Categories
Buildings Methodist

Cokesbury, the Methodist Town

This article appeared in the December issue of the SC United Methodist Advocate.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Cokesbury – it’s an especially Methodist name – but I’m not talking about the publishing house.  I’m talking about the village in Greenwood County.  That’s correct; we have our very own Cokesbury right here in South Carolina.

CokesburyCollI suppose you can be forgiven for having not heard of it.  After all, it’s not even an official town, but the government recognizes it as a census area, and as of 2000, the census counted some 279 people living there.  Though it might be small, Cokesbury has a long history, and most of it is related to South Carolina Methodism.

In the 1820s, in perhaps an early real estate maneuver, the citizens of the nearby Methodist community called Tabernacle decided they wanted to move their town to higher, more pleasant ground.  The Tabernacle Society had developed perhaps before 1788, making it a fairly early Methodist community.  The town already had a school for boys, but they wanted both their town and their school to grow.  They laid out a new village along a high ridge, with lots of some 20 to 25 acres, large enough for small farms, making it one of the state’s earliest planned communities.  At first they called their new town Mount Ariel, but in 1834, they changed the name to honor Bishops Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury.  In that same year, the Annual Conference decided it needed a preparatory-type school for boys, and it quickly decided to offer to purchase the Tabernacle Academy.  It was named the Dougherty Manual Labor School, in honor of an early clergyman, though it was commonly called the Cokesbury Conference School almost from the beginning.  Revs. William Wightman and William Capers, both future bishops, were on its first board of trustees.  The village became a center of Methodism and education, and soon, the Cokesbury Methodist Church was built

In addition to the school for boys, a Masonic Female College opened around 1854, and the village also had a school for children under 12.  The Female College built a three story, Greek Revival building, with a chapel on the second floor and recitation rooms on the first floor.  The Female College operated in the building for some twenty years, at which point the Annual Conference purchased it and made it the home of the Cokesbury Conference School.  The school was coeducational under Methodist operation from 1882 to 1918, at which point it became a public school.  It reverted to Methodist hands in the 1950s, and most of Cokesbury became a National Historic District in 1970, but more recently, it has been operated by the Cokesubry Historical and Recreational Commission.

The Commission on Archives and History once again seeks applications and nominations for the Herbert Hucks Awards, which will be presented at Annual Conference in 2015.  Local churches that have undertaken the work of preserving and interpreting Methodist history in their congregation.  The commission also gives an award to an individual that has, over a lifetime, made significant contributions to Methodist history beyond the local church, and to a publication that also makes a contribution to the understanding of Methodist history beyond the local church.  For more information about applying or nominating a church, individual, or publication, visit the Archives and History website.  http://www.wofford.edu/library/archives/hucks-award.aspx.  Applications and nominations are due Feb. 6, 2015.

Categories
Documents Methodist

From the Archives: A hundred years ago

What were our ancestors in South Carolina Methodism talking about a hundred years ago this fall? Looking through the pages of the Advocate for November 1914 shows that they were talking about football, war, and conference politics.

The Advocate was part of the conversation about dividing the Annual Conference into upper and lower conferences – an action that had been authorized at General Conference the previous summer. I wrote about this action in the June 2014 Advocate. It was a controversial issue, and writers took strong stands in letters about the proposals.

An issue of the Advocate just before Annual Conference met listed all of the members of the conference and where they would be staying when Conference met in Sumter. Most of the attendees were the guests of the members of the various Methodist congregations in Sumter. Imagine going to Annual Conference and staying in a local home rather than a hotel! 

The superintendent of Epworth Orphanage wrote on November 12 to remind churches to send in their collections for the Labor Day appeal as quickly as possible. The orphanage had experienced a few cases of typhoid and as a result, had asked the city of Columbia to extend the sewer line to the campus, which had added to the home’s expenses. He also reported that the orphanage was full, with some 250 children on campus, and he described the studies and work they were undertaking. 

