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Documents Methodist

A Hundred Years ago, in November 1916

This was my November 2016 column in the SC United Methodist Advocate

 

I occasionally like to look back and see what South Carolina Methodists were talking about in the pages of the Advocate at points in the past.  A hundred years ago this November, they were preparing for Annual Conference, discussing national politics, and celebrating our colleges.

November 1916 saw President Woodrow Wilson’s re-election.  The Advocate wrote:  “Mr. Woodrow Wilson has been reelected President of the United States for another four years.  Nearly every reader of this paper rejoices over this happy event.  The administration justified itself in the eyes of the voters by a four years’ record of patriotic and honorable service.  The present government has been democratic in the best sense and progressive.  The strongest opposition to Mr. Wilson was centered in those states where the money powers rule…  His reelection is due to the South and to the West, where the people are the freest to express their own will and judgment.  We are happy in feeling that our country will not, under Mr. Wilson, go to war against any people in the world except under the extremest provocation.”

South Carolina Methodists were strong supporters of prohibition, and the Advocate carried this piece:  “Last year the United States brewers and rum makers shipped 20,000,000 gallons of rum, whiskey, wine, gin, and beer to the countries where we send foreign missionaries. If we could have complete prohibition of the sale of liquors in this country, there would be very much reduction of the need or home missions here. Let every home mission worker stand by any effort to get Federal prohibition laws.  In line with the above it is meet that we call attention to the fact that consideration of the National Constitutional Prohibition amendment is expected soon after Congress convenes in December. Letters written by voters are said to have special weight, therefore, get your husbands, sons and brothers, each to write the representative from his congressional district and both the senators, asking for favorable consideration.

Members of the conferences mourned the accidental death of the son of one clergy member.  “News has been received of a sad accident at Ruffin, near Walterboro, where an Atlantic Coast Line engine ran over and killed the two and one-half year old son of the Rev. J. B. Bell of Bethel Circuit. The child ran upon the tracks, falling under the moving engine. A flagman made a heroic, but vain effort to rescue the child, narrowly escaping injury to himself.

Members of the Columbia College Club enjoyed a meeting last Wednesday with Mrs. Arch Bethea.  Her home was decorated with dahlias and ferns.  Mrs. Bethea was assisted in receiving by her sister, Mrs. J. Stephen Bethea of Prescott, Arizona, who was a former member of the club.  The committees in charge of the Book Day Club celebration reported 110 books sent on to the college library.  Miss Major was asked to read Miss Omega Ellerbe’s “History of the Columbia College Club” and Mrs. Hayes read a paper on “Our Present Work.”  Mrs. W. W. Daniel gave the history of the alumnae association.  After a discussion, it was decided to concentrate the efforts of the club upon furnishing the College Library, and a group agreed to raise $50 before Christmas to buy another library table.”

Finally, Rev. Thomas G. Herbert shared some information about the arrangements for the upcoming Annual Conference in Florence, including asking how many of the brethren intended on bringing their “machines” – i. e. their automobiles – to Conference as a few families who wanted to host members were too far to walk to from Central Church, where Conference would be held.

And that is just a snippet of South Carolina Methodism a century ago.

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Documents Methodist

A Methodist Missionary in Brazil

This letter from the September 10, 1936 issue of the Advocate tells of the work of a South Carolina Methodist missionary in Brazil.  Some of you may know that Brazil and South Carolina have some long connections, and South Carolina’s own Cyrus B. Dawsey served as a Bishop of the Methodist Church in Brazil for a time.  The writer was Miss Clyde Varn, who was supported by the Charleston District.  Her parents lived at Islandton, S. C., and her home church was Wesley Chapel.

Bello Horigonta, Brazil,

July 11, 1936

My dear friends in the U. S. A.:

On the fourth of July, two years ago, I courageously attended an all day picnic at Wesley Chapel Church, and as the day ended, folded my tents and slipped away as gaily as the circumstances permitted. However, my “tents” consisted of two large trunks, a box of books, a Pullman bag, five suitcases, a hatbox, and a badly used but faithful Corona portable. Two years ago on the 7th I bade farewell to New Orleans, setting sail in a tub I scarcely considered seaworthy, but which landed me in Rio on schedule, July 25. I am beginning the third year of my second term.

