General Conference of the African M.E. Church (May 29, 1868)

General Conference of the African M.E. Church

Georgia Weekly Telegraph: May 29, 1868

Editors Telegraph. - I closed the last letter referring to the efforts being made to unite the two African Churches, and make one great organization out of the two. For more than thirty years the A. M. E. (Z.) Church have assumed an independent position, and though this rebellious branch of our Church have had to encounter the frowns and opposition of our clergy and laity yet she has thrived under it all, and claims to represent in their General Conference over 40,000 members. They have always acknowledged the Episcopacy, or the authority of Bishops, but have never had them. Their superintendents were merely ciders elected quadrennially, but nevertheless exercised the appointing power. By a resolution, however, adopted in their General Conference four years age, these superintendents have been given the title of Bishop. Yet, they have never been ordained and set apart as such. Both General Conferences have agreed that in (any) event they can affect a ministry, to be known as the United African Methodist Episcopal Church. This new name, or additional name, is bitterly opposed by several in each Church. The Bishops of our Conference could not keep order while the question was under discussion, and after the vote was taken to add the word “United” and carried by a heavy majority, several ministers took their hats and canes and left the Conference. The young ministers are determined to consolidate them if possible. They claim that they have nothing to do with scrambles of their fathers, and they are not going to perpetuate their feuds and prejudices to the detriment of religion and harmony among colored Methodists. So the young men and Southern delegates have been given the sobriquet of Radicals, while the old men and disunion party have been given the title of Conservatives. --- It seems to be one of man’s unfortunate freaks never to forget nor forgive a fault.

Since writing the above, the whole plan of unity has assumed another shape, which we fear has ruined all prospect of consolidating the two bodies. About an hour ago, Rev. R.H. Cain, of Charleston, S.C., presented a series of resolutions consisting of a mass of words, and but few or no ideas, which he and some other opponents of the measure, succeeded in rushing through under the previous question, and has undoubtedly disarranged the whole program and thrown us into a state of confusion. What the result will be, no one can predict; but if the Zion Church accepts of our proposition as just adopted, they have got less soul than I think they have.

Bishop Campbell is the one of our Bishops opposed to the union, and he is presiding today, and that accounts for this trick. The Radical wing (as the Unionists are called) is the majority in both Conferences, and they embody the brain and mind, and if the Conservative wing beat us, they will have to be smart.

Several Philadelphians and New Yorkers say that if we unite with the Zion Church and assume the name of United A.M.E. Church, they will withdraw and retain the old name, and claim all the church property under it. But no one fears that except a few old grannies. What the result will be no one can tell, as the excitement is high in both Conferences. A.M. General Conference and the Zion General Conference are being held in four hundred yards of each other, and the ministers of both are going to and from, exchanging views and planning as to the best mode to outgeneral the disunionists. The disunionists, however, are going to do their best on both sides to defeat the measure.

A proposition has been made by the Unitarians to assist our Church in its missionary work, to several thousand dollars, if we will circulate their tracts and periodicals. A few of our ministries from the New England states are favorable to it; but the proposition will by no means carry. It would be virtually making our Church Unitarian colporteurs, and would bring upon us the censure of the Christian World.

The General Conference is making a rigid examination into the book concern.

The General Book Stewart has reported the publishing house ($7,000) seven thousand dollars in debt. This excited the whole Conference, and a committee with power to send for persons and papers were at once appointed. Several persons, white and colored have appeared before it, and have been examined. This settles Brother Weaver’s aspirations for the Episcopacy.
Whether the blame is justly due to a want of capacity in him or not, will be determined after the report of the committee is made.

The Conference is carrying the book of discipline through a critical examination, and the improvements made will be many, if the changes are made that are suggested by the committee of temporal economy. It will change our financial system materially.

Two more Bishops are all the General Conference will likely elect, as it is all the board of Bishops has recommended, and the General Conference appears to think two more are enough. These letters are thrown together under heated debates, in which the writer frequently participates, and the consequence is their want to symmetry. I hope the printers will be able to make some kind of sense out of them.

Turner