Saturday, August 30, 2014

This Week in Texas Methodist History August 31

Texas Methodists Celebrate Centennial   September 4-6, 1934

Exactly eighty years ago this week Texas Methodists met in San Antonio for the most important historical observance of the denomination’s long, colorful history in Texas.  They were celebrating the centennial of the founding of McMahan’s Chapel in Sabine County which they claimed was the oldest Methodist Church in continuous existence in Texas.  

San Antonio was the chosen site for the three day celebration because the organizers were trying to link Texas Methodist history with the stirring history of the Texas Revolution and Republic eras.  Most of the activities were held in the Municipal Auditorium, built in 1926, and featuring a painted stage curtain with images of Travis, Bowie, Crockett, and Bonham.  Other venues included the open air theater in Brackenridge Park and a 7:00 a.m. service on September 6 at Alamo Plaza where the Hon. John Calvin Box, a scion of the pioneer Box family who brought Methodism to Houston County.  Box was a five-term congressman for East Texas who, when defeated in 1930, practiced law in Jacksonville.  He had been one of the founders of SMU.

Seven bishops (Smith, Boaz, Hay, Arthur Moore, John M. Moore, Hughes {MEC}, and Mead {MEC}) stirred attendees with historical addresses, but the climax was the original pageant, Comrades of Conquest under the direction of Miss Jeston Dickey with the assistance of her sister Bessie Lee Dickey Roselle, both public school drama teachers and cousins of Bishop James Dickey (dec.).  Conquest consisted of 750 performers in 8 episodes and 4 tableaux and one pantomime.  Dickey took an outline from a committee consisting of young preachers including Byron Lovelady and Lance Webb (later Bishop), Carroll Moon, Hubert Bracher and James Paul and Mrs. Forrest Dudley and Mrs. Joseph Connally.  

Dickey assigned different episodes to different churches.  Laurel Heights provided the actors for the episode of the beginnings of Methodism in America; Travis Park members portrayed the Christmas Conference; McKinley Avenue was assigned McMahan’s Chapel; South Alamo Church provided the cast for “An Interview with Colonel Travis,”; Woodlawn members acted out the General Conference of 1836; First Methodist Corpus Christi supplied the talent for the organizing session of the Texas Conference in 1840.  Denver Heights church drew the assignment of telling the story of early Texas colleges.  The last episode was very much a “back of the bus” nod to ethnic groups.  The German churches were portrayed by church members from Llano, Mason, and Gillespie Counties; La Trinidad (incorrectly listed in the program as “Trinity”) produced the Mexican Mission episode, and St. Paul’s M.E. Church ended with the African-American Church.  

That was not all—The Conquest continued with a process of the agents of conquest—college students, nurses, doctors, and missionaries—finally a very large choir finished with Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. 

Most of us know about the Centennial Celebration through the Yearbook which Olin Nail edited.  It is a curious pastiche of pictures, essays, etc, but it also contains the Journals of the five MECS annual conferences in Texas for that year.  

I invite the reader to look past the obvious quaintness, racism, sexism and other such aspects to see the Centennial Celebration in a different light.  

Texas Methodists were in the process of forging a new identity based on their Texan roots rather than their Southern roots.  They knew that movement toward unification was proceeding, and that the word, “South” would be dropped from the denomination’s name.  Many of the leaders were swept up in the excitement over the celebration of the Texas Centennial of 1936.  The mid-1930’s from about 1932 to 1939 marked the era of most interest in Texas Methodist history and also the most unity the annual conferences ever experienced.  The Texas Methodist Foundation is only one example of the fruits of that unity.  
The Centennial Celebration, followed by the joint meeting of annual conference in Houston in 1936, and renewed interest in McMahan’s Chapel were important building blocks in creating a sense of unity in Texas Methodism achieved at no other time.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

This Week in Texas Methodist History   August 24

Answers to Most Common Questions About Methodism
The visibility of weekly columns of This Week in Texas Methodist History results in a great many requests for research assistance and/or explanation of Methodist terminology.  Most of the requests are from genealogists and begin something like “Great-great grandfather was a Methodist preacher in ______.  Can you help me find church records about him?”    I feel blessed to be of service to these descendants of Methodist clergy and do my best to answer their questions. 
I often find myself explaining and answering two questions:   What is a conference?  What is a Methodist preacher? 

