Forty Things the General Conference Ought to Do
Christian Recorder: March 25, 1880
1st. We ought to make at least four more Bishops if we can find anybody to fit for the office.
2nd. We ought to elect Townsend, Mossell, Dr. Porter, or some other young man a missionary Bishop to take care of our foreign work in Hayti and Africa, and plant our church at other foreign points.
3. We ought to make a law requiring that no conference be left without at least one Presiding Elder, so that it will be somebody’s business to look after new work, for in some conferences it is now nobody’s business. And no church has the spirit of Christ that has not the spirit of missions.
4. We ought to create a Lady’s Magazine, to be edited by Mrs. Townsend, Porter, Early, Taylor, Johnson or some other cultured lady.
5. We ought and must have a Quarterly Review. We can’t do it without it any longer. Shame upon us if we fail to provide for it.
6. We ought to make it the special duty of the Presiding Elders to receive persons into full membership once a quarter and thus make it more impressive; our loose way of receiving members carries no conviction of its grave responsibility. (I would favor confirmation by the Bishops if left to me).
7. We ought to legislate for a Child’s Recorder; our Sabbath Schools must have one, but our next Manager will have a hard time getting it out without more legislation.
8. We ought to compel our Bishops to wear robes. God ordered his ancient ministers to wear them, describing the material, form, color and general make-up. Will some of these gentlemen who are opposing robes tell us where God ever repealed that law?
9. We ought to require the Bishops to collect the minister’s subscription for the Recorder as they do other conference claims, as conference business.
10. We ought to change the name of our dollar money, reduce it to ninety cents and call it the ninety cent fund, or make some change, however little. It would not be prudent to give my reasons to the public.
11. We ought to insist upon Bishop Payne giving us the history of our church, as such a work is in constant demand. He has one or two volumes done; let me arrange to publish them.
12. We ought, and must, establish a college somewhere in the heart of the South, or else our church there will begin to wane. Other denominations, poorer than we, are doing it, why not we?
13. We ought to create a court of appeals in the interval of the General Conference, for traveling preachers, deacons and elders, as our annual conferences are frequently in too great a hurry to consider even an elder’s case over ten or fifteen minutes, and the ministers are often called upon to vote upon cases they literally know nothing about. I have seen elders of twenty years standing, convicted and expelled in fifteen minutes because the conference had no time to bother with the case any longer. Such trifling with the rights of ministers must be remedied; it cannot be endured; some of our conferences are but little better than slaughter pens.
14. We ought, (if it is not law already) to create a law, that those who preside from Quarterly Conferences up to General Conferences, shall not preside and do all the talking at the same time.
15. In the event an Archbishop is not elected, we ought to make it the business of the senior Bishop to call attention to thanksgiving days, Good Fridays and Easter Sundays, and prescribe the services of the day, and require everybody to observe them, ministers especially.
16. We ought to allow converted persons to become full members of the church after three months’ probation instead of six months. Six months is just intended for those who join as seekers and mourners.
17. We ought to legislate for the enforcement of the love-feast or quarterly ticket rule. One-half of our ministers are too lazy to get tickets for their members. I find thousands of members who have never heard of a quarterly ticket. Shame upon such pastors.
18. We ought to legislate for the alternate reading of the scriptures all over the connection, or adopt Mr. Wesley’s ritual.
19. We ought to make a law requiring every pastor to open the doors of his church for membership, once every Sabbath. Some don’t do it once in six months. Mr. Wesley did it at every sermon.
20. We ought to require the pastors to call their congregations together occasionally, to teach their members congregational singing or have the leader of the choir do it. Where there is no congregational singing there is no worship, and the services are but little more than a farce. No man can praise God with his lips as tight together as if he has a porous plaster over his mouth.
21. We ought to require pastors to make no class-leaders hereafter who cannot and do not read the Bible; we make no reference to those now in office.
22. We ought to define the powers of pastors to punish disobedient members by suspension, and stop this turning out people for every little complaint when, as Bishop Payne says, “they might be saved.” Some people had rather expel a member than go to heaven.
23. We ought, and must break up these episcopal districts, and make our Bishops rotate. It will stop a thousand and one complaints, and put an end to this pet system that is the source of much grumbling.
24. We ought to allow our women to preach the gospel if they feel that they are called to the work. They certainly could not make a poorer out at it than some of the men. And many of them have possibly had as loud a call to the ministry as some of us.
25. We ought to revive the ritualistic services recommended by Mr. Wesley for the Methodist churches. They keep it up in all the Methodist churches in England, and it would do more to advance education among our people than all the squalling, beating Bibles, kicking benches and running wild, that have occurred since time began.
