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- Important: An Address to the Ninth Episcopal District: January 4, 1894
An Address to the Ninth Episcopal District
Christian Recorder: January 4, 1894
30 Young St., Atlanta, GA,.December 26th, 1893.
To the Ministers of the Ninth Episcopal District, including the Conferences in Mississippi, Arkansas, and the Indian Territory.
As letters have begun to come in from presiding elders and a number of the pastors from your respective conferences congratulating my assignment to your district with regrets at Bishop Arnett’s removal, and rendering me a large number of receptions, provided I will accept, makes it evident that you have been apprised of the fact that the Bishops have assigned me to the oversight of that Episcopal district.
Therefore, it becomes necessary for me to make a few remarks through the chief organ of our Church that you may understand the situation and know what to expect should my life be spared and no modification of this assignment should be made. I hold the ministry and membership of the Ninth Episcopal district in the highest esteem. It was my first district after being consecrated to the bishopric and our connection has no better. Your treatment of me was simply royal and if I failed to reciprocate, it was the fault of the head and not the heart. But nevertheless, had I been present when the bishops were assigning me to your district, I should have stubbornly protested, not just for any cherished dislike for you, but because of my vast responsibilities and present incumbent duties.
I fully recognized the fact that the bishops had the power under the fundamental prerogatives vested in the episcopacy after the death of Bishop Payne to change Bishop Arnett to the Third Episcopal district and assign me to the Ninth. For while I am in favor of the episcopal district system as a necessary expedient until we can reach a plane of higher development, I am fully aware that the General Conference has no original and fundamental right to make the assignment nor can it have until thus clothed with such jurisdiction by the majority of all the annual and lay membership throughout the connection, but it is not the custom for the General Conference to do so and that custom will remain law until the bishops at some future time shall resolve not to obey it and that will be the end of it, for the General Conference will be powerless to execute the law of expediency.
But I beg to inform you in advance that it will be impossible to visit among you, reply to your letters and give that attention to the running machinery of the work that I did when I was your Bishop before. Then I had nothing to look after but your wants and needs, but now it is quite different. I am at the head of the Missionary Department of our Church and have been treated worse in our efforts to raise money to extend the work and help our starving missionaries than ever I will be guilty of treating anyone else at the head of any department of our Church. I am therefore trying to run a missionary spirit in our Church that will make it better for the next Bishop if I should not be the recipient of its benefits. This occupies a good deal of my time and attention, especially so when ministers and even doctors of divinity will order hundreds of papers and refuse to pay them and ultimately become too mean to reply when their bills are sent to them. Then I have Michigan, Canada, the West Indies and Africa to look after and visit and I have not been able to do that. I have not visited the West Indies at all beyond the two trips to Bermuda, where I did not do half they desired me. I have treated Michigan shamefully, yet a nobler set of brethren cannot be found. I have not set foot upon Hayti, San Domingo, Demerara, Barbados, St. Thomas, Jamaica, Trinidad and other places where whole congregations are offering to unite with our Church and even white ministers as well as scores of colored are pleading for their presence of a Bishop that they may connect themselves with the A.M.E Church, and tens of thousands are waiting to welcome us to their embrace and support, and where the grandest possibilities are in store for our connection that was ever offered to a Christian body, and the same may be said of Africa. They are pleading for our Church at Bathurst, at the Gold Coast, at Lagos and even down as far as Cape Colony and also at other places in the Colony of Sierra Leone and the Republic of Liberia. I had to meet all of my expenses when I went Africa the last time, nor have I got a cent of it yet, and while I may not go this incoming year, if my life is spared I must return next year whether the Church pays my way or not. Dr. Derrick or myself must visit the West India Islands in a month or so. The doctor has promised to go, however, which will be a bit of a relief.
This will give you a little idea of my responsibilities. Had the General Conference done as the Council of Bishops requested it at the last session elected and consecrated a missionary bishop we would not have been in the fix we are, and even now if the Council of Bishops would take my advice they would assemble at once and select a missionary bishop and consecrate him and assign him to foreign work. A majority of the annual conferences, I am sure, would endorse and sustain our action even if the General Conference did not approve of it. Necessity knows no law when it involves the salvation or damnation of immortal souls. If I were not a bishop myself I would issue an appeal to the ministry of our entire connection and request them to write Bishop Wayman, our present senior bishop, letters by the thousands and urge him to present their request to the Council of Bishops that they proceed to elect a missionary bishop and consecrate him and assign him to our foreign work at once. I believe our bishops would do it if they knew they had the sanction of the Church; yes, even the leading men of the Church. Bishops of other churches do it and what better are we? But I shall do the best I can by you, an although I may not visit you I shall assemble the presiding elders of the respective States in council at my convenience and may possibly hold a few literary conventions as I did when I was your bishop before and serve you by that means to the extent of my ability and opportunities. Should you write me and get no reply you need not be insulted. My letters amount to from five to twenty per day. I have more than a thousand here now unanswered and yours will have to share with the rest, for it is impossible to reply to them all. But I hope the presiding elders of these seven additional conferences will do their whole duty and relieve the bishop of as much as possible and thus avoid the necessity of the pastors appealing from their action and administration to the bishop in charge.
I shall hold myself, notwithstanding as I said before, I recognize the plenipotentiary power of the bishops to make the change and assignment, as Bishop Arnett's proxy, for when I am out of the country I shall have him in charge of you anyway, and even when I am here you are free and welcome to appeal to him for all the advice, council and assistance you may desire and he will have the freedom to exercise the same without any bar, let no hindrance upon my part, for as we have no Pope or Archbishops the theory is that all the bishops are one man. All the presiding elders of the district will please send me their names and post office address.