- To the Ministers of the Sixth Episcopal District
To the Ministers of the Sixth Episcopal District
Christian Recorder: September 9, 1875
Dear Brethren: I have always thought that it was my duty, as your representative in the Financial Board of the A.M.E. church, to report to you in some way.
“But what way!,” was the question. I had thought of addressing you a circular letter, but that was impossible unless I know the P.O. address of all the brethren. And then I hesitated through a foolish fear of the charge of immodesty, as no other representative Elder in the Board had ventured to communicate with his constituents in this form. A sense of duty however, prompts me in this instance to risk criticism and ignore the jest of babblers, (if there be any) to discharge a duty which require no logical deduction to establish the justice of.
Pursuant to the call of Bishop Shorter the chairman of the Financial Board, I left home Monday July 12, and arrived in Wilmington, Del., on Thursday. I found a majority of the Bishops at their posts, and a minority of the Elders; but not a working majority of the Board. The following day however, brought up a sufficiency of the rear, to constitute a business quorum, and into business we went.
I shall not attempt to review the proceedings of the Board, as the secretary has been assigned that duty, and he will doubtless do it well, for I think he is one of the best secretaries in the A.M.E. Church. I desire to say however, that I have never met and left the Board, with such hope—full emotions and cheering aspects as I did this time. Our able and efficient treasurer reported over twenty five-thousand dollars as his receipts since our last meeting. This was cheering news to the Board, compared with his previous reports. We were all glad and gave God our gratitude unreservedly.
But what is twenty five thousand dollars, to near four hundred thousand members, and to over a million of hearers who attend our churches Sabbathly! It is hardly a drop in the bucket.
If I thought the people were to blame, I should almost regard freedom as a failure; but for this financial deficit, it would be both foolish and sinful to animadvert the people. Treasurer Burley has a Herculean scheme on foot for this year, however, which if properly presented to the people by our ministry, ought to bring into our treasury two hundred thousand dollars, and until we double, yes, quadruple our financial efforts we have but little to boost of. We are accustomed to boast of our superiority over all other colored churches in this or any other country – I mean as a church. I believe as a church we have much to be proud of. I do not believe that all the other colored organizations condensed into one, including all that belong to our white brethren, of every protestant denomination, would make one equal to the A.M.E. Church in wealth, learning, and moral and religious power. We are preeminently above them all, if theirs were a unit.
But we will never take rank among the leading Protestant denominations of the world, till we commence raising at least a hundred thousand dollars annually, for the support and the diffusion of the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. True we far exceed that in home consumption. If we take into the count ministerial support, charitable donations, church erections and purchases, we probably exceed a million, and a quarter, but we are too narrow in providing for the General Church.
Pardon the digression, I commenced writing about the Financial Board. After obtaining a quorum the Board remained in session three days and transacted all the business, we felt the wants of the church required at our hands. The Bishops differed with each other at times very enthusiastically, and so did the representative Elders; and some heavy and learned discussions ensued. But the vote always brought harmony, as everyone acquiesced in the will of the majority. Right here, I hope the Bishops will excuse me, but I have never met them at any time, when they appeared to be in such a business mood as this. They seemed to have had the clearest conceptions, and most thorough comprehensions of the wants of the church, and they took hold of and discharged their duties as I have never seen them before. We sometimes disregard the parliamentary rules of such novices as Jefferson and Cushon, but what of that? They were not Elders, Doctors, nor Bishops. Some of us would not waste time to study their rules; and as for Barclay’s digest and parliamentary rules, they are not worth bothering with. They do very well such little fellows as go to Congress and to the Legislatures, for instance Henry Wilson, and Colfax and Blaine.
But to be serious there is a growing interest in the more intellectual, and educational advancement of our church, and the heads of the church give evidence of their fitness to stand in the vanguard of the progressive measures now in vogue. Much of the time that used to be taken up in cracking jokes, is now consumed in masterly arguments and dissertations. Bishop Wayman has the happy tact of running a vein of humour through nearly all his business transactions, which by no means however, retards its rapid dispatch. He possibly excels any man in that species of genius I have ever seen.
Our sessions were visited by several distinguished Elders, among whom were Dr. John Stephenson, a man of rare attainments, and one destined in no distant day to make a great mark in his sphere. Revs. R.F Wayman, Frisby J. Cooper and Theo. Gould, &c, all of whom are too noted to require comments from me. This is the harbinger of several other letters. I may write on my recent visit to the North before closing however, allow me to say that I am now more than even convinced, that the negro race will have to return to Africa, or go to some other place and build up a negro nationality before he will be respected. I am disgusted with the land of my birth.