Friday, May 30, 2008

Annual Meeting 1882 - Part 2

There was a sense of foreboding in the air as the thousands of Brethren gathered for the 1882 Annual Meeting in Northern Indiana. The previous year Annual Meeting had appointed a committee to visit Henry Holsinger in Berlin, PA investigate charges brought against Holsinger by at least five districts. This Berlin Committee was unable to hold a hearing due to conditions insisted upon by Holsinger which the committee could not accept.

The committee then announced "that Brother H.R. Holsinger cannot be held in fellowship with the Brotherhood, and all who depart with him shall be held responsible to the action of the next Annual Meeting." In effect, Holsinger was excommunicated until Annual Meeting could act.

Holsinger's supporters attacked the action of the Berlin Committee while his detractors agitated for his permanent expulsion. Many people felt Holsinger and his group had gone too far, but they felt the Berlin Committee's action was far too severe. Some suggested the committee had gone beyond its authority and should have withheld a decision until their report was presented to Annual Meeting.

Nine months later Annual Meeting was gathering in Northern Indiana where Enoch Eby was the moderator. Eby has also served on the Berlin Committee, so when the committee's report was presented on June 1, he stepped aside and D.E. Cripe took over the chair. The committee report was read and explained, then a motion was made for adoption.

Holsinger's opponents no doubt expected a bombastic tirade based on his past history at Annual Meeting. They were in for a surprise. Friends of Holsinger presented a compromise paper which Holsinger had promised to sign if it was accepted. Its tone was urprisingly conciliatory given the past nine months of vitrolic rhetoric.

Holsinger made five points in the paper including, "I humbly ask the pardon of the brethren for all my offenses." Viewed from the perspective of more than 100 years, Holsinger's promises seem quite reasonable, but emotions were high and, as Elder Moore had commented, Holsinger had made many enemies.

Nearly the entire day was spent debating the question. Finally, the motion to accept the Berlin Committee's report was pressed, and a vote was called for. Elder Moore estimated there were 7,000 voting members present and all but about 100 stood to support the motion.

After the vote, Moore described Holsinger's mood as depressed. Still he was able to rally his spirits enough to lead a group of his supporters to a nearby schoolhouse where they discussed what to do next. Holsinger's group eventually held a meeting in Dayton, Ohio, in June 1883 which marked the official formation of the new denomination.

1882, in Northern Indiana, marked the last year for these two groups to meet together at Annual Meeting until this year when the Church of the Brethren and the Brethren Church will meet together for their annual meetings in Richmond, VA, July 12-16, for a 300th anniversary celebration.

Source: Planting the Faith in a New Land: Church of the Brethren in Indiana