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The revised edition of this comprehensive 
and objective study of religious life in 
America has been brought up to date ami 
contains new chapters on Christian Sci- 
ence, Mor monism, and Huslcrn Ortho- 
doxy. A valuable new feature is the inclu- 
sion of maps which show the distribution 
of church membership denominations 
in flic I billed States, 

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What Americans BELIEVE 
and How Tkey WORSHIP 


Americans BELIEVE 
and How Tbey WORSHIP 

Revised Edition 






1952, 1962, by Harper & Brothers. Printed in the United States of America. 
All rights in this book are reserved. No part of the hook may he used or 
reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in 
the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For 
information address Harper <fe Row, Publishers, Incorporated, 49 East 33rd 
Street, New York 16, N.Y. 



Clarence Milton Williams 
My Father and Teacher 




MAPS 91 

I. Preview 1 
II. The Roman Catholic Church Defender of a 

Revelation 15 

III. Protestantism (in general) Which Reaffirms the 

Faith 94 

IV. Lutheran Churches Guardians of Orthodoxy 152 
V. The Protestant Episcopal Church Which 

Emphasizes Ritual 171 

VI. Presbyterian Churches At the Theological Center 196 
VII. The United Church of Christ Which Practices 

Ecumenicity 216 
VIII. Baptist Churches and Christian (Disciples) Churches 

Defenders of Religious Freedom 239 

IX. The Quakers Practicing Mystics 269 

X. The Methodist Church Evangelical Organization 286 

XI. The Unitarian Universalists Theologically Liberal 313 

XII. Judaism The Mother Institution 330 

XIII. The Eastern Orthodox Churches The Least 

Americanized 362 

XIV. The Mormons Pioneers 378 


XV. Christian Science Which Emphasizes Healing 399 

XVI. Other Religious Innovations Seventh-day 

Adventists, The Pentecostal Holiness Church, 
The Salvation Army, Spiritualism, Jehovah's 
Witnesses, Unity School of Christianity, The 
Oxford Group (Moral Re- Armament), The 
Black Muslims 427 

XVII. Some Nonecclesiastical Spiritual Movements 
Astrology, Naturalistic Humanism, Hedonism, 
Alcoholics Anonymous, Beat Zen, Nationalism 453 

XVIII. The Role of Religion in Shaping American Destiny 472 
NOTES 493 

INDEX 521 


IN PREPARING these pages, I have asked help from many people; 
it has always been given with great generosity. For a thoroughgoing 
review of the manuscript, I am especially indebted to Professor 
Winthrop S. Hudson, Professor Clarence P. Shedd, and Dr. Clarence 
M. Williams. Their many suggestions have been both cogent and 
detailed. My debt to them is large. 

In addition two-score persons have given freely of their technical 
skill, or their knowledge, or their resources of books and magazines. 
Each of the major descriptive sections of the book has been read by 
two or more clergymen of the sect described. They have often read 
meticulously. I hope thus that errors of fact have been all but elimi- 
nated; what errors remain are of course wholly my own responsi- 
bility. (The interpretations are also my own; occasionally they have 
been retained in spite of questions raised by the denominational 
experts.) The following persons, in their several ways, have given 
assistance which has placed me greatly in their debt: Rev. Charles A. 
Anderson, Constance E. Bagg, Dr. C. Rankin Barnes, George Chan- 
ning, Ruth Curby, Rev. D. Earl Daniel, Dean A. T. DeGroot, Dr. 
Frederick M. Eliot, Rev. George B. Ford, Rev. Donald H. Freeman, 
Captain Lucy V. Fusco, Rev. John J. Gearin, Rev. George C. 
Gutekunst, Professor S. Ralph Harlow, Rev. Duncan Howlett, 
Gordon B. Hinckley, Professor Mary I. Hussey, DeWitt John, Dr. 
Mordecai M. Kaplan, Bishop W. Appleton Lawrence, Rev. Timothy 
J. Leary, Rev. Eugene A. Luening, Bishop Francis J. McConnell, 
Professor Alan V. McGee, Professor Virginia P. Matthias, Rev. 


Andrew A. Martin, Rev. James F. Madison, Professor James A. 
Martin, Dr. Daniel H. Miller, Rev. Francis D. Nichol, Gammar 
Paul, Rabbi Samuel Perlman, Dr. Herbert W. Prince, Rev. Emil C. 
Reichel, Dr. Elbert Russell, Bishop Joseph A. Synan, Rabbi Maurice 
H. Schatz, Helen H. Williams, L. Dwight Williams, Rev. Henry C. 

My thanks are also extended to the staff of the Williston Memorial 
Library, Mount Holyoke College, for much patient assistance. 

Finally, I wish to express my appreciation to the several pub- 
lishers who have granted permission for the inclusion of selections 
from their copyrighted works. 

In the second edition, the material of the various chapters has 
been updated and three new chapters have been added on Eastern 
Orthodoxy, Mormonism, and Christian Science. Short sections have 
also been added on Moral Re-Armament, Alcoholics Anonymous, 
Zen Buddhism, and the Black Muslims. 

Each of the new chapters was read by two persons who know the 
group under discussion from personal experience. I am deeply 
indebted for the many suggestions they made most of which I 
followed. Whatever errors of fact or interpretation remain are of 
course again wholly my own responsibility. Also, I have been loaned 
many books and magazines. To the following persons I wish to ex- 
press my gratitude for the help they gave: Rev. Leslie C. Beale, 
Rev. Lee J. Beynon, Jr., Dean Walter H. Clark, Charles A. Davies, 
Prof. Ruth J. Dean, Nancy M. Devine, Arthur Dore, Dean Deane 
W. Ferm, Prof. Helen Griffith, Rev. John Paul Jones, Rev, Maurice 
A. Kidder, Robert Peel, Rev. Harold D. Smock, Virginia W. Sparrow, 
Rev. Neophytos Spyros, Prof. Ronald J. Tamblyn, Dr. Glen W. 
Trimble, A. Theodore Tuttle, Dr. Lauris B, Whitman. 

In this edition as in the former one, I have written for the general 
reader as welt as for the college student. My aim has been to present 
the material both accurately and readably. 

Wkat Americans BELIEVE 
and How Tkey WORSHIP 



AN ASTONISHING number of religious sects flourish in the United 
States, and they cover an extraordinary range of interests. To get a 
hint of this situation, it is but necessary to read the religious page 
of a city newspaper some Saturday evening. On this page will be dis- 
played, in news item and advertisement, a range of religious belief 
and practice which runs all the way from the churches, long estab- 
lished and respectable, where the solid citizens have their member- 
ship, to the gospel missions which operate in vacant stores on the 
side streets, and the cults which meet in second-class hotels and 
which give their devotees not only promise of salvation in the next 
life but assurance of riches and prestige here on earth. In order to 
indicate the breadth of religious belief and practice in this country, 
let us look briefly at a few pictures of American sects in action. 

In his newspaper the average American might find the announce- 
ment of a Quaker meeting. If he attended this service and if it 
followed the traditional Quaker pattern, he would enter a room that 
had no decorations whatever; at the front there would be no altar, 
no pulpit, no organ pipes to challenge his attention. In their place 
would be a simple bench set against the wall; on this bench would be 
seated two or three leaders of the congregation; the rest of the group 
would be seated facing the front in the manner of the usual church. 
After the beginning of the meeting, the worshipers would remain 
silent for a long time, anywhere from ten to thirty minutes. During 
this period each person would direct his own private devotions: 



some would pray, others would meditate, some would think about 
passages of Scripture, others would ponder some social problem; 
and a few., no doubt, would just daydream or perhaps worry about 
the roast at home in the oven. Finally, one of the group would be 
"moved of God," as the Quakers say, to speak; without introduction 
he would rise to his feet and speak briefly. This "witness" would be 
short and it would be spontaneous; but it would speak of divine 
things: of the love of God and of His will that all men should live 
together as friends. Then the speaker would sit down and the silence 
would continue, a silence rich in fellowship and spiritual renewal. 
Probably others would be moved to speak. Worship after this ex- 
tremely simple fashion would go on for an hour. Then one of the per- 
sons on the bench at the front would reach over and shake hands 
with the person nearest him. This action would be the signal for 
everyone, in friendly fashion, to shake hands with his neighbor. And 
the "meeting" would be over. 

In their newspapers Americans can find from time to time an- 
nouncements of the ordination of Roman Catholic priests. Here 
would be a religious service at the other extreme from the simplicity 
of the Quaker meeting; for the ceremony during which a young man 
enters into the priesthood is an occasion on which the Roman 
Catholic Church spares no pains. The ordination would usually 
take place in a cathedral, that is, in a church where a bishop has Ms 
headquarters. The building would be a vast structure, decorated with 
much care and expense. On the walls would hang paintings and 
plaques of scenes from the Bible; in various recesses and corners 
would stand statues of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin, and of other 

As the stranger stood in the doorway and looked into the dim 
interior, past seemingly endless rows of pews, his eye would be fixed 
on a brilliantly lighted scene at the far end of the cathedral. Walking 
nearer, he would see that the central object is the high altar, placed 
at the back of a raised platform called the chancel. Along the sides 
of this platform are seats for the clergy, and among them, in a place 
where it can be seen by all, is the bishop's throne, his cathedra. 

The candidates for the priesthood all well-educated, of legitimate 


birth, over twenty-three years of age, and usually without physical 
disability come to their ordination clad like Romans of the third 
century. First they kneel before the bishop, who charges them to 
speak boldly of any circumstance which might cause them to bring 
dishonor to the Church. Then they lie flat on the floor, face down- 
ward, for a full quarter of an hour, while the bishop leads them 
in prayers to God and to the saints. The ordinands those being 
ordained pray that God will have mercy upon them and that the 
saints will intercede before God's throne asking that temptations 
may not harass the priests of His Church. After these prayers are 
said, the ordinands rise and the bishop in silence lays his hands on 
the head of each in turn; thus they enter into the Apostolic Succession. 
(The meaning of this important term will be explained later.) Each 
of the many priests who are present then lays his hands on the head 
of each ordinand, and the central act of the ordination is over. 

But the dramatic tempo of the service does not lessen. The hands 
of each candidate are anointed with holy oil in order that they may 
be hallowed and blessed, hands that will touch the Blessed Sacra- 
ment, baptize the newborn, anoint tenderly the dying, bless sadly 
the dead. Then the bishop gives what is perhaps the most important 
power of the priest: speaking for God, as Catholics believe, the 
bishop says in Latin, "Receive the power to offer Sacrifice to God, 
and to celebrate Mass." Immediately the young priests exercise their 
new power: they all celebrate their first Mass, together; kneeling 
behind the bishop as he faces the altar, they read and intone with him 
and bring to pass the astounding miracle of transubstantiation. (This 
term also will be defined later.) 

After saying Mass, the power to forgive sins and to "retain" sins 
is given to the young priests. This is the power which, Catholics 
believe, God gives the priest to take away the guilt of sins that other- 
wise would send the soul to hell The young priests then swear 
obedience to the authority of the bishop, present him a gift, and kiss 
his ring. The ceremony ends with the reading of the first verses of 
the Gospel according to St. John. 

The whole of this elaborate service is carried forward with the 
vibrant intensity and solemn joy of those who feel they walk on the 
brink of eternity. The bishop is the wise father receiving the rever- 


ence of dutiful sons; both kindness and sternness sound forth in his 
voice, and in his eye is a gleam that matches the fire that flashes from 
the precious jewel in his episcopal ring. And the young priests walk 
forth from the chancel consecrated servants of Almighty God, with 
a glow on their faces like the glow on the faces of brides as they walk 
down the aisle on their wedding day. 

Many American newspapers regularly carry announcements of the 
services of the Spiritualists, persons who believe it is possible for the 
living to communicate with the dead. One type of Spiritualist meeting 
is called a s6ance. A few earnest folk gather around a "medium," a 
person through whom, it is believed, messages can be sent to the next 
world and answers received. The place of meeting is usually a small 
room in which the chairs are arranged in a circle. After pleasantries 
have been exchanged and perhaps announcements made, the medium 
seats himself in a comfortable chair and the room is almost completely 
darkened. A solemn hush falls, the group begins quietly to sing 
hymns, and the medium seeks the mood which will bring the spirits: 
he may go into a trance, he may sleep, he may simply seek an atti- 
tude of composure. After a time, if the spirits are co-operative that 
night, strange things begin to happen. Perhaps raps will be heard, or 
tables will be moved, or voices will speak; if the medium is very 
powerful, images may appear. These mysterious "phenomena" indi- 
cate to believers that the spirits have come. 

The members of the group begin then to ask questions eagerly; or 
the spirits may themselves take charge. The conversation usually goes 
forward just as a conversation would between two human beings; and 
the spirits are not above injecting an occasional wisecrack. Each 
spirit tells when and where he lived on earth, and gives some message 
to the group. Most of the messages are religious in character, urging 
the life of devotion, prayer and Bible reading. Sometimes the spirits 
tell about the next world, though usually their description has little 
detail in it: they say heaven is peaceful and Jesus beautiful Occa- 
sionally the messages concern very mundane affairs: Martha, you will 
find that lost letter if you will look at the back of the middle drawer 
of your desk; John, you had better get rid of those oil stocks you 
bought last week. If, as is probable, a spirit comes who claims to be 


the soul of some relative who has but recently died, great tension is 
present in the meeting. It is a moving experience to hear a young wife 
talk lovingly to the voice she believes to be that of her departed hus- 
band, to feel how desperately she clings to the memory of his presence 
and affection, and to hear him calmly speak to her words of comfort 
and advice. 

After perhaps an hour, the spirits seem to tire, the voices stop, the 
raps cease. The medium rouses himself, the lights are turned on, good 
nights are said, and the Spiritualists go out to confront the hard facts 
of this world fortified by the faith that they have been in touch with 
the sublime mysteries of the next world. 

In the spring of the year the religious columns of the newspapers 
sometimes carry items which announce the summer conferences 
which the Student Christian Movement operates for college students. 
These conferences run for about a week, and they are held in some 
spot where nature herself seems part of a conspiracy to lift man's 
thoughts to God; perhaps the conference is housed in a mountain 
camp: near by is a lake, in the distance are rugged peaks, and in 
plain view are the beginnings of mountain trails which lead up and 
up until they reach summits from which the whole of God's creative 
power seems visible. 

The young people who attend these conferences come from col- 
leges where students are taught to exalt reason and distrust emotion. 
As a result most of them would no more make a display of their 
deepest religious feelings than they would of the skeletons in the 
family closet. However, perhaps as a sort of compensation for this 
strait-laced attitude, these students claim to have no use for the 
idea that religious people should be solemn in their deportment. 
Often they have a hilarious time: they swim, go canoeing, play 
tennis, ride horseback, dance. They sing around campfires, listen to 
the tall tales of the hills, and lampoon one another in dramatic skits. 

But the center of their conference is not play. The center is wor- 
ship. Quietly these young men and women bow together and pray. 
They seek to commune with God, to confess their sins, to rededicate 
themselves to living as they believe God would have them live. Often 
they feel themselves in the very presence of divinity. In some confer- 


ences an hour a day is set apart for silence; during this period every- 
one pursues Ms own devotion he walks, or reads his Bible, or medi- 
tates, or kneels in the Chapel seeking the strength which comes from 
searching for the highest good. 

But these students also study. There is little room in their religion 
for miracles; but they have a tremendous respect for facts and for 
reason. Knowing this attitude, the Student Christian Movement brings 
to its conferences the best leaders it can find. Professors in the largest 
universities, pastors in the busiest churches give of their thought and 
energy to help these young minds find their way through the uncer- 
tainties and mysteries of America's many creeds, out onto what they 
believe is the solid ground where religious faith is both rational and 
free. In the long morning hours earnest groups sit under the trees or 
on the lake shore discussing Christianity, its dogmas, and its way of 
life. The students ask: How can science and religion be reconciled? 
Why do evil and suffering exist? What are the reasons for believing 
that Jesus was divine? What should be the Christian attitude toward 
disarmament? Long sessions are devoted to Bible reading and study. 

Watching these discussions the superficial observer might conclude 
that the religion of college students is not very spiritual, that it tends 
to be chiefly a religion of the "higher thought processes." But if he 
looks more deeply, he will see that these academic questions are often 
but a superficial facade erected to hide deep-seated spiritual problems 
and emotions. These young people struggle intellectually; but down 
deep they are searching for the cause, the ideal, the view of life to 
which they can consecrate themselves. Many a student has come to 
the last conference session, his heart bursting with the realization that 
he has at last found his life's task, the vocation which is worthy of all 
his powers. 

Occasionally the newspapers carry accounts of the services of some 
of the Holiness sects in the recesses of the southern mountains where 
worshipers handle snakes and fire. Professor Emeritus Virginia P. 
Matthias of Berea College attended one of these services; the follow- 
ing paragraphs are from her letter of description. 

The meeting placfe is a small, square structure of wooden planks, set 
on four substantial stakes, high off the road. Inside are rough wooden 


benches, and at the front of the room is a large platform surrounded by 
benches for the more active members. On the front wall are a crucifix and 
several nails for hats and coats. 

As we came in and sat down on the rear seat, the audience of about 
sixty people was singing and shouting to the accompaniment of a very 
loud guitar (accented on the first syllable) and extremely noisy cymbals. 
The tunes were in jig time, and the audience beat out the rhythm with 
hands and feet. . . . 

After a particularly wild song the preacher reached under the pulpit 
and drew forth a milk bottle stuffed with paper, which he lighted. The 
paper had evidently been soaked with kerosene, for it burned a long time. 
This branch of the Holiness Church believes that no harm can come to a 
person who has been saved. Their cornerstone is Mark 16:18 which says: 
"They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall 
not hurt them." I cannot find that Mark has a thing to say about handling 
fire; but I suppose it follows that If "they" handle fire it shall not burn 
them. At any rate, here came the fire. The bottle was passed from hand 
to hand among the people at the front of the room, and eager hands 
reached for the flame; people jumped about and shouted, their bodies 
jerked, and the fire seemed dangerously near being hurled to the floor. I 
noticed that most people did not hold their hands in the fire for more than 
an instant. Some did, however for some time; and as nearly as I could 
see, they were not burned. I offer no explanation, but this is what ap- 
peared to be true: they handled fire and were not burned. 

Suddenly everything quieted down. The fire was put out, the singing 
stopped, the people sat down. The preacher began to talk, and he kept 
on for about an hour. He kept the attention of the audience very cleverly 
he kept asking them questions. He took us quickly from Daniel in the 
lions' den to John the Baptist. And what did John baptize with? With 
water, said the audience without hesitation. An* after Jesus come, what 
good was that there water? Twarn't no good, said the audience; twarn't 
no good at all they had to be baptized with the spirit. . . , The preacher 
pointed out that today one says he's a Baptist and another that he's a 
Presbyterian. But was they ary Baptist or Presbyterian in the Bible? The 
audience said thar warn't nary one. The preacher said thar's jest one way 
the spirit and the truth. He did not define the spirit, nor yet the truth, 
but added quickly that it don't do no good to preach nothing about the 
Bible less'n you preach about the spirit. 

The preacher accomplished a sudden transition from the spirit to the 
verse in Mark, u They shall take up serpents." He said that serpents were 
rattlesnakes. We craned our necks uneasily to see whether any rattle- 
snakes were secreted behind the pulpit with the milk bottle of fire. The 
state law now prohibits snake handling in religious meetings, but the Holi- 
ness people say this obstructs religious freedom, and they do not intend 
to obey it. So we looked nervously about for the preacher to bring forth 
a snake. But he didn't bring out ary one. He was sorry he didn't have one. 
Several times he was sorry. In lieu of handling an actual rattlesnake he 


recounted how several of the saved had held snakes as big as your arm, 
wrapped 'em right around their necks. No harm came to them. 

All at once everyone was singing again, and the preacher was exhorting 
the sinners. Several sinners flung themselves on their knees at the platform. 
The guitar beat out its heavy chords, the cymbals crashed, the people 
shouted and sang. The preacher knelt with the sinners but whether or 
not they were saved that night we never knew; it was half past nine, and 
we went home. 

These five pictures the Quaker meeting, the Roman Catholic 
ordination, the Spiritualist seance, the student conference, the Holi- 
ness service are but the briefest introduction to the vivid detail and 
wide divergence of religious life in America. If the reader of the 
average newspaper were to explore all the possibilities suggested by 
the religious news, he would witness baptisms, weddings, dedications, 
exorcisms, parades, last rites, faith healings, Children's Day exercises, 
revival meetings, prayer meetings, every-member canvasses, military 
funerals, national conventions and much more. It would be an in- 
tensely interesting study. It would be an intensely vital one also. For 
these many ceremonies are but the symbols, the rough outer garments, 
which clothe the deepest convictions of the American people. In the 
last analysis, religious belief is the most important fact about a per- 
son or a nation; the way people live is determined by whatever re- 
ligion they hold, by their basic values. 

Yet a good many Americans today consider that religion in any 
form is no concern of theirs. They shrug their shoulders and declare 
that they have no objection to other people being religious. "Every 
person to his taste," they say. Religion to them is one of a thousand 
interests. Some people like golf, others go in for poetry. The church 
is a kind of club for people who like to sit and think about their sins 
of a Sunday morning when they might still be abed. 

It is the fad in certain sections of the American intelligentsia to 
think of persons who are concerned about religion as being anti- 
quarians, hangers-on to the vestiges of forgotten enthusiasms, to be 
viewed with the same tolerance that a commander of a tank corps 
would view a regiment of cavalry. H, L. Mencken put the point 
neatly: "The cosmos is a gigantic fly-wheel. . . , Man is a sick fly 
taking a dizzy ride on it. Religion is the theory that the wheel was de- 
signed and set spinning to give him the ride." 


Widespread though this point of view is, it is surely in error. No 
careful thinker ought to permit his disapproval of specific religions 
to lead him to conclude that religion as such is either unimportant or 
unessential. A man's religion is whatever he does to relate himself to 
what he believes is the supreme reality in the universe. Religion in 
this sense is basic to all high living. The person whose religious 
awareness is strong has in his life a sense of direction and purpose 
while the person whose religious awareness is weak lives a life which 
is atomistic and essentially undirected. The person whose religion is 
strong is like the writer of a drama who strives to turn all the action 
in his play toward a definite goal; the person who has little or no re- 
ligion is like a puppet which is ruled by the jerks of outside forces. 
Religion probably supplies life's strongest motivations; the conviction 
of being in the right, of conducting one's life in line with the will (or 
the laws) of supreme reality probably gives a person more staying 
power than anything else. The student, for example, whose integrity 
in examinations is predicated merely on the thesis "I owe it to myself 
to do good work" will cheat if he thinks it will pay him in the end to 
cheat. Ethical conviction, the power to see it through, is not the pos- 
session of men who base their code on a proposition like "A gentle- 
man would not do that." Rather is it the possession of men who 
believe that their moral code is fixed in the eternal scheme of things 
and is not to be cast aside merely because freedom from punishment 
is fairly sure. 

Religion is essential also to the welfare of societies. Every society 
is at bottom a spiritual entity. Every society is founded on some kind 
of religion, on some conception of the nature of the world we live in 
and of its demands on us. The religion of a people is what they think 
makes life worth living, what they really care for, and will if neces- 
sary die for. Thus the thing most worth knowing about any people is 
the actual status of their religious thinking. Are their corporate ac- 
tions controlled in the last analysis by regard for themselves, or for 
their families, or for their nation, or for people as such? Do they 
place property above personality or personality above property? Is 
their form of government, in their belief, the will of God (or of 
Mother Nature) for their nation, or is it merely a set of temporarily 
convenient arrangements? Is their society integrated around shared 


ideals, or is the stability of their community life threatened by basic 
disagreements over what constitutes life's highest values? Questions of 
this order are the most important questions that can be asked about 
American society or any other society. They explore the spiritual 
foundations on which national welfare rests. 

When the people who live in a given locality begin to lose faith in 
the things their society stands for, that society is in grave peril unless 
a compensating spiritual movement arises. Hope and common purpose 
are essential ingredients of the spiritual cement which holds a society 
together. Arnold J. Toynbee in his study of the earth's civilizations 

The breakdowns of civilizations are not catastrophes of the same order 
as famines and floods and tornadoes and fires and shipwrecks and railway- 
accidents; and they are not the equivalent, in the experience of bodies 
social, of mortal injuries inflicted in homicidal assaults. . . . The broken- 
down civilizations have not met their death from an assassin's hand, . . . 
In almost every instance we have been led ... to return a verdict of 
suicide. 1 . . . The breakdowns of civilizations are due to an inward loss of 
self-determination. 2 

As is written in the book of Proverbs, "Where there is no vision, the 
people perish." John Stuart Mill said, "In politics as in mechanics 
the power which is to keep the engine going must be sought outside 
the machinery." The absence in a society of religious integration of 
ultimate values shared in common first enervates and then destroys. 
Americans live in the midst of a revolution; the discoveries of 
science and the theories of Karl Marx have combined to challenge 
spiritual values the world over. Traditional religions have been de- 
stroyed in many nations. In Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin Amer- 
ica, revolutionary forces have overturned ancient values and created 
new patterns of living. Only a person who is blind to the true nature 
of our times could think that revolutionary forces are not at work in 
this country also. Unfortunately revolutions often destroy the good 
along with the bad. Thus the survival in the United States of democ- 
racy and freedom is by no means certain. The future depends on many 
factors. Some of these are material in nature: America's ability to 
produce, her provision for research in the physical sciences, her skill 
in military defense, her concern (or lack of it) for the preservation of 
her natural resources. But more basic than any of these is the quality 


of her elementary spiritual convictions: such things as the genuine- 
ness of her dedication to human welfare, the persistence with which 
she fights for the eradication of special privilege, the spirit of co- 
operation she extends to other nations, the depth of her belief in free- 
dom for the expression of strange opinions, the amount of her willing- 
ness to struggle against infringements on liberty the liberty of others 
as well as her own. If democracy and freedom endure in America, it 
will be because the majority of her citizens believe that the nation 
which practices democracy and freedom works with the forces of the 
universe and will receive rewards denied to nations living under other 
systems. Persons who have such convictions possess at the center of 
their lives the spirit of devotion and sacrifice which gives vitality to a 

Thus the continued growth of the idea that religion is unimportant 
forebodes nothing but ill since this idea leads to an inadequate under- 
standing of life's dynamics, of the forces which work both in indi- 
viduals and in societies. A knowledge of the religious beliefs and prac- 
tices of our fellows is clearly one essential to an adequate view of the 
world in which we live. Every person who strives for a reasonably 
full education must be informed concerning the spiritual convictions 
from which spring the basic choices of his neighbors and his society. 

This book will attempt to describe the spiritual forces now playing 
an important role in the United States. The book will indicate the 
intricacy of the spiritual problem which faces the American people 
and also furnish data and points of view from which to attack the 
problem. The traditional religions will receive the lion's share of the 
space. Chapters will be devoted to each of the following groups: 
Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, United Church of 
Christ, Baptists and Christians (Disciples), Quakers, Methodists, Uni- 
tarian-Universalists, Jews, Eastern Orthodox, Mormons, and Chris- 
tian Scientists. Then will come a chapter on some recent religious 
innovations, groups like the Pentecostals, Adventists, and Moral Re- 

A study of all these churches and societies would provide a view 
of the range of organized religion over the country. But organized re- 
ligion by no means covers all of America's religious life; for, more than 


one-third of the American people are members of no church or syna- 
gogue. In order to study the beliefs of this group, it will be necessary 
to abandon the ecclesiastical approach and to study, all too briefly, 
some dominant schools of thought, such movements as nationalism, 
atheism, and (the most widespread of all devotions in America) 
hedonism (the worship of pleasure). 

The story of the various groups will be outlined broadly, except 
that in most of the chapters a part of the narrative (usually the life of 
a representative leader) will be told in some detail. This brief focusing 
of attention on a small section of the story runs the risk of bringing 
the hasty reader to think that the importance of these especially 
illuminated episodes in religious history corresponds to the amount of 
space they occupy in this text. This is not a correct conclusion; many 
similar episodes might have been detailed for all the denominations. 
These special sections are included in order to help the reader under- 
stand that religion is not something found chiefly in books; it is the 
glowing center of vital experience. Theological principles are not mere 
abstractions; they are the blueprints by means of which vigorous per- 
sonalities order their lives. 

In describing these various American faiths, my purpose will be to 
deal fairly with each sect and school of thought. In order to accomplish 
this purpose, I will try to set down the facts and let them speak for 
themselves. Whatever our prejudice in religion and most of us 
harbor prejudice our need for more information is clear. To all who 
would understand, the facts, insofar as they are available, speak an 
eloquent language. At points where there is disagreement as to the 
facts, I will try to indicate clearly the opposing points of view. The 
reader may upon opening the book turn first to those pages where his 
own group is described and may conclude that the treatment is in- 
sufficient. He is asked to note that, in general, material common to 
two or more sects is not elaborated in the later sections; moreover f he 
is asked to remember that material torn out of context is difficult to 

As a part of the effort to keep always before the reader's mind a 
clear indication of the sense in which statements are true, a large 
number of phrases like "Catholics assert," "Methodists believe," 
"Mormons teach," have been inserted in the text. It is hoped that 


these guideposts will reduce to a minimum misunderstandings on 
what is fact concerning which there is general agreement, and what 
is faith or opinion and whose faith or opinion. I shall not hesitate 
upon occasion to express my own opinion. Since the reader will wish 
to know from what point of view the writing proceeds, it had better 
be made clear at the beginning that I am a Protestant: reared a Meth- 
odist, ordained a Congregationalist, and now holding membership 
in a Friends Meeting as well. I hope there are in the writing no hidden 
assumptions prejudicial to theologies or religious forms not my own, 
except two: that the freedom to follow conscience in private worship 
is among the most precious of our liberties, and that the duty to 
strengthen public morals is among the most essential of our responsi- 

The effort to be unprejudiced in dealing with as controversial a sub- 
ject as religion may fail; each reader will have to judge the matter 
for himself. However, it is not my intention to write for the person 
who wants to read only pleasant things about his church. One ortho- 
dox clergyman, after reading the chapter I had written about his 
denomination, said, "I could say very strong things about the people 
in the Church, but I would never dare say anything about the Church 
of Jesus Christ." Although this clergyman continues to be my friend, 
he is strongly displeased with the chapter as it stands. My opinion is 
that whatever one's theory of the origin and nature of the Church, the 
institutions which now exist are run by men and exhibit human frailty 
as well as human strength and wisdom. A rosy picture is probably an 
inaccurate one. No institution or way of thinking is all good and none 
is all bad. The Reverend P. Antonio Astrain, a Spanish Roman 
Catholic priest, states this proposition: 

Catholics and Protestants have agreed in writing the history of the 
sixteenth century as it is said Apelles painted the portrait of his one-eyed 
friend in profile. But with this difference that we Catholics present it 
from the side of the good eye, and the Protestants show it on the side of 
the blind eye. So long as history is written in that partial way, it will be 
impossible for us to understand each other. ... It is necessary to ex- 
amine the beautiful and the ugly, the good and the evil. 8 

Horace Greeley was joking when he said, "All Democrats may not 
be horse thieves; but all horse thieves are Democrats." Unfortunately 


most religious people are not joking when they say, "They're all out 
of step but us." 

The mature way to study a religion is to try to find out what it is 
that makes other people act as they do. Our religious beliefs are often 
miles apart; but our religious needs are much the same. The more 
we know about a group of people the less extreme their ideas seem; 
the more we know about the struggles other people are making the 
more they seem like ourselves. We all, confronted by life's mystery, 
construct symbols to help us deal with it. But our symbols differ. 
While we are going through the process of getting acquainted with 
the faith of other people, we must struggle against the temptation to 
distrust their sincerity and also against the temptation to think them 
unintelligent for believing in what are obviously to us absurd 

"The things taught in colleges and schools," said Emerson, "are 
not an education, but the means of education." Similarly a study of 
the facts of the religions will not supply us with the warm garments of 
religious wisdom; but such a study ought to supply us with the 
materials out of which such garments can be fashioned. 



IN MEDIEVAL times nearly everyone believed in miracles. Four or five 
centuries ago, however, the idea began to gain ground that every event 
is governed by natural laws and that God never breaks these laws. 
This idea has had a steady growth, until today it is believed by many 
people just how many, no one knows. 

One of the most revealing classifications of American religions is 
based on the degree to which churches teach belief in miracles. Some 
of the churches hold that when human beings get into trouble God will 
help them, just as an earthly father helps his children; God, they say, 
is not bound to follow "natural laws"; He made those laws. Other 
religious groups believe that a God who broke the laws He Himself 
had made would be fickle and unworthy of our highest devotion; 
members of these churches say that all the evidence of science points 
to the existence of a God whose love for man is expressed in His de- 
pendability, that what man must do is to find out what the laws of God 
are and obey them. A few religious groups hold it to be irrational to 
believe in any kind of personal God and so, of course, do not believe in 
the love of God as expressed in miracles; such groups contend that the 
universe is governed by natural laws which work mechanically. 


No American group maintains the traditional emphasis on super- 
naturalism with more vigor than does the Roman Catholic Church. 
This emphasis can be seen at many points in Catholic teaching,* but 

* Many Protestants hold that the single word Catholic should never be used 
to refer to the Roman Catholic Church. They believe that this Church is 



is nowhere more strikingly in evidence than in the belief concerning 
the divine origin of the Roman Catholic Church a miracle of awe- 
some proportions. The basis for this belief is a passage found in 
Matthew 16:15-19 one of the most disputed stories in the Bible. 
In this passage Jesus asked his disciples: 

. . . But whom do you say that I am? Simon Peter answered and said: 
Thou art Christ, the Son of the Living God. And Jesus answering, said 
to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath 
not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee: 
That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church. And the 
gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys 
of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it 
shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, 
it shall be loosed also in heaven. 

Catholics believe that this passage describes the origin of the 
Roman Catholic Church; its creation was a direct act of God. They 
assert that it was Jesus' intention to found just one Church, that He 
appointed Peter and no one else to be the ruler of the Church, 
that He gave Peter supernatural powers over the Church, and that He 
decreed that after His ascension all true religion was to be under the 
supervision of Peter and his successors. 

To faithful Catholics this doctrine is the foundation on which rests 
all their hope of overcoming the temptations of the Devil and of being 
saved from the torments of hell. They are thrilled and awed by the 
fact that God could so love His children that once and for all, without 
uncertainty or equivocation, He should give to men the richest possi- 
ble gift: the means of gaining heaven. They believe their Church has 
certain knowledge of all things necessary for salvation, and was given 
by God complete authority over all men in religious matters. 

In the last years of his life Peter, according to Catholic belief, went 
to Rome where he became Bishop and where he was finally executed 
by crucifixion. According to tradition, he was crucified head down- 
ward, at his own request, since he did not feel worthy to die in the 

catholic only in the sense that Protestant churches also are catholic. Never- 
theless, in this chapter, the customary American usage will be followed 
and the proper name Catholic will be used interchangeably with the proper 
name Roman Catholic, except where the Roman Catholic Church might be 
confused with other groups to which the term Catholic as a proper name is 
also applied. 
For definitions of the terms catholic and protestant see pages 95 f. 


same manner as did his Lord. Catholics hold that the apostolic powers 
which Jesus had given Peter were passed on to the successive Roman 
bishops; they too receive from God authority over all Christians. In 
the nineteen hundred years since the death of St. Peter, 260 men have 
sat on his throne, an unbroken line, say the faithful, which runs 
straight back to the fount of all Catholic authority the words of 
Jesus that day long ago in Palestine. Thus the Popes, bishops, and 
priests of Catholicism (and they alone) are believed to be in the 
Apostolic Succession each one of them has received his super- 
natural power and authority from the hands of men who go back in a 
continuous line to God Himself. 

The popular title of the Roman Bishop today is Pope, a word 
which means father; it comes from the Latin word papa. Catholics 
believe that the Pope is the spiritual father of all mankind, the repre- 
sentative of Christ on earth, and the sovereign ruler of all baptized 
Christians; to him unqualified obedience is due in matters of faith, 
morals, and ecclesiastical discipline. Catholics hold that all other 
churches are false, do not originate with Jesus Christ, and must in 
God's good time be finally destroyed. 


The Roman Catholic Church is governed from the top; all formal 
authority in religion rests with its priests and none with its laymen. At 
the head the Pope has absolute power in churchly matters. His de- 
cisions are law; Catholics believe that he is the agent through whom 
Christ works on earth. 

The Pope's authority can best be illustrated by an examination of 
the doctrine of papal infallibility. Catholics believe that the Pope 
cannot make a mistake when he speaks intentionally and officially to 
the entire Church on matters of religious faith or morals. He is not 
infallible (note it carefully) in all his acts. He is not infallible, for 
example, in his decisions concerning business affairs, or in his judg- 
ments of the men he appoints to office. The opinions of the Pope con- 
cerning the merits of, say, Gilbert and Sullivan as opposed to the 
merits of Hammerstein and Rodgers would be of only incidental inter- 
est to Catholics. Emphatically, they do not think the Pope is God. 
But when he (1) exercises his supreme office, (2) addresses the entire 

Church, (3) speaks on faith or morals, (4) interprets Scripture or 
tradition, and (5) intentionally formulates the doctrines of the Church 
the means of man's eternal salvation he is believed to be incapable 
of error. Catholics are certain this is true because they have, they 
believe, Christ's promise never to desert the Church; and on simple 
humanitarian grounds, if on no other, it is inconceivable to them that 
Christ should not use His supernatural powers to prevent error when 
the Pope is teaching mankind the truths which will determine whether 
man will spend eternity in heaven or in hell. 

Non-Catholics have rather generally misunderstood the dogma of 
infallibility. This misunderstanding is illustrated by a story which once 
circulated widely among non-Catholics in the United States. It con- 
cerned James Cardinal Gibbons, for many years the famous Arch- 
bishop of Baltimore. After it had been announced in 1870 that the 
dogma of papal infallibility had been explicitly formulated, Gibbons 
is reported to have said, "Well, the last time I saw the Holy Father, he 
called me Jibbons." 

This apocryphal story exhibits a serious misunderstanding. The 
conditions under which the Pope is believed to be incapable of error 
are carefully restricted, as has been noted. Moreover, it should be es- 
pecially remembered that whenever the Pope uses his infallible powers 
Catholics believe he does not create a new dogma; rather he simply 
makes explicit doctrines which have been implicit in the revelation 
since apostolic times. 

The Catholic Church insists that the Pope alone can determine what 
human activities are in the realm of "morals." Many non-Catholics 
feel that the Pope claims as his legitimate jurisdiction any political 
or economic issue about which he happens to be concerned. 

Catholics do not believe that the Pope leads a sinless life. Accord- 
ing to their teaching, Jesus and the Blessed Virgin were sinless, but 
no one else. Catholics admit that a few of the Popes have been un- 
savory characters. A contemporary American Catholic writes as 

In the tenth century, that period of profound humiliation for the 
Papacy, the papal chair fell into the hands of rival factions of the noble 
Roman families who contended in filling it with unworthy creatures. 
. . . The Papacy again fell into evil hands in the eleventh century. Bene- 


diet IX, a nephew of Benedict VIII and of Pope John XIX, was elected 
through machinations of the Counts of Tusculum of which family he was 
a member. A child of twelve years of age and already perverted in 
morals, his election was obtained by bribery and intimidation. His private 
life was scandalous and his public life ruled by family greed. 1 

Non-Catholics should not conclude from such frank statements 
as these that Catholics think that morals are unimportant in religion 
or that many of the Popes have been wicked men. Just the reverse is 
true. Catholics put a tremendous emphasis on right conduct and in- 
sist that no other line of rulers, civil or ecclesiastic, could begin to 
compare with the Popes for personal integrity or devotion to the 
welfare of mankind. Our Sunday Visitor, an official Catholic paper, 
contained the following statement: 

The Church's worst enemies can discover at most four or five who 
were unworthy of the Papacy, which means that the lives of 98% of all 
the Popes were not open to any severe criticism. The first 29 died 
martyrs, and everyone will agree that the Popes of the past century have 
been saints. 2 

Few non-Catholics today attack the characters of the modern Popes. 
Concerning Pius XII the Methodist Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam, in an 
address in which he spoke unfavorably of some aspects of Catholic 
action, claimed "no lack of respect for the distinguished, devoted, 
brilliant and brotherly Christian, who is the present Pope." 

The point of all this discussion of the personal lives of the Popes is 
to make clear that their morals, whether good or bad, have no bearing 
on the belief in their infallibility. The worst Popes, though they no 
doubt are suffering in hell, are still considered to have been infallible; 
God miraculously protects the Church from theological and moral 
error when the Pope exercises Ms power of infallibility. 

By no means aU the teachings of the Church are thought to be 
infallible; there are various levels of certainty in Catholic theology. In- 
fallible teachings, at the highest level, are called "Of Faith"; they 
must be believed by all Catholics. Teachings at the next level are 
called "certain"; their denial is "rash." Then come "common opin- 
ions"; their denial is "offensive to pious ears." Lower still are "more 
common opinions" and "less common opinions." 

The infallibility of the Pope means, of course, that the fundamental 
dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church are believed to be perfect. 


Faithful Catholics could speak as follows: "There is but one Church 
whose teachings are sure. God did not found the churches you 
Protestants attend; your churches are nowhere mentioned in the 
Bible. They were founded by men men who rebelled against God, 
His teachings, and His Church. You non-Catholics follow religions 
which are the result of human invention. Some of you even insist 
that every man must make up his own creed a horrible thought. 
How can you take such appalling chances with your eternal salvation? 
God founded but one Church and its basic teachings are certain." 

Catholics deny that their Church is one of the religious denomina- 
tions, as it is usually designated in American speech and law. Catholics 
hold that the Roman Catholic Church is not one of a series of 
churches; it is The Church. Cardinal Gushing of Boston said in an 
address in Holyoke, Massachusetts, that the Catholic Church is God 
Himself on this earth; a member of the staff of St. Patrick's Cathedral, 
New York City, said, "The Catholic Church claims to be Christ." 3 

The belief in the perfection of the Catholic faith means that there 
is no place in the practice of ordinary Catholic priests and laymen for 
the analysis and appraisal of basic religious ideas. The position is 
that either the fundamentals of religion come straight from God or 
they do not. If they do not, then religion is false. If they do, then 
religion is something objective, a gift from God, and not subject to 
judgment. Said Cardinal Gibbons, "Would God have left the soul of 
men to chance? Must He not have provided absolute assurance on so 
grave a matter as the salvation of the soul?" 

Clearly, in the light of these teachings, it is the duty of the indi- 
vidual Catholic to accept the basic teachings of the Church without 
questioning; it would be a grievous sin for a mere human to question 
the teachings of God. One of the American Catholic bishops said: 

To cause discussions on matters of our Holy Catholic Church, even 
if they are on "policies or methods" ... is about as wise and appropri- 
ate as having such debates in an old-fashioned saloon, the debaters forti- 
fied with jugs of beer or something stronger. 4 

Yet in spite of all this restriction on the discussion of the religious 
fundamentals, Catholics feel sure that they are intellectually free. 
Hilaire Belloc, an English Catholic author, contended that only 
Catholics have true intellectual liberty; he wrote: 


Nowhere outside the household of the Faith is the speculative reason 
fully active and completely free, save possibly as a rare exception, in a 
few of the more intelligent sceptics. ... He [the Catholic] accepts very 
few non-Catholics as his intellectual equals. 5 

This position can be asserted because Catholics define the word 
freedom differently from most other people. Catholics hold that it is 
not freedom to believe error. If something is untrue, they say, it is 
not freedom to have liberty to have faith in it. Would it be true free- 
dom for a child to be permitted to play with the bottles in the medicine 
cabinet and to take a drink of any one he wishes, even though some are 
full of poison? As an editorial in a diocesan paper put it: "There is no 
place in freedom for that liberty which would destroy liberty itself." 6 
Now in religion the Church has The Truth. She knows the path to 
heaven; she knows it, not because of her own labor or cleverness, but 
because God Himself has shown it to her. The Catholic contends he 
has a freedom transcending that of any nonbeliever, because he starts 
his thinking in the right direction; he makes the correct initial assump- 

But beyond these initial assumptions there is vigorous, and some- 
times aggressive, disagreement among Roman Catholics. The bishop 
who, speaking about a conference of prelates, said, "We disagree on 
everything but the Apostles' Creed," spoke with obvious exagger- 
ation, but with much truth. In fact the success of the Catholic Church 
has often been attributed to her ability to satisfy the needs of many 
types of personality. Two Protestant students of church life, speaking 
of the Roman Catholic Church, declared that "perhaps the super- 
lative genius of the organization is its extraordinary capacity to deal 
with human idiosyncrasies." 7 

Catholics emphasize their belief in tolerance and contend that they 
are intolerant of religious and moral error only; they cannot, they say, 
see men speeding toward the chasm of hell and still, like good fellows, 
say "You go your way and I'll go mine." But if men are headed away 
from damnation and toward salvation and are following the commands 
of Almighty God as revealed to the Roman Catholic Church, wide 
tolerance in belief and action is granted. In all life's relations in 
education, in politics, in business, in recreation Catholics assert their 
belief in a live-and-let-live policy, except where the destiny of the 


human soul is at stake. But here too the Church claims a true toler- 
ance; for, she protects her children against what she is certain is error. 
Our Sunday Visitor states the Catholic opinion emphatically: "What- 
ever intolerance is manifest in the world today is not Catholic 
intolerance towards others, but Communist, atheist, infidel and 
Protestant intolerance towards Catholics," 


The Catholic Church is ruled from Rome. The character and 
extent of this rule is an important aspect of our study since many 
non-Catholics in the United States show deep concern over the fact 
that so many Americans give spiritual allegiance to a foreign prelate. 

For many centuries the Pope was the monarch of a considerable 
territory in Italy; in addition to being the spiritual ruler of world 
Catholicism, he was the temporal ruler of an Italian principality. 
However, the unification, in 1870, of the small Italian states into the 
modern nation of Italy cost the Pope his "temporal power"; his king- 
dom was taken away. In protest, he shut himself up in his Roman 
palace the Vatican and refused to come out. For over a half 
century the successive Popes were voluntary prisoners. In 1929, how- 
ever, Mussolini and the Pope came to an agreement by which the 
Pope again became a temporal sovereign. An area of about one fourth 
of a square mile, in the heart of Rome, was given to him. This section 
of the city ceased to be Italian territory and became an independent 
state; it is called the Vatican City, and the Pope is its ruler. 