Those of us who learned Methodism as children think nothing of such questions, but they can be confusing to others who were not so blessed. 
What is a conference?  --That’s harder than it looks since it is and has been one of our favorite words.  How many can you name?  Quarterly Conference, Charge Conference, General Conference, Church Conference, Annual Conference, Jurisdictional Conference, District Conference, Sub-district Conference—the list goes on.  The confusion continues with several definitions of Annual Conference, the basic organizational unit. 
An annual conference is a geographic area but not a fixed geographic area.  For example Jefferson was in the Texas Conference, then the Eastern Texas Conference, then the East Texas Conference, then the Trinity Conference, then the North Texas Conference, then the East Texas Conference, and finally back in the Texas Conference.  During that same time span, it was in the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church South, the Methodist Church, and the United Methodist Church.  After emancipation it also a church in the Methodist Episcopal Church.   

In addition to a geographic area, an annual conference is also an event.  For example, Houston has hosted more sessions of the Texas Annual Conference than any other city.  As the name implies, the event is usually held once per year, but special sessions can and have been called. 
An annual conference is also a legal entity with the ability to hire employees, hold real property, sue and be sued, and enjoy the other privileges of corporations. 
An annual conference is also a membership organization with criteria for obtaining and retaining membership.

It is this last definition of conference that leads us to the second most popular question.  What is a Methodist preacher?  A great many terms were used in the 19th century to describe Methodist officials.  Some were preachers and some were not.  One finds the terms exhorter, class leader, local preacher, travelling preacher, elder, deacon, presiding elder, bishop, in the 19th century documents.  The term “local preacher” is particularly confusing to the naïve researcher.  Sometimes “local preacher” was a step on the path to becoming a travelling preacher.  Sometimes a local preacher intended to retain that status permanently.  Equally confusing is the fact that a travelling preacher could “locate,” but still retain the honors of full ordination. 
I have had to explain the distinction between these offices many times.  I sometimes use Sprague’s  Annals of the American Pulpit (1856 and later editions)  In my opinion, it offers the simplest explanation of both church offices and conferences as they existed in mid-19th century Methodism.  