The outbreak of what we now call World War I in Europe in the summer of 1914 was definitely on the minds of South Carolina Methodists. Wofford President Henry Nelson Snyder’s piece “War and Religion” appeared on November 5, where he lamented that “nothing was more hideous than the war now going on in Europe.” 

Methodists were somewhat critical of football in the early 20th century, and the Conference even managed to get Wofford to stop playing intercollegiate football for several years. In November 1914, they wrote “The papers of last Thursday carried this news item from Columbia: After putting up a stubborn fight, Wofford College was defeated by Newberry College by a score of 36-0. Swanton, left half for Newberry, broke his leg and was rushed to the hospital. Wofford lost the game but apparently did not have any member killed or maimed… We are told that when Wofford played in Greenville some time ago that practically every member of the team carried off bloody faces.” “It is difficult to understand,” the Advocate wrote, “how any parent can give consent for his or her son to engage in games that so often result in death or broken limbs. The fatalities are nearly as great as in war. They call it ‘college spirit!’ Deliver us from such! How long will it be before some mother’s son in South Carolina will be carried from a glorious game of football a mangled corpse to the mother’s embrace?” 

It’s interesting to see the issues that were in the minds of South Carolina Methodists and the work that our conference institutions were doing a century ago, and to know that many of these continue to be with us today.

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

Categories
Academics Methodist

Henry Nelson Snyder: Wofford and Methodist leader

This article appeared in the SC United Methodist Advocate this month.

Wofford’s Dr. Henry Nelson Snyder served as the college’s fourth president from 1902 to 1942, and at the same time, was one of the leading laymen of South Carolina Methodism. He was a very influential leader in state and national higher education circles as well as in national Methodist circles, and his was a leading voice in the movement toward Methodist reunification in 1939.

SnyderHandbookDr. Snyder was a Tennessee native who came to Wofford and Spartanburg in 1890 to become a professor of English. He had earned his degrees at Vanderbilt, which was designed to be the central university of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Some of his teachers there had Wofford connections as well as deep ties to the Methodist Church. After a decade at Wofford, he did what many young American academics in the 1890s and early 1900s did: he went to a German university to study for his doctorate. He would have completed it if Wofford had not called him to the presidency while he was working on his degree

Dr. Snyder’s ties to regional and national higher education movements began in the 1890s, when he was one of two Wofford professors to attend the organizational meeting of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which is the regional accrediting agency for colleges and schools throughout the Southeast. He also built networks in South Carolina’s fledgling public schools in the 1910s and 1920s, and was on good terms with many superintendents and principals. This helped him recruit students to attend Wofford and the other Methodist colleges in the state. He also organized summer schools for teachers at Wofford for many years.

Snyder’s commitment was to make Wofford a first-rate Methodist-related institution, and to blend academic excellence with spiritual development. He later wrote that he never let himself forget the importance of the college’s church relationship. And apparently, the church leadership trusted their president, for they ultimately made him the chairman of the conference board of education, which was responsible for selecting the trustees of all of the colleges. That’s perhaps not the best practice today, but in that place and time, it worked. Snyder wrote that the Annual Conference gave him a free hand in the administration of the college, and this allowed him to build a fine college and faculty over his tenure. While he occasionally had to defend the faculty from critics who objected to a modernizing curriculum, no one ever seriously threatened his independence.

The Conference regularly elected Dr. Snyder as a General Conference delegate, and year after year, he served on various church boards. He was a member of the hymnal revision commission that produced the 1905 and the 1935 Methodist hymnal, and for some twenty years, he was one of the southern church’s members on the reunification commission. As a leader in church-related higher education, he was away from Wofford for the better part of a year in the 1920s as he worked with a church-wide educational fundraising campaign, a cause that benefited Methodist-related colleges throughout the South.

Throughout his life, Henry Nelson Snyder was more than simply a liberal arts college president. He was an ambassador for education at all levels, and he was a firm believer in the important role the Methodist Church played in education. He also played an active role in the creation of the Methodist Church, using his experiences and wisdom to help heal a century-long breach in the church.