Some of you have read my letter in the Press and Standard last year. The building I then called home has been razed to the ground, and home for me now is one of the two rooms of the former laundry, stuck off on a corner of the yard. Only a thin partition separates me from the church janitor and his garrulous wife. (I could give some of you wives points in successful henpecking.)  Cement tanks attached to the walls of this room when used for laundry purposes have caused it to have a very damp climate. In order to keep my books, shoes and other articles of leather from being ruined, a hole had to be opened in the roof of the porch to let in the blessed sunshine. The drying process has gone on rapidly, so that by the time the rainy season arrives, I shall be able to put the lid on the roof again.

And, oh, that something could be done to bring it on! (The rain, I mean, not the roof.) We have had no rain at all since March and expect none before October. How hard one works here to keep his shoes polished! And when it begins to rain, it’s just as bad; for then it is the season of white shoes.

Some of you probably saw Allie Cobb the first of the year.  She went to the States on her summer vacation. My month was well worthwhile. I went out into the interior of the State of Sao Paulo to visit the Dawseys (formerly of S. C.) in the little city of Morilia. It is a great coffee region. The country is new and is progressing rapidly. It was a great experience for me, for I had never been in that section. It took considerable sitting to get there but never more than sixteen hours on a stretch.

There have been many changes since the beginning of the year. We have a new principal, the other having returned to the States for rest. The present principal is Miss Mary Sue Brown of Texas, recently returned from the States and full of enthusiasm and plans for our school. She and I were co-laborers in Porto Alegre for four years.

We are badly in need of new buildings. These antediluvian structures just double our work. Miss Brown has plans for the new property, but we can’t build there until we sell here and we can’t sell here until we build there. We are trying to sell the least needed portions of this place (we have practically a city block in the city center) for a sufficient sum to put up enough of the new building to house us until we can complete our plans. But even the possibility of this seems distant, for the new property is not unencumbered. Soon a big bank building will be going up in our very yard. Across the street we have two lotteries, two bars and a billiard room. Often we are awakened by the sounds of fights and even shooting.

But before I close, I might suggest that if any of you are thinking of what present you might give to a missionary friend, ask her if she can use a Hectograph. A Sunday school class of Beaufort gave me this one and it has been a joy-the most useful present I ever received.  Useful not only to me but to the school and Sunday school.  It is grand for taking off worship programs, music, and outlining maps. (It never gets enough rest between times. I don’t know how long one lasts, but this has been in constant use and is going strong.

Note:  This was my September 2016 column in the S. C. United Methodist Advocate

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African-American History Methodist

Methodists and Race in South Carolina

This was my column in the February 2016 issue of the SC United Methodist Advocate

Methodists, like any other group with a long history in South Carolina, have had to face questions of race and relations between African-American and white church members throughout our history.  Over the next few years, a number of anniversaries will give us ample opportunities to talk more about these questions as well as the ways we have evolved into the conference we are today.

2016 marks the 150th anniversary of the founding of what has been historically known as the South Carolina Annual Conference (1866), the conference established by the northern branch of Methodism to minister to African-Americans in the Palmetto State.  The General Conference in 1864 had authorized creating missionary conferences in the former Confederacy, and it was under this authority that a missionary Annual Conference convened on April 2, 1866 under the leadership of Bishop Osman C. Baker.  Its first members of the conference were the northern missionary clergy, but on its first day, that conference admitted five African-American members.  From that beginning came a century’s work in church building, education, and outreach in South Carolina.

The need for ministerial education was immediately recognized, and the Baker Theological Institute was organized in Charleston.  Dozens of men attended the institute for further ministerial study, and over the next few years, they were ordained into the ministry and joined the South Carolina Conference.  Three years later, the conference established a university, the funds for which came from Lee Claflin and his son, Massachusetts Governor William Claflin.  In 1870, the South Carolina Conference met at Claflin University. Claflin and the Conference became almost one and the same over the next decades.  The state’s African-American Methodist clergy were educated there, as were teachers for the state’s African-American schools.  Those individuals spread out throughout the state, founding churches in communities far and wide.

During the period from 1866 to 1939, the two South Carolina Conferences, with their founding dates of 1785 and 1866, were technically part of two different denominations.  They knew each other existed and even shared a common tradition, but they had separate ecclesiastical structures, different bishops, and different Books of Discipline.

