Saturday, July 20, 2019

This Week in Texas Methodist History  July 21

A Thank You to MEC District Superintendents for Their Frankness

The United Methodist Church that we know is the result of mergers of various denominations.  The largest of these were the MEC and the MECS.  Those denominations separated after the 1844 General Conference of the MEC but remained very similar in doctrine and polity.  The lack of divergence made unification in 1939 easier.  Both denominations had changed, but had changed in similar ways. 
One way the MEC and MECS diverged was in the editing of their journals.  The MEC included two features in its journals that are of tremendous help to historians that the MECS did not.  The first is that the entire pastoral record of every conference member is printed in the Journal every year.  Open up a Journal and see the appointments the preacher had served, a real convenience for historians.
The second was that District Superintendents (the term when the MECS still used “Presiding Elder”) gave a short report on every church in the district.  Even better, the DS’s were frank, brutally frank—for which historians are grateful.  Here are a few examples all taken from the 1917 Texas Conference of the MEC Journal.

Onalaska Circuit:  Brother Manning was assigned to this work but failed to look after it, which led to his suspension. 

Trinity Circuit:  We were unable to get a wide-awake local preacher to supply this mission with two points. . .
Woodville Circuit:  Brother Wm. Brooks is our pastor at this place; it is more a name than anything else.  He will make his report.

Rev. L. H. Barrett has done the best he could at Mallalieu Heights.  Mallalieu is located in a white settlement and has absolutely no future, but a few members there cannot be prevailed upon to sell and move into a neighborhood of their own people, and the struggle must go on and some preacher must serve them.  (Mallalieu continued into the 21st Century but is closed)

Rev. J. O. Williams has had an uphill pull at Trinity. He has been seriously handicapped on account of inadequate income to pay the debts as they came due. 

Rev. P. L. Jackson closes his fourth year at Spring. This is a poor charge but Brother Jackson has supplemented his meager income by raising a good garden and fine crop of corn.

Gilmer:  The Rev. J. R. Carnes was assigned to this place. . .He was told at the start that he had no members at this place, saving one, the others having deserted the church, and further that the church was in a lawsuit.  He said that if people were there, he would live.  All he wanted was to be where there were people.  But I think Bro. Carnes has changed that.  He has not been able to do anything there this year. 

Harleton Circuit:  Bro. P. P. Phillips, a local preacher, was assigned there.  He preached one sermon and returned to the farm.  

Caldwell Circuit has felt the drought that came on this area very, very keenly, for it was on this circuit that some of the leading farmers made just one-half bale per acre. . .and scarcely any corn at all.

Hearne:  It seems as if Hearne has already enjoyed its best days. .they seem to have become discouraged and lost interest.

Jewett-Buffalo is pastored by Rev. W. W. Randall.  While the people here are in no wise been in heartfelt accord with the pastor, he has succeeded against the odds. 
Franklin:  the Rev. G. M. Stewart was assigned to this place, only to keep up his conference relationship.  There being neither house of worship nor any members, he has not done anything.  Only he reports some benevolence money given out of his own pocket. 

I salute the MEC District Superintendents who wrote so frankly and honestly that the reports are a gold mine for historians.   Journals can be cold, impersonal (except for memoirs), and statistical.  The details included in the DS reports show the churches as multi-dimensional, complex organizations, not just a collection of statistics.   


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