Saturday, January 31, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History   February 1

Texas United Methodist Historical Society Announces Annual Meeting Program

The Texas United Methodist Historical Society will hold its annual meeting in Dallas March 12-14.  The theme of the meeting is the Centennial of SMU, which began instruction in the fall of 1915.  The program committee has prepared an outstanding program.  Full registration materials may be obtained by sending an email request to 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History   January 25

Houston Preachers Object to Immersionist Sunday School Literature  January 27, 1938

The debate over sprinkling versus immersion as a form of baptism once was one of the defining differences between Methodists and Baptists in Texas.  Since both denominations agreed on basic Christian principles, often cooperated in city-wide revivals, and even shared the same houses of worship, we sometimes look on the immersion debate with amusement—as straining over gnats   Our ancestors, however, took the matter seriously.  Methodists were actually accommodating to immersionists.  If an adult convert wished to receive baptism by “dunking,” the Methodist preacher would oblige.  

The issue continued into the 20th century, and the Texas Conference Archives contain an interesting correspondence which began when the Advocate published an immersionist Sunday School lesson. 
Houston District preachers objected and directed the Rev. Charles F. Smith to write a letter of complaint to Rev. W. P. King, editor of the Advocate.  Charles F. Smith (1860-1958) was a superannuate member of the Texas Conference who was associated with St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Houston in his retirement.  He was the custodian of the “conference trunk,” a predecessor of the Conference Archives.
Here is the text of Smith’s complaint letter of January 27

Dear Dr. King:
I was appointed by the Houston District, Monday morning’s preacher’s meeting, to prepare a paper to be presented to you.  Tempering the wind to make it mild, the paper is as follows:

With due appreciation of the General Organ, and your splendid work as editor, we drop this word (with the hope the “a word to the wise, etc.”) viz: that “The Church School Lessons” by Prof. Rollin H. Walker, be discontinued.  (The discontinuance reffered (sic) to the writer not to the department.)
For this paper there were 17 “ayes” and 4 “nays”.  The opposing stated they had not read Porfessor Walker’s articles. 
                                                                          Cordially Yours

N. B. My personal word.  Your contributor is evidently an immersionist.   No quarrel with him about that.  But the man who holds that view is not the man to write for the Methodist Sunday School, and in the columns of the paper supported by the Methodist Church. 

A communication from another part of the state says:  you are going to give an explanation of the Methodist position on the immersion question.  Permit me, Doctor, to ask, why you did not do this in the paper in which appeared your contributor’s article and as an answer to him?

Dr. King responded immediately.  Here is his reply from January 28:

My dear Dr. Smith:

I frankly confessed to some of the brethren who wrote me as touching Professor Walker’s Sunday School lesson that I was not on my guard when that lesson went in and did not notice the objectionable expression.  As you say, he has right to his private opinion, but it was not appropriate for the Advocate.  I have put him on notice as touching this particular statement, which I find that the other papers that carry his lessons, detected and eliminated.  So long as he is satisfactory in his exposition of the lesson, I would be unwilling to rule him out for this lapse alone.

My editorial on baptism is in the Advocate of next week.  I am not guaranteeing that it will give universal satisfaction, but I think it is the one reasonable interpretation.
I am not clear as to one item in your letter.  Did you want your statement published in the Advocate or was it for my own private benefit?


Editor King also added a hand written postscript.  We should have larger number of subscribers to the Advocate from Houston. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History   January 18

W. P. Smith Reports on Camp Meeting and Sunday School in Texas Presbyterian, January 22, 1848

Andrew Jackson McGown (1817-1871) provides a good example of interdenominational cooperation in early Texas.  Although McGown was a Presbyterian minister, he often included materials about other denominations in his newspaper, the Texas Presbyterian. 

The January 22, 1848 issue of that publication contained a long, informative flowery letter from W. P. Smith, pioneer Methodist preacher, physician, and post master.  The letter recounted a successful camp meeting and other religious news from Fayette County.
It is reproduced here.

