General Conference of the African M.E. Church (May 22, 1868)

General Conference of the African M. E. Church

Georgia Weekly Telegraph: May 22, 1868

Editors Telegraph. – For several days my committee duties have so absorbed my attention that it was impossible to find time to write. The General Conference is still receiving accessions; a few more members arrived this morning. Prominent among those who have recently arrived, was Bishop Payne from England. He appeared yesterday in the Conference Hall and was enthusiastically welcomed by nearly two hundred and fifty of the brethren. The Bishop’s herculean labors, and great efficiency in pioneering the cause of education in our church, and especially in his efforts to establish an educated ministry, has endeared him to our people everywhere. No colored man in the country has worked harder than he to break down the idea that formerly prevailed among our people, that ignorance was a pulpit prerequisite.

The admission of the Southern delegates gave rise to several lengthy and warm discussions, while they were fraternally received and cordially welcomed to seats as honorary members. There were several who contended that they could not be admitted, unless the law governing the composition of the General Conference was repealed, and even this some refused to vote for; but finally the question resolved itself into another phase, which was, that there could be no taxation without representation, and further, that the terms of stipulation between the M.E. Church South, and the A.M.E. Church, carried with it all the rights which were guaranteed to the members in their former relations, especially in the ratio of representation. This aspect of the question somewhat stunned the opposition or conservative wing, and gave a new page to the chapter, so that when the vote was taken the Southern delegates, near fifty in number, were admitted by 192 to 12.

A few days ago, a request came to the General Conference to send a delegation to wait upon the Hon. Thaddeus Stevens, after some delay to dispose of the business then before the Conference. A delegation consisting of two members from each Annual Conference were appointed, with Bishops Quinn and Campbell to lead the delegation; Rev. Steven Smith, of Philadelphia, likely the wealthiest colored man in America, was selected to introduce the delegation respectfully. Rev. J.M. Brown, of Baltimore, was selected to make the introductory address, and H.M. Turner the concluding address. The delegation, in couplets, repaired to the residence of Mr. Stevens; and after being severally introduced, Brother Brown delivered an able address, which frequently, involuntarily, started responsive expressions from the other delegates and bystanders. After which, Mr. Stevens, weak, fragile, and statuary in appearance, as he is, rose up, and reclining against the door of his reception room, spoke until he sank down in his chair—to all appearance, completely exhausted at the labors of a few moments. This very marvelous man being as all description. How he does to live is to be a wonder. His extended features look more like a man hewn out of marble then it does of one who actually lives.

No one can look upon him without feeling a degree of sympathy, particularly as he attempts to speak, to see his mind struggling to make his physical frame sub serve its purposes, and essay to make his almost emaciated functions obey the dictates of his indomitable will is exhibitive of such contention between mind and inert matter that pity necessarily accompanies the sight. Nearly all the delegates on retiring from residence, expressed their great surprise at the idea of a man so deathly in appearance, having vitality enough to exist at all.

The reunion of the A.M.E. Church, and another colored organization known as the A.M.E. Zion Church, has been engaging the attention of Conference for several days. The Zion Church is represented as having about 40,000 members in it, while ours has 200,000 members.

Whether this desirable can be attained or not is very doubtful, adjournment for today has arrived. I will close but will finish my letter tomorrow.