Categories
Alumni Documents Methodist Students

The things you find in collections

Today I got around to processing a small collection we received last summer.  The materials related to a member of Wofford’s Class of 1870 named Wellborn Davies Kirkland.  Rev. Kirkland, who became a Methodist minister, served in a number of significant positions in the Methodist Church in South Carolina, edited the Southern Christian Advocate, and was the editor of the churchwide Sunday School magazine when he died at a fairly young age in 1896.

His papers included a number of speeches he gave as a student – his 1870 graduation speech, his valedictory to his literary society, and a few other ones.  They also included some family history materials and, believe it or not, a lock of his hair that appears to have been cut after his death.

His papers included some photos of both him and his wife, and there was also a composite photo of Wofford’s 1870 graduating class.

Wofford’s Class of 1870

The W. D. Kirkland Papers are available here.

 

Categories
Alumni Methodist

The Adlai C. Holler Papers

A few months back, I wrote about what we do with all of the papers we get in the conference archives.  This month, I want to write about what we did with one particular collection that we received a few years ago.

The Rev. Adlai C. Holler

It took over a year, but the Rev. Luther Rickenbaker, who is the senior research associate in the archives, and I arranged and described the papers of the Rev. Adlai Cornwell Holler.  Given to us by his children, processing the Holler Papers proved to be a monumental undertaking.  When completed, the Holler Papers amounted to about ten cubic feet of files.

You may wonder what kind of files clergy keep.  It seems as though Adlai Holler kept everything.  We sorted the materials into personal papers, church files, official conference files, and sermons.  We found his notes from his time at Harvard Law School (yes, a minister who also had a law degree) and a lot of materials about his family, his personal expenses, and the civic clubs of which he was a member.  We also found collections of materials about the churches he served, sermon notes, and sermon preparation materials. He kept boxes (literally!) of materials to help develop sermon ideas.  He also kept items that did not relate directly to his ministry.

Adlai C. Holler was an active teacher, and was involved in numerous educational undertakings – leading what were in those days called training schools.  There’s at least one box of his teaching and course development materials.  Over the years, he taught courses on teaching young adults, working with adults, counseling those with alcoholism, the Old Testament, the life of Jesus, and numerous other topics.  In those pre-email days when even telephone conversations were a luxury, his correspondence with friends and colleagues reveals much about his life and work.

In his ministry, he served eleven different appointments in nearly every part of South Carolina, from Myrtle Beach to Greenville, from Gaffney to St. George.  He also served as secretary of the conference board of education, as conference secretary, as editor of the Advocate, and as a district superintendent.  His conference files reflect his deep involvement in the management of the Annual Conference for decades.  He also served as a delegate to General and Jurisdictional Conference.

He had a particular method for arranging his sermons, and the envelopes with his sermon notes also contain the bulletins from the churches where they were delivered, and even mention hymn choices and the weather and attendance for those Sundays.  In processing the collection, we didn’t want to tinker with his arrangement, so we largely left the sermons alone, but no doubt researchers would enjoy looking at them.  The collection is open for research use, and would be interesting to anyone who is studying South Carolina Methodism from the Great Depression into the 1970s.  And, though space in the archives is tight, we’re always looking to add to the collection.

 

Categories
Methodist

Methodist Reunification

A few months ago, I wrote about the division of the Methodist Episcopal Church into northern and southern branches.  Since we’re members of the United Methodist Church today, we know that at some point, we got back together.  When did that happen?

The northern and southern branches of the Methodist Episcopal Church, along with the Methodist Protestant Church, joined together to create The Methodist Church in 1939 at a uniting General Conference in Kansas City, Missouri.  Reunification came about after two generations of movement in that direction, and several South Carolina Methodists were instrumental in that movement.  Dr. Henry Nelson Snyder, Wofford’s president from 1902 to 1942, was a member of the reunification commission that first convened in 1916.