Dear Bro. McGown,
Though a Minister of a different branch of Christ’s church than that to which you belong, I doubt not that you, with the readers of your excellent publication, will be pleased to hear of the prosperity of Zion from any quarter; for we have lived to see the day where error is receding before the light of the Gospel—when the ultras of sectarianism are being merged into the gulph of oblivion.  . . .We have had some glorious camp meeting in this section. . .the one in which the Divine power was most signally manifested , was the Methodist camp meeting near LaGrange, in this county.  It was conducted under the direction of the Rev. Mordecai Yell, P. E. of this district.  The meeting continued nineteen days, and from the least estimates one hundred and fifty souls emerged out of natures’ darkness, to walk in the light of the immaculate Son of God.  May the gracious work continue until Satan’s Kingdom shall totter to its dark centre and fall; and the Kingdom of King Emanuel be built on the ruins thereof; when knowledge shall spread to the four corners of the world, and universal righteousness pervade the earth.

In the midst of the benevolent institutions of the day, we have a Sabbath School operation, in our neighborhood.  It commenced last year without a regular organization under any distinctive head, for the sole purpose of doing good to the children and youths of this section by imparting moral and religious instruction.  

Bro. J. M. Callar was our first superintendent; but his engagements being such as to preclude his regular attendance, he resigned. 
The school is taught in my office, and for the accommodation of the different denominations is now organized under the Union head.  The following is a list of officers:
Clement Allen, Superintendent
W. P. Smith, Teacher of Bible Class
R. L. Buncan, James A. I. Smith, male teachers
Theodosia C. Scates, Mary M. Callar, Female teachers
I.        M. Callar, Treasurer and Librarian.

The regulation for the winter season is that the Sabbath School commences its exercises at 2 o’clock  p. m. of each  Sabbath evening and at the conclusion of which our prayer meeting begins. 

Our prospects in a moral and religious point are onward—may they continue their march until righteous becomes the motto of every heart.

Your brother in Christ,

W. P. Smith

Friday, January 09, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History  January 11

Isaac G. John born January 14, 1827

One of the most accomplished preachers ever to serve in the Texas Conference was the Rev. Isaac. G. John whose birthday we celebrate this week.  John was born in Indiana, converted at Cincinnati and immigrated to Texas in 1845.  He married Ruth Eblen (b. 1833 in LaGrange)and served Richmond, Rutersville, Washington, Bastrop, Lockhart, and Presiding Elder of several of the districts.  He was editor of the Texas Christian Advocate from 1866 to 1884.  While editor, he also pastored churches in Galveston and was the Presiding Elder of the Galveston District.  In 1880 Ruth died in Galveston.    After one year in Huntsville, he was elected Missionary Secretary at the MECS General Conference of 1886.  He moved to Nashville and spent the rest of his career writing and editing publications for the missionary efforts of the MECS.  

As he was nearing the end of such a long, distinguished ministry—approaching fifty years as a member of the Texas Conference, he realized that he would not be able to make the trip from his home in Nashville to Bastrop, the site of the 1896 Texas Annual Conference.  He wrote a letter to the Conference which is particularly interesting because it reveals that the half-century ministry almost never happened.  Candidates for ordination in his era were asked if they would be willing to accept a foreign missionary appointment, and John could not bring himself to answering that question in the affirmative.  The other potential barrier to conference member was his poor health.  The examining committee did not think he would survive the two year probationary period riding the Texas circuits.  They almost refused his admission on the grounds that he was not expected to live two years.  

The story is better told in I. G. John’s own words.

