Saturday, December 26, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History   December 27

Rutersville Trustee Defends Rights of Muslims and Jews in the Republic of Texas, December 30, 1841

The current debate over religious freedom vs. Christian nationalism is not really a new issue.  As early as 1841 it was debated in the House of Representatives of the Republic of Texas.  

The issue seemed simple enough.  The Congress of the Republic was considering a bill that would create a generic incorporation process for churches and cemeteries .  The main impetus for the bill was to relieve the House from having to pass individual incorporation bills for every church that so petitioned them.  The incorporation bill specified that churches could petition District Judges to grant incorporation rather than coming to Congress. 

At the evening session on December 30, 1841, Representative John Winfield Scott Dancy, (1810-1866) who represented Fayette County moved to amend the bill by adding after “christians”  the language “or other professors of religion.”

In speaking for his amendment, Dancy, who was an original trustee of Rutersville College, said,
“. . . the privilege should be extended to all persuasions, the Mahometan who chants his muezzin at the mosque, and the Jew who is yet waiting the coming of a savior.”  

Dancy’s amendment was rejected.  The House then had an extended debate on the original bill. The debate revolved around the fears of some Representaives that they were abdicating their responsibility.  Even though passing individual incorporation bills was tedious, they were also jealous of their powers vis-à-vis the District Judges.  

The debate continued long enough for Dancy to introduce another amendment, this time striking “Christian” and inserting “religious persons.”  This time his amendment passed, thereby putting the House on record as favoring equal treatment of all religions.  

The bill then was tabled 21-11.  Among the minority votes, besides Dancy, was A. J. Fowler (1815-1885), Littleton Fowler’s brother, and Representative from Clarksville.  

Dancy was one of the most progressive citizens of Texas.  He is credited with introducing long staple cotton, having the first hydraulic ram used for irrigation, and also for vigorous promotion of railroad construction.  He earned the nickname, “Father of Texas Railways.” 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History  December 20

Bishop Keener in Houston to Preside at Texas Annual Conference and Organize German Conference.  December 20, 1874

One of the most interesting facets of Texas Methodist history is the ethnic mix of the Lone Star State.  No other state had such a mixture as did Texas.  When Bishop Keener came to Houston in December, 1874, several of those streams came together.

Bishop Keener was in Houston to preside over the Texas Conference of the MECS.  One of the deacons he ordained was Carl Charnquist.  (1839-1910).  Later  Charnquist would transfer to the MEC and become the most prominent preacher in the Southern Swedish Conference.  

Keener also read a poignant letter from Brownsville asking for prayers for Laho (Alejo) Hernandez who had been paralyzed by a stroke.  Hernandez was the first Mexican American to be ordained as a Methodist preacher. 

On Sunday December 20, after 11:00 services at Shearn (later First) Methodist, Keener went to the German (later Bering) to preach at 3:00.  

Later in the week Keener organized the two German districts of the Texas Conference into a new conference—the German Mission Conference of Texas and Louisiana.  In 1886 the Louisiana charges in that conference, mainly in New Orleans, were merged into the English speaking conference.  The conference was renamed to German Mission Conference.  

In the enthusiasm of its organization the new German Conference authorized the establishment of a school.  That school did open at Fredericksburg, but did not last.  Southwestern University became a popular destination for MECS German students.  

The German Conference lasted until 1918 when it held its last annual conference at New Fountain.  The final report showed 1800 members, 22 preachers, and 18 local preachers.  After 1918 most of the churches became part of the West Texas (today’s Rio Texas Conference) and three became part of the Texas Conference (Bering, Beneke—both in Houston, and East Bernard.) 

During its 44 years of existence, MECS German Methodists in Texas were overshadowed by the Southern German Conference of the MEC.   The MEC Southern German Conference had a more robust publishing enterprise and successful college, Blinn Memorial College in Brenham.  In addition the MEC had a substantial reservoir of preachers from conferences in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Iowa who were willing to transfer to Texas.  Even with those advantages, the MEC Southern German Conference outlasted the MECS German conference by only a few years.  In 1927 it united with the Southern Swedish Conference and the Austin Conference (English speaking). 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History  December 13

Texas Conference Gains 5000+ members, 55 Local Preachers, by General Conference Action, December 1882

The Texas Annual Conference brought a petition to the 1866 General Conference of MECS that the northern portion of its territory be struck off into a new conference.  The General Conference agreed and the Northwest Texas Conference was organized later in the year.  The Texas Conference had suggested the boundary between the two conferences.  That suggested division line basically followed the southern boundaries of Leon, Robertson, Milam, and Williamson Counties.  That line, suggested by the Texas Conference, was adopted.