The affairs of the Vatican are run with great pomp and ceremony. 
"Today, it is substantially an Italian court of the Renaissance type, 
with titles and costumes used in the sixteenth century." 8 The Vatican 
contains a throne room, the Pope wears a triple crown, and one of his 
important assistants is a cardinal in charge of ceremonies. Protocol is 
so strict at the Vatican that some of the faithful were shocked by the 
fact that President Woodrow Wilson during a private audience with 
the Pope kept on his overcoat. Etiquette requires that the Holy Father 
eat alone. f 

The Pope carries tremendous responsibilities. As the spiritual leader 
of half a billion people and the Bishop of the cathedral church of 
Rome, he must officiate at a large number of churchly functions: the 


canonization of saints, the elevation of cardinals, the celebration of 
Holy Days, the reception of pilgrims, the consecration of devotional 
objects. In addition he has the final authority in administering the vast 
affairs of a world-wide enterprise. His days are fuU of audiences with 
bishops and archbishops, of reading reports, of presiding at conclaves, 
of preparing sermons, of writing encyclical letters, of studying the 
complex problems which confront all religions today. In his personal 
life, the Pope has the same duties which are assumed by every priest: 
he says Mass each morning, he reads his Breviary (mostly selections 
from the Bible) for about three quarters of an hour each day, and he 
confesses his sins regularly to an especially appointed confessor. 

The second highest dignity in the Roman Catholic Church is that 
of the cardinals; they are the "princes of the church," holding in the 
ecclesiastical court of the Vatican the rank which the "princes of the 
blood" hold in secular courts. Cardinals are appointed by the Pope 
and compose the College of Cardinals. Their number traditionally 
was limited to seventy but this limitation is no longer observed. The 
chief power of this group is to elect the Pope; aside from this function, 
the duties of the College are advisory. As individuals, however, the 
cardinals hold many important administrative posts. For example, 
each of the Roman Congregations the major departments of the 
Church's government has a cardinal at its head, and some of the 
archdioceses are also headed by cardinals. 

From the fourteenth century until 1946 the College of Cardinals 
was dominated by Italians; for all these centuries, Italians composed 
a majority of the group. This situation disturbed American Catholics, 
who saw no reason to suppose that spiritual sensitivity was a special 
possession of persons who happened to be born in Italy. Americans 
have long felt that the growing strength of the Church in the United 
States was not sufficiently recognized in the Sacred College. They 
know that the Vatican leans heavily on the United States for its in- 
come. The extent of American support is not known to the public; 
the exact status of Vatican finances is a closely guarded secret. How- 
ever, it is sometimes estimated that gifts from the United States to 
the Pope exceed in value the gifts from all other sources combined. 

Pope Pius XII strove to give Catholics everywhere representation 
among the cardinals. When he assumed office in 1939, twenty-four 


out of thirty-eight cardinals were Italian. But at one stroke he elevated 
twenty-eight "foreigners" to the Sacred College, and only four 
Italians. Thus for the first time in the modern era the Italians formed 
less than a majority of the College. The representation of the Western 
Hemisphere was increased from only three to fourteen. The number 
of cardinals in the United States was increased to five. Pope John 
XXIII has continued this policy. In 1961, of the eighty-six cardinals, 
thirty-two were Italian and fifty-four were non-Italian. Six were from 
the United States. In 1962, the number of Cardinals was increased to 

The Pope has, in addition to the counsel of the cardinals, the as- 
sistance of a multitude of departments, bureaus, and courts. Such 
interests as the following are under the supervision of especially quali- 
fied leaders: diplomatic relations, missions, education, finance, 
doctrinal problems, direction of bishops, direction of orders of monks 
and nuns, administration of the sacraments, conduct of worship, 
annulment of marriages, disputes among the faithful. Although final 
power in all matters belongs to the Pope, in actual practice the affairs 
of the Church are so extensive that most of the administrative de- 
cisions which come from the Vatican are made by lesser officials who 
work through this elaborate organization. 

The Roman Catholic Church is divided into territorial units called 
dioceses; a diocese is ruled by a bishop. Dioceses in the most im- 
portant cities are given prestige by being called archdioceses and by 
being ruled by an archbishop. In the United States there are 111 
dioceses and 27 archdioceses. These territorial units are combined into 
larger units called provinces. Each province is presided over by an 
archbishop. The archbishop at the head of a province has great 
dignity; but he has relatively little power over the other bishops in the 
province; they are governed in most matters directly from Rome, The 
archbishop's function in the province is one of spiritual and intellec- 
tual leadership. In his own archdiocese, of course, the archbishop 
exercises the authority of any bishop. 

The bishops are believed to be the successors of Christ's apostles 
and thus to have apostolic powers. A writer in The Catholic Encyclo- 
pedia says, "The episcopate is monarchial. By the will of Christ, the 
supreme authority in a diocese does not belong to a college of priests 


or of bishops, but it resides in the single person of the chief." 9 Thus 
the bishop has the power to care for and direct the spiritual life of all 
Catholics who dwell within the boundaries of his diocese. He does 
this by organizing it into parishes, by visiting each of these parishes 
periodically, by personally holding title to all Catholic property in 
his diocese (except property belonging to the religious orders), by 
establishing and maintaining schools, by ordaining priests, by pro- 
viding agencies for the conversion of non-Catholics, by setting per- 
sonally an example for the spiritual life of the faithful 

The bishop has the power to enforce his decisions; he can censure, 
demote, excommunicate, and in the case of priests, he can "confine 
for a time in a monastery/' Since there are over two thousand bishops 
and archbishops throughout the world, it would be foolish to claim that 
these powers are never abused. But the bishop seldom finds it neces- 
sary to use the full weight of his power; priests and laymen alike are 
so accustomed to expecting direction from him on all matters pertain- 
ing to faith and morals, that they seldom challenge his authority. Yet 
Catholics do not usually consider him to be a stern ruler. Almost uni- 
versally Catholic folk think of their bishop as a beloved leader who 
has given his life to the Church and who needs their prayers. 

The hierarchical system continues right to the bottom of the 
Catholic governmental structure. Each parish is under the control of 
a pastor. The pastor may have as his assistants ordained priests 
(curates) , and he can seek freely the advice of able laymen in difficult 
matters of administration; but in the last analysis, he has final au- 
thority within the boundaries of his parish, unless he is overruled by 
his bishop or by the Vatican. He has charge of the funds of the church 
and he may disperse them without being under obligation to report 
back to his parishioners. He has control of all services of worship and 
he is the head of the parish school. Ordinary members of the hierarchy 
may not come into his parish to perform religious functions or even to 
speak on religious matters without his permission. Many a person 
bent on decreasing religious prejudice has made the mistake of asking 
a well-known priest to speak at a goodwill meeting, without first con- 
sulting the man who is in control of the parish where the meeting will 
take place. His permission is mandatory in this as in all other matters 
pertaining to the spiritual welfare of the parish. The pastor has au- 

thority only in ecclesiastical matters, and he is not thought to be 
infallible. In his conduct of parish affairs, he acts in accordance with 
the long-established principles of the Church and is under the direct 
and constant supervision of his superiors. Catholics put their trust in 
his spiritual wisdom and in his supernatural powers; for the "hands 
have been laid upon him" and he is a priest of God, and Catholics 
believe he acts for Christ. 

The title monsignor is given to priests who have made exceptional 
contributions to the life of the Church. The monsignor ranks in 
dignity just below the bishop. But the title carries no specific duties; 
it is given to priests because their accomplishments merit special dis- 

The bishops and archbishops in the United States have banded to- 
gether to form the National Catholic Welfare Conference, with head- 
quarters in Washington, for the purpose of co-ordinating Catholic 
Action in this country. The Conference has great prestige and it works 
effectively in education, social service, and publicity; but it does not 
exercise jurisdiction over its member bishops. In Washington also 
is the office of the Apostolic Delegate. He is the direct representative 
of the Vatican, the leading member of the hierarchy in this country, 
and the wielder of a great deal of authority. 


Let us turn now to Catholic beliefs about God, Jesus Christ, angels, 
demons, saints, and the future life. 

Catholics, along with most of the groups we will study, are mono- 
theists they believe in one God. The following statement is a simple 
exposition of Protestant and Catholic monotheistic belief: God is 
personal He has more in common with a human being than with 
anything else we can liken Him to. God is pure spirit He has no 
body and is not subject to the limitations of matter. God is eternal* 
past, present and future are one to Him. God is ubiquitous He is 
present everywhere. God is omniscient He knows everything. God is 
holy His love is perfect. God is omnipotent His power is boundless. 

Many of these propositions are puzzling; thus they receive a great 
deal of exposition in Catholic (and other religious) writing. Limita- 
tions of space prevent the elaboration here of these discussions; they 


can be but illustrated by quoting a passage from a standard college 
textbook on the Catholic faith. Dr. Paul J. Glenn expounds the 
omnipotence of God in the following manner: 

"God is omnipotent. He can do all things. Can God, then, make a 
square circle? Can God make an object that shall be entirely black and 
also entirely white? Can God utter a truth that is false or a lie that is 
true?" Certainly not. God can do all things, but what you suggest are not 
things, but denials of things. You suggest contradictions, that is two 
things, one of which negatives or cancels the other: the result is simply 
zero. A "square circle" is "a circle that is not a circle"; in other words, 
it is nothingness. Your suggestion is like this: you draw a circle on the 
blackboard. Then you erase it carefully leaving not a trace of the draw- 
ing. Then you stand back, and, pointing to empty space, you say, "Can 
God make that?" Make what? 

Catholics are trinitarian, as are most Protestants. Trinitarians be- 
lieve that in the Godhead there are three persons: the Father, the Son, 
and the Holy Ghost. God is one substance but contains three persons. 
An inquiring mind is moved to ask, "How is it possible for three 
persons to be one God? Such a proposition is contrary to the human 
reason." But the dogma of the Trinity, say the faithful, was not con- 
ceived by the human reason; the Trinity is one of the truths about 
supernatural things which God Himself revealed to mankind. One 
Catholic writer explains the Trinity thus: 

While we grant that the dogma of the Blessed Trinity is an absolute 
mystery, which unassisted reason could never discover, nor even recog- 
nize as possible, we deny that it involves any contradiction. . . . All 
things in God are common to the Three Persons, and are one and the 
same, except where there is the opposition of relation. The divine activity 
is common to the Three Persons, who are the One Principle of all things. 
As the words one and three refer to essentially different things, NATURE 
and PERSON, there can be no question of any contradiction of terms. . . . 
The Three Persons who have the Divine Nature are not three gods, be- 
cause the Divine Nature is numerically the same in each one of them. 
How this can be we can never comprehend. We accept this doctrine only 
because it has been revealed to us by God himself. 11 

The doctrine of the Trinity means that Jesus Christ is God. Jesus 
is the Son, the second person of the Trinity. Trinitarians believe that 
God in His infinite love for mankind wished to make clear all of the 
supernatural truths essential to man's salvation. Therefore, He took 
upon Himself the form of a human being. The Son lived on earth, 


walked over the dusty roads of Palestine, instructed His disciples, 
was executed, rose from the dead, and now reigns in heaven, where 
He is enthroned at the right hand of the Father. Only the second 
person of the Trinity did these things. This teaching about Jesus is 
called the Doctrine of the Incarnation. 

The orthodox, Catholic and Protestant alike, believe, however, that 
Jesus Christ was man as well as God. They believe that he had the 
attributes of man he suffered, became tired, was tempted, hungered. 
Thus Jesus Christ is believed to have had two natures one human 
and the other divine. "Yet," says one writer, "these two Natures 
remain strictly distinct; the lower does not in any way influence the 
higher, while the higher only influences the lower as it would do even 
if it were separated," 12 This doctrine is called the dogma of the dual 
nature of Jesus Christ. How the doctrine can be true is a transcendent 

The nature of the Holy Ghost is also a mystery. It is believed, how- 
ever, that this third person of the Trinity works in the world: He 
appeared in the form of a dove at the baptism of Jesus; He descended 
in tongues of fire at Pentecost. (See Acts 2.) He is present in the soul 
of every true Christian, where He accomplishes the cleansing and 
strengthening work of salvation. 


Catholics believe that many beings other than the Blessed Trinity 
inhabit the celestial regions. Next to God are the angels which, ac- 
cording to Catholic faith, exist in prodigious numbers. Angels are 
beings intermediate between God and man, and they are purely 
spiritual, having no bodies. There are three hierarchies of angels and 
each hierarchy has three choirs. The function of the first hierarchy is 
the contemplation of the Godhead; of the second, the arrangement of 
things in the universe; of the third, the execution of God's orders. 
The names of these choirs, from top to bottom, are said to be as 
follows: seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominations, virtues, powers, 
principalities, archangels, angels. The names of only four individual 
angels are known: Raphael, Michael, Gabriel, and Lucifer (Satan). 
Pius XII near the close of his reign urged some pilgrims from New 
York to seek "a certain familiar acquaintance with the angels," and 


added, "No one is so humble but he has angels to attend him. So 
glorious, so pure, so wonderful they are, and yet they are given to be 
your fellow wayfarers, charged to watch carefully over you lest you 
fall away from Christ, their Lord." 13 

The Catholic Church teaches that sometimes demons (fallen 
angels) take possession of a human being and control his body, talking 
through it and committing crimes. "Authentic cases of [demon] pos- 
session sometimes occur and every priest, especially if he be a parish 
priest, or pastor, is liable to be called upon to perform his duty as 
exorcist." 14 An exorcist is a person who casts out demons. A priest is 
considered to have received the power of exorcism at one of the rites 
which are preliminary to his final ordination. He finds frequent use 
for this power. For example, a child about to be baptized is exorcised 
as a preparation for entry into the Church. The priest puts salt into 
the child's mouth, rubs spittle from his own mouth on the child's nose 
and ears, blows his breath in the child's face, and says, "Depart, thou 
evil spirit, and give place to the Holy Ghost." The press noted a non- 
baptismal exorcism when a fourteen-year-old St. Louis boy was freed 
of an evil spirit. 15 Another example of the use of the power of exor- 
cism is the preparation of holy water. Found near the entrance to 
Catholic churches, holy water is a mixture of exorcised water and 
exorcised salt. Physical contact with this water is believed to have a 
purifying and strengthening effect. A leaflet published by the Bene- 
dictine Fathers says that Catholics "sprinkle the interior of their homes 
with holy water in times of severe storms and similar dangers, and in 
many places it is customary for the Priest to bless the whole house with 
the newly-blessed Easter water on Holy Saturday. ... At the time 
of death, holy water is frequently sprinkled over the bed of the sick 
person and around the room to ward oS all the wiles and temptations 
of the Evil Spirit." 

Catholics believe that at the end of time the Judgment Day 
Satan and all his demons will be confined in hell and never again will 
be allowed to pass beyond its boundaries. 


In addition to the angels, God has with Him in heaven, according 
to Catholic teaching, the souls of men and women who are saved; 


these are the saints. Since God is holy, no soul which has not been 
made spotlessly clean can enter heaven. Very few human beings live 
lives of such purity that they can be purged in this life of their sins 
and thus go to heaven immediately after death; most souls must go first 
to purgatory to be cleansed of the stains of earthly sins. When, after 
purgation, the soul finally reaches heaven, it has the most glorious ex- 
perience possible: it sees God, it has the beatific vision. 

Catholics say prayers through souls the Church has declared to be 
saints; Catholics believe it is entirely rational to present their petitions 
to God through the souls who stand before His throne. Since the 
prayers of a saint are said directly to God, they are thought to be 
much more effective than the prayers of one who is still confined to 
the earth. 

The greatest of all the saints is the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. 

Mary is God's choicest handiwork, as the most perfect and most holy 
person God ever made. 16 

We Catholics love her because we love Jesus. Jesus was God, so that 
His mother must be called the Mother of God. We love her because 
God loved her first. It was He, after all, who chose her out of all the 
girls in Palestine; it was He who set her apart from everlasting to be the 
mother of His Son in this world; it was He who granted her the unique 
privilege of begetting a child without the cooperation of any natural 
father. He it was who spared her soul the withering blight of Adam's 
sin; who ornamented her with every virtue; who lifted her body up from 
the tomb, lest it become the food of worms and decay, and brought it 
direct to heaven. 17 

Catholics believe in the Virgin Birth, that is, in the dogma that 
Jesus had no earthly father. Furthermore, they teach that Mary and 
Joseph remained virgins all their lives. Non-Catholics point out that 
the brothers of Jesus are mentioned several times in the Bible. 18 
Catholics reply that the word brother proves nothing; it had wide 
meaning among the Jews. The men whom our English translations call 
brother James, Joseph, Simon, and Jude were probably cousins of 
Jesus, say Catholics, though we cannot be certain about it. But we can 
be certain that they were not sons of Mary; for, it is a part of divine 
revelation that Mary was perpetually a virgin. 

Catholics believe in the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 
that is, in the preservation of her body after her death and its trans- 


portation to heaven where it was reunited with her soul. Two centuries 
ago denial of the Assumption was declared to be impious and 
blasphemous. In 1946 Pius XII asked all bishops for their opinion on 
making the Assumption a part of the infallible teaching of the Church. 
In 1950 the dogma was declared to be definitely part of the revelation, 
and belief in it became mandatory, 

Mary is honored in many ways: her statue is found in all Catholic 
churches (or "should be," says my neighbor, the Catholic curate); 
Catholics consider that she is the patron saint of the United States; 
she is honored every time a Catholic says the Rosary. The Rosary is 
a prayer composed in part of a portion of the Annunciation to Mary 
of the coming birth of Jesus. The full prayer follows: 

Hail Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with thee: blessed art thou 
amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, 
Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. 

In praying the Rosary, a worshiper repeats the Lord's Prayer, and 
then repeats the prayer printed above ten times. This sequence is 
repeated fifteen times. During these prayers, the worshiper meditates 
on fifteen different events in the life of Jesus. 

Rosary beads are used to count the prayers. Strictly speaking, the 
Rosary is the spiritual exercise and not the string of beads. 

It would be well at this point to note that the Catholic version of the 
Lord's Prayer differs from the Protestant version. The difference is 
that Catholics leave out the words which Protestants use to conclude 
the prayer, "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, 
for ever." These words are found in the Protestant King James Version 
of the Bible, but not in the Catholic Douay Version (Matthew 6:13). 
Biblical scholars generally agree that these words were not spoken by 
Jesus, but were added by a later editor. 

Next to the Virgin Mary the most beloved saint is Joseph, her 
husband. A priest writes: 

The dignity of St. Joseph in the last analysis stems from the fact that 
he was the virginal husband of the Mother of God. It was because of Ms 
marriage to our Lady that he possessed the rights of a father over Jesus 
her Son. . . . Joseph obtains graces and favors for his clients by going to 
Jesus through Mary. . . . Since the Holy Family was one on earth in love 
and mutual confidence, they have the same close intimacy in Heaven. 19 


Catholic veneration of the saints is evidenced by the fact that faith- 
ful Catholic parents name each of their children after a saint and by 
the fact that in Catholic churches many works of art paintings, 
windows, statues do the saints honor. It should be carefully noted, 
however, that Catholics adore God alone; only honor and reverence 
are given the saints. Special emphasis should be put on the fact that 
Catholics are supposed never to worship the statue of a saint; any 
statue is but an aid to worship. It is my impression, however, that lay 
Catholics sometimes violate this rule. 


Catholics believe that there are four possible places (or states) for 
the soul after death: heaven, hell, purgatory, and limbo. 

Heaven is generally considered to be a definite place just where 
is not known. It is the place where the souls go who have been made 
pure of sin; there they experience a supernatural happiness. This 
happiness consists chiefly of seeing God face to face, that is, of ex- 
periencing the beatific vision. At the "last day," it is believed, the 
souls in heaven will receive back their bodies. These bodies will be 
glorified, will be immortal, will be beyond the reach of pain, will shine 
like the sun, will be able to move with instantaneous speed, will be 
incapable of sin. 

Hell is conceived as a place or state where the damned demons 
and men are punished for their sins. From certain passages in the 
Bible it is generally thought that hell is inside the earth; no direct 
revelation on the point has been made. 

Purgatory is believed to be a place (or perhaps a state) of cleansing 
where souls go immediately after death to atone for the sins they 
have committed on earth. The soul suffers torment in purgatory: the 
beatific vision is denied and the purgatorial fire causes suffering more 
severe than anything which can be experienced in this life. Some 
Catholics believe that the sufferings of purgatory are as painful as 
those of hell; others, however, assert that the severity of purgatorial 
punishment corresponds to the wickedness of the sins which were 
committed on earth. Catholic teaching is that the punishment of 
purgatory will have an end; every soul will be released as soon as its 


debt for sin has been paid. Furthermore, purgatory itself will one day 
cease to exist. 

Limbo is of two kinds. The limbo of the fathers is an abode of 
natural happiness where souls went if they were justified before Christ 
opened the gates of heaven at the time of His resurrection; the saints 
of the Old Testament, for example, went at first to limbo and then 
entered heaven after the resurrection. The limbo of the infants is the 
place of eternal abode for unbaptized infants. Jesus said, "Unless a 
man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into 
the kingdom of God." However, that saying does not mean that all 
unbaptized persons go to hell; hell is thought to be reserved for those 
who have willfully disobeyed God's law. A person cannot be willfully 
disobedient before he has reached the age of reason. Therefore, God 
provides in the limbo of the infants a place where unbaptized persons, 
who have not achieved the knowledge of right and wrong, are sent. It 
is a place of much greater natural happiness than the earth, and those 
who dwell there are free from any positive spiritual anguish for the 
loss of the beatific vision. 

Immediately after death, God decides the soul's fate, decides to 
which of the abodes for the dead the soul will go. This decision is the 
particular judgment. 

Theologians suppose that the particular judgment will be instantane- 
ous, that in the moment of death the separated soul is internally illumi- 
nated as to its own guilt or innocence, and of its own initiation takes its 
course either to hell, or to purgatory, or to heaven. 20 

The Catholic Church teaches that at the end of time will occur the 
last judgment, sometimes called the general judgment; then Jesus 
Christ will return to earth and will judge all men. The time when this 
event will happen no one knows; but the place where it will occur 
is thought to be in the air just above the earth. Evidence for this faith is 
found at many points in the Bible. Perhaps the best-known passage is 
I Thessalonians 4:15-16 where Paul wrote: 

For the Lord himself shall come down from heaven with command- 
ment, and with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God: 
and the dead who are in Christ, shall rise first. Then we who are alive, 
who are left, shall be taken up together with them in the clouds to meet 
Christ, into the air, and so shall we be always with the Lord. 


Catholic dogma holds that the last judgment will be preceded by 
many signs and wonders; among these forebodings are the following: 
the Jews will be converted to Christianity; Enoch and Elijah (the 
two men who are said in the Bible never to have experienced death 
but to have gone directly to heaven) will return to earth; there will be 
a great reduction in the number of Christian people through the aban- 
donment of the faith by many nations; the world will be ruled for a 
time by the Antichrist (the archenemy of Christ); extraordinary 
natural disturbances will occur pestilences, famines, earthquakes, 
fires; the trumpet of the resurrection will sound, a trumpet which will 
awaken the dead; the "sign" of the Son of Man (perhaps the cross) 
will appear in the heavens. 

At death the soul and the body are separated. On the last day the 
bodies of men, both the saved and the damned, will be resurrected 
and will be reunited with the souls to which they were joined before 


No part of Catholic belief and practice when fully understood is 
more astonishing to Protestants and Jews or more satisfying to 
Catholics than the Mass the central act of Catholic worship. The 
first saying of the Mass, according to the Catholic faith, was on the 
night before Jesus was betrayed, at the Last Supper. 

And whilst they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and 
broke: and gave to his disciples and said: Take ye and eat. This is my 
body. And taking the chalice, he gave thanks and gave to them, saying: 
Drink ye all of this. For this is my blood of the new testament, which 
shall be shed for many unto remission of sins. 

The Mass is the re-enactment of the Last Supper; included are the 
saying of many prayers, the giving of many blessings, the reading of 
Scripture lessons, and frequently the preaching of a sermon; but all 
these are of minor significance when compared to the Consecration 
of the elements, the repetition by the priest of the words which Jesus 
said at the Last Supper. The priest takes unleavened bread and grape 
wine to the altar; then, as he says in Latin, "This is my body," the 
bread ceases to be bread, according to the Catholic faith, and becomes 
the Body of Jesus Christ. As he says, "This is my blood," the wine 
ceases to be wine and becomes the Blood of Jesus Christ. 


Non-Catholics, unless they read carefully, are apt to miss the full 
significance of Catholic faith at this point. The bread does not become 
the symbol of Jesus' Body; nor is His Body present merely after a 
spiritual manner; nor is it present along with the bread. The substance 
bread ceases to be bread and becomes flesh, the flesh which walked 
the earth as perfect God and perfect man. Likewise, the wine becomes 
the actual Blood of Jesus. A priest writes, "Jesus Christ is present in 
this Sacrament truly, not merely in a figurative manner, really, not 
merely by faith, substantially, not merely by His power." 21 This stu- 
pendous miracle is called transubstantiation the changing over of 
the substance. 

The reasonableness of belief in transubstantiation is defended in the 
following ways. First, its reality is a part of the revelation, part of the 
infallible teachings about which there can be no mistake. Second, at 
the Last Supper Jesus did not say, "This bread is a symbol of my 
body"; He said, "This is my body." Third, Jesus performed another 
miracle of transubstantiation when He changed water into wine at the 
wedding feast. Fourth, it is not considered that the miracle is wrought 
by the priest; rather the miracle is wrought by God who uses the words 
of the priest as the occasion for using His supernatural power. 

Catholic writers sometimes make even greater claims for the powers 
of the priest. A passage from a theological handbook reads: 

The priest has power over the lifeless created thing and over the 
Creator Himself, and that just when he pleases. One word out of his 
mouth compels the Creator of the Universe and of Heaven to come down 
to earth, strips Him of His greatness and hides Him under the form of 
the Bread. 22 

One of the Cardinals, in a pastoral letter written in 1906, said: 

Where even in heaven is there such power as that of the Catholic 
priest? Once did Mary bring the divine Child into the world, and behold, 
the priest does it not once but a hundred, a thousand times, as often as he 
celebrates. To the priests has Christ handed over the right over His holy 
humanity, to them he has similarly given control over His body. The 
Catholic Priest can . . . make it present upon the altar, shut it up in the 
tabernacle, take it out again, and give it to the faithful to enjoy. . . . 
Christ the only begotten Son of God the Father is thus at his disposal. 23 

After the Mass has been said, the Body of Our Lord looks like bread 
and tastes like bread. But this fact, acknowledged freely by Catholics, 


does not destroy their faith. They say that the miracle deals with the 
substance and not with the accidents of the bread and wine. The real 
substance of any object, they believe, can never be directly experi- 
enced by the senses; the senses experience only the form, the acci- 
dents. For example, a student has on his desk a paperweight. It is 
made of iron. But he cannot really experience iron. He can see that 
the iron is perhaps round and brown; he can feel that it is heavy, and 
cold. He can strike it with a pencil and discover that it has a dull 
sound. But with all these sensations he has not experienced iron; he 
has experienced only the accidents which surround the iron. The iron 
in the paperweight might have had other accidents: it might have been 
square, red, hot, and have a hollow sound. Similarly, say Catholics, 
with the bread and wine on the altar. When God performs the miracle 
of the Mass He changes the physical substances bread and wine into 
the physical substances flesh and blood; but He leaves the accidents 
unchanged. This is the reason the Blessed Body and the Precious 
Blood continue to look and taste like bread and wine. 

Non-Catholics can begin to get some idea of the attitude which 
faithful Catholics have toward their church building if it is realized 
that they believe the building is the house of God in a literal sense; 
God is physically present there. Thus ecclesiastical law requires that 
churches which contain the Blessed Sacrament be kept open if possible 
for at least a few hours every day; most Catholic churches are in fact 
open every day in the year. Of course, Catholics believe that God is 
everywhere, just as other Christian people do. But in addition they 
believe that after the elements have been consecrated, God is really 
present on the altar. The actual words of the Consecration are said by 
the priest with his back turned toward the audience; but immediately 
after the miracle has been performed, he elevates the wafer of bread, 
now called the Host, high above his head for all to see. The worshipers 
then look with awe upon the Body of God and devoutly say, "My Lord 
and My God." 

In receiving Communion, Catholic laymen are permitted to partake 
only of the Body of Our Lord; since the twelfth century the drinking 
of the Precious Blood has been reserved for the priest. Communion 
in but "one kind" means no spiritual loss to the layman; for, the infi- 


nite Christ is believed to be in the Blessed Body, whole and entire 
the divine being cannot be divided into parts. 

The non-Catholic reader should ponder the spiritual and physical 
effects on devout Catholics of receiving into their own bodies what 
they believe to be the Body of Almighty God Himself, Their own weak 
human selves thus become the very tabernacle of the infinite Christ 
and continue so until the digestive processes significantly change the 
accidents of bread. How this wonder can be, Catholics do not under- 
stand. It is a mystery. It is beyond reason, though they consider it is 
not contradictory to reason. The infallible Church is the guarantor of 
their faith. 

Another significant teaching about the Mass is that each time it is 
said, the death on Calvary is presented anew. Traditional Christians 
both Catholic and Protestant hold that sin so estranged man from 
God that it was necessary for some act of sacrifice to be made to win 
back for man the favor of God; the Crucifixion was this sacrifice. 
Catholics believe that the Mass repeats the sacrifice of the Crucifixion. 
There on the altar Jesus Christ takes again upon Himself the sins of 
men and again is offered up to appease the wrath of a God angry with 
the wickedness of His children. There is but one difference, in Catho- 
lic belief, between the sacrifice on the cross and the sacrifice on the 
altar: the one was bloody and the other is not. 

Having considered briefly the central doctrines of the Mass, a de- 
scription of it and of its celebration will give some understanding of 
Catholic moods and piety, and of the kind of impressions made on 
worshipers by the great rite. Any description for non-Catholics must 
include much detail because they are usually greatly confused by the 
elaborate ceremonies which surround this sacrament. 

The Mass takes place on an altar. This sacred structure must have 
a stone that has been consecrated by a bishop and it must contain a 
sealed sepulcher in which are fragments of the bodies of at least one 
and preferably two or more martyred saints. Above or on the altar 
must be either a crucifix or a painting of the Crucifixion. Some altars 
are movable; but those seen in most Catholic churches are fixed. On 
fixed altars there is a little safe called the tabernacle in which the 
Sacred Hosts are reserved, if any remain after Communion. 


As worshipers gather in the church for the Mass, they make their 
offerings before they enter the aisles; then, just before they enter the 
pews, they pause to show their reverence for the reserved Host in the 
tabernacle by genuflecting before the altar. One genuflects by a mo- 
mentary bending of the knee. Once in the pew the Catholic worshiper 
is supposed to begin his own private devotions: he may meditate, he 
may say his own prayers, he may pray the Rosary. Many Catholics 
continue these private devotions right through the Mass, pausing only 
to observe its most solemn moments. Other Catholics follow the read- 
ing of the priest in a Missal, a book which contains the Latin worship 
forms which the priest is using and also English translations. Under 
usual conditions, Catholic worship is much less "congregational" than 
Protestant worship. 

Before Mass begins the priest puts on the vestments the garments 
in which it is customary for Mass to be said; these vestments were 
adopted for ecclesiastical use from the secular dress of the Romans 
in the third and fourth centuries. As the priest puts on each garment 
he prays that he may be made more worthy of his divine responsi- 
bilities. The vestments are in six colors; each color is symbolic of a 
different aspect of the spiritual life and is used at different seasons 
of the Church year. White is a symbol of joy; red, of blood; green, of 
hope; violet, of penance; rose, of joy during penitential seasons; black, 
of mourning. 

At the beginning of the Mass the priest and his server enter, the 
priest carrying the chalice. At the foot of the altar the priest, in Latin, 
prays forgiveness for his own sins and for the sins of the people. 

I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word and deed: through my 
fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault. Therefore I 
beseech blessed Mary, ever virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, 
blessed John the Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, all the saints, 
and^you, brethren, to pray to the Lord our God for me. . . . May the 
almighty and merciful Lord grant us pardon, absolution, and remission of 
our sins. 

The priest then ascends the altar steps, and bending over the altar 
kisses it; this kiss is symbolic of a greeting on the part of the Church, 
the bride (represented by the priest) to Christ, the bridegroom (rep- 
resented by the altar). Then the priest asks that God will have mercy 
and recites the Gloria. 


Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace to men of good will. 
We praise Thee; we bless Thee; we adore Thee; we glorify Thee. We give 
Thee thanks for Thy great glory. . . . Thou only art the Lord: Thou only, 
O Jesus Christ, art most high, together with the Holy Ghost, in the glory 
of God the Father. 

Then follows the service of instruction: the priest reads from one 
of the Epistles, and then from one of the Gospels, and then a part of a 
Psalm. On solemn occasions he recites the Nicene Creed; he may 
also preach a sermon. The sermon is in the vernacular, in English in 
most American churches. At the end of the service of instruction an 
offering is sometimes taken. 

After the service of instruction is over, the priest prepares the ele- 
ments for the Consecration. He places a wafer on the paten a small 
plate and then pours wine and a few drops of water into the chalice 
the sacred cup. Wine and water are mixed in the chalice to signify 
the mystical union of both the divine and human elements in Jesus 
Christ. The priest then washes carefully his thumbs and forefingers; 
for, they will touch the Blessed Body. During the cleansing of his 
fingers he recites part of the 25th Psalm. Then by solemn prayers he 
prepares himself for the Consecration. 

At the beginning of the Canon the most sacred part of the Mass 
three bells are rung to warn the faithful that the Consecration is about 
to take place. The worshipers kneel and the priest proceeds in a low 
voice; for it is fitting that things most sacred and holy be celebrated 
in near silence. However, he speaks loudly enough so that he can hear 
his own voice. He prays to God to remember especially certain living 
persons; for example, those who are ill in the parish, those who may 
have given a stipend for the Mass, those who are present. He then 
prays for protection through the merit of the saints and asks that the 
sacrifice about to be made be acceptable unto God. The priest then 
takes the wafer in both his hands and says in Latin the words of Jesus 
at the Last Supper, "Hoc EST ENIM CORPUS MEUM" ("This is my 
body"). This sentence is believed to perform the miracle of tran- 

Immediately after these words of Consecration the priest elevates 
the Sacred Host high above his head for all to see. The faithful look 
at it, confess it as their God, and bow in humble adoration. This is a 
supreme moment. For those who truly believe, how could it help but 


set everything right, remove temptation, quicken resolve, make all 
the sordidness of living endurable? 

Then the wine is consecrated and the chalice is elevated* Periodi- 
cally throughout this service of Consecration, beUs have been rung in 
order that the faithful may be on the alert at the time of the divine 
advent. The thoughtful worshiper is deeply aware of the presence of 
God. He is also taught to be aware of the presence of thousands of 
celestial spirits. 

It was revealed to St. Mechtilde that three thousand angels from the 
seventh choir, the Thrones, are ever in devout attendance around every 
tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. Doubtless a much 
greater number are present at Holy Mass, which is not merely a sacra- 
ment but also a sacrifice. 24 

Several prayers follow the Consecration and then the priest himself 
takes Communion: he consumes the Host and drinks the Blood. He 
is very careful that every particle of the Host shall be eaten and that 
no drop shall remain in the chalice. He scrupulously cleans the paten 
and, before Mass is over, he drinks wine which his server pours into 
the chalice; this wine mingles with such small portions of the precious 
Blood as may have remained after his Communion. 

The sacrificial aspect of the Mass is completed by the Communion 
of the priest. Every sacrifice demands the annihilation of a victim. In 
the Mass, Christ's Body and Blood are destroyed by human eating and 
drinking. Thus, since Christ has again taken our sins upon himself, 
God's anger at the sins of the worshipers has been appeased anew. 

After the priest's Communion, those among the worshipers who 
also wish to receive Communion come to the altar rail and kneel. The 
priest then picks up the ciborium, a vessel containing Hosts which 
were consecrated when he consecrated the Host he himself consumed. 
He carries the ciborium to the altar rail; then, grasping one of the 
Hosts between his thumb and forefinger, he places the Blessed Body 
on the tongue of the communicant. Meanwhile, the server holds a 
large plate under the chin of the communicant in order to guard 
against the danger that the Sacred Host might fall to the floor and be 

When the last person wishing to receive Communion has been 


served, the priest returns to the altar, places any unconsumed Hosts 
in the tabernacle, locks it, reads further prayers, blesses the people, 
reads a passage from the Gospel, takes the sacred vessels in his hands, 
withdraws from the sanctuary, and Mass is over. 

Many interesting regulations surround the saying of the Mass. Un- 
less a special dispensation is made, Mass is said in the interval between 
two hours before dawn and noon except at Christmas when a special 
Mass is said at midnight. Anyone who receives Communion is required 
to abstain from eating solid food and from drinking alcoholic bever- 
ages for the three hours previous, and from drinking nonalcoholic 
beverages for one hour previous. Water does not break this "eucharis- 
tic fast." 

Catholics are urged to take Communion frequently several times 
a week and violate Catholic teachings unless they take it at least 
once every year, during the Easter season. Before Communion can be 
received the communicant must be in a state of grace; this regulation 
will be explained when the Sacrament of Penance is discussed. Chil- 
dren are not permitted to receive Communion until they have reached 
the age of reason and can understand the significance of what they are 
doing; a child usually receives first Communion at about the age of 
seven. Only Catholics are permitted at the Lord's table. Whenever 
the Host is reserved in the tabernacle, a lamp near the altar must be 
lit to make known its presence. The door of the tabernacle is always 
open if the Host is not present. By the payment of a stipend for the 
support of the priests, the layman can have masses directed toward 
any worthy cause. Some of the religious orders offer to place the 
names of deceased loved ones on a permanent roll; Mass is then said 
for these persons many times each year. 

The fact that Mass is said in Latin puzzles many Protestants. In 
defending this practice, Catholics point out that their services are uni- 
form throughout the world, except for a few Oriental groups to whom 
the Pope has granted the privilege of using another tongue. The 
Roman Catholic Church is an international organization and it needs 
an international language; the American pilgrim in Rome, for ex- 
ample, does not feel strange when he attends services in St. Peter's. 
Furthermore, through constant repetition, even the most unlettered 


Catholic soon learns the language of the central sections of the Mass. 
An excellent defense of the use of Latin was made by a Catholic 
chemistry professor, a colleague of mine, who lectured to a class in 
religion. He said, "What do I care what language the service is in so 
long as I know that God is there!" 

This vigorous defense of the Latin Rite on the part of most Catho- 
lics does not prevent a spirited campaign on the part of some other 
Catholics for the increased use of English in services of worship. One 
priest wrote as follows: 

People . . . want to pray in the vernacular. That is the only language 
they understand. . . . They need to participate in all prayers and cere- 
monies in their own tongue. 23 

Another priest wrote: 

What could help us Catholics in this effort [to make religion penetrate 
the whole of life] more than taking our sacrifices, our most loved and 
efficacious prayers, out from behind the language barrier; having us pray 
together in the familiar language[?] . . . How good it is to hear, and speak 
to, God in one's own language is being savored by the people through the 
medium of the vernacular missal; it is my own opinion that it would oe 
equally savored by the priests. 26 

Catholics are taught that two or more Masses can be heard at the 
same time with as much profit to the worshiper as though they were 
heard separately, provided Christ is adored on each altar. All but the 
smallest Catholic churches have more than one altar and on special 
occasions two or more Masses are said simultaneously. The Register, 
a Catholic newspaper, reported that at a memorial service held at the 
grave of a Catholic chaplain killed on Okinawa, forty-five jeeps held 
forty-five altar stones and Mass was said on each one. Occasionally, 
Mass is said with great pageantry. Some years ago thousands of wor- 
shipers gathered in the Harvard Stadium for a military memorial Mass 
at which cannons were used instead of bells to warn of the approach 
of Christ to the altar. 

Catholics estimate that on the average the Host is elevated four 
times every second of the day and night the year around, except on 
Good Friday, when Mass is never said. The Church teaches that at- 
tendance at Mass is not optional but obligatory. 



Catholics are taken into their Church soon after they are born, by 
means of the Sacrament of Baptism. Baptism is usually performed by 
the priest. For it to be valid, he must cause baptismal water to flow 
over some portion of the body, if possible the head, and say at the 
same time, "I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, 
and of the Holy Ghost," 

The effect of baptism, according to Catholic belief, is to purify the 
soul of sin and to make it fit to enter into the presence of God. If 
the soul died immediately after baptism, it can have committed no 
postbaptismal sin, and thus it goes directly to heaven. Catholics teach 
that every child from the moment he is conceived is tainted by original 
sin. This sin was the first sin of Adam, the sin which lost for human 
beings the supernatural gifts with which they had been originally en- 
dowed. Adam and Eve are said to have committed an infinite sin 
when they ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge; they disobeyed an 
infinite command of God. As a result they became hateful to God, 
were driven out of the Garden of Eden, and were required to live lives 
of toil and suffering. "The human race," says a Catholic writer, "is a 
unit, summed up in its head Adam, and, therefore, the Church has 
ever taught that Adam's sin with all its effects was transmitted to all 
mankind" 27 except to the Virgin Mary and to Jesus. They are the 
only human beings not stained with original sin. The Church teaches 
that when Mary was conceived in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, 
God exempted her soul from original sin from the moment of her 
conception, since she would be the vehicle for the divine Incarnation. 
This teaching is called the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. It 
should not be confused with the Virgin Birth. 

No human being, weak and ignorant as we all are, could rid him- 
self of the burden of an infinite guilt. Therefore, Catholics teach that 
it is necessary for God to use His power to take from men the weight 
of Adam's sin. God does this through giving supernatural aid to men; 
this aid is called God's Grace. Baptism is the method which Jesus 
Christ directed the Church to use in order to repair, through the in- 
strumentality of God's Grace, the damage of original sin. 


Catholics believe that unless a person has been baptized he cannot 
go to heaven. But that does not mean he will go to hell; he may go 
to limbo. Hell is reserved for those who sin willfully. Infants, before 
they achieve the age of accountability, cannot commit sins worthy of 
hell. Nevertheless, they cannot achieve heaven unless they have been 

Catholics believe that baptism is not limited to the baptism of water. 
Two other kinds are possible: the baptism of blood and that of desire. 
The baptism of blood is martyrdom for the Church. Catholics hold 
that the baptism of desire comes automatically to those who sincerely 
wish to be received into the Church (or who would wish to be received 
if they knew the supernatural truths of religion) but are prevented 
from receiving the baptism of water. Catholics believe that the bap- 
tism of desire comes also to every person who sincerely and honestly 
lives up to his best lights. Thus, persons who have never heard of 
Christ or His Church receive God's Grace and can attain salvation, 
provided they have perfect contrition. A Boston priest who insisted 
there is no salvation outside the Roman Catholic Church was ex- 

Since a person must have reached the age of reason before he can 
experience the baptism of desire, Catholics put great emphasis on the 
baptism of infants by water. It is considered to be so essential that in 
cases of extreme necessity anyone can baptize a layman, a Protes- 
tant, even an atheist. Priests carefully instruct physicians who deliver 
Catholic mothers how to baptize newborn infants who are in danger 
of imminent death. If a pregnant mother dies, a Caesarean operation 
must be performed provided there is hope that the child still lives and 
can be baptized. The Church teaches that in the event of premature 
birth through miscarriage, the fetus, no matter at how early a state of 
development, must be baptized. A fetus may never be killed by direct 
abortion, even though such an operation would save the life of the 
mother, because not only is abortion murder but an infant life could 
then never receive baptism and thus could never gain heaven. 

Baptism is one of the sacraments. Since the idea of God's Grace 
has now been defined, the term sacrament, which involves the term 
grace, can also be defined. A sacrament, according to Catholic theol- 
ogy, is an external sign, instituted by Jesus Christ, for mediating the 


Grace of God. Catholics believe that Jesus Christ designated seven 
signs through which men can receive the Grace of God. These signs 
are all observable; that is, they are external. The seven Catholic 
sacraments are: the eucharist (Communion), baptism, confirmation, 
penance, extreme unction, marriage, and ordination. 


Ordinarily after a Roman Catholic has received his first Com- 
munion, he is eligible for the Sacrament of Confirmation. This sac- 
rament increases the Grace of God first received in baptism. Confir- 
mation is sometimes called the Sacrament of the Holy Ghost. During 
it the Holy Ghost is said to come "in power," as He did on the Feast 
of Pentecost described in the book of Acts. On that day the disciples 
"were filled with the Holy Ghost." 

In former times confirmation was administered immediately after 
baptism; today, however, only those who have the use of reason are 
eligible to receive it. Generally it is not now administered earlier than 
age seven, and usually not until adolescence. But it is not put off too 
long; for, as one writer says, "children carry within themselves the 
elements of the passions, which if not promptly eradicated, will gradu- 
ally grow." 28 

As the date set for the administration of the Sacrament of Confir- 
mation draws near, the children of a parish are in a state of consider- 
able excitement. They have studied earnestly for many months in 
order to be worthy of the Sacrament; and their mothers have gone to 
much care and expense in order to make adequate material prepa- 
rations for the event the girls usually wear simple bridal veils, as 
they do at their first Communion, and sometimes they wear a large 
red ribbon to symbolize the tongues of fire at Pentecost. 

Confirmation usually takes place before the high altar in the parish 
church. There the bishop of the diocese confirms by using three ex- 
ternal signs: he imposes his hands, that is, he raises his hands up and 
out over the waiting children and prays; he anoints each child on the 
forehead with the sign of the cross; and he slaps each child gently on 
the cheek, thus symbolizing the persecution and suffering which a true 
Christian must bear. 

In emergencies confirmation can be administered by pastors. 



Priests are believed to have the power to forgive the eternal punish- 
ment due for sin; this power is exercised through the Sacrament of 
Penance. Sins are willful thoughts, words, deeds and omissions which 
are contrary to the Law of God. The sins which men commit are of 
two kinds: venial and mortal. Mortal sin is considered to be so serious 
that one would have to spend eternity in hell, unless his punishment is 
taken away by God's Grace. Venial sin is less serious and can be 
atoned for in this life or in purgatory. 

Three things are necessary before a person sins mortally: a grievous 
offense, sufficient reflection, and full consent of the will. Most people 
commit many sins which are considered mortal: they break the Ten 
Commandments, yield to anger and hate, stay away from Mass and 
the other sacraments, fail to keep the Friday abstinence, engage in 
indecent amusements, etc. For these mortal sins two kinds of punish- 
ment must be suffered: one is eternal (in hell) and the other is tem- 
poral (it will end). A "grievous offense" may be but a venial sin if 
either sufficient reflection or full consent of the will is lacking. For 
venial sins only temporal punishment (in this life or in purgatory) is 
imposed by God. The primary function of the Sacrament of Penance 
is to forgive mortal sin and to take away eternal punishment the 
Sacrament keeps one from going to hell. It may also affect favorably 
the amount of one's punishment in this life or it may shorten the 
length of one's stay in purgatory. 

