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"1. Each Society, organized and united in the faith of the final salvation of mankind by the mediation of Jesus Christ, shall be considered as having in itself all the rights and privileges given by Christ our Lord to his disciples, and so long as they may choose, be perfectly independent of all other societies or bodies of believers, in the exercise of those rights. They shall judge for themselves in matters of faith and practice,choose their own modes, forms and time of worship,-call, settle and dismiss their own ministers. These independent societies may, if they choose, unite themselves into Associations for the purpose of extending their fellowship and influence, and adopt such rules and regulations as they judge best for their mutual government and benefit; and each, when they please, may withdraw from said Association; and again, these Associations, may form themselves into Conventions, for the greater extension of the same benefits. Therefore, in conformity to these principles, the General Convention now recommends to the societies in its fellowship, residing in one or more Counties of any State in the Union, or in any convenient territory, to unite into an Association, to consist of their pastors and two delegates, chosen at regular meetings of the societies for that purpose, which shall meet once a year, or oftener, at the societies in its fellowship, to adopt regulations for its own, and the government of its societies; to unite in the public worship of God; the administration of the Lord's Supper; to learn the state of the Societies; give needful advice for the admission of new Societies into its fellowship; to choose from two to four delegates to the State Convention; and the transaction of all such business as may promote the mutual prosperity and peace of the Societies under its fellowship.
"2. These Associations are recommended to form themselves into State Conventions, which shall be limited to the State in which they are located, and to consist of from two to four delegates (who shall always be ministering brethren) from the several Associations in the State, and of all the ordained and licensed preachers of the order in the State.
"The State Convention shall meet once a year, at such time and place within the State as they may choose, and adjourn to, for the organization of the body, the worship of God, the administration of the Lord's Supper, &c., the licensing of men to preach, and the ordination of preachers as evangelists, and Job Potter. The Committee to make "a detailed report," was Revs. Hosea Ballou Paul Dean and Thomas Whittemore.
learning the state of Associations, and of sending them any such advice or information as they may deem expedient, and to choose not more than eight nor less than four delegates to represent them in the General Convention of the United States.
"3. The State Conventions are also recommended to form themselves into a General Convention of the United States of America, by choosing not more than eight nor less than four delegates, to meet and act for them in said Convention, which shall consist of delegations from the State Conventions, and also of all the ordained and licensed ministers who are preachers in fellowship of the order, in the United States, for the time being. It shall meet annually at such place in the United States, on the third Wednesday and Thursday of September, as it may be adjourned to, and for purposes the same as those of the State Conventions, with the exception of the choice of delegates.
"The General and State Conventions, with the Associations and Churches, shall adopt and retain unaltered the Articles of Faith now professed by the General Convention.
"No complaint against a brother, society, association or convention, shall be heard and tried by any or either of the Associations or Conventions in the United States, or in fellowship with the General Convention thereof; but all such shall be heard and decided by a mutual Council chosen by the parties, unless one of the parties refuse, in which case the other party may proceed ex parte, and the decision will be final.
"All churches and societies shall ordain and install their ministers by the advice and assistance of councils composed of pastors and deacons of such of the churches as they may choose to invite for that purpose.' "26
The "Circular Letter" for that year, said with reference to the above:
"Our Minutes will show you, brethren, that we have charged a committee, distinguished among us for their discretion, with the important duty of reporting at our next session the details of a plan, the outline of which is already spread out on our proceedings, that will, if adopted, render this body in fact, what it has ever been in name, a General Convention." 27
It seems difficult, and to the writer quite impossible, to see 26 Convention Records, Vol. I., pp. 316-318.
27 Ibid, p. 322.
what except social advantage, such a General Convention was to have over the organization then in existence; for it claimed no powers superior to those of a State Convention; and except in the one item of authority to "Ordain Preachers as Evangelists," by which is meant, I suppose, Ministers without Pastoral Settlement, it delegated all other authority and power to the Societies or Churches, and made them wholly independent of Associations or Conventions.
