Saturday, October 18, 2014

This Week In Texas Methodist History   October 19

El Paso Methodists In Turmoil, Accuse Pastor of Immorality, October, 1887

El Paso was thrust into national prominence in the 1880s as the most important supply center for much of West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Northern Mexico.  The agreement between Collis Huntington and Jay Gould in 1881 to have the Southern Pacific and Texas and Pacific Rail lines meet at Sierra Blanca created the second transcontinental railroad across the United States.  This southern route provided gentler grades and less danger from blizzards than the first transcontinental railroad, the Union Pacific-Central Pacific, so much transcontinental traffic was captured by the new line. 
El Paso—as the only settlement of consequence between San Antonio and San Diego---boomed.  It soon became a major smelting center for the mineral ores of Arizona, New Mexico, and Chihuahua.  

Methodists, of course, looked upon El Paso as a prize to be won.  Both the northern and southern branches of the church, quite correctly, looked upon El Paso as the perfect spot from which to launch mission efforts into Chihuahua, Sonora, New Mexico, Arizona, and even Sinaloa and Baja California.   Following a long-established pattern, Bishop George Pierce appointed John F. Carter to start an MECS church in the same year that the rail links were forged—1881.  That church eventually became Trinity UMC.  

El Paso, though, was much more cosmopolitan than the cities of the South in which the MECS dominated.  All the railroad cities of the era received immigrants from northern states.  Trinity MECS was only five years old when some of its members pulled out and organized a ME church.  

According to the El Paso Times, charges of immorality brought against the Trinity pastor, the Rev. William R. McCorkle, in October, 1887, stemmed from the bad feeling surrounding the defection. 

Presiding Elder J. D. Scroggins, received a number of letters of complaint against Rev. McCorkle, accusing him of “immorality,” later described as “back-biting and lying.”  

P. E. Scroggins acted immediately according to the Disciplinary provisions of the time by convening a panel of three elders to hear the charges.  He gave McCorkle the privilege of naming the three elders.  They were pastors from Deming, NM; Chihuahua; and Murpheysville, Tx (renamed Alpine the next year).  

The panel began its work on Tuesday October 25 and issued a split decision-2-1 for conviction.  In an extraordinary breach of protocol and violation of the confidentiality of the hearing, PE Scroggins gave an interview to a reporter for the El Paso Times in which he stated his opposition to the verdict and expressed his wish that the Annual Conference would reverse the decision when it met next at Monclova. 

The Times reporter ended his story thus
Trinity Church is in the jurisdiction of the Methodist Episcopal Church South.  Up to a year and half ago, it was the only Methodist church here, but at that time, the church divided with considerable ill feeling on the part of many members, and a new Methodist society was formed under the jurisdiction of the northern Methodist church.   The two churches have never exchanged olive branches, and the present trouble dates, in large part, to the differences that led to that division a year and a half ago.  Mr. McCorkle has warm friends as well as warm opponents, and there are grave rumors of developments yet to come, as well as charges that the investigation this week was a “persecution” rather than a “prosecution” of the accused.


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