Saturday, May 26, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History May 27

SU Hosts First Summer Institute, May 1901

Methodism has had continuing education programs since its origins.  Unlike prevailing Anglican and Roman Catholic practice, both of which required years of formal education before embarking on a clerical life, Methodists accepted relatively uneducated men into their ranks and sent them out riding circuits.  That system helps explain the rapid expansion of Methodism across the United States.  Lowering educational requirements created a much larger pool of prospective laborers in the vineyard.  

The expectation was that preachers would pursue theological and Biblical studies as they rode their circuits.  The practice was formalized in the Course of Study which still exists.  As the denomination created universities, summer institutes arose to provide continuing education.  It was a win-win situation.  The universities were able to provide meals and lodging in dormitories that would otherwise be vacant.  Preachers could continue their education.

Southwestern University offered its first Summer Institute in 1901 immediately after graduation.  The program featured a Who’s Who of Texas MECS preachers.

The Dean was Seth Ward from Galveston.  He was in the process of uniting St. James and St. Johns after the hurricane less than a year earlier.  In 1902 he would go to Nashville as Secretary of Church Extension and then in 1906 be elected Bishop—the first native born Texan to achieve that station. He also taught the course “History of Methodism.”

There were other future bishops on the faculty.   John M. Moore (elected 1918) of Travis Park San Antonio taught Church History.  E. D. Mouzon (elected 1910) of First Fort Worth taught Homiletics.  J. J. Tigert (elected 1906, died 1906) lectured.  Bishop Eugene Hendrix (elected 1886) and TCA editor George Rankin were also on the program. 

There were also professors.  H. C. Pritchett, President of Sam Houston Normal (today Sam Houston State University lectured on psychology.  John Allen and R. B. McSwain, both of Southwestern, taught philosophy and Evidences of Christianity respecxtively.  James Kilgore, then at Cameron, but later to move into university service, taught Morals of Christianity. 

About sixty students enrolled for the classes.  Many more, including townspeople, came to hear the lectures delivered by such a brilliant lineup.  SU certainly started its Summer Institutes off with a bang.

Personal note:    Although the name often changed, some form of a Summer Institute continued for decades.  In 1967 I was living in Georgetown during the Summer Institute.  The keynote lecturer was George Buttrick (1892-1980)—a superstar of the era, known for his editorship of the Interpreter’s Bible.  I attended the evening sessions which were open to the public without fee or registration, and my father enrolled.  One of my great memories occurred on Tuesday night.  After the lecture, a watermelon party was scheduled on the grounds.  It was the night of the Major League Baseball All Star game.  Buttrick, a baseball fan, asked if a TV were available.  There was in the corner of the Student Union Building.  Buttrick, my father, and I skipped the watermelons to watch the game, just the three of us---talking and conversing about the plays and players. 


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