There are four parts to penance: contrition, confession, satisfaction, 
absolution. Contrition is the part of penance in which a Catholic is 
genuinely sorry for his sins. The Catholic Church teaches that perfect 
contrition is essential for the full effect of the Sacrament. For a sorrow 
to be perfect, it must be supernatural it must refer to God and it 
must not be sullied by personal motives. 

[If a penitent] be sorry for his sins because by them he has offended 
an all-good God to whom he owes everything, the sorrow is perfect; if 
he be sorry for some more selfish reason, as because he must undergo a 
supernatural punishment for his sins, either on earth or in the next life, 
the sorrow is imperfect but supernatural, and, with the Sacrament of 
Penance, is sufficient to obtain God's forgiveness for any sin, no matter 
how grave nor how often committed. 29 


Contrition must be sincere. God knows the heart and cannot be 
deceived. Any Catholic who thinks that he can escape from the 
punishment of hell simply by going through the form of penance, is 
very far from the teachings of his Church. A priest has the power to 
forgive sins only if the penitent is sincere. A penitent must intend, at 
the time of confession, to mend his ways. A hypocrite in the confes- 
sional may deceive the priest and hear pronounced the words of for- 
giveness, but in reality he still faces the awful prospect of eternal 
damnation. But a penitent whose confession is sincere and super- 
natural can be forgiven, even though the sin he confesses is habitual 
and will probably be repeated; for, it is the disposition of the heart at 
the time of confession that determines the will of God toward the 

At confession the penitent orally and within the hearing of a priest 
accuses himself of all the mortal sins he has not previously confessed; 
he should also confess grievous offenses among his venial sins, but 
confession of lesser offenses is not required. 

Confession usually takes place in a confessional, a small booth 
located near the back of most Catholic churches. This booth is so 
arranged that the penitent can keep his identity secret from his con- 
fessor; the booth has at least two compartments: one for the priest 
and one for the penitent. Between these compartments is a small open- 
ing covered by a screen; words can pass through this opening but 
nothing can be seen through it. Men may confess anywhere, but 
women are required to use the confessional. A penitent is not required 
to confess to his own pastor; he may go to confession in any church. 
Some Catholics make frequent use of this privilege of confessing to a 
stranger. However, nothing prevents the worshiper in the confessional 
from divulging his name to the priest, though he seldom does. 

During confession Catholics can repeat their inmost thoughts with- 
out fear of exposure. Stern regulations prevent the priest from divulg- 
ing any information learned during confession. He may speak or write 
nothing of what his penitents have told him; he must never act in such 
a way as to bring suspicion upon penitents. He must never take ad- 
vantage of information he has gained through the confessional; in 
writing recommendations, in making financial decisions, even in sav- 
ing his own life, he must never use such information. 


After a worshiper has confessed his sins, he is counseled by his 
confessor; and then he is instructed what "satisfaction" he must make, 
that is, what penance he must perform. If a grievous wrong has been 
done another person, the penitent is required to make restitution, if 
that is possible and expedient. But for most sins the satisfaction re- 
quired is of a religious nature; some spiritual devotion is imposed. 
When the penance required has been stated by the priest, he usually 
gives absolution at once, that is, he pronounces the words of the for- 
giveness of sins. Then the worshiper leaves the confessional and per- 
forms the satisfaction. 

At the end of the Sacrament of Penance, after the guilt of mortal 
sins has been taken away, the worshiper is said to be in a "state of 
grace." If one were to die in a state of grace he would be certain of 
escaping hell. However, he would have to face the punishments of 
purgatory, since the Sacrament of Penance deals primarily with eternal 

Catholics are required to go to confession at least once a year. Many 
Catholics go much more frequently; some of the religious orders re- 
quire their members to go once a week in order that they may be 
almost continuously in a state of grace. One does not fall from grace 
unless he commits a mortal sin; but many Catholics make a practice 
of always going to confession just before receiving Communion. 


The subject of indulgences is especially interesting because it played 
a prominent part in the events which began the Reformation. Catho- 
lics believe that an indulgence shortens the time which a sinner must 
suffer, in this life or in purgatory, for his misdeeds. Since all sins 
both mortal and venial which are committed after baptism are be- 
lieved to have a temporal punishment attached to them, most people 
must suffer a very long time in the appalling conditions of purgatory. 
Just how long this time will be the Roman Catholic Church does not 
pretend to know; God has not revealed all things to His Church; He 
has revealed simply all things necessary to salvation. 

The purgatorial punishment (and the punishments suffered on earth 
for sin) can, according to the Catholic religion, be lessened by the 
application of the merit which Jesus Christ and the saints built up 


during their lives on earth. Just as sins have temporal punishment 
attached to them, so good deeds performed in a state of grace have 
merit attached to them. In heaven there is an immense treasury of 
merit; it was put there by the sinless life of Jesus, by His sacrifice on 
the cross, and by the excess of good deeds over sins in the lives of the 
saints. "An indulgence is not a permission to commit sin, nor absolu- 
tion in advance of sin, but it is a commutation of the temporal punish- 
ment due to sin" 30 by drawing on the treasury of merit. 

The granting of an indulgence might be likened to a king remitting 
all or part of the taxes of a citizen who had performed meritorious 
service for the government or who had given significant indications of 
loyalty. For example, a worshiper can gain "seven years indulgence" 
when the priest elevates the Host at Mass, by looking at the Blessed 
Body and saying devoutly, "My Lord and My God." Other good deeds 
to which indulgences might be attached by the Pope are saying certain 
prayers, giving money for certain causes, going on certain pilgrimages. 

Indulgences vary in value; their value is stated in days or years. The 
Church is uncertain concerning the exact meaning of these temporal 
terms. Some indulgences are plenary they remit the whole of the 
temporal punishment which has been incurred by a sinner up to the 
time the indulgence is received. However, indulgences are effective 
only to the extent that a person has purity in his dispositions a con- 
dition seldom perfectly achieved. Careful Catholic writers make clear 
that when an indulgence is procured for the benefit of a soul in purga- 
tory, "the degree of its acceptance depends on the will of God, so 
that there is no certainty that the penalty of these souls is fully re- 
mitted." 31 

Non-Catholic authors frequently assert that indulgences are "sold" 
and point to the fact that the Reformation was begun by the belief of 
Luther that the monk Tetzel was selling indulgences in order to get 
money for the -building of St. Peter's Church in Rome. Catholic his- 
torians admit that in some times and places the doctrine concerning 
indulgences has not been properly understood and practiced; but 
Catholics deny that indulgences are abused in the Catholic Church 
today. Father Conway makes the following statements on this point: 

Pardons are not sold today in the Catholic Church. ... A man does 
not purchase a wife, if at marriage he signs over to her a portion of his 


property. A Protestant does not purchase a wife for ten dollars, because 
he gives a fee of that amount to the minister who performs the cere- 
mony. . . . Catholic historians Gasquet, Pastor, Janssen, Michaels, 
Paulus have frequently mentioned the abuses connected with the preach- 
ing of Indulgences in the Middle Ages. The medieval pardoner, depicted 
by Chaucer in the Pardoner's Tale> was often an unscrupulous rascal. 
. . . We must carefully distinguish between Tetzel's teaching with regard 
to Indulgences for the living, and Indulgences applicable to the dead. 
With regard to Indulgences for the living, his teaching . . . was perfectly 
Catholic. . . . "As regards Indulgences for the dead," Pastor writes, "there 
is no doubt that Tetzel did, according to what he considered his authorita- 
tive instructions, proclaim as Christian doctrine that nothing but an offer- 
ing of money was required to gain the Indulgence for the dead, without 
there being any question of contrition or confession. He also taught, in 
accordance with an opinion then held, that an Indulgence could be ap- 
plied to any given soul with unfailing effect." 32 

Some non-Catholics hold the opinion that the theory of indulgences 
is so difficult to understand that even today average Catholics fre- 
quently misunderstand it and that some members of the hierarchy 
occasionally take advantage of this misunderstanding. The Christian 
Century, a Protestant magazine, wrote editorially as follows: 

The theory of "indulgences" is somewhat intricate and lends itself 
both to misrepresentation by critics and to abuse by agents of the church. 
. . . The eagerness of ecclesiastics to collect money for the church, even 
after they have ceased to be eager to collect it for themselves, has led 
them into exploiting the relation between payment and salvation in terms 
which seem clearly designed to create an impression which is at variance 
with strict Roman Catholic theory on this point. 33 


When Catholics are dangerously ill they receive the Sacrament of 
Extreme Unction. The priest goes to the sick room and anoints the 
patient with Holy Oil, olive oil which has been blessed. With the tip 
of his finger he places a small amount of the oil on the lids of the eyes, 
the lobes of the ears, the nostrils, the closed lips, the hands, and the 
feet. While he does this he says: 

Through this holy unction [anointing] and His most tender mercy may 
the Lord pardon thee whatever sins or faults thou hast committed by 
sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and walking. 

It is held that through extreme unction a person who is in danger 


of death from illness receives spiritual aid for his final struggle with 
the Devil. Catholics believe that a return to physical health also is 
often a result of this Sacrament. A priest once said in my presence 
that he believed there were men walking the streets of our town who 
would be dead if he had not given them the Sacrament of Extreme 

This Sacrament is never administered to soldiers going into battle, 
or to criminals about to be executed. Penance is the Sacrament used 
in such cases. Extreme unction is reserved for those who are danger- 
ously ill. 

After accidents involving death, priests are hurriedly summoned. 
On these occasions they sometimes anoint persons whom bystanders 
think are already dead. The Catholic Church, however, instructs its 
priests not to assume too quickly that the soul has departed the body. 
Only rigor mortis and the beginnings of putrefaction constitute cer- 
tain signs of death in the eyes of the Church. 


Celibacy is a more blessed state than marriage, according to Catho- 
lic teaching. Catholics point out that Jesus never married and assert 
that St. Paul also remained single. Catholics remind us of their belief 
that Mary and Joseph, the parents of Jesus, were perpetual virgins. 
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul urges the single life: "I would 
that all men were even as myself. ... I say to the unmarried, and to 
the widows: It is good for them if they so continue even as I." Thus 
a celibacy dedicated to God is thought to be definitely superior to 
marriage. Late in his reign, Pope Pius XII expressed the hope that 
widows would not remarry, saying: "Though the Church does not 
condemn a second marriage, she expresses her predilection for the 
souls who wish to remain faithful to their spouses." 34 Nevertheless, 
Catholics hold that marriage is an exalted state, instituted of God for 
the perpetuation of the human race, and for His own glory. Marriage 
has the status of one of the seven sacraments, and its effect is to 
bestow upon the bride and groom the Grace of God. 

Catholics believe that a truly Christian marriage can take place only 
with the permission of and under the guidance of the Church. A mar- 


riage between two Catholics takes place in the church building before 
an altar, and the Mass and Communion are important parts of the 

Most of the marriage ceremony, apart from the Mass, is in the 
vernacular. Non-Catholics attending Catholic weddings are often 
struck by the similarity between the most frequently used Protestant 
form of the marriage ceremony and the Catholic form. This similarity 
is a good indication of the similar origin of many Christian churches 
and of the many things they have in common. 

The Catholic Church does not approve of divorce under any cir- 
cumstances if by divorce is meant the dissolution (with the right of 
remarriage) of what the Church considers to be a valid Christian 
marriage which has been consummated by sexual intercourse. The 
Church may infrequently consent to a civil divorce, in order to ensure 
protection from molestation, or to assure alimony, or the like. 

However, the hierarchy does grant annulments. A person some- 
times thinks he has received valid Christian marriage when his union, 
according to the Church, lacks some element essential to its genuine- 
ness. Genuine marriage must be voluntary: neither party may be 
coerced in any way. It must also involve persons capable of sexual 
intercourse, persons not already married, persons not too young, per- 
sons not too closely related, etc. If any condition essential to valid 
Christian marriage is absent, an annulment can be procured, usually 
from the local bishop; and it may be procured with relative ease if 
definite proof can be produced that the marriage was indeed invalid 
at any point who would hesitate to tear up a counterfeit bill? Tyrone 
Power, the movie actor, for example, was granted an annulment of 
his marriage to his Catholic wife because the ceremony had been 
performed by a civil official; subsequently Power was married to an- 
other Catholic woman with the full blessing of the Church. In addition 
to marriage before anyone but a Catholic priest, Catholics can obtain 
annulments for such reasons as marrying a Protestant without a spe- 
cial dispensation from the bishop, marrying a Jew without a special 
dispensation from the Apostolic Delegate, withholding "interior con- 
sent" at the time the ceremony was performed, and agreeing before 
the marriage to practice birth control, or abortion, or to get a divorce 
if the marriage proved unsatisfactory. 


If a voluntary, Christian marriage has been consummated by physi- 
cal union, it becomes spiritually indissoluble. Adultery, criminality, 
incurable insanity may be adequate grounds for separation, but not 
for real divorce. In Italy, where the state follows the Catholic Church 
at this point, there is no governmental provision for divorce, although 
legal separation is possible. 

Non-Catholics sometimes assert that the condemnation of divorce 
does not prevent Catholic couples from seeking divorce in the civil 
courts. Reliable statistics on this matter are almost nonexistent. Un- 
fortunately, marriage and divorce records in the United States do not 
give an accurate picture of the influence of religious affiliation on civil 
divorce. The results of some samplings are available, however. One 
careful study, reported in 1938, surveyed the family backgrounds of 
over thirteen thousand young people in Maryland; this research dis- 
covered that the rate of civil divorce among parents of the three 
major religious groups was: Jewish 4.6 per cent, Catholic 6.4 per 
cent, Protestant 6.8 per cent; but that the rate of divorce when one 
parent was Protestant and the other Catholic was 15.2 per cent, and 
when neither parent had a religious affiliation., 16.7 per cent. 35 An- 
other study, reported in 1949, surveyed the family backgrounds of 
about four thousand Michigan State College students; in this study 
the percentages of divorce were: Jewish, 5.2; Catholic, 4.4; Protes- 
tant, 6.0; mixed Catholic and Protestant, 14.1; no religious affiliation, 
17.9. 36 

The Catholic Church persists in its refusal to grant divorces even 
though it deprives itself of much apparent advantage. Catholic apolo- 
gists claim, no doubt correctly, that their Church loses thousands of 
members annually because of its teaching on this subject, and would 
gain one hundred thousand members overnight if divorce were sanc- 
tioned. Sanctioning divorce, however, is never considered by the 
hierarchy; for, according to Catholic teachings, Almighty God Him- 
self, during His Incarnation, taught that remarriage after divorce is 
nothing but legalized adultery. (Read Matthew 5:32; 19:9.) That 
settles the matter. It is unthinkable, says the hierarchy, to seek ma- 
terial advantage in the face of such a command. 

Mixed marriages marriages between persons of differing creeds 
are opposed by the Roman Catholic Church, even as they are op- 


posed by most churches and synagogues. Such marriages frequently 
result in indifference to religion and in actual loss of faith. However, 
in spite of vigorous propaganda urging marriage within one's own 
communion, young people of different faiths often fall in love and 
insist on getting married. A Protestant writer estimated from official 
Catholic statistics that 36 per cent of the marriages performed by 
priests in the United States are mixed marriages, and this estimate 
"does not include the large number of marriages of Catholics with 
non-Catholics before justices of the peace and non-Catholic clergy- 
men." 37 A sociologist puts the estimate of Catholics who marry out- 
side their Church at "approximately one-fourth." 38 

The Catholic Church has found effective methods of protecting its 
interests in mixed marriages, methods which have stirred up much 
discussion. The Church rules that the non-Catholic party must 
undergo a series of instructions in the Catholic faith and must sign a 
statement in which a promise is made to bring up aH children as 
Catholics. Different forms of this antenuptial agreement are used in 
various dioceses in the United States. One form is as follows: 

I, the undersigned, not a member of the Catholic Church, wishing to 

contract marriage with , a member of the Catholic Church, 

propose to do so with the understanding that the marriage bond thus 
contracted is indissoluble, except by death. I promise on my word and 

honor that I will not in any way hinder or obstruct the said 

in the exercise of religion and that all children of either sex 

born of our marriage shall be baptized and educated in the Catholic faith 
and according to the teachings of the Catholic Church, even though the 
said should be taken away by death. 

I further promise that I will marry only according to the 

marriage rite of the Catholic Church; that I will not, either before or 
after the Catholic ceremony, present myself with for mar- 
riage before a civil magistrate or minister of the gospel. 

In some sections the following additional promise is required: 

I will not interfere in the least with the free exercise of the Catholic 
party's religion and I will lead a married life in conformity with the atti- 
tude of the Roman Catholic Church regarding artificial birth control, 
contraception or so-called "planned parenthood," realizing fully that 
these practices are against the natural and divine law. 

The requiring of such promises has stirred up a heated argument. 
In order to give the reader an indication of the extent of this debate 


and of the reasoning which prompts it, the following four statements 
are quoted: Two were written by Catholics and two were written 
by Protestants. In defense of requiring the signing of this statement, 
one Catholic apologist wrote as follows: 

Protestant opposition to mixed marriages isn't logical. Catholic opposi- 
tion is, and for these reasons: Because she is the only church which 
holds that marriage is a Sacrament in the true sense, one of seven Sacra- 
ments instituted by Christ, and committed to her keeping. . . . Because, 
honestly believing that hers is the very religion which Christ founded, she 
must require the observance of "all things whatsoever she has been com- 
manded." . . . The average Protestant sacrifices no principle when he 
yields to the Catholic in this matter because he usually regards member- 
ship in a particular religious organization as a matter of preference rather 
than of obligation. 39 

The Protestant position on the antenuptial agreements was stated 
by Leland Foster Wood, former head of the Commission on Marriage 
and the Home of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in 
America (now the National Council) . 

Such demands mean that a Christian person who believes his own 
church to be a true church of Christ is asked, when he marries a Roman 
Catholic, to act as if his church were no church at all but a dangerous 
organization. He is required to proceed as if he had no faith in the ade- 
quacy of Jesus Christ as Savior and Guide but rather must assume that 
only in the Roman Catholic Church could his children have assurance of 
salvation. . . . 

There should be in any case an understanding that when children have 
reached a suitable age they shall be free to determine their own faith in 
order that their religious allegiance may be a matter of inner conviction 
and self-dedication and not the outcome of any kind of constraint. . . . 

No more can we tolerate the idea that it is the duty of the Roman Catho- 
lic member to do everything possible through his home to proselyte while 
a Christian of another church must avoid even expressing his deepest 
religious convictions as if they were some kind of poison that would 
destroy his children. 40 

cThe English Archbishop of York commented on the antenuptial 
agreements, saying: 

I feel it necessary to warn Anglicans against signing this document, 
and to ask them to do their utmost to dissuade members of our Church 
from doing so. It means that Anglican fathers or mothers married to 
Roman Catholics are deprived of the right to influence the spiritual and 
religious upbringing of their children. It means disloyalty to the Church 
of their baptism and of their fathers. It is a humiliating condition. 41 


Father Bertrand L. Conway writing in a book designed to answer 
the questions of inquiring non-Catholics wrote that the chief reason 
for the resistance to mixed marriage 

... is the danger of loss of faith on the part of the Catholic party and the 
children born of the marriage. Frequently a bitter unbeliever or a bigoted 
Protestant manifests his hatred of the Church after marriage, and by 
ridicule, bad example, and moral pressure of various kinds, occasions the 
apostasy of a weak-minded, ill-instructed or careless consort. The Catho- 
lic Church in the United States loses thousands annually by mixed mar- 
riages. . . , 

, . . The Church ... is bound by the divine law to do all in her 
power to prevent her children losing the faith. The very fact that non- 
Catholics sign these promises so readily proves that their faith is not very 
sound, but merely a matter of opinion. They are for the most part indiffer- 
entists. 42 


Few Catholic pronouncements have gained more public attention 
than the invectives directed against chemical, mechanical, or other 
artificial methods of birth control. Such methods are believed to be 
a frustration of a natural human act, to be contrary to God's divinely 
ordered laws of nature, and to be sinful and degrading vices com- 
mitted by people who are "eaten up with selfishness and the love of 

There is unquestionably a widespread, and almost universal sense of 
sin and shame ... in men and women, who practice birth control. 43 

The husband who practices birth control regards his wife not as his 
wife bound to him by a love both sacred and holy, but as his mistress. 
. . . The wife who practices birth control regards her husband not as a 
husband united to her in the noblest of human loves, but as a paramour, 44 

The uncompromising view of the Catholic Church toward birth 
control is nowhere more clearly seen than in the statement of Father 
Francis J. Connell in the American Ecclesiastical Review: 

In the third decision rendered by the Sacred Penitentiary [an agency of 
the Vatican] ... in response to the third question, which asked whether 
a man [a husband] who used contraceptive devices should be likened to 
an assailant to whom the wife must oppose the same resistance as a 
virgin to one attacking her, the Sacred Penitentiary replied in the affirma- 
tive. 4 * 

The "population explosion" does not affect Catholic teaching on 
birth control. The Church denies that there is any real chance of 


overpopulation, and insists that food technology can keep well 
ahead of increases. In a 1960 Palm Sunday sermon, the Pope urged 
Catholics to have large families; 46 and in the same year the Arch- 
bishop of Delhi on tour in the United States asserted that India may 
come to have too few people, saying, "We are convinced that within 
about four years India will be producing more food than its people 
require." 47 

In recent years some priests have advocated the rhythm system, 
the utilization of the "sterile period," the days during the men- 
strual cycle when conception is least likely. The late Pope Pius XII 
ruled that this method and sexual abstinence are acceptable if they 
are used for "serious motives," but said that it is a sin to limit inter- 
course in these ways if the motive is simply to avoid procreation or 
to satisfy "sensuality." The primary purpose of marriage is "the 
procreation and education of children." Other aspects of marriage 
such as "mutual help" are secondary and subservient to the primary 
purpose of generating offspring. 48 

The opposition to Catholic teachings about birth control centers 
in the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, an organization 
which has the support of many non-Catholic religious leaders. The 
Federation's position is that bringing children into the world should 
not be a matter of chance; every child should be planned for and 
should be born into a family where the mother's strength has not been 
depleted by too much childbearing and where the father's capacity 
to provide financially is not endangered by too many mouths to feed. 
One of the Federation's leaflets asserts that birth control is no more 
contrary to the law of nature than are "anesthesia, immunization 
against disease, control of infection or any other great advance in 
medical science." The Protestant Episcopal Bishop James A. Pike 
in a statement distributed by the Federation writes: 

Sexual intercourse has two primary functions in marriage: procreational 
and sacramental. Neither is secondary. A sacrament, of course, is "an out- 
ward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace." The inward and 
spiritual requisite is the total and permanent pooling, in love under God, 
of hopes and fears, of strength and weakness. The outward and visible 
sign is, as in other sacramental relationships, both expression of spirit 
and means of grace. The sexual act expresses the love and commitment 
the couple already possesses; it also strengthens and inspires that com- 


The Planned Parenthood Federation maintains that the overwhelm- 
ing majority of America's physicians approve birth control as a physi- 
cal and psychological benefit. The Federation also asserts that the 
experience of birth-control clinics is that planned parenthood is 
apparently practiced almost as much by Catholic as by non-Catholic 
parents of comparable economic and educational status. 49 

The hierarchy insists that the Church never teaches that parents 
should bring into the world children who cannot be properly cared 
for. The Church has no desire to threaten the health of families or 
to endanger their financial status. In those circumstances where fewer 
children seem mandatory, let parents practice abstinence. "By 
mutual consent married people are always allowed to live as brother 
and sister, and their conduct will be very pleasing to God." 50 Self- 
restraint is a source of much ethical and spiritual blessing. 

The immediate purpose and primary end of Marriage is the begetting 
of children. When the marital relation is so used as to render the fulfill- 
ment of its purpose impossible, it is used unethically and unnaturally. 
The pleasures of marriage are innocent in view of legitimate childbearing; 
they become sinful and degrading, only when separated from the sacri- 
fices and responsibilities of parenthood. 51 

A number of studies have sampled Catholic lay opinion concern- 
ing family limitation. Studies made between 1936 and 1948 show 
"a progressive increase of favorable Catholic response concerning 
birth control" 52 For example, a survey of public opinion by For- 
tune indicated 69 per cent of Catholic women, twenty to thirty-five 
years of age, believed that knowledge of birth control should be 
made available to all married women. 53 The term birth control 
in these studies may have included in the minds of some of the 
respondents the rhythm and abstinence methods. A careful survey 
in which definitions were more explicit gave somewhat different re- 
sults. Over twenty-seven hundred white married women, eighteen 
to thirty-nine years of age, "selected in such a way as to constitute 
a scientific probability sample of the approximately 17 million wives 
in our national population," were questioned concerning their birth- 
control practices. 54 Only 13 per cent of the Catholic wives (1 per 
cent of the Protestant wives) gave unqualified disapproval of the 
general idea of family limitation. 55 Moreover, 50 per cent of the 


Catholic couples who had been married ten or more years and who 
had had no evidence of impaired fecundity used a method of limita- 
tion other than rhythm (1 per cent used abstinence). 56 The study 
showed "that many Catholics even those who attend Church regu- 
larly do use types of contraception which are unacceptable to the 
Church." 57 The Catholic journal, the Commonweal, commenting on 
the fact that the twenty-five leading American cities were not pro- 
ducing enough children to keep the population stationary, said, "Un- 
happily the proportion of Catholics in the cities under study has no 
observable effect . . . upon the birthrate." 58 

Catholic leaders admit that some Catholic parents use contracep- 
tives, but declare that that fact is no argument in favor of their use; 
such couples go directly against the commands of God and sin 
grievously. Persons who use chemical or mechanical methods of pre- 
venting conception endanger their soul's salvation. 

In the last three decades, approval by Protestant groups of birth 
control has greatly increased. Official statements have been made 
by the Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, 
Unitarians, and others. This position is a relatively recent one. The 
Jesuit weekly, America, noted that "in 1908 the Anglican Bishops 
were unequivocally opposed to contraception; opposed it again, 
though less vigorously, in 1920; gave permission for its 'conscien- 
tious use' in 1930; and appeared as its advocates in 1958." 59 


Multitudes of Christians both Protestants and Catholics believe 
that the most exalted station for which a person can be chosen in this 
life is the ministry or the priesthood of Jesus Christ. This choice is 
made, they believe, by God Himself, perhaps "in the Councils of the 
Trinity." As traditional Protestants would say, a person is "called 
of God to preach Christ"; as Catholics would say, he "receives a 
divine vocation." Catholics are taught to look on the priest as the 
director of their spiritual and moral lives, as a constant source of 
comfort and security, and as a living evidence of Christ's love for 
sinners. One Catholic writer, going considerably beyond the official 
dogmas of his Church, even asserted that with the laying on of the 
bishop's hands in ordination the priest "becomes another Christ." 60 


The priest's life is arduous and full of cares. Like a physician he is 
constantly on call to give succor to the sick and the dying. Yet early 
each morning he is up preparing to celebrate the Mass, in order that 
the members of his parish on their way to work may visit their Lord 
and partake of His Blessed Body. This ministry accomplished, the 
priest's day is full of activities: he comforts the sorrowful, hears con- 
fessions, visits the sick, buries the dead, solicits funds, distributes alms, 
administers schools, directs clubs, consults his superiors. And every 
day he must spend about three quarters of an hour in personal prayer, 
devotion and reading of the Breviary; and regularly he must himself 
go to confession. 

Every priest takes the vow of absolute obedience; he must conduct 
Ms life exactly as his superiors require in all matters over which they 
have legitimate jurisdiction. Every priest also takes a vow of chastity. 
The taking of this vow is not believed to be a divine requirement. 
Chastity is simply a rule of discipline; it has been imposed only since 
the fourth century. The rule may be abrogated in special cases. For 
example, a former Lutheran pastor, a resident of Denmark, was 
ordained a Roman Catholic priest and was permitted to remain in 
the married state; similarly "a half dozen" married German Lutheran 
ministers are reported to have been ordained by the Roman Catholic 
Church. 61 These rare instances point up the fact that clerical celibacy 
is a matter of discipline. The Church asks her leaders to remain single 
in order that she may be strong, in order that she may have from her 
priests service that knows no stint. An unmarried priest has fewer 
obligations than a minister with a wife and family. An unmarried 
clergy also costs less to maintain. 

But clerical celibacy is not simply a negative thing; priests make 
of it a positive dedication to the glory of God. Theirs is a celibacy 
"for the kingdom of heaven's sake." Religion is always strongest 
when it is put into positive rather than into negative terms; the non- 
Catholic will fail to understand clerical celibacy if he thinks in terms 
of prohibition. The priest through his ordination becomes the "Spouse 
of the Church." 

Non-Catholics sometimes contend that lifelong continence is un- 
natural and that its enforcement has caused widespread immorality. 
Catholics deny both assertions. 


Laxity of observance at certain periods will, of course, be admitted by 
any candid historian, but no one who knows the facts can deny that the 
law of celibacy has been faithfully observed from the fourth century by 
the vast majority of the clergy of the West. . . . Celibacy is not impos- 
sible, for the grace of God is given abundantly to all His priests to keep 
them chaste. Daily Mass, the recitation of the divine Office, the frequent 
meditation on divine truths, the consolations of the confessional, the in- 
timate contact with the sick and dying all these are aids to keep every 
priest faithful to his vow. 62 


Catholic priests are of two general types: the "secular" or "dioc- 
esan" priests; and the "regular'* priests, the members of the "reli- 
gious" orders. The spiritual powers of both of these groups are 
the same but their habits of life and their vows differ. A secular priest 
is one who lives "in the world,'* among the people. A "religious" 
(used as a noun) is one who has become a member of a religious 
community, who lives usually with his fellows in a monastery, and 
who in addition to the vows of chastity and obedience has also taken 
the vow of poverty. There are over one hundred fifty orders of regu- 
lar priests in the United States. The monastic life is available to 
women also. In this country there are over seven hundred religious 
orders for women. In 1959 there were fifty-three thousand Roman 
Catholic priests (secular and religious) in the United States but in 
that year there were one hundred sixty-five thousand sisters (aU re- 

Some of the most famous of the Catholic orders are the Franciscans, 
the Dominicans, the Benedictines, the Jesuits. Such groups as these 
have houses scattered throughout the world and have an elaborate 
system of internal government Some of the orders are contemplative; 
that is, the members give themselves over completely to the cultiva- 
tion of the spiritual life, seldom leaving their communal homes. In 
solitude and retirement they seek union with God. Most of the orders 
in the modern day, however, are active; they engage in a wide variety 
of social services: caring for the sick, the orphaned, the aged, the 
blind, the destitute. Some of the orders specialize in preaching, 
others in foreign missions, others in. education. Among the sisters 
the most common activities are teaching and nursing. Abraham Lin- 
coln said of the nursing during the Civil War, "More lovely than 


anything I have ever seen . . . are those modest sisters going on 
their errands of mercy." 

Persons who have never come into close contact with individual 
members of the religious orders are apt to view this type of life with 
a mixture of awe and astonishment, and to wonder how normal hu- 
man beings can renounce the freedom of everyday living and "im- 
prison" themselves in the convent. 

The answer to such views must begin with the assertion that of 
course there is no such thing today as imprisonment. Members of the 
religious orders are free to leave their communities at any time. 
Leaving would not be easy, however. Once perpetual vows have 
been taken, the breaking of them is a serious matter; much moral 
and spiritual pressure is used in order to persuade a person not to 
break his vows and thus commit mortal sin. But physical force is 
not used. 

Nor is moral suasion often necessary. The religious conduct "a war 
against nature" with "virginity and continence as means, and charity 
as the end." 63 Some joys of ordinary living are doubtless forgone, but 
in their place the monks and sisters feel that they have the most re- 
warding experiences which humans can know: giving over oneself 
wholly to a divine vocation. The very ceremony of entry into the re- 
ligious life is made to symbolize a joyous and not a sorrowful ex- 
perience; it is considered to be the beginning of an exciting and 
romantic adventure. For many a sister, the most thrilling event of her 
life was her act of "renunciation" when she took the veil, thus becom- 
ing "the bride of Christ," joined mystically in marriage with Him. 
During that ceremony she wore a wedding gown, was attended by a 
bridesmaid and a trainbearer, and, to symbolize her spiritual and 
perpetual union with Christ, she was given a plain gold wedding ring 
to wear on the third finger of her left hand. 

The joys and opportunities offered by a religious vocation are well 
illustrated by the experiences of Cardinal Gibbons, perhaps the out- 
standing Catholic leader who has lived in this country. 


"His words . . . had more weight in the country at large than any 
other man's, except the President's," 64 claimed the biographer of 


Cardinal Gibbons (1834-1921). Certainly his active influence lasted 
far longer than that of any political leader of his time: he was Arch- 
bishop of Baltimore for forty-three years, and during thirty-five years 
of that time he held the rank of Cardinal. 

James Gibbons was born but a half mile from the cathedral over 
which he was to preside for so many years, and in it he was baptized. 
His father's ill-health, when James was three, caused the family to 
return to Ireland, from whence the parents had migrated a few years 
before. Some fifteen years later, after the father's death, the family 
returned to America. A year later James Gibbons began studying for 
the priesthood. 

He finished a "full course" of "six years" in two, despite such frail 
health that "some made the prediction" that he could "not long 
survive." He was ordained in 1861 by the Archbishop of Baltimore 
and was assigned as pastor of St. Bridget's, a parish located in Canton, 
an isolated section "where the hand of the law seemed not to reach." 
The Know-Nothing, anti-Catholic frenzy strong in Maryland had 
but recently passed; so bigoted was the neighborhood that on an 
Election Day one group "carried half-hogsheads of beef blood to the 
polls and bespattered with the contents citizens who would not vote 
the anti-foreign ticket." 65 Consequently the members of the parish 
thought it unwise for the young priest to sleep in the rectory alone and 
unprotected. But no injury came to him during his pastorate. 

His work soon became arduous. St. Lawrence's Church, a mile 
across the Patapsco River, was added to his parish. 

Every Sunday morning, in midwinter snows no less than in the zephyrs 
of summer, he was accustomed to leave Canton at six o'clock [to begin] 
... his double task of the day. ... As no Catholic clergyman may cele- 
brate Mass except while fasting, it was generally about one o'clock in the 
afternoon when, after a morning's arduous labor, he could eat. His 
digestion was permanently wrecked by this ordeal, which compelled him 
to observe great care in diet throughout his life. 66 

After four years' work in Canton, Gibbons was made secretary to 
the Archbishop of Baltimore, "traditionally a steppingstone to promo- 
tion in the Church." Three years later, at age thirty-four, he was 
consecrated a bishop the youngest in the world-wide hierarchy and 
assigned to the missionary diocese of North Carolina. The Catholic 
population of that state numbered only eight hundred, and IE all of it 


there were but three priests. Since the diocese had no episcopal 
residence, the young bishop moved in with the pastor of the largest 
church; they lived in a "lean-to" of four rooms, built against the rear 
wall of the church building. The floors were bare, the furniture rough, 
and often the priests had to prepare their own meals. 

Almost immediately after his installation, Gibbons began mission- 
ary journeys among the overwhelmingly Protestant population. He 
preached in all sorts of places: public halls, homes, court houses, 
Masonic lodge rooms, fire engine houses, Protestant churches. Many 
were the Catholics who heard him who had not had contact with the 
Church in years; many more were the Protestants who came to hear 
Catholic dogmas expounded with forthrightness, winsomeness and 
good will. In one town the trustees of the Methodist church were so 
moved by Gibbons' irenic spirit that they offered him their house of 
worship, rang the church bell, and called together a congregation 
almost wholly Protestant. For his part Gibbons stood in a Methodist 
pulpit, accepted the assistance of a Methodist choir, and read from a 
Protestant Bible. Henceforth in his ministry, he was to preach to 
large crowds of Protestants, usually stressing dogmas which were ac- 
cepted by Christians generally. On one occasion, he asked a priest to 
preach to a certain congregation on a very hot Sunday afternoon; 
the priest did so, ardently. But immediately after he was finished, 
Gibbons ascended the pulpit and preached another and very different 
sermon. "Did you not see," he explained afterwards, "that more than 
half of the congregation were Protestants." His biographer says that he 
"actually made Protestant denominations more tolerant of each 

Yet he never soft-pedaled the Catholic claim to be the only True 
Church. Whenever he was asked about the movement for unity 
among the churches, he insisted that Protestants must return to Rome. 
Gibbons wrote a book, The Faith of Our Fathers, which was directed 
primarily to Protestants. It sold over two million copies and had a vast 
influence. In it he said: 

I heartily join in this prayer for Christian unity, and gladly would 
surrender my life for such a consummation. But I tell you that Jesus 
Christ has pointed out the only means by which this unity can be main- 
tained, viz: the recognition of Peter and his successors as the Head of the 


In coming to the Church, you are not entering a strange place, but you 
are returning to your Father's home. . . . You come back like the Prodigal 
Son to the home of your father and mother. 67 

During Ms second year in North Carolina, a call came from Rome 
to attend along with his fellow bishops the Vatican Council, the first 
ecumenical assembly of the Roman Catholic Church since the Council 
of Trent, three hundred years before. He attended as the youngest of 
all the bishops and voted for the decree declaring the Pope's infalli- 
bility. Returning from the Council he was appointed, at age thirty- 
seven, Bishop of Richmond, Virginia. Sk years later he became 
Archbishop of Baltimore, and nine years after that was elevated to the 

Gibbons was as vigorously American as he was Catholic; speaking 
in Rome, he said: 

As a citizen of the United States, ... I say, with a deep sense of pride 
and gratitude, that I belong to a country where the civil government holds 
over us the aegis of its protection, without interfering with us in the 
legitimate exercise of our sublime mission as ministers of the Gospel of 
Christ. Our country has liberty without license, and authority without 
despotism. 68 

Gibbons once said he would not alter one word of the Constitution, 
and over and over asserted that there is "no antagonism" between 
the "laws, institutions and spirit" of the Catholic Church and those of 
the United States. 

American Catholics rejoice in our separation of Church and State, and 
I can conceive no combination of circumstances likely to arise which 
would make a union desirable to either Church or State. 60 

One incident illustrates his strict observance of the line between 
church and state. In 1911 the City Council of Baltimore declared a 
civic holiday to honor in a municipal celebration the golden jubilee of 
his ordination to the priesthood and the silver jubilee of his elevation 
to the Sacred College. The celebration was attended by the President 
and Vice-President of the United States, the only living ex-President, 
the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Speaker of the House, 
many members of the House and Senate, and a large number of other 
dignitaries including distinguished members of the Protestant clergy, A 
short time after this occasion, the Council was on the point of declar- 

ing another holiday as part of the ecclesiastical celebration which the 
priests of the Church arranged to observe the jubilee. Gibbons 
promptly sent a message to the Council asking that the day not be set 
aside. Thus he in effect agreed with the Baltimore Ministerial Union 
which had protested saying, "In this [ecclesiastical] celebration we 
cannot be expected to take part. . . . We regard such proposed ac- 
tion as a direct violation of ... complete separation of Church and 
State." 70 

Yet Gibbons did not hesitate to make his voice heard on matters 
which he felt involved public morals. During his tenure, the Arch- 
diocese of Baltimore included Washington, D. C. in its boundaries. 
Gibbons came to know personally large numbers of our national 
leaders, including most of the men who served in the White House. He 
spoke out on many national issues. He supported temperance and 
opposed prohibition. He said, "I regard 'woman's rights' women as 
the worst enemies of the female sex" (but when woman's suffrage 
finally came, he urged the sisters in the orders of the Church to vote). 
He warned against "race suicide," saying, "Marriage ... is not in- 
tended for self-indulgence, but for the rearing of children." He con- 
demned lynching, communism, socialism, the persecution of the 
Jews, the secular public school, the Louisiana Lottery, the revolution- 
ary movement in Mexico, the independence movement in the Philip- 
pines, the election of United States Senators by popular vote. He de- 
fended the right of labor to organize and persuaded the Vatican in an 
unprecedented action to rescind its ban on the Knights of Labor. 

Gibbons rejoiced greatly when Pope Leo XIII issued Ms great 
Encyclical Letter, Rerum Novarum, on the condition of labor. "Some 
remedy must be found quickly," said Leo, "for the misery and 
wretchedness present so heavily and unjustly at this moment on the 
vast majority of the working classes." Gibbons said, Christ "has 
thrown a halo around the workshop, and has lightened the workman's 
tools by assuming the trade of an artisan. ... A conflict of labor 
and capital is as unreasonable as would be a contention between the 
head and the hands." 71 

Catholics remember Gibbons as their outstanding leader during 
a period of great Catholic expansion; the Church in America trebled 
during his episcopate. Non-Catholics remember Gibbons for the 


creative leadership he gave the movement to develop interreligious 
amity; today they hope another Catholic leader of like temper and 
ability will arise. A humble man, one never insisting on his own 
dignity nor trying to impress others, Gibbons always conducted him- 
self with simplicity and accessibility. He loved after Mass to romp 
with the altar boys, and he took long walks about the streets of Balti- 
more during which he engaged in many friendly conversations. One 
day a family applied at his residence for the privilege of making con- 
fession to a priest. They were informed that all the priests were resting 
and that confessions could be heard later. The father of the family 
persisted, saying they had a long journey to make before nightfall and 
they must soon be on their way. The doorkeeper went to the private 
apartments in the house and soon returned with the Cardinal himself. 
On another occasion the planners of a civic meeting were hesitating 
over how to place Gibbons and the Episcopal Bishop of Maryland 
in a procession. The Cardinal solved the difficulty by taking the 
Episcopal bishop's arm and saying, "My dear brother, we will walk 

The breadth of his sympathies became proverbial. One of his close 
friends was Joseph Friedenwald, a leading Baltimore businessman of 
Jewish faith. Gibbons once asked a businessman to give a friend of 
"education, refinement, and character" a job; the friend turned out 
to be a retired Protestant minister. Walking one day with a man from 
another city, they passed near a church from which a large congrega- 
tion was just emerging; Gibbons was saluted by so many people that 
his companion said, "You seem to be well acquainted in this parish." 
"Ah," said Gibbons, "these are our Episcopal friends." He took the 
lead among the hierarchy in securing Catholic participation in the 
Parliament of Religions which was part of the Columbian Exposition 
and "could see no merit in the suggestion that the part which Catholics 
would take in the convention would involve any recognition or ap- 
proval of the numerous sects within and without the circle of Chris- 
tianity that were to be represented there." 72 

But for all his tolerance and understanding, his public contacts and 
responsibilities, Gibbons was first of all a priest. It was his regular 
practice to spend three to four hours daily in private devotions. "He 
went to confession once a week at St. Mary's Seminary, and annually 


joined in the retreat there." 13 And he never lost sight of the purpose 
to win converts to the Catholic Church. In the Faith of Our Fathers he 

Remember that nothing is so essential as the salvation of your im- 
mortal soul. . . . Let not, therefore, the fear of offending friends and rela- 
tives, the persecution of men, the loss of earthly possessions, nor any 
other temporal calamity, deter you from investigating and embracing the 
true religion. 74 


The possibility of miracles is emphatically taught by the Roman 
Catholic Church. The Church has, of course, the testimony of the 
Scriptures to defend this belief. But she does not hold, like the Protes- 
tant Fundamentalists, that miracles were confined to Biblical times. 
She teaches that throughout the Church's history God has performed 
providential acts for the edification and comfort of saintly people. 
Miracles happen all the time. "In devout minds," says one authority, 
"there is even a presumption for and an expectation of miracles." 76 
The person who denies the occurrence of miracles, say Catholics, 
either denies the existence of God altogether or denies that God cares 
enough for His children to help them in their physical and spiritual 

But Catholics insist that they are not superstitious; the Roman 
Catholic Church fights superstition and magic with all its might. A 
miracle is defined by Catholics as an effect wrought in nature directly 
by God Himself without the use of ordinary natural means. Magic, 
on the other hand, is defined as the attempt of men to effect changes 
in nature through the co-operation of such supernatural agencies as 
demons or lost souls. Witchcraft is possible according to Catholic 
teaching, though concerning its extent the Church "observes the ut- 
most reserve." Catholics hold that the present widespread skepticism 
concerning witchcraft is the reaction against the witch mania which 
broke out in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. But, Catholics 
contend, the teachings of the Bible and the experiences of Christian 
people must lead realistic minds to assert the possibility of witchcraft 
and at the same time to condemn severely its practice. Forbidden is 
the engaging in any type of superstition: palmistry, astrology, divina- 


tion, spiritism, idolatry, the interpretation of dreams, the wearing of 

Non-Catholics frequently assert that the medals which some 
Catholics wear are charms which are thought to have the power to 
ward off disease, accident, and other unfortunate occurrences. No 
doubt many Catholics do have a superstitious faith in the medals they 
wear. But they sin in holding such a faith. One clergyman preaching 
in St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York City, attacked the abuse of 
"plastic piety." "It is about time," he said, "we shake off some of the 
nonsense surrounding medals, chain prayers, statues and the rest. 
. . . Wear medals, but understand them." 76 In strict Catholic teach- 
ing, a medal is but the badge of a saint; it is a reminder to the wearer 
that he should live a virtuous life, and a spiritual one. Living such a 
life, he may confidently hope that he will receive supernatural help in 
time of crisis. But he has no guarantee that the trouble he fears will 
be prevented. 

Nevertheless, the practice of engaging in spiritual exercises in the 
hope of guarding against trouble is widespread and appears to receive 
clerical encouragement. In my community, Catholic churches are 
crowded every year in midwinter on the Feast of St. Blaise. He is the 
patron saint of throat diseases and on the day of his feast communi- 
cants, kneeling at the altar rail, receive from the priests a blessing in 
his name. The Carmelite Fathers of New York issue a leaflet which 
says that a scapular is available and that "whosoever dies clothed 
in this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire." Moreover, the fulfillment 
of two conditions (chastity according to one's state in life and the 
daily recitation of the Little Office) assures one of being freed from 
purgatory on the first Saturday after death. Each kissing of the scapu- 
lar grants one five hundred days indulgence. However, says the leaflet, 
the scapular "is not a talisman. ... It is the sign of devotedness to 
the Blessed Virgin. . . . an habitual sinner mil not persevere in 
"wearing the Scapular." 77 

The Catholic Church officially is very skeptical concerning any 
claim that a miracle has occurred. A good example of this skepticism 
occurred at Gloucester, New Jersey, where more than a thousand 
people came to see what they took to be a vision of the Virgin in a 


light that appeared on the door of St. Mary's Church. The pastor put 
some black cloth over a window in the rectory and demonstrated that 
the vision was simply the light of a street lamp reflected by the window 
glass onto the freshly varnished church door. But if it can be demon- 
strated that an observed effect was not produced by natural means, nor 
by fraud, nor by magic, nor was the result of hallucination, the 
Catholic Church gladly assents to the faith that God has given another 
evidence of His miraculous power. These miraculous effects are said to 
happen every day God lives! and he gives the faithful constant re- 
minders of His love and care. 

