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in an able editorial, advocates the reconstruction of the District Conference as the best means of restoring the ancient acquaintance of the Bishops with the Churches, lost since Asbury's time by the wide extension of our work, and outlines what should be its character. We quote:
It should absorb to such an extent the functions of the Quarterly Conference, that the largest Annual Conference would not require more than three or four districts. The District Conference should meet twice a year, and a Bishop should always be present and preside, as at the Annual Conference. These District Conferences would afford him an insight into the condition of the charges that could not be obtained in any other way. would greatly extend his personal intercourse with both the preachers and the people, and restore to some extent the pastoral relation of the Bishops of the Church, which has nearly been lost under the present system.
Coming so near the eighteenth delegated quadrennial session of the General Conference, there is naturally some solicitude on the part of the friends of District Conferences. In this institution the National Local Preachers' Association have a vital interest; and they have taken action on the subject, and appointed a strong deputation to present and urge their memorial. Chief above every personal consideration is the desire now and always expressed by that body, to ask for such an organization as will elevate the standard of ministerial usefulness and acceptability, and render this class of uncompensated preachers more useful and effective. They ask to be authorized to see that all who are admitted into the relation are worthy of it, to judge of their qualifications and continuance, to weed out the incompetent and useless, and to keep the ermine of ministerial purity under close surveillance, as cannot be done by the narrowed circle of a small Quarterly Conference. This, it is believed, can be accomplished best through the District Conference, or a body with similar powers. The same liberal spirit that was shown in their memorial, which led to the action of the General Conference in 1872, in associating the Traveling with the Local Preachers, is felt now in the action sought to be accomplished in May, 1880, and which was tacitly desired in the revision of 1876, either to be joined with the itinerants in an organization, or a provision inserted to hold a separate session at the same meeting for Local Preachers. In whatever form the General Conference may recast the District Conference, they ask that its meetings shall be mandatory and not optional, and this requisition to be applicable to all concerned. Let this be done, and the declaration that Local Preachers do not attend because they feel ignored will no longer be true, as they are noted for being as obedient sons in the Gospel as any other class of ministers.
The National Local Preachers' Association at their late session in Troy, N. Y., adopted the following:
Resolved, That we memorialize the General Conference:
1. To organize the Local Preachers, either by districts or Conferences, under the presidency of a Bishop or Presiding Elder.
2. That such organization be given authority to license Local Preachers, persons recommended by the Quarterly Conference, and to try and expel Local Preachers, and also to recommend Local Preachers to be received on trial in the Annual Conference.
With some slight modifications in the section and provisions made for the just demands of Local Preachers, either by having a better recognition of their position and rights, or by their having a sub-District Conference for their benefit exclusively, the present section may be made acceptable, and can be easily carried out if it has an administrator who does not desire defeat. The routine disciplinary part may drag in the hands of a Bishop at an Annual Conference; or a Presiding Elder may make a Quarterly Conference dull and prosy; and so a District Conference may be duller than either, if the chairman allows long, rambling, verbal reports, with nothing in them, to occupy the principal time. Reports should be brief and pertinent. Considerable time should be given to popular exercises to interest the people. Part of the day exercises should be of a biblical and literary character, and the evenings should be largely devoted to religious exercises, and the social element be blended and infused in every part. Careful preparation for these meetings, the occasion well announced, and the introduction of popular features, will insure a grand success. It is proper to note, that while the National Local Preachers' Association seeks to elevate the standard of ministerial ability, and to have more systematic methods to increase their efficiency and accomplish greater successes, yet they think that the present interpretation of the law,
requiring a course of study for unordained Local Preachers and candidates for license, is hardly warranted by the Discipline, or by the action of the General Conference, so as to be applied strictly to aged Local Preachers who have spent scores of years in the ministry and are yet not ordained, so that they should be refused a renewal of their license and humiliated because they are unable to study by the course of the District Conference. Let the law be applied to those who enter the ministry, and young Local Preachers, without making the rule retrospective upon the class of aged veterans.
