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1848. IN 1848 the General Conference met in Pittsburgh. The
sessions were held in the Liberty Street Church, and began May 1st. Bishops Hedding, Waugh, Morris, Hamline, and Janes were present as presiding officers. Bishops Soule and Andrew had adhered to the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, which was organized at the Convention of the Southern Conferences at Louisville, Ky., May 1, 1845, and they were no longer recognized as bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The number of traveling preachers represented was 3,642; of local preachers, 4,913; and of members, 631,558— a loss of 979 traveling preachers, 3,174 local preachers, and 539,798 members, caused by the separation of the Southern Conferences.
After the preliminary religious exercises, conducted by Bishop Hedding, S. A. Roszel and Joseph M. Trimble were requested to act as secretaries, and assist in organizing the Conference. Twenty-three conferences were represented, and one hundred and thirty-four delegates furnished credentials and were recognized as members. Joseph M. Trimble was then elected permanent secretary, and Jesse T. Peck and John Frazer assistants.
Standing committees were ordered and appointed on Episcopacy, Itinerancy, Boundaries, the Book Concern, Missions, Education, Temperance, Expenses of Delegates, Sunday-schools and Tracts, Bible Cause, and the State of the Church. Special committees were appointed as occasion required.
A committee was appointed to take into consideration the revision of the hymn book now in use, consisting of Charles Elliott, Matthew Simpson, William Hosmer, James Floy, David Patten, G. F. Brown, and Nelson Rounds. There were also committees appointed on Revisals, Finance, and the Arrangement of the Discipline.
At this Conference a daily Advocate, to publish the proceedings and debates, was for the first time undertaken. It was not authorized by the Conference; but before the session
was to begin the Publishing Committee of the Pittsburgh Christian Advocate and the editor, William Hunter, foreseeing that this would be an important session, decided to risk the publication. Prospectuses and circulars were sent out and widely scattered, asking for subscriptions, and as the number of subscribers was sufficient to justify the enterprise, the paper was commenced, and the first number issued at the opening of the Conference. It was entitled The Pittsburgh Daily Christian Advocate, and William Hunter was the editor. The precedent thus set has been followed ever since.
The credentials of M. Richey, J. Ryerson and Anson Green as representatives from the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada were presented by the presiding bishop, May 2d, and Dr. Green was introduced to the Conference, and invited to occupy a seat on the platform. The next morning, May 3d, James Dixon of the British Wesleyan Conference arrived as a fraternal delegate and was introduced to the Conference and invited to a seat. His credentials were read, and then on invitation he addressed the Conference. It was on motion
“Resolved, 1. That the cordial thanks of this body be presented to the Rev. Dr. Dixon, and through him to the Conference he represents, for the honor conferred on us in his presence and address, and that he be affectionately invited to take such part in our deliberations as may be agreeable to him.
"2. That the communication from the British Conference presented by him be referred to a select committee of three, with instructions to report the reply of the Conference.”
Within the last quadrennium the Southern conferences at the convention held in Louisville which organized the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, appointed a General Conference to be held at Petersburg, Va., May, 1, 1846. Bishops Soule and Andrew were received as bishops of that Church. The General Conference was held, as determined upon, and appointed Lovick Pierce a delegate to bear the Christian salutations of the new organization to the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. It was their desire to maintain a warm, confiding and brotherly relation with this body, and Mr. Pierce sent a communication to the bishops and members of the Conference, announcing his appointment, and his presence in Pitts
burgh. His communication was referred to the committee on the State of the Church, which on May 5th reported the following resolution:
"Resolved, That while we tender to the Rev. Dr. Pierce all personal courtesies and invite him to attend our sessions, this General Conference does not consider it proper at present to enter into fraternal relations with the Methodist Episcopal Church, South."
It was a question with the General Conference whether the separation of the Southern conferences was effected legitimately under the Plan of Separation, or whether it was a schism. Until this question was settled it was not thought advisable to recognize the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, fraternally, for this recognition would be an acknowledgment of their legitimacy.
