Chaplain Hunter and Rev. Mr. Hood contending for a Church—A shameful contest.
Christian Recorder: April 1, 1865
MR. EDITOR: After trying to preach to nearly six thousand persons on Sabbath afternoon, I galloped my horse in Wilmington for the purpose of attending night service there, in the splendid church which was recently received into our connexion by Chaplain Hunter. After stabling my horse, I immediately proceeded to the church, where I found one of the finest churches in the city, filled with an audience equally interesting. Rev. Brother Hood, of the A.M. E. Zion Church, was preaching, and Hunter was sitting in his rear.
After looking over the church a few moments, as this was my first visit, I then threw my head back to listen to Bro. Hood. He preached a splendid sermon, which was highly appreciated by civilians and officers. After he concluded, I treated the subject of education a short time, and thus ended our meeting.
Next morning I learned that Brother Hood was here for the purpose of forming the Methodist congregations, and that Chaplain Hunter was holding on to his claims. My heart sank within me immediately, for I could anticipate the troubles which would follow.
During the day I met Bro. Hood and Hunter, with whom I conversed freely on their respective claims; Hunter contending that he had received the people, and procured for them military protection from General Schofield, and should not be interfered with; and Hood contending that Hunter was a chaplain in the army, and had no business interfering with civil matters, that the Zion Church has a Conference in N.C., and had resolved to hold their next session in Wilmington, and that he felt in duty bound to press his claims on the people.
While Hunter estimated the value of his right by virtue of the men slaughtered in his regiment in taking the place, doubting the possibility of holding Conference there without the aid of the military. But it is needless to refer to the arguments of these two men, suffice it to say, that from Sabbath night till Tuesday morning I heard and saw enough to sicken any man.
These two men conversed with me separately, and it will be understood that I did not feel any disagreeableness from the fact of their wrangling, for I knew they were familiar with the circumstances connected with the matter. But what hurt me was, the citizens began to inquire of me how this difference existed.
Now, the idea of these two connexions preaching the same gospel, believing the same doctrine, differing only on episcopacy, coming here among an innocent people to create a church schism, is a burning shame.
I am not finding fault with either Hood or Hunter. I am disposed to condemn neither for their connexional zeal. Both are right in trying to build up their respective connexions, but the blame lies in the existence of the two organizations. As one of God’s feeble instruments, I tried my utmost to unite these two churches, foreseeing this evil. I wrote and spoke upon it prior to the meeting of our last General Conference, at which I drew up and offered a set of resolutions that I thought no one could object to. These resolutions met the free endorsement of Superintendent Clinton and several distinguished divines in both churches. But having to leave the General Conference for the army before they decided upon the proposition of uniting, I was informed they had agreed upon terms of partial unity, till informed better by Bro. Hood.
According to his definition, we stand upon the same uncertain base that the last General Conference found us. If that be a fact, I am much mistaken, for I positively thought something was effected in the convention held between the two connexions; but if it be a fact, in the name of all that is dear to our religion, let the better thinking men rise in their great might, and pity and break down that wicked partition.
The Conference will soon begin to meet, and as I shall not be at any of its sessions, as we will move in a few hours for some point in the middle of the State where terrible battles may have to be fought, and where I, for one, may fall in death, I feel it due the cause of my race and humanity to make this request. But as for one, I shall never quarrel with any body, relative to churches or theological technicalities, unless some one besides a Methodist assails my faith; then I may try to vindicate my religious policy. But I expect to quarrel with these two connexions until they unite. Rather than destroy the unity of the Southern Methodists, I would prefer seeing the Bethel Church absorbed in the Zion ten times. I am for unity, at all hazards; and those brethren whom I learned threw firebrands in that convention which assembled for that purpose had better repent in sack-cloth and ashes.
Let us unite at once, and stop this connexional fizzling henceforth and forever. I know there is not a minister in either church but would vote for it, could they witness what I do daily, and if the ministers will agree, the people will say nothing against it; they will be glad to see it: some timber-head might jabber a little, who can’t appreciate its advantages, but God will soon kill him off.
Well, I must pack up, and get ready to march; I learned that we are going to start for Goldsboro, where we may have to fight a great battle. However, be that as it may, try, friends of God and man, to unite the Zion and Bethel Churches.
Please excuse this writing, for all are in a bustle now.
Chaplain H. M. Turner