Saturday, November 28, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History  November 29

East Texas Conference Meets in Henderson, Promotes Fowler Institute  1851

One of the ways that Texas Methodists honored the memory of Littleton Fowler was by creating a school in Henderson and naming it Fowler Institute.  Fowler died in January 1846, and the school began under the auspices of the East Texas Conference in January, 1850.

  In the middle decades of the 19th century Rusk County, and its county seat of Henderson, was quite an educational center.  Fowler Institute was the third school to be organized there.
Fowler Institute got off to a good financial start because Robert A. Kaufman donated the proceeds from the sale of 160 acres to the Institute.  The East Texas Conference started a fund raising campaign to raise $5,531 to build a one story brick building where the Henderson Hospital was later located.  The Institute had three divisions, Primary ($25  tuition per term), Middle ($30), and Senior ($35).  

In November 1851 the East Texas Annual Conference convened in Henderson so that preachers could see the new brick college building.  For the second year in a row no bishop arrived to preside.  In 1850 Bishop Henry Bascom died before he could come to Palestine to preside.  In 1851 Bishop Capers had to cancel because of sickness.  Rev. S. A. Williams was elected to preside over both sessions of the East Texas Annual Conference.

A main reason for choosing Henderson as the conference site was to show off the new conference college.   Preachers were expected to spread the word about the college among their congregations and encourage both student enrollment and contributions. 

Fowler Institute prospered during the 1850s.  An advertisement in 1859 listed the courses offered:
Orthography, Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Geography, English Grammar, History, Mental and Moral Philosophy, Rhetoric, Logic, Astronomy, Algebra, Latin, and Greek.   Napoleon Burks was the President.  

As with most 19th century Methodist colleges, Fowler Institute did not last.  One reason for the failure was oversupply.  On the eve of the Civil War Henderson was also home to the Masonic Female Academy in addition to Fowler Institute.  Nearby were the Millville Male and Female Academy, and Sylvania School House, between Henderson and Marshall. Rusk County also boasted schools at Minden, Rock Hill, and Mount Enterprise. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History  November 22

Houston Tri-Weekly Telegraph Publishes Methodist/Freedmen’s Bureau Exchange   November 26, 1865.  

One of the main objectives of the Freedmen’s Bureau in Texas was to make sure formerly enslaved persons received the education that would enable them to move up the economic ladder.   Schools for freedmen were opened throughout Texas and the rest of the South, and men and women, boys and girls flocked to them in their thirst for knowledge.   In most cases a Bureau official was put in charge of making sure those schools received the support they needed.  The agent for Houston was Henry W. Stuart

In November, 1865, he inserted himself into the relations between the African American Methodist Church (today’s Trinity UMC) and the European American Methodist Church (today’s First UMC).

The African American Methodist congregation was large enough that it was able to organize its own church and build its own building.  When the European American Methodist church building deteriorated to the point it could not be used, the African American congregation rented their building to them.  

The arrangement worked until the African American congregation decided to begin a Sunday School.  They therefore wished to reclaim their building during the Sunday morning time slot the European Americans had been using.  

For reasons we do not know, Henry Stuart inserted himself into the situation by writing the following letter to the stewards of the European American Methodists

Rev. W. R. Fayle,
Rector of the Methodist Church Houston,
Dear Sir, It is the wish of the colored people, the owners of the Church you now worship in, to establish a Sabbath School, and in order to do this, it will be necessary for them to have use of the Church on Sabbath mornings.
In the absence of Lt. Col. DeGress, Provost Marshal of this district, who had intended giving you notice to give up the Church to-day, I address you, asking that you will be pleased, after this days services, at the free and entire disposal of the colored people so they may commence their Sabbath School next Sunday, the 26th of November, inst.
I am, Sir, your obliged and ob’t s’v.
Superintendent and Teacher Government Colored Schools, Houston, Texas
P. S. –arrangements can no doubt be made for placing the Church at your disposal on Sabbath afternoons, H. W. S.

James Dumble, Secretary of the trustees, replied to Stuart.
Superintendent and Teacher Government Colored Schools, Houston, Texas
Your communication to the Rev. W. R. Fayle of the 18th inst. is herewith returned by the officers in charge of the property belonging to the Methodist Church in this city.  They are not able to recognize you as having any voice or shadow of authority to act for the “colored people.”  They have their official members connected with the colored congregation, and recognized Pastor, “colored,” whose wishes we are, as we always have been, ready to meet in a proper spirit

Without any desire to make your honored acquaintance, we remain,
The Trustees of the M. E. Church South, Houston Station,
Jas. F. Dumble, Secretary

Saturday, November 14, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History  November 19

Houston Methodist Hospital Trustees Report to Annual Conference, Nov.  19, 1924

One of the shining jewels of Texas Methodism is our network of hospitals that combine the most advanced scientific research and patient care with a Christian witness of healing.  

