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dred and seven members, representing nine annual conferences. It convened in the city of Baltimore on Wednesday, May 1st. Bishop McKendree presided. Lewis R. Fechtig was elected secretary.
Since the last session of the General Conference, both Dr. Coke and Bishop Asbury had passed away; the former dying at sea in the Indian Ocean, May 2, 1814, and the latter at the home of George Arnold, near Fredericksburg, Va., March 31, 1816, only a month before the General Conference met. The Methodists of Baltimore desired to have his remains brought to that city and interred there; and the Conference passed a resolution directing their removal. When the remains of Bishop Asbury were received, appropriate services were held in the Light Street Church, the seat of the General Conference; and thence, followed by the members of the Conference and a vast concourse of citizens, the body was carried to the Eutaw Street Church and deposited in a vault under the recess of the pulpit. Bishop McKendree preached the funeral
An address to the Conference, prepared by Bishop Asbury, was presented, with appropriate remarks by Bishop McKendree, and read; and also an address written by Bishop McKendree was read by Thomas L. Douglass, of Tennessee. Both addresses were referred to a committee, in order to report to the Conference the different subjects mentioned in them appropriate to be committed to distinct committees. One member from each annual conference was selected, as follows: Nathan Bangs, George Pickering, William Case, Thomas L. Douglass, Lewis Myers, Philip Bruce, Nelson Reed, and Robert R. Roberts. Rules of Order were adopted, and a sufficient number of copies was printed to furnish each member with one. The Conference was too economical to print a surplus copy.
In accordance with the recommendation of the committee to which the Bishops' addresses were referred, the following standing committees were appointed: On Episcopacy, Book Con
cern, Ways and Means, Safety (to inquire whether the doctrines and discipline of the Church had been maintained, and enforced, and the circuits and stations duly attended to), and on Temporal Economy.
The trustees of the Chartered Fund reported, and their report was referred to a committee of three for examination. A committee of nine was appointed to take into consideration that part of the Discipline which relates to local preachers, and any other subject with regard to them, which the General Conference may refer to them.
It was resolved to elect and ordain two additional bishops; and when the ballots were counted, Enoch George and Robert Richford Roberts were found to be elected. The ordination took place on Friday morning, May 17th.
The method of appointing presiding elders was discussed, and it was the sentiment of many of the preachers that they should be appointed only after nomination by the bishop and election by the several annual conferences. This method did not meet with favor on the part of the majority, and the proposed plan was laid on the table. A similar proposition was lost on a direct vote.
The salary of the preachers was fixed at $100 each; if married, $100 was allowed for their wives; and, in addition, the necessary family or boarding expenses, to be estimated by the board of stewards in each charge, and determined by the quarterly conference.
The Methodist Episcopal Church always favored free sittings in its houses of worship, and the Conference passed a resolution condemnatory of pews to be sold or disposed of as private property. The rule requiring the men and women to sit apart in all our churches was inconsistent with the private ownership of pews, which would be making a class distinction in the membership, and was unnecessary for the proper support and maintenance of the gospel.
Bishop Roberts assumed the chair as presiding officer on May 18th. It does not appear from the Journal that Bishop George presided upon any occasion during this session of the General Conference. It may have been according to his own desire to be relieved of this duty. However, Bishop Roberts retired from his place as chairman of a committee appointed on the situation of our brethren in Montreal. The late war with England had disturbed the relation of the Church toward the Canadian work, which was still supplied by preachers appointed by the New York conference. The committee to confer with delegates from the British Connexion relative to the matter consisted of Robert R. Roberts, Samuel Draper, and George Harmon. John Emory was appointed to take the place of Bishop Roberts on this committee, and also on the Committee of Ways and Means.
A report on the support of the ministry, from the Committee of Ways and Means, was presented, and, with a few amendments, adopted. The substance of the report was embodied in the Discipline of 1816, and it is the most important and precise method of supporting the gospel and of raising supplies that had so far been enacted.
The Committee on Canadian Affairs reported that it was inconsistent with the duties of the Methodist Episcopal Church to give up any part of our work to the superintendence of the British Wesleyan missionaries, and recommended that a respectful letter be addressed to the Missionary Society in London, explaining the reasons for this action. Nathan Bangs, John Emory, and Thomas L. Douglass were appointed a committee to prepare and forward such a letter.
