Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Today on the Almanac, we take a look at Orange Scott and his role in creating a new American denomination.

*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 31st of May 2022 Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.

In today’s show, I want to introduce you to a colorful character in the history of the American church… I hate that I said colorful, but not really because the guy's name is Orange Scott- a brilliant name.

He was born in Vermont in 1800- the oldest of 8 to an itinerant farmer and his wife. Orange remembered receiving only about a year's worth of formal education spread out across his childhood. He was semi-literate, had a Bible, and considered himself a Christian but didn’t attend church.

He didn’t go to church because he didn’t have appropriate clothes- an interesting reminder of the early gentrification of the New England church. And so when was his first contact with Christianity on a regular, communal basis was from the revival camps and Methodist circuit riders.

It is also important to remember these as not just southern events- New England revivals (not to mention later in upstate and Western New York!).

He had a camp conversion experience in 1820 at the age of 20 and decided to spend his Sundays assisting local Methodist ministers. By 1825 he was ordained in the Methodist Episcopal Church. It is helpful to remember that Methodists and Baptists had a fast and flexible ordination process and this led to faster-growing rosters of clergy and churches!

By 1831 he was a delegate at the Methodist Episcopal convention and considered a rising star in the denomination. And then in 1833, he became convinced that Methodist theology- which emphasized the holiness of life could not be reconciled with Slavery. Not wanting to upset the Methodist Episcopal Churches in the South Scott was censured and condemned.

He was stripped of his position as a delegate, and his marginalization by the denomination led to his creation of the American Wesleyan Observer- a theological and abolitionist newspaper.

A congregation in Lowell Massachusetts called Scott to be a minister but the presiding Bishop blocked the call. There had been controversy in the church with many opposing what they saw as tyrannical bishops and others wanted to eliminate the Episcopacy altogether (the “episcopacy” means you have Bishops).

In 1841 Scott and others broke from the Methodist Episcopal Church and formed the Wesleyan Methodist Connection. It was on this, the 31st of May in 1841 that the first convention of the newly formed anti-slavery and anti-episcopal Methodist church was born.

A “connection” was a loose affiliation of churches, committed to a similar mission but with little to no external oversight. The terminology was first used in Britain for their non-conforming churches and it is often spelled with an X which reminds me of a lot of late 20th-century youth ministry (lots of cool X’s and Z’s where they didn’t belong).

This new church- the Wesleyan Methodist connection hosted the Seneca Falls conference in 1848 that gave birth to the Women’s Suffrage Movement.

Unlike many other Methodist and Wesleyan churches, this church body did not fuse with the other church bodies in 1968 to form the United Methodist church but rather joined with the Pilgrim Holiness Church in that same year to form the Wesleyan Church (which despite some regional defections) remains intact to the present day.

And it all goes back to Orange Scott- the semi-literate itinerant farmer who was behind the creation of one of the older and more significant church bodies in American history.

The last word for today comes from the daily lectionary from Psalm 43:

Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
 I will bring your children from the east
 and gather you from the west.

I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
 and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
 and my daughters from the ends of the earth—

everyone who is called by my name,
 whom I created for my glory,
 whom I formed and made.”

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 31st of May 2022 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org

The show is produced by a man I ask “Orange you glad you don’t have to pastor on horseback?” He is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a man who knows that in Scotland “Orange Scott” is just a polite way of saying, “Ginger.” I am Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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