Saturday, November 04, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History   November 5

 James Burke Informs Readers that Methodist Sunday School is Just Fine with the American Sunday School Union, Nov. 6, 1847

James Burke (?-1880) was popularly known as “Sunday School Man.” He was born in Edgefield District, SC, spent his childhood in Tennessee, and in `1837 moved from Natchez to San Augustine, Texas.  He was a Cumberland Presbyterian, clerk of the 2nd Congress of the Republic of Texas, a member of the Santa Fe Expedition, a journalist and participant many worthy, humanitarian causes.
He was best known as the Texas Agent for the American Sunday School Union, and it was in that capacity that he responded to the founding of a Methodist Sunday School by Orceneth Fisher in Houston.
Instead of displaying jealousy for a competing Sunday School, Burke heaped praise on the Methodist effort.
In the Republic of Texas most churches were points on a circuit and most Sunday Schools were Union rather than denominational.  Very few Presbyterians or Methodists had preaching by one of their own denomination every Sunday.  Many churches shared the pulpit, and also the Sunday School, with a pastor of whatever denomination happened to be in town that Sunday.   The American Sunday School Union had been formed in Philadelphia in 1824 to supply Sunday School literature devoid of denominational slant that could be used in the Union Sunday Schools.

The Methodist Episcopal Church and Methodist Episcopal Church, South, also published Sunday School literature, and the proceeds from the sale of that literature was devoted to supporting the itinerate ministers who also often acted as sales people for the literature. 
Whenever a city became large enough to move from circuit to station status, it usually withdrew from the Union Sunday School and created Methodist Sunday School.  The Methodists in Houston finally gained enough members in October, 1847 to form their own Sunday School under Rev. Orceneth Fisher.  They withdrew from the Union Sunday School they had been attending.
Burke, instead of resenting the defection of the Methodists from the Union Sunday School in Houston, rejoiced that the event was occurring.  He said, in effect, that there was plenty of work for all Christians in teaching the Gospel.


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