Miracles of healing are the best-known of the modem manifesta- 
tions of God's intervention in the affairs of mankind. The most famous 
of all shrines where healings take place is at Lourdes in Southern 
France. There in 1858 a fourteen-year-old peasant girl, Bernadette 
Soubiroux, saw in a hollow of the rock a vision of the Blessed Virgin. 
The Virgin appeared to Bernadette nineteen times, a fountain miracu- 
lously gushed forth, and the Virgin told Bernadette to instruct the 
clergy to build a church at the spot. The clergy, incredulous at first 
because no one but Bernadette had seen the vision, were finally con- 
vinced because they felt compelled to accept the fact that miracles 
were taking place. The church was built and the Pilgrimage of Lourdes 
was recognized. Since that time thousands of healings have occurred, 
healings that could have no other possible cause, say the faithful, 
except the direct intervention of God. A writer in the Catholic 
Encyclopedia writes, "There exists no natural cause capable of pro- 
ducing the cures witnessed at Lourdes." 78 

A North American shrine which has attained great prestige is St. 
Anne de Beaupre, thirty miles north of the city of Quebec. As many as 
twenty-five thousand persons have visited this shrine on a single day 
and a large number of cures have been certified as genuine by the 
Catholic Church. 

Catholics identify living persons as being particularly close to God, 
the recipients of His special favors. The following paragraphs are 
taken from an article on such a person. This article was written by a 
layman; as far as I know the Vatican has never indicated that the 
events narrated are truly miraculous. But the account was published 
in an official Catholic newspaper. The account concerns a stigmatic, 


that is, a person on whose body appear wounds like the wounds which 
Jesus Christ received at the cmcifixion. 

Theresa Neumann was born in 1898, the eldest of 10 children. Their 
father was hoth a tailor and farmer. She was a perfectly normal child. 
There was little about the youngster to distinguish her from others in 
the strongly Catholic village [hi Bavaria], 

In the spring of 1918 she injured her spine in a fire. The result was a 
complete paralysis of her limbs with blindness coming soon after. Then 
on May 17, 1923, the date of the beatification of St. Theresa, in Rome, 
the sick girl regained her eyesight. She had prayed to the young saint 
every day. . . . 

It was on Thursday, March 5, 1926, that the first manifestation oc- 
curred. A wound suddenly opened [over] Theresa's heart and began to 
bleed profusely. From that moment on she suffered every agony that 
Christ experienced at His Crucifixion. The marks of the nails appeared on 
her hands and feet. There was an imprint of the crown of thorns on her 
head. She bled at the eyes. The stigmata lessened on Sunday but the 
following Wednesday the signs again appeared and she went through the 
Crucifixion for the second time. That was the beginning. 

Since that time, on certain Fridays which fall on Church Days, other 
than joyous ones, Theresa Neumann goes through her ecstasies. . . . 
Theresa has not slept for eighteen years. Nor has she touched any food 
excepting the small wafer which she receives at Communion daily. 79 
[Other accounts assert that she also has had no drink during this period.] 80 

These illustrations indicate how strongly the Catholic Church 
holds to a belief in the supernatural. No one knows, of course, the 
extent to which individual Catholics believe in miracles; some 
Catholics no doubt reject the teaching of their Church at this point. 
But if they make this rejection known, they feel the full weight of 
ecclesiastical censure for the Church herself takes her position 
squarely on the traditional belief. And from it the faithful receive 
much comfort. Miracles are an evidence to them that God is in 
heaven and has constant and watchful concern for His children here 
on earth. 


Non-Catholics frequently assert that the Catholic hierarchy is op- 
posed to the Bible. Such a statement is rather like saying that judges 
who preside in divorce courts are opposed to the institution of 
marriage. The hierarchy guards carefully against what it considers 


to be improper use of the Scriptures. But it vigorously asserts faith 
in the Bible, and considers it to be the major source of revelation. 

Catholics believe that the Bible contains no "formal error"; this 
perfection is possible, they say, because God inspired it. One Catholic 
writer says: 

We cannot restrict inspiration to certain parts only. . . . We cannot 
restrict inspiration to faith and morals alone. . . . We do not look for 
precise scientific formulas in the Bible, for it does not teach science ex 
professo. Nothing in its pages contradicts the teachings of natural science, 
because the same God is the author of natural and supernatural truth. 
But the sacred writers generally speak of scientific matters in more or less 
figurative language, or in terms which were commonly used at the time 
they wrote. 81 

The idea that Catholics are opposed to the Bible arises from the 
fact that for many centuries the Catholic Church discouraged its 
laymen from reading the Bible. During much of this period the 
Bible was the chief instrument of the Protestant Reformation, and 
Catholics consequently opposed Biblical translation and dissemina- 
tion. Catholics are still forbidden to read Protestant translations of 
the Bible; within the present century Catholics in foreign countries 
have even gone so far as to burn publicly Bibles which had been dis- 
tributed by Protestants. But in the United States today the reading of 
the Bible in a Catholic translation is encouraged and is considered to 
be a pious act. The hierarchy holds, however, that the Bible is a very 
difficult book to understand, many passages having several possible 
interpretations. Thus, if laymen read the Bible, they are expected to 
familiarize themselves with the official interpretations and to accept 

Catholic piety for laymen, unlike Protestant and Jewish piety, does 
not ordinarily express itself in extensive devotional reading of the 
Scriptures. Catholic piety ordinarily finds expression in such devotions 
as the Rosary, meditation on the various incidents in the life of Jesus, 
contemplation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and preparation for con- 
fession and Communion. 


Catholics pay their full share of taxes for the public schools in the 
United States; yet they are so convinced of the importance of religious 


education that they maintain through voluntary contributions a sepa- 
rate educational system. They contend that the Church cannot develop 
real religion in a community where the children get most of their 
education under secular auspices. The Church even contends that it 
rightfully should have control of all education, "public" as well as 
Catholic. One authoritative book declares, "We deny, of course, as 
Catholics, the right of the civil government to educate, for education is 
a function of the spiritual society, as much as preaching and the ad- 
ministration of the sacraments." 82 

Catholics aim to enroll every Catholic child in a full-time Catholic 
school and to develop in every section of the country a complete edu- 
cational system all the way from the nursery through the university. 
They are succeeding to a remarkable degree. More than 60 per cent 
of the Catholic students of elementary school age are now attending 
Catholic elementary schools; more than half of the Catholic students 
of high school age are attending Catholic high schools. The propor- 
tions enrolled in these schools have been steadily rising. The Church 
now has over two hundred and thirty colleges and universities in the 
United States; and new ones are planned every year. Catholics employ 
nearly four times as many teachers as they do diocesan priests. 

Currently there is much controversy between Catholics and non- 
Catholics over the public support of parochial schools. The hier- 
archy in several states has succeeded in getting textbooks and bus 
transportation for parochial pupils paid for out of public funds. This 
development has been vigorously opposed by many Protestants and 
Jews. They believe in the public schools. They contend that sectarian 
education is the function of churches and synagogues and that any 
system of private education brings dissimilar training to the young, 
drains off interest in public education, and threatens the unity of the 
nation. The welfare of the nation, they say, requires that private edu- 
cation should be discouraged rather than encouraged. The right of any 
group of citizens to establish private schools, assert Protestants and 
Jews, must be maintained if we are to keep essential liberties; but 
such citizens ought to bear all the burdens of the venture and ought 
not to expect financial help from the public, any more than a business- 
man should expect financial help from the public if he hires his own 
detective agency instead of relying on the skills of the police. 

Catholics retort to this line of reasoning that God has entrusted the 
Church with the salvation of the race, that the Church in an ideal 
society would have control of all education, that "the atmosphere of 
the public schools, is, in effect, atheistic, [since] not only is God 
ignored, but His laws are not even taught the child" 83 and that requir- 
ing Catholic parents to send their children to a secular school or else 
to endure "double taxation" is a violation of conscience rights. Pro- 
fessor John A. O'Brien of the University of Notre Dame said in 1961 
that the Catholic school system in the United States is saving the na- 
tion's non-Catholic taxpayers at least $2,735,162,500 each year and 
that "because Catholic families bear a double burden, the educational 
taxes of each non-Catholic family in the U.S. are reduced $76.66 
each year." 84 Archbishop William O. Brady of St. Paul charged that 
giving Federal aid to public education only would be "one more 
confirmation that we Catholics are second class citizens." 85 However, 
a Jesuit, the Dean of the Boston College Law School, said that al- 
though many Catholic parents "do resent deeply the denial of their 
claim to aid for schools of their choice, Catholic parents and Catholic 
educators should not be encouraged to think that any state or federal 
aid will be forthcoming for Catholic schools in this or even in the 
next generation." 86 

The hierarchy is widely credited with having defeated efforts in the 
Congress to pass bills providing for federal aid to education. These 
defeats were due to the opposition of conservative Republicans and 
Southern Democrats as well as of Roman Catholics. But no doubt a 
bill would have passed if it had received Catholic support. 87 Catholics 
contend that the Constitution does not forbid governmental aid to 
the religious school. They are struggling to find a formula which will 
provide such aid and also be generally regarded as constitutionally ac- 
ceptable. After the defeat of the 1961 bill, a defeat in which a Catholic 
member of the House Rules Committee cast "the decisive vote," the 
Legal Department of the National Catholic Welfare Conference pro- 
posed federal aid to parochial schools in teaching secular subjects; 
the Department contended that there 

exists no constitutional bar to aid to education in church-related schools 
in a degree proportionate to the value of the public function it performs. 
Such aid to the secular function may take the form of matching grants 


or long-term loans to institutions, or of scholarships, tuition payments, or 
tax benefits. 

Leo Pfeffer, Director of the Commission on Law and Social Action 
of the American Jewish Congress, replied: 

The legal memorandum issued by the National Catholic Welfare Con- 
ference asserts that ... all that need be done is to apply "the art of cost 
accounting" to draw a dividing line between costs attributable to secular 
aspects of education and those attributable to religious aspects. 

This assertion rests on a premise that has been uniformly and con- 
sistently denied by Catholic educators, theologians and philosophers, i.e., 
that the secular can be divided from the sacred and that the Catholic 
parochial school is nothing but a public school with religion added as a 
supplementary subject. Were this to be so, there would be no reason for 
parochial schools, since the religious instruction could easily be provided 
after regular public school hours. . . 

The standard Catholic text on education, Redden and Ryan's, "A 
Catholic Philosophy of Education," states that "the only school approved 
by the Church is one . . . where the Catholic religion permeates the 
entire atmosphere, comprising, in truth and fact, the 'core curriculum' 
around which revolve all secular subjects." 

The "art of cost accounting" is indeed advanced. But it cannot make 
secular that which is sacred or constitutional that which violates the First 
Amendment. 88 

Strenuous efforts are made to secure the attendance of Catholic 
children at parochial schools, even to the extent of warning parents 
that failure to send children will result in a withdrawal of the sacra- 
ments. 89 Attendance at non-Catholic colleges and universities is some- 
times viewed with alarm; for example, the Archbishop of St. Louis 
declared in a pastoral letter that Catholics in the Archdiocese may 
not in conscience attend non-Catholic institutions of higher education 
unless written permission is obtained from the Church and that such 
permission will be granted only for "just and serious reasons." 90 

Catholic schools are often charged with accepting lower academic 
standards than obtain in the public schools; one author wrote of the 
"obvious inferiority" 91 of the parochial schools. Catholic colleges are 
often said to produce fewer intellectual leaders than do non-Catholic 
colleges. One study of sixty-four of the "most eminent" scientists in 
this country as judged by other scientists found that "none of them 
came from Catholic homes." 92 A study of college graduates whose 
names appeared in Who's Who in America, 1938, revealed that the 


highest ranking Catholic college in terms of the number of graduates 
cited was only 137th on the list. A priest wrote an article which con- 
sidered the problem of "the impoverishment of Catholic scholarship 
in this country, as well as the low state of Catholic leadership in most 
walks of national life." 93 It is surely true that many Catholic educa- 
tional institutions when judged by ordinary secular standards do not 
measure up academically; it would be surprising if they did in view of 
their cramped budgets. But when Catholic schools are measured by 
Catholic standards, which make Catholic faith the end of living, 
Catholic schools have no peer hi this country. Catholic schools make 
religion the center of the curriculum and annually present the Church 
with scores of thousands of devoted followers. 

A paragraph about the Catholic press is in order at this point. The 
hierarchy has had marked success in persuading Catholic people to 
buy and to read Catholic newspapers and magazines. Over five 
hundred Catholic publications are issued in this country. They have 
a total circulation of over twenty-seven millions. Local diocesan 
papers have the help of the press department of the National Catholic 
Welfare Conference. The Conference sends out thousands of words 
each week to its clients. 

Protestants think the Catholic Church gets a break in the secular 
press; Catholics think just the reverse. The Catholic Press Association 
estimated in 1945 that less than one-tenth of 1 per cent of the news in 
secular newspapers is Catholic news. 


The Roman Catholic Church is the largest single religious body in 
the United States. It reported for the year 1960 forty-two million 
members. All of Protestantism in the United States had in that year 
perhaps eighty to eighty-five million members (using a Catholic defini- 
tion of "membership"). However, Protestants reported only sixty- 
three and a half million members. 94 The discrepancy is due to the fact 
that Protestants unlike Catholics often do not count persons who have 
been baptized only, and more frequently drop an inactive person from 
the rolls. Catholics count as members any person who has been 
baptized by the Church, even though he may never have been con- 
firmed and may never attend Mass. The churches and synagogues 


reported in 1960 a total membership of 63,6 per cent of the popula- 

As is indicated, the above figures are based on reports by the 
churches. Somewhat different results are obtained by polling individual 
Americans. In 1957, the Bureau of the Census polled a random 
sample of "about 35,000 households" asking about the religion of 
persons fourteen years old and over. 95 The Bureau's estimates (ex- 
trapolated from the poll results) of the number of persons (with their 
children under fourteen) who considered themselves to belong to 
various religious groups in 1957 were: Roman Catholic, forty-two 
million; Protestant, one hundred and ten million; Jewish, five million; 
some other religion, two million; no religion, three and a half million; 
religion not reported, one and two-tenths million. On the basis of these 
estimates the percentages of Americans who regard themselves as be- 
longing to the various groups are as follows: Roman Catholic, 26 per 
cent; Protestant, 66 per cent; Jewish, 3.2 per cent; other religions, 1.3 
per cent; no religion, 2.7 per cent; religion not reported, 0.9 per cent. 
However, the answers of a considerable percentage of Americans 
to such questions as "What is your religion?" mean little more than 
that they were born into a family of a certain religious background, 
that they have made no open break with their family tradition, and 
that they are not Jews, or not Catholics, or not Protestants. For a siz- 
able proportion in all the sects, "membership" does not involve active 
support either by attendance or by contributions. Accurate compari- 
sons of the number of persons actively following the various religious 
groupings have not been obtained. 

The world membership of the major groups in the Judeo-Christian 
tradition is sometimes given as follows: Roman Catholic, five hundred 
and ten million; Protestant, two hundred and ten million; Eastern 
Orthodox, one hundred and thirty million; Jewish, twelve million. 06 
(Before Hitler began his systematic extermination of the Jews, there 
were about seventeen million Jews.) These figures seriously underesti- 
mate the strength of Protestantism as compared to the other groups 
since the estimates for Protestantism often count only those persons 
who are on membership rolls, while the estimates for the other groups 
often count whole populations. In the Roman Catholic estimate, for 
example, only 8 per cent of the population of South America is 


counted as non-Catholic even though a much greater percentage thinks 
of itself as having no interest in any kind of religion whatever. The 
misrepresentation of Protestant strength is so marked that one highly 
placed Protestant could write, "According to the most reliable statistics 
available, the total Catholic constituency and Protestant constituency 
throughout the world are nearly equal." 97 

Catholics sometimes claim that the number of practicing Catholics 
exceeds the number of practicing Protestants; an editorial writer in a 
leading Catholic paper even asserted, "On any given Sunday there are 
more than twice as many Catholics attending divine services as there 
are members of all other religious organizations taken together." 98 
These claims are certainly in error. (See pages 472 f.) 

Unfortunately religious statistics in this country are often unreliable; 
there are no common definitions, no uniform methods of gathering 
data, and no official gathering agency. In this book statistics wiU be 
presented for most of the sects described in order to give the reader 
some indication of comparative sizes and tendencies. He will need, 
however, to allow for a margin of error. 

Only in recent decades has the Catholic Church manifested real in- 
fluence in this country. All through colonial times and during the 
first decades of our national life, the Catholic portion of our popula- 
tion was very small. The first period of rapid Catholic growth began 
only about 1830; it continued until the beginning of the Civil War. 
Another period of rapid growth was from about 1890 until the be- 
ginning of World War I. However, since the cessation of large-scale 
immigration, Catholic growth has slowed down to about the pace of 
Protestant growth. There is little evidence that Catholics are making 
spectacular gains as contrasted with Protestants. The Yearbook of 
American Churches, Edition for 1962, using reports from the 
churches, states that from 1926 to 1960 the Catholic percentage of 
the total United States population increased from 16.0 per cent to 
23.6 per cent while the corresponding Protestant increase was from 
27.0 per cent to 35.4 per cent. However, in the single year 1960, 
Catholics reported an increase of 3.2 per cent while Protestants re- 
ported an increase of only 1.8 per cent. The United States population 
in that year also increased 1.8 per cent. 99 

A number of well-advertised conversions to Catholicism have 


seemed to indicate that Catholics are making serious inroads on 
Protestant membership lists. Such inroads are improbable. The 
publicity given to the conversion of prominent persons is primarily 
an indication of the influence of the Catholic Church with the secular 
press. Conversion is a two-way process. Surveys conducted by Protes- 
tant organizations indicate that Catholics are being converted to 
Protestantism faster than Protestants to Catholicism. The Omaha 
Council of Churches found in fifty-one Protestant churches a "ratio of 
4.57 Roman Catholics received to one Protestant entering the 
Catholic Church." 100 A national survey of one-tenth of the Methodist 
churches for the year 1958 found that 

more persons who were once Roman Catholics joined The Methodist 
Church than were dismissed by it to the Roman Catholic Church, . . . 
Of the 1,963 Catholics who joined The Methodist Church, 829 gave as 
their reason the fact that the tenets of Romanism no longer held nor 
attracted them, while a lesser number, 737 joined our church because of 
marriage. Conversely, an almost insignificant number, 39, left The 
Methodist Church to become Catholics because they were dissatisfied 
with the tenets of Methodism, while 463 left because of marriage, ac- 
counting in part for the larger number, 407, females who left our church 
as compared to the much lesser number 150 males. 101 

The number of conversions from one group to another probably 
does not represent much altering of the proportional strengths of the 
larger religious bodies. 

A good many students of American religions assert that the Roman 
Catholic Church is the most vital religious organization in the United 
States today. I am inclined to agree with this opinion: as an institution 
the Catholic Church appears to receive more loyalty from its members, 
to come nearer to giving its members what they demand spiritually, 
and to show more promise of influencing national trends in the im- 
mediate future than does any other church. 

Two facts, in my judgment, are primarily responsible for this situa- 
tion. One is the system of Catholic schools; through these schools the 
whole educational experience of a large percentage of Catholics is 
dominated by a church point of view. Thus millions of Americans have 
been trained from infancy to revere the Catholic Church and to follow 
the decisions of the hierarchy. 

The other major factor in Catholic strength in the United States is 


the excesses associated with radical anti-Catholicism. On at least two 
occasions opposition to Catholicism has assumed major national im- 
portance in the 1850's as the Know-Nothing movement and in 
the 1920 5 s in the second phase of the Ku-Klux Klan. Persecution, 
provided it is not too severe, tends to strengthen rather than to weaken 
a religious minority. Opposition has meant that American Catholics 
have developed a strong group consciousness and loyalty such as has 
been absent from the religious experience of many modern groups. 
Perhaps nowhere else in the world do Catholics have as intense loyalty 
to their Church as they have in America. In countries where the 
Catholic Church is theoretically dominant in Italy, in France, in 
Latin America the average citizen is often indifferent to religion. 
The Catholic Church is most vital in those countries where it has 
strong Protestant competition: Germany, England, Canada, the 
United States. 

The average American Catholic's attitude toward his Church con- 
trasts rather sharply with the thinking and actions of most American 
Protestants. H. Paul Douglass commented on this fact, saying, "The 
church as an institution is a sort of Protestant whipping-boy. It is 
beaten as disappointed heathens beat their idols." Over against this 
common Protestant attitude is "the invariable pity awakened in 
Catholics in behalf of the church 'sore oppressed.' " 102 Anyone who 
doubts Douglass' judgment needs but to attempt to discuss religions 
objectively before an audience composed of American Catholics, 
Jews and Protestants. Most Protestants and Jews wiU usually listen 
quietly to the expression of opinions adverse to Protestantism and 
Judaism; but many Catholics will enter vigorous objections to even 
mild criticisms of their religion. 

Only since World War I have Catholics begun to rid themselves of 
this minority psychology. Prior to that time they tended to think of 
themselves as a foreign colony in the midst of "the Americans"; 
many of them were foreign born and half of them attended foreign 
language churches. Not until 1908 did the Vatican cease to class the 
United States as a mission field. But today Catholic leaders are 
vigorously combating this psychology; they assert that Catholics are 
in fact the religious majority. Nevertheless, the consciousness of being 
a minority still characterizes American Catholicism and doubtless will 


continue to characterize it for a considerable time to come. This 
consciousness, while it lasts, will increase the loyalty of Catholics to 
their Church. 

The institutional consequences of a minority psychology are not 
all beneficial. A persecuted minority is usually conservative. The 
persecution which it endures, or which it fears, makes it wish to 
conserve its energies and not to embark on experiments. As a result of 
this attitude, the Catholic Church has a kind of institutional toughness 
which distrusts innovation. This conservatism tends also to give 
power to the clergy; in America the Catholic bishop has more au- 
thority than in European nations. There are many loyal Catholic lay- 
men who would like to see a liberalization of Catholic policy. But 
lay influence is slight. Marked changes in Catholic procedure are 
doubtless not just around the corner. 

Furthermore, the strength of the Catholic Church seems to be an 
internal strength. The Church has not and does not seem to be winning 
favor with the rest of the nation. It is true that Catholics are having 
more and more influence on national affairs. But this influence in most 
cases appears to be the result not of persuasion, but of power. 


"A kind of Protestant underworld" exists, writes a Congrega- 
tional clergyman, "an opposition that expresses itself in unsigned 
manifestoes and stirs up undisguised hatred of Catholics." 103 "The 
situation is bad and we might as well admit it," writes a well-known 
Catholic layman. 104 The anti-Catholic movement unfortunately is 
still a prominent part of American life. Two decades ago under the 
leadership of the National Conference of Christians and Jews a 
campaign to rid the country of religious prejudice seemed well on the 
way to success; today a campaign to arouse lethargic non-Catholics 
to the "danger of Catholic power" finds heavy financial support. 
Moreover, the persons who are aroused today are not limited to a 
lunatic fringe; many sober and fair-minded non-Catholic religious 
leaders express concern. Why this change? 

One reason is the refusal of present-day Catholic leadership to 
support the movement to develop comity among the religious groups. 
Because they sincerely believe their religion to be The Truth, Catholics 


think they should be honored in their refusal to deal publicly with 
other churches as equals. The hierarchy today shows a tendency to 
label as "bigotry" any opposition to Catholic policies. 

Many non-Catholics are alarmed by the increasing power in politics 
of the Catholic Church. It succeeded, according to a widespread 
opinion, in preventing American support of the Republic in the 
Spanish Civil War. It persuaded the State Department to discriminate 
in granting passports against Protestants who sought to go as mission- 
aries to South American countries. 105 It secured at the Vatican a 
diplomatic representative from the United States. Its priests occupied 
a heavily disproportionate number of executive positions in the 
Chaplains Corps. 106 It brought Massachusetts (and other states) to 
enforce laws which make religion a paramount concern in the adop- 
tion of children; a Massachusetts court issued orders requiring that 
two children be taken out of the custody of a home in which they had 
lived for years, even when the best interests of the children (other than 
the change of religion), the desires of the adoptive parents, and the 
desires of the natural mother all supported the plea that the children 
be allowed to remain in the home. 107 Paul Blanshard, a vigorous critic 
of the Catholic Church, writes that in many cities "there is a kind 
of unwritten political law that ... no person in public Hfe must 
ever say anything directly hostile to the Catholic hierarchy." 108 In 
many sections membership in the Catholic Church is essential to 
political success. On the other hand, in the national government 
Catholics hold less than their share of the offices. (See pages 286 f.) 

Catholic influence on the press and on the circulation of newspapers 
and books disturbs and frightens many non-Catholics. Editors know 
that the hierarchy, like any American business, or college, or pro- 
fessional group, will do what it can to prevent unfavorable publicity. 
And the hierarchy is in a position to do a great deal. A Columbus, 
Ohio, newspaper published a story with a picture of a priest who had 
renounced his vows and married; the local bishop called for a boycott, 
and the paper lost thousands of subscribers. 109 A columnist writing in 
the European edition of the New York Herald Tribune criticized 
Cardinal Spellman's dealings with striking grave diggers; the Cardinal 
complained, and the columnist was promptly dropped. 110 la San 
Francisco a newspaper was boycotted and lost heavily because it 


printed a news item concerning a priest who was arrested for drunken 
driving with a female companion. 111 The New York Public Schools 
banned The Nation from its libraries because Catholics objected to a 
series of articles by Paul Blanshard. And Macy's department store in 
New York finally yielded to pressure and ceased to handle the best- 
selling American Freedom and Catholic Power, the book into which 
Blanshard's Nation articles were expanded. 112 

Many newspaper editors seem to be unwilling to review fairly or 
even to notice books which are critical of the Catholic Church. Mr. 
Blanshard's book was reviewed in The New York Times by "a devout 
Catholic"; and the best-known Catholic book in reply was reviewed 
not by a Protestant but again by a devout Catholic. 113 Ernmett 
McLoughlin's book, People's Padre, which tells of his experiences as a 
priest and as an ex-priest, was reviewed by only two newspapers in 
the whole New England and Middle Atlantic area even when it was 
selling a thousand copies a week, and even though Reinhold Niebuhr 
could write of the book, "People's Padre deserves attention." 114 
Thomas Sugrue's book, A Catholic Speaks His Mind, was reviewed in 
The New York Times by an editor of a leading Catholic journal. 
Sugrue wrote 

Some of my non-Catholic friends said to me, "Did you have to do it?" 
They didn't like the trouble it made for them; they are editors and they 
were frightened at the idea of dealing with the book. If they printed one 
word for it they would be deluged with Catholic pressure, and they 
knew it. ... 

I have been a book reviewer for twenty years; I have written and 
talked about nearly two thousand volumes. . . . The act only proves 
what I have said about Catholic pressure; all editors and publishers of 
secular periodicals are afraid of it. Is that something of which the Catho- 
lics should be proud that editors who are my friends and for whom I 
have worked for years are afraid to give a fair review to my book? 115 

Catholic influence on the movies is also very irritating to many 
non-Catholics. Through its Legion of Decency the Church instructs 
its members which motion pictures are objectionable and which proper 
for Catholic eyes. If the matter stopped there, few but the movie 
producers, who want their market to extend to the entire population, 
would complain; certainly the right of a church to set standards for its 
own members should be inviolable. But the Legion of Decency, like 
the Protestants in prohibition days, succeeds in setting standards for 


the general population. The Legion has upon occasion prevented the 
exhibition of pictures which clergymen of other sects found unobjec- 
tionable. It has also a large influence in Hollywood; 116 any casual 
observer can see that in picture after picture great effort is made to 
please and not to offend the Catholic Church, though no correspond- 
ing effort is extended in Protestant directions. The film Elmer Gantry, 
for example, was considered as among the best produced in its year 
by the New York Film Critics; but its treatment of the Protestant 
evangelist was most derogatory. One sarcastic reviewer wrote: 

It was cool and comfortable in the theater, and I was short of sleep. 
The leading character of the movie, posing as a priest, seemed to be 
deceiving a nun in the dark before the high altar of his church. Two reels 
later he was framed by a prostitute-with-photographer, and as the pic- 
ture ended he threw off his robe with the announcement that he was put- 
ting away childish things. . . . 

By this time I knew I was dreaming; after all, Hollywood knows how 
to avoid sacrilege! So I awoke and found on the screen, thanks to United 
Artists, a Protestant evangelist betraying a deacon's daughter and turning 
her into a prostitute. 117 

Catholic pressures extend to television. The world TV premiere of the 
outstanding film Martin Luther, which had been produced by 
Lutheran Church Productions, was canceled by Chicago station 
WGN-TV because of pressure brought by Catholics. 

Many writers contend that the Catholic Church is antidemocratic. 
This contention is certainly untrue for the Church in the United 
States, if by democratic is meant loyalty to the nation and to its 
form of government. American Catholics need take a back seat to no 
other group in their willingness to defend their country and its institu- 
tions. On the other hand, if by democratic is meant "popular deter- 
mination of major policies," then the Catholic Church is not 
democratic; let it be noted, however, that the Church shares this 
characteristic with practically all of America's economic institutions 
and most of her educational institutions. 

No doubt the factor in Catholic life which most disturbs informed 
non-Catholics is the statements which come from Catholic priests 
concerning the intention of the Catholic Church to take from non- 
Catholics full liberty of worship, if and when Catholics become the 
dominant group. Pope Pius IX insisted that man is not "free to em- 


brace and to profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, 
he judges true." Pope Leo XIII denied that "every one may, as he 
chooses, worship God." Two highly placed American priests, Dr. 
John A. Ryan and Dr. Francis J. Boland wrote: 

Does State recognition of the Catholic religion necessarily imply that 
no other reHgion[s] should be tolerated? ... If these are carried on 
within the family, or in such an inconspicuous manner as to be an 
occasion neither of scandal nor of perversion to the faithful, they may 
properly be tolerated by the State. 118 

A Jesuit writing in a magazine published in Rome declared: 

The Roman Catholic Church . . . must demand the right of freedom 
for herself alone, because such a right can only be possessed by truth, 
never by error. ... In a state where the majority of people are Catholic, 
the Church will require that legal existence be denied to error, and that 
if religious minorities actually exist, they shall have only a de facto 
existence without opportunity to spread their beliefs. . . . The Church 
cannot blush for her own want of tolerance, as she asserts it in principle 
and applies it in practice. 119 

The alarm of non-Catholics is increased by their observation of 
Spain where according to numerous Protestant reports no signs an- 
nouncing services of worship are permitted on Protestant buildings, 
where all publicity announcing Protestant worship must be by word 
of mouth, where Protestants are not permitted to reply in the press 
to attacks made on them, where Protestants may not bury their dead 
with the rites of their church, where the printing of Protestant hymn- 
books is forbidden, 120 where the printing or importing of Protestant 
Bibles is forbidden, where petitions for the opening of Protestant 
chapels are ignored, where thirty (perhaps more) chapels have been 
closed in recent years. 121 Nor is the status of non-Catholic liberties 
in Italy reassuring, where the public schools indoctrinate Catholicism, 
where parish priests are paid by the government as though they were 
civil servants, where priests who have been converted to Protestantism 
are denied employment which brings them into contact with the 
public ("a priest who renounces Catholicism, and chooses to become 
a teacher or a Protestant minister, is liable to arrest"), 122 where a 
Catholic prelate used his position as head of the Olympic Committee 
for Religious Assistance to bar all Protestant clergymen from Olympic 
Village until the last week of the games and to withhold from the 
athletes notices of services in Rome's Protestant churches, 123 


How shall all these non-Catholic fears be dealt with? "The first 
thing that must be said," writes Father George H. Dunne, S. J., "is 
that the question . . . needs to be honestly faced. It is no good 
merely to say that no American non-Catholic has reasonable ground 
for being concerned." 124 And Catholics have faced it; over and over 
American priests have declared their satisfaction with the American 
system. The basic thing which non-Catholics need to understand is 
that not all Catholics, nor all priests, agree on such matters. The 
Church is not the monolithic structure which outsiders so often 
assume. An excellent illustration is the attitude toward the public 
schools. One of the bishops wrote a pamphlet describing the public 
schools as "Our National Enemy No. 1." A priest answered saying 
that the best place for such pamphlets is "the ash-can." 125 Similarly 
with politics; one observer wrote that "a widespread discussion [is] 
now raging in the Roman Catholic Church on the proper relation of 
church with state." 126 In the midst of the 1960 preconvention cam- 
paigns one Catholic view was stated by an editorial in the Vatican 
journal L'Osservatore Romano to the considerable embarrassment of 
Catholic candidates for the presidential nomination. 

An absurd distinction is made between a man's conscience as a Catho- 
lic and Ms conscience as a citizen. . . . 

A Catholic can never depart from the teachings and directives of the 
Church. In every sector of his activity, his conduct, both private and 
public, must be motivated by the laws, orientation and instructions of the 
hierarchy. . . . 

The problem of collaboration with those who do not recognize re- 
ligious principles might arise in the political field. It is then up to the 
ecclesiastical authorities, and not to the arbitrary decisions of individual 
Catholics, to judge the moral licitness of such collaboration. . . . 

It is highly deplorable . . . that some persons, though professing to be 
Catholics, not only dare to conduct their political and social activities in 
a way which is at variance with the teachings of the Church, but also take 
upon themselves the right to submit its norms and precepts to their own 
judgment, interpretation and evaluation. . . , 127 

"To a man, the American Catholic commentators on the editorial 
denied its relevancy or application to Sen. Kennedy or to the Ameri- 
can situation." 128 America, a journal published by Jesuits, called the 
editorial "A Bewildering Article," 129 and the Commonweal, published 
by lay Catholics, said, "It is obvious that ... the views of American 


Catholics do not always receive the consideration they deserve in some 
Catholic circles in Europe, and it would be foolish to ignore this fact 
or to pretend that it poses no problems." 130 American Catholics quote 
a former head of the Society of Jesus: 

American Catholics . . . have not the slightest desire to substitute for 
these advantages [of religious freedom] that "protection" by the State 
which in Europe has so often meant the oppression of the Church. 131 

Archbishop John T. McNicholas, as chairman of the Administrative 
Board of the National Catholic Welfare Conference, issued in 1948 
a statement for the American bishops, in which he said: 

We deny absolutely and without any qualification that the Catholic 
Bishops of the United States are seeking a union of Church and State 
by any endeavors whatsoever, either proximate or remote. If tomorrow 
Catholics constituted a majority in our country, they would not seek a 
union of Church and State. 132 

Doctors Ryan and Boland, cited above, wrote: 

While all this [limitation of non-Catholic freedom of religion] is very 
true in logic and in theory, the event of its practical realization in any 
State or country is so remote in time and in probability that no practical 
man will let it disturb his equanimity or affect his attitude toward those 
who differ from him in religious faith. 133 

A former editor of The Commonweal said in a public address that 
while American Catholics are "stuck" with Vatican pronouncements 
concerning the proper relationships between church and state, he 
believes that none of the pronouncements would be put into effect 
even if America were to become overwhelmingly Catholic. 134 The 
alert observer will note the fact that some overwhelmingly Catholic 
countries Ireland, for example are very far from following Spain 
in its attitudes toward Protestants. The author of a study on Roman 
Catholicism and Religious Liberty published by the World Council of 
Churches, which is Protestant and Eastern Orthodox, wrote: 

Roman Catholic literature representing this modern tendency [to de- 
fend religious liberty] has lately been so voluminous and of such quality 
that it would be an understatement to say that, for one book or article 
in favour of the traditional doctrine, ten have been published defending 
universal religious freedom. 135 

On the other hand, in Holyoke, Massachusetts, sometimes said to 
be "the most Catholic city in America," Catholics used economic 


force in the effort to prevent a lecture on birth control by Margaret 
Sanger; concerning this incident one priest said: 

In a Catholic community . . . where a Catholic moral code is accepted 
by the majority of the community, such people as Margaret Sanger 
should not be brought in to disturb the public. . . . We are against the 
Communists for the same reason. They have no right to speak wherever 
and whenever they please. 

Another Holyoke priest said: 

In Italy, Catholic religion and morals are the basis of the country and 
of the people's way of life, for the church is in the majority. In a country 
where this is so, the church should be favored in the laws and opportuni- 
ties of the state. The Protestants in Italy have gone out of their way to be 
nasty. They say there is nothing to the Catholic religion. They put a 
Methodist school up right across the hill from the Vatican just as if 
flaunting us. This kind of action by a minority naturally makes the Vati- 
can doubt that they should have as much liberty as the Catholics in the 
country. 136 

In view of such statements, non-Catholics persist in asking, "Can 
Catholicism win America?" The fear that the Church might attempt 
to dominate this country should not be dismissed as "neurotic"; 
Catholics need to remember that no one, not even the Pope, can speak 
for the hierarchy fifty years hence. Yet I see little reason to suppose 
that Catholicism can dominate America, except in the event of a 
political revolution which established a government favorable to the 
extreme Catholic claims. However, the question concerning the future 
role of Catholicism in America is sometimes asked in a more cogent 
form: "Can Catholicism divide America?" Some observers feel that 
the present program of the Church will accomplish this end; they 
insist that, while America cannot be converted to Catholicism, a 
"Catholic culture" can be built within the "American culture." Some 
writers declare that the present program of the Church definitely leads 
in that direction. One writer asserts, "The Catholic organizations 
in America are not merely fellowships of genial and like-minded 
Catholic people. . . . they become instruments for the development 
of a militant and exclusive faith." 137 

Among the many groups which Catholics have organized are as- 
sociations for physicians, nurses, actors, writers, broadcasters, teach- 
ers, lawyers, postal employees, court attaches, trade unionists, 


veterans. The Church forbids the joining of secret societies like the 
Odd Fellows and the Masons, and required its priests to resign from 
Rotary. Most important of all, the hierarchy hopes through its system 
of schools and colleges to provide every Catholic youth with a com- 
pletely Catholic education. Catholic schools, especially at the ele- 
mentary level, tend to be dominated by teachers who have themselves 
had only a Catholic education, and who subsequently have led lives 
sheltered from the main currents of non-Catholic thought and action. 
Catholics, of course, indignantly deny any intention of dividing 
America; but certainly there is a genuine danger that, whatever the 
intention, the actual result of so much emphasis on separate social 
organizations will be an effective dichotomy of American life. Protes- 
tants fear the growth of conditions like those obtaining in Belgium and 
Canada. An editorial in The Christian Century hopes we can avoid the 
development of a condition in which the "state is torn between con- 
flicting wills." 138 Many Catholics also are aware of the problem al- 
though they of course view it from a different angle. One priest wrote: 

Every time a good long [Roman Catholic] convention is held . . . 
someone is sure to condemn "the ghetto mentality." . . . There is some- 
thing in what they say. We are in a sort of ghetto. . . . 

Too many of us are living in the past, nursing slights of another gen- 
eration, aloof from our fellow Americans, where no aloofness is called 
for. . . . 

We still hesitate to join non-Catholics in social, charitable and recre- 
ational movements. 139 

Whatever may be the wish of the Catholic Church concerning the 
social withdrawal of its members, there is no question about its in- 
sistence on religious division. On most issues it refuses any kind of 
co-operation with other religious agencies. To co-operate might imply 
a recognition that Protestant churches and Jewish synagogues do in 
fact represent true religions. In an authoritative journal for priests 
appeared the following statement: 

It is precisely because a considerable proportion of our prominent and 
educated lay Catholics are inclined to "soft-pedal" the unqualified ex- 
clusiveness of the Catholic religion that it is dangerous for them to par- 
ticipate in "intercreedal" meetings, even when the purpose of these 
meetings is limited to the fostering of better understanding among citi- 
zens, the promotion of social welfare, or other like objectives of a purely 
natural character. Not a few of our Catholics could take occasion in such 


surroundings to state that everyone has the God-given right to practice 
any religion he chooses, that the most ideal type of relation between 
church and state is realized when a government accords equal rights to 
all forms of religion, that we all have the duty of promoting the religious 
activities of the various churches, etc. statements which are being in- 
cessantly repeated in our land today, but which no Catholic can approve 
if he wishes to be consistent with the principles of his faith. 140 

Such forthright exclusiveness limits the role which the Roman 
Catholic Church can play in American society. Exclusiveness creates 
tension; and tension creates fear; and fear creates a climate in which 
condemnations are made wholesale. The Catholic Church has little 
influence on other religious groups; rather, because of her avowed 
enmity to all non-Catholic movements, she is resisted on principle. 
Exclusiveness creates a mood in which proposals are appraised, not on 
merit, but on a judgment of the source from which they came. The 
resultant failure of communication makes almost inevitable a weaken- 
ing of the spiritual fiber of the nation. And thus the reinforcement of 
America's spiritual core is made less likely. 

If America can maintain such religious freedom as she now has, 
a type of freedom which permits parents and churches to indoctrinate 
children with sectarian beliefs, then the future of Catholicism and 
of all churches which emphasize exclusiveness is pretty much as- 
sured. But the question is: Can America preserve freedom without a 
widespread revitalization of her central spiritual dynamic and with- 
out a new and common commitment to the religious values at the 
heart of her culture? And what role can the many churches which 
emphasize exclusiveness play in the achievement of this commitment? 

The following maps are from Churches and Church Membership in the 
United States, a series of bulletins prepared by the Bureau of Research 
and Survey, National Council of Churches. This study is based on reports 
by 114 denominations for the year 1952 and it relates the data compiled 
from these reports to certain aspects of the 1950 United States Census of 
Population. The 114 denominations reported a total membership which 
was 49.2 per cent of the United States population in 1950; this total was 
80 per cent of the number of church members reported by all of the 
denominations which reported to the National Council in 1952. 

Map 1 is from Series A, No. 3, 1956. 

Map 2 is from Series A, No. 4, 1956. 

Map 3 is from Series C, No. 1, 1957. 







TRYING TO describe Protestantism is like trying to describe the United 
States; one can say almost anything about it and almost anything 
one says can be shown to be false in some particular. Protestants 
range in belief all the way from the supernaturalism of the right-wing 
Lutherans to the agnosticism of the left-wing Unitarians. Protestants 
range in worship forms all the way from the complexity of the high- 
church Episcopalians to the simplicity of the silent-meeting Quakers. 
Protestants range in emotionalism all the way from the restraint of the 
Congregationalists to the exuberance of the Pentecostals. 

Probably there are close to three hundred non-Roman denomina- 
tions in the United States. However, many of these groups are by no 
means representative of the main line of Protestant thought and tradi- 
tion. Some are churches which are Roman Catholic in all important 
respects except acceptance of the authority of the Pope; for example, 
the Polish National Catholic which has a quarter of a million members, 
and the Old Roman Catholic which has eighty thousand. Then there 
are such nontraditional groups as the Spiritualists, the Bahaists, 
Jehovah's Witnesses, and the followers of Father Divine. 

Furthermore, most of the religious sects in the United States have 
so few members that they play a small role in our national life. Three- 
fifths of the nation's denominations have less than ten thousand mem- 
bers. For example, at the time of the last religious census the Erieside 
Church had eighty-five members, the Church of Daniel's Band had one 
hundred and thirteen, and the Latter House of the Lord had twenty- 
nine members. The overwhelming majority of the non-Catholics in the 



United States have no connection with these small sects. Four-fifths 
of the members of Protestant churches belong to six great Protestant 
families: Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Congregational, Baptist- 
Christian (Disciple), Methodist. 

Protestants frequently deplore, and anti-Protestants frequently 
deride, the diversity within Protestantism. No doubt there have been 
instances where the formation of new Protestant denominations repre- 
sented a thirst for power rather than a new spiritual insight in 
religion as in politics there are people who follow a rule-or-divide 
policy. No doubt also the continuance of denominational divisions 
represents in many instances merely the perpetuation of tradition and 
is an unwise duplication of effort. 

However, lamenting with too much emphasis the religious divisions 
in America tends to obscure the fact that these divisions prove the 
reality of religious freedom. It was but a brief period ago in terms 
of total human history that but one church was recognized in each 
nation. In Catholic countries everyone was forced to be Catholic. In 
Protestant countries everyone was forced to be Protestant. To oppose 
the established church was often equivalent to treason. Rebellion 
against ecclesiastical authority has sometimes been the only way 
sincere Christians could preserve their moral integrity and bring an 
established church to its senses. The call for unity in religion is some- 
times simply an uncritical acceptance of the former standard which 
demanded religious uniformity. Often "unity" is the demand of 
leaders who themselves refuse to compromise but who condemn 
everyone else for declining to "come over and subject yourselves to 
us." Americans do not deplore the fact that there are over eighteen 
hundred colleges and universities in the United States, nor the fact 
that there are more than three hundred thousand manufacturing con- 
cerns. From some points of view, the number of our religious de- 
nominations is quite small. In recent years a strong movement for 
Protestant church union has set in, a movement which already has 
brought together a number of denominations. But in all efforts at 
union great care has been taken not to endanger religious liberty; 
Protestants universally prefer the continuance of division within the 
Church to any threat to freedom. 

The term Protestant was first used in connection with a protest 


some of the German princes made against a decree, promulgated in 
1529, which erected serious obstacles against the Protestant ad- 
vance. However, the term came into common usage in the England 
of Queen Elizabeth's time. A person who "protested" in that day 
was one who bore witness, declared a belief. Today the verb protest 
has come to have a negative connotation, but the noun Protestant 
still refers to a person who affirms religion positively. v 

The term catholic means universal. It goes back to the belief that 
the true Church is one, is undivided, and is destined to cover the 
whole earth. Of course, the Roman Catholic Church today is not 
"catholic" in this sense; and the Protestant churches, likewise, have 
no monopoly on "protesting" their Christianity. Unfortunately, in 
common American usage a person who says he is a Roman Catholic 
1 sometimes means little more than non-Protestant and non-Jew; and 
Protestant sometimes means little more than non-Catholic and non- 


"Martin Luther founded your Church; but Jesus Christ founded 
the Catholic Church," said my Catholic neighbor's son to my small 
daughter. All Protestant groups would disagree with this frequently 
heard statement; however, they would not all agree among them- 
selves concerning the founding of the Christian churches. 

. A few Protestants, fired with anti-Catholic zeal, assert that the 
Roman Catholic Church has so far departed from the teachings of 
Jesus Christ that the term Christian should no longer be applied to it. 

Also a few Protestants assert that Jesus never intended to found 
a church and did in fact found none. Thus, in their opinion, no 
church goes back to him. 

Most Protestant churches hold that Jesus Christ was the founder 
of the Church, and that all Christian churches are descended from 
that beginning but that the Protestant churches are closer to His 
spirit and teachings than are any of the others. 

