Saturday, March 09, 2019

This Week in Texas Methodist History March 10

African American Methodists in Austin Affiliate with MEC, March 1866

The end of the Civil and emancipation in Texas is celebrated on Juneteenth every year.    The response of Methodists to this freedom is one of the most interesting stories in the history of Texas Methodism.  

Before the Civil War many of the districts in Texas were at least ¼ African American served by MECS preachers.   Several patterns existed to serve these parishioners.  Sometimes, as at Marshall, African Americans sat in a balcony during the morning worship service.  Sometimes whites worshiped on Sunday morning and African Americans worshiped in the same building in the afternoon.  Almost every district had at least one appointment designated “African Mission” or “Colored Mission.”  
One of the aspects of freedom was the freedom to organize one’s religious life.  The MECS continued to appoint preachers to the African Missions and as in the case of Houston, appointed an African American (Elias Dibble) to serve that congregation. 
The MEC, which had been excluded from Texas prior to the war, sent missionaries to served the newly emancipated population.  The AME and AMEZ also sent representatives to organize churches in Texas. 

The rivalry between the denominations often resulted in disputes and ill will between the various denominations.   The MEC had some advantages.  It had taken a firm stand against slavery, and it had missionary funds, and literature in greater abundance than any other denomination.  On the other hand, it still did not offer full equality of the races.  For example, when the Texas Conference of the MEC was formed, 5 of the 6 Presiding Elders were European American rather than African American.  

The AME and AMEZ could point to African American leadership, but those denominations (especially the AMEZ) simply did not have the resources to send missionaries to Texas.  

The MECS finally spun off its African American churches in the CME, which created yet another division in the ranks of African American Texas Methodists. 
In March `1866 the African American church in Austin voted to switch to the MEC.  Similar decisions were made across the state so that by the 1870s African American Texans had several choices of Methodist churches from which to choose.  Of course some churches also voted to become Baptist---the congregational polity of the Baptist church meant that congregations would not be embroiled in denominational turmoil.


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