The division in the church had occurred in the generation before the American Civil War, and in the generation following the war, Methodists on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line began reaching out to each other.  They recognized that they shared a common tradition and knew that good relations between the two denominations would have to grow before any further steps toward cooperation might ever happen.  Beginning in the late 1870s, some sixty years before formal union, the two churches were sending fraternal delegates to each other’s General Conference.  By the 1890s, the two churches were willing to create a joint commission on federation, though they were still far from any plan of union.  The joint commission looked for and found areas where the two denominations could work together, such as on publishing and on foreign missions.  Tensions still existed, however, as both churches were seeking new members in the western states. At a major conference in 1910, delegates from all three denominations agreed to study a union of the churches, not simply a federation.

The thorny American problem of race relations, however, reared its head, and a proposal coming out of this group would have placed all of the African-American members of the new denomination into a separate “Quadrennial Conference” as the regional bodies we now know as jurisdictions were tentatively named.

By 1916, the commission on federation became a joint commission on unification, with a goal of creating a new denomination.  It met some six times in the next 3 years to perfect a plan of union.  Still, the role and treatment of African-American members was of primary concern to the southern delegates.  And, the churches early on decided on the need for an independent judicial council, for whereas the southern church relied on the college of bishops as the final arbiter of the church constitution, the northern church relied on the General Conference to hold that role. By 1920, a new constitution had been proposed, both General Conferences had considered it, and in 1924, both General Conferences approved it and submitted it to the annual conferences for approval.  It required a ¾ vote of all of the southern annual conferences to go into effect.

However, many southern Methodists objected to unification in the mid-1920s, fearing integration, social liberalism, loss of control of the church, loss of identity, and even that northern ministers would come South and take all of the better appointments!  When the votes of the annual conferences were tallied, a majority had approved, but nowhere near the ¾ majority required.

This proved to be only a temporary setback.  Several powerful bishops had opposed the plan, as had many members of the laity.  But, Methodist young people were strong supporters of church union.  By 1935, all three denominations were using the same hymnal, one that the three denominations had worked to develop.  The churches agreed on the jurisdictional system as the basis for uniting the church, and they also agreed on the need for equal representation of the laity and clergy in each annual conference.  In 1936, the General Conferences of the Methodist Protestant and Methodist Episcopal churches approved the plan of union, and their annual conferences moved quickly to ratify.  In the South, the annual conferences acted first, and about 86% of the members of the conferences approved.  Approval of the southern General Conference was almost a foregone conclusion in 1938.  The Uniting General Conference convened on April 26, 1939.

Reunification, however, brought about some unwelcome compromises.  African-American Methodists were placed into a segregated Central Jurisdiction, and as such, the South Carolina Conference (1866) became the South Carolina Conference, Central Jurisdiction, with bishops elected by that jurisdiction.  The jurisdictional conference itself was the compromise that brought about reunification, as many southerners wanted bishops to be selected within each region.  The Central Jurisdiction existed until it was abolished in 1968, which was the same time that the United Methodist Church was created.

Categories
Methodist

What do we do with all of those papers?

Occasionally the question comes up when I’m talking with someone about what I do in the archives.  “So what do you do with all of those papers, files, books, and stuff?  How do you catalog them or index everything?”

That’s a good question.  When we get a collection, whether it’s a closed church’s records, the files of a conference agency, or the personal papers of an individual, it can take a lot of work to transform it from an unorganized pile of boxes and file folders into something a researcher can use.

Generally, the first thing we have to do is survey the collection.  That means that we look through the files and papers, see what topics they cover and what kind of materials are there.  From that, we begin to arrange the collection into groups – we archivists call them series – of like materials.  Is there correspondence?  Do we find biographical materials, or sermons, or financial records?  Are there files that record the subject’s community service work, or church work?  Generally, after looking through the boxes, an order begins to appear.  If we can find some method to the way the person kept their files, we try to keep that – we respect the original order whenever possible.

As we gather like materials into useful groupings, we often will place the letters, photographs, and other documents into new, acid-free folders for better preservation.  Once we have arranged the materials, we try to describe what’s in the groupings.  Depending on how much time an archivist has to devote to the collection, describing it can get very detailed.  Usually we make a list of all of the folders.  We box everything up, label the boxes, and put them on the shelf.  We write a guide to the collection – we call it a finding aid – that helps a researcher know what subjects might be covered in the collection, what’s in each series, any especially interesting items that are there, and then we add a list of all of the folder labels.  That goes on our website, so researchers near and far can find it.

