By Shari Goodwin
I received a call from Ted Agnew’s son, Peter, in 2007," recalled David Severe of Oklahoma City, executive director of the denomination’s South Central Jurisdiction (SCJ). "Going through Ted’s things after his death, they came across stacks of his writings. Most went to the jurisdictional archives, but one son remembered his dad saying, ‘Get this manuscript to David Severe and Bishop Hardt.’"
Agnew, a layman from Stillwater, was an Oklahoma delegate to the SCJ conferences across many years. A retired history professor, he had begun compiling his notes into a book.
After confirming Bishop John Wesley Hardt’s willingness to help, Rev. Dr. Severe agreed to take the job of completing the story of the South Central Jurisdiction, established in 1968. Soon, the unfinished manuscript arrived.
For several quadrennia, Agnew and Severe took turns acting as secretary for Oklahoma’s delegation. "I watched him take notes that completely filled the yellow notebook pages with his small handwriting," Severe said. "Ted wrote everything down meticulously, and as he transformed those notes into a manuscript, he had a historian’s eye for what to include and what to leave out. He had published an earlier history, so I tried to follow his outline and approach."
Delegates at the 2012 SCJ Conference received copies of the new book, titled "40: The History of the South Central Jurisdiction, 1968-2008."
"Ted had written extensively through 1988, but in 1992 there were just a few notes. After that, there was nothing. I hadn’t made any notes either," Severe said. "It was a big job. I’m so pleased we were able to get it done."
The first meeting of the jurisdiction was right after the 1968 merger of denominations established The United Methodist Church, and the book retells how the Methodists, Evangelical United Brethren, and Central Conferences were to be combined.
In addition to Agnew’s notes, Severe utilized the archives in Bridwell Library at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.
"My wife Paula helped, and now every piece that was public information is recorded. Early on, women were listed just by their husbands’ names, like ‘Mrs. John Doe,’ so we searched for the wives’ first names and included those, too, where we could.
"Bishop Hardt has a wonderful memory, and that was a great help," Severe said. "Each time I finished a chapter, I would send it to him to critique. In one instance, I had written about Bishop Angie Smith’s wife and used her name, Bess Smith. He called to tell me that Bishops Angie Smith and A. Frank Smith both had wives named Bess. I went back and added clarification. I wouldn’t have known to do that without Bishop Hardt’s input."
Severe’s favorite story in the new book is from the 1968 conference. "Finis Crutchfield and Alsie Carleton, (who was married to Finis’ sister, Artha Crutchfield), were vying for the episcopacy. After Finis lost votes twice in a row, he withdrew his name in favor of Carleton. Just before he did that, however, he summoned a page to take a note and hand it to Rev. Carleton as soon as Finis sat down. The note simply said, ‘Blessed is he who standeth not in the way of sinners.’ Carleton was elected at that conference, and Finis was elected four years later."
|Notes from 1968
In 1968, Oklahoma City hosted the first South Central Jurisdictional Conference of The United Methodist Church, drawing delegates from 25 annual conferences and 10 episcopal areas.
Most sessions were held at the Skirvin Hotel, with opening worship at First Church downtown and the consecration service at St. Luke’s Church.
Among Oklahoma delegates were laymen Ron Gilbert of Miami, Tal Oden of Altus, and L.T. Hicks of Bixby; and clergymen Wayne Coffin, Bill Henry, Cliff Sprouls, and Tom and Bill Oden.
On the 13th ballot, Alsie Carleton was elected bishop and appointed to the Northwest Texas-New Mexico Area. Two retiring bishops were honored: Angie Smith of the Oklahoma-New Mexico Area and Paul Martin of the Houston Area.
(Source: The Oklahoma Methodist, July 1968)
Severe also pointed out the book’s insight on electing bishops.
"You’ll discover, almost without exception, that first ballot will tell you how the election will turn out. Only once or twice has someone come riding over the hill, so to speak. Almost always, people will be elected in the order of that first nominating ballot," he said.
"The quote I used at the conclusion of the book came from Jurisdictional Archivist Jean Traster: ‘Much blessed are the people of the Church with records of their past, for they have guidance for the way in which they will walk.’
"What a perfect quote for a written history!"