from “Anthem”, by Leonard Cohen

Thursday, February 6, 2014

… this agitating subject !

                       Thoughts About Marriage Equality 
                           During Black History Month

            Liberty is the right of every human creature, as soon as he breathes the vital air; and no human law can deprive him of that right which he derives from the law of  nature.

            If, therefore, you have any regard to justice (to say nothing of mercy, nor the  revealed law of God) render unto all their due. Give liberty to whom liberty is due, that is, to every child of man, to every partaker of human nature.

            Be gentle toward all men; and see that you invariably do unto every one as you would he should do unto you.

     excerpted from John Wesley’s pamphlet “Thoughts on Slavery”,   printed 1774.

            “If you have not resigned your credentials as a minister of the Methodist  Episcopal Church, I really think that, as an honest man, you should now do it. In your ordination vows you solemnly promised to be obedient to those  who have rule over you; and since they (the General Conference) have spoken . . .  distinctly, on this subject, and disapprobate your conduct, I conceive you are       bound to submit to their authority, or leave the church.”
from a letter to the editor written by the Rev. George W. Langhorne, which  admonishes an unnamed  Methodist pastor who, in 1836, continued to agitate for “racial equality” even after the General Conference voted NOT to support abolitionists who  advocated for the end of slavery.
            “The New York Annual Conference met in June, 1836, and Resolved,  . . .   we are  decidedly of the opinion that none ought to be elected to the office of a deacon, or elder, in our church, unless he give a pledge to the conference, that he will refrain from agitating the church with discussions on this subject, and the more especially as the one promises,“reverently to obey those who (have) . . . charge  over them.”
           resolution passed by the New York Annual Conference (1836) aimed against progressive  pastors who advocated for the ending of slavery.       
            Methodists are to “abstain from all abolition movements and associations, and to refrain from patronizing any of their publications . . .” and further, “From every view of the subject which we have been able to take, and from the most calm and    dispassionate survey of the whole ground, we have come to the conclusion, that    the only safe, scriptural, and prudent way for us, both as minsters and people to  take, is, WHOLLY TO REFRAIN from this agitating subject . . .”
  summary of the bishops’ report at the General Conference of the Methodist Church in Cincinnati: cited in The Methodist E. Church and Slavery by Rev. D. Scott, printed in Boston, 1844. 

The “agitating subject”  dividing the church was the morality of  slavery.

 “The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past.”    
                                                                                                            William Faulkner