Much of that changed in 1939, when the three branches of American Methodism, after being divided for close to a century, and after two decades of negotiations, formally reunified into the Methodist Church.  But, merger did not happen at the conference level, and as a compromise, the jurisdictions were created.  African-American Methodists were placed into a racially-segregated Central Jurisdiction, and as such, South Carolina’s white and African American Methodists remained in separate Annual Conferences with separate bishops.  Movements in the Methodist Church throughout the 1950s and 1960s sought to eliminate the Central Jurisdiction, and much of the turmoil in South Carolina Methodism 50 years ago revolved around how to resolve these issues.  We’ll look at some of those questions over the next few months.

 

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Documents Methodist

The end of World War II, 70 years later

Seventy years ago this month, World War II came to an end. After six years of fighting (more than that if you include wars in China and Spain that many historians consider precursors of the full-blown war) and the loss of at least sixty million lives, the world entered into an uncertain and exhausted peace.

How did South Carolina Methodists react? The Advocate’s editor put it this way: “So this is victory? It is a victory with the edge knocked off. There is no celebration. No one feels like celebrating. Those of us with sons or daughters or close relatives in uniform are wonderfully relieved that these are safe from the uncertainties of battle or prison life and rejoice at the prospect of having them home. But as for celebrating a victory, significant as it is, the disposition is not in us. A dirty, nasty job came our way, and we did it. Now we feel like nothing so much as a good bath.”

The Advocate often carried letters from clergy serving as chaplains in various parts of the world. Chaplain Charles Brockwell of the Upper South Carolina Conference wrote of preaching in Australia, and in the September 6 issue, of building a chapel and presiding over an Easter service on an unidentified South Pacific island.

The Advocate carried a letter from a German Methodist bishop to the Methodist Board of Missions that was the first such communication in over four years. The letter described the condition of the Methodist Church in Germany, news of the destruction of many Methodist churches in and around Berlin, and of the deaths of many Methodists in air raids. The German bishop painted a bleak picture, with the potential for mass starvation in the upcoming winter, of refugees fleeing in the face of the Soviet Army, and of the loss of most of their savings with the collapse of the German government. However, he noted that in parts of the country, churches had survived and presented an opportunity to rebuild German Methodism. In a more optimistic note, he wrote “we as Methodists seem to have in Germany an opportunity so great, so promising, and so helpful to the life of our people as to surpass anything our fathers dreamed.”

The Advocate came out against compulsory national service, which some civic leaders were supporting in the wake of the war. The editor felt that Americans would support a continued large standing army and navy, and recognized that Americans would have to occupy other countries for the foreseeable future, but that drafting every 18 year old was not the answer to that problem. The editor’s reasoning, however, reflected the strong pro-temperance position of many Methodist clergy of the day. “With an administration that seems to favor so clearly the liquor interests… which lets so many temptations surround those in service, we fear that to send every boy into service for a year would not be the best thing in the world.” In other words, the presence of alcohol in the military made the Advocate suspicious of universal military service.

The war’s effect on life in the state and in the conference did not go unreported. Wofford College was preparing to open its Fall 1945 term, and did not expect to be anywhere near its pre-war enrollment. They anticipated a student body of only 100 or slightly more, President Walter Greene reported. Greene also said that “plans for a football team were not definite.” In fact, not enough students were on campus to resume football until 1946.

These were some of the stories that South Carolina Methodists were reading in September 1945.

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African-American History Methodist

South Carolina Methodists and the A. M. E. Church

This was my column in the SC United Methodist Advocate for August 2015.

The murder of nine worshipers at Charleston’s Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church has dominated the news in South Carolina this summer, and we Methodists have shared in sorrow and outrage with our fellow Carolinians.

A. M. E. stands for African Methodist Episcopal, which should suggest to Methodists that the two denominations are related. In fact, when it was founded, the American Methodist denomination was called the Methodist Episcopal Church. So it isn’t hard to see that our brothers and sisters in the A. M. E. Church share the Wesleyan-Methodist tradition with United Methodists.

