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Charlotte Bishop sued: not over sex, but for fighting for morality and justice

Bishop Mouzon's House in Charlotte
Bishop Mouzon's House in Charlotte
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission

On May 16, 1931, Charlotte Bishop Edwin D. Mouzon was sued in the federal courts in Dallas, Texas and Charlotte, North Carolina. The suits were were not about any sexual improprieties. No one was charging the Bishop with financial indiscretions. Bishop Mouzon was being sued by Reverend Rembert G. Smith of Sparta, George for libel and slander.

Bishop Edwin D. Mouzon, was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina in 1869. He became a Methodist minister in 1889. He was elected to the office of bishop in May, 1910. He and his wife, Mary Pearl Langdon Mouzon, moved to Charlotte in 1927.

According to Reverend Smith, Bishop Mouzon is accused of saying in a public forum that, “The Rev. Mr. Smith would have given many thousands of dollars for the publicity which he has been given free of charge.” Smith also claimed in the suit that the Bishop had also referred to him as an “honest but eccentric Methodist preacher.”

The genesis of the suit sprang from Bishop Mouzon and Moore’s opposition to Alfred E. Smith’s 1928 presidential run against Herbert Hoover. Among other things. Smith ran on an anti-prohibition platform. Mouzon and other influential Methodists at the time were in favor of prohibition and other social justice issues.

Bishop Mouzon was certainly no fan of candidate Smith. He wrote that,

“the nomination of Smith ....signalized the uprise of the unassimilated elements of our great cities against the ideals of our American fathers.” In other words, “Smith himself is utterly un-American.”

The Bishop was able to walk the fine line that many Christian Tea Party supporters seem to be incapable of: how to be influence the public sector without being influenced or co-opted by politics. Mouzon said in 1933 that the people of America faced “three great problems-- the problem of peace or war; the problem of economic recovery and the problem of the traffic in intoxicationg liquors.” He fought tirelessly against the sale of alcoholic beverages before and after the 18th Amendment was repealed. He challenged politicians, newspapers, and church leadership.

Powerful and cunning politicians always seek to control the faithful. Whether it was candidate Smith in 1928 or Roosevelt in 1933, Mouzon averred that the church would not be unduly controlled and silenced by political concerns.

“No matter what others may do, the ministry of the Methodist Church will not be driven. Our ministers are still free men." Spartanburg Herald Journal

This is in sharp contrast to the situation we find today in some sectors of the church. It is surprisingly easy for those with purely worldly, political concerns to dictate agendas to the church. Political operatives establish devils and saints among the current politicians. Working for social and economic justice is labeled as socialism or Marxism. Tolerance and inclusiveness is deemed to evidence of heresy.

Tea Party leader, Judson Phillips, wrote this on his Tea Party blog about the Methodist church:

“ ... The Methodist church is an embarrassing joke. I have a DREAM too. My dream is the Methodist church goes out of business."

Many in the church today seem to crumple under the weight of such criticism. Was the ministry of Jesus socialist or Marxist? Jesus it is said,

“Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”

We must be more concerned about right action that right doctrine or politics -- both of which are liable to change as rapidly as weather reports. About doctrinal orthodoxy, Bishop Mouzon has written:

"There have arisen amoung us some who insist that a correct creed is of more importance than a good life. They seem to take the position that if one's creed is correct, one's life will necessarily be righteous. There is immense peril in this position. For the next step may lead...the poor misguided man to the conclusion that his brother is a bad man...{if}his brother does not agree with him in all his theological tenets.

We Methodists...hold no such view...We believe that a correct creed is important, but we hold firmly to the view that a Christlike life is the final test on ones religion"

Bishop Mouzon was the author of many books including, “Fundamentals of Methodism (1923)”. He died in 1937.


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