Historical commentary: Holston, 100 years ago
By Grady Winegar
In 1909, Holston Methodism was divided into three separate branches: Methodist Episcopal Church, Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and Methodist Protestant Church.These three would be united in 1939 as The Methodist Church. The United Methodist Church was formed in 1968 by a merger with the Evangelical United Brethren and by the removal of the racially segregated Central Jurisdiction, created in 1939 as a compromise to secure union.
Holston Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South met October 6-12, 1909 at Munsey Memorial in Johnson City. One of Holston’s former pastors, Bishop E. E. Hoss, was the Presiding Bishop. There were ten districts each of which elected four laymen to conference membership. Lay women were not yet allowed to participate. There were 202 pastoral charges with 710 churches. The Bluefield District included several churches in West Virginia.
The statistical report for 1909 celebrated a record increase of 6105 members, the largest increase since 1842! Each district had an increase and the Big Stone Gap District alone increased by 1344. Frank Y. Jackson, pastor at Centenary, Knoxville, was asked to report on a four-month revival he preached at Centenary resulting in 1100 conversions.
George R. Stuart, Holston pastor and noted evangelist, after whom Stuart Auditorium, seat of our 2009 Annual Conference, is named, preached a fiery Temperance Sermon on Sunday evening. G. D. French presented Bishop Hoss with a gavel cut from the tree on which Daniel Boone carved his name after he killed a bear!
The Committee on a Summer Assembly made a report on the joint efforts of the laymen of Holston, North Carolina, Western North Carolina, and South Carolina conferences to secure a place for Christian education and recreation, a “Southern Chautauqua.” These efforts led to the creation of Lake Junaluska in 1913.
The Conference passed a Resolution calling for more preaching at Annual Conference. Much time was spent calling the name of each clergy member individually and voting on their character.The Conference heard reports from each of the five colleges it sponsored (Emory & Henry, Hiwassee, Martha Washington, Sullins, and Centenary). There were four secondary schools serving rural areas.
The Epworth League was having difficult days. This excellent youth ministry, begun in 1890, had reached mostly the town churches and the program suffered from members who remained active in it into their young and middle-adult years, causing the church to create a Junior Epworth League for youth.
Holston Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church met October 20-25 at Centenary, Morristown with William F. Anderson as the Presiding Bishop. There were 141 clergy members, 13 probationers, and 43 supplies. There were 134 charges, seven districts, including a Roanoke District. Holston MEC sponsored the University of Chattanooga and a School of Theology there. There were also five secondary schools operated by the Conference.
The Methodist Protestant churches in the Holston territory were few in number and were a part of the Virginia Conference of the MPC. The writer did not have the opportunity to examine the 1909 Journal for the Methodist Protestants, so there are no details to report on the sessions. At the time of union in 1939, there were 22 Holston Methodist Protestant clergy, active and retired. In 1939, the Holston appointments for The Methodist Church included 7 former MP clergy appointed in Tennessee and 4 in Virginia.
Years of discrimination, the injustice of slavery and the devastation of the Civil War caused a huge exodus of black Methodists from all three branches of Methodism presented here. Very early separate black denominations were formed: African Methodist Episcopal and African Methodist Episcopal, Zion. In 1870, the MECS created the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1866, many black congregations left the MPC to form a separate group. In 1909 there were no black clergy members in any of the Holston branches of Methodism, although there was the opportunity to employ black local pastors. While some heroic efforts were made to create educational and evangelistic ministries, integration into the mainstream was still a distant reality. One of our greatest challenges today is to recover more of the history of Holston’s black churches and to work toward a more inclusive and diverse church.
Grady C. Winegar, Chair
Commission on Archives and History