The Texas Conference began to regret its generosity almost immediately.  It began petitioning General Conference to redraw the line.  The General Conference, then and now, has a committee on boundaries.  Most of the time that committee ratifies agreements already negotiated between annual conferences.  The Northwest Texas Conference resisted the retrocession petitions, and the General Conferences agreed with their position.

Finally in 1882 the Northwest Texas Conference had grown large enough that it would afford to give some charges back to the Texas Conference.

The new boundary basically returned Leon, Robertson, Milam, Falls, Freestone, and the southern part of Limestone Counties to the Texas Conference.  

That area included more than 5000 Methodists and 55 local preachers.  The charges included circuits and stations.  Circuits:  Marlin, Kosse, Bremond, Wheelock, West Falls, Big Creek, Headville, Davilla, Cameron, San Gabriel, Milano, Buffalo, Jewett, Centreville, Fairfield, Personville.
Stations:  Rockdale, Cameron, 

Nineteen preachers from the Northwest Texas Conference transferred to the Texas Conference and nine preachers from the Northwest Texas Conference who served in the impacted area chose to remain in that conference. 

One of the pastors so impacted was the 24 year old Seth Ward who had been ordained at the Northwest Texas Annual Conference of 1881.  The boundary realignment brought Ward into the bounds of the Texas Conference.  Readers of this blog will recognize Ward as the first native born Texan to be elected bishop.  Who knows what his career path would have been if he had stayed in the Northwest Texas Conference?  

The Northwest Texas Conference barely missed the six counties.  1882 was almost at the start of the great settlement of must of western Texas along the rail lines.  The Texas and Pacific and Fort Worth and Denver (think I-20 and US 287) created a boom in city and farm development.  Churches soon followed.  Within just a few years the Northwest Texas Conference was by far the largest MECS conference in Texas.  In 1910 it struck off its southeast portion to become the Central Texas Conference.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History   December 6

John Haynie Defeats Two Methodist Colleagues in Balloting for Chaplain of the House of Representatives, Dec. 6, 1844

As the House of Representatives of the Republic of Texas organized for its last session in December, 1844, one of their acts was to elect a Chaplain for the House of Representatives.  When nominations were in order, three Methodist preachers were nominated. 

Rep. William Read Scurry of Red River County nominated Robert B. Wells.

Rep. Charles F. Williams of Fayette County nominated John Haynie.

Rep. Robert “Three-legged Willie” Williamson nominated Joseph Sneed.

Haynie won in a romp.  Wells received 10 votes, Sneed, 3, and Haynie, 23.

Haynie (b. 1786) was, by far, the most senior of the three nominees and was also the most experiences, having previously served as Chaplain.  He had followed his daughter and son-in-law to Bastrop County, participated in the organizing session of the Texas Annual Conference and served as pastor in Austin. 

Wells (b. 1809) is well known to Texas Methodist historians as the son-in-law of Orceneth Fisher and also the founder of Texas Methodist journalism since he began publishing the Texas Christian Advocate  and Brenham Advertiser in 1847.

Sneed, (b. 1804) had a distinguished ministry.  At the time of his nomination he was finishing a two-year appointment at Rutersville.  

The Chaplain election took place on a Friday, and Haynie must have been present since he opened the Saturday session with prayer.  Monday, December 9, was inauguration day, and Haynie opened that session with prayer too.  The next order of business was the transition of government.
Presidents of the Republic could not succeed themselves so outgoing President Sam Houston addressed the Congress of the Republic of Texas for the last time in an official capacity.  When he finished, Anson Jones and Kenneth Anderson took the oath of office and were installed as President and Vice-President of the Republic of Texas. 

Jones was the last President of the Republic of Texas.  Annexation to the United States occurred during his term.