Some people wonder if we’re going to “just scan it all” or “digitize everything.”  That’d be wonderful, but it would cost a fortune.  We are digitizing more and more content, and we have a new software package that we’ve launched this month that will help us manage more electronic files.  We should soon have all of our old Conference Historical Society addresses available for reading and downloading, and later, hopefully all of our ministerial directories, published histories, and conference journals.  We already have photos of clergy from 1901 to 1961 on our website.  What takes time is keeping track of all the digital files – you have to be able to find it once you scan it!

Agency and local church files are usually smaller collections than some of our personal paper collections.  We’re looking to keep the things that are permanently valuable.  For a closed church, that’s the membership records, the church council and charge conference minutes, and historical information about the church.  For a board or commission, we’ll look for the minutes, reports, and materials that document their programs and activities.  Often there’s correspondence and other related information, too.  The process of arranging and describing work the same.  We’re always looking to add to the collection of board and commission records.

We’ve had several large personal paper donations in recent years.  A few years back, the Medlock Family donated the personal papers of the Rev. Melvin K. Medlock, a longtime clergy member of this conference.  More recently, the Holler family donated the papers of the Rev. Adlai C. Holler, a former conference secretary.  The Rev. Luther Rickenbaker, a retired member of the conference who volunteers in the archives, and I spent the better part of a year working on those files, because it seemed like the Rev. Holler kept everything.  Even more recently, the Taylor family donated the papers of the Rev. Eben Taylor.  That collection is quite large, and it’s going to take a while to work through, but it will be a great addition to the archives.  All of these personal paper collections contain a mixture of sermons, correspondence, and materials that document these ministers’ conference service and ministry.

So, what do we do with all of those papers?  We try, as efficiently as possible, to turn them into something that a researcher can use to help tell the story of Methodism in our conference and state, so that people in our future will be able to look back and understand their past.

(This was my Advocate column for October)

Categories
Methodist Photographs

Annual Conferences of a century ago

This was my column in the Advocate for June.  We just concluded the South Carolina United Methodist Annual Conference this week.

As we gather for Annual Conference, it’s worth remembering that we Methodists have been conferencing since the days of John Wesley.  South Carolina Methodists have been gathering annually since around 1785.  Now we meet in the late spring or early summer in a large convention center and stay in nearby hotels.  That hasn’t always been the case.  In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Conference met in the late fall – probably reflecting our days as a primarily agricultural society.  It generally met in local churches, and members would stay not in hotels, but in the homes of members of the community.  The week before Conference, the Advocate published a directory telling everyone in whose home each clergy and lay member of the conference would be staying.

St. John’s UMC, Rock Hill, the site of the 1913 South Carolina Conference.

The annual conferences that met a century ago, in 1913, were a lot smaller than we are today.  The historically white conference – known as the 1785 Conference – met that year at St. John’s Methodist Church in Rock Hill from November 26 to December 1.  Bishop Alpheus W. Wilson presided.  Bishops Collins Denny and John W. Kilgo were in attendance, and 215 clergy were joined by 37 lay members at the conference.

Among the actions taken by the conference, they supported the idea of building a South Carolina headquarters at the new Southern Assembly grounds at Lake Junaluska, they proposed appointing a commissioner of education to help raise funds to support the state’s Methodist colleges, they adopted the Textile Industrial Institute as a conference institution, and they voted to split the conference into two Annual Conferences, one for the upcountry and one for the lowcountry, pending approval by the General Conference.

A week later, the Advocate noted that 47% of the ministers in the conference were moving to new appointments.  Moving day came very quickly after conference, and that churches would have new ministers just in time for Christmas.  The Advocate also noted that churches should pay their new ministers quickly, because the expense of moving would make it tough on them financially right before Christmas.

