being saved at Methodist meetings.  

It may have been true that persons converted in the emotional atmosphere of a revival may have been theologically naïve and subject to persuasion by other denominational arguments and must have presented tempting targets to stalwarts of other denominations. 

C. L. Ballard of Sherman thought that recent converts could be kept in the Methodist church if they had proper instruction in the tenets of Methodism.  Accordingly he wrote and self-published a series of books to help the recent convert see the truth of Methodist doctrine.
He placed the following advertisement in the Texas Christian Advocate, September 10, 1903.

You will need . . .to drive away the ecclesiastical marauders who hang around our protracted meetings to proselytize our young converts and church members.   Half our converts are lost to us because they are not taught our doctrine.  This stealing should be stopped.  There is but one way to do it.  Indoctrinate our young people and shoot the thief.  We furnish the guns and ammunition at a small cost and those who have tried these guns say that they work.

Methodist Dynamite; or Immersion Exploded

Wrecks by the Way; or Apostasy Proven

The Polity of the Church Vindicated; or The Itinerancy Contrasted with Congregationalism

Sledge Hammer on Baptist Succession; or The Unbroken Chain Broken.

All available for $1.30 post paid to C. L. Ballard, Sherman, Texas.