But how did the A. M. E. Church come to be, and what connection do we share? Answering that question requires looking into the early history of Methodism, and especially into Charleston Methodism. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, black and white Methodists worshiped together. By 1815, Charleston’s quarterly conference reported fewer than 300 white members and over 3,800 African-American members, including slaves and free persons. In its earliest years, Methodism took a strong anti-slavery position, though this brought Bishop Francis Asbury and the clergy into increasing conflict with the state’s political leadership and planter class. Mobs threatened and even assaulted clergy, particularly when they believed them to be preaching or distributing anti-slavery literature. In 1800, the General Assembly moved to limit assemblies of African-Americans, slave or free. The law, noted one white clergyman, was really directed at the Methodists. Ultimately, when forced to decide between the Wesleyan position against slavery or spreading the gospel, the church abandoned its anti-slavery position.

In Charleston, most black Methodists worshiped at Bethel and two other churches, with separate classes, leaders, and stewards. They even reported to a separate quarterly conference (what we now call a charge conference). Around 1815, white leaders moved to take control of financial and disciplinary matters. Many of the earlier histories, such as Francis Asbury Mood’s Methodism in Charleston, claimed that the finances showed evidence of corruption, though it’s more than a little possible that the coffers of the black quarterly conference simply were deeper as their numbers were larger. Along with their relegation to the balconies of the churches, this loss of influence and leadership in the church angered Charleston’s black Methodists. Such was their disappointment that they began making plans both to leave the denomination and to attempt to gain legal control over Bethel’s property. Two free black Methodist local pastors traveled secretly to Philadelphia and were ordained deacons in the A. M. E. church.

In Philadelphia, the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church had been founded by Rev. Richard Allen under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church by 1794. At this point, they were still Methodist, and relied on white elders to serve communion. Allen, who had been born into slavery in Delaware, had purchased his freedom in 1780 and was present at the 1784 Christmas Conference, though the conference denied him a vote. He served in the free black community of Philadelphia, but again finding Methodism’s treatment of its African-American members unequal, began planning to leave. Some congregants followed Allen in 1816 into the A. M. E. Church, the first fully independent black denomination in the United States, with Allen as their bishop. The A. M. E.’s church structure is remarkably similar to that of the United Methodist Church, with General and Annual conferences, bishops, and a judicial council.

After the trustees of Bethel in 1818 decided to build a structure on the part of the church cemetery reserved for black members, and ignored their protests, the black members withdrew. Some 4,300 members in the three churches left to form the African Methodist Episcopal congregation in Charleston, led by Rev. Morris Brown, who had been ordained by Allen. Their absence from Charleston’s Methodist churches was obvious to everyone. Within a matter of years, the “African Church” in Charleston became implicated in Denmark Vesey’s abortive insurrection, as he had been a class leader at Bethel and then at the new church. The church was destroyed by angry whites, largely forcing the congregation underground until the end of the Civil War. But they could not extinguish its flame.

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Methodist

Creating Women’s Organizations in the South Carolina Conference

This was my July 2015 column for the SC United Methodist Advocate.

Most South Carolina Methodists realize the strong influence and important work of the United Methodist Women in our churches and conference. When did this work begin?

Just after the Civil War, women’s efforts moved more into the public sphere, as America entered a period of social reform as well as international missionary work. In the Methodist Church, the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society was authorized by the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, meeting in Atlanta in 1878. This followed years of lobbying the bishops to authorize some type of women’s missionary organization. The College of Bishops drafted a constitution, and the wives of the bishops all became vice presidents of the organization. Mrs. Maria Davies Wightman of South Carolina, the wife of Bishop William M. Wightman, was one of those vice presidents.

In South Carolina, which was one of the fifteen conferences of the M. E. Church, South, the Woman’s Missionary Society was organized in December 1878, during the meeting of the Annual Conference in Newberry. A nominating committee, consisting of male members of the Annual Conference as well as women who would be part of the society recommended a slate of officers.

Mrs. Maria Wightman was elected president by the forty women in attendance, representing ten charges or stations throughout the Conference. The first annual meeting of the Woman’s Missionary Society of the South Carolina Conference was held in Trinity Church, Charleston, being Mrs. Wightman’s own church, in April 1880. This was the first time a woman ever presided over a public meeting in South Carolina. Mrs. Wightman remained the society’s president, providing spiritual leadership to their work until her death in 1912.