Any candid Protestant must admit that there is much truth in 
the Catholic contention that the Protestant governmental organiza- 
tions were developed within the past four centuries. But arguments 
about the origin of ecclesiastical governments are of little conse- 


quence to most Protestant minds. Protestants believe that the Church 
is primarily a matter of faith and action. The true Church is found 
wherever two or three are gathered together and seek earnestly to 
study the Scriptures and to follow after Jesus. The Christian 
Church is a fellowship of the spirit and not an organization. It is 
found, say Protestants, as truly in the outposts of civilization as it is 
in the most elaborate cathedral. It is found as truly in the hearts of 
untutored laymen as among the most learned clerics. 

Answering those who wish to argue about the primacy of ec- 
clesiastical governments, Protestants agree that for hundreds of years 
Christians in the West were governed by the Pope. They also agree 
that the present Roman Catholic organization is a direct descendant 
of the organization which was in control during this period. They 
still further agree that in the sixteenth century large numbers of 
Christians defied the authority of the Pope and formed different 
governmental authorities. 

However, Protestants contend that the Pope's rule over all the 
Western churches obtained only during the latter part of the Middle 
Ages. During the first five hundred years of Christian history, the 
Bishop of Rome was but one of the Christian leaders, not the leader. 
During the next five hundred years he frequently claimed universal 
authority, but this authority was not acknowledged throughout 
Christendom. During the eleventh century his authority became 
dominant in the West; but it has never been dominant in the East. 
And beginning with the Reformation in the sixteenth century, his 
authority ceased to be dominant in the West. 

To the mind of Protestants, the history of the Church might be 
likened to the route traveled by many pioneers in the old frontier 
days. A small wagon train formed, let us say, in Massachusetts. As 
it traveled west, more and more people decided to join it. It got 
larger and larger. After the group had traveled about a thousand 
miles, one family gained sole leadership. Finally the train reached 
eastern Kansas where the Sante Fe Trail went one direction and the 
Oregon Trail another. The leading family ordered the entire group 
to take the Sante Fe Trail; but half of the group defied this command, 
chose other leaders, and took the Oregon Trail. Saying that the 
Protestant churches had no history prior to the Reformation is like 


saying that the group on the Oregon Trail had no existence before 
the separation of the two groups. 

At the time of the Reformation, Protestants, under the leadership 
of Martin Luther in Germany and John Calvin in Switzerland, 
claimed that the Pope was a usurper and that they had returned to 
the authority of Jesus Christ. They believed that the Pope had so far 
departed from the teachings of Christ as revealed hi the Bible that 
he and all Ms followers were apostate. They contended that no 
human being should stand between Christ's Word, the Bible, and the 
individual Christian. They said that the Bible sanctioned but two 
sacraments: baptism and communion. They believed in the marriage 
of the clergy. They said that no one is saved by receiving the sacra- 
ments or by doing good, but only by receiving the unmerited Grace 
of God. (See pages 162 S.) They affirmed the "priesthood of all be- 
lievers"; Luther wrote: 

If a little group of pious Christian laymen were taken captive and set 
down in a wilderness, and had among them no priest consecrated by a 
bishop, and if there in the wilderness they were to agree in choosing one 
of themselves, married or unmarried, and were to charge him with the 
office of baptizing, saying mass, absolving and preaching, such a man 
would be as truly a priest as though all bishops and popes had conse- 
crated him. 

Contemporary Protestant scholars hold that a large percentage of 
the distinctive Roman Catholic practices date only from the reforms 
of the Council of Trent, a sixteenth-century reaction within the 
Catholic Church to the Reformation. Most Protestants honor and 
revere Martin Luther, but they do not think he founded the Protes- 
tant churches, any more than Catholics think the Council of Trent 
founded the Catholic Church. Protestants hold that they have revived 
many ancient Christian practices which the Roman Catholic Church 
had discarded. 

Protestants reject, of course, the Catholic dogma that the formal 
authority of the Bishop of Rome goes back to Jesus Christ. The 
passage in Matthew where Jesus speaks to Peter saying, "Thou art 
Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church," is dealt with 
variously. Some scholars assert that the passage is a gloss, an addi- 
tion to the original text. They point out that the Gospel according to 
Mark, which most scholars believe to be the oldest biography of 


Jesus and which is probably the written form of Peter's own remi- 
niscences, does not contain the heart of the story in Matthew 
16:16-19. In fact, nowhere else in the New Testament is that part 
of the story told, though both Mark and Luke tell the first part of it. 
This omission is very strange, if Jesus did in reality impress on all 
his disciples his intention to found one Church and to make Peter 
the head. One writer declares that it is "inconceivable that a saying 
of Christ so central . . . should have been left unrecorded by three 
out of four" of his biographers. 1 Other Protestant scholars believe 
that all of the passage in Matthew is genuine, but contend that its 
meaning has been grossly misinterpreted. They assert that Matthew 
says nothing about there being but one true Church, or about the 
successors of Peter, or about all Christians being ruled from Rome; 
and that there is no evidence that Peter was ever in Rome or even that 
there were bishops in Rome before the second century. The writer of 
Acts indicates that James the brother of Jesus, not Peter, was the 
leading apostle (Acts 15:6-21). Paul made it clear that he thought 
Peter had no special prerogatives, and criticized him severely. 


Most Protestants contend that the best avenue of approach to God 
is the individual's own prayer and devotion. They believe that every 
person who earnestly strives to learn God's will and then lives up 
to his understanding has done everything possible to ensure his 

The truths of religion are public, according to Protestant teaching. 
In the Bible and in nature God has presented mankind with divine 
revelation. This revelation is available to all men. No group or class 
of men has more direct access to this revelation than have other men, 
provided they are equally learned and saintly. God will protect one 
man from error in the same way that He will another. 

At the time of the Reformation, most Protestants considered that 
the teachings of the Bible form one consistent whole and are crystal 
clear to all honest readers. Accordingly, after these teachings had 
been determined by the Church leaders, the individual Christian was 
expected to accept and believe. Some of the churches still hold to 
this idea (e.g., Lutheran and Fundamentalist). However, the majority 


of American Protestants today consider that each individual is re- 
sponsible for working out his own faith. He must follow conscien- 
tiously such light as is available to him and decide for himself. Yet, he 
is not spiritually isolated; for, he shares the search for divine truth 
with all his fellows. Protestants discuss religion a great deal; they set 
one opinion over against another. And they listen to many a sermon 
some of them rather longer than the pew bargains for. But most 
laymen expect in the end to make up their own minds; and most minis- 
ters present the gospel as to their spiritual peers. 

Protestants seldom accept the thesis of a sermon uncritically; in- 
stead they ponder over it and think through its implications. Around 
the Sunday dinner table, the sermon is often the topic of conversation. 
Many a mature churchman remembers how in his youth he received 
his introduction to rigorous thinking by sitting in on these Sabbath 
conversations. But in most of Protestantism, after the sermons and 
the discussions are over, the individual himself decides what he will 
believe about religion, just as he decides what he will believe about 
politics or economics. 

A logical development of this belief in private judgment is religious 
tolerance. Many Protestants today have real understanding of, and 
sympathy for, religious beliefs contrary to their own. It was not always 
so. In earlier centuries, Protestant sects viewed with suspicion not 
only the beliefs of Roman Catholicism but also the beliefs of other 
Protestant groups. Professor Arthur C. McGiffert wrote, "Intolerance 
was even more general and more bitter [in early Protestantism] than 
in Roman Catholicism." 2 A modern historian would hardly expect to 
find the situation otherwise. Protestantism in those days was an in- 
secure movement; tolerance is a virtue usually limited to people who 
are fairly sure of themselves. Furthermore, four centuries ago every- 
one felt that bigotry was a religious duty. Killing for religious reasons 
was common. During the religious wars in France, "Protestants wore 
strings of priest's ears and a Catholic commander asked his men: 
'Why do you crowd the prisons with Protestant captives? Is the river 
full? 5 " 3 Even as late as the eve of the American Revolution, "Except 
for Pennsylvania . . . there was no colony in which Catholics could 
live in comfort," writes a Catholic historian. 4 
But today most, though not all, of the Protestant churches recog- 


nize the implications for interfaith relations of the belief in the right 
of private judgment. Protestants usually show a much less sectarian 
spirit than formerly and are more tolerant of religious differences than 
are Roman Catholics. As a consequence, Catholics often say that 
Protestants believe that "one religion is as good as another." The 
misinterpretation here could hardly be worse. A proper phrasing 
might be, "Every man's right to hold Ms religion is as good as an- 


Protestantism stresses biblical study as does no other branch of 
Christendom. At the time of the Reformation, Protestants put the 
authority of the Bible in place of the authority of the Pope. Luther 
said, "The common man, the boy of nine, the miller's maid, with the 
Bible know more about divine truth than the Pope without the Bible." 

This stress on the importance of biblical study does not mean that 
all Protestants hold the same view of the Scripture. A few carry de- 
votion to it to the point of bibliolatry, that is, they worship the Bible. 
One of the seventeenth-century English theologians even went to the 
extent of asserting that the possession of a copy of the Bible is an 
indispensable means of getting to heaven. None of our contemporaries 
would take such an extreme position; but many of them hold that 
everything written in the Bible is literally true. Many believe literally, 
for example, the account in Genesis which says that God created the 
world in six days. And many believe literally the teaching in the same 
account that woman was created out of Adam's rib. William Jennings 
Bryan, leading politician and religious conservative, declared that he 
would consider no proposition whatever to be preposterous provided 
it were found in the Bible. In one state a bill was presented to the 
legislature proposing to alter the value of the mathematical symbol IT 
to agree with the implication of the biblical statements that the cir- 
cumference of a round object is three times its diameter. (See I Kings 

Of course, most of the people who hold a literal view of the Bible 
recognize just as clearly as anyone that they believe things which are 
contrary to what goes for common sense. Their defense is the same as 
the Catholic defense under similar circumstances: man knows only 


what God has chosen to reveal; if some aspects of the revelation seem 
contradictory to our puny minds, that is no reason to doubt God; we 
may wonder why God has not revealed more truth to us, but we must 
accept what truth He has made known, even though it may appear to 
be unreasonable. 

Most present-day Protestants are not biblical literalists. They be- 
lieve that the Bible contains the divine word, that it is the revelation 
of God, that it should be studied by every Christian. But they do not 
look to the Bible for scientific truth, nor necessarily for historical 
accuracy. They do not believe in the "typewriter" kind of inspiration, 
the kind of inspiration which would use men simply as mechanical 
agents. The majority of Protestants believe that God inspired the bibli- 
cal prophets and evangelists with noble spiritual ideals, and then let 
these authors use their own human skills in setting down their con- 
victions and in recording history. 

Study of the Bible by liberal Protestant (and Jewish) scholars has 
led to many startling conclusions. These conclusions are the product 
of the rigorous use of the scientific method, and they produced a 
revolution in religious thinking as fundamental for Protestant theology 
as were the discoveries of Newton for physics or of Pasteur for medi- 
cine. Liberal biblical research has gone forward on the assumption 
that the same kind of human skills and frailties were at work in the 
production of the Bible as were at work in the production of other 
great books, and that the rules of ordinary logic apply in the biblical 
field just as in other fields. Research based on such assumptions has 
brought many liberal scholars to conclusions sharply opposed to tra- 
ditional ideas. The following are examples: 

The books of Moses (the first five books of the Bible) were not 
in fact written by Moses; no man could tell the story of his own 
death. (See Deuteronomy 34.) It is not even certain that Moses 
could read and write. 

Many of the books of the Bible were not originally produced in 
their present form. They are compilations of earlier and sometimes 
contradictory documents. The first two chapters of Genesis are an 
example. In these two chapters are contradictory accounts of the 
creation of the earth. The explanation of these differing accounts is 
that the editor of Genesis used two different stories of the creation 


which he found in the written records of the Hebrew people and 
used them side by side without ironing out the discrepancies. 

The Hebrews, just like modern peoples, exaggerated their na- 
tional greatness. Throughout most of their history they were subject 
to foreign powers. They also, like us, developed mythologies about 
their national heroes; for example, there is evidence which indicates 
that Goliath was killed by another man than David. 

The Book of Daniel is not a true picture of the experiences of 
the Jews in Babylon. This book, appearing many centuries after 
the Babylonian period, was written in the midst of a fierce straggle 
for independence and was intended to give courage to Jewish 

Jonah and Ruth are not narratives of historical happenings, but 
tracts in which the authors strove to influence the direction of Jew- 
ish thought by telling a story. 

The narratives telling of Jesus' birth are considered to be legends. 
No birth narratives are contained in the oldest Gospel, Mark. The 
later Gospels, Matthew and Luke, give accounts of Jesus' birth 
which are contradictory at important points. 

Paul is frequently given credit for the writing of books of the 
New Testament which were written by others; for example, the 
books of Timothy and Hebrews are erroneously attributed to Paul. 
Such conclusions as these are taught in a large majority of the 
Protestant colleges and universities of the United States; such con- 
clusions are also taught by many American clergymen and are ac- 
cepted by an increasing number of Protestant laymen. 

Protestant emphasis on the necessity for each individual Christian 
to read the Bible for himself gave the public school its first great impe- 
tus. In medieval times peasants and laborers had no particular reason 
for getting an education. But the Reformation gave men a tremendous 
desire to read the Bible. In addition, the discoveries just prior to the 
Reformation of printing and of paper-making made possible the 
manufacture of cheap books. Thus four hundred years ago the com- 
mon man, for the first time in history, was in a position where he 
wanted a Bible and could buy one. As a consequence the early Protes- 
tants set up schools in order to make it possible for him to study 



Theological differences in Protestantism exist not so much between 
denominations as within denominations; each of the larger churches 
contains a wide range of theological points of view. In the Episcopal 
Church, for example, there is a group which is vigorously Catholic in 
belief, though no allegiance is given the Pope; in the same Church 
are some members who are militantiy evangelical. In the Baptist 
Church, the weight of opinion is decidedly on the supernatural side; 
but that denomination gave birth to what was for three decades prob- 
ably the most radical theological school in the country. In Massachu- 
setts most of the Congregational churches are theologically liberal, but 
the Park Street Church in Boston, the best-known Fundamentalist 
church in New England, is Congregational. 

From the point of view of theological teachings, the large Protes- 
tant churches today are much alike; most of them have their con- 
servative and liberal wings, but the weight of theological opinion rests 
in the middle. As a consequence theological extremists commonly dis- 
cover that they have more in common with extremists in other de- 
nominations than with the majority in their own communion. The 
similar theological structure of the churches also means that services 
of worship tend to be similar. A stranger might worship in many a 
Protestant church for weeks without knowing whether he attended a 
Methodist, a Baptist, a Congregational, a Christian (Disciples), or a 
Presbyterian church. Consequently, denominations exchange members 
freely. Many a minister in analyzing his church roll has discovered that 
the members of his flock were born into a score of denominations. It is 
about as rare to find a birthright member in some city churches as it 
once was to find a native son in California. 

The theological diversity of Protestantism can be shown by describ- 
ing three outstanding points of view: Fundamentalism, Liberalism, 
and Neo-orthodoxy. A description of these three will give the reader 
a grasp of the range of Protestant thought. However, most Protestants 
would feel that in no one of them is their faith accurately described. 
The fact is that Protestant thinking cannot be adequately summed up 
in three or four categories. Freedom of religious thought produces 
many individual formulations of belief. As a result, Protestant thought 


is more like a continuum extending from extreme right to extreme left, 
than it is like a series of discrete positions. We will study here three 
points on the continuum, but the variations go on almost endlessly. 


A large group of present-day Protestants prides itself on maintain- 
ing the traditional theology intact; chief among this group in both 
numbers and influence are the Fundamentalists. Many of them do 
not like the name Fundamentalism. They preach, they insist, the 
Christian religion and dislike to have it called an "ism" by people 
who have rejected the "fundamental" Christian tenets. But the name 
sticks, as has many another disliked name in religion. 

Socially speaking, Fundamentalism arose as a "defense of the agrar- 
ian culture of the nineteenth century against the developing urban 
culture." 5 Theologically speaking, Fundamentalism is an effort to 
assert traditional dogma, reaffirming the ancient and medieval view 
of the relation of God to nature. The Catholic view of God and of 
nature is accepted, except that most Fundamentalists deny that mira- 
cles have happened since Biblical times. God's purpose in performing 
the miracles, they say, was simply to make clear to mankind that the 
Bible is His special revelation and is to be taken literally. This purpose 
having been accomplished, there is no reason for God to interfere 
further with the course of nature. But Fundamentalists have no doubt 
about the Biblical miracles. The sun stood still, the ax floated, the 
water turned to wine, actually and literally, just as narrated in the 
Bible. Fundamentalists are just as sure these things happened as they 
are of the things that occur in their own living rooms, and surer than 
they are of what they read in the newspapers. 

The five "minimum basic doctrines" of Fundamentalism are: 

1. The inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. 

2. The virgin birth and the complete deity of Christ Jesus. 

3. The resurrection of the same body of Jesus which was three days 

4. TTie substitutionary atonement of Jesus for the sins of the world. 

5. The second coming of Jesus in bodily form. 

Points four and five of this platform need some explanation. The 
substitutionary atonement is the dogma that Jesus appeased the dis- 


pleasure of God for the sins of mankind by dying on the cross. By 
that act, Jesus took on himself the guilt of original sin and the guilt 
of all the sins men have committed. He shed his blood for us and 
through his Grace made possible our salvation. Fundamentalist clergy- 
men speak much of God's Grace and of "the blood shed for our sins." 

They also speak much of the sinfulness of man and of his utter 
inability to free himself of sin except through the power of Jesus 
Christ. J. Gresham Machen, a learned and able defender of Funda- 
mentalism, wrote that sin "is a mighty power, which is dragging us re- 
sistlessly down into an abyss of evil that has no bottom." 6 He argued 
that men must be brought under a conviction of sin. "A man never 
accepts Christ as Savior unless he knows himself to be in the grip of 
the demon of sin and desires to be set free." 7 "Without the sense of 
dire need the stupendous, miraculous events of Jesus' coming and 
Jesus* resurrection are unbelievable. , . . The man who is under the 
conviction of sin can accept the supernatural; for he knows that there 
is an adequate occasion for its entrance into the course of this world." 8 

The Second Coming is a familiar part of the traditional super- 
naturalism. On the Day of Judgment, Jesus will come to earth again 
in bodily form, just as the New Testament writers said he would. Then 
he will separate the sheep from the goats; some will go to everlasting 
punishment and some to everlasting glory. That will be the end of the 
world. Some Fundamentalists think that by a careful reading of the 
Bible it is possible to predict just when the Second Coming will take 
place. Over and over men have predicted that the "time is at hand." 
But when the date predicted arrives and nothing happens, the calcula- 
tors usually announce that they have made a mistake and calculate the 
date anew. Some of the New Testament writers prophesied that the 
Second Coming would be preceded by many disasters: famine, pesti- 
lence, earthquake, war and rumors of war. Today many people who 
believe in the Second Coining are doubly sure that it is near at hand 
because of the invention of the atomic bomb with its terrible powers 
of destruction. 

Fundamentalists also hold to the traditional Protestant doctrine of 
salvation by faith; this teaching is discussed on pages 162 f. 

Fundamentalists believe in a literal heaven and a literal hell, and 
in the existence of the Devil as a personal agency. Much of their mis- 


sionary drive comes from the belief that persons who are not saved 
will be damned. This belief was common throughout Protestantism 
until the present century. In the eighteen-eighties a Congregational 
missionary of ten years' experience in India was not permitted to 
return to his post because he doubted the unconditional damnation 
of the "heathen." Most Fundamentalists still maintain this position. 

The use of revival meetings is common among Fundamentalists. 
This method was once popular with most of the Protestant churches. 
Some of the most distinguished Protestant leaders the Wesleys, 
WMtefield, Edwards, Finney, Moody were ardent users of the 
method and it accounted for much of Protestantism's growth. But 
today many churches, with the waning of the Fundamentalist mood 
and mind, have reacted against the use of mass methods. Such 
methods were badly abused by many evangelists, notably Billy Sun- 
day. Advertising with calliopes, taking the collection in small dishpans, 
smashing pulpit furniture, preaching a sort of combination life and 
fire insurance, Billy Sunday "soaked it into Satan" and persuaded 
thousands to hit the sawdust trail. In one community Sunday saw so 
much sin that in a prayer he said, "O Lord, the next time you come 
here bring along plenty of antiseptic and rubber gloves." This brazen 
clowning brought ridicule on revival meetings and as a result they 
have been abandoned by most Protestant groups. However, the Fun- 
damentalists contend that a method should be judged by its best and 
not by its worst manifestations. They continue to hold revival meet- 
ings, usually conducting them with restraint and dignity, but never- 
theless making an emotional appeal to sinners to give their hearts 
publicly to Jesus. 

The theory of evolution, contradicting as it does the first chapter 
of Genesis, has drawn much Fundamentalist fire. In the twenties they 
succeeded in four states Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas 
in securing the passage of laws which forbade the teaching of evo- 
lution in the public schools, judging correctly that no religion can 
long endure without systematic support from schools and colleges. 
This law was a challenge both to those who believe in the principle of 
freedom of religion and to the growing number of theological Liberals, 
agnostics and atheists. 

In Dayton, Tennessee, a young high school teacher, John Scopes, 


broke the antievolution law and was brought to trial. Clarence Dar- 
row, a famous freethinker and the nation's best known criminal 
lawyer, came to Scopes' defense. William Jennings Bryan headed the 
prosecution. The resulting struggle is one of the famous episodes in 
American religious history. Twelve untutored jurymen were asked 
to decide between the "Bible and Darwin," between "God and the 
gorilla." A professional showman, scenting new business opportu- 
nity, brought a monkey to Dayton and charged the Tennessee farmers 
admission to see their "ancestor." The nation's newspapers, scenting 
larger circulations, made a circus of the event. Famous writers from 
northern cities went to Dayton as reporters and sent back mocking 

The sympathies of Tennessee were Fundamentalist and Scopes 
was found guilty and fined. The nation laughed. But the laughter and 
the newspaper reports failed to plumb the depths of the profound 
emotions aroused in the hearts of conservative churchmen all over 
America. They viewed with fear the future of their religion. At the 
trial the Tennessee lawyer in charge of the prosecution asked, almost 

Why have we not the right to bar science if it comes from the four 
corners of the earth to tear the vitals of our religion? ... If we bar that 
upon which man's eternal hope is founded, then our civilization is about 
to crumble. Tell me that I was once a common worm that writhed in the 
dust? No! Tell me that I came from the cell of the ass and the monkey? 
No! I want to go beyond this world where there is eternal happiness for 
me and others. . . . Who says we can't bar science that deprives us of all 
hope of the future life to come? 9 

The issue raised here is not a simple one. The persistent and dog- 
matic teaching of evolution and kindred theories in the public schools 
will in the end destroy traditional supernaturalism. Does the religious 
liberty of Fundamentalists require that their children be protected 
from such teaching? If so, what about the religious liberty of scientists? 
And how can we gain spiritual unity in a nation with such divergent 
points of view? Do Americans yet understand the full implications 
of religious liberty? 

Opposition on religious grounds to the teaching of evolution per- 
sists. In I960, the state supervisor of public-school curriculum guides 


for the state of Washington wrote, "If Darwinian evolution is true then 
the Bible is untrue, and I prefer to hold by the Old Book rather than 
to accept a worthless theory." The supervisor's removal from office 
on account of this statement promised to have political repercussions 
because of Fundamentalist reactions. 10 

Some Fundamentalist leaders have set themselves belligerently 
against every other religious group, refusing all intercourse, claiming 
infallibility for their dogmas, misrepresenting the beliefs of others. 
This "tyrannical legalism" has brought forth a reaction. One theo- 
logical conservative wrote: 

Let me say a word about that anxious breed of younger men who are 
conservative in theology but are less than happy when they are called 
"fundamentalists." These men are both the cause and the effect of a radi- 
cal atmospheric change within American orthodoxy. . . . 

I call myself orthodox because I cordially assent to the great doctrines 
of the faith. But I do not for one moment suppose that assent to doctrine 
is either the instrumental cause of justification or the touchstone of 
Christian fellowship. . . . 

Once we are done with the business of semantics, we can turn to the 
really exciting item on the agenda of faith: sharing fellowship with all 
who love Jesus Christ and who are willing to test and correct their partial 
insights by the full insight of God's Word. 11 

The more tolerant type of Protestant conservatism was strengthened 
in the nineteen-fifties by the appearance of the fortnightly journal 
Christianity Today. The orientation of this journal is strongly con- 
servative, both in theology and in social philosophy. But it does not 
have the "fundamentalist" temper; it makes a studied effort to deal 
fairly with events and movements; its slant is no more in evidence 
than is that of most of the nonacademic, religious journals. 

Christianity Today employed the Opinion Research Corporation 
to poll the Protestant clergy of the United States concerning their 
beliefs. This poll showed that 74 per cent of the clergy regard them- 
selves as fundamental or conservative in theology "with slightly 
more than half preferring to be called 'conservative' rather than 'fun- 
damentalist' "; 12 per cent of the clergy considered themselves 
neo-orthodox and 14 per cent liberal. 12 No statement was made 
concerning the sampling techniques used in this poll; hi the absence 
of such a statement the reader can only speculate on the difficulty in- 


herent In the effort to obtain a scientific sample of Protestant clergy- 
men in the United States and to wonder whether such a sample was in 
fact obtained. 

The Fundamentalists and conservatives are found more in the 
South than in the North, more in the West than in the East, more in 
the country than in the city, more in business houses than in colleges, 
more among the old than among the young. 


Protestant Liberals more than other Christian groups stress the 
right of individuals to decide for themselves what is true in religion. 
The belief in freedom from theological domination by creeds, councils, 
bishops, pastors amounts to about the most basic religious conviction. 
Theological divergence among Liberals is, accordingly, great. 

Liberals strive to be attuned to modern thought, which is dominated 
by science. Every contemporary religious thinker must deal with sci- 
ence in some way. A few reject it completely. Others, recognizing its 
threat to traditional supernaturalism, build compartments in their 
minds and refuse any commerce between their ideas of science and 
their religion. The Liberals, however, strive to make science their ally, 
not their enemy; they take science into the very citadel of religion. 
Science is a new confederate in the battle for truth; thus Liberals hold 
that no vital religion can ignore scientific discoveries. 

Liberals are frequently criticized for too much ardor in their es- 
pousal of scientific thought. One gets the impression that in many a 
sermon "science says" has displaced "the Bible says." One caustic 
critic observed that after a Liberal is through preaching his hands are 
usually "red from backslapping physics." Another critic claimed that 
some ministers he knew considered it "the highest compliment to God 
that Eddington believed in Him." 

Such extreme comments caricature the position of the typical Lib- 
eral. He is a person who has taken firm hold on the principle that the 
universe operates through natural laws. Nature's laws, he says, are 
God's laws. The chemist running his experiments, the astronomer 
photographing the stars, the psychologist testing his subjects are at- 
tempting to discover the ways God is revealed in nature and in the 
affairs of men. 


The Liberals do not believe in miracles. All events, they say, are 
controlled by natural processes. Sometimes Liberals classify the Bibli- 
cal narratives of miraculous happenings into four categories: (1 ) nar- 
ratives with no basis in fact; (2) narratives of actual happenings 
which became exaggerated in retelling; (3) narratives of actual hap- 
penings the character of which was misunderstood; (4) narratives of 
healings of functional diseases. 

Liberals explain these points of view in some such way as the 

1. Some of the miraculous narratives have not even a kernel of 
truth in them; they arose in the fancies of a storytelling people. Ex- 
amples of Biblical miracles of this type are the jar of oil that was 
constantly replenished and the raising of Lazarus after he had been 
in the tomb for three days. 

2. Frequently, occurrences were exaggerated as they were retold. 
An example of this type of miracle is the parting of the Red Sea. 
A hint of what probably happened is given right in the biblical 
account. We read, "The Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong 
east wind all that night" (Exodus 14:21). Later the story grew by 
poetic fancy to "The waters were a wall unto them on their right 
hand, and on their left" (Exodus 14:22). 

3. Actual happenings are frequently misinterpreted even in our 
more factual day. In ancient times men had even more reason for 
misinterpretation. They had little understanding of natural law; 
consequently, they expected miracles and frequently saw them in 
perfectly natural events. For example, Jesus is said to have walked 
on the water. A possible explanation of what happened is that Jesus 
may have been walking along the shore. A very low-lying cloud 
may have obscured the shore line in the early dawn; the disciples 
had been out in a boat all night and perhaps did not realize that 
they were close to the shore. Consequently, when they saw Jesus 
walking toward them, his feet obscured by the cloud, they supposed 
he was walking on the water. 13 

4. What are thought to be miracles of healing are either errone- 
ous reports or else cases in which no actual physical illness was 
present. Our emotions frequently block the proper functioning of 
our bodies. Under stress of religious experience these emotional 


blocks sometimes disappear, as the modern faith healing move- 
ment amply proves; they also disappear under other types of experi- 

Most Liberals intend that these four explanations shall leave no 
room for the dogma that God sometimes works in ways that are con- 
trary to natural law. 

Many of the traditional beliefs about God have been rejected by 
Liberals, In the past Christianity has stressed God's transcendence, 
that is, His separateness from the world of men and nature. The more 
simple forms of belief in God's transcendence have pictured Him with 
a human body seated on a throne high in heaven, surrounded by 
admiring angels; the more sophisticated forms reject such anthro- 
pomorphic notions but nevertheless hold that God is too holy or too 
spiritual to be linked closely with the processes of the physical uni- 
verse. Liberals frequently take a tack exactly opposite to the supposition 
of God's transcendence. They stress the immanence of God, that is, 
His indwelling presence in the universe, His nearness to the processes 
of nature. According to this conception, God is not an absentee land- 
lord only dimly aware of the struggles going on in his domain; instead 
he is an active manager, aware of every natural process and every 
sentient being. Some Liberals deny that God is transcendent in any 
degree; they hold that he has no existence apart from the physical 
universe. Probably most Liberals believe that God is both immanent 
and transcendent. 

The majority of Liberals hold to the traditional Christian teaching 
that God is personal; that is, He is more like a person than like a 
tree, or a machine, or electricity, or any other thing He might be 
likened to. Liberals react sharply against the crude anthropomorphism 
which pictures God with hands and feet and a long white beard; yet 
most of them do hold that His chief characteristic is mind. He is con- 
scious both of Himself and of us, and cares for us. 

Some of the extreme Liberals go as far as to reject belief in a per- 
sonal God. These men have much in common with those humanists 
and naturalists who reject the idea of God altogether (see Chapter 
XVII). The extreme Liberals, however, instead of rejecting the idea, 
redefine it. Perhaps their beliefs can best be expressed by quoting a 


passage from Edward Scribner Ames, for many years professor of 
philosophy at the University of Chicago and pastor of the University 
Church of the Disciples of Christ, Chicago. 

My idea of God is the idea of the personified, idealized whole of 
reality. . . . My idea of God is analogous to my idea of my Alma Mater. 
She is a benign and gracious being toward whom I cherish deep gratitude 
for her nurture and her continuing good will and affection. ... In simi- 
lar fashion God is the personified reality of the world. He is not a mere 
idea; He has substance, energy, power. He is the common will, the spirit 
of mankind; He is seen in men, especially in their benevolent corporate 
life. His image marks the humblest souls, and is more clearly revealed in 
the great leaders and saviors of the race. 14 

This position is significant not because it represents a movement 
in Protestantism which is widespread or powerful; it is neither. This 
position is significant because it indicates the wide range of belief ex- 
hibited by people who consider themselves to be within the Protes- 
tant tradition and who carry official responsibilities in Protestant 
churches and institutions of learning. 

Some Liberals reject the Trinity and with it the deity of Jesus. Some 
of them distinguish between the words deity and divinity. They say 
there is a spark of divinity in every man, and in that sense Jesus was 
divine; but he was not the Deity, not God. Liberals of this persuasion 
consider Jesus to be the supreme religious teacher and the founder of 
Christianity; but, they contend, only after his death and only gradually 
did the trinitarian dogma develop. 

On the other hand, most Liberals consider belief in the Trinity to 
be essential. But they wish to define it in modern terms perhaps in 
terms like the following: "It is entirely rational to believe in the First 
Person, the Creator, and in the Third Person, the Spirit of God in the 
world. Moreover, the basic affirmation of the Christian religion is that 
God is like Jesus, not that Jesus is like God." A verse by Harry Webb 
Farrington states this point of view toward Jesus: 

I know not how that Bethlehem's Babe 

Could in the God-head be; 
I only know the Manger Child 

Has brought God's life to me. 15 

Liberals reject the virgin birth and the physical resurrection. Their 
religion is, they say, the religion of Jesus, not the religion about Jesus. 


Liberals have many different beliefs about prayer. The practice of 
praying for help of a physical nature has, for the most part, been given 
up by them. Liberals hold that God would not answer, say, prayers 
for good weather or for the alteration of the course of physical disease. 
However, most Liberals believe that prayer for help of a spiritual sort 
is rational. Thus prayers for wisdom or for patience to endure diffi- 
culty are thought to be rational. Liberals stress the value of prayers 
of "communion." In such prayers, the worshiper seeks to conform 
himself to God's Will, not to bend God to the worshiper's will. It is 
the worshiper who must change. One writer said, "The winds of God 
are always blowing, but we must hoist our sail." 

Most of the Liberals believe that man is neither naturally bad nor 
naturally good. In place of the belief that man has within him evil 
forces which can be conquered only through the Grace of God, Liber- 
als hold the belief that human beings are plastic and can be molded 
into either saints or sinners. Liberals look for confirmation of this 
belief to the social scientists: the psychologists, the sociologists, the 
anthropologists. Frequently the Liberals cite such discoveries of the 
social scientists as the following. 

Race hatred is not inborn. White and Negro children play to- 
gether with no feeling of distinction until they are taught by their 
elders to dislike each other. 16 

Children are much more apt to develop criminal tendencies in 
some environments than in others. Sociologists can point to the 
sections of our cities from which a large portion of the criminals 
of tomorrow will come. 

Competition is not a "law of nature." Co-operation is equally 
native to humans. Anthropologists who analyzed a dozen primitive 
societies found that about half of them developed to a marked 
degree the co-operative tendencies in men. 17 

Many characteristics, supposedly even more firmly fixed in 
human nature than the tendency to evil, have been shown to be 
probably the result of training: for example, secondary sex char- 
acteristics. A tribe has been found where both men and women 
exhibit behavior which we would call characteristically masculine; 
another tribe has been found where both men and women exhibit 


behavior which we would call characteristically feminine; still an- 
other tribe has been found where the roles of the sexes are just 
reversed, where the men have the mannerisms and responsibilities 
which we think proper to women and the women have the man- 
nerisms and responsibilities which we think proper for men. 18 

It is from the study of such data that Liberals reject the teaching 
concerning original sin and native depravity. 

Some of the Protestant Liberals do not believe in immortality; ac- 
cording to them life after death is something about which man can 
have no knowledge. A few Liberals would contend that the belief is 
unimportant; "One world at a time/' they say. But most Liberals hold 
that faith in a future life is both important and rational. They think 
it is important in order that men may have an adequate perspective 
from which to make moral judgments. They think it is rational be- 
cause a God who conserves the matter and energy of the universe so 
carefully that none is destroyed, would not destroy the human mind 
which is a much higher manifestation of creative power than either 
matter or energy. Liberals have given up belief in hell and in the 
Devil; but most of them believe in heaven. However, they profess no 
knowledge of what heaven is like. 

Out of Liberalism sprang what is called the Social Gospel, the be- 
lief that religion must deal more effectively with social injustice. Many 
Christians believe that the function of the Church is to develop Chris- 
tian convictions in the hearts of individual men who in turn will put 
these convictions into operation in politics and business. Followers of 
the Social Gospel contradict this point of view; they declare that so- 
ciety as well as individuals must be saved; that a healthy individual 
cannot develop in a poisoned environment. Consequently, many of the 
liberals are much exercised over the problems of war, poverty, and 
racial discrimination. The Social Gospel will be more fully dealt 
with in a later chapter. (See pages 299 ff.) 

Many current writers rather badly misunderstand the liberal ori- 
entation. A leading liberal theologian introduced a book defending 
Liberalism as follows: 

The author of the present volume is not a "liberal" in any meaning of 
that term as now most commonly understood in American theological 


circles. In the present fashion "liberal theology" is widely used as a 
whipping boy for all who condemn empty-headed optimism, the sub- 
stitution of current or past metaphysics for Christian faith, or a rational 
abstraction for a Christian understanding of man. 

The current understanding of liberalism among theologians is less in- 
fluenced by the actual methods and teachings of theological authors 
known to their contemporaries as liberals than by Reinhold Niebuhr's 
critical description of the movement, Niebuhr has rendered valuable 
service in exposing certain betrayals of the gospel in some popular 
preaching and teaching in liberal mood. Unfortunately . . . Niebuhr often 
uses these distorted popular versions of liberal theology as typical of the 
whole movement. Many Seminarians now practice tilting at these carica- 
tures of liberalism and suppose that they are disposing of the methods 
and teachings of liberal theology for once and all. 19 

Liberalism in religion is young. It had a brief history two centuries 
ago in a movement called Deism; but for the most part it is a product 
of the last hundred years. Many of the implications of this mode of 
thought are not yet clear, yet the Liberals feel sure that it is to be 
the theology of tomorrow. It is a modern point of view, they say; it 
fits the needs of modern man; it keeps abreast of the fast-moving dis- 
coveries of modern life. Liberalism does not dispense with faith no 
religion or philosophy does but the Liberal rejects what seems to 
Mm to be credulity and puts great trust in reason. Thus Liberals treat 
their faith with the calmness of men who are sure of themselves. It is 
not necessary, they think, to be dogmatic or impassioned in defending 
religion. The facts will speak for themselves. Truth never was worsted 
in a fair and open encounter. They say with Tennyson: 

There lives more faith in honest doubt, 
Believe me, than in half the creeds. 

The proportion of theological Liberals is higher in New England 
than anywhere else in the nation. Boston is the liberal capital; and it 
is more or less true that the farther one gets from Boston the less 
religious Liberalism he finds. 


Liberalism had its innings in the twenties. It was the era of the 
Coolidge prosperity. World War I had just been won; no one but 
erudite chart-readers dreamed of a depression; the Republicans were 
promising two chickens in every pot. But conditions in Europe were 


a different story. There men were making a slow, bitter fight against 
the misery which follows actual battle. 

European devastation had a profound effect on European religion; 
theology has ever been sensitive to social conditions. Present-day 
Liberalism got its initial impetus in the German universities in the 
heyday of nineteenth-century optimism. Compounded of the wish to 
retain the privileges wrought by imperialism, and of unlimited con- 
fidence in the scientific method, and of a naive faith in progress, 
optimistic Liberalism dominated the theological field until the bitter 
realities of living in a world smashed by war demanded a change. 
Theologians began to be "realists." They lost faith in the capacities 
of man to work out his own salvation; they declared man to be natu- 
rally evil; they attacked the scientific method as a means of dealing 
with the basic religious problems; they even lost faith in the power of 
the reason to guide man to supreme values. European theology turned 
definitely toward the dogmas of traditional supernaturalism. 

In the early years, this kind of thinking won but few disciples in 
America; the country was too prosperous. But with its own economic 
"maturing" and the disintegration of its hopes for a world run like a 
giant American state, there was a rebirth of old-time beliefs and the 
new supernaturalism began to gain ground. Today its adherents are 
influential and furnish a significant percentage of the Protestant 

Neo-orthodoxy a term which makes many of its adherents wince 
is too new as a movement to have worked out its concepts in terms 
which the layman can grasp and understand easily. But today dis- 
illusionment has gripped millions of lay minds too. The failure of the 
United Nations, the threat of atomic warfare, the materialism of our 
competition with Russia, make men long for a view of life which will 
give them security in the midst of apparent social disintegration. 

This longing does not drive all thinkers in the same direction. Some 
of our contemporaries look for the answer to politics: to "an Ameri- 
can century"; to "protection through American might"; to "our 
American system of free enterprise." Others try to forget their fears 
by turning to the pursuit of pleasure: they ignore the news, dedicate 
all their spare energies to skiing or bridge or poetry, or to drowning 
their anxieties in alcohol. 


But others turn to traditional religion. We are not the first genera- 
tion, they say, to be confronted by the possibility of disaster. Disaster 
is a common human experience. And God has not left man in his 
despair to struggle alone. God has made very clear in the Christian 
revelation the road which man must travel. Neo-orthodox Christianity 
is a reaffirmation of the historic Christian doctrines, with such changes 
as seem mandatory as a result of modern scholarship. 

The Neo-orthodox begin by attacking Liberalism. They do this be- 
cause most of the leaders of the movement were once Liberals. The 
biography of a typical neo-orthodox leader might read something like 
this: He was born into an orthodox home and was required by his 
parents to attend all the established means of Grace Sunday school, 
church, and prayer meeting. In his youth he rebelled against the super- 
naturalism of the church and against his parents became enamored 
of science, and espoused romantic Liberalism. In adulthood he saw 
that life is not one long junior prom, such as his youthful fancies had 
pictured; he lost faith in the ability of man to save society; and con- 
cluded that only God can bring salvation. 

Having reacted against the optimistic view of human capabilities, 
the neo-orthodox theologian very naturally makes optimism the first 
object of his attack. Liberalism is naive, he declares. Man's lot is 
tragic; his predicament desperate. Man has learned at long last how 
to produce enough food and shelter to meet the basic physical needs 
of all the human race; but in his selfishness he won't put his knowledge 
into practice. He has unlocked some of the doors which lead to the 
basic secrets of the physical universe; but in his hatred he has used his 
knowledge to invent weapons which threaten to exterminate half the 
race. Man is naturally evil. Left to himself he is self-centered, egoisti- 
cal, tyrannical. 

But man's innate depravity, continues the neo-orthodox theologian, 
is only half the picture. Man also was "made in the image of God." 
He is a paradoxical creature who is both good and bad at the same 
time. He reaches out to help his neighbor, but always with one eye on 
favorable publicity. As Charles Lamb said, the greatest satisfaction in 
life is to be caught in doing a secret good. Man's tendency to do evil 
can be conquered and his tendency to do good can be brought to 
fruition, say the Neo-orthodox, only through God's Grace. Of himself, 


man Is helpless to conquer Ms tendency to wickedness. By repenting 
of Ms arrogant self-assurance and by accepting the judgment and the 
mercy of God, man can receive God's forgiveness and settle Ms final 
relationship with God. Thus sin is overcome in principle, though not 
in fact; man's earthly problems continue. 

Neo-orthodoxy attacks Liberalism's faith in reason. Reason is a 
human instrument. It can no more settle the problems of basic reli- 
gious faith than could the mind of a chimpanzee settle the problems 
of physics. Reliance on reason is but another instance of man's ar- 
rogance. One neo-orthodox leader writes, "The reason wMch asks 
the question whether the God of religious faith is plausible has already 
implied a negative answer in the question because it has made itself 
God and naturally cannot tolerate another." 20 Another neo-orthodox 
leader writes, "Nowhere in the Bible, whether in the Old Testament 
or the New, is there a philosopMcal argument for God. There is no 
evidence that Jesus ever tried even remotely to prove His existence." 21 
The basic truths of Christianity are a part of the divine revelation and 
we either accept them or we don't. "The Christian Faith ... is not 
sometMng that is arguable." 22 

Neo-orthodox thinkers accept the results of the modern study of 
the Bible. They hold that while reason has no power to communicate 
God's revelation, it has power to deal with nature. The Bible is a 
natural product; therefore, reason is applicable to biblical problems 
just as it is applicable to all problems which are of the natural order. 
Some of the most radical of the biblical scholars are neo-orthodox in 
their theological point of view, even to the point of rejecting a large 
part of the biblical account of the life of Jesus as literal Mstorical truth. 

The biblical miracles present little difficulty to the neo-orthodox 
theologian. He by no means denies the possibility of miracles but he 
exercises much skepticism concerning their actual occurrence. This 
skepticism would be the natural result of the application of the scien- 
tific method to the biblical narratives. 

However, the neo-orthodox theologian makes one fertile sugges- 
tion concerning our understanding of the miraculous events of the 
Bible. He says many of the narratives of miraculous events are myths, 
that is, stories whose actual details never happened but whose central 
teachings are true to the basic principles of existence. For example, 


the first chapters of Genesis do not describe the actual creation of the 
universe; nor was there ever a first man by the name of Adam who 
was lured by his wife to eat an apple and thereby corrupt the human 
race. But the first chapters of Genesis are true in the sense that there 
was a creation, that God was the creator, that man is rebellious against 
the order that God has established, and that man is estranged from 
God because of his sins. Many of the greatest truths of the Bible are 
thus mythologicaHy stated, according to neo-orthodox belief. 

Basically Neo-orthodoxy is a reassertion of the judgment of God. 
It is a reaction against the comfortable theology which stresses God's 
love at the expense of His majesty. Neo-orthodox thinkers recoil at 
sermons in which God is pictured as a good fellow, a constant com- 
panion, who, "like a real friend," loves us in spite of what we are. This 
kind of preaching is received favorably by congregations who sit in 
well-cushioned pews and who will ride home in their own comfortable 
automobiles. "God is on our side and everything will come out all 
right." But the stern conscience of the neo-orthodox preacher will not 
let him forget the tragedy of life in our slums, our "nigger-towns," our 
hospitals, and on our battlefields. His keen intellect will not let him 
forget the threat of depression, of war, of race suicide. He sees all these 
as God's judgment on the sins of man. Man in his conceit thinks he can 
defy his Creator; but God will not be mocked. Man must humble him- 
self, say the Neo-orthodox, and submit himself to God and God will 
forgive. The question is not, "Is God on our side?" but, "Are we on 
God's side?" 

