They Went Before Us to Show Us the Way ~ No Beard, No Bishop!


No Beard, No Bishop!

Among the Methodists, four former chaplains were to become bishops. Enoch M. Marvin was elected in 1866. In 1870, John C. Keener, a former missionary to the Louisiana troops, became a bishop. In 1882, John C. Granberry, of the famous Eleventh Virginia Regiment, was chosen a bishop. Atticus G. Haygood was ordained in 1890. H. H. Kavanaugh had been ordained in 1854. He had served with distinction the men of the Sixth Kentucky Regiment and continued active in denominational affairs afterward.

Probably the most colorful of these Methodist bishops was Enoch M. Marvin, a veteran of the war in Arkansas. At the time of his election he was a pastor in Marshall, Texas, and was not present at the conference. It is said that when he reported for ordination, several ministers met him at the door and refused to let him enter in his rude manner of dress. They insisted on presenting him a clerical suit befitting the dignity of the occasion. Brother Marvin accepted the suit and presented himself in unaccustomed dignity for ordination. When the brethren saw him for the first time, certain of them opposed his ordination on the grounds that he wore a flowing beard. The old soldier held his ground, stating, “I was elected with a beard, and you’ll ordain me with a beard!” Thus he became the first man of his church to be elected to the episcopacy with a full beard.

It was he who, together with a few chaplains of several denominations, had organized the “Army Church.” Bishop Marvin was of the common people, marked by his ruggedness of character and simplicity. He never lost the common touch and was always a favorite of the people. He had never had a day of college training, but he had a deep, impressive piety. When he joined the conference at Jefferson City, Missouri, in 1842, there were many who gave him little chance to succeed, judging from his awkwardness, country mannerisms, and the poor fit of his clothing. Yet thirteen years later he was pastor of a large church in Saint Louis.

As bishop, Marvin never lost his enthusiasm for camp meetings. He preached with great power, seeing sinners powerfully convicted and gloriously converted. Some have held that the Southern Methodist Church never produced a man of more eloquence. He was in complete agreement with the proposal of his fellow bishop, Alpheus W. Wilson, who was resolved either to make the church a missionary force or destroy it “as something cumbering the ground.” Almost singlehandedly he saved Southern Methodist mission work among the Indians. In 1876 Bishop Marvin’s missionary interest took him to the fields of China. He later became the author of several books, each bringing out the need for world missions. Shortly after his death, over fifteen hundred people made contributions in memory of the great bishop for the establishment of a mission school.

Charles F. Pitts. Chaplains in Gray: The Confederate Chaplain’s. Shelbyville, TN: Bible & Literature Missionary Foundation, 1957. P129-130

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