General Conference of the African M.E. Church
Georgia Weekly Telegraph: June 5, 1868
Editors Telegraph: The General Conference is still sifting the book of discipline, and ridding it of all those obnoxious rules which have been a cause of complaints for some time among our ministers. It would be useless to consume time and paper to refer to them separately, one of which, however, may be interesting to our people, viz:
The law which requires the males and females to sit apart in our churches—this has been a disciplinary requirement for the last fifteen years in our church, but after a lengthy discussion, to-day, it was stricken out, leaving it to the choice of members to sit as they please.
Yesterday was the most interesting day of our session, in consequence of the ordination of three Negro Bishops. Such a scene had never been witnessed in this place before; and the novelty the occasion created brought thousands of white and colored to the church long before the exercises commenced, so much so that over half had to leave the place. Hundreds came from Baltimore, Alexandria, etc. It is only necessary to say, the whole affair was of the most imposing character. Bishop Payne delivered a masterly discourse, so acknowledged by all colors and all parties, the effects of which were visible all through the spacious church.
A series of resolutions, written by someone in grand style, endorsing the late Chicago Convention and its platform and nominees, were brought to the Conference and offered; but the Conference refused to pass them, or to take any action in reference to them. Thus the Church emphatically refused to ally itself with any political organization whatever. And while referring to politics, I will merely state that several prominent Democratic leaders have assured several of our leading preachers here that they intend to offer the Negroes a much better platform than the Republicans have. I shall not express any opinion at all; but if that party puts the plank in their platform that some of their leading men predict—well, we will all see the result.
The General Conference have begirted the Book Establishment with more rules and regulations than it or any other ever had before, without doubt. They either intend to kill or make it alive, if legislation will have any effect. The officers of that machine will have statues, laws, regulations, edicts, and decrees enough to run a nation if they are all observed.
Sabbath afternoon was designated for the purpose of hearing Bishop Ward preach. The consequence was as he is the recognized Bascom of our Church a large number of Congressman and white divines attended the services. So according to appointment, he appeared in the pulpit at the time, leisurely read his hymn, and offered a prayer, of which, to say the least, it actually electrified the people; for his appeals to Heaven in behalf of our sin diseased world, were more startling to the human mind than devotional. Afterward he read for his text the following: “The field is the world,” Matt. 18th chapter, 38th verse, and commenced with that usual easy style which always adorns his superlative eloquence, and thus he continued waxing warmer of thirty minutes, when low and behold he exclaimed, “May God sanctify these remarks, Amen,” and sat down, to the astonishment of all, and to the disgust of many who had left their own churches and dinners to feast on his eloquence.
The preachers have commenced returning to their homes very rapidly; there is not much more than a quorum here. Most of the Southern members will have adjourned either on the 28th or 29th instant. I am informed the Zion Conference have elected six superintendents to be called bishops, and not having any bishop to ordain them, they purpose to install them into office without the necessary consecration. This will be another new discovery. I really hope, however, they will not do any such thing for their own name’s sake.