A second missionary organization, the Parsonage Aid and Home Mission Society (having been organized in the Methodist Church in 1886) was changed to the Woman’s Parsonage and Home Mission Society in 1890. In 1898 the organization had the name of the Woman’s Home Missionary Society.
In 1910 the General Conference made provisions to unite these two Societies: The Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society, 32 years old, and The Woman’s Home Missionary Society, 25 years old. They came together and formed the Woman’s Missionary Council of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. It was optional as to whether the two Societies should unite into one conference society, so in South Carolina, the two organizations did not unite until the Conference split into two Annual Conferences in 1914.

The women of the South Carolina Conference met January 22, 1915, at Florence and organized. The women of the Upper South Carolina Conference also met the same year and organized as the Woman’s Missionary Society of the Upper South Carolina Conference, thus bringing home and foreign mission work into a single organization for each conference.

In 1940, after Methodist reunification, the society had another name change. Both upper and South Carolina conference societies became the Woman’s Society of Christian Service of their respective conference. In October 1948, when the two conferences merged back together, the Woman’s Societies of Christian Service also merged. And, after the creation of the United Methodist Church in 1968, the present United Methodist Women’s organization was born.

For more information about the history of our conference’s women’s organizations, you can read Daring Hearts and Spirits Free: South Carolina Women in the United Methodist Tradition, edited by Harriet Anderson Mays and Harry Roy Mays.

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Methodist

From the Archives: Creating Women’s Organizations in the South Carolina Conference

This was my column for the July/Annual Conference edition of the SC United Methodist Advocate

Most South Carolina Methodists realize the strong influence and important work of the United Methodist Women in our churches and conference. When did this work begin?

Just after the Civil War, women’s efforts moved more into the public sphere, as America entered a period of social reform as well as international missionary work. In the Methodist Church, the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society was authorized by the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, meeting in Atlanta in 1878. This followed years of lobbying the bishops to authorize some type of women’s missionary organization. The College of Bishops drafted a constitution, and the wives of the bishops all became vice presidents of the organization. Mrs. Maria Davies Wightman of South Carolina, the wife of Bishop William M. Wightman, was one of those vice presidents.

In South Carolina, which was one of the fifteen conferences of the M. E. Church, South, the Woman’s Missionary Society was organized in December 1878, during the meeting of the Annual Conference in Newberry. A nominating committee, consisting of male members of the Annual Conference as well as women who would be part of the society recommended a slate of officers.

Mrs. Maria Wightman was elected president by the forty women in attendance, representing ten charges or stations throughout the Conference. The first annual meeting of the Woman’s Missionary Society of the South Carolina Conference was held in Trinity Church, Charleston, being Mrs. Wightman’s own church, in April 1880. This was the first time a woman ever presided over a public meeting in South Carolina. Mrs. Wightman remained the society’s president, providing spiritual leadership to their work until her death in 1912.

A second missionary organization, the Parsonage Aid and Home Mission Society (having been organized in the Methodist Church in 1886) was changed to the Woman’s Parsonage and Home Mission Society in 1890. In 1898 the organization had the name of the Woman’s Home Missionary Society.
In 1910 the General Conference made provisions to unite these two Societies: The Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society, 32 years old, and The Woman’s Home Missionary Society, 25 years old. They came together and formed the Woman’s Missionary Council of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. It was optional as to whether the two Societies should unite into one conference society, so in South Carolina, the two organizations did not unite until the Conference split into two Annual Conferences in 1914.

The women of the South Carolina Conference met January 22, 1915, at Florence and organized. The women of the Upper South Carolina Conference also met the same year and organized as the Woman’s Missionary Society of the Upper South Carolina Conference, thus bringing home and foreign mission work into a single organization for each conference.

In 1940, after Methodist reunification, the society had another name change. Both upper and South Carolina conference societies became the Woman’s Society of Christian Service of their respective conference. In October 1948, when the two conferences merged back together, the Woman’s Societies of Christian Service also merged. And, after the creation of the United Methodist Church in 1968, the present United Methodist Women’s organization was born.

For more information about the history of our conference’s women’s organizations, you can read Daring Hearts and Spirits Free: South Carolina Women in the United Methodist Tradition, edited by Harriet Anderson Mays and Harry Roy Mays.

Categories
Methodist

The 1915 Annual Conference

This was my June column for the SC United Methodist Advocate.  Next week, South Carolina Methodists will gather for our Annual Conference.  

