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1. Divide the Church into a number of large districts, each embracing several annual conferences. For instance, one of them might include all of New England, or this with a part of New York added. These districts might equal the number of the Bishops, each of whom should have the general supervision of one for the year or for four years.
2. Let this larger district, so far as appointments are concerned, be common territory to all the preachers embraced in it. Whatever conference a preacher may join, he may be transferred as freely to others as from one presiding elder's district to another.
3. In order to arrange these inter-conference exchanges, let there be a meeting of all the presiding elders of the different conferences embraced in this episcopal district, over whose deliberations the Bishop may preside.
This plan would afford all the advantages of large conferences, and would avoid the disadvantages. It would prevent any sensitiveness about conference lines. While it would enable us to reduce the conferences to smaller dimensions, a broad field would still be open, inviting the talent of the denomination. With these appliances the Bishops would be able to transfer men much more freely than at present through the entire connection, and our ministry would become itinerant in this larger sense.
ART. VI.-DID THE “CIIURCH SOUTH” SECEDE ?
The response of the Southern Bishops at St. Louis in May last to the advances of the Bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church toward a reunion of the two Churches resented as an indignity the incidental placing of the withdrawal of the Wesleyans and the Southerners on a level, from the fact that the former was a secession, while the latter was accordant with a plan of separation agreed upon by the General Conference. “We separated from you,” they say, “in no sense in which you did not separate from us. The separation was by compact, and mutual.” They also say that, “Only on this basis” is there any hope of nearer approaches to each other. Reunion must be preceded by fraternization, and this must in turn be offered by us, as Dr. Pierce notified us in 1848," upon the basis of the Plan of Separation.” Upon this “Plan of Separation” the Southern press generally bases its argument to show that our missions in the South are an aggression, and that our withdrawal to their northern boundary line is a just precedent-condition even to fraternization. It is our present
. purpose, in the light of the facts which we shall furnish, to try the question of the validity, and even reality, of this famous so-called “Plan of Separation."
It will be remembered that the first action proposed in the case of Bishop Andrews, in the General Conference of 1844, was to request him to resign his office, and that the action finally taken was the passage of the Finley substitute with a briefer and milder preamble, stating it to be “the sense of this General Conference that he desist from the exercise of his office so long as this impediment remains.” The Southern delegates had, during the painful discussion, taken no steps toward an amicable adjustment of the difficulty, while their persistency had toned down the position of the Conference to the utmost possible point of concession.
Only acquiescence in the doctrine of a non-slaveholding Episcopacy or a separation from the Church remained to them. They chose the latter. Their proposed mode of accomplishing it was by a constitutional division, through the concurrent action of the General and Annual Conferences. This plan failed. Then, as a second step, fifty-one delegates from the thirteen slaveholding Conferences, together with one from Illinois, who seems, however, to have been counted out in all subsequent action, presented the following Declarationthe formal utterance of the intention of secession which had been so frequently threatened previous to the commencement of the session as well as during the debates:
“ The delegates of the Conferences in the slaveholding States take leave to declare to the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, that the continued agitation on the subject of slavery and abolition in a portion of the Church; the frequent action on that subject in the General Conference; and especially the extra-judicial proceedings against Bishop Andrew, which resulted, on Saturday last, in the virtual suspension of him from his office as Superintendent, must produce a state of things in the South which renders a continuance of the jurisdiction of this General Conference over these Conferences inconsistent with the success of the ministry in the slaveholding States."
This document was referred to a Committee of Nine, at the head of which was Rev. Dr. Robert Paine, now Bishop, and Chairman of the Board of Bishops of the Church South. The import of the action of the Committee we shall hereafter fully consider, but what they did was to prepare and present the following report:
The select Committee of Nine, to consider and report on the declaration of the delegates from the Conferences of the slaveholding States, beg leave to submit the following report :
Whereus, a declaration has been presented to this General Conference, with the signatures of fifty-one delegates of the body, from thirteen Annual Conferences in the slave holding States, representing that, for various reasons enumerated, the objects and purposes of the Christian ministry and Church organization can. not be successfully accomplished by them under the jurisdiction of this General Conference, as now constituted; and,
Whereas, in the event of a separation, a contingency to which the declaration asks attention as not improbable, we esteem it the daty of this General Conference to meet the emergency with Christian kindness and the strictest equity; therefore,
Resolved, by the delegates of the several Annual Conferences in General Conference assembled, 1. That, should the Annual Conferences in the slaveholding States find it necessary to unite in a distinct ecclesiastical connection, the following rule shall be observed with regard to the northern boundary of such connection : AU the societies, stations, and Conferences adhering to the Church in the South, by a vote of the majority of the members of said societies, stations, and conferences, shall remain under the unmolested pastoral care of the Southern Church; and the ministers of the Methodist Episcopal Church shall in no wise attempt to organize Churches or societies within the limits of the Church South, nor shall they attempt to exercise any pastoral oversight therein; it being understood that the ministry of the South reciprocally observe the same rule in relation to stations, societies, and conferences, adhering by vote of a majority, to the Methodist Episcopal Church; provided also, that this rule shall apply only to societies, stations, and conferences bordering on the line of division, and not to interior charges, which shali, in all cases, be left to the care of that Church within whose territory they are situated.