Neo-orthodoxy was for a time the theological rage. It is un- 
fortunately true that a band-wagon psychology shapes the thinking 
of many Protestant clergymen. Most Protestant communions suc- 
cessfully escape the coercive atmosphere by means of which some 
conservative religious groups secure uniformity of opinion. But in 
spite of Protestantism's successful espousal of freedom in religion, 
many Protestant clergymen, perhaps most, exhibit a tendency to fol- 
low in sheeplike fashion the opinions of the strongest personalities 
which are currently expounding eternal truth. In the forties and early 
fifties, clergymen who did not espouse Neo-orthodoxy were called 
"immature," "simple," "laggard," "middle-aged," "arrested in de- 


velopment," "failing to rethink their positions," and even "lazy," 
while their beliefs were called "outmoded," "frozen," "naive," and 
"passe" in contrast to beliefs which were "newer," "up-to-date," 
"prevalent," and held by "young," "present-day," theologians. In 
the twenties, Liberals often dismissed "the conservatives" as un- 
scholarly, medieval, not keeping up with the times; Fundamentalism 
was treated with contempt and Neo-orthodoxy with amusement. In the 
thirties, the pacifists were a dominant group; at many a conference 
the man who could not affirm that he would never again bless war 
felt himself regarded as not Christian and a pariah. Harry Emerson 
Fosdick in a justly famous remark said that when he was a theologi- 
cal student biblical criticism was the all-important concern of the 
clergy. Somewhat later, optimistic Liberalism was dominant. Then 
came the Social Gospel. And now we have Neo-orthodoxy. Fosdick 
said he hoped he would live long enough to see what would come 
next. One theologian has written that the new mood has already 
appeared, 23 and another has written a book which urges a " 'new deal' 
in theology that will replace the emphasis of the c neo-orthodox' 
movement," and which strives to make clear just what are the "new" 
accents in contemporary theology. No doubt, a new synthesis is 
forming. Some thinkers have given it the name Neo-liberalism. It 
seems to be a position which puts more trust in reason than does 
Neo-orthodoxy and which strives to recognize the valid positions of 
both the neo-orthodox and liberal theologies while seeking to avoid 
the extremes of both. Will the priests of the new position be as con- 
temptuous of the recent past as were their counterparts in previous 
decades? One day we will achieve a religious maturity which begins 
with the assumption that sincere minds can disagree in the realm 
of theology and still co-operate in efforts to achieve significant spirit- 
ual and moral goals. 


A Protestant clergyman once said in my presence, "I love flowers; 
but I hate botany. I love religion; but I hate theology." He was 
giving expression to a mood characteristic of Protestants. No one of 
the three theological positions outlined above Fundamentalism, 


Liberalism, Nee-orthodoxy is an adequate description of the faith 
of the average Protestant churchgoer in this country. He distrusts 
theology; he thinks of the theologian as a person who deals in in- 
tellectual subtleties and who has a view of life warped by too much 
reading and too little contact with "real people." Deep religion, in 
the view of the average worshiper, is a simple, heart-warming, per- 
sonal experience. Perhaps the best word to describe this mood is 

ITie typical evangelical is a mild type of mystic (see pages 276 g.) ; 
he believes that religion is a personal experience, something which 
sets the spirit aglow. Frequently he is able to point to a time in his 
life when he had a definite religious experience, when he "got reli- 
gion." In former years evangelicals insisted that every person, if he is 
to be sure of salvation, must pass through an emotional conversion. 
Today the stress on conversion has mitigated but evangelicals still 
emphasize the necessity for an intimate, personal approach to the 
religious life. 

The typical evangelical is also a mild type of supernaturalist. He 
no longer holds to the more miraculous aspects of traditional Christi- 
anity; but he believes emphatically in the miraculous origin of 
Christianity and in the Church's obligation to carry the Christian 
message to the whole world. The evangelical is usually a trinitarian, 
believes in the unique inspiration of the Bible, takes great comfort 
in his belief in a future life, and sadly confesses that men are more 
prone to do evil than to do good. He believes in petitionary prayer 
and tends in his personal devotions to think of Jesus more as a per- 
sonal friend and guide than as the metaphysical Second Person of the 

The evangelical's distrust of the intellect means that usually he 
has not resolved the contradictions in his faith. He thinks simply 
that the warmth of his experience verifies his beliefs. In holding 
this conviction he makes an error which is very common in religion, 
and in many other types of thought, the error of thinking that be- 
cause belief gives tremendous personal satisfaction, the belief must 
be true. Persons of every type of persuasion and practice defend their 
faith and conduct in the same fashion. 



Most Protestants believe the heights of worship can be achieved 
anywhere. The soul cannot come closer to God in the church build- 
ing than it can in the home or in the factory; God is no more present, 
say most Protestants, in the Communion Service than he is in private 
prayer. It is the inner disposition not the outward form that counts. 
Thus in their worship, Protestants strive to get away from reliance 
on physical things. Because of this fact, many Protestants believe 
that their worship is more spiritual than Catholic worship; Prot- 
estants say they put less emphasis on physical objects and cere- 
monies and more reliance on mental development and spiritual re- 
newal. The typically Protestant attitude toward worship might be 
likened to that attitude toward poetry which insists that poetry is es- 
sentially an inner experience, an emphasis, a way of viewing life 
rather than a pattern for arranging words according to specified 
schemes of meter and rhyme. Catholic worship centers in the Mass 
to which physical elements are essential; Protestant worship (in 
most churches) centers in the teachings of the Bible. 

During the Reformation, Protestants deliberately abandoned many 
of the rites and symbols of the Catholic religion. Protestants dropped 
five of the seven Catholic sacraments; they discontinued the elaborate 
vesting of the clergy; they no longer genuflected before the altar, or 
crossed themselves, or bowed the head at the name of Christ. In a 
large majority of the Protestant churches, worshipers even ceased to 
kneel during prayer; this practice was discontinued because it was 
thought to be an act of veneration of the Host. Distrust of forms in 
religion went so far at one time that some Protestants even refused 
to celebrate Christmas, declaring that it is a "popish festival," and to 
repeat the Lord's Prayer, contending that it is a <4 vain repetition." 

Today Protestants still cherish the belief that no physical object is 
essential to the highest form of worship. Yet they are coming in- 
creasingly to believe that symbolism plays an important part in 
worship. Some of the older customs are creeping back into use: many 
Protestant churches today observe the Church Year, vest their choirs, 
follow a prepared ritual. The use of the cross is an interesting example 


of the trend toward the increased reliance on symbols. Churches 
which formerly would no more have thought of displaying the cross 
in their services than they would of using statues or incense, now 
place the cross on the altar as the central object in the sanctuary. 
The continued willingness of Protestants to make innovations in their 
worship is illustrated by experiments which have put jazz into the 
service. A "jazz mass" has been conducted under Protestant Epis- 
copal auspices 24 and a Texas music teacher wrote a jazz setting for 
the Methodist "Order for Morning Prayer." 25 It has been presented 
a number of times, including on television. 

The very architecture of a Protestant church building testifies to 
the effort to rely in worship on an inner movement of the mind and 
spirit. In a majority of Protestant churches the pulpit and Bible are 
the central objects of attention, having displaced the altar. Today in 
Protestantism there is a strong movement back to the altar-centered 
church; however, the plans for these church buildings always include 
a pulpit and a reading desk and on the reading desk is an open 

Forms of worship in most Protestant churches are not fixed; the 
local church leaders determine the order of service. (The Episcopal 
Church is an exception, as will be explained in a later chapter.) If 
a stranger attends a service of this kind, his experiences probably 
run something like the following. He is met at the door by an usher 
and is conducted to a pew. He would notice that in this type of 
church there are no kneeling cushions and that the pews are set too 
close together for worshipers to kneel comfortably. Later on he 
would discover that it is customary during prayer simply to bow the 
head. The observant stranger would note also that as the parish- 
ioners come into the sanctuary and sit down they make no devotional 
movements they do not genuflect and usually they do not bow the 
head in prayer. They simply sit down in silence and compose them- 

The service begins with the playing on the organ of some well- 
known classic. After this music is over, the congregation sings a 
hymn, perhaps the familiar 

Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty! 

Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee; 


Holy, Holy, Holy! Merciful and Mighty! 
God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity! 

The congregation stands during the singing of this triumphant 
song and the choir and minister march hi and take their places. The 
minister then offers prayer, invoking God's presence in the hearts of 
ah 1 who are hi attendance, and all repeat the Lord's Prayer. The choir 
then sings an anthem. Many a Protestant will testify that for him 
the most meaningful expression of the Christian message is the 
devout singing of laymen. 

At the conclusion of the anthem a passage from the Scripture 
usually a Psalm is read responsively, the minister and the congre- 
gation reading verses alternately. The practice of reading respon- 
sively comes from a desire to give the congregation as active a part 
in the service as possible. 

Then the minister reads another passage from the Scripture. K 
the stranger is a student of the Bible, he may recognize the verses 
chosen. Perhaps they will be the beloved 13th Chapter of I Corin- 
thians, which begins 

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not 
charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 

Then comes the pastoral prayer, hi former times usually called 
"the long prayer." Until recent decades, prayers in nonliturgical 
Protestantism were practically never read from a prayer book; they 
were spoken extempore. Prayer books were thought to be barriers to 
deep religious expression and a vestige of pre-Reformation practice. 
Since religion comes from within, written prayers, according to this 
thesis, can never express the living emotions of people worshiping 
here and now; expecting people to gain spiritual nourishment from 
reading a prayer is like expecting them to gain physical nourishment 
from reading a cookbook. Vital spirituality is a living, present ex- 
perience. Spontaneity in religion was formerly so emphasized that 
"one man even objected to hymn books on the ground that singing 
should be from the heart and not from the book." 26 Just how this 
idea would be carried out hi congregational practice is a bit hard to 

Today the trend is back toward carefully prepared prayers. The 


present-day clergyman would agree that genuine prayer must come 
from the heart. But he contends that spiritual and literary giants are 
more able to express the depths of our devotional experiences than 
we are ourselves; and in any case, he says, a prayer spoken in the 
hearing of worshipers is not their own heartfelt prayer and is only 
designed to stimulate their own prayers. Under these conditions, the 
better the spoken word can be, the more probability there is that it 
will be able to stimulate the devotional attitude. 

At the conclusion of the pastoral prayer, the offering is taken: the 
ushers pass through the congregation, carrying collection plates. 
After each worshiper has had an opportunity to symbolize his own 
inner dedication by presenting a gift, the ushers march to the front 
bearing the plates, and the congregation rises and sings a doxology. 

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; 
Praise Him, all creatures here below; 
Praise Him above, ye heav'nly host; 
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. 

After the offering has been taken, another hymn is sung, and then 
the minister begins his sermon. The sermon is the most prominent 
feature of a Protestant church service. It is also the one most fre- 
quently criticized. A former ambassador to the United States from 
Denmark wrote that if the Protestant church should be found dead, 
the sermon would be the dagger in her breast. Dean Inge of St. Paul's, 
London, once said that preaching a sermon is like throwing a bucket 
of water at narrow-necked bottles. The average Protestant would 
dissent from these opinions. When the Protestant churches no longer 
emphasize the sermon, he would say, they will cease to be Protestant 
they will cease to stress individual judgment and to consider that 
worship is chiefly a movement in the inner dispositions. The sermon is 
the agency whereby Protestant church members are lifted out of their 
spiritual complacency, whereby they gain new insights into religious 
problems, and make applications of their faith to the conditions of 
everyday living. So important is the sermon in Protestant thought 
that almost every devout worshiper has stored in his mind the mem- 
ory of great sermons that have all but revolutionized his life. 

After the sermon is concluded, another hymn is sung, and all bow 
while the minister pronounces a benediction. Then the members 


of the church gather in the aisles and vestibule, greet one another 
cordially, and shake hands with the minister who has made his way 
to the church door. The stranger senses during these experiences 
after the benediction that he is in the midst of a community of 
friends, persons who find joy in one another's companionship and 
who seek to prolong it. If he continues to attend Protestant services, 
he will discover that the heights of the worship experience are re- 
served for those who come to feel that they are part of a church 
family, a beloved community, which shares its common burdens and 
perplexities, triumphs and joys. 

In addition to services of the type just described, Protestant 
churches conduct from time to time the service of Holy Communion 
(Lord's Supper). This service differs sharply from the Catholic 
sacrament at several points. In the first place, Protestant laymen re- 
ceive both bread and wine. Thus Protestants follow their under- 
standing of the injunction of Jesus at the Last Supper, "Drink ye all 
of it." In the second place, Protestants reject the dogma that the 
Mass duplicates in an unbloody manner the sacrifice on Calvary. In 
the third place, Protestants, except for the Lutherans and a few of 
the Episcopalians, do not believe that any sort of physical miracle is 
wrought in or on the elements of bread and wine. 

Several doctrines are current among Protestants concerning what 
happens during the Communion Service. The following is a brief 
outline of some of them: 

The Physical Presence. This dogma holds that the substances 
bread and wine remain bread and wine but that with them are the 
physical body and blood of Christ. Luther held this belief. He 
described it by saying that when a bar of iron is heated red hot, the 
bar remains iron; but something of great power is added. Thus he 
asserted that Christ is physically present, though the bread and 
wine are present also. Lutheran groups hold this theory. Fre- 
quently they describe their belief by saying that the body and blood 
of Christ are "with, in, and under" the elements. 

The Spiritual Presence. This dogma holds that nothing physical 
happens in the Communion Service. Christ is truly present in the 
elements, but after a spiritual manner and is received by the be- 
liever as a spiritual blessing. Many Presbyterians, Episcopalians, 


and Methodists believe this doctrine, as do also members of other 

The doctrine of the symbolic nature of the Communion Serv- 
ice is the position that the elements are but symbols of the presence 
of God, in somewhat the same sense that the flag is the symbol of 
the United States. Persons who hold this doctrine consider that 
the Communion Service is a memorial service commemorating the 
life and death of Jesus Christ. Many Congregationalists, Baptists, 
and Christians (Disciples) believe this doctrine, as do also members 
of other denominations. 

The doctrine that physical elements should not be used in the 
Service of Communion is maintained by the Christian Scientists. 
They have a Communion Service, but it is conducted without the 

The doctrine that no special service of Communion is desirable 
is held by the Quakers, They contend that every service of worship 
is a Communion Service and that worship will not be aided by the 
presence of bread and wine. 

The elements are distributed in Protestant churches in two ways. 
In some of them worshipers are served at the altar rail. This method 
has the weight of centuries of tradition behind it. In other churches 
worshipers are served in the pews by laymen who bring the elements 
from the Communion table. This method is defended by asserting 
that it makes of Communion a group experience and that it is more 
like the original Lord's Supper than the traditional method. 

A majority of Protestant churches no longer use wine but have 
substituted grape juice. The Mormons even use water. The purpose 
here, of course, is to avoid serving alcohol. 

Baptism in most of the Protestant communions does not assume 
the essential role that it does in Catholicism. The baptismal ex- 
perience is considered by few Protestants to be essential to salvation. 
Salvation is considered to be dependent on the inner disposition. 
Baptism is, however, made the first formal step toward becoming a 
church member. 

A matter of debate among Protestants concerns the proper method 
of baptizing, whether by pouring, sprinkling or immersion. The Bap- 
tists and Disciples were once unanimous in affirming that immersion 


was the New Testament method and should be retained by the mod- 
ern Church. Most Baptist and Christian churches still insist on im- 
mersion, but some of them join churches of other denominations in 
asserting that the question is unimportant. Most of the Protestant 
churches use the method of sprinkling, contending that sprinkling is 
easier to administer and puts less emphasis on the physical aspect of 
the sacrament. 


Edmund Burke in his great defense of the American Colonies be- 
fore the English Parliament said: 

The people are Protestants; and of that kind which is the most adverse 
to all implicit submission of mind and opinion. This is a persuasion not 
only favorable to liberty, but built upon it. 27 

One historian wrote: 

Democracy did not arise out of eighteenth century political and in- 
dustrial conflicts, as a momentarily popular view misconceives. Its roots 
are to be found in the attempted revival of primitive Christianity by the 
radical lower-class sects of the Protestant Reformation, those peasants and 
yeomen who were our own ancestors, and who initiated the Reformation 
and eventually carried out its basic principles especially in America to 
conclusions undreamt of in the beginning. The ideal of local self-govern- 
ment was brought to America by the Pilgrims; the separation of church 
and state was derived from the Baptists; the right to free speech was a 
development of the right of freedom of conscience established by Roger 
Williams and William Penn; the equality spoken of in the Declaration of 
Independence was an outgrowth of the equality practiced by the Quakers. 
Democracy was envisaged in religious terms long before it assumed a 
political terminology. 28 

The reader should not conclude from these striking statements that 
Protestants have everywhere and always practiced a pure type of de- 
mocracy. On the contrary, on many occasions they have acted most 
despotically; for example, the most democratic aspect of early 
Protestantism, the Anabaptist movement, was bitterly persecuted by 
Protestants as well as by Catholics; frequently Protestant churches 
have been ruled from the top. 

Yet the basic democratic principles inhere in the Protestant dogma 
of the right of private judgment; when the common man wins the 
privilege of judging for himself in religion,, sooner or later he demands 


a similar right in other fields. The Protestant contribution to the de- 
velopment of democratic institutions is thus a very distinguished one, 

Protestant governmental arrangements can be classified as episco- 
pal, presbyterian and congregational. In the simon-pure episcopal 
type of government, authority rests with a bishop; in the presby- 
terian type, authority rests with elected representatives; in the congre- 
gational type, authority rests with an open church meeting. 

No Protestant denomination in America has a strict episcopal 
government, as far as I know. In former decades, some of the de- 
nominations were autocratically run; but ecclesiastical organization 
has so developed that today no Protestant bishop or executive secre- 
tary is given anything approaching final authority. On the other hand, 
few denominations have a strict congregational polity. Even in de- 
nominations whose legal framework and traditions provide for com- 
plete local autonomy, actual practice has greatly modified the extent 
to which local congregations act independently though their power 
to do so, even to the extent of changing denominational affiliations, is 
still unquestioned and is sometimes exercised. The growth of ecclesias- 
tical machinery has meant that more and more the denominational 
organizations are run as representative democracies (at least in 
theory), and the local churches are run as face-to-face democracies. 

On the whole, American Protestants run their institutions in a 
fashion similar to the way Americans run their governments, and tend 
to be democratic in the same degree that Americans generally are 
democratic a degree not always gratifying. Democracy is a very 
complex skill and ecclesiastical democracy is beset by many of the 
problems that confront secular democracy; a large percentage of 
church members do not exercise their church franchise, local churches 
frequently are run by a clique, sometimes they are even run by a boss, 
occasionally the majority in a church meeting laughs down the ideas 
of a minority, frequently leaders make decisions (supposedly in the 
interests of efficiency) which should be entrusted to the will of the 

This situation should not lead the reader to conclude that the 
Protestant churches are a drag on the American democratic tradition. 
Many of America's secular institutions are much less democratic. Her 
factories and stores, for example, have been little affected by demo- 


cratic principles; few of her colleges are operated democratically, But 
Protestant churches, on the whole, are institutions where the popular 
will determines major policies, where power is widely distributed, 
where leadership is frequently changed, where property and funds are 
democratically controlled, where ability is generally recognized and 
frequently rewarded. 

Some of the churches in their national and regional organizations 
put representative democracy into practice. Other churches run their 
national and regional organizations by a kind of oligarchy. This 
situation will be discussed in Chapter VIII. 

Unfortunately, it does not appear that the present Protestant 
groups, like some of their forerunners, will lay the foundations for 
bold, new democratic adventures, Today, Protestants try simply to 
put into practice the present popular American understanding of the 
nature of democratic institutions. The churches, especially at the local 
level, are chief among the voluntary organizations lodges, service 
clubs, sports clubs, co-operatives, labor unions in which Americans 
learn that democracy is something more than voting in public elections 
once a year and thereafter waiting patiently for the decisions of the 
higher-ups. If Americans have the habit of democracy, it is because 
such voluntary organizations give individuals the opportunity for much 
democratic practice. 

Protestant democracy means that final power rests generally in the 
hands of laymen. In a large percentage of the local churches laymen 
hire and fire the minister, determine the requirements for Church 
membership, hold the deeds to the church property. Clergymen, of 
course, exercise great influence; they are not only specialists in church 
administration but they are also the executives who carry out demo- 
cratically determined policies. The relationship between the Protestant 
clergyman and the membership of his church might be likened roughly 
to the relationship between the executive and legislative branches of a 
government which operates on the basis of well-defined constitutional 
principles. In this type of organization the layman has the last word, if 
he wants to say it. 

This placing of power in the hands of laymen is considered by some 
observers to be a serious weakness in Protestantism. An English 
bishop visiting in the United States declared that the greatest threat to 


American and Canadian church life is the dependence of the minister 
on the good will of the people. A writer in the Atlantic stated that 
clergymen "find themselves merely hirelings of groups they are com- 
pelled to please and whom they dare not stimulate or rebuke." 29 

Probably it is true that a considerable percentage of Protestant 
clergymen find lay authority irksome and stultifying to moral and 
spiritual development. The majority, however, are happy to work 
under the Protestant system, because they believe that power is less 
apt to be abused if it is in the hands of a whole church group than if 
it is concentrated in the hands of a skilled leader. Protestant clergymen 
usually think of themselves as teachers, and they know that while 
church opinion moves ponderously it also moves persistently, and in 
the direction of broad understanding, when it is under the influence 
of preaching that is both patient and idealistic. Democratic organiza- 
tion often seems slow and inefficient when contrasted with the speed 
and efficiency of centralized control. Most Protestant clergymen, 
however, believe that the final event will demonstrate the wisdom of 
entrusting power in religion to common people, even as the recent war 
demonstrated the initial slowness but the ultimate strength of the 
democratically controlled nations. 

Perhaps the most disturbing criticism which can be made of the 
Protestant churches as democratic institutions is that they frequently 
minister to different social classes. This fact can be most clearly seen 
in the racial divisions which characterize religious life in the United 
States. The color line is about as tightly drawn in the local church 
as it is in institutions which never refer to Paul's statement, "There is 
neither Greek nor Jew, . . . Barbarian, . . . bond nor free" 
(Colossians 3:11). Eleven o'clock on Sunday morning is sometimes 
said to be the most segregated hour of the week. One clergyman wrote 
that he hoped the church he served migjit become as racially inclusive 
as the local bus line. A study of Congregational Christian, northern 
Presbyterian, and United Lutheran churches, reported in 1954, 
"permits an estimate that 9.8 percent of all the churches in these 
communions have constituents from more than one racial group." 
However, the actual number of persons of a nondominant race 
integrated into the "congregations or organizations" of these denomi- 
nations was quite small; even among the integrated churches of 


these denominations only 2.7 per cent of the constituents were mem- 
bers of the nondominant race. 30 Moreover, a study sponsored by the 
National Council of Churches reported that 

Opportunity for membership in a church can in no way be equated 
with the opportunity to become an active participant in its life and fel- 
lowship. The survey would seem to indicate that in the average church 
with non-white members the social life moves along a fairly separate 
pathway and out of their touch. Membership becomes a sort of "front 
room" type of fellowship for the non-white person who must get along 
as best he can with no real voice in forming the programs or policies of 
the church to which he gives Ms allegiance. 31 

Among Roman Catholics integration has proceeded further than 
among Protestants. A third of the Negro Catholics worship in inte- 
grated churches; often, however, "there is a tacit understanding within 
a church that some masses on a Sunday are for Negroes, while others 
are for whites." 32 For more material on segregation in the churches see 
pages 296 f . 

Division along economic lines also characterizes the churches, 
especially in cities. In his book The Status Seekers, Vance Packard 
has a chapter he calls "The Long Road from Pentecostal to Epis- 
copal," and presents data to show that "the upper class in most 
United States communities is drawn more powerfully" to some de- 
nominations than to others. 35 One writer asserted he could verify this 
fact by taking a tour in his city on a Sunday morning and observing 
the cars parked outside the various church buildings. The older 
models and the ones needing paint would be parked near the buildings 
on the wrong side of the tracks; the new models and the big ones 
would be found outside the buildings in the "best sections." A number 
of careful studies of social stratification in American communities 
have verified this writer's assertions. 

Some students have explained these economic and social divisions 
in the church by contending that social divisions in religion are a 
natural consequence of the need in worship for fellowship with 
kindred spirits; worshipers of similar backgrounds naturally gravitate 
together in a free society. Moreover, other things being equal, people 
will go to the churches located near their homes. Since most American 
communities are stratified along economic lines, stratification in the 
churches simply reflects the class structure of American society. 


Against such observations as these some students stress the point 
of view that the big churches are run by the same people who run the 
big stores and the big factories. Persons of this type are accustomed 
to exercise authority and influence, and naturally assume leadership 
in ecclesiastic affairs; the poor man in the rich church is expected to 
be a follower just as he is expected to be a follower in business. Thus 
the poor man strikes out for himself in religion; many a struggling 
church was brought into existence when superficial observation could 
detect little reason why existing institutions could not meet the need. 
As one Negro said to me, "At least we can run our churches." 

There is a tendency for denominations as well as local churches to 
divide along racial and economic lines. Booker T. Washington once 
said that if you find a Negro who is anything but a Methodist or a 
Baptist you know that someone has been tampering with his religion. 
The Office of Public Opinion Research at Princeton University con- 
ducted in 1945-46 four opinion polls from which data were obtained 
on the extent to which our various denominations minister to voters 
with incomes in the "upper," "middle" or "lower" brackets. Table I 
gives these data. 34 

It is obvious that the full implications for church government of 
the basic Protestant principles have not yet been worked out. The 
sixteenth-century reformers were not aware of many of the democratic 
implications of their basic teachings. But through the centuries the 
implications have become clearer and Protestant institutions have 
become less and less authoritarian and more and more trustful of the 
intellectual and spiritual capacities of the common man. Neither the 
American churches nor the American nation has achieved a de- 
mocracy that is in any sense ideal. Yet many Protestants are firmly 
convinced that when a more ideal type of democracy shall be achieved, 
Protestant principles will have greatly influenced its formation and 
will be basic to its spiritual structure. 


As was noted at the beginning of this chapter, there is a growing 
conviction among Protestant leaders that the divisions in the Church 
should be decreased in number. A united Church would be a strength- 
ened Church, it would have greater influence in society, it would be 



Table I 
Distribution of Denominations by "Class" 



Whose Income 


Was in the 



Upper Bracket 

Roman Catholic 













smaller bodies 




















Saints (Mormon) 



Christian Scientist 






Protestant, un- 




Entire Sample 

(Including 800 

additional cases) 



Percentage Percentage 

Whose Income Whose Income 

Was in the Was in the 

Middle Bracket Lower Bracket 













much less expensive to maintain, and it would be in accord with the 
biblical injunction to "keep the unity of the Spirit. . . . There is one 
body, and one Spirit, . . . one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God 
and Father of all" (Ephesians 4:3-6). 

Several actual unions have taken place. Three Lutheran bodies 
merged in 1918 to form the United Lutheran Church. In 1931, the 
Congregational Churches joined with the Christian Church to form 
the Congregational Christian Churches. In 1934, the Evangelical 
Synod united with the Reformed Church to form the Evangelical and 
Reformed Church. In 1939, three Methodist bodies, which had sepa- 
rated prior to the Civil War, were reunited. In 1946, the United 
Brethren and the Evangelical Church joined to form the Evangelical 
United Brethren Church. In the fifties, two churches with differing 
types of government, the Congregational Christian and the Evangelical 
and Reformed, created the United Church of Christ. In 1958, two 
Presbyterian bodies created the United Presbyterian Church in the 
U.S.A. In 1961, the Unitarians and the Universalists formed the 

Unitarian Universalist Association. And in that same year, three 
Lutheran bodies, the American, the Evangelical, and the United 
Evangelical, formed the American Lutheran Church. In prospect for 
1962 is a second Lutheran merger, this time of four bodies: United, 
Augustana, Finnish Evangelical (Suomi Synod), and American 
Evangelical; the name of this body will be the Lutheran Church in 
America. At this writing, no other unions are in immediate prospect. 

Some efforts at union have failed. A long negotiation in the forties 
between the Episcopalians and the northern Presbyterians was 
abruptly broken off by the Episcopalians. A warm discussion between 
the American Baptists and the Disciples cooled. But the desire for 
unity is increasing. One highly publicized proposal is for a merger of 
four of the largest Protestant churches: The Methodist, the Protestant 
Episcopal, the United Presbyterian, and the United Church of Christ. 
The result cannot at this writing be foreseen; nevertheless, the prob- 
ability is high that the next decades will see further changes in the 
organization of American Protestantism. 

Another fruit of the ecumenical temper is the marked growth of 
the Council of Churches movement. The churches of many large 
cities and counties, and the denominations of most states have banded 
together to form confederations. There are now nearly a thousand 
such councils. Also twenty-five Protestant denominations (including 
all but two of the large ones), along with eight Eastern Orthodox 
denominations form the National Council of Churches. The National 
Council was organized in 1950 through a merger of the Federal 
Council of Churches, the Foreign Missions Conference, the Home 
Missions Council, the International Council of Religious Education, 
and other Protestant agencies. These various confederations exert a 
great deal of influence, even though their strength suffers from the 
fact that they can exercise no authority over their member denomina- 
tions, and from the fact that the funds given them by the churches are 

The formation, in 1948, of a World Council of Churches greatly 
encouraged Protestant leaders. After long and careful preparation, 
140 denominations throughout the world united in the creation of a 
body through which they can speak and by means of which they can 
give one another mutual counsel and assistance. The World Council's 


headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland. It operates on a budget of 
less than a half million dollars, "a sum that is reached by the budgets 
of some local churches in the U.S.A." American churches now con- 
tribute about 75 per cent of this amount. 35 The number of denomina- 
tions in the World Council is now about 170. 

Both the National Council and the World Council are weakened by 
the fact that the difficult spadework in local communities necessary to 
make them effective has been neglected. Most laymen are ignorant 
of the ecumenical movement and some clergymen are indifferent to 
it. In some localities two or more churches (usually the weaker ones) 
have been federated, but on the whole the number of competing local 
groups has not been much reduced. As one astute observer com- 

The Church . . . has become overextended. While . . . ecumenical co- 
operation, a World Council are essential goals, they have been developed 
at the expense of not mastering the problems of the home base. It is not 
that these things are not noble achievements; it is that they have no roots, 
they give a false sense of strength. 3 ^ 

A notable factor in the Ecumenical Movement is the refusal of the 
most orthodox denominations to co-operate with the most liberal. The 
simple formula for admission is confession of "our Lord Jesus Christ 
as God and Savior." As a consequence, the most liberal denominations 
are kept out of both the National Council and the World Council, 
though the individual of pronounced liberal tendencies is admitted to 
fellowship, provided he is a member in good standing of a denomina- 
tion more conservative than he is. This development is a result of the 
realization on the part of the leaders of the movement that co-opera- 
tion with many conservative groups is possible only on conservative 
terms. The theory is that an imperfect advance toward unity is better 
than no advance. 

Action on this theory causes some writers to raise the question 
whether the ecumenical leaders are "guided by principle, or by 
church politics." The liberal Universalists were denied membership 
in 1945 in the Federal Council of Churches although the Russian 
Orthodox Church (in America) was admitted in that year. When the 
Universalists were again denied membership in the Federal Council in 
1947, The Lutheran commented: 


Reason for keeping out the Universalists is entirely practical. . . . 
Charles P. Taft, Federal Council president, had written that "if we let in 
the Unitarians [or Universalists], we let out the Lutherans." 37 

An American, secretary on the World Council was asked why the 
Universalists were not included; he replied, "Just think how many 
conservatives we would lose." George A. Coe wrote: 

The formula [for membership in the World Council of Churches] 
would admit the most authoritarian church of all, the Roman Catholic, 
but it would exclude churches that, however devoted they might be to 
the practice of love towards God and men, do not toe the mark with 
respect to a dogma that can be held by unloving minds. 38 

The ecumenical movement is criticized also for its threat to free- 
dom. The larger the body the further removed in general is decision 
making from the grass roots. The concern among the ecumenical 
leaders seems to be for size; larger and larger units are urged upon 
the Protestant constituency. There is no corresponding concern for 
the development of democratic techniques whereby authority in these 
units of large size can flow naturally from the bottom to the top. 
Policies are set at the top; the same personalities continue in power 
year after year. 

The ecumenical movement is criticized also for its threat to freedom 
of religious expression. One critic of the movement wrote: 

. . , the division of Christians into the major families of theological tradi- 
tion denominations is not in itself scandalous. On the contrary, it is 
seen to be a necessary condition of the fullest understanding of an in- 
finite and inexhaustible gospel which defies containment within any 
single form of life and expression. Without these families of tradition, or 
something like them, the Christian movement, past and future, would 
be permanently impoverished and distorted. . . . 

If our present separateness often prevents our being adequately and 
effectively heard, togetherness may so limit our mobility, reduce our 
creative adaptability, and dissipate the vitality of our witness as to reduce 
even further our impact on the variegated life of the modern world. 39 

The difficulties faced by the ecumenical movement are even 
broader. Large numbers of conservative Protestants will have nothing 
to do with it. The movement would be happy to admit the Funda- 
mentalists provided of course they came in a co-operative spirit; but 
most of the Fundamentalists claim that the ecumenical leaders are in 
fact little more than self-appointed promoters of a new denominational 


effort. Some Fundamentalists, stung by competition, have set up their 
own organization, the American Council of Christian Churches. 

Thus all over Christendom we have groups which regret Christian 
division, regret it profoundly. But unfortunately too many of them 
are in the position of affirming dogmatically that Christian unity is 
possible only on their terms. For additional material on the ecumeni- 
cal movement, see pages 190 ff., 324 fL 

Rabbi Mordecai M. Kaplan writes: 

The real test of any religion, movement or civilization is in the process 
of education to which it gives rise. If that process is rich in content, color- 
ful and stirring, the movement or religion which it transmits is answering 
a real need, and is bound to live. 40 

Early Protestantism certainly met this test, and nowhere more 
significantly than in America. Colonial Protestants in Massachusetts, 
in order to foil the "project of ye old deluder, Satan, to keep men 
from ye knowledge of ye Scriptures/* ordered each town of fifty house- 
holders to establish a public school. Massachusetts Protestants also 
founded Harvard College in order "to advance Learning, and perpetu- 
ate it to Posterity, dreading to leave an illiterate Ministry to the 
Churches, when our present Ministers shall lie in the Dust." These 
educational efforts are but the best-known of a long series of pro- 
visions made by American colonists for the teaching of religion, and 
other subjects. In those days the term religious education had not yet 
come into use; all education was religious. It would have been as un- 
thinkable then to set up a public school that ignored religion as it 
would be today to set up a public school that ignored science. 

Nor was this situation changed by the adoption of the Constitution 
of the United States. For the first fifty years of our national life all the 
public schools taught religion. However, beginning in about 1840, 
conflicts among the religious groups over which religion should be 
indoctrinated led to the eventual banishing of all formal religious 
instruction from the public schools. Catholics saw in this development 
a serious threat to their Church; consequently they began the creation 
of their system of parochial schools. 

Most Protestants saw in the secularization of the public schools no 


serious threat to religion. They believed in the promise of the public 
schools and in what they could do for America. Protestant support 
made possible the striking success of the American public school 
system. The national achievements in public education are part of the 
glory of American democracy and of American Protestantism. If 
Protestants had chosen to establish denominational school systems, 
their churches might now be stronger institutions. But the nation 
would almost certainly have within it greater diversity, more intoler- 
ance, less consciousness of unity of purpose than it now has. The 
public schools, for all their faults, have done for America what a 
series of competing parochial systems could never have done. 

In teaching religion, Protestants have relied on instruction in the 
home and in Sunday schools. The home has proved to be highly 
effective in the teaching of morals; parents are deeply concerned that 
their children should grow up to be honest, co-operative, benevolent. 
However, in teaching reverence for the Church and its ritual, in pass- 
ing on the Christian tradition, the home has proved unco-operative. 
Charles C. Morrison, former editor of The Christian Century, wrote, 
"What the home has done about it [education in the religious tradi- 
tion] is too notorious to require comment." 

Protestants have put their major reliance for the training of children 
on Sunday schools. These schools have a tremendous enrollment 
about forty million (of all ages) and they are to be found in 
practically every American hamlet. They are in session about one hour 
a week and are manned by laymen. One traveler from the continent 
of Europe said that the most surprising thing he found in America 
was that everywhere adults gather around them little groups of chil- 
dren and tell them Bible stories. The education which is provided in 
the Sunday schools is often criticized. The critics contend that the 
shortness of the sessions, the poorness of the equipment, and the lack 
of skill on the part of voluntary teachers mean that little genuine 
education can take place. The critics also assert that half of the 
children of Protestant background are not touched by the Sunday 

Weekday instruction in religion, on time released by the public 
schools, has received much Protestant attention in recent decades. 
Such instruction is usually conducted for one hour a week. This 


method of teaching Is said to reach about three million pupils of all 
denominations Catholic, Jew, and Protestant in three thousand 

Protestant concern for higher education has declined. In colonial 
times most of the colleges were under some type of Protestant control; 
a large percentage of the colleges and universities founded since 
colonial times received their stimulus directly from the Protestant 
churches. Between 1830 and I860, Methodists founded thirty-four 
colleges and Baptists founded twenty-one. However, today Protestants 
sponsor the education of but a fraction of the students now in higher 
education. The colleges and universities now under Protestant control 
are usually not the strong and influential institutions. 

Protestantism's relative neglect of religious education is strange in 
view of its original concern and in view of the belief in individual 
judgment. A strictly authoritarian religion, one which teaches by in- 
doctrination, can survive with much less educational effort than can 
a religion which gives freedom for individual choice. The free man can 
make wise choices only after he has abundant information. But we are 
confronted by the strange fact that it is authoritarian Catholicism 
which makes the more serious religious educational effort and free 
Protestantism which neglects religious education, except at the high- 
est level of theological training. Perhaps the slow-moving democratic 
processes will one day awaken the Protestant conscience to the realiza- 
tion that in the long run the Church cannot be stronger than the edu- 
cation its children, and adults, receive. 

In former generations the Protestant press dominated the journalism 
of the country. One student estimates that a century ago, a time when 
the percentage of non-Protestants was very small, three-quarters of all 
reading done by the American people was on religious subjects. 41 For 
many years Protestant weeklies were the leading magazines of opinion 
in the country. The Independent, beginning as a small antislavery 
organ, grew until it had an undeniable influence on national affairs. 
The Outlook attained a similar position, counting at one time an ex- 
President of the United States as a contributing editor. No religious 
publication today holds such a position. In fact, between 1910 and 
1930, a period when the circulation of secular magazines increased 
greatly, the circulation of Protestant journals decreased steadily. Com- 


parable statistics are hard to secure, but there seems to be good 
evidence to show that by the end of the period the circulation of 
Protestant journals represented somewhat less than 1 per cent of the 
total newspaper and magazine circulation of the country. 42 In later 
years the circulation of Protestant journals rose, a 40 per cent increase 
being reported between 1940 and 1944. 43 

Regarding Protestant journals, one writer wrote: 

[They are, on the whole,] a welter of thin-blooded Sunday-school 
papers, educational quarterlies, and miscellaneous publications ranging 
from collections of conventional devotional literature to handsome schol- 
arly journals carrying abstract articles in the jargon of the theologian 
. . . The religious journalist is making his principal appeal, not to the 
masses or the classes but to the spirit of denominationalism and sec- 
tionalism. 44 

Some Protestant magazines have of late shown great improvement. 


Christianity conquered the Roman Empire through the indomi- 
table spirit of early missionaries. During the Middle Ages, this crusad- 
ing temper was less in evidence; and during the hundred years prior 
to the Reformation, Christian missions had been all but suspended; 
the Church was prosperous and self-satisfied. For many decades after 
the Reformation, the Protestant churches had energy for little besides 
the effort to maintain their own newly won liberties. But the Roman 
Catholic Church was spurred by the Reformation to renewed mission- 
ary zeal. In that age, Catholic nations were the leading maritime 
powers of the world: they had discovered America, and the route 
around Africa to India, and had gained footholds in these lands. 
Catholic missions naturally followed. 

In the eighteenth century, the Catholic missionary pace slowed 
down to a walk. But about the beginning of the nineteenth century, 
both Protestants and Catholics began such a spurt in missionary 
activity as has never been equalled anywhere. It continues till the 
present day. As a result of this activity, Christianity became in the 
nineteenth century for the first time a truly world-wide movement. 
Catholic missions during this period have been so effective that a 
Protestant student of missions could write: "No other one institution 
that the human race has ever seen has equalled it [the Roman Catholic 


Church] in the numbers of countries and peoples among which it is 
found." 45 

During the past one hundred and fifty years, Protestant missionary 
efforts have surpassed Catholic efforts. 46 The Protestant movement 
gave notice of its coming achievements in the remarkable career of 
William Carey. Carey was an English cobbler who in 1792 was sent 
out to India by the newly formed Baptist Missionary Society. He was 
scorned and attacked by the Indians and also by Ms own countrymen, 
who by that time were in control of India. A later Bishop of Bombay 

If ever a heaven-sent genius wrought a conquest over obstacles and 
disabilities, it was . . . this humbly born Englishman. ... he received 
hardly any education. . . . [Yet] this man before he died took part in 
translating the Bible into some forty languages or dialects, Chinese 
among the number 1 He started in life as a cobbler would never let any- 
one claim for him the more dignified title of shoemaker he died pro- 
fessor of Sanskrit, the honored friend and adviser of the government 
whose earliest greeting, when he landed on the shores of the country, had 
been to prohibit him from preaching. 47 

In America, the dynamic nineteenth-century missionary movement 
began with a society formed in 1808 among five young men at 
Williams College. The idea spread; the denominations created foreign 
missions boards; soon non-Christian lands were being invaded by 
Protestant missionaries. They worked under the greatest difficulties; 
not only were the local residents suspicious, but many Occidentals 
also opposed missionary work. Commercial interests in Africa and 
Asia saw an end to their system of exploitation, if enlightenment came 
to non-Christian peoples. 

In spite of indifference at home and danger abroad, the missionary 
movement spread. It is found today in practically every non-Christian 
land. In 1960, Protestant churches throughout the world were sending 
over forty-two thousand missionaries to lands other than their own, 
64 per cent going from the United States and Canada. During the 
decade of the fifties, the North American missionary force increased 
81 per cent. In 1960 Roman Catholics had almost sixty-eight hundred 
persons from the United States serving as foreign missionaries. 48 The 
percentages of the Protestant missionaries engaged in various types of 
work were: evangelistic, 61 per cent; educational, 19 per cent; medi- 


cal, 12 per cent; administrative, 4 per cent; agricultural and other, 4 
per cent. 49 These percentages may change considerably in the future* 
An editor of the World Christian Handbook, 1957 wrote that "in 
very many countries there are signs that the particular forms of work 
which have been done in the past will not be possible in the future." 50 

In spite of increases in the number of missionaries and in the 
number of persons who are Christians, the percentage of Christians 
in the population of the world is dropping. The percentage in 1900 
was 32.2; in 1960 it was 30.3. 51 In 1948, the total of all Protestants 
in mission lands was reported as twenty-five million; the total for all 
Catholics was reported as one hundred and thirty million. 52 

Among Protestants of recent years the missionary movement has 
come in for much criticism. The rise of liberal theology has undercut 
the older motivation for making converts to prevent the "heathen" 
from spending eternity in hell. The present attitude of many moderns 
is that Christianity is a Western religion, that the missionaries work 
chiefly in countries whose cultures are in many ways superior to our 
own, and that the religions of these countries are more fitted than is 
Christianity to meet the needs of the people who live there. Why 
should we disturb their faith as long as they find it satisfying? What we 
Christians tend to do, so runs the argument, is to compare our own 
exalted ideals, not with Oriental ideals, but with Oriental practice. 

The reply to this position would vary according to the theological 
position of the one who gives answer. A large percentage of the 
missionaries still maintain that salvation is impossible outside their 
Church. Another large percentage hold that only Christianity is of 
divine origin and, therefore, Christians must labor unceasingly until 
all the world is converted. Liberals decidedly in the minority among 
active missionaries take the position that Christianity has much to 
learn from other religions, and these religions much to learn from 
Christianity. The proper attitude, say Liberals, for the missionary to 
take is one of sharing; exchange of spiritual and cultural treasures is 
vital if we are ever to achieve a world culture and a world culture is 
the only possible basis for world peace. Moreover, the liberal mission- 
ary would contend that the alternative to Christianity for the over- 
whelming majority of the peoples of the world is not one of the 


age-old, noble philosophies of the East, but rather some type of 
demonology or devil worship. 

The missionaries have taught Christian ethics as well as Christian 
theology. Moreover, they have given practical examples of what this 
ethics means. Over much of Africa, Asia, and the islands of the 
Pacific, the missionaries are responsible for demonstrating the work 
of hospitals, institutions for the insane, and public health programs. 
Missionaries have brought in scientific agriculture, thereby greatly 
increasing the yield of crops, the productivity of forests, and the 
quality of livestock. The missionaries have contended that education 
is for humble people as well as for aristocrats; when universal, free 
education comes to the Orient much of the credit will belong to the 
missionaries. They have struggled to raise the status of women, to 
abolish infanticide, to outlaw the opium traffic, to smash the slave 
trade, to care for the blind, to introduce modern methods of famine 
relief. Millions of the earth's common people have little hope of rising 
above disease, ignorance, want, and superstition except through the 
activity of Christian missionaries. 

The percentage of Christians in missionary lands is still very small; 
but the size of the Christian groups is not a good indication of their 
influence on public affairs. In the Chinese Who's Who, before the 
Revolution, one man in six was a Christian, and one in two was edu- 
cated in Christian schools. Like the Socialist party in the United 
States, which had an influence out of all proportion to its size, 
Christian teachings in the East are manifest in the ideas of a multi- 
tude of persons who would deny any connection with Christianity. 
The present challenge to the caste system in India had its inception in 
Christian idealism, even as the present challenge in America to the 
Negro- White line, now taken up by so many secular groups, also had 
its inception in Christian idealism. 

Frequently it has been said by skeptics that missions are simply 
the religious phase of Western imperialism. Surely that accusation is 
shown to be false by the tension which exists between missionaries 
and business interests, by the attitude of friendship rather than of 
exploitation with which the missionaries have treated nationals, and by 
the numbers of missionaries who in time of war have stuck stubbornly 


to their posts in spite of the warnings of their home governments. 
Now that the era of Western imperialism seems to be drawing to a 
close, we need not look for the demise of foreign missions. 


Many Catholics and nonchurchgoers are sure that Protestantism is 
on its way out. Hilaire Belloc, a leading Catholic author, declared that 
in the sixteenth century the Protestant "attack upon the Church 
seemed overwhelming. It continued to succeed from that day onwards 
almost into our own time. It was like a great flood which runs at first 
most violently, [then] gradually slackens." 53 But "the hegemony of the 
Protestant culture in Europe has crumbled." 54 A discouraged Protes- 
tant clergyman wrote, "Protestantism is disintegrating and is doomed. 
It may outlast your life and mine, but ultimately America will see it 
no more." 55 

These discouraging forecasts are sharply contradicted. For example, 
Henry P. Van Dusen wrote: 

By any reasonable test the nineteenth century was by far the greatest 
in Christian history. ... In terms of influence upon the whole life of 
humanity Christian ideals and spirit had effected greater reforms and 
improvements in the lot of all sorts and conditions of men than had 
ever been wrought by any single influence in any previous epoch of 
history. 56 

Kenneth S. Latourette wrote: 

From Luther until this day Protestantism has been gaining momentum. 
For nearly three centuries it was a minority movement within the uni- 
versal Church of Christ. The main stream of Christianity seemed to be 
flowing through other channels, notably the Roman Catholic Church. In 
the nineteenth century, however, it was becoming obvious that Protes- 
tantism had become the main current of the Christian stream. The cur- 
rents represented by the Eastern churches have been dwindling. That 
represented by the Roman Catholic Church continues strong and has had 
something of a quickening in the present century. However, measured by 
inward vitality as displayed in new movements and the effects upon man- 
kind as a whole, increasingly Protestantism has become the chief channel 
for the life of Christ in the world. 97 

We have here a sharp division of opinion. Which point of view is 

Statistically the Protestant situation in the United States is en- 
couraging. At the beginning of our national life about one person in 


twenty in the population was connected with the churches, practically 
all of them Protestant. Today the proportion of Protestant church 
members in the population, exclusive of persons with Catholic or 
Jewish backgrounds, is probably ten times what It was at the end of 
the colonial period. 58 The proportion continues to increase. 

