Saturday, January 04, 2014

This Week in Texas Methodist History  January 5

Annual Conference Meets in Houston for First Time  January 7, 1846

Houston has been the site of the Texas Annual Conference many, many more times than any other city.  For many Texas Methodists Houston and Annual Conference go together.  

The first session of Annual Conference to meet in Houston was also one of the most consequential and occurred during exciting times. Exactly one week before, on December 29, the U. S. Congress accepted the proposed state constitution and admitted Texas to the Union.  The Republic of Texas was no more.  The Lone Star Republic became the Lone Star State.   

As Texas was joining the Union, Texas Methodists were leaving the Methodist Episcopal Church and joining the Methodist Episcopal Church South.  

The presiding bishop for this, the sixth Annual Conference, was Joshua Soule who was making his only episcopal visit to Texas during his long and distinguished career.  Soule was the most revered bishop of his generation, especially among Southern Methodists.  

In addition to the usual conference business of ordination, committee reports, and worship, the conference members also had to vote on a resolution in which they expressed their intention to cast their lot with the MECS.  The enabling resolution is far too long to reproduce here, but here are few key articles:

3rd. . .we repudiate the idea of secession in any schismatic or offensive sense of the phrase, as we neither give up or surrender any thing we have received as constituting any part of Methodism
. . .
4th. . .we are satisfied with our Book of Discipline as it is, and than we will not tolerate any changes whatsoever. . .

6th. . .it is our desire to cultivate and maintain paternal relations with our brethren of the North. And we do most sincerely deprecate the continuance of paper warfare, either by editors or correspondents, in our official church papers. . .

8th . . .we properly appreciate the conservative course pursued by  the Bench of Bishops

The Annual Conference voted favorably for the resolution and elected Robert Alexander and Chauncey Richardson as delegates to the MECS General Conference to be held at Petersburg, Virginia, in May.  Bishop Soule read the appointments, adjourned the Conference and departed for Marshall, the site of the Eastern Texas (later East Texas) Annual Conference.  

Mrs. Soule had accompanied the Bishop, and they decided to go to Marshall by boat.  They left Houston for Galveston, then sailed to New Orleans and up the Mississippi River and Red River to Marshall.   When they arrived, they learned that Littleton Fowler had died the week before.  

Monumental changes were occurring.  Annexation to the United States was followed by war with Mexico and an increase in the federal presence in Texas.  The creation of the MECS meant ecclesiastical changes in episcopal leadership, publishing, and source of preacher transfers. (Before 1846 there was a steady stream of preachers transferring from the Ohio Valley to Texas. After 1846, that stream slowed.).  Littleton Fowler’s death meant the end of an era.  –But a new era in Texas Methodism was beginning.


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