The Government of the Church is Episcopal, The Society includes
 all the members
 of the Church in any particular place. The Class, which
 originally consisted 
of about twelve persons, but is now often much 
larger, holds weekly meetings for devotional exercises and m
utual edification.
 The Class leader who is appointed by the Preacher, has charge
 of the class,
 and it devolves on him to have a personal interview with 
each member of his class once a week in regard to his spiritual 
 and to receive whatever he may be able and willing to contribute 
for the 
support of the Church and of the poor. The Stewards, who are 
chosen by the
 Quarterly Meeting Conference, on the nomination of the 
Ruling Preacher, have charge of all the money collected for the 
 of the ministry, the poor, and for Sacramental services, and 
disburse it 
as the Discipline directs. The Trustees have charge of all the
 Church property, 
to hold it for the use of the members of the body. 
\These are elected by the people, in those States where the Law 
so provides —  
 other States, according to the direction of the Discipline. 
The Exhorters receive their license from the Quarterly Meeting 
and have the privilege of holding meetings for exhortation and 
A Preacher is one who is licensed to preach, but is not
 authorized to
 administer the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. 
A Local Preacher
 generally follows some secular calling for a livelihood, 
and preaches on 
the Sabbath, and occasionally at other times, without any
 pecuniary compensation, 
except when he supplies the place of a Travelling Preacher.
 A Travelling Preacher 
devotes himself entirely to the work of the ministry, and is 
supported by the 
people among whom he labours. A Supernumerary Preacher is
 one who is disabled 
for full effective service, but still has an appointment and 
labours according 
to his ability. A Superannuated or worn out Preacher is one 
who, on account 
of enfeebled health or old age, is compelled to retire from 
active service 
altogether. A Deacon is ordained by the Bishop, and besides 
officiating as 
a Preacher, he may solemnize the rite of marriage, bury the 
dead, baptize, 
and assist the Elder in administering the Lord's Supper. It 
is his duty also 
to look after the sick and poor, and administer to their comfort.
 An Elder 
 receives ordination from a Bishop, assisted by several Elders, 
and has full
 authority to administer all the ordinances 
of God's house. A Presiding Elder, though of no higher order 
than an Elder,
 has charge of several circuits and stations, called collectively 
a District;
 and is appointed to his charge by the Bishop. It is his duty 
to visit each 
circuit or station once a quarter, to preach, to administer the 
 to call together the Travelling and Local Preachers, Exhorters,
and Class-leaders of the circuit or station for the Quarterly
 Meeting Conference;
 and, in the absence of a Bishop, to receive, try, suspend, 
or expel Preachers,
 according to the Discipline. 
A Bishop is elected by the General Conference, and is 
consecrated to his 
office by the imposition of the hands of three Bishops; 
or by a Bishop and 
several Elders; or, if there be no Bishop living, by any 
three of the Elders
 who may be designated to that service by the General 
Conference. It is his
 duty to travel through the work at large; to superintend 
the temporal and 
spiritual affairs of the Church; to preside in the Annual 
and General Conferences; to ordain such as may be elected
 by the Annual 
Conferences to the order of Deacons or Elders, and to
 appoint the Preachers
 to their several circuits or stations. The Bishop is 
responsible for his
 official conduct to the General Conference. A Leader’s 
Meeting is composed 
of the Class-leaders and Stewards, in any one circuit or 
station, in which 
the preacher in charge presides. Here the weekly class 
collections are paid 
into the hands of the Stewards, inquiry is made into the
 state of the classes,
 delinquents are reported, 
and the sick and poor inquired after. A Quarterly Meeting 
Conference is composed 
of all the Travelling and Local Preachers, Exhorters, Stewards,
 and Leaders,
 belonging to any particular circuit or station in 
which the Presiding Elder presides, or in his absence the 
Preacher in charge. 
Here Exhorters and Preachers are licensed; Preachers are 
recommended to an 
Annual Conference to be received into the travelling 
ministry; Local Preachers are recommended to the Annual 
Conference as suitable 
persons to be ordained Deacons or Elders; and appeals 
are heard from any member 
of the Church who may be dissatisfied with the 
decision of a Committee by whom he may have been tried for 
any delinquency.
 An Annual Conference is composed of all the Travelling 
Preachers, Deacons and 
Elders, within certain territorial limits. By this body the 
character and conduct
 of all the Travelling Preachers are examined once a year;
 applicants for 
admission into the travelling ministry are admitted, continued o
n trial, or, 
as the case may be, dropped; appeals of Local Preachers are
heard and decided; 
and those who are eligible to Deacon's or Elder's orders are 
elected. An Annual
 Conference possesses an original jurisdiction over all its 
members, and may 
therefore try, acquit, suspend, expel or locate any of them, 
as the Discipline i
n such cases provides. The General Conference is composed 
of a certain number of 
delegates elected by the Annual Conferences, and has 
power to revise any part of the Discipline, or to introduce 
any new regulation
 within certain prescribed limits. It is the highest judicatory
of the Church, 
and meets once in four years. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

This Week in Texas Methodist History   August 17 

Paul Quillian Has Heart Attack at First Assembly of World Council of Churches in Amsterdam, 1948

Paul Quillian, a shining star of Texas Methodism, was struck down with illness while attending the first assembly of the World Council of Churches which met in Amsterdam Aug. 22-Sept. 4, 1948.  Quillian was a relatively young man, having been born in Georgia in 1895, but had been pastor of First Methodist Houston since 1936, having come from St. Luke’s Oklahoma City. 

 He had a rapid ascent in the ministerial ranks.  He graduated from Emory at age 18 and became a businessman, eventually working for a bottler in Camden, Arkansas.  His call to the ministry came from a conversation with his pastor (Rev. Marshall Steel’s father).   Rev. Steel told  him “When you die and go to heaven, and God asks you how you spent your life, you’re going to say, ‘I made red soda pop.’ “    That remark changed the course of his life.  He accepted the call to ministry at the age of 28.  

