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). 


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