Letter from Augusta, Georgia
Christian Recorder: September 21, 1867
After rambling through the woods, over the hills, and across the plains in my tour, I find myself comfortably seated this morning in the domicile of Rev. R.T. Kent, in Augusta, Ga., from which place I desire to inform ministers and members of our Church of the real condition of things in this section, so far as colored Methodism is concerned. But before I enter upon what I design to say, I will merely state that prior to the meeting of the General Conference of 1864, several distinguished members of our Church wrote a series of articles replete with logical arguments and irresistible reasons, why the A.M.E. Church and the A.M.E. Zion Church should at once unite and become one great body of colored Methodists; and among the advocates of this measure, I was regarded by some as fanatically radical. Rev. James asserted that I was willing to sell the A.M.E. Church for unity.
About this time I saw a dark cloud of strife and fraternal rupture suspended over the southern field, which was destined to sever the bonds of affection that had long held together our southern brethren in Christian sympathy, provided these two churches came together as rivals. Several of us made attempts to point out the threaten aspects, by an appropriate condemnation of the evils that would follow on the two connections coming South as competitors, both before and at the General Conference, but our efforts were in vain. They held some kind of a windy convention, composed of chosen delegates from their respective General Conferences, gave vent to a little gas over past grievances and present dogmas, and broke up under a false pledge of reciprocity of action for the next four years, and thus ended the grand and sublime accomplishment of nothing. We are now in a worse condition than we were before; and instead of brining an olive branch of peace and the elements of eternal harmony among these innocent brethren South, we have brought discord, strife, tirade and sarcasm. Merciful Heavens, what a thought!
I can overlook the paid emissaries of the M. E. Church North, for many of them were ministers of the M. E. Church South, who renegaded to the M. E. Church North because she has a large missionary fund, and they are after bread and butter. Hence when I hear of their willful misrepresentations, I say to myself, “well, they are working for their money: let them go on.” But it is presumed that we are working from principle. That we are seeking our brethren for the purpose of elevating them, refining them, and ingrafting them in a church bounded by no political localities but one which knows no north, no south, no east, no west, but has the world for its grand arena.
To obviate any collision whatever between the M.E. Church South our Church, greatly to her credit sent delegates to their General Conferences, with instructions to transfer peaceably such of their colored members as expressed a desire to unite with us, without compromising any of our principles, or a bartering away any right which forms a part of a whole of our church organization. To this the M.E. Church South consented, provided we would not force ourselves into any of the colored churches who were satisfied with their present arrangement of church organization. This has never been done to my knowledge. The M.E. Church North, and Zion Church, seem to take pleasure in branding us for the course we have taken in this matter.
While talking with one of Gen. Swayne’s staff officers a few months ago, he told me that “he liked the Zion Church, because, unlike our Church, they had stood firm in their opposition to the rebels, and would not creep on their knees to the rebel conferences for a few members.” I asked him who told him that, when he replied Bishop Clinton.
Thus you see how our should-be co-adjutors have taken advantage of our prudent, and judicious course toward the southern church, to wreak their opposition on us, while, on the other hand, Zion ministers have gone into various sections, and told the southern whites that we were a set of radicals, and would preach radicalism wherever we went; and if the ( the whites ) would turn over certain colored churches to them, instead of us, they would preach that their old masters were their best friends, and that they (the colored) must vote for them.
To all of the above I can safely vouch, having affidavits on the same. I have been asked by scores of white men, who have been misinformed by our Zion brethren, to let them see our discipline; when, upon returning it, they would say, “Well, I don’t see all that stuff in there I heard the Zion preachers talking about. If that is your discipline, it is good enough for the world to go by,” ect. ect. It is unnecessary for me to mention any more instances at present on this subject, as your readers will hear from me again, having determine to write a series of articles upon it.
But I now ask, who is to blame for this state of things? Are these poor innocent and ignorant brethren, who know nothing about our churches, beyond what they are told and are honestly zealous in their behalf, to be branded as traducers and liars? No, I should think not. They honestly believe they are discharging their duties.
A Zion preacher goes to Athens, Ga., and tells our members there that the A.M.E. Church is not known outside of Georgia. That it is a mere creation of Turner and Lynch, no such church being known at the North, and that Bishop Clinton says we are a set of barking dogs, our Conference being a humbug, etc.
Again, on a certain occasion, one of our preachers told a Zion minister that Clinton was no Bishop ; that he was no more a Bishop than Elder Turner; whereupon the Zion preacher threatened to smack his mouth if he repeated the words. There is more trouble over the question of Bro. Clinton being a Bishop than a little.
I will now stop for the present, as my letter is already too long, merely stating that I shall continue this subject at some future time. I will also appeal to the young men of both churches, to come to our respective General Conferences, determined to unite our churches, and put an end to this foolish, wicked, and hellish strife.