2. That the ministers, local and traveling, of every grade and office in the Methodist Episcopal Church, may, as they prefer,
FOURTH SERIES, VOL. XXII.-16
remain in that Church, or, without blame, attach themselves to he Church South.
3. Resolved, by the delegates of all the Annual Conferences in General Conference assembled, That we recommend to all the Annual Conferences, at their first approaching sessions, to authorize a change of the sixth Restrictive Article, so that the first clause shall read thus: “They shall not appropriate the produce of the Book Concern, nor of the Chartered Fund, to any other purpose than for the benefit of the traveling, supernumerary, superannuated, and worn-out preachers, their wives, widows, and children, and to such other purposes as may be determined upon by the votes of two thirds of the members of the General Conference.”
4. That whenever the Annual Conferences, by a vote of three fourths of all their members voting on the third resolution, shall have concurred in the recommendation to alter the sixth Restrictive Article, the Agents at New York and Cincinnati shall, and they are hereby authorized and directed to, deliver over to any authorized agent or appointee of the Church South, should one be organized, all notes and book accounts against the ministers, Church members, or citizens within its boundaries, with authority to collect the same for the sole use of the southern Church, and that said Agents also convey to the aforesaid agent or appointee of the South all the real estate, and assign to him all the property, including presses, stock, and all right and interest connected with the printing establishment at Charleston, Richmond, and Nashville, which now belong to the Methodist Episcopal Church.
5. That when the Annual Conferences shall have approved the aforesaid change in the sixth Restrictive Article, there shall be transferred to the above agent of the Southern Church so much of the capital and produce of the Methodist Book Concern as will, with the notes, book accounts, presses, etc., mentioned in the last resolution, bear the same proportion to the whole property of said Concern that the traveling preachers in the Southern Church shall bear to all the traveling ministers of the Methodist Episcopal Church; the division to be made on the basis of the number of traveling preachers in the forthcoming Minutes.
6. That the above transfer shall be in the form of annual paymeuts of $25,000 per annum, and specifically in stock of the Book Concern, and in Southern notes and accounts due the establisbment, and accruing after the first transfer mentioned above; and until the payments are made, the Southern Church shall share in all the net profits of the Book Concern, in the proportion that the amount due them, or in arrears, bears to all the property of the Concern.
7. That Nathan Bangs, George Peck, and James B. Finley be, and they are hereby appointed, commissioners to act in concert with the same number of commissioners appointed by the Southern organization, (should one be formed,) to estimate the amount which will fall due to the South by the preceding rule, and to have full powers to carry into effect the whole arrangements proposed with regard to the division of property, sbould the separation take place. And if by any means a vacancy occur in this board of commissioners, the Book Committee at New York shall fill said vacancy.
8. That whenever any agents of the Southern Church are clothed with legal authority or corporate power to act in the premises, the Agents at New York are hereby authorized and directed to act in concert with said Southern agents, so as to give the provisions of these resolutions a legally binding force.
9. That all the property of the Methodist Episcopal Church in meeting-houses, parsonages, colleges, schools, conference funds, cemeteries, and of every kind within the limits of the Southern organization, shall be forever free from any claim set up on the part of the Methodist Episcopal Church, so far as this resolution can be of force in the premises.
10. That the Church so formed in the South shall have a common right to use all the copyrights in possession of the Book Concern at New York and Cincinnati at the time of the settlement by the commissioners.
11. That the Book Agents at New York be directed to make such compensation to the Conferences South, for their dividend from the Chartered Fund, as the commissioners above provided for shall agree upon.
12. That the bishops be respectfully requested to lay that part of this report requiring the action of the Annual Conferences before them as soon as possible, beginning with the New York Conference.—Journal of 1844, p. 135.
This is the falsely-called “Plan of Separation ;” the “Report of the Committee of Nine on the Division of the Church,” as the reporter of the debates labeled it; the “ Deed of Separation," as Dr. Capers afterward facetiously styled it; the “Compact” of the response of the Southern Bishops.
The Committee only professed to “report on the Declaration of the Delegates from the Conferences of the Slaveholding States." It is, in fact, a "Report on the Declaration ”—no more and no less.
I. UPON THESE STATEMENTS WE REMARK, FIRST, THAT THE ADOPTION OF THE POLICY PROPOSED BY THIS REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE OF NINE WAS PURELY AN ACT OF GRACE ON THE PART OF THE NORTHERN MAJORITY.
That Northern two thirds majority possessed the full power, and was completely master of the situation. At the first threat of the Southern delegates the Northern majority might