In the record of proceedings of the session in 1828, we find the following: "The Committee appointed at the last session for the purpose of considering whether it be necessary newly to organize this Convention, and the several Universalist Associations, being called on, reported that it is inexpedient to make the contemplated alteration. Whereupon, Resolved, That said report be accepted." 28 The "Circular Letter" said on the subject:
"It will be perceived, that after a year's reflection, it has been judged inexpedient to make the new arrangement of Conventions and Associations which was proposed at the session of 1827. From the birth of the General Convention to the present time, our lay brethren, as delegates from societies, have met and taken part in council with us. No one expressed a wish to set up clerical authority amongst us; and therefore the proposition which excluded lay delegates from our coun cil, was rejected. As it could not be foreseen that any good would result from this entire remodel, the plan appearing more imposing than beneficial, it was dropped without dissent." 29
The next effort towards reorganization was at the session in 1831: "Appointed Bros. T. F. King, S. Streeter, T. Whittemore and J. E. Palmer, a committee to take into consideration the propriety of organizing State or Sub Conventions, with a view to the organization of a General Convention of the United States, and to report at this session." They reported the following, which was adopted: "Resolved, That this Con. vention deem it expedient, as soon as convenient, that Conventions be organized in the several States of New England in which such Conventions do not exist." This did not seem to 28 Ibid, p. 324. 29 Ibid, pp. 328, 329.
cover the ground, and so the Convention "Voted, That Bro. S. Cobb be a committee to address a letter in behalf of this body to the several State Conventions now in existence, or which may be formed prior to the next meeting of this Convention, inviting them to meet this body at its next session, to consult on measures whereby a General Convention may be organized which shall extend its jurisdiction over the several Conventions of our order in the United States." 30
The necessity for such action was becoming urgent, as Associations and State Conventions were being rapidly created, the latter having no representation in, and no connection. whatever with, the General Convention. Hence the " Circular Letter" of 1831 said:
"We would earnestly call the attention of the brethren throughout the country, to a consideration of the measures recommended, in our Minutes, preparatory to the organization of a General Convention of the whole United States. This we deem of vital importance to the interests of the denomination at large. Since the great increase of our order in America, objections to the present organization of this body have existed in the minds of many of our most valued brethren. They did not think it was organized on the best plan; or that its jurisdiction was sufficiently defined; and hence, separate Conventions, independent of, but in fellowship with, this Convention, have been organized in the States of Maine, New York and Ohio. These measures, if followed by the brethren in other States, are directly calculated to promote the object we have in view; and we confidently hope the period is not far distant when the object will be accomplished." 31
So in the "General Epistle" accompanying the published minutes of proceedings of the session of 1829, Associations and Conventions not under the jurisdiction of the General Convention are mentioned in the statement that information as to the progress of the cause is acknowledged as received "from the several Associations which are under the jurisdiction of this Convention, and from other Conventions and Associations engaged in the advancement of the same good cause." In
30 Ibid, pp. 353, 354.
31 Ibid, pp. 358, 358.
32 Ibid, p. 338.
1830 the General Convention adopted this significant resolution:
"Resolved, As the opinion of this Convention, that it is inconsistent with ecclesiastical order, for a person to be, at the same time, an acting member of two ecclesiastical bodies, claiming equal powers and such independence of each other, as implies the right of either to pursue a course in opposition to the general rules and regulations of the other."
The same session appointed committees to visit the Maine and New York Conventions of Universalists, at their next sessions, to confer with them for the purpose of ascertaining the relations existing between them and the Geveral Convention.&
Rev. Warren Skinner, one of the committee to visit the New York Convention, attended the next session of that body and on laying before them the business assigned him, the Convention took the following action :
"Whereas, the General Convention of the New England States, and others,' appointed a committee, at its last session, to visit this Convention, for the purpose of ascertaining the relation existing between' us, therefore
"Resolved, That this Convention acknowledges with pleasure its regard for said General Convention, as a sister ecclesiastical body that we have ever expressed a Christian fellowship for that body, and that we regard each as independent of the other, so far as is consistent with strict and mutual fellowship.
"Chose Bros. J. Wallace, D. Skinner and C. F. Le Fevre, as a committee to visit the General Convention of the New England States, and others, at its next session, for the purpose of expressing to it the Christian fellowship of this Convention." 34
In the Maine Convention, the subject was referred to a committee, who brought in the following Report:
"Whereas, the General Convention at its last session appointed a committee to meet with us at this session for the purpose of ascertaining what relation subsists between the two Conventions; and whereas the Maine Convention has declared 88 Ibid, pp. 841, 843.
34" Proceedings of the Universalist Convention of the State of New York, A. D. 1881," in Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate, May 21, 1831.