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- Bishop H. M. Turner to his District: October 8, 1891
Bishop H. M. Turner to his District
Christian Recorder: October 8, 1891
Ministers of the First Episcopal District, as I shall leave in a few days—God willing—for the continent of Africa; allow me to pen you a few lines through THE CHRISTIAN RECORDER which, I hope you will bear in mind and profit thereby.
1st. I have been too busy to assemble the presiding elders together in their annual convention, which has been so productive of such good results, and which can be made even more profitable still if they would meet in a body as a whole, and each remains till adjournment. But in too many instances some are behind, and some must go too early. Presiding elders are only men, and your positions do not inspire you with a knowledge of the law, therefore, when you meet and hold mock quarterly conferences, and trials, come up in official duties and impart mutual instruction, you go away enlightened and inspired, and much better prepared to make your high office effective for good; for any presiding elder who thinks he knows it all, is generally the chief blockhead of the crowd. I suggest you meet in Philadelphia, Oct. 27th. Elect your own chairman, and equip yourselves like men.
2nd. I have left Bishop Brown in the oversight of the district, but as Bishop Brown has his own great work to superintend and cannot be annoyed with every little whim, I suggest that the corps of presiding elders in each conference, in case of any change of ministers from one district to another be thought indispensable, be constituted sufficient authority, or a majority of the same, to make the change after careful consideration, which, I hope, will not have to be done; it will not if every minister does his whole duty. But if an emergency arises Bishop Brown will settle it, in person, by letter, or telegram. But remember any Bishop in the A. M. E. Church is a Bishop everywhere, and no power under heaven can deprive him of it. But the voice or vote of every minister and layman in the church which will not be given before I return, if I ever do. The Episcopal districts are expedients and not fundamentals. A hint to the wise is sufficient.
3rd. I beg to say to the ministers and members of Philadelphia that when it was represented to the Council of Bishops’ meeting in Charleston, S. C., that Selma, Ala., could not take care of the General Conference, the place it adjourned to meet, I did not believe it, nor do I believe it yet, and when you sent an invitation to the same Council requesting the removal of the General Conference here and assured the Council you would take such excellent care of it, I did not believe that you meant to do it free; I believed just what I have learned since, that you thought the board of the delegates would be paid out of some unknown fund. I further knew some of the then pastors so vigorous to invite, would not be here to help bear the burden when the time came. Thus I opposed the change with all the might I had. Other bishops, however, said I was misrepresenting you; they knew you better than I did, and some of them gave me a regular fulmination and almost put me in the character of a slanderer. The motion was finally put and I alone voted, no. now I am met nearly every time I come to the city by pastors who seem to be chagrinned and dispirited and asked, “What are we going to do, as pay is expected?” Now, I wish to say to every member of our Church in Philadelphia, proper, Germantown, Frankford, Darby, over in Camden and elsewhere, you must open your doors and take care of the General Conference.
This scare crow report that the General Conference will be in session a month is false. I cannot remember when it has sat over twenty-one days. It may not sit over sixteen or eighteen days. As for feeding the ministers at the expense of Dr. James A. Handy, the Financial Secretary, is idle talk. As inflexible as he is to every sense of duty, he would not give you a dime of the money belonging to the other departments if he had it. But the man has not got it. Moreover, if you attempt to feed the General Conference in the basement of the church you will have daily to feed three hundred others, and if you do not the insults will be innumerable. I am repeatedly asked if the delegates will not have money. Yes, the will all have money, more or less. I presume no man will come here without money enough to live. Our General Conference is not composed of paupers. If a delegate should be void of extra money, he will likely remain at home. But that is not the question. You asked for the General Conference and begged it away from Selma, where it would have been supported grandly, and you cannot afford to fail. I shall board some oat my own expense and every man and woman must help to the extent of their ability. Let every man and woman who is too poor to take care of a delegate or unite with some or more, come and go with me to Africa and stay when you get there, for there is nothing here for you to stay for, unless it is for your dead body to enrich the soil when your life ends. But there are always living enough to bury the dead, and I am sure when you get settled you will grandly take care of the General Conference.
4th. All of you who had heart enough in you to send me something to carry to Africa for the benefit of our mission work there have my heartfelt thanks and will have the blessings of God in double measure. Mark my words now, wait and see. I will give you twelve months to realize it, your names, too, will be gathered from the columns of the CHRISTIAN RECORDER by the future historians, some of whom are not born yet, and will be handed down to future ages, three, four and five hundred years from this time, if not a thousand years. When Africa will be in the glory that awaits her, your names will blaze upon the pages of countless volumes and will be woven into poetry and referred to by the grand contributors to the glorious condition, which shall then be extant. I have been told that some of you who gave have been laughed at and ridiculed for your heaven approved liberality. All right; let them laugh and chuckle, but you will be remembered and your names honored when they will be forgotten and their seed lost in oblivion.
Bear in mind what the churches have given to this Africa fund is purely voluntary, not to be reported to conference unless under the head of benevolence, as I never begged any one for a cent, but simply said, those who wished to help Africa could do so, several of you have helped by your contributions and will shine as stars in the firmament for ever and ever; for every dime you have given shall be carried directly to Africa, not one cent shall be spent for my own use, if I have to beg my way home. And I now hand your precious names and sacred memories over to the historians of future ages, to pass down to coming generations, and I call upon the prothonotaryship of the skies, to inscribe your gifts high upon the sacred immortality. Let blessings come from heaven above, and from the earth beneath, and from the east, west, north and south, and focalize upon your brow.