Judging statistically, there is reason to think, as has been indicated, 
that Protestant strength Is considerably greater than its membership 
rolls would indicate. Protestant methods of maintaining church rolls 
are such that adherents are frequently "lost." Unquestionably a large 
number of the sixty-five million Americans who are usually classified 
as '^unchurched" consider that they are part of some denomination's 
constituency. In Canada, where the Protestant situation is presumably 
very similar to that in the United States, the government census takers 
ask the individual citizen to name the denomination with which he is 
affiliated. In 1941, over twice as many Canadians claimed affiliation 
with the United Church of Canada (the leading Protestant com- 
munion) as the Church itself reported as listed on its membership 
rolls. 59 Similarly a sampling poll taken by the United States Bureau 
of the Census in 1957 indicated that the number of persons in the 
United States who considered themselves to be Protestants was over 
80 per cent larger than the number of members reported by the 
Protestant churches. (See page 77.) In I960, the Protestant churches 
reported a membership of sixty-three and a half million. Using a 
Catholic definition of membership, they had eighty to eighty-five 
million. According to the percentage (66.2) derived from the Bureau 
of the Census poll, about one hundred and nineteen million Americans 
(including children) in 1960 considered themselves to be Protestants. 

These data indicate that, statistically speaking, American Protes- 
tantism is by no means a dying movement. But the strength of Protes- 
tantism cannot be appraised merely by reviewing institutional arrange- 
ments and statistics. We must appraise also the spiritual health of 
individual Protestants. How loyal are they to their churches? And 
how seriously do they take religious teachings? 

At this point we must distinguish rather sharply between morals 
and worship. A very large portion of Protestants take the ethical ob- 
ligations taugjit by their religion with great seriousness; a smaller 
portion take their ceremonial obligations seriously. 


The emphasis in Protestant ethics is on personal morality. In their 
personal conduct most Protestants strive seriously to live up to the 
moral requirements of the Ten Commandments; they are honest, 
neighborly, faithful to their wives, and they try to treat their fellows 
decently, just as they expect to be treated. Protestant ethics have 
pretty much outgrown the "don't chew, don't swear, don't play cards, 
don't go to the theater" stage. This former emphasis is understand- 
able in view of the Puritan tradition out of which Protestant ethics 
grew and in view of the crudities of frontier life. The change from this 
emphasis is most clearly seen in the Protestant attitude toward 
the Sabbath. In former times Sunday was a day which Protestants 
kept free from all labor and frivolity. In my own childhood, spent in 
a Methodist parsonage, strict instructions were issued not to engage 
in sports on the Sabbath. My parents were Liberals and would not 
have objected to a bit of amusement on a dull afternoon; but the long 
arm of the leading layman made its way into our family life. However, 
Sabbatarianism is being abandoned by most Protestants; the conti- 
nental or Catholic Sabbath is more and more observed by them. Many 
clergymen teach that after attendance at church the day should be 
used for recreation; a few clergymen even hold early services for 
families who wish to go on all-day picnics or for sportsmen who hope 
to get in a full day on the golf course. 

Protestantism's influence among the "unchurched" is strong, and 
primarily ethical. Among Americans nominally Protestant is a multi- 
tude just how many is anybody's guess who, though they seldom 
go near a church, conduct their lives on the Christian ethical pattern. 
This situation prevails, of course, in all denominations, but probably 
to a less extent among Catholics than among Protestants and Jews. 
These ethically minded persons have adopted Judeo-Christian moral 
standards, but insist that they can lead just as good a life outside the 
Church as they can inside. They see no useful function served by 
their personal church attendance. A large percentage of them do 
consider churches to be essential in the community and think at- 
tendance at religious services to be an excellent thing for young 
people. They are glad that other people busy themselves in maintain- 
ing religious organizations and in providing religious opportunities for 
the children. But according to this position, the purpose served by 


maintaining churches and by sending children to Sunday school Is an 
ethical one. These anti-chorch-attendance Protestants are a testimony 
to the effectiveness of the Protestant churches in the realm of personal 

Though Protestants as a whole are not nearly as loyal in following 
the ceremony prescribed by the Church as they are in following its 
ethical teachings, it would be a mistake to conclude that esprit de 
corps in the Protestant churches is in a serious state. On the contrary, 
morale is high. Millions of Americans attend the churches regularly, 
and reverently carry out Protestantism's ceremonial prescriptions. 
Public and private worship give them their life's orientation, and 
furnish the vision by means of which they live. This large group of 
loyal Protestants consider that they are part of a vital enterprise, one 
that is essential to their own well-being and one without which the 
nation would perish. Actual observation of a large number of Protes- 
tant services does not give the impression that the worshipers are 
discouraged or disgruntled. Pessimistic statements concerning the 
internal morale of Protestantism come chiefly from those who attend 
other churches, from those who attend Protestant churches irregularly, 
or from those who attend no church at all. 

Pessimism concerning the external influence of the Protestant 
churches has much justification. The long-range trend seems to point 
in the direction of a declining Protestant influence in our national 
affairs; secular concerns more and more determine the trend of public 
events. A student of the sociology of religion puts the situation 
strongly: "Recent sociological investigations all point to one depress- 
ing conclusion: that American Protestantism, as institutionally 
organized, is virtually impotent in terms of affecting the policy-making 
processes of our sociey." 60 If Catholics in most communities labor 
under the handicaps of a minority psychology, Protestants in most 
communities are handicapped by the psychology of the majority. In 
the past they have had things pretty much their own way in the United 
States. They set up the kind of schools they wanted, they had the 
allegiance of the nation's economic and professional leaders, they 
usually had control of the political agencies. This situation no longer 
obtains, but the psychology endures. Protestants tend to be com- 

Will Herberg states another view: 

American Protestantism ... is having to adapt itself to what is, in 
effect, a minority status in a pluralistic culture that has become post- 
Protestant, and it is not doing this very well. It is an anxious, downward- 
heading minority, bristling with an aggressive defensiveness character- 
istic of such groups. 61 

Herberg's judgment applies, I think, only to some Protestant leaders. 
They view with alarm. But the great majority goes on its confident 
way, insisting on the right to maintain many sectarian divisions and 
refusing to alter the traditional policy of sharp sectarian competition. 

In former times the Protestant churches were the centers of Ameri- 
can community life. From them came the impulses which created 
many of the social institutions of the community: schools, hospitals, 
charitable agencies, reform movements. In them many an American 
found his social contacts, his opinions, his recreation, and even the 
best music he could find. Today many of these functions have been 
taken over by radio, newspapers, movies, television, automobiles, and 
professional social agencies. The church is no longer the hub of com- 
munity life. Yet churches continue to do pioneer social thinking. In 
the future as in the past, we may expect the churches to sense new 
needs, to provide agencies to care for these needs, and finally after 
the agencies have won a firm hold on the community conscience, to 
turn them over to other hands to run. 

Before concluding, as so many do today, that the Protestant 
churches need not be considered in appraising America's future, it 
would be well to ponder the fact that Protestantism exhibits both the 
strengths and the weaknesses of democratic institutions generally. 
Democracies move slowly; but once aroused, they exhibit tremendous 
power. There is today a latent loyalty to Protestantism on the part of 
millions of Americans. This loyalty is founded not so much on knowl- 
edge or experience as it is on a substratum of conviction that religion 
is an essential thing in a community and that the ethical code of 
Christianity is the ideal toward which society should strive. The right 
social situation plus inspired leadership could tap this deep-seated 

Another factor which brightens Protestantism's prospects is the 
compatibility of much of its theological thinking with science. More 


and more, American thought will be dominated by scientific points of 
view. Democratic control, with its attendant ease of theological 
change, means that Protestant dogma can be altered to meet changed 
intellectual demands. In the long run the church or synagogue which 
insists on maintaining an antiscientific view of the universe will be 
found to be working at a disadvantage. 

The trouble with this confident view of Protestantism's future is 
that it assumes a stable social situation. Can Protestantism deal with 
crisis? Can a democratically controlled religion act courageously and 
with sufficient intelligence to deal with totalitarian religions? Above 
all, can it act in time? The recent history of Europe is not encourag- 
ing. If worse comes to worst and America turns to some type of 
totalitarianism in an effort to maintain its security, democratic religion 
would probably be lost along with other democratic institutions. 



"I BEG that my name be not mentioned," said Martin Luther, "and 
that people be called, not Lutherans, but Christians. What is Luther? 
The doctrine is not mine, nor have I been crucified for any one." 

In spite of this vigorous declaration a large number of Protestants 
are now known as Lutherans. The term was first used in ridicule; the 
Pope put it into his bull excommunicating Luther. Thus again was 
exhibited the common tendency to deride whatever religion differs 
from one's own especially new movements in religion. Methodists, 
Quakers, Baptists got their names from attempts at ridicule. The 
term Christian itself probably was first used in the same way, much 
as present-day undergraduates sometimes use the term Christer. 

For many years after the beginning of the Reformation, the fol- 
lowers of Martin Luther honored his wish and did not use the term 
Lutheran Church. But today "no loyal son of hers has any desire 
... to drop the time-honored name around which cluster memories 
of a most gallant fight which the Church militant has had to wage for 
the heritage of the faith once delivered to the saints." 1 

Luther was a Catholic priest, a widely known professor in the 
University of Wittenberg. His conflict with the hierarchy was precip- 
itated by an abuse of indulgences (see pages 48 ff.). The monk Tetzel 
assured the faithful that an offering of money was all that was neces- 
sary to release the souls of the dead from purgatory. This unorthodox 
teaching aroused Luther to a formal challenge of debate he nailed 
Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, 
the University bulletin board. Within a month they were read in 



Western Europe "as if they had been circulated by angelic mes- 
sengers." It was like starting a fire on a dry prairie. The demand for 
reform was in the air. Rulers were restive under the enormous sums 
of money which annually went to Rome and scholars were question- 
ing the validity of many papal claims. 

Luther was condemned, excommunicated and commanded by the 
Emperor to journey to Worms, there to appear before the German 
Diet. With the Emperor sat the great princes of the Empire and also 
the learned theologians of the Church. It was as though in our day a 
professor in a small college were called to Washington, D. C, 
brought before the President, the Congress and the Supreme Court, 
and sternly commanded to recant his radical ideas about govern- 
ment. Luther, a simple monk, the son of a poor peasant, stood before 
the Diet, disregarded the possible consequences, denied that he was 
a heretic, accused the Church of error, and refused to recant. It was 
an act of such courage as comes only from a profound sense of moral 
indignation. Luther said: 

It is impossible for me to recant unless I am proved to be wrong by the 
testimony of Scripture or by evident reasoning; I cannot trust either the 
decisions of Councils or of Popes, for it is plain that they have not only 
erred, but have contradicted each other. My conscience is captive to the 
Word of God, and it is neither safe nor honest to act against one's con- 
science. God help me! Amen! 

Luther lived to see the Protestant movement firmly established in 
Germany, Switzerland, England and the Scandinavian countries. 

Today the Lutheran churches are the largest Protestant group in the 
world, claiming a total of about seventy millions. This figure, how- 
ever, includes all baptized members. The number of actual com- 
municants is considerably smaller since Lutheranism is, or was, the 
established (state) church in a number of European countries where 
the overwhelming majority of the population is baptized, but only a 
minority attend church with any regularity. In the United States the 
Lutheran denomination is the fourth largest, being exceeded only by 
the Catholics, the Baptists and the Methodists. There are over eight 
million Lutherans in the country; they are divided among fifteen 
groups. Most of them are small. Four, however, are large: The Ameri- 
can Lutheran Church (formed by a merger in 1961) with two and 
one-quarter million members; the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, 


with two and one-third million members; the United Lutheran Church 
with two and one-third million members; and the Augustana Evangeli- 
cal Lutheran Church with six hundred thousand members. The latter 
two plan to join in 1962 with two other Lutheran bodies (which have 
a combined membership of about sixty thousand) to form the Lutheran 
Church in America. Lutherans are found all over the United States, 
but they are weak in New England and in the South. Their great 
strength lies in the Middle Atlantic and in the North Central States. 

Lutheranism was founded in the United States in the earliest 
colonial times. Germans, Dutchmen, Swedes, Norwegians, Finns, 
Danes as they colonized in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries 
naturally brought with them the dominant religious ideas and institu- 
tions of their homelands. The predominantly English character of 
the colonies meant that these "foreign" churches were not given the 
supervision that churches based in England received. Thus for many 
years the organization of Lutheran churches in America was chiefly 
the result of the spontaneous effort of pious laymen; and the resulting 
congregations were only incidentally related to one another. 

The task of forming synods, and thus of establishing American 
Lutheranism on a really firm foundation, was the work of Henry 
Melchior Muhlenfaerg, the "patriarch" of the Lutheran churches in 


Muhlenberg was born in Germany in the second decade of the 
eighteenth century. When he was twelve years old his father died. As 
a result the son was forced to spend the next decade of his life at 
hard manual labor. Not until he was twenty-one was he able to begin 
Ms education; he studied Latin and Greek in the evenings after work. 
His progress was so rapid that at age twenty-four he was elected by 
the Council of his home town to receive a scholarship to the University 
of Gottingen. After the completion of his university studies, he took a 
position teaching in an orphanage in Halle. There he was moved by 
an appeal for aid sent by three pastorless congregations in Pennsyl- 
vania and agreed to go out as a missionary on a three-year trial. He 
stayed in America the rest of his life. 

The physical discomforts and dangers of his voyage are hard for 


us to imagine in our time when life on an ocean liner is looked upon 
as a special kind of luxury. A contemporary of Muhlenberg estimated 
that in one year two thousand people died during passage from 
Europe to America, most of them as a consequence of inhuman treat- 
ment and the overcrowding of ships. The voyage lasted one hundred 
and two days, during much of which time Muhlenberg was overcome 
by seasickness. The ship was still in sight of England when he wrote in 
his Journal: 

I was very sick, so could not rise the whole day. ... It is much more 
irksome to be sick on shipboard than on land. Our beer was already 
sour; the water foul; the daily fare for healthy persons was peas, pork, 
stockfish, and salt beef, half-cooked in the English fashion. ... It is 
difficult to recover from sickness on it. 2 

Weeks later, nearing land but with the ship's water almost gone, he 

Today we had no wind at all, only calm. We took counsel together as 
to how to keep alive for several days without water. The captain said 
that he still had a small quantity of olive oil, of which each might drink 
a little every day and keep alive when the water was gone. He also had 
left a few bottles of vinegar, of which we took a little occasionally. 3 

But it was not till seven days later that they received a new supply of 
water from a passing warship. 

When Muhlenberg arrived in America, Philadelphia was a town of 
impaved streets, provincial manners, and about fifteen thousand 
inhabitants; only the eastern edge of Pennsylvania was fully settled. 
Muhlenberg found the Lutheran churches throughout the colonies in a 
sad condition. They had been unable to find competent pastors and 
thus had been preyed upon by "unscrupulous ecclesiastical tramps/' 
"spiritual adventurers" who had palmed themselves off as having 
genuine Lutheran ordination. He had a brief struggle at the beginning 
with these men, who refused peaceably to give up their positions; but 
within a few weeks he was acknowledged as the pastor of three Penn- 
sylvania congregations, including the one in Philadelphia; a fourth 
congregation was added within a year J 

At the beginning, his congregationsfwere very poor. They had not 
been able to erect adequate church buildings the group in Philadel- 
phia worshiped in a butcher (some accounts say carpenter) shop 
and they could give him but a very small salary the first year one 


congregation paid him nothing and another paid less than enough to 
settle Ms rent. Consequently, he was forced into debt; yet so great was 
the need for adequate houses for worship that Muhlenberg neglected 
his own finances and urged the people to erect church buildings. 
Within a few years, new houses of worship were built by all four of 
his congregations. Twenty-five years later the Philadelphia congrega- 
tion began the erection of a building which for a number of years was 
the largest (and many thought the finest) church building in North 
America. It was to this church that the Congress adjourned for a 
service of thanksgiving after the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown. 
Muhlenberg's parish was large and transportation was very difficult 
Yet he was indefatigable in attending to the many spiritual needs of his 
parishioners. He conducted services, baptized infants, confirmed 
youths, administered Communion, visited the sick, buried the dead, 
founded and taught schools. He wrote the fathers at Halle: 

Here are thousands, who, by birth, education, and confirmation, ought 
to belong to our church but they are scattered to the four winds of 
heaven. The spiritual state of our people is so wretched as to cause us to 
shed tears in abundance. The young people have grown up without any 
knowledge of religion, and are fast running into heathenism. 4 

Sickness and death among his parishioners demanded long, hard 
riding; sometimes it seemed that he was almost constantly on horse- 
back. His journeys often involved danger. In his Journal for February, 
1748, he wrote as follows concerning a visit to two small churches out- 
side the confines of his own parish: 

In this month I made another trip to the little congregations in Upper 
Milfort and Saccum. ... It was night when I got between the mountains 
into an unusually deep valley where there are deep swamps and holes 
and the snow lay very deep. I could not very well go back and it was 
still six miles farther to my quarters; there was no road and I could not 
see the snow-covered holes. First I rode two miles in the wrong direction 
toward the left and had to work my way laboriously back again. After 
that I kept to the road pretty well, but several times I fell suddenly with 
the poor horse through the snow and soft ice into the swamp and had to 
work my way out again with God's help. The horse became weary and 
reluctant to go through the unbeaten tracks of deep snow, so I was 
obliged to walk ahead on foot and make a track for the horse, which ex- 
hausted me greatly, and I still had three miles to go. I would have been 
glad to sit down in sheer weariness, but it was so bitterly cold and I was 
perspiring so profusely that I did not dare to rest and risk a sleep of 


death. I ODCC more summoned up my remaining energies in the name of 
the Lord and finally reached my lodgings safely that same night. 5 

Throughout Ms life Muhlenberg remained In the eyes of his 
ecclesiastical superiors in Germany a simple pastor; but he was in fact 
an itinerant bishop. His influence extended all the way from Nova 
Scotia to Georgia. He ministered to pastorless congregations, organ- 
ized parishes, regularized orders of worship, wrote parish constitu- 
tions, advised young clergymen, persuaded the Halle fathers to send 
out more pastors, and acted as judge in the settlement of disputes. His 
correspondence was large; and the number and extent of Ms trips were 
almost incredible in view of the difficulties of travel, Ms meager finan- 
cial base, and Ms lack of formal authority. One of his biographers, 
with perhaps some exaggeration, could write, "There was probably not 
a Lutheran Church, in Ms day, in tMs country in wMch he did not 
officiate." 6 Another student of Ms Me has said, "He possessed in an 
extraordinary degree the grace of finding favor with men." 7 

The services of worsMp wMch MuMenberg conducted were usually 
long very long, according to our modern standards. Frequently 
they began with catechizing the children, and sometimes even 
catechizing the adults. Then would follow prayers, Scripture lessons, 
and the singing of hymns. Occasionally the congregation would possess 
but one hymn book and it would be necessary for MuMenberg, who 
was an excellent musician, to sing a line and for the congregation 
to sing after him. Then would follow a sermon. If the people to whom 
he was ministering had not received the sacraments recently, the 
service would include also baptism and the Lord's Supper. MuMenberg 
conducted worsMp hi both German and English; he even learned 
enough of the Dutch language to minister to Dutch congregations 
wMch were without pastors. 

After he had been in America six years, MuMenberg was responsi- 
ble for the organization of the first Lutheran synod hi the New World. 
He and five other Lutheran clergymen, along with delegated elders 
from ten congregations, assembled in PMladelpMa, drew up a consti- 
tution, ordained a young man to the ministry, reminded themselves of 
the faith expressed in the "Unaltered Augsburg Confession," and 
prayerfully laid plans for the future of Lutheranism in the colonies. 

Two and a half years after Ms arrival in America, MuMenberg 


married Mary Weiser, the eighteen-year-old daughter of a well- 
known Indian agent. They lived together for forty-two years and 
founded a distinguished American family. They had eleven children, 
four of whom died in infancy. The eldest son had a notable military 
career in the Revolutionary War and later served as a United States 
Senator. Another son became a well-known botanist and the first 
president of Franklin and Marshall College; a third son was a member 
of the Continental Congress and was the first Speaker of the national 
House of Representatives. As this paragraph is written another 
Muhlenberg sits in the House of Representatives, the sixth of his 
family to serve in the national Congress. 

The relations of the Muhlenberg family to the Revolution are heart- 
wanning to American patriots. At the beginning of the war the eldest 
son, Peter Muhlenberg, was serving as rector of an Anglican parish 
in Virginia. He was appointed by George Washington to be Colonel 
of the Eighth Virginia Regiment. In the middle of January, 1776, 
Rev. Peter Muhlenberg preached to his congregation a farewell 
sermon, concluding, "In the language of Holy Writ, there is a time 
for all things. There is a time to preach and a time to fight; and now is 
the time to fight." Then, according to a frequently repeated story, he 
threw oS his clerical robe and in the uniform of a continental colonel 
marched to the church door where he commanded the drums to be 
beaten for volunteers. His regiment saw action in all the major 
southern battles of the war and bore the brunt of the fighting at York- 
town. After two years he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier 
General and later to the rank of Major General. 

The elder Muhlenberg's Journal comments on the progress of the 
Revolution. On July 3, 1776, at home in Philadelphia he wrote: 

It is said that the Continental Congress resolved to declare the thirteen 
united colonies free and independent. 

A day later he wrote : 

Today the Continental Congress openly declared the united provinces 
of North America to be free and independent states. This has caused 
some thoughtful and far-seeing melanchollci to be down in the mouth; 
on the other hand, it has caused some sanguine miopes to exult and shout 
with joy. . . . There is One who sits at the rudder, who has the plan of 
the whole before Him, to whom all power in heaven and on earth is given, 


and who has never yet made a mistake in His government. He it is who 
neither sleeps nor slumbers. 8 

Muhlenberg died in 1787; he had lived in America for forty-five 
years. During this period he had personaHy been responsible for 
placing the Lutheran churches in this country on a permanent founda- 
tion, and had witnessed the stirring events which brought the United 
States to birth. For all Ms loyalty to the new nation, he did not succeed 
in making Lutheran people desirous of developing a unified culture 
in America at any rate not if it meant giving up the culture of the 
lands from which they had come. As a consequence, Lutheran 
churches long continued to conduct worship in "foreign" tongues and 
to be oriented theologically toward Europe, a fact which has had a 
marked influence on the institutional development of American 


There is more conformity of belief among Lutherans hi the United 
States today than among any other large Protestant group; and oddly 
enough, for such self-conscious followers of a reformation movement, 
most of the Lutherans are proud of it. To be sure, there are among 
United and Augustana Synod Lutherans "a goodly number" of 
Liberals, and "incipient liberal movements" can be found in even the 
most conservative bodies. But in general, Lutheran clergymen seldom 
get very far off the theological reservation. Occasionally, one runs 
into a Lutheran who bemoans the lack of independent thinking among 
his fellow churchmen. But for the most part, Lutherans are sure that 
the only infallible standard, of faith and practice is the Bible, and that 
their Confessions (creeds) are in^harmony with the "one . . . pure 
Scriptural faith," preserving it in its purity. 

Lutherans believe that their Church is the Church of Christ and 
the Apostles, the medieval catholic Church purged of false doctrines. 
Lutheran logic at this point is simple: the Bible is God's revelation; 
the Bible reveals one religion; the meaning of the Bible is clear to 
anyone who approaches it from the proper point of view; any Church 
which deviates from the Bible is in error; the teachings of the Lutheran 
Confessions did not originate in the minds of Lutherans but in the 
mind of God; Lutheran Confessions faithfully reflect Biblical teach- 


ings; practically all non-Lutheran churches fall short of being truly 
Christian because their beliefs deviate from basic truth as revealed in 
the Bible. 

The Lutheran Church is not a sect, in the opinion of many Lutheran 
scholars; it is the Christian religion. Moreover, as one clergyman 

Christianity occupies a solitary place and demands an evaluation apart 
from all other religions. It does not belong in a Parliament of Religions; 
it is the religion. There is no substitute for it, for there is no equivalent in 
other religions for what Christianity offers. It cannot be improved upon; 
it is the last word in religion; for it is, solely and alone, the religion of a 
real salvation? 

Lutheranism emphasizes its Confessions as does no other Christian 
group. It inherits from the early centuries the three ecumenical creeds: 
The Apostles*, the Nicene and the Athanasian. These creeds, used 
widely by orthodox Christians, are not a complete statement of the 
faith of orthodox Christianity Protestant or Catholic. They do not 
say enough. For example, they do not include Christian ethical 
standards. The creeds were hammered out in the heat of early conflicts 
in the Christian Church and consequently dealt only with the matters 
which were then under dispute. But even though all the items of con- 
servative Christian faith are not stated in the ecumenical creeds, they 
are important because they express a considerable portion of the 
positive beliefs of orthodox Christians. 

The most familiar of the ecumenical creeds is the Apostles' Creed. 
Since it is used in the services of many Christian groups, we will use 
it here as an illustration of the teachings of the ecumenical creeds in 

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth: 

And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, 

Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, 

Born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was cruci- 
fied, dead, and buried: 

He descended into Hell, the third day he rose again from the dead, 
He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God, the 
Father Almighty; 

From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. 

I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Catholic Church, the Com- 
munion of Saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body, 
and the life everlasting. Amen. 


Lutherans accept the plain meaning of these words. The Apostles' 
Creed is used by some non-Lutheran churches where a considerable 
percentage of the members no longer interpret literally the language 
of the Creed. Usage under such circumstances is sometimes defended 
by clergymen as an effort to awaken in the minds of worshipers a 
feeling of unity with the Christians of earlier centuries. Clergymen 
of this persuasion contend that where religion is really free, all mem- 
bers of a large church could no more agree on a creedal statement than 
they could agree on politics or on how to raise their children. There- 
fore, worshipers should not expect that everything said in a church 
service must agree with their private beliefs. Such clergymen also 
frequently assert that present-day Christians need not take the creeds 
literally in order to maintain fellowship with the early Christians. The 
growth of language is such that the early Christians did not believe 
what the creeds say literally to us. Moreover, continue these clergy- 
men, most present-day Christians do believe what the early Christians 
really meant by the creeds. The creeds should be taken as poetic, 
"mythological" expressions of deep religious truth. 

Some clergymen follow the lead of the learned and brilliant church- 
man who said, "I do not believe all the dogmas in the Apostles' 
Creed, but I accept them. If I were more spiritual, I would believe 

But among Lutherans (and many other groups) such rationaliza- 
tions of the creeds need not be employed. It is taken for granted that 
clergymen and laymen alike believe just what the Creed says. They 
believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, will come again to earth, will 
raise the physical bodies of the dead. 

In addition to the ecumenical creeds, Lutherans subscribe to a 
number of other specifically Lutheran Confessions. The most im- 
portant of these is the Augsburg Confession. This creedal statement 
was formulated in 1530, at the very beginning of the Reformation, 
but it is still the firmly held faith of American Lutherans, because they 
believe it states accurately the teachings of the Bible. The paragraphs 
printed below are brief excerpts from the Augsburg Confession. 

Since the Fall of Adam, all men begotten according to nature, are 
born with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and 
with concupiscence. 


Men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits or 
works, but are freely justified for Christ's sake through faith. 

Through the Word and Sacraments ... the Holy Ghost is given, who 
worketh faith where and when it pleaseth God. 

Baptism ... is necessary to salvation. 

The Body and Blood of Christ are truly present, and are distributed to 
those who eat in the Supper of the Lord. 

Vows and traditions concerning meats and days, etc., instituted to 
merit grace and to make satisfaction for sins, are useless and contrary to 
the Gospel. 

[Our adversaries} urged only childish and needless works, as particular 
holydays, particular fasts, brotherhoods, pilgrimages, services hi honor 
of saints, the use of rosaries, monasticism, and such like. . . . Our works 
cannot reconcile God or merit forgiveness of sins, grace and justification, 
but that we obtain this only by faith, when we believe that we are re- 
ceived into favor for Christ's sake, who alone has been set forth the 
Mediator and Propitiation. 

It is taught on our part that it is necessary to do good works, not that 
we should trust to merit grace by them, but because it is the will of God. 

To the laity are given both kinds in the Sacrament of the Lord's Sup- 
per, because this usage has the commandment of the Lord: "Drink ye 
all of it." 

Civil authority must be distinguished from ecclesiastical jurisdiction. 
. . . According to divine law, to the bishops as bishops ... no jurisdiction 
belongs, except to forgive sins, to discern doctrine, to reject doctrines 
contrary to the Gospel, and to exclude from the communion of the 
Church wicked men, whose wickedness is known, and this without human 
force, simply by the Word. 

The meaning of some of these statements needs explanation. 

At the beginning of the Reformation practically all Protestants 
believed that we can do nothing to aid our salvation, our getting to 
heaven. They said that salvation is the gift of God. Men are universally 
and fundamentally depraved, prone to do evil. They are so sinful that 
they all deserve damnation. So deep is our degradation and so exalted 
is being in the presence of God, that man is as helpless to gain heaven 
as he is to jump to the moon. 

The Catholics, on the other hand, taught the doctrine of "works." 
It is possible, they said, to increase the effect of God's Grace in us and 
to aid our salvation by doing good works performing the spiritual 
offices of the Church and doing acts of benevolence and charity. 


In reacting against the Catholic emphasis on the importance of out- 
ward observance, the early Reformation Protestants went so far as to 
deny that works of any kind have an effect on our salvation; even a 
whole lifetime spent in unselfish service has no effect. Salvation is 
strictly a gift of God, Why then, argued the Roman Catholics, lead a 
moral life? Because "it is the will of God," says the Augsburg Confes- 

The teaching that salvation is of God and not of man seems to be 
contradicted by the dogma that we are saved by faith. But according 
to the Lutherans, faith is simply the channel through which God offers 
salvation; faith, too, is the direct gift of God. Luther wrote: 

I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my 
Lord, or come to him; but the Holy Ghost has called me through the 
Gospel, enlightened me by Ms gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in 
the true faith. 

To the non-Lutheran eye, these teachings read very like predesti- 
nation the doctrine that God determines from eternity the destiny 
of the soul. Calvin, the leading Reformation theologian, taught this 
doctrine, saying God arbitrarily chooses some souls for heaven and 
some for hell. The Lutherans vigorously deny belief in this "double" 
predestination. They say God damns no man to hell; He merely 
chooses some souls for heaven. This is a puzzling position. On the one 
hand, Lutherans believe God calls all men to faith, and offers all men 
redemption in Jesus Christ. On the other hand, they teach that no 
man can have the faith which is essential to salvation except God gives 
it to him. 

All liberal Protestants today, and most conservative Protestants as 
well, have abandoned belief in any theory of predestination. They 
now put as much emphasis as do Catholics on the necessity for sal- 
vation of doing good works works not of a ritualistic but of an ethi- 
cal kind. Salvation by character is at present the typical Protestant 
point of view. But this statement is not true of the Lutherans. They 
still hold to the "unaltered" Augsburg Confession. Salvation, they say, 
comes from on high and good deeds will get no one to heaven. Lu- 
therans hold "mere morality" in special horror. 

Thomas Arnold of Rugby wrote, "The distinction between Chris- 
tianity and all other systems of religion consists largely in this, that 


in these other, men are found seeking after God, while Christianity is 
God seeking after men." Lutherans applaud this sentiment. They are 
up in arms doing battle against the idea that religion is an achievement 
of mankind. The priesthood of all believers does not mean, for them, 
that each man must decide for himself what is good and bad in reli- 
gion. God forbid! The priesthood of all believers means simply that 
there must be no human barrier placed between the individual soul 
and the Word and that every Christian must strive to be a mediator 
of God to his fellows. 


Lutheran worship is free; that is, Lutheran congregations are at 
liberty to follow any order of service they think best. As a conse- 
quence, quite a number of Lutheran churches, influenced by the 
simple tastes of the frontier, came in earlier times to follow an infor- 
mal order of service, one quite like that of their nonliturgical Protes- 
tant neighbors. Today, however, Lutheran churches are choosing more 
and more to follow a fixed form of worship. It is a liturgical service, 
based on the Mass of the medieval Church; it was promulgated in the 
early days of the Reformation. Luther discarded those portions of the 
Mass which he considered superstitious and added some elements of 
earlier Christian worship which had fallen into disuse. He also directed 
that the service be conducted in German rather than in Latin, and he 
emphasized the importance of the sermon. 

The service begins by invoking God's presence by prayer and a 
hymn. After these devotions comes the Confession of Sin; this Con- 
fession is a series of prayers in which minister and congregation de- 
clare to God, "We are by nature sinful and unclean and ... we have 
sinned against Hee by thought, word, and deed." Then comes the 
Declaration of Grace on all those who have sincerely acknowledged 
their sins and who accept the Christian faith. 

Theoretically the service really begins with the Introit, a word 
whose original meaning was the "entering in." In the early days the 
Introit referred to the entrance of the priest into the chancel; during 
this entrance a Psalm was chanted. Today the name Introit is given 
to the Psalm itself. 

After the Introit, the moving Gloria in Excelsis is sung and the 


pastor leads In prayer. Then come readings from the Bible, unison 
recitation of one of the creeds, another hymn, and the sermon. After 
the sermon come the offering and the General Prayer. The service 
closes with a hymn and a benediction. 

The minister faces the altar during those portions of this service 
when he leads the people in their communication with God (the sacri- 
ficial portions); he faces the congregation when he represents God 
communicating with the people (the sacramental portions). 

This brief description no more mediates the moving experience of 
worship under Lutheran auspices than a college catalogue mediates 
the enthusiasm and excitement of life on a college campus. The Lu- 
theran service is a living thing to those who have been born into the 
Lutheran Church and who believe all its teachings. The service, for 
them, is the most solemn of all life's experiences, it is the very voice 
of God speaking through long centuries of Christian devotion. Joining 
in worship with a Lutheran congregation has always been for me a 
moving experience. The Lutheran liturgy, employing as do also the 
Catholic and Episcopal liturgies, the most ancient and beautiful liter- 
ary expressions of the Christian Church, leaves the worshiper with a 
sense of majesty. The music of the service is often of unsurpassed 
spiritual import. Johann Sebastian Bach was a devout Lutheran; some 
of his greatest works were composed as an aid to Christian worship. 
Such music sung by a Lutheran choir a choir composed of musicians 
who are chosen primarily for their faith and only secondarily for their 
artistic skill and such a liturgy read by a Lutheran pastor a pastor 
so conscious of its truth that he thinks any tricks of elocutionary em- 
phasis unworthy have the power to awaken, to challenge, to exalt a 
congregation, and to move it to Christian action. 

The combination of the highest aesthetic forms and of genuine re- 
ligious faith produces on worshipers an effect which is seldom attained 
elsewhere in human experience. Would that some genius could capture 
for the nonliturgical tradition the power which comes from setting 
forth the deepest religious convictions in art forms which are more 
capable of touching the emotions. For the average religiously literate 
American, the problem of finding an intellectually tenable faith is easy 
compared to the problem of finding a worship form capable of keep- 
ing this faith alive and growing. How alert men can seriously contend 


that religion can reach adequate power through mere communion 
with nature or solitary meditation, with no provision for periodic re- 
vitalization through the symbolism and fellowship of congregational 
worship, is beyond understanding. 

Lutherans are the singing Church par excellence. Prior to the Ref- 
ormation the Christian Church had resisted the singing of hymns 
during the Mass; but Protestantism emphasized singing. A church 
historian writes: 

The peculiar genius of the Protestant religion the free and joyous 
spirit inspired by the doctrine of gratuitous forgiveness, and by the part 
which the laity assumed in worship, and in the management of Church 
affairs was manifested in the "outburst of poetry and music," that was 
especially characteristic of Germany. . . . [Hymns] were sung not only in 
the church, but also in the household, the workshop, the market-place, 
and by armies on their march. The gospel was carried on the wings of 
song, and in this way spread abroad almost as much as by the voice of 
the preacher. 10 

Luther himself wrote many hymns, among them "A Mighty Fortress 
Is Our God," which Heine called "the Marseillaise of the Reforma- 
tion." It has been estimated that there are no less than a hundred 
thousand hymns in Lutheran literature. 

Lutherans really sing when they are in church. In a good many 
American churches the singing is timid, inhibited, the members of the 
congregation reminding one of adolescents at their first dance, afraid 
of doing the wrong thing and therefore doing as little as possible. But 
in Lutheran churches enthusiasm in singing is good form and the result 
is a volume of tone that testifies to genuine spiritual vitality. 

Lutheran preaching gets as far as possible away from any hint of 
being merely the wisdom of the clergyman who is speaking. Just as 
the Lutheran Confessions are supposed to derive wholly from the 
Scriptures, so a Lutheran sermon is supposed to be based on a Scrip- 
tural or Confessional foundation. One Lutheran writer puts it this 

The Lutheran pastor as a rule, therefore, is more concerned to culti- 
vate deep inner piety within the souls committed to his charge than to 
sparkle in the pulpit, attract publicity, and be known as a "great 
preacher." 11 

The emphasis in Lutheran preaching on the Biblical doctrines 
means that many Lutherans have been opposed to the discussion of 


contemporary social problems in the pulpit. For many people, religion 
is an escape from the cruel uncertainties of modem society into a 
world of supernatural security. One prominent Lutheran clergyman 
wrote of "the whole crowd who believe in the social gospel, in which 
we do not believe one whit." 12 A theological professor wrote, "If one 
wants to stigmatize a preacher one need only say of him that he 
preaches a social gospel." 13 In 1934, an investigation of the social 
opinions of American clergymen demonstrated that Lutherans were 
easily the most conservative of the Protestant denominational groups. 14 
Today there are indications that a different spirit reigns in some quar- 
ters. One author wrote: "Lutherans have teen aroused to a greater 
social consciousness. . . . Some Lutheran bodies have not hesitated 
to issue pronouncements on questions related to war, labor, family 
life, birth control, and divorce. 5 ' 15 The executive director of the Na- 
tional Lutheran Council wrote in the National Lutheran:^ 

The place to begin the establishment of moral principle as a basis of 
government policy and procedure is at the local polling booth. . . . We 
Lutherans do not believe that the organized church should add itself as 
another pressure group in the capitals of state and nation. But we do 
believe that the church has two inescapable duties: 1) to urge the in- 
telligent practice of Christian citizenship, and 2) to encourage some of its 
best qualified young people to undertake government service as their 
Christian vocation. 


Most of the Lutheran churches of the world are governed episco- 
pally; but in the United States the form of government is congrega- 
tional and presbyterian. In all matters, the local congregation could, 
since it holds title to the property, exercise complete authority, pro- 
vided continuance of relations with other Lutherans were not an ob- 
ject. In actual practice, the local congregations delegate much of their 
power to the synod, a body composed of representatives from the local 
congregations. The synods in turn send representatives to national 
conferences, where the policies of the Lutheran bodies are really 

Lutheran churches are run by males, like most American institu- 
tions. In 1936 the United Lutherans finally voted, after a long debate 
in which biblical quotations were the determining factor, to admit 


women to membership in synodical conferences; but it was 1946 be- 
fore the first women appeared on the floor of the United Lutheran 
biennial convention. In 1948, this denomination sent a woman as one 
of its four delegates to the first assembly of the World Council of 
Churches meeting in Amsterdam. However, in 1959, the Missouri 
Synod "reaffirmed its historic position that the right to vote in con- 
gregational matters is reserved for the male members of the voter's 
assembly." 17 The ordination of women is not practiced by Lutheran 
bodies in the United States, except for the six-thousand-member Slovak 
Lutheran group. Christianity Today noted in 1959 that a woman had 
been "placed in full charge of a Slovak Lutheran congregation." 

The Lutheran method of education rests on a thorough system of 
indoctrination. Again it must be said that Lutherans believe the right 
of individual judgment in religion is merely the right to interpret cor- 
rectly what the Bible teaches and its teachings are known. Most 
Lutherans have about the same attitude as other Protestants on the 
type of arrangements necessary for religious education a Sunday 
school is considered adequate. The Missouri Synod, however, believes 
in the necessity for parochial schools; about a third of its children are 
studying in schools of this type. 18 

Lutherans, like the Catholics, bemoan the divisions in Christendom; 
but just like the Catholics their plan for union usually is, "Come over 
and join us." A denominational magazine of the Missouri Synod called 
the leaders of the ecumenical movement "ecumaniacs." Clergymen 
of this body frequently call the Papacy the "antichrist," and they usu- 
ally refuse to stay on a public platform while a clergyman of another 
denomination offers prayer, unless they are convinced that he believes 
the faith "in its purity." But the orthodoxy even of the Missouri Synod 
is suspected by some of the Lutheran groups. The Evangelical Lu- 
theran Synod (fourteen thousand members) in 1955 suspended re- 
lations with the Missouri Synod charging it "with unscriptural practice 
in regard to praying and working with Lutheran bodies with which it 
does not have doctrinal agreement." 19 In Rib Lake, Wisconsin, in 
1947, twenty-five Wisconsin Synod Lutherans threatened to resign 
from the American Legion unless the practice of opening meetings 
with prayer was discontinued. They said the practice was "a denial of 
our faith." 


In spite of Its claim to infallibility of doctrine, the Missouri Synod 
does not slam its doors on all co-operative ventures. It would not 
"forswear its growing participation in the Boy Scout program, though 
. . . the smaller synods damn Boy Scouting as involving at least in- 
cidentally that private Lutheran sin, 'unionism/ " 20 The Missouri 
Synod has also taken up membership in one division of the National 
Council of Churches and has participated in discussions of co-oper- 
ation with the National Lutheran Council, a confederation of the more 
liberal Lutheran bodies. One clergyman said that ultimate "Missouri 
membership in the [National Lutheran] Council is as sure as death 
and taxes." As a result of the Missouri Synod's efforts toward co- 
operation with denominations of doubtful orthodoxy, the Wisconsin 
Synod in 1961 severed its former close ties with the Missouri Synod. 

The United and Augustana Lutheran groups are much less restric- 
tive in their attitudes. They follow, generally, a policy of co-operation 
with other denominations; they have joined the National Council of 
Churches. However, many of their corporate decisions are dictated by 
a desire to conciliate the conservative Lutheran groups. The most 
liberal of the Lutheran bodies, the United Lutheran Church, had for 
years only a "consultative" relationship with the National Council's 
predecessor, the Federal Council of Churches; that is, its delegates 
attended sessions and shared in the discussions but did not accept the 
responsibility of voting. 

The theological sternness which characterizes Lutheranism was 
evidenced by one of the synods of the United Lutheran Church when 
it tried three young clergymen from suburban Milwaukee for heresy 
and found two of them guilty and defrocked them. After his trial one 
of the deposed clergymen said: 

In all the investigations and trials, the synod has insisted that the Bible 
must be taken as literally true in all its parts, whether it happens to be 
talking about history, biology, geology or faith. ... I insist that the 
synod constitution means what it says, namely, that these books are the 
"only infallible rule of faith" and that we are not called upon to con- 
sider them infallible in matters of history, science, etc. 21 

An editor of the Christian Century in his report of the synod meet- 
ing which tried these clergymen indicated that a mood prevailed which 
too often characterizes the church meetings of all denominations, a 


mood which gives honest consideration to but one side of an issue. The 
editor noted 

. . . the unquestioned assumption that one familiar interpretation of a 
justly revered formula has beartrapped the Truth, so that nothing that 
needs discussion can even be talked about; the desolating near-unanimity 
and hearty enthusiasm on the votes to condemn. . . . 

Other elements in the picture probably can't ever be filled in; you 
would have to have seen them to believe them. Once you start on com- 
pulsions and personality distortions, where do you stop? . . . But there 
was more involved than the documentable legalities. You could hear that 
in misplaced levity, in bitter vindictiveness, see it in faces. . . . 

The pastors are conscientious, diligent Christians . . . huddling in the 
safety of unison voice votes. . . * 22 

The internal strength of Lutheranism is beyond all cavil. Lutheran 
doctrine is infinitely precious to a multitude of people. Lutheran in- 
stitutions would be defended in America, if need ever arose, with the 
same utter consecration with which they were defended in Nazi Ger- 
many. The Lutherans are a force to be reckoned with. No one can 
dictate their religion. They live in a spiritual castle: massive, static, an 
ever sure defense against the world. 

But a major religious task of America is to achieve in a free society 
spiritual values held in common. The Lutherans, behind their castle 
wall of theological doctrine, are sure they are right and are sure they 
have made safe their spiritual liberties. But the question most poign- 
antly presented to our day is: Can a free society survive the spiritual 
anarchy which follows in the wake of religious isolationism? Are there 
not spiritual levels on which co-operation among all sects is mandatory 
if democracy is successfully to weather totalitarian storms? 



NOTHING RAISES the blood pressure of an Episcopal clergyman like 
tile oft-heard assertion, "The Episcopal Church was founded because 
Henry VIII, King of England, wanted a divorce." It is true, say 
Episcopalians, that the most important reformation movement in the 
Church of England (mother of the Episcopal Church) began in the 
sixteenth century during the reign of Henry VIII; but to assert that 
the Church was founded then is like asserting that when a woman does 
her spring cleaning she builds a new house. The Christian Church in 
England began more than a thousand years before the time of 
Henry VIII. 

According to tradition, Joseph of Arimathea, who laid the body of 
Jesus in the tomb after the crucifixion, went to England in about 
A.D. 63 bringing with him the chalice which Jesus used at the Last 
Supper; this chalice is the Holy Grail of the Arthurian legends. Joseph 
also, according to the tradition, founded the Christian Church in the 
British Isles. This tradition is taken seriously by almost no one at the 
present time; however, church historians generally acknowledge that 
there were Christians in Britain as early as the second century, prob- 
ably Roman soldiers sent there to guard the frontiers of the Roman 
Empire. But not until the end of the sixth century did the Bishop of 
Rome make an effort to bring the British Christians under his juris- 
diction. By the time of the Reformation, the Pope's authority had been 
firmly established for many years in England, bishops and crown both 
acknowledging him as the head of Christendom. 




