Saturday, May 05, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History  May 6

General Conference Convenes in Dallas, May 7, 1930

General Conference delegates of the MECS came to Dallas in May 1930 to conduct the business of the denomination.  The most dramatic event during the event was the tearful apology of Bishop James Cannon, Jr.  (see post for May 3, 2008 for the details).   The public apology was the price the bishop had to pay to avoid a church trial.

This was the era in which bishops were elected by the General Conference as the jurisdictional system we now have was not yet in place.   Three men were elected bishop.  Two of them Arthur J. Moore and A. Frank Smith were relatively young and would come to exercise considerable influence in the MECS and its successor, the Methodist Church.   Both men achieved their influence mainly through force of personality and their powers of persuasion.  The creation of the Methodist Church in 1939 enhanced their power.  The MP Church had no bishops and therefore had no tradition of episcopal leadership.  Although I would not stress it too much, the MEC practiced a more collegial episcopal style and the MECS a more authoritarian one.  Although the MEC brought more members into the Methodist Church, the MECS brought forceful personalities and a heritage of strong episcopal leadership.   Both Smith and Moore assumed leadership roles in the new denomination.
They were also good friends, having both lived in San Antonio.  Moore had served Travis Park and Smith, Laurel Heights.  

What about the third bishop elected?  That would be Paul Bentley Kern (1882-1953).  Kern was born in Alexandria, Va, the son of a pastor.  He earned three degrees from Vanderbilt and also worked as an administrator at the Nashville school.  From 1907 to 1915 he served appointments in the Tennessee Conference.  When SMU opened in 1915, he joined the faculty as professor of English, Bible, and homiletics.  In 1920, he became Dean of the School of Theology.   He remained in that position until 1926 when he became pastor of Travis Park, San Antonio, replacing Arthur Moore who had been appointed to Birmingham. 

In addition to his pastoral, academic, and episcopal duties, Kern found time to publish a number of books, including The Church and its Work (with Worth M. Tippy, 1919), The Miracle of the Galilean (1930 SMU Fondren Lecture), The Miracle in Eternity (1935), The Basic Beliefs of Jesus (1935), The Bible in a Time of Confusion (1936), Methodism Has a Message ! (1941), Why I Am a Protestant (1946), and What Methodists Believe:

Kern was a pacifist who opposed both World War I and World War II.  He died in Nashville, in 1953.  He had retired there the previous year.  Both Moore and Smith served two more quadrennia.  . 


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