Saturday, December 10, 2016

This Week in Texas Methodist History December 11

East Texas Conference Reinforces Provincial Attitudes, Dec. 12, 1877

The East Texas Conference of the MECS convened at Crockett on December 12, 1877.  Bishop Wightman was detained at the Northwest Texas Conference, so Rev. John Adams was elected to preside until Bishop Wightman’s arrival. 

Times were still hard in the East Texas Conference in 1877.    The expansion of the rail network and the removal of Native Americans from western Texas made those areas more attractive for migrants to Texas.  Farmers looking for new land tended to pass through East Texas to more attractive lands to the west.  The railroads were just starting to expand into the pine forests of East Texas.  They would eventually create a boom in lumber and other forestry products, but not by 1877. 

Delegates to the 1877 Annual Conference showed a denominational and regional parochialism in the reports.  

The Education Committee reported with disappointment that 6 charges (churches) showed zero attendance at Sunday School.   Can you imagine a a church without a Sunday School?—well they couldn’t either.  The Sunday School was perhaps even more central in 1877.  A circuit rider might come only once per month, but the Sunday School would meet every week.  With the abolition of class meetings,Sunday School  was the glue that held congregations together.  The Sunday School Superintendent was one of the most honored and respected members of the community.

The committee reported the reason for the absence of Sunday Schools---some communities had adopted a union Sunday School, combining all the denominations.  Publishers were supplying Sunday School literature stripped of denominational hot button topics that could by used by such interdenominational organizations. 

The East Texas Conference would have none of that---“. . .robbing our statistics annually of numerical and financial strength due them; and worst of all, permitting their children to grow up without a knowledge of our doctrines.”

The other provincial resolution also concerned education.  The MECS was in the process of creating Vanderbilt University.  The East Texas refused to give its full support for this new institution.  Please stay in Texas, but if you have to go
“abroad” Vanderbilt would be ok. 

Resolved that while we firmly hold that Texas young men should be educated on Texas soil and at Texas institutions, yet, if from any cause any of young men should go abroad for general education, we certainly would be pleased if they should attend that noble institution that has been founded at Nashville, . . .

Sure, go ahead and support the most ambitious university the MECS had ever attempted to that date, but only if you don’t go to school in Texas. 


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