Bishop Turner to the Ministers of his District
Christian Recorder: January 7, 1886
Dear Brethren: —I have been holding conferences since the middle of September up to the present; have just gotten through assisting our great Senior and am at liberty once more. But now before me are hundreds of unanswered letters, many of which should have been answered months ago, but owing to the fact that not more than one minister in twenty will ever provide any writing conveniences for you—I mean have you to stop where there are tables, lamps, warmth, quiet &c—these letters in the main have not been replied to. Many of which need no reply at this late date, for a reply would do no good, nor were scored ever necessary at the first. The presiding elders could have attended to the business better than I; for they understood it better, being upon the ground and acquainted with the condition of affairs, whereas, in many instances, brethren write to me about trivial matters and I have about as much recollection of them and know as much about the business referred to as an idiot. In most cases, too, the letters are long, illegible, indecipherable and crazy—rubble, which taxes every nerve, muscle, and fiber of the human system until one wishes he were dead to get out of this maddening maze, that he might get rest in the graveyard. I have felt this repeatedly, I am sure, and am in about that mood now.
Think of it, after bawling your lungs out nearly and your throat sore over eight annual conferences and then bored within an inch of your life by every minister who has a complaint, till you lie down exhausted to sleep and dream that a hundred preachers are chasing you over the hills and across the plains with snakes in their hands, which they are trying to throw around your neck. Then you must preach till you can scarcely stand upon your feet, and when you do get a chance to run home, hoping to procure a little rest, the first thing your wife does after kissing you is to point to a basket of letters and papers, which would require two or three weeks to examine and answer; not always because the business is so important, but because you have to labor so hard in many instances to find out what the writer is trying to tell you.
Now, this is to notify all the ministers in my district that it is my will and pleasure, unless absolutely impracticable, that you refer all business to your presiding elder, to whom it justly belongs, and relieve me as much as possible until I examine the mail matter more before me, write up some business of interest to the Church, prepare a short and long form of trials for our members and preachers, as I have been requested to do by some of our Bishops, and visit and attend to some important business in the Virginia Conference, which conference I have shamefully neglected, and have done but little better by the North Carolina Conference, which, but for the fact that I have worked day and night, except for a few hot weeks last July and August, I would feel condemned. I am sure, however, no man could have worked more laboriously. Those others could have worked to better advantage I do not deny, for I am a poor tool at best and have the sensible realization of it.
It has been in my mind to call a presiding elders’ convention in Louisville, Ky, for the special benefit of the four annual conferences in Kentucky and Tennessee, and invite all the presiding elders of the West, Northwest, and Southwest to join in with us, and to call another in Wilmington or Raleigh, N. C., for the benefit of the Virginia and North Carolina Conferences, and invite all the presiding elders of the East, Northeast and Southeast to do the same, and have two great presiding elder conventions for the general and mutual instruction of that department of our ministry by lectures, interpretations of the law, mock quarterly conferences, how to give practical organization to the office, &c, &c, so as to see if we cannot remedy or obliterate the causes of so much complaint, if such causes exist, for to think of abolishing the office at our next General Conference, as some few are talking, is literal madness. It cannot be done without ruin to the Church and disgrace to the race; nor should such babble be indulged. Reform is what we want in the office, not abolition. There are scores of presiding elders in our Church who do not understand their business, nor does the fault-finding preacher understand it any better.
Whether I will call such conventions or not will be a matter for a little more consideration. I have only consulted one Bishop as to its propriety or advisability, and he—Bishop Payne—thinks highly of it. I wish to confer with some more before inviting their presiding elder, to say the least. I am sure the money spent on travel to and from such a convention would be money made instead of wasted. I say this despite the whim of some protesting would-be economic utilitarian, which our Church is so famous in producing. We have a host of great objectors, wonderful at fault finding, courageous at tearing down, heroic at picking to pieces, but would not construct a measure large enough to hold a gnat in a thousand years.
Yours for the Church and Heaven,
H. M. Turner