Bishop Turner’s Address
Christian Recorder: July 16, 1885
Ministers of the above-named District:
Several letters have reached me at times, complaining of the fearful assessments of the Presiding Elders, in order to make up the thousand dollars which they say the discipline provides for them. Some of these letters say, “We will not be able to raise any dollar money, missionary money or contingency money if our small districts are harassed and annoyed in this way. The people are discouraged and the Presiding Elder says he will move every preacher who does not raise his assessment. Bishop, what shall we do?”
Now, I desire to say, no man has for years advocated the Presiding Eldership with more zeal than I have, and it is one of the greatest engines of power for the advancement of the Church in the world, if a good sensible man has the office; but if a miserable failure gets it, it is as great a leverage of destruction. I tried to select good, sensible, kind, patient, Christian men for the position—men who were not oppressive, given to wrath, snappish, bitter, & c. If I have failed, I will remedy the evil as soon as I can see my error.
I have said once, and I now say again, no thousand dollar salary law ever passed the General Conference for Presiding Elders; there is a false rumor afloat. Even the Rev. J. H. A. Johnson, D. D, who compiled our present new discipline, says he meant only to say that the salary of a Presiding Elder should in no wise be over a thousand dollars, nothing about less than a thousand. With all due respect to that great man, I don't believe that even passed. I think he is honestly mistaken. If it did, surely the General Conference was mad, for there were men on the floor who knew that there were districts in our work where the P. E. and all his preachers did not get a thousand dollars; and more, some of us Bishops have appointed men as presiding elders who would not be worth a thousand dollars a month. I know one worth a thousand dollars a week; yea, to every church quarters. The Bishops last week in annual session, becoming alarmed at the cries of the ministers over this thousand dollar clause, have directed that the district assessment plan still be adhered to, as it never was repealed, and is therefore still of force. So I hope it will be done at once if it had not been. Let the districts make the allowance as the unrepealed law provides for, and put a stop to this bickering, or I will move such presiding elders from office within four weeks from today if God spares my life. I mean this to apply to Virginia and North Carolina, also, which have just been assigned me for the next three years; yet I have heard no complaint from either of these States. But I want the ministers to understand that while the allowance of the presiding elder is as other ministers, yet they have to travel all the time, and you must provide for it, otherwise you fetter him and defeat the purpose of his office, and if you do, by any stroke of narrow heartedness, the curses of God will haunt you to your tomb. So look out, and deal justly. As ye would those others do to you, do ye even so to them.”
I wish also to say to the presiding elders that I have presided over several Quarterly Conferences this year, either for the absent presiding elder or assisted when they were present, and almost in every instance when the trustees and stewards came up to read their reports before the conference, if anything was wrong, the pastor would rail out and say, “Mr. Secretary, didn't I tell you to get that report ready &c. Now, I do not want you to be hoodwinked by any such subterfuge. It is the business of the pastor in person to call these respective boards together, and have their reports prepared and adopted by the boards respectively, and then for the pastor to sign them, as his approval of the correctness of the same, before they are ready for the Quarterly Conference, and the elder must rule such reports out when otherwise prepared, for they are not properly prepared, and hold the neglectful pastor responsible and not condemn the trustees and stewards for not doing what they could not do legally, without the pastor was there in the chair or someone who was acting pastor at the time. Of course, if the pastor calls for the trustees or stewards board and they do not come, then they are responsible, and the quarterly conference will know how to find either better men or women to take their places.
There are some other matters about which I ought to write and explain, which are the causes of trouble or discontent, to say the least, but they are so simple, I cannot insult the intelligence of the great men of my district by referring to them now. I will wait for the Conference. But it is a shame before high heaven that men will be pastors so long, and blunder in the very alphabet of the pastor's duties, after years of experience and the application of their better senses.
Now, brethren, this is a plain, rough communication, but not near so rough as several letters which I found upon my arrival home a few days ago. In conclusion, let me beg you, be kind, merciful, patient, forbearing. Christly in deportment, industrious, particular, conscientious and sensible in dealing with your members and people. A minister who files into passions and mad fits is no more calculated to rule the church of God than Satan himself, for wrath is of the devil. Let this hint suffice. Some of you know to whom I am referring.
H. M. TURNER,