The Advocate also expressed gratitude to St. John’s Church and the people of Rock Hill for hosting them very graciously and to Winthrop College for hosting a reception for the conference.

Of course, a second Annual Conference of South Carolina Methodism met that fall.  The historically African-American conference, colloquially called the 1866 conference, met in Orangeburg on Wednesday, November 19, 1913, with Bishop Frederick D. Leete presiding.  That conference, which lasted for five days, met at Trinity Methodist Church in Orangeburg, with 162 members of the conference in attendance.

Claflin University President L. M. Dunton invited the members of the conference to dinner at Claflin University on the first day of the conference, and they were also invited to participate in the dedication of a women’s residence hall.  Considering the close relationship between Claflin and the members of the Conference, this must have been something like a homecoming.

Although the two conferences met less than a week apart, there’s not much evidence that they took official notice of each other.  The Rev. Watson B. Duncan of the 1785 conference did bring greetings to the conference meeting in Orangeburg, which they acknowledged, but that act isn’t recorded in the 1785 conference minutes the next week.

So, for those of us who will be going to Annual Conference this year, remember that you are part of something that has a long history and a deep connection to South Carolinians and Methodists who have long since joined the church triumphant.  I know that’s what I’ll be thinking about when we’re singing “And Are We Yet Alive.”

Categories
Alumni Faculty Methodist

Bishop William Wallace Duncan

This article appeared in the April edition of the SC United Methodist Advocate.

One of South Carolina’s contributions to the Methodist episcopacy, William Wallace Duncan spent much of his life serving the Methodist Church.

Bishop William Wallace Duncan

When his father, David Duncan, joined the original Wofford College faculty in 1854, the 15-year old future bishop transferred from Randolph-Macon College.  Graduating from Wofford in 1858, Duncan returned to Virginia and entered the Methodist ministry.  He served churches in Virginia for sixteen years, and was also a Confederate chaplain.  Duncan returned to Wofford in January 1876 as Professor of Mental and Moral Philosophy, and he took on the additional duty of being the college’s financial agent, or chief fund-raiser.  Over the next ten years, Duncan traveled throughout South Carolina, speaking to Methodist churches in an attempt to raise the college’s endowment.  Duncan was active in Methodist circles, representing South Carolina in three successive General Conferences.  In 1881, he represented the Methodist Episcopal Church, South at the first Methodist Ecumenical Conference in London.  His work on Wofford’s behalf brought him increased attention throughout the region, and as a result, the 1886 General Conference elected him a bishop.

Though his elevation to the episcopacy meant he had to resign from the Wofford faculty, it did not end his relationship with the college.  He became a member of the Wofford board of trustees, and for the last nineteen years of his life, the bishop was the chairman of the board.  When he and his fellow trustees elected Henry Nelson Snyder to be the College’s fourth president, Duncan presented Snyder as president of “our” college, with emphasis, Snyder later remembered, on the word “our.”  Snyder later wrote of Duncan, “he looked more like a bishop than any other man I have ever known.”

In those days, the denomination had more annual conferences than bishops, and the bishops presided over multiple annual conferences each year. They did not necessarily preside over the same annual conference in consecutive years, either.  As such, Bishop Duncan served a number of different Annual Conferences across the South as bishop, and even had to travel to the far west as he presided over the Oregon Annual Conference six times.  When opening one annual conference, Duncan reportedly said, “I am glad to meet and greet you. I expect to be glad all the time I am with you, and possibly I may be glad when I leave you.”

Conferences did not provide episcopal residences for the bishops, and so Bishop Duncan made his office and residence in Spartanburg.  Around 1885, he started building a large home midway between the Wofford campus and downtown Spartanburg.  When he became a bishop, he altered some of the plans to accommodate many of the large meetings he might expect to host.  The house was the first in the city to have inside bathrooms with running water.  Wofford’s literary magazine reported in February 1889 that “Bishop Duncan’s handsome residence on North Church Street, second lot from the [Central] Methodist Church, is completed.  It is of English architecture with coat of arms on front.  The Bishop has been spending some time at home.”