His pastorate at First Methodist Houston was brilliant.  The congregation was used to great preaching—Frank Smith, Clovis Chappell, and Bob Goodrich—all giants of the pulpit had preceded him—and Frank Smith still lived in Houston and wasa constant reminder of his great preaching.  It was natural for many Houstonians to consider Smith their pastor.  Quillian’s  preaching was innovative and one of his great gifts was assembling and maintaining a staff considered the best in the denomination (Walter Jenkins, Jim Jackson, Sr., Johnnie Marie Brooks, Clyde Verhedyen, Howard Grimes, etc.)  It was during Quillian’s pastorate that the Texas Conference quit having annual conference all over the conference and made First Methodist Houston its home for decades.  

His commitment to the local church did not prevent his activities as one of the most global visionaries in the denomination.  In addition to being a member of the General Conferences of 1934, 1938, 1940, 1940, 1944, and 1948, he was a delegate to many ecumenical gatherings, including the 1947 Ecumenical Conference of the Methodist Church in Springfield, Massachusetts.  –His membership in the First Assembly of the World Council of Churches was not a passing interest.  

Quillian survived the heart attack in Amsterdam and returned to pulpit duties at First Methodist Houston, but knowing that his health would prevent the vigorous ministry he was used to, accepted a position as professor of preaching at Perkins School of Theology, SMU that would begin Jan. 1. 1950.  

He did not live long enough to assume that academic position.  On March 28, 1949, he collapsed and died at the age of 53.  His legacy continued at First Methodist Houston where a youth facility was named in his honor and through the work of his daughter, Thelma, who married Robert E. Goodrich, Jr. (elected bishop in 1972.)

Saturday, August 09, 2014

This Week in Texas Methodist History     August 10

Methodist Preacher Is the Victim of Mob Violence  In Aquilla  August 1885

The last decades of the 19th century witnessed the rise of racial violence directed against African Americans in Texas and much of the rest of the United States.  It was an era of lynching, of white-only towns, and attacks on African Americans that were ignored by law enforcement.  

Even ministers of the gospel were not exempt from the violence as the Rev. Clement Trimble found when he tried to give his magic lantern show of the life of Christ in the Hill County hamlet of Aquilla.  The news article in the Waco Examiner  (Aug. 18, 1885) tells it all. 

                                                                WORK OF A MOB!
A Methodist Minister Roughly Handled at Aquilla Station
The Crowd Douse Him with Dirty Water and Otherwise Ill-Treat Him
He is Refused Shelter and Even a Drink of Water by a Farmer

Mr. Clement Trimble, whose home is in San Antonio, came to the Examiner office yesterday and told of a fearful treatment he received at the hands of a mob in Aquila station on Saturday night last.  Mr. Trimble is an ordained minister of the Methodist Episcopal church, and is traveling with a magic lantern entertainment, exhibiting scenes in the life of Jesus Christ.  On last Thursday night he preached to a colored congregation near Aquilla, and on Friday night he gave them an exhibition.  Saturday morning he went ot Aquilla where had procured a ticket for Waco.   

While at the depot waiting for the train he was approached by two men who asked him to stay over and give an entertainment that night.  He told them that he had no house in which to exhibit.  They asked him if he could not use the school house.  Mr. T. said he would have to see the trustees and get their permission first.  The men represented themselves as being two of the trustees, and said he was welcome to use the building.  He then concluded to stay.  Later in the day when we has making his preparations, he was approached by a gentleman who asked who gave him permission to exhibit there.  About this time one of the men who claimed to be a trustee came up, and Mr. T. pointed him out.  Another man was with him and offered his shop to Mr. T. to give an exhibition in.  