. . .at the time the following rule was in the Discipline.  It was been stricken out, but I often think it should be again restored.  It reads:  “At each Annual Conference, those who are received on trial, or are admitted into full connection, shall be asked whether they are willing to devote themselves to the Missionary work; and a list of the names of all who are willing to do so, shall be taken and reported to the secretary of the Missionary Board; and all such shall be considered as ready and willing to be employed as Missionaries, whenever called for by any one of the bishops.”  I was preparing for deacons orders and this question before the Conference was, to me, a matter of profound concern.  The General Conference in 1846, without a dissenting voice had decided to enter the work of foreign missions and China had been chosen as the field.  Taylor and Jenkins had been accepted.  When Bishop Andrew preached his sermon on the occasion of their ordination as elders, he closed with deep regret that, “instead of a forlorn hope of two missionaries to be sent from the Southern Methodist church, it was not in his power to send a band of fifty faithful men to the benighted millions of the Flowery Kingdom. Why should I not answer this call?  With earnest prayer I re-examined the commission of our Lord.  “The field was the world.”  Without sufficient reason to stay, I must go.

In those days our presiding elders were the counselors of the younger preachers, and I went to Brother Alexander for advice.  He listened thoughtfully and fully endorsed the breadth of the great commission, but said:  “Two years ago the Conference doubted whether it could receive you on trial as but few expected you would live two years.  Bishop Capers said, “Young preachers are needed in this new land.  This candidate is willing to go.  He may do much work in two years.  We better accept him.”  These words decided your admission.  Now the case is different.  For the foreign field, men of feeble health are never accepted.  It is useless for you to volunteer, for Bishop Andrew is calling only for vigorous men.” 
Several times since then I have felt that less than two years of labor seemed all that was allowed me, and yet I still remain in the ranks, until Bro. Wesson (James Wesson  1819-1898, buried in same Navasota cemetery as Martin Ruter) and myself alone linger in the Texas Conference roll, while those who received appointments from Bishop Capers have answered the roll call in heaven. . .

I. G. John died the following March 17, 1897.   His surviving sons (his oldest son, Alfred S. John, former mayor of Beaumont, predeceased him in 1888)  brought his body back to Georgetown where a suitable funeral was conducted.  His remains were interred in Georgetown. 

Saturday, January 03, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History   January 4

SMU Centennial Notes

2015 marks the centennial year for Southern Methodist University.  Robert S. Hyer resigned as Regent of Southwestern University at the conclusion of the 1910-1911 academic year and moved to Dallas.  He spent the next years planning, raising funds, building, recruiting faculty so that the university opened for the fall 1915 term.  It began as project of the 5 MECS conferences in Texas, but the 1914 General Conference named it the connectional institution for all the annual conferences west of the Mississippi River.  In 1939, with the union of the MEC, MECS, and MP denominations, it related to the South Central Jurisdiction of the Methodist Church (Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska).  

In honor of the Centennial celebration, we will honor the history of SMU with interesting highlights of its history throughout the year.  This week’s subject is Dallas College.  

SMU friends and alumni will probably know about SMU’s facility near Taos, New Mexico, but did you know that SMU once had a large extension program across much of northern Texas in such small cities as Wills Point, Lindale, and Electra?    As hard times hit in the Great Depression, universities struggled.  Some colleges  didn't make it, and others had to cut back.  SMU expanded by going  where the students were--downtown Dallas and oil boom towns in northern Texas. 

In the 1934 SMU report to the Texas Annual Conference we read about Dallas College, directed by G. O Clough, Ph.D.,
Here is the report

Dallas College is the down town division of the University.  It offers classes at the Y. W. C. A. Dallas, Little Theater, Dallas Technical High School, and after four o’clock on the campus of Southern Methodist University.  Classes are taught through the Extension Division in centers outside the city limits of Greater Dallas.  

During the year 1935-1936 Dallas College enrolled 1,231 students including 105 graduates.  This was a substantial increase over the enrollment of the year before.  The College has grown rapidly in the last few years.

Extension classes were taught last year at Mineola, Grand Saline, Lindale, Wills Point, Kaufman, Corsicana, Wichita Falls, Greenville, and Electra.  

The instructors for the most part are the regular teachers of the various colleges on the campus.
The students of Dallas College are usually mature, hard-working people.  A large percentage of them art employed.  Instructors report that the students are more serious and in general make better records than do the students in the same classes on campus.  During the year 334 teachers and 357 persons employed in the business and professions were registered in Dallas College.  One hundred and twelve Dallas firms had employees registered.