The trustees of the Chartered Fund were authorized to sell and dispose of any of the stocks or property belonging thereto, and reinvest the proceeds in other securities, whenever in their judgment the capital and interest of the fund would be better secured or advanced.
The boundaries of the conferences were defined, and eleven of them provided for. The Committee of Safety presented an earnest protest against the preaching of any other doctrines than those taught in our Church standards, excluding all speculative theology; against allowing worldliness and fashion to creep into our societies; against laxity in discipline, and the tendency to confine preaching and other services to the Sabbath, by reducing the size of the circuits, and fostering local interests to the neglect of the connectional.
James Axley offered in substance the same resolution on
the subject of temperance as he had introduced in the General Conference of 1812, to wit: “No preacher shall distill or retail spirituous liquors without forfeiting his license.” Lewis Myers moved to amend the motion thus: “That every prudent means be used by our annual and quarterly meeting conferences to discourage the distilling or retailing of spirituous liquors among our people, and especially among our preachers;" but the motion was subsequently withdrawn. The previous question was then called for, "Shall the main question now be put?” and carried. Thomas Burge moved that the resolution be divided, so as to vote on the distilling and the retailing of liquors separately. This being ordered, the vote was taken on the first member of the resolution, and carried. The vote was then taken on the second member and likewise carried; so that the whole resolution was carried as offered. This victory of Mr. Axley was not quite as sweeping as it would have been had the resolution offered by him four years previously been adopted; but it showed the growing sentiment of the Church on the subject of dealing in intoxicating liquors. So far as the laity were concerned, it did not affect them, and this action was not embodied in the General Rule on the subject of temperance until many years subsequently. We shall trace the progress of the temperance reformation in the action of the General Conference hereafter.
Joshua Soule was elected editor and general book steward, and Thomas Mason assistant. The expenses of the delegates to the General Conference appearing to be $1,419.75, of which only $731.39 had been collected, the Conference ordered that a draft of $638.36 be made on the Book Concern to cover the deficiency; and that inasmuch as Bishops George and Roberts had made no claim, $50 each was appropriated for their expenses.
On the subject of slavery, the committee of nine, who had been specially appointed for the purpose on May 13th, reported a resolution which was passed, making the Chapter on Slavery in the Discipline to read: “We declare that we are as much as ever convinced of the great evil of slavery; therefore no slaveholder shall be eligible to any official station in our Church hereafter, where the laws of the state in which he lives will admit of emancipation and permit the liberated slave to enjoy freedom."
The ratio of representation in the General Conference was changed from five to seven. The bishops, or a committee appointed by them at each annual conference, were instructed to prescribe a course of study and of reading proper to be pursued by candidates for the ministry; and it was ordered that before such candidates are admitted into full connection, they shall pass satisfactory examinations upon the subjects proposed.
The publishing interests of the Church were carefully considered. The Book Concern in New York was directed to publish a monthly Methodist Magazine of forty pages octavo, as a continuation of the former Methodist magazine, only two volumes of which were issued. The editing of the magazine was committed to the Book Steward and his assistant. It was expected that the publication would commence in 1817; but it was not until January, 1818, that the first number was issued. The order of the General Conference of 1812 to begin a third volume of the Magazine by January, 1813, was found to be impracticable, and the work was not undertaken. Thanks were returned by the Conference to Daniel Hitt and Thomas Ware, the retiring book agents, for their services to the Church in that department.
William Phoebus, Nathan Bangs, and Daniel Hitt were appointed a committee, with the book agents, to revise the Discipline according to the Journals of the present General Conference, under the inspection of the bishops. In this revision the editors were instructed to omit the word “connexion," and substitute the words "Church," "community," and "itinerancy” in every place, as the grammatical construction may require.
The book agents were directed to establish a depository at Pittsburgh, for receiving and forwarding to the preachers in the West the publications of the Book Concern. They were also instructed to publish more small books and fewer large ones, and to print an edition of Mr. Wesley's "Answer to Dr. Taylor on Original Sin.”
Baltimore was chosen as the place for holding the next General Conference, to meet May 1, 1820.