Saturday, January 28, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History  Jan. 29

P. E. Gregory Appoints E. B. Duncan to Sulphur Fork   January 1837

The earliest Methodist preaching in Texas occurred in northeastern Texas as early as the mid 1810’s. The settlements along the Red River in present day Red River, Bowie, and Lamar Counties were nominally still part of Spanish Texas, but since the Red River was part of the Mississippi drainage basin, it was therefore part of the Louisiana Purchase.  The Adams-Oñis Treaty of 1819 between the United States and Spain resolved the western boundary of the Louisiana Purchase by making the Sabine River the boundary from its mouth to 32 ° North Latitude, hence due north to the Red River, thence up the channel of the Red River, etc.  This boundary which was adopted by the new nation of Mexico after its successful revolution, put the settlements on the south side of the Red River into Spanish and then Mexican territory. 
The region was so distant from the Mexican heartland that little civil authority existed.  Anglo American took advantage of the absence of a strong Mexican presence to squat on the lands along the Red, Sulphur, and their tributaries.  Those settlers included Littleton Fowler’s aunt and uncle and their family.  It was a great risk to move onto lands before governments established the mechanisms of securing land titles, but the potential reward was also great.

What little civil authority that did exist was mainly exercised from Fort Towson, a U. S. Army post in present day Oklahoma.  Southwestern Arkansas also became a popular destination for settlers, and the whole region, on both sides of the Red was often referred to as the Miller Territory after Miller Co., Arkansas. 
The area was incorporated first into the Missouri Annual Conference of the MEC, and with the creation of the Arkansas Conference in 1836, into the Arkansas Conference.  The journals of the Arkansas Conference reveal appointments to the “Sulphur Fork Circuit” very early, but are often left “to be supplied.”  Those appointments included such preaching points as Pecan Point, DeKalb, and Jonesboro.  In late January 1837 Robert Gregory, the presiding elder of the District that included southwest Arkansas/northeast Texas appointed E. B. Duncan to the Sulphur Fork Circuit. 
The appointments in northeastern Texas remained in the Arkansas Conference even after the creation of the Texas Conference in 1840.  In 1844 with the creation of the East Texas Conference, they were taken from Arkansas and moved to the East Texas Conference. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History    Jan.22

President C. M. Bishop Reports on Unification Commission Meeting at Southwestern Chapel Services, January 22, 1917

Although the northern and southern branches of the Methodist Episcopal Church separated after events of the 1844 General Conference, there was a persistent feeling among many Methodists that reunion should occur.  We know that the two braches did rejoin in 1939.  Less well remembered is the Unification Commission that met three times in the World War I era. 
The Commission consisted of fifty members—all men.  There were five bishops from the MEC and MECS and ten laity and  ten clergy from each of the branches.  Two of the MEC representatives were African American, including the editor of the New Orleans Christian Advocate, Rev. Robert Jones, who was later elected bishop.
Two university presidents from Texas were on the Commission.  Robert S. Hyer of SMU held one of the lay positions.  Charles M. Bishop, his successor at Southwestern, held a clergy position.
The first meeting of the Commission occurred at Baltimore, from Dec. 28, 1916 to Jan. 2, 1917.    As the new school term began at Southwestern, President Bishop chose the unification topic when he addressed the regular Thursday morning chapel service.  He reported that the prospects for unification were not that good, and might take “several years, perhaps two or three.”   The great barrier to unification was the MECS objection to African American bishops.  Methodist bishops are “general superintendents and any one may hypothetically preside over any annual conference.  The Southerners were going to block unification until they could be assured that no African American would preside over one of their annual conferences.  That objection was solved by the jurisdictional system which created five regional and one racial jurisdiction from which bishops would be elected.
The topic of unification did not die after the chapel service.  The San Jacinto Literary Club chose as its debate topic,  “Resolved:  The time has come when all the branches of the Methodist church should unite.”  The negative side won the debate. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History   Jan. 15

Texas Conference of Evangelical Association Meets in Houston, Recognizes Lillie Belle Bayles For Serving Lissie  January 18, 1945

The long struggle for full ordination of women was finally ended at the 1956 General Conference of the Methodist Church.  What we sometimes forget is that women in other branches of Methodism had been acting in pastoral roles well before that date.
The Methodist Protestant and Evangelical Association branches of the Wesleyan movement were more open to women in ministry than the other branches. 
A case in point occurred at Lissie when the pastor, the Rev. Francis McP. Bayles died at age 59 in June, 1944.  Mrs. Lillie Belle Bayles, in spite of the grief she must have experienced, assumed the role of minister until October when Rev. Nevin Peterson arrived as a transfer from the Pittsburgh Conference.

The conference was meeting in Houston that year, in Oaklawn Church.  Bayles had recently served that church.   The conference looked ahead to the merger of the denominational with the United Brethren to create the Evangelical United Brethren (EUB) the next year. 
In addition to thanking Mrs. Bayles for continuing the ministry, the conference had many accomplishments to report.  The conference was finally able to print its journals.  For 10 years, the journals had been mimeographed.   They had been able to purchase a district parsonage in San Antonio.  The merger of Scotland church with First Wichita Falls was accomplished.  The summer assembly was resumed.  It had been suspended for the war years because of the shortage of tires and gasoline.  El Campo offered to host that assembly in July.

Lillie Belle Bayles lived another 30 years.  She died in Dallas in 1974.

Friday, January 06, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History January 8

Hereford Says Farewell to Rev. Thomas S. Barcus,  January, 1907

One of the most famous names in Texas Methodist history is that of “Barcus.”  Four sons of the Rev. Edward R.  and Mary Barcus answered the call to ministry.  All four once served in the Northwest Texas Conference.  The youngest Barcus was Thomas who was born in 1877.  
At the 1906 session of annual conference Bishop Hoss informed Barcus that he would not be reappointed to Hereford, but would be sent to the Mission work in Monterrey, Mexico.  
Hereford was little removed from a mission field itself in 1906.  The church had been founded in 1899 and boasted a new sanctuary which Bishop Hendrix had dedicated in 1902.  Hereford was the one of the new cities founded on the plains in the wake of railroad expansion.  By 1907 it was a prosperous county seat town.  
Barcus had made such a good impression that the Christian and Presbyterian churches suspended their Sunday evening services so their members could attend the farewell sermon.  The pastors of those churches even had kind valedictory words for Brother and Mrs. Barcus.  The farewell sermon text, Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed. . .”  was one of the favorite sermon texts of the 19th and early 20th century. 

The Hereford Brand reported the disappointment of the Methodists in losing such a fine young preacher.  Believing in the infinite wisdom of the bishop, and that perhaps there were wider fields of usefulness in the foreign field for Bro. Barcus, the stewards of the Methodist church very reluctantly accepted his resignation. 

The mission appointment did not last long.  The 1910 US Census reports Barcus living in Anson.  Other appointments included Clarendon, Dalhart, Beaumont Roberts Ave., and Weatherford.  In 1948 Rev. and Mrs. Barcus were tragically killed by asphyxiation in Fort Worth.   . .