At one point, North Church Street in Spartanburg must have been one of the most Methodist areas in the country – for Central Methodist Church, the Central parsonage, the Spartanburg District parsonage, the bishop’s residence, and Wofford sat all in a row. You have to feel a little sorry for Central’s ministers of the day, with their bishop and presiding elder both living on the same block.  From his home, Bishop Duncan could keep an eye on events at Wofford while he handled his responsibilities to the far-flung conferences he was serving.

The home remained in the bishop’s family after his death in 1908 and remained on the same site until 1999, when it was moved to make way for Spartanburg’s downtown Marriott.  The house now sits on a site between the city’s Magnolia Cemetery and the Carolinas campus of the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, which is restoring the house.

Categories
Alumni Methodist

Albert Outler: From Wofford to the Wesleyan Quadrilateral

Many Wofford alumni may have never heard of Dr. Albert C. Outler, but he was one of the most influential Wofford alums in modern Methodist history.

Born in Thomasville, Georgia, Dr. Outler was the son of a Methodist minister and district superintendent in the South Georgia Conference.  He came to Wofford in 1925 and was a stellar student, earning distinctions in Bible, English, history and sociology as a sophomore and in Bible, Greek, geology, religious education, English, and chemistry as a junior.  He earned enough credits to graduate a year ahead of his class, taking his AB degree in 1928.  After graduation, he became a clergy member of the South Georgia Annual Conference of the Methodist Church and earned his BD degree from Emory University.  He studied for his PhD in religion at Yale University, taking that degree in 1938.  He became an instructor, and later professor at Duke University in 1938, remaining there until 1945, when he answered Yale’s call to their faculty.  While at Yale, he became the Dwight Professor of Theology.  In 1951, he moved to Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology, where he spent the rest of his career.

That’s the official list of appointments, but it completely fails to do justice to Albert Outler’s contribution to Methodist theology.  Outler’s 1961 article “Toward a Re-appraisal of John Wesley as a Theologian” helped revive John Wesley’s reputation as an original theologian rather than a “cult hero and theological featherweight,” in the words of an Emory alumni magazine article about Outler.  He is regarded as the most original Methodist theologian in the history of the church and was one of the foremost experts in the life and works of John Wesley.  He was the author of numerous books and articles and a much sought-after speaker and lecturer.  He was the editor of The Works of John Wesley and was the principal annotator of Wesley’s sermons.  He created the term “Wesleyan Quadrilateral” to describe the basis of John Wesley’s theology – the reliance on scripture, reason, church tradition, and personal experience in reaching theological conclusions.

He was a representative at the World Methodist Council and at the World Council of Churches, and from 1962-65, was an official observer at the Second Vatican Council.

Wofford honored Albert Outler in a number of ways.  He was elected an alumnus member of Phi Beta Kappa in 1948, was awarded an honorary degree in 1952, gave the Commencement address in 1968, and received the alumni distinguished service award in 1987.  The Albert C. Outler Chair in Religion was endowed in his honor as well.  In 1985, only a few years before he died, and over fifty years after he graduated from Wofford, Albert Outler presented the inaugural Lecture in Religion, Ethics, and Society at the college.  In that lecture, he paid tribute to the liberal arts education he received at Wofford.

In a letter he wrote to Lewis Jones in 1980, responding to a request for his thoughts on the liberal education he received at Wofford, Outler explained, “my vague recollection is that my college major was English, but it has been the discoveries of what could be done with the English language that have stayed with me after the details of the courses have long since blurred.”  He noted that he never learned enough in any discipline to be considered an “expert,” and in that sense, his education was “useless” in terms of the current mania for a career and vocational education.  But, it was useful in that it freed him from some of the biases that came with each discipline, and that with enough lead time, he could “master the rudiments of any new field, and what I would know then would be more up-to-date.  “This is why I shall be eternally grateful that I wasn’t confined by a more specialized or vocational curriculum.  Instead, we got a synoptic view of the world at large, and an organic sense of the life of learning.”