The evidence suggests that a discussion between Russell, Peyton Grahm Bowmanand probably Barbour too, took place at the St. George Hall lecture. Bowmanwas a Methodist Episcopal clergyman turned Second Adventist. He was bornin Shenandoah County, Virginia, on September 15, 1809, and "converted toChrist" on June 21, 1828, joining the Methodist Episcopal Church. He immigratedto South Carolina in 1832 where he received an exhorter's license the nextyear. In January 1834 he was received into the South Carolina MethodistConference as a regular minister.
He was an itinerate preacher - a circuit rider - and a very effective evangelist.Wellcome says he "saw thousands of souls converted and united with the MethodistE. Church." A revival held at Concord, North Carolina in 1838 saw seventynew adherents as a result of Bowman's preaching. This was in an era whenMethodists were seen as dangerous sectarians by many.
About 1854 or 1855 he was appointed as a "missionary to the colored peopleof the rice plantations" of South Carolina, "preaching every Sunday to, perhaps,1500 to 2000, and during the week visiting the plantations, catechizing thechildren, visiting the sick, the aged, and infirm, distributing Bibles,Testaments, and hymnbooks to such as could read." Bowman developed a deepaffection for his Black charges; after the Civil War he became an advocatefor their civil rights and for decent treatment.
Peyton G. Bowman in 1874 and 1888.
Drawing is from Wellcome. Photo by Permission Atlanta Bible College [photocaption]
Bowman was exposed to Second Adventism during a trip to the North to raisefunds for his church. Advocating Conditional Immortality caused endless troublefor him. Finally in August 1871 his Presiding Elder, W. H. Fleming, broughtformal charges. He was arraigned for "preaching that from death to theresurrection all is unconscious sleep" and for teaching "that the wickedat the final day will be annihilated from all conscious being forever." Thereport of the "trial" says that Bowman, "having refused to make the promiserequired by the Discipline in such cases is hereby suspended from the ministryuntil the ensuing annual Conference."
Bowman promptly wrote to Fleming saying, "After seriously reflecting on theaction of this committee (viz.) my suspension from the ministry for holdingand teaching doctrines contrary to the Standards of Methodism, and believingthat the annual Conference will confirm said action, and also believing itmy duty to preach the Gospel of our common and blessed Savior, I feel itmy duty to join a communion where these objections do not exist. I herewithtender you my withdrawal from the M. E. Church South."
The committee seems to have been unprepared for this. In an action reminiscentof the more recent acts of certain high-control cults, their reaction amountedto saying, "You can't resign! We expel you!" They passed a resolution tothat effect, sending it to Bowman and publishing it to the Annual Conferencerecords. It expressed their determination to move forward, though with someregret:
The committee on motion of J. A. Porter … unanimously agreed upon thefollowing decision, viz: The Discipline directs that the charge of holdingand dissemination doctrines which are contrary to the recognized standardsof our doctrines shall be subject to the same process as a case of immorality.
In the present case, the accused, not appearing and having plead guilty tothe charge before the committee of investigation, the court are obliged tofind the Rev. P G, Bowman guilty: and in accordance with the law of the church,pronounce him expelled from the communion of the Methodist Episcopal ChurchSouth.
The court is not satisfied to pronounce this sentence without accompanyingit with the expression of he deep regret they feel in performing so painfula duty.
To our erring brother we have no sentiments but those of personal regardand Christian affection. And this duty is not performed in the spirit ofrevenge or prejudice, but from a desire to preserve the church from allcorruption of doctrine.
For a brother who has been so long connected with us in the work of thisministry we shall always pray that God will bring him to see his error …
He continued to minister to Southern Blacks, though his doctrine shiftedto Second Adventism. He asked for assistance from The World's Crisis. "Ifyou have sent one of your preachers to the South this winter to proclaimthe acceptable years of the Lord, do write to him, and tell him not to returnuntil he shall give me a call. I wish to take him around on my circuit."William Sheldon responded. Sheldon would describe Bowman as "a man who willnot wear any theological hand-cuffs and will preach what he believes …fearlessly." He wrote that Bowman was "listened to with deep interest."
George W. Jackson was responsible for founding The Household of Faith Church,a Black Second Adventist congregation in Maryland. Peyton Bowman was theirpastor. [photo caption]
Bowman eventually moved his ministry northward, preaching in Pennsylvania,Massachusetts, New York, and in Maryland. In the late 1870's and early 1880'she was in Pennsylvania. He was for a while pastor of the Salem, Pennsylvania,Church of God, a Second Adventist body of uncertain affiliation. In 1888Bowman was elected to the board of what proved to be an abortive attemptto unify Church of God and One Faith congregations.
He maintained his connection to Black churches and was pastor of the Householdof Faith Church at Blythedale, Maryland, apparently in the late 1870's. Thistoo was an Adventist body of uncertain affiliation. Both its known pastors,A. A. Hoyt and Bowman were viewed favorably by the Advent Christians, butthis does not mean the Household of Faith identified with them. Hoyt wasan Age to Come believer, attending conferences viewed with favor by Marchand the Advent Harbinger. It appears to have been an Age-to-Come congregation.Bowman may have been their first pastor, though the record is uncertain.The church was organized on October 2, 1877, by Edward and George W. Jackson.George W. was a former slave manumitted by joining a black regiment in 1864.
Russell's description of his encounter with Bowman is brief: "I well rememberhearing you speak as a champion of Second Adventism in Philadelphia …I then thought you honest and longed to have you see 'the way of God moreperfectly.'" After Zion's Watch Tower was founded, Russell sent him copies,and by 1887 Bowman was circulating Russell's book, The Plan of the Ages.The circumstances all date the encounter to 1876. Russell dated it to "abouttwelve years pervious;" Barbour's lecture is the only known visit to Philadelphiain that era; the issue was Russell's new understanding of the timing andnature of Christ's return.
Notices in the March 2 and 23, 1889 issues of The Brooklyn Eagle have himas a preacher at a Church of the Blessed Hope congregation. He was usingthe "seats free" notice characteristic of Russell. Bowman died in 1891 leavingno further indication of his relationship to Russell and Barbour. His obituarysuggests that he continued to identify as a Second Adventist until his death,even if he found Russell's Plan of the Ages "incomparable."