It is difficult to picture the ideal District Conference that will meet the requirements of the administrators and members of these bodies, but an outline sketch might be ventured. A body of this character should, in order to save time and expense, combine the elements of a Ministerial Association, District Sunday-school Institute, and a District Stewards' Meeting, and thus make one organization, and render it more effective and useful to every charge and to the connectional interests of the district. The essays should be broader and more practical than usually read at ministerial meetings, embracing questions of polity and the benevolent institutions, and thereby reaching ministers and members. The Sunday-school cause might be greatly stimulated under associated efforts, both by reports and special exercises. District Stewards have an opportunity to learn the condition of each charge in the district, and to act intelligently in their work. The holding of separate meetings for the above-named various objects is a wastage that should be avoided, as all the interests could be easily blended into one meeting. That portion of the disciplinary questions relegated from the Quarterly Conference to the District Conference may be rendered more effective in a larger body. Work may be done by a mixed one that could not be accomplished through a strictly ministerial membership, and the more the ministry and laity are blended together in considering the educational, benevolent, and financial interests of the Church, the better. Connectional objects and the social element may be stimulated, intensified, and revolutionized through this channel. The present chapter may be made to meet the highest ideal by grafting the part desired by Local Preachers, making the holding of its sessions absolute, and leaving the power of dissolution to the General Conference. With these characteristics a skillful administrator can make District Conferences a popular and useful organization, just as he has the power in a great measure to make his quarterly visitation to the Churches popular.
What are the comparative gains from a well-conducted District Conference ?
1. This body comprises all classes of officials in the Church, except Trustees.
It imposes a specific duty on the Presiding Elder, the Traveling and Local Preachers—the former to give an account of his work, and the latter to do likewise, and to be subject to examination of character and relicense if unordained; it requires exhorters to pass through the same steps, and Superintendents to report the condition of their schools; and it recognizes the District Steward. Under this head we note: (1.) The Presiding Elder's authority is not diminished, nor his quarterly visitations impaired. While, to some extent, the disciplinary questions and answers are the same in the District and in the Quarterly Conference, there is this advantage in the former, that the reports from the respective pastors act as a stimulus upon each other, and their statements are fuller and more inspiring. (2.) Pastors are brought into contact with other Pastors, and the reports, in their diversified form, are apt to produce aggressive and more liberal views. (3.) The careful examination of Local Preachers and Exhorters before disinterested persons from all parts of the district, relicensing them upon their merits and suitability for the office, is a much more thorough method than is attained by the Quarterly Conferences. This careful scrutiny of character and inquiry into the work of Local Preachers will have a salutary effect upon them. Their official recognition and assignment to systematic work, so far as possible, opens their way to favor with the people and to greater usefulness. (4.) Pastors alone are required to report the Sunday-schools to Quarterly Conferences, while the District Conference exacts reports from the Superintendent as well as from the Pastor. (5.) District Stewards become acquainted with the real condition of each charge, and this information furnishes each with an understanding of his duties which he cannot acquire elsewhere.
2. Taking into account the representations of the ministry and laymen brought together to consult and discuss questions of finance, various departments of Church labor, examination of ministerial character and cultivation of the social element, the District Conference, if properly conducted, may advance every interest, and in time become a wonderful power in the Church. It should also supervise certain financial and kindred matters which the Annual Conference is unable to do, while in session, because of other pressing duties.
3. The communities unable to entertain an Annual Conference would readily sustain a District Conference. While their proceedings are unlike in most respects, yet the public services of the latter especially are greatly enjoyed, and leave a salutary influence wherever they are held.
4. All the members of a District Conference generally participate in its discussions and business, while but comparatively few do so at an Annual Conference on matters beyond what relates to themselves. The preparation of essays and special addresses and the discussions which follow, as well as in the transaction of routine proceedings, secure a discipline for the mind of young ministers which they might not obtain readily at a session of an Annual Conference. These Conferences develop latent talent in ministers which might never have been seen elsewhere.
5. Members of the Church have an opportunity to hear questions of polity and doctrine, as well as finance, discussed as they are not likely to hear them anywhere else. Everything which tends to disseminate light and knowledge of the wants and demands of Methodism benefits the ministry and members of the Church, and this the District Conference
6. The intermingling of ministers and laymen of a district cannot fail to produce good results. The social element can be cultivated, and a bond of unity established that will enhance the interests of the district. Already many invaluable acquaintances have been formed at various District Conferences, which might never have been obtained by any other
These are a few of the advantages growing out of a wellconducted and spirited District Conference.