As South Carolina’s Methodists gather in Florence for Annual Conference, let’s look back a century and see where we gathered in 1915.

Of course, in those days, Annual Conference met in the fall instead of late spring. And following the action of the 1914 General Conference and 1914 Annual Conference, the conference had divided in two. With African-American Methodists in a separate Annual Conference, that meant three conferences met in South Carolina that year.

The first session of the Upper South Carolina Conference met on November 24, 1915 at Bethel Church in Spartanburg. The Advocate noted that “the place of meeting is the beautiful new Bethel Church, Spartanburg…. While it is the youngest Annual Conference in the world, it is nevertheless one of the greatest. It is composed of a body of about 130 aggressive clerical members…. It represents about 50,000 lay members, and is situated in a compact, healthy, and very beautiful territory. The Bethel people constitute one of the best congregations in our Southern Methodism.”

Collins Denny presided over the session, which had to organize the new conference from scratch. The presiding elders, acting as the committee on nominations, appointed committees on public worship, on Sabbath observance, on temperance, on conference relations, and even a committee to review district conference journals. As was the custom, members of the conference stayed in the homes of Spartanburg Methodists, including a number of Wofford faculty members. The faculty at Converse College invited the Conference to dinner on the Thursday night of Conference. That might have been a Thanksgiving dinner, since that Thursday happened to be Thanksgiving Day. (And current conference members used to complain about attending Annual Conference on Memorial Day!) Bishop Alpheus W. Wilson preached the Thanksgiving sermon to an overflow crowd at Bethel.

The Upper South Carolina Conference recognized that the 1866 Conference was meeting at the same time, also in Spartanburg, and sent fraternal greetings to the conference. Interestingly, the conference’s members received enough mail that the Spartanburg Post Office set up a temporary mail room in a Sunday School classroom.

As soon as Bishop Denny had adjourned the Upper South Carolina Conference on Monday, November 29, he must have boarded a train to head for Charleston. That’s where the South Carolina Conference convened on Wednesday, December 1, at 9:00, at Trinity Methodist Church. That conference also met for six days, which meant that Bishop Denny had spent 12 out of 13 consecutive days presiding over annual conferences! The staff of the Advocate had to work about as hard, covering both conferences, and many members of one wound up attending the other conference, as several clergy were transferring between conferences that year. Both conferences, in fact, gave the privilege of the floor to the members of the other conference.

The reports and events of both conferences took several weeks’ worth of Advocate pages to summarize, and no doubt Methodists all over the state used the paper to keep up with the goings-on at the two Annual Conferences. And no doubt the Methodists of South Carolina today will use the Advocate as well as more modern technologies, to keep up with the events in Florence.

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Documents Methodist

Clergy Directories

This was my column in the May 2015 issue of the SC United Methodist Advocate.  We’ve made some new resources available on our institutional repository site.

For over 100 years, the Annual Conference has published clergy biographical directories about every ten years.

The first volume was called Twentieth Century Sketches of the South Carolina Conference, M. E. Church, South and was edited by the Rev. Watson B. Duncan. The biographical sketches of each clergy member of the conference were often prepared by their friends, and could be quite lengthy. These can be very useful for modern researchers, as they frequently mention the minister’s accomplishments in the appointments where they served. Most, but not all, were accompanied by photographs. The volume began with an introduction by Wofford’s then-president, Dr. James H. Carlisle, in which he referred to the book as a “family album.” That seems an accurate description for a conference of not many more than 200 members.

Rev. Duncan published a revised and expanded version of the volume in 1914. He was collecting information for a new edition when he died, at which point his family gave the information he had collected to the editor of the Advocate. The 1930 Annual Conference asked a group of ministers to work toward a new edition, and ultimately, the Advocate board of trustees took on the project. The directory evolved into something more: a short history of the South Carolina and Upper South Carolina conferences and their institutions. Published in 1932 as Builders: Sketches of Methodist Preachers in South Carolina with Historical Data, the volume contained photographs, shorter biographical sketches, and an additional fifty pages of history and data.

From that point forward, a directory emerged about every ten years through the 1960s, with biographies in the front and separate glossy photographs in the back. The merger of the 1866 and 1785 conferences delayed production of the 1970s volume until 1975, and the format returned to that of the early 1930s, with sketches and photographs side by side. The 1985 edition, celebrating the bicentennial of American Methodism, contained a 90-page history of Methodism in South Carolina, prepared by Dr. A. V. Huff Jr. Subsequent editions of the directory emerged in 1991 and 2001, though all of the post-1961 directories had increasingly smaller photographs and shorter biographies.