The 1924 report of the Houston Methodist Hospital to the Texas Annual Conference shows an exuberance rarely seen in board reports.  The hospital was opened on June 11, and in only 6 months the hospital had made remarkable progress.  

The Business Manager of the Methodist Hospital was S. R. Hay, Jr., whose father had been elected bishop while serving as pastor of First Methodist Houston.  He reported a total investment of $239272.44.  There were 36 doctors and 32 nurses to care for the 98 patients who had been treated since June 11.

A nursing school was already in operation with six students enrolled in the 3-year program.  The Methodist Hospital had been awarded a Grade A status by its accrediting agency, the American College of Surgeons.  The report to Annual Conference mentioned the up-to-date apparatus including X-ray equipment, its Photo-therapy Department where patients received ultra violet treatments, and its Radium Department which boasted the “largest supply of radium in the Southwest.”

One of the recommendations in the Annual Report was a very long time in coming.  #7 Recommendation was as follows

In view of the fact that no Protestant Hospital in Houston is prepared to care for negro patients, we recommend that the Management of our Hospital look forward to the time when arrangements can be made to take proper care of negro patients.

Decades would pass before that recommendation was implemented.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History November 8

Northwest TexasAnnual Conference Condemns Modernism 

The Northwest Texas Annual Conference met in Canyon from Nov. 11-15, 1925, with Bishop James Dickey presiding.  In addition to the usual business of conference, the delegates also inserted themselves into the debate over fundamentalism and modernism at SMU. 

Historians have long debated the causes of the rise of fundamentalism in the immediate post-World War I era.    Perhaps it was a reaction against Progressivism; disillusion with the results of World War I; maybe a reaction against the new discoveries of physics and psychology that showed uncertainty, relativism, and the role of the unconscious. Whatever the underlying causes, the fundamentalists focused on opposition to three areas---rationalism, higher criticism in theology, and evolution.  A denominational university like SMU, just getting off the ground, was bound to be buffeted by the conflicts.

The contest was engaged as early as the 1917-1918 academic year. A teacher of sophomore English, Katherine Balderson, assigned a novel in which a character was a clergyman who lost his belief in the literal interpretation of scripture.  Such an innocent assignment by today’s standards resulted in a summons to defend herself before the theological faculty headed by Bishop Mouzon.

Several years later Professor John A. Rice (1862-1930), Professor of Old Testament at SMU incurred the wrath of J. Frank Norris (1877-1952) pastor of First Baptist Church of Fort Worth and a leader in the fundamentalist movement.  Rice’s book, The Old Testament in the Life of Today, argued that an oral tradition lay behind the Old Testament text---not very radical by today’s standards, but inflammatory to Norris who had already made a name for himself in trying to purge Baylor of all traces of modernism.  Fundamentalists filled the pages of the Christian Advocate with denunciations inspired by Norris, and in 1921 Rice offered to resign (with conditions) even though Bishops Mouzon and Moore had come to his defense.  Rice went on to pastorates in Oklahoma, appointed by Bishop Mouzon, where he was pastor of Boston Avenue MECS during the construction of its magnificent sanctuary.

The next victim of the fundamentalists was Mims Workman who taught religion in the College of Arts and Sciences.  At least one of his students testified to a gathering of fundamentalists in Fort Worth about his liberal lectures.   Although Workman was supported by many students, President Selecman let him go.

The controversies at SMU and similar ones at Southwestern University made life difficult for at least some preachers.  How could they defend their denominational institutions against these charges of rationalism, higher criticism, and evolution?

One way would be to pass a resolution which would tie conference financial support to a loyalty oath.  That’s just what happened in the Northwest Texas Conference in 1925.

Here is the text of the resolution they passed which they made a standing rule of the conference
Before this Conference will consider making an appropriation to any institution of learning, there must be placed in the hands of the conference secretary and the chairman of the Board of Education, the following statement signed by the present of the institution of learning, the dean of each department and all the teachers of science, sociology, and teachers of the Bible.
There is no teacher in our school, within my knowledge, who believes or teaches that man had his origin in a lower form of animal life.

All the teachers of our institution, within my knowledge, believe, without mental reservation, equivocation, or without interpretation other than that of the accepted standards of our Methodist Church, in the inspiration of both the Old and New Testament, and in every statement of the Apostle’s Creed.
The rule remained two years and was modified at the 1927 Annual Conference.