Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

independent church. They were both momentous events, pregnant with unutterable evils, but with greater good ; and were necessary, in God's inscrutable providence, to deliver the country, North and South, from the "great evil" of American slavery.

The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, now embraces eight bishops, three thousand eight hundred and seventy-one travelling, and five thousand three hundred and forty-four local preachers, and six hundred and sixty-seven thousand eight hundred and eighty-five members. They have a Book Concern, Missionary Society, and nearly all the paraphernalia of the old church. They publish seven weekly papers, besides a Sunday School Advocate, Ladies' Companion, and Quarterly Review. And, so far as we can learn, they are doing a good business in all these departments, and feel quite happy in their new relations.

CHAPTER XII.

OTHER (MPORTANT MOVEMENTS, AND THE PRESENT STATUS

OF THE METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH.

The separation of the South did not terminate the con. troversy on slavery. We had some slave territory left, and not a few ministers and others who retained their old prejudice against abolition. The subject created a temporary excitement at the General Conference in 1852; but in 1856, abolitionists being in the majority, it received the first thorough investigation it had obtained at any General Conference in many years. This was repeated in 1860; and in 1964 the Discipline received its final touch forbidding slaveholding, and placing the church on its original platform.

The history of the church since 1844 is marked by many startling questions, which, at the moment of their greatest prominence, portended serious results. In reviewing the petitions, resolutions, motions, remonstrances, protests, appeals, committees, and reports which appeared in the seven successive General Conferences, of which the writer was a member, it is surprising to see how few changes were made in our economy, and yet how soon the troubled waters over any question subsided. Of these changes some were inoperative from the beginning; others had better have been so, while the majority have been useful We can only giance at a few of them.

As before noticed, our Wesleyan brethren long smce established a " Chapel Fund” to aid poor societies in the erection of churches. This, together with the necessities growing out of our advancing work, brought the subject of some similar arrangement to many leading minds, Difficulties appeared in the way, but after long delay the discussion culminated in the organization of a “ Church Extension Society” by the General Conference in 1861, inuch after the style of our other connectional societies, to have its headquarters at Philadelphia. Its affairs are conducted by a Board of Managers and a Corresponding Secretary appointed by the General Conference. It has been a very useful appliance, and is likely to be more so as it shall become better known. Its collections in 1874 amounted to $83,347 50, all of which, over and above expenses, have gone to aid needy societies to build new churches, or liquidate embarrassing debts resting on old ones.

When our Book Concern was removed from Crosby to Mulberry-street in 1833, the church was more than satisfied. The addition of new buildings from time to time was a high source of many congratulations. But in the progress of events the place became rather too strait for the business, and a better location was urged with much emphasis. Having, however, to incur a heavy debt in the division of the property with the Church South, the desirable change was impracticable. Working over this embarrassment, and nothing of the kind having been effected, the General Conference of 1868 appointed a Lay and Clerical Committee to purchase land, and erect buildings thereon for the purpose, the cost not to exceed one million of dollars. This committee proceeded according, ly, and purchased the building now occupied by the Book Concern and our connectional societies, No. 805 Broadway, New York. Three-fourths of this property belong to the Book Concern, and cost $717,904 13; and the other fourth to the Missionary Society, and cost $232,452 49 when ready for use; total, $950,356 62.

The reader of the preceding pages must have noticed traces of disturbance arising from the question of lay delegation, particularly in 1828. The claim

The claim of Episcopal prerogatives before mentioned revived the subject among certain abolitionists, who, with others, petitioned the General Conference with some emphasis, but without making the slightest impression, The General Conference, as late as 1852, and even in 1856, declared it inexpedient to provide for it. But it was believed by many that great changes had occurred in the times, and in the circumstances of the church, which rendered the co-operation of laymen in the General Conference highly desirable; and after a pretty full discussion of the subject, it was finally carried by a constitutional vote, and laymen appeared in the General Conference of 1872 for the first time, two from each Annual Conference entitled to two or more clerical delegates, and one from each Conference having but one clerical delegate. We are frank to confess that we did nothing intentionally to favor the

If it shall prove as great a blessing to the church as was promised by its friends, its opponents will rejoice, though they can claim no credit for its adoption.

The General Conference of 1872 was distinguished also by establishing “ District Conferences,” to go into effect when and where the Quarterly Conferences of any district should request it by a vote of the majority. The plan constitutes the travelling and local preachers, exhorters, district stewards, and the first Sunday-school

measure.

superintendent of each charge members, requires them to convene twice a year, and do a large part of the business neretofore done by the Quarterly Conferences. (See Discipline, pp. 60-63.) Some of the districts have approved of it, and the plan is now in process of experiment. It is evidently favored from different considerations. Many think it will be useful in keeping out of the ministry a class of men who found their way into it too easily through the Quarterly Conferences. Others hope that the balance of the business of the Quarterly Conferences will be transferred to the District Conferences, and pastors appointed to preside over them, and thus supersede the presiding eldership in such districts as may feel that they have little need of them. But still others favor the measure, believing that it will dignify the presiding eldership, and render it more useful and acceptable to all concerned. The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, which originated the scheme, speaks favorably of the District Conference meetings, yet ominously suggests that if they shall operate to depreciate the Quarterly-meeting Conferences, they will prove injurious rather than helpful. The plan will evidently need considerable modification to become generally popular.

There is another late improvement in our economy worthy of notice. For many years we lost valuable legacies for the want of corporate existence under the law. Therefore, the General Conference of 1864 provided for and appointed a General Board of Trustees, to receive and hold in trust, for the benefit of the Methodist Episcopal Church, any and all donations, bequests, grants, etc., made to said church, “not especially designated or directed." This board is now in charge of certain properties to be appropriated for the promotion of specific and general objects. We have no means of determining their value

« VorigeDoorgaan »