The report of the committee was adopted, with the following proviso added: "Provided, however, that nothing in this resolution shall be so construed as to operate as a bar to any proposition from Dr. Pierce or any other representative of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, toward the settlement of existing difficulties between that body and this.” The secretary was instructed to forward to Dr. Pierce an official copy of the action of this Conference in relation to his communication. But the Doctor refused to accept personal courtesies, and said that within the bar of the Conference he could be known only in his official character. He then added: “You will therefore regard this communication as final on the part of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.
She can never renew the offer of fraternal relations between the two great bodies of Wesleyan Methodists in the United States. But the proposition can be renewed at any time, either now or hereafter, by the Methodist Episcopal Church. And if ever made upon the basis of the Plan of Separation, as adopted by the General Conference of 1844, the Church, South, will cordially entertain the proposition.”
Bishop Soule asked for an official examination of his character and administration between 1844 and 1846, in which latter year he formally and publicly announced his adhesion to the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The Conference
by resolution declined to take any action in the matter, on the ground that it had no jurisdiction over him, and could exercise no ecclesiastical authority with respect to him. The secretary was directed to furnish Bishop Soule a copy of the resolution.
James Dixon, the representative of the British Wesleyan Conference, was requested to address the Conference on certain -points in the discipline and government of the Wesleyans in Great Britain, which he did to the great satisfaction of the Conference. He was also cordially requested to preach before the Conference on Wednesday morning, May 10th. His sermon was listened to with the greatest interest, and a copy of it was requested for publication.
Two commissioners from the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, A. L. P. Green and C. B. Parsons, who accompanied Lovick Pierce, presented a communication in relation to the division of the property of the Book Concern. The communication was referred to the Committee on the State of the Church, which reported that it could not act advisedly on the subject of the communication until it should receive the official reports of all the conferences in relation to the change of the sixth restrictive rule, as recommended by the last General Conference. The committee also asked the attention of the Conference to the necessity of an order pointing out some plan of conference with the commissioners, either by appointing a special committee for this purpose, which should report the result of their deliberations to the General Conference, or by authorizing the present committee to invite them to a conference. The latter plan was adopted, and the committee was authorized to invite the commissioners to a conference with all the members thereof, or with a select number as a subcommittee.
All General Conference officers, and all traveling preachers were invited to seats in the house, and all General Conference officers were authorized to speak upon matters which concern their offices.
John P. Durbin, Charles Elliott and Charles Pitman were appointed a committee to respond to the address of the British Conference presented by Dr. Dixon. The address of the Wes
leyan Methodist Conference in Canada was read, and on motion was referred to the same committee for a reply.
The bishops were requested to furnish the Committee on the State of the Church any facts within their knowledge in relation to alleged infractions of the division line between the Church, South, and our own. Several facts were furnished.
The Committee on the Revision of the Hymn Book reported that in their judgment a revision ought to be made, and that such revision should be intrusted to those who will make it with good taste and sound judgment; and they recommended that a committee be appointed to prepare a revised edition of the standard hymn book; that when the revision shall be made, the result shall be submitted to the editors and Book Committee in New York, and to the bishops; and that if approved by them, it shall be published simultaneously in New York and Cincinnati. The report was adopted, and a committee was appointed to nominate persons to whom the work of revision shall be intrusted. The following persons were nominated and elected: David Dailey, Philadelphia Conference; J. B. Alverson, Genesee; James Floy, New York; David Patton, Jr., Providence; Frederick Merrick, Ohio; Robert A. West, of Brooklyn, and David Creamer, of Baltimore.
The Committee on the State of the Church brought in a report which was discussed, and some amendments proposed, but which was finally adopted, as follows:
"1. There exists no power in the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church to pass any act which, either directly or indirectly, effectuates, authorizes, or sanctions a division of said Church.
“2. It is the right of every member of the Methodist Episcopal Church to remain in said Church, unless guilty of the violation of its rules; and there exists no power in the ministry, either individually or collectively, to deprive any member of said right.
"3. This right being inviolably secured by the fifth restrictive article of the Discipline, which guarantees to members, ministers, and preachers the right of trial and appeal, any acts of the Church otherwise separating them from said Church, contravene the constitutional rights and privileges of the membership and ministry.
“4. The report of the select committee of nine upon the declaration of the delegates in the slaveholding states, commonly called the Plan of Separation, adopted by the last General Conference, of