Over the past few years, the conference archives at Wofford has been trying to make these directories available online. First, we focused on the photos, making the images from the 1901 through 1961 directories available on a Flickr site. We also had a late 19th century photo album that we scanned and made available. That’s the William Wynn Mood photo album, and it has photos of some late 19th century clergy that are otherwise unavailable. Student workers along with the Rev. Luther Rickenbaker, senior research associate in the archives, helped prepare short biographies to accompany the online photos. These photographs have helped local churches as they’ve worked on publishing histories or displaying photos of former ministers.

The photo albums are available from this page, and individual photos can be downloaded and printed: http://www.wofford.edu/library/archives/methodist.aspx

However, we always wanted to make the full directories available so that researchers, local church historians, and others could examine the full biographies of our clergy. Our new digital repository software has made this much easier, and this spring, we’ve posted the 1901, 1914, 1942, and 1952 directories. The 1932,1961 and 1975 directories should be available by the time you read this column. They are available on Wofford’s digital repository site, which is located at http://digitalcommons.wofford.edu/methodistdirectories/. The files are fairly large, so it might take a few moments to download them.

Categories
Alumni Methodist

Bishop Coke Smith

This was my column in the SC United Methodist Advocate for April.

Alexander Coke Smith is another of South Carolina Methodism’s contributions to the episcopacy.

Bishop A. Coke Smith '72
Bishop A. Coke Smith ’72

Born in Lynchburg, SC, Coke Smith enrolled at Wofford in 1868 and graduated in 1872. His father was a Methodist minister, so he grew up in parsonages around the state. Following his graduation from Wofford, he joined the South Carolina Conference, and was sent to his first appointment, Cheraw Station. After but a year there, he went to Columbia to serve at Washington Street, where he remained three years. He was the junior preacher in his first and the pastor in charge the second and third years – at the ripe old age of 26. Next, he went to Greenville Station – Buncombe Street – in 1876, serving for 4 years. Continuing his journeys around the state, the young minister went to serve Trinity, Charleston for three years, from 1880-82, where he became close to Bishop William M. Wightman in his last years.

Smith then spent four years, 1883-86, as the Presiding Elder of the Columbia District, and following that, was elected to the professorship of mental and moral philosophy at Wofford. He followed in the footsteps of William Wallace Duncan, who had just been elected a bishop. That chair on the Wofford faculty actually produced three bishops, Duncan, Smith, and Smith’s successor, John C. Kilgo. Additionally, that faculty position was responsible for fundraising, so it gave Smith the opportunity to travel around South Carolina, representing Wofford, preaching in various pulpits, and making stronger personal connections.

Though a young man, Smith sometimes suffered under the strain of his workload. Wofford historian David Duncan Wallace noted that “he had just almost killed himself saving souls in one of the greatest revivals in the history of Charleston,” and proceeded to conclude the process by his labors for raising the college endowment.

After 4 years at Wofford, he was elected to the 1890 General Conference delegation, heading the South Carolina delegation. He was just 41 years old. The General Conference elected him as one of their three missionary secretaries, but he only stayed in this position for a few months before he was asked to become professor of practical theology at Vanderbilt. He moved again in 1892, transferring his membership to the Virginia Conference and serving churches there until 1902. He came close to being elected a bishop in 1898, and finally, was elected to the episcopacy in 1902.  Incidentally, his younger brother, an 1889 graduate, was Ellison D. Smith.  Known as “Cotton Ed,” the younger Smith was elected to the US Senate in 1908, serving six terms.

He died in December 1906 in Asheville, having served a relatively short tenure as a bishop. Collins Denny, himself later a bishop, noted that Smith was “a man of rare versatility and adaptability, and charmed every circle and community into which he entered. He was a past master in delicate humor, and this gift was his servant, never his master.” His Methodist education had served him well, for “he had read widely and well, and his tenacious memory gave him ready command of his resources.” Bishops often need a blend of skills, and from what his contemporaries wrote, A. Coke Smith brought a mix of political acumen, intelligence, and preaching ability to that office.