Saturday, February 16, 2019

This Week in Texas Methodist History  Feb. 17

Two Cooperative Mission Movements Compete for Resources   February 1919

One of the main events in the aftermath  of World War I was Woodrow Wilson’s failed campaign to create a lasting peace that remove the causes of war.  The linchpin of his plan was the creation of a League of Nations in which nations of the world would meet in a cooperative spirit to prevent war.  The League was created, but the United States did not join it, and in the 1930’s it was ineffective in countering the aggression of dictators.

The same zeitgeist of optimism had echoes in the religious community.  The Centenary Movement, in which MECS and MEC churches joined forces for missionary efforts, has been the subject of several previous posts on this site.
Less well known is the Interchurch World Movement.  Although the movement was created by the Presbyterian Mission Board in December 1918, in only two months local organizers were holding meetings in Texas. The IWM did not seek organic union o f denominations, but sought cooperation so that mission efforts would not be duplicated much like the League of Nations did not seek organic union. 
The IWM chose S. Earl Taylor as its general secretary.  Taylor had proved his abilities by heading up the Methodist Centenary Campaign which was then in progress.   Taylor recruited representatives to spread across the country to create local organizing committees.

In February 1919 Fred B. Smith of New York City made the case to 600 attendees at the City Auditorium in Houston.  The result of that meeting was the creation of a Houston chapter of the IWM consisting of W. Clyde Howard (Presbyterian), J. W. Neal (Baptist), Peter Gray Sears (Episcopalian), Mose Hutcheson (Methodist), A. E. Ewell (Christian), and Charles L. Johnson (Congregationalist).    P. W. Horn, school superintendent, was added to the committee as secretary.

The IWM fell apart in 1920.  The organization planned to finance its efforts through bank loans, but found that the various denominations were unwilling to place their own assets at risk by guaranteeing the loans. 

Methodist enthusiasm for the IWM must have been undercut because of the Centenary Movement which was just getting started at the same time.  At the same time Smith was boosting the IWM in the City Auditorium Bishop John M. Moore was kicking off the Centenary Movement in First Methodist Church by announcing a full program of speakers planned for the following week.  Those speakers included Methodist preachers such as Ira Key and E. L Shettles; banker John Scott; Judge Leddy; and others.  One the speakers was P. W. Horn—dividing his time between the IWM and the Centenary Campaign. 

Both movements, born out of the crusading optimistic spirit of the Progressive Era, eventually dissolved as nations of the world turned inward and more suspicious of cooperative enterprises.


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