 Mr. T. then made his arrangements to give an exhibition at night.  About dark a crowd of young men came to him and said if he would wait until after services at the camp meeting were over they would all attend and bring their girls with them.  He complied with their request and went to where the meeting was held.  The service closed about 10:00 o’clock and Mr. T. went back to the hall where he was to exhibit.  When the crowd got there, they asked him who was to be the doorkeeper.  Mr. T. told them to select a gentleman from among themselves, but as no one seemed to want to take responsibility, he asked a deputy sheriff by the name of Yeates to act as doorkeeper.  Yeates made some excuse and Mr. T. said that if no one would act as doorkeeper, he would take down his fixtures.  The deputy sheriff then asked him if he had a license to give exhibitions. The license was produced, examined, and passed upon by the supposed preserver to the law as being all right.  Mr. T. saw he was in a rough crowd and went into the building and began taking down his curtain when a stream of dirty water was turned on him from what was supposed to be a fire extinguisher.  He broke to run, and in attempting to get out of the house found that the back door was fastened, but he managed to open it and get out.  As soon as he got out, two men stopped him and sang to the crowd, “We’ve got him.”  They then dragged him over to the platform at the Central depot, where he was very roughly handled, and the dirty water turned on him again.  While he was struggling to get free, the crowd yelled out, “Go through him and see what he has got.”  Mr. T. looked around and saw a constable he had met at Mud Hill, and said to him. “Will you stand there as an officer of the peace and allow these men to murder me?”   The officer told the mob to desist and taking hold of Mr. T., said, “now run”  This Mr. T. did, and as he started off, volley after volley of pistol shots were fired at him.   

He ran into the woods and up to a farmer’s house and asked him for a drink of water and shelter.  The citizen gave him a drink of water, but refused him shelter in his house.  Mr. T., hearing the crowd coming after him, he ran to the rear of the farmer’s house and hid in the bushes.  The mob scattered and made a thorough search for him but failed to discover his whereabouts.  Mr. T. lay in the bushes until daylight Sunday morning when the farmer came to him and told him to clear out and leave the premises refusing to give the man a drink of water.  Mr. T. walked back to the depot and the station-master also refused to give him a drink of water.  Mr. T. asked the agent if he would check his baggage to Waco.  At first he refused with an oath and said that he would not.  ON showing the man his ticket he then agreed to check one of  his valises through, but told Mr. T. he had better leave that town.  Mr. T. found that the mob had cut open one of his valises through and ruined several scenes.  He then took his other valises and walked to Ross station (editor’s note –about 11.5 miles) through the hot sun, where he was befriended by Mr. W. A. Poindexter, and yesterday he came into the city in that gentleman’s wagon. 

Mr. Trimble came from Brooklyn, N. Y., to Texas two years ago, and has spent the greater part of his time in travelling and giving entertainment.  He says he has never been so roughly handled before, and never dreamed that he was travelling in a country where a mob was allowed to take a man out of a village and almost massacre him, and not one man raised his hand to protect him.  If his statements are true, it is certainly a high handed outrage, and should be looked into by the proper authorities.  He cannot recollect any of the names of the mob, but says if he had means he would certainly prosecute them to the full extent of the law.     

Saturday, August 02, 2014

This Week in Texas Methodist History  August 3

Houston Mayor Leaves Bequest for Churches and School   August 1856

Last week’s column related Walter Clark’s bequest to Texas Methodist institutions.  Of course many persons include good works in their estate planning, and the development offices of Methodist universities have entire departments devoted to encouraging friends and alumni to do so.  

In the mid-1850s the mayor of Houston, James H. Stevens, although still a young man, was dying of consumption (tuberculosis).  The long, lingering illness gave him to time for estate planning rare in the mid-nineteenth century.  The Methodist Church in Houston was one of the named beneficiaries in his will.  

Stevens had a very large estate—valued at about $300,000.  He was born in Kentucky in 1818 and came to Houston in 1840.  He became a merchant and railroad promoter and was one of the organizers of the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos, and Colorado Railroad.  This rail line was a key to Houston’s success as it diverted the cotton trade from the Brazos River bottoms to Houston instead of Harrisburg.  The seal of the City of Houston has a locomotive as its main image as a reminder of the importance of railroads in the city’s history.   

The city elections of 1855 featured a railroad vs. anti-railroad controversy.  Stevens was put forward as the mayoral candidate for the railroad faction and was elected.  

His term was short as he died on July 21, 1856, and his will was soon made public.  He divided his estate among his family and then bequeathed $1000 each to the Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Episcopal Churches.  He also left $5000 as a challenge grant.  The condition of the grant was that Houstonians could have the money when they raised $10000 for an academy.  

Only one month after the death, friends of the deceased met the challenge with $20000 and chartered Houston Academy.  The academy closed during the Civil War, but reopened afterward and is recognized as one of the foundations upon which Houston ISD was created.