26. We ought to require our young preachers to study some of the sciences, say astronomy, geology, natural philosophy and chemistry as a prerequisite to entering the traveling work. Men who know nothing of science now, are behind the age. The devil has gone into science, and we as ministers must go in there too and kick him out. And since children ten years old are being taught the sciences in day schools, we can no longer ignore it.
27. We ought to reverse our list of studies, take out some of the worthless lumber and recommend books up to the times.
28. We ought to hold out inducements to our ministers who have the competency to write books and give our church a literature of its own.
29. We, too, ought to provide for holding a Literary Congress among the ministry and laity of our church every one or two years
30. We ought to appoint two able ministers – chaste, eloquent and learned one to canvas among the white people of the United States, and the other Great Britain, and demand by powerful appeals their financial aid in building up and sustaining missionaries upon the continent of Africa. Two such men could raise us a large sum of money for such an object.
31. We ought to ask Bishop Campbell to write his recollections of the early fathers of the A. M. E. Church, as he seems to be better posted in that direction than any other man living.
32. We ought to ask some of the Western ministers to collect all the facts about the labors of Bishop Quinn while planting our church there. In a few years these facts will be sought after, and there will be no one living to give them to posterity.
33. We ought to change the laws so that the lay delegates elected to the General Conference shall be members of their respective annual conferences for the following four years, when their successors shall take their places. They could do no harm, but much good, and stop much bickering about their non-representation.
34. We ought to require Bishops to set apart one whole day in every annual conference session for literary purposes, and if some of the Bishops do not wish to participate or preside, let them have that day for rest, and let the men read essays, debate great questions, and thus impart a mutual information to each other which cannot be obtained in any other way. We must do something of the sort, as the standard of intelligence in the aggregate to me seems to be in the wane.
35. We ought to change the law so as to ordain Deacons after one year’s probation, provided they can stand a rigid examination upon their studies in open conference – I mean before the Bishop and all the members. This would be a greater incentive than holding them back for several years, which sometimes grows into a want of self-respect and tends to their degradation.
36. We ought to make a law taxing every minister fifteen cents per year to make a connectional literary fund. Then require our senior Bishop (if no Arch is made) to give out ten different subjects (on theology, philosophy, history, biography, geology, archeology, &c., &c.,) every year to be written upon by the whole ministry of our church, treatises not to exceed thirty pages of foolscap paper, and let them be sent to the senior Bishop and let him appoint an impartial committee to examine said treatises on the ten subjects and whoever produces the ablest on the ten respective subjects given out, shall receive $12 as a prize. Then publish those ten best treatises from the connectional literary fund and put a copy in the hands of every minister in the entire church. It would do more to scatter general knowledge among our ministers than anything we have ever devised: for these ten treatises published in the pamphlet form would give our preachers every year well prepared disquisitions upon various subjects that many of them never think of studying, and indeed know nothing about. O that our brethren would do it. But shucks! we won’t.
37. We ought to provide for a system of district meetings, and where there are no Presiding Elder districts order the annual conference to divide itself off into such districts. But I think all the conferences will have them after the General Conference.
38. We ought to elect an Archbishop (they are not ordained) and give our church an earthly head. Let him hear appeals, or create courts of appeal, and preside over the same; preside at the Bishops’ councils; make out the appointments of the other Bishops annually; have plenipotentiary power over home and foreign missions; require the other Bishops to report their labors and official visits to him. Appoint another Bishop to preside over a conference if the one appointed should be sick; appoint agents when the wants of the church require them, with full power to not; represent our connectional interest with his escort of Bishops before the President of the United States and the Congress of the United States with an authority and power that would strike awe into the nation’s heart. An ecclesiastic that could approach kings, queens and emperors in the interest of our people as no living man of our race on earth can do. With power to make overtures to other colored denominations, especially in the interest of unity, stipulate with other Christian churches for aid in behalf of the enlightenment of the millions of Africa. Bishop Dixney, of the British M. E. Church, though not an Archbishop, but with an Archbishop’s power, by virtue of being the sole head of his church, has organized one conference in the West Indies and one in South America in less than five years, with a force not equal to some of our conferences, while have done nothing comparatively in foreign fields. But the work an Archbishop might do in our church are too multitudinous to mention now. All his acts, of course, to be subject to such limitations as may be given by the General Conference, and to its review after being done.
39. We ought to provide for a series of lectures to be given at some point in every conference district for the benefit of the ministry, if not the laity, especially in the South, where general intelligence is not so plentiful as in the North. O for men with brain enough to comprehend our ignorant status, and who have the ability, the will, and the dare to put some scheme on foot that will break the spell and scatter general intelligence through our great connection.
40. We all ought to go to heaven when done with this troublesome world. Amen.