During the Gist part of his reign, Henry VIII was a faithful Roman 
Catholic; the Pope after a time even bestowed on Henry, for a book 
he wrote attacking Ms contemporary, Luther, the designation "De- 
fender of the Faith," a title still proudly assumed by the Kings of Eng- 
land at their coronation. Henry married a Spanish princess, Catherine 
of Aragon. Though they had eight children, only one, a girl, survived 
more than a few days. The King and the people of England conse- 
quently became concerned over the lack of a male heir to the throne; 
in addition, the King had fallen in love with Anne Boleyn. Thus he 
applied to the Pope for an annulment of his marriage. 

Under ordinary circumstances getting an annulment of the marriage 
would have been easy; the Popes had proved obliging on similar oc- 
casions. But it happened that the Spanish armies were at that time 
overrunning much of Southern Europe; thus the Pope, Clement VTI, 
did not feel he could risk the anger of the Spanish ruler by freeing 
Henry from his Spanish queen. The Pope avoided a decision and at 
one stage even suggested bigamy as a possible solution. After years 
of waiting, Henry finally took matters into Ms own hands, broke the 
ties which bound England to Rome, had himself declared "The Pro- 
tector and Supreme Head of the Church and Clergy of England," and 
got his annulment from the Archbishop of Canterbury, then as now 
the leading English cleric. And the Church of England issued a "dec- 
laration of independence," declaring, "The Bishop of Rome hath not 
by Scripture any greater authority in England than any other foreign 

The Church of England did not become Protestant by this break. 
Henry continued throughout his long reign to believe firmly in the 
traditional religion and to follow traditional forms in worship. Only 
his "unwieldy corpulence prevented him from creeping to the cross on 
his last Good Friday, as he had been wont to do." 1 However, the rule 
of Rome in England was definitely at an end. The English ambassador 
to the Vatican was recalled, all papal revenues were stopped, and the 
English clergy were .required to take an oath repudiating the Pope's 
leadership. In addition, Henry suppressed the monasteries and con- 


fiscated their property; only in the nineteenth century did religious 
orders again appear in the Anglican Communion (the Church of Eng- 
land and the twelve churches related to it, of which the Protestant 
Episcopal Church is one). Henry also provided for the publication of 
the English Bible and ordered that it be made available in the churches. 

England now had "the open Bible"; and in the churches groups might 
be seen clustered about the lecterns, while anyone who could do so read 
for them the ancient and mysterious book . . . [that in centuries had not] 
been open to the common people. Here was something by which plain 
men would judge the words and deeds of prelates. 2 

After Henry's death the Reformation in the Church of England 
gathered momentum; the liturgy was revised according to Protestant 
doctrines, it was translated into English, and it was made available to 
worshipers in The Book of Common Prayer; the marriage of priests 
was permitted; images were removed from the churches; the elevation 
of the Host for purposes of worship was forbidden; priests began to 
study the art of preaching; a general congregational confession was 
substituted for private confession; the dogma of transubstantiation was 
denied; purgatory, indulgences, Communion in but one kind, the in- 
vocation of saints, the use in worship of a language not understood by 
the people were all declared to have no warranty in Scripture and to 
be "repugnant to the Word of God." Under Henry's three children 
there were marked religious contrasts: the short reign of Edward VI 
was definitely pro-Protestant, the short reign of Mary was pro-papal, 
and the long reign of Elizabeth solidified many of the distinctive char- 
acteristics of the Anglican Communion. In the years which followed, 
conflict continued between those who wanted to purify the worship 
of the Church of England of all forms which had been "tainted by 
popery" and those who wished to retain many of the traditional usages. 
This conflict, in greatly reduced temper, has characterized much of 
the history of Anglicanism in America. 


During colonial times the Church of England was in a favored posi- 
tion since it was the state Church of the ruling power. In seven of the 
Southern colonies, the Church was supported by taxation, it was 


"established." During the Revolutionary War, however, it had very- 
hard sledding, since many of its clergymen were Tories, But at the end 
of the War clergy were sent to Scotland and England for consecration 
as bishops (in order to maintain the Apostolic Succession), all juris- 
dictional ties with England were severed, and an American jurisdiction 
was established. Since that time growth has been steady. Today the 
Protestant Episcopal Church is one of our largest and most in- 
fluential Protestant bodies. 

Episcopalians generally consider their Church a "bridge" between 
Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. In spite of its indubitable 
Protestant character, the Episcopal Church has retained many fea- 
tures frequently characterized by Protestants as Catholic. The Episco- 
pate has been meticulously maintained and belief in the Apostolic 
Succession determines many corporate actions. The architecture of 
Episcopal churches follows the traditional model. Episcopalians ob- 
serve the traditional Christian Year. Episcopal clergymen are vested 
if not as elaborately as Roman Catholic clergymen, at least more 
elaborately than most other Protestant clergymen. Confirmation by 
the bishop is retained. Episcopal clergymen are referred to as priests. 
And, most important of all, in the eyes of the average Protestant, the 
Episcopal service puts a great emphasis on ceremonial. 

To non-Episcopalians, the Church makes a definite impression of 
solidarity and unity. However, a very little information destroys this 
idea. The old Protestant-Catholic conflict, under new names, endures. 
The majority of Episcopal priests are what might be called "Prayer 
Book Churchmen"; but they stand in the middle between two opposed 
groups. One group is usually referred to as the Liberal Evangelicals; 
the term Low Church, formerly the designation of the Protestant 
party, is also sometimes used. The other group is usually called Anglo- 
Catholic, though the term High Church continues. Conflict between 
these two parties sometimes reaches embarrassing proportions. One 
Episcopal clergyman wrote: 

We shall probably be obliged, for a long time, to permit a rumpus 
room in the basement where the extreme "Liberals" can smash up the 
furniture; and an attic where the lunatic fringe of the "Catholic" party 
can play at Church "Let's pretend we are Roman Catholics!" Most of 
us love children so we shall not mind the noise, but most of us will prefer 
to live in other parts of the house. 3 



Let us begin our study of these parties by describing the central 
group, the Prayer Book Churchmen. Most of these clergymen would 
join with one of the early bishops of New York who said, "My banner 
is Evangelical Truth and Apostolic Order." Another slogan frequently 
heard is: "Catholic for every truth of God; Protestant against every 
error of man." The Episcopal clergyman, according to this conception, 
is neither a vested Congregationalist nor a disguised Roman Catholic, 
but both a priest of the ancient Christian Church and a transmitter of 
its truth in language and forms which "have no superior." 

The Book of Common Prayer is widely considered to contain the 
most precious forms of Christian worship and belief which have been 
developed by the Christian Church, Protestant and Catholic. These 
forms were composed in, or have been translated into, "incomparable 
English" and have been so revised and related as to speak meaning- 
fully to modern minds. However, respect for the Prayer Book springs 
not so much from its literary qualities as from the fact that it is both 
the vehicle through which the faith is transmitted and also the standard 
for public worship. 

In leading services of worship, ministers are required to make use 
of the worship forms provided in the Prayer Book; it is a matter of 
kw. One of the first statements in the Prayer Book reads: "The Order 
for Holy Communion, the Order for Morning Prayer, the Order for 
Evening Prayer, and the Litany, as set forth in this Book, are the 
regular Services appointed for Public Worship in this Church, and 
shall be used accordingly" (Italics mine.) 

These orders of worship prescribe the sentences with which public 
services are to be opened, the passages of Scripture to be read, the 
prayers to be offered, the words by which the congregation makes 
General Confession and receives Absolution, the form which the Bene- 
diction shall take. The minister has freedom in the selection of hymns 
and of anthems, in choosing the topic for his sermon, in determining 
the ceremonial which accompanies the reading of the service. But the 
essentials of the service have been provided by the Church. 

Episcopalians are sure their worship is more meaningful because 
its form is prescribed. For them, the Prayer Book frees a service from 


the Idiosyncrasies of the individual priest his emotional states, his 
cliches, his periods of spiritual dryness. The Prayer Book contains the 
writings of saints who agonized in prayer and gloried in praise. The 
readings have for Episcopalians the sound of authority; they come 
from the whole Church, ancient and modern. Consider the collect 
which is set at the beginning of the service of Holy Communion. This 
prayer has a grandeur which rises to the height of sublimity; it im- 
presses the worshiper as a Grand March of the faithful into the pres- 
ence of God. 

Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and 
from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the 
inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and 
worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

This prayer is said by the priest whenever and wherever Holy Com- 
munion is administered in the Anglican Communion; this prayer is 
also said by every Roman Catholic clergyman every morning as he 
prepares to celebrate Mass, and is used widely throughout the rest of 
Christendom. Because this petition is repeated over and over, and on 
such solemn occasions, and because it has such definite links with 
Christians of many times and places, it has for Episcopalians a mean- 
ing and spirit which a prayer composed the previous evening in the 
rector's study, and said for the first time, could never have. 

Strangers in an Episcopal Church are often confused by what they 
consider an excess of formality; they cannot find and keep the place 
in the Prayer Book, and are confused by so much standing and sitting, 
even though they may have been told, "We stand to praise, kneel to 
pray, and sit to be instructed." Any person planning to attend a ser- 
vice with which he is not familiar would do well to remind himself that 
all services of worship are easily followed by those who love them, and 
all services seem strange until they have been attended often enough to 
become very familiar. The spiritual effect of a service should not be 
judged after one or two experiences with it. 

The Prayer Book furnishes the doctrinal standard for the Church; 
the recitation by minister and people of either the Apostles' Creed or 
the Nicene Creed is required at all major services of worship. In ad- 
dition, all members of the Church declare at Confirmation their belief 
in the Apostles' Creed. This Creed is printed on page 160; the Nicene 


Creed, normally used at every service of Holy Communion, is printed 
below. The relation believed by Episcopalians to exist between these 
two can be seen in the statement made in the twenties by the House 
of Bishops: "The shorter Apostles' Creed is to be interpreted in the 
light of the fuller Nicene Creed. The more elaborate statements of the 
latter safeguard the sense in which the simpler language of the former 
is to be understood." 

I believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, 
And of all things visible and invisible: 

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God; Be- 
gotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very 
God of very God; Begotten, not made; Being of one substance with the 
Father; By whom all things were made: Who for us men and for our 
salvation came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost 
of the Virgin Mary, And was made man: And was crucified also for us 
under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried: And the third day he 
rose again according to the Scriptures: And ascended into heaven, And 
sitteth on the right hand of the Father: And he shall come again, with 
glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; Whose kingdom shall have 
no end. 

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, The Lord, and Giver of Life, Who 
proceedeth from the Father and the Son; Who with the Father and the 
Son together is worshipped and glorified; Who spake by the Prophets: 
And I believe one Catholic and Apostolic Church: I acknowledge one 
Baptism for the remission of sins: And I look for the Resurrection of the 
dead: And the Life of the world to come. Amen. 

The question arises immediately, "In what sense do Episcopalians 
believe in such dogmas as the Virgin Birth and the bodily Resurrec- 
tion of Jesus Christ?" In no one sense. All Episcopalians do not think 
alike. To be sure, they are bound to accept the wording of the Apos- 
tles' Creed; they declared their faith in it when they were confirmed. 
But they have wide liberty to interpret the Creed hi the manner which 
seems to them to accord with Scripture. And this liberty is exercised. 
This latitude of interpretation is tolerated in order to avoid conflict 
and to maintain religious liberty. It would be safe to say, however, that 
the overwhelming majority of Episcopal clergymen make conservative 
interpretations of the Creed, though most of them would not want to 
be bound to accept its literal meaning, certainly not as interpreted by 
a person who was unacquainted with the history of the times and 
tensions which gave the Creed birth. Sampling poEs have verified the 


conservative nature of the theological opinions held by most Episco- 
pal clergymen. In one poll of every seventh priest on the Church's list 
of clergy, 87 per cent said they believed that "Jesus was conceived in 
the womb of the Virgin Mary without a human father." A poll con- 
ducted by Christianity Today found that 83 per cent of the Episcopal 
clergymen polled thought the virgin birth is important as a basis for 
church union, and 90 per cent thought the unique deity of Christ 
as the son of God is important as a basis for church union. 4 On the 
other hand, one of the bishops asserted that "the biblical evidence and 
the theological implications seem to be in favor of assuming that 
Joseph was the human father of Jesus" and wrote, "I prefer the creed 
to be sung." 5 Some Episcopal clergymen brought charges of heresy 
against Mm for these statements, 6 but the Church took no action. 

Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, all but one inherited from the 
Church of England, are printed at the end of the Prayer Book. These 
Articles are not the standard of belief in American Episcopalianism; 
no affirmation of belief in them is required of either priests or laymen. 


Services in some Episcopal churches are scarcely to be distinguished 
from services said by Roman Catholics, except that the language used 
is English. All the richness and solemnity of Roman Catholicism is to 
be found there; also its spiritual intensity and its authoritarianism. 

Anglo-Catholics emphasize the Mass; they believe that it, rather 
than Morning Prayer, should be the most frequent office in the 
Church. One priest wrote: 

The most superficial examination [of the Prayer Book] will show that 
the Holy Communion . . . was intended to be the principal service of the 
day, at which the largest congregation could be expected. It is the only 
service which contains within itself a provision for the taking up of an 
offering, for the giving out of notices, or the preaching of sermons. Only 
one place-finding is necessary, as against the numerous page turnings of 
Morning Prayer. 7 , 

Anglo-Catholics they would rather be called just Catholics 
practice close Communion, that is, they decline to administer the Sac- 
rament to any person who has not received in confirmation the laying 
on of hands by some bishop in the Apostolic Succession. The earmark 
of a Catholic Church, in their opinion, is the possession of clerical 


orders which go back in unbroken line to the apostles; in other words, 
the Apostolic Succession is a crucial doctrine. Anglo-Catholics hear 
private confessions, administer extreme unction^ urge the laity to call 
priests "Father," urge frequent Communion, emphasize the desira- 
bility of diligent preparation before and thoughtful thanksgiving after 
receiving Holy Communion, enjoin making the daily meditation. They 
urge development of a "rule of life," and as aids in keeping this rule 
observe fast days, make a systematic use of retreats and quiet days, 
and "consecrate beauty to the service of God." They have sponsored 
the re-establishment of monastic orders in the Episcopal Church; there 
are at present in the United States eleven orders for men and fourteen 
for women. 

The critics of Anglo-Catholicism find in it a considerable amount of 
ceremony for ceremony's sake. High Churchmen sometimes make the 
impression of being unnecessarily fussy about small points of external 

They perform an overelaborated and sometimes ill-conceived ceremony 
of kissings, crossings, genuflections, and bowings with great meticulosity, 
[while they] often read the service so fast and so inaudibly that it might 
just as well be in Latin. 8 

An English clergyman wrote concerning a visit to the United States: 

I failed to discover why it is that when receiving Holy Communion an 
American high Anglican genuflects four times, where an English high 
Anglican does so only once or twice, and an Irish Roman Catholic not 
at all. 9 


The Evangelical party has much in common with such Protestant 
groups as the Presbyterians and the Methodists. Services conducted 
by the Evangelicals are sometimes indistinguishable from the run of 
Protestant services. Of course, the worship orders prescribed in the 
Prayer Book are followed; but the temper and mood are Protestant. 
Attendants at Evangelical services are fairly sure, for example, to hear 
the office read impressively, though there is no guarantee that it wiH 
be; Evangelical leanings furnish no necessary guard against a voice 
that reads the liturgy "like the minutes of the previous meeting." 

Evangelicals make comparatively little use of symbolic acts. 


They [often] do not use the sign of the cross or bow at the name of 
Jesus or turn toward the altar for the Gloria. They [often] do not raise 
the alms or communion elements when they offer them at the altar. They 
[often] seem almost as obstinately Puritan as the Congregationalist who 
will not under any circumstances kneel to pray. 10 

Evangelicals tend to put the same emphasis on preaching as do 
other Protestants. True, the most frequent office in Evangelical 
churches is Morning Prayer, and it makes no provision for a sermon. 
The Prayer Book, however, nowhere requires that only the forms 
printed in it shall be used in worship; the minister has liberty to add 
to the prescribed service any material which seems to him to be impor- 
tant and fitting, a liberty exercised by the priests of all parties. 

Evangelicals stand for the Priesthood of all Believers. A leading 
Evangelical says: 

[This doctrine saves the Church] from the foolish pretension that one 
tradition of official ministry is in some intrinsic way superior to the tradi- 
tions of other bodies. . . , Particularly is the Eucharist [Holy Com- 
munion] saved from being a sacrificial rite offered by a superior indi- 
vidual on behalf of others. . , . [Instead] it is the sacrifice of "our selves, 
our souls and our bodies." 11 

Bishop Angus Dun doubtless expressed the views of many Prayer 
Book Churchmen as well as of the Evangelicals, when he wrote: 

The only apostolic succession I shall claim ... is that implied in the 
confession that I know I have not attained, but press towards the mark 
of our unity in Christ. 12 

The Evangelical believes in open Communion; he feels that the 
Lord's Table must not be set only for those who have had episcopal 
confirmation. He believes it will never be possible for Christendom to 
be united unless all Christians can share their deepest spiritual ex- 
periences. The Evangelical is also willing upon occasion to invite into 
his pulpit members of the clergy of other denominations, an act which 
scandalizes the Anglo-Catholics. 

On the other hand, Evangelicals join in the general Episcopal 
practice of refusing to give "letters of dismissal" to other Protestant 
churches. The clergymen of most Protestant denominations are will- 
ing to write letters stating that church members are in good standing 
and commending their reception into the churches of other denomi- 
nations. But not the Episcopalians; for, there is "no provision in canon 


law for giving letters of dismissal, except to an Episcopal Church. 1 * 
Moreover, priests of the Church, with a few exceptions, will not re- 
ceive members from other denominations by letter.* The Church will 
accept the baptism of other churches, provided the formula used in 
the ceremony was trinitarian; but ordinarily a non-Episcopal Protes- 
tant can become a communicant member of the Episcopal Church only 
through receiving confirmation from a Bishop. However, a Roman 
Catholic can become a communicant member of the Episcopal Church 
without episcopal confirmation if he has been confirmed in the Roman 
Catholic Church. 

Unfortunately, the conflict between Evangelicals and Anglo-Catho- 
lics is more in evidence today than it was some years ago. In 1948 
an English observer made a judgment which is probably still correct. 

At present it is bogged in party feuds much as the C. of E. [Church 
of England] was twenty years ago. An alarming feature of the P.E.C. 
[Protestant Episcopal Church] is the tendency to develop monochrome 
dioceses: that is, dioceses of one ecclesiastical color. There is an area in 
the Middle West known to the sophisticated churchman as the "biretta** 
belt" 13 

Many of the Evangelicals consider that the Anglo-Catholic has a cer- 
tain "snobbish exclusiveness" and are offended by the "apparent at- 
titude that there are two sorts of parishes one of which is 'first class,' 
and the other only 'second class/ " 14 

On the other hand, the Anglo-Catholics fear what they consider the 
easy manner in which Evangelicals throw open Holy Communion, 
with few safeguards, to "all those who love our Lord." Many Episco- 
pal clergymen, in fact, practice close Communion. As a consequence, 
at conferences gathered to foster the ecumenical movement the Epis- 
copalians, and also the Lutherans, sometimes feel that they cannot join 
in Communion with other Protestants. Occasionally at these confer- 
ences there are three services: one Episcopalian; one Lutheran, and one 
Presbyterian-Methodist-Baptist-etc. At one conference of the Student 
Christian Movement in New England, college students rebelled at this 
unfraternal conduct, refused to have separate services, and argued and 

*A few rectors do "accept the members of other churches by letter and 
then prepare them for future confirmation." 

** A biretta is a small square cap frequently worn by Roman Catholic and 
Anglo-Catholic priests. 


pleaded for a joint service. But the Episcopal clergy at the conference 
were adamant; as a result the conference had no Communion Service. 
Such actions, however, must be contrasted with actions of a more 
liberal nature, that of Presiding Bishop Henry Knox Sherrill, for ex- 
ample, at the Evanston meeting of the World Council of Churches 
when he threw open the Protestant Episcopal service to all who wished 
to commune. But that service was picketed by some of the Anglo- 

Anglo-Catholics feel also that they can make no compromise with 
persons who, though they have had no episcopal ordination, claim to 
be Christian ministers; such persons are not considered to be priests 
of Christ no matter how sincere or high-minded they might be, and 
no matter what type of ordination they may have received from Protes- 
tant churches. However, persons ordained by Roman Catholics are 
considered to be priests. 

The effects on Church life of the conflict between the Evangelicals 
and the Anglo-Catholics have been widespread. Efforts on the part of 
Anglo-Catholics to take the term Protestant out of the name of the 
Church have been defeated. (At this writing the Anglo-Catholics are 
making another effort to accomplish this result.) The recent holders 
of the office of Presiding Bishop, the leading official, if not the candi- 
dates of the Evangelicals, were certainly not the candidates of the 
Anglo-Catholics. Anglo-Catholics spearheaded the movement which 
scuttled proposals for union with the Presbyterian Church; (more 
concerning this development later) . Anglo-Catholics also defeated an 
Evangelical proposal to take the Thirty-nine Articles out of the Prayer 
Book, But on another occasion, the Evangelicals defeated an Anglo- 
Catholic proposal to do the same thing. 


The Episcopal Church is essentially a constitutional democracy. Its 
bishops are a long way from being dictators; rather, they are officials 
who carry out policies which have been democratically determined. 
One bishop said to me, with a bit of exaggeration, "I have only what 
authority I can win for myself." The carefully defined structure of the 
Church is designed as much for the control of power as for its exercise. 


One rector said to me, "We are the most democratic of all the churches 
because we recognize the realities of power." Most of the denomi- 
nations which emphasize congregational government because of its 
supposed greater liberty are considerably less democratic in their 
regional and national organizations than is the highly structured Epis- 
copal Church. The editor of an Episcopal journal could write, "An 
Anglican is particularly impressed, not to say dismayed, by the organi- 
zational complexity and power-concentration that seems to spring so 
naturally from the Protestant ethos." 15 This surprising judgment 
springs from the failure of most congregationafly organized bodies to 
define clearly the limits of the power regional and national executives 
can exercise (except over local churches), and from a failure to pro- 
vide for natural channels whereby local groups can influence regional 
and national policy. These propositions will be discussed more fully 
later; the point being made here is that the Episcopal Church is high 
among American churches in the quality of the democratic processes 
it practices. 

The spiritual affairs of the local church are in the hands of the pas- 
tor, usually called the rector, unless the parish is supported by mis- 
sionary funds; then the title is usually vicar. The rector has control of 
the spiritual ministrations of the church; its services of worship, the 
music provided for worship, the administration of the sacraments, the 
running of the church school, the uses to which the church building 
may be put. 

The financial affairs of the local church and the title to church prop- 
erty are ordinarily in the hands of an elected body of men called the 
vestry. The vestry is elected by parish meetings and has the power to 
select the rector, though it must secure the bishop's approval of the 
selection. The power to select vicars rests with the bishop. Canon law 
provides that the rector's tenure is for life and is not to be terminated 
by the vestry without his consent. The rector can even force in the civil 
courts the full payment of the salary originally agreed on. But if the 
pastor cannot be discharged, neither can he resign legally, without the 
consent of the vestry. However, in case of a dispute over tenure, either 
the rector or the vestry may appeal to the bishop, who then has power 
to settle the matter. Of course, such extreme regulations are very 


seldom inoked; no parish prospers without good will on all sides. The 
clear intent of giving tenure to the rector is to free him from depend- 
ence OH the whims of the parish, the bane of clergymen in most de- 
nominations. These regulations were invoked in the Melish case. The 
rector of Brooklyn's Holy Trinity Episcopal Church refused to resign 
when requested by the vestry. The bishop was called in and after due 
consideration ordered the rector to quit his post; he again refused since 
a large majority of the members of the parish wished him to remain. 
The case was then taken to the civil courts where the bishop's action 
was confirmed. 

Continental United States is divided into seventy-eight dioceses and 
nine missionary districts. Each diocese and missionary district is 
headed fay a bishop; but he shares authority with a diocesan conven- 
tion, a legislative body composed of the clergy and elected lay rep- 
resentatives from each parish. The bishop of a diocese is chosen by 
the diocesan convention, though his election to the office must be 
approved both by a majority of the Standing Committees of the other 
dioceses and by a majority of the bishops of the Church. 

Final authority in the Protestant Episcopal Church rests with the 
General Convention, a national body which meets every three years. 
It is composed of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies. 
The latter contains four priests and four laymen from each diocese, 
and one priest and one layman from each missionary district. 

The General Convention chooses a Presiding Bishop whose major 
function is to serve as the executive head of the National Council, a 
body charged with carrying out the decisions of the General Conven- 
tion. The Presiding Bishop occupies an office of great dignity, but he 
is not the administrative superior of the other bishops. He has no 
authority in the local dioceses, except as the General Convention may 
require his direct supervision of specific projects. He does, however, 
preside over all sessions of the House of Bishops and "takes order" 
for the consecration of all new bishops. 

The Protestant Episcopal Church has fraternal relations with the 
other churches of the Anglican Communion through the Lambeth 
Conference, a meeting held approximately every ten years. The Con- 
ference is called by the Archbishop of Canterbury, is held in Lambeth 
Palace, London, and is open to all active bishops of the Anglican 


Communion. The decisions of the Conference have great weight but 
do not have the force of law. 

The position of women in the Episcopal Church is traditional. The 
House of Deputies in 1946 permitted, for the Irst time, a woman to 
be seated as a Deputy. But the same Convention refused the earnest 
request of the Woman's Auxiliary of the Church to interpret the word 
layman in church laws to include women as well as men; the inter- 
pretation would have permitted women to hold many church offices. 
"Male voices shouted down the resolution," commented The Lu- 
theran^ In the Diocese of Rochester a proposal to send a woman as 
a Deputy to the General Convention was defeated, one argument 
against the proposal being, "Women are already doing more than their 
share of church work." In 1949, the House of Deputies declined to 
seat four women; the Convention did, however, accept two million 
dollars which Episcopal women had raised for the work of the Church. 
The House of Deputies in the Convention of 1961 refused by an over- 
whelming vote to approve a constitutional amendment which would 
have changed the word layman to lay person. 

The Protestant Episcopal Church numbers about three and one- 
half million members. It is roughly one-twelfth the size of the Roman 
Catholic Church and one-third the size of the Methodist Church. 
Nevertheless, the Episcopalians are a powerful body. Man for man 
they probably have more influence on national affairs than any other 
religious group; they are probably more often the heads and directors 
of our great corporations, and are probably more often mentioned in 
the social, educational, and financial columns of the newspapers than 
are an equivalent proportion of any other denomination. The Episco- 
pal Church is found all over the United States, but its real strength is 
on the eastern seaboard. 

As a denomination Episcopalians have taken a more active part in 
the ecumenical movement than has any other American group. Episco- 
pal interest in the movement and, indeed, the movement itself are 
more the result of the efforts of Bishop Charles Henry Brent than of 
any other one person. Telling briefly the story of Ms life will give an 
opportunity to indicate some of the facts about this important aspect 
of twentieth-century Christianity and also to indicate something of the 
kind of life led by a great, modern, American churchman. 



Brent was born In Canada in an Episcopal rectory. He attended the 
elementary and high schools in Newcastle, Ontario, and then went to 
Trinity College School, where he displayed keen interests in organ 
playing and Rugby football, making the school team as fullback. After 
two years, he enrolled in the University of Toronto, made a good aca- 
demic record, and graduated in 1882. Then he returned to Trinity 
College School as a teacher. 

Brent's choice of the ministry as a vocation was apparently made 
early, and without much struggle. During his two years of teaching at 
Trinity he prepared for the examinations which precede Holy Orders. 
He was ordained in 1886 by the Bishop of Toronto; but there was no 
opening in the Bishop's diocese. Consequently, Brent took a position 
in Buffalo, New York, for what he thought would be a short time. But 
he was destined to have the United States as the base of his operations 
throughout the rest of his life. In Buffalo, he was appointed curate and 
organist in St. John's Church; apparently for a time he considered 
devoting Ms life to church music. Soon, however, it became apparent 
that his vocation should be the pastoral ministry and he was placed in 
charge of a small mission church, St. Andrew's. 

There he came into conflict with his bishop over of all things 
the use of candles on the altar. Both the bishop and Brent were high 
churchmen, but the bishop was very suspicious of any appearance of 
leanings toward Rome. At this stage in the development of Episco- 
pal ceremony (it has been greatly elaborated in recent decades), 
the use of candles connoted a Roman tendency. Thus Brent was 
ordered somewhat summarily to take the candles off the altar. He 
resisted vigorously, since he knew that candles were in use in other 
parts of the diocese. However, since St. Andrew's was a mission, the 
bishop had control there, even though he did not have control in the 
self-supporting churches of the diocese. In the end, Brent had to obey 
instructions. But he began to look around for another post. 

In the summer of 1887, he attended a retreat for clergymen con- 
ducted by Rev. A. C A. Hall, Superior of the Boston house of the 
Cowley Fathers, a monastic order with headquarters in England. Brent 
was profoundly impressed by this retreat, established a close friend- 


ship with Hall, and landed before many months as a member of the 
Cowley household in Boston. He continued there for three years, liv- 
ing by the simple, ordered, spiritual pattern of the monks. Years later 
he wrote: 

I can conceive of nothing more admirable or productive of good 
results in the character and efficiency of a young priest than life in such 
an environment as I found myself in [in] the Mission House. . . . Sim- 
plicity of living, close attention to duty, and punctilious regularity are 
amiss at no time of one's career, but they are a whole education before 
a man's character is finally set. 17 

Brent was on the point of becoming a full-fledged monk, taking the 
vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, when he was outraged by an 
act of the head of the Cowley Fathers in England. Hall, decidedly High 
Church, had refused to vote for Phillips Brooks, a Liberal, as Bishop 
of Massachusetts; but once Brooks had been elected, Hall as a mem- 
ber of the diocesan Standing Committee voted to ratify the election. 
For this compromise with Liberalism, Hall was called to England by 
the head of the Order. Brent was so incensed at this highhanded pro- 
cedure that he also went to England and gave his opinion of the action 
directly to the Father Superior. This interview ended Brent's formal 
connection with monasticism. He was no "yes" man. 

Bishop Brooks then asked Brent to become a member of the staff 
of St. Stephen's Church in the poorest section of Boston. He accepted, 
and for ten years, worked in the midst of the sordidness and squalor 
of the great city, trying to bring light into dark alleys, love into deso- 
late lives, vision into narrow minds. Father Brent was a genuine 
pastor; he cared about people. He counseled individuals and helped 
them solve their problems. He was concerned about social conditions 
and supported movements directed toward social change. But his 
greatest ministry was a devotional one. He felt it was his mission to 
prepare a spiritual haven in the services of the Church where frus- 
trated, beaten men and women could find solace and beauty. Brent 
conducted worship with the intentness and simplicity of one who per- 
sonally is receiving great spiritual blessing. He reacted against the 
fussiness of some High Churchmen; yet his services were Anglo- 
Catholic, striving to plumb devotional depths through the pageantry 
of rich vestments, lights, symbols, and a sacerdotal decorum on the 
part of the clergy. 


Distressed by the contrast between the luxury of the rich and the 
penury of the poor, and noticing the emptiness of the great houses on 
Beacon Street during the hot weather, he persuaded some of his 
wealthy friends to open thek homes during the summer months to 
selected South Boston families. In view of American mores, the sug- 
gestion was extreme and the results were not happy; but the story 
shows the courage and magnetism of the man. On another occasion 
he took passage from England to the United States in the steerage in 
an effort to learn at first hand the mind of the immigrants who then 
were flooding American shores. 

Two years after the close of the Spanish-American War and the 
acquisition of the Philippines by the United States, Brent was suddenly 
elected missionary bishop of the Philippine Islands. His work there 
made him a national figure. He came to know and have influence on 
the leaders in many fields, including Theodore Roosevelt and William 
Howard Taft. He traveled all over the United States soliciting funds 
for his missions. He helped shape missionary policy. He wrote many 
books (twenty in his lifetime, the majority while serving in the Philip- 
pines). But the activity which first brought him into real prominence 
was the part he played in the movement against the opium traffic. 

Under the Spaniards, opium had been a government monopoly; 
under the Americans, there was passed in the Islands a bill (later 
vetoed by Roosevelt) again making opium a government monopoly, 
and devoting the revenue to education. Bishop Brent fought this pro- 
posal, declaring, "We would be educating men in vice in order that 
we might educate their children intellectually." Soon after, Taft, then 
governor, appointed the Bishop to a committee whose function was to 
study control of the drug. Brent became convinced as a result of this 
study that the problem would yield only to international action; there- 
fore, he wrote to President Roosevelt urging him to take leadership in 
forming an International Opium Commission. Roosevelt saw the pos- 
sibilities in the proposal, called the Commission, and appointed Brent 
to the American delegation. Promptly after the convening of the Com- 
mission, Brent was surprised to be elected its president. Two years 
later, in 1911, another international conference on the opium traffic 
was held at The Hague; again Brent was a member of the American 
delegation, and again he was elected president of the conference. His 


activities against the opium traffic continued until Ms death, in 1929; 
one of the last acts of Ms life was to send a memorandum on the opium 
traffic to President Hoover. 

Twice during Ms tenure in the Philippines, Brent was elected Bishop 
of Washington, D. C., a position for wMch Ms political acquaintance 
fitted him. He was also elected Bishop of New Jersey. But he declined 
all these invitations. "If I should some day cease to foe Bishop of the 
Philippine Islands/' he said to the Quill dub in Manila, "it will not be 
because of extra persuasion from prominent personages . . . but be- 
cause the body refuses to behave properly in the Tropics," In 1917, 
Ms doctors made clear that he would not survive another two years in 
the Islands. Consequently, he accepted election as the Bishop of 
Western New York, but with the proviso that he would take up his 
duties only after he had served his country, then at war, in the Ameri- 
can Expeditionary Force. 

He went to France simply as a special representative of the 
Y.M.C.A.; but in a short time, such were Ms powers of leadersMp, he 
was established as Senior Chaplain at Pershing's headquarters, "in 
effect, if not in name, the cMef of Army chaplains." 18 He set up the 
chaplains' organization, established a chaplains' school, and shaped 
policies wMch had a lasting effect on the reorganization of the Army 
Chaplains Corps after the war. One of Ms policies, however, was not 
continued: he was so much concerned that clergymen serving in the 
Army should establish the pastoral relationship quickly with all 
kinds of men that he refused to permit the chaplains under Mm to 
wear insignia of military rank. 

As Bishop of Western New York, Brent was not a great adminis- 
trator; he had too many national and international problems bid- 
ding for his attention. But he did furnish a spiritual leadership that, 
according to Ms successor, practically "raised the diocese from the 
dead." To Ms lasting regret he was not able in the diocese to exercise 
widely Ms pastoral functions. But he did inspire and vitalize many 
groups of people through addresses, sermons and the leadersMp of 
conferences. The clergy and the laity of Western New York came to 
think of him as the greatest American churchman since Phillips 
Brooks. They dubbed him "Everybody's Bishop." 

At Edinburgh in 1910, attending the World Missionary Con- 

ference, Brent came to the conviction that church unity., long con- 
sidered unattainable, could be achieved within a century; at first he 
even included Roman Catholicism in Ms ecumenical vision, though 
later he changed his mind on that possibility. 

Soon after leaving the Conference at Edinburgh, he attended 
the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, meeting in Cincin- 
nati. He had been asked to speak there to a mass meeting of the 
Bishops, Deputies and Woman's Auxiliary. The result of that ad- 
dress was the establishment by the Episcopal Church of a Com- 
mission to promote a world conference where the differences which 
prevent unity would be honestly faced and an effort made to resolve 
them. World War I broke out before the conference could be held. 
After the war, in 1920, the Lambeth Conference issued a stirring 
appeal for the unity of Christian people, and in the same year 
seventy denominations sent representatives to a preliminary Con- 
ference which was held at Geneva. At this Conference, initiative 
for the ecumenical movement passed from the Episcopal Church 
Commission to an extremely able Continuation Committee, of which 
Brent was made chairman. This Committee arranged to hold a World 
Conference on Faith and Order at Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1927. 
This Conference was recognized by Christian groups all over the 
world, no less than 127 denominations sending representatives. A 
large portion of the leadership of the American and European 
churches was there. 

At the opening session, this cosmopolitan company repeated, 
each in Ms own tongue, the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles' Creed, 
sang "Now Thank We All Our God," and Bishop Brent preached. 
"We are here," he began, "at the urgent behest of Jesus Christ"; and 
then he pleaded that the delegates ponder the moral qualities essen- 
tial to Christian unity: humility, patience, charity, faith. Then he 
was elected presiding officer. "His position as the pivotal person of 
the Conference was plain," wrote Archbishop Temple, "and his 
quiet, firm and often humorous control of the discussions was most 
effective." 19 

The formal accomplishments of Lausanne were not great; but the 
informal ones began a new era. Lausanne proved that officials 
representing many diverse Christian groups could sit clown in the 


spirit of conference and make long strides toward understanding. 
At the end, Bishop Brent said, "God has enlarged our horizons, 
quickened our understanding, enlivened our hope." 

Brent's leadership at Lausanne was his last major contribution to 
the ecumenical movement; in view of a serious heart condition, he 
had accepted leadership even there only at considerable risk. After 
the Conference, his lifework was for all practical purposes ended. 
But the movement which he had done so much to bring into being 
went forward, under the leadership of his famous colleagues, through 
conference after conference until at Amsterdam, in 1948, the World 
Council of Churches was brought to birth. 

The attitudes of most of the present leaders of the ecumenical 
movement were well expressed by Brent. 

Christ's agile feet journey to the human heart along many and diverse 
paths. 20 

You and I must put ourselves in the right relation to God. I am as 
strongly convinced on many subjects as the rest of you, but I am anxious 
to get rid of prejudice and ignorance, and it is for us, in a way that per- 
haps we have never done before, to put ourselves at the disposal of God, 
to give our minds and our hearts and our judgments into His hands that 
He may sway us whither he will. 21 

What is needed more than anything else is courage to try God's way. 
... I reaffirm my belief that the Christian Church, if it be so minded, 
can, in the name of Christianity, rule out war and rule in peace in a 
generation. I may be a fool, but if so I am God's fool. 22 


The results of some other efforts at church unity have not been so 
happy. The Episcopal General Convention in 1937, in a burst of 
ecumenical enthusiasm generated by two world conferences held 
that same year at Oxford and Edinburgh, made overtures to the 
Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. looking toward the union of the 
two bodies. The Presbyterians showed genuine interest and enthu- 
siasm. But after nine years of study and conference by a Joint Com- 
mission of Presbyterians and Episcopalians, the General Convention 
refused to accept even for "study'* in the local churches a Proposed 
Basis of Union. This action was perhaps the major setback the 
ecumenical movement has received and the blow was delivered 


by the Church which has carried the banner for church union. The 
action came through a coalition of Southern and Anglo-Catholic 
votes, the Bishop of Chicago even threatening secession if the union 
were consummated. 23 

Presbyterians hit the ceiling. Henry P. Van Dusen, an Episcopal 
layman as well as a Presbyterian clergyman, said: 

Is it any wonder that throughout American Protestantism, the Episco- 
pal Church is increasingly likened to an adolescent school-girl who pro- 
poses marriage In leap-year, and then, when her offer is accepted, searches 
frantically for some escape from her pledged commitment? 24 

Another Presbyterian clergyman stated the case still more bluntly 
In a statement wryly reprinted by an Episcopal journal: 

Among the Protestant clergy in any community the ministers of what 
Church almost always (there are rare exceptions) can be counted on 
not to be counted on in joint religious services? What denomination keeps 
its pulpits closed to ministers of other evangelical Churches? [There are 
exceptions to this generalization also.] What denomination refuses to grant 
letters of dismission to all other evangelical denominations? . . . Pastors 
who eagerly try to promote union enterprises in their communities . . . 
receive neither encouragement nor cooperation from their Episcopalian 
brethren In the ministry. 23 

Many Episcopal bishops and priests were greatly embarrassed and 
disappointed by the action of the General Convention rejecting the 
Proposed Basis of Union. Yet the leaders of the ecumenical movement 
in the denomination have not lost hope. Canon Theodore O. Wedel, 
a member of the Joint Commission, wrote: 

Our Church has now to wrestle with the central issues of Church re- 
union. We should have faced these issues and settled our own internal 
dilemma of conscience before we burdened another communion with 
the embarrassments of our disunity. 26 

Episcopalians have developed churchmanship to a far higher de- 
gree than most Protestants. As a result, they have a greater concern 
for achieving a united Christendom than other Protestants and 
frequently are tempted to speak beyond their willingness to act. At 
the founding of the World Council of Churches in Amsterdam, no 
group wanted to talk as much; yet earlier that same summer at Lam- 
beth, the bishops refused full communion to the newly formed and 
united Church of South India, even as Anglicans in Canada a quarter 


of a century earlier had refused to become an organic part of the 
United Chuich of Canada. Only in 1940 did the Protestant Episco- 
pal Church become a full-fledged member of the Federal Council of 

The issue responsible for the greatest disagreement between the 
Episcopalians and the Presbyterians, and probably in the ecumeni- 
cal movement generally, is that of the validity of the various types 
of ordination. The Joint Commission made a fertile suggestion at 
this point, proposing that Presbyterian clergymen be ordained priests 
in the Episcopal Church and Episcopal clergymen and bishops be 
ordained presbyters in the Presbyterian Church. The acceptance of 
some such device will doubtless be essential if the ecumenical move- 
ment is ever to become strong. Such acceptance is probable in many 
communions. Increasingly, Protestant clergymen would agree with 
the Methodist Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam, who said: 

I would be proud to kneel at any altar and have the hands of Harry 
Emerson Fosdick placed upon my head. . . . Similarly, I would rejoice 
in receiving from Henry Sloane Coffin and from Rufus Jones the treas- 
ures of their traditions . . . [and] to have the hands of Bishop Henry 
Knox SherriH laid upon my head, symbolizing the unbroken tradition of 
the centuries. 27 

The reception of Episcopal orders by a Methodist minister in good 
standing was a step in this direction. George Hedley, chaplain at 
Mills College, Oakland, California, was ordained by the Bishop of 
California, James A. Pike, in order that Episcopal students might 
"feel free" to attend Holy Communion when it is celebrated by Dr. 
Hedley. Bishop Pike was rebuked by some Episcopalians (he took a 
"short cut to chaos") and Dr. Hedley was rebuked by some Metho- 
dists (he is "neither fish nor fowl; he has impugned his ordination 
as a Methodist"). An Episcopal editor stated the situation when he 
wrote that 

virtually all Protestant Churches would accept Anglican clergy into their 
ministry without reordination, but Anglican Churches will not accept 
Protestant ministers without ordination to the diaconate and priesthood. 28 

Subsequent to the ordination of Dr. Hedley, the EvangeEcal and 
Reform Church instructed its clergymen not to accept Episcopal 
ordination if they wished to continue as Evangelical and Reform minis- 


ters: "it could be construed as an implied acknowledgement of a 
deficiency in onr own ministerial orders/' 29 And a Presbyterian clergy- 
man wrote, "No proposal can be supported which even by inference 
implies that my present ordination is not to the Holy Catholic 
Church. . . . such terms as 'extension of ordination' or 'reordina- 
tion to a new church' have no reality for there is no way of broadening 
an ordination that is already to the church universal." Late in 1961 
both the Methodist Council of Bishops and the Protestant Episcopal 
General Convention passed recommendations designed to prevent any 
further dual ordinations of the Hedley type. 30 

Perhaps the next move needed is for Episcopal clergymen to give 
clear evidence that they truly respect and are anxious to receive the 
orders of other Protestant churches. None have as yet received such 
orders, as far as I know, but Bishop Pike has written, "I am ready 
to kneel down for the purpose." 31 The Episcopal Church has made 
very clear its conviction that clergymen out of the Apostolic Succes- 
sion are not qualified to serve as Episcopal clergymen. If it will take 
the next step and affirm that persons in the Apostolic Succession are 
not qualified by that fact to serve as Methodist, Presbyterian, or other 
Protestant clergymen, a large step toward union would be taken. 

Surely it is but a matter of time until many of the non-Roman 
churches find a way of lessening our confusion of tongues, and at the 
same time of preserving the preciousness of each church's distinctive 
contribution to our religious life. When this end is achieved the 
impact of Christian idealism on civilization will have been greatly 
increased and the spiritual stature of our churches mightily en- 

But the person who is concerned about the spiritual stature of the 
whole of society wonders whether the attainment of Christian unity 
will not be so difficult as to consume all the surplus energies of most 
denominational leaders and whether the negotiations will not be so 
delicate that the ecumenical leaders will be tempted to reduce their 
message to a kind of sweetness and light vagueness. Moreover, is the 
uniting of the old-line Protestant and Eastern Orthodox churches, 
those which "confess our Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior," the 
most important task confronting enlightened churchmanship? What 
is the answer of ecumenical leaders to the thesis that the United 


States confronts a clear and present spiritual danger, the danger of 
an inadequate commitment to the ethical values central in our civiliza- 
tion? And can this danger be met without the wholehearted coopera- 
tion of the skilled and devoted churchmen who today spend most of 
their spare energies in promoting a movement which at best can minis- 
ter to less than a third of the American people? 



SOME PRESBYTERIANS would like to believe that the first General 
Assembly, the highest body in the Presbyterian governmental system, 
was held in Jerusalem in the middle of the first century and is de- 
scribed in the 15th Chapter of the book of Acts. On that memorable 
occasion, Paul and Barnabas came from Antioch, conferred with 
the "apostles and elders," and matters of great moment were settled. 
A few contemporary Presbyterians would even agree with the Puri- 
tan professor in Elizabethan times who contended that the Bible 
prescribes not only the doctrine of the Church, but also its govern- 
mental form and that that form is Presbyterianism. 

These extreme positions are seldom the belief of the present-day 
Presbyterian churches; Presbyterians do hold, however, as do also 
many non-Presbyterian scholars, that the early church was ruled by 
its weightiest members, its elders, called in the Greek language 
presbyters. Presbyterians believe that with the Reformation, the 
Church finally returned to its original faith and form of government. 
The major figure in that phase of the Reformation which resulted 
in the re-establishment of the Presbyterian system was one of the 
most influential Christians who ever lived, John Calvin. He is the 
outstanding figure among the second generation of the Reformers. 


Calvin was a brilliant French student of law who was converted to 
Protestantism by reading Luther and the New Testament. Forced to 
flee from France, he settled in Geneva, Switzerland, and succeeded, 
according to the Scotsman, John Knox, in turning that city into 



"the most perfect school of Christ that ever was on the earth since 
the days of the Apostles. 55 

Knox's judgment resulted from the central role which religion 
played in the municipal life and from the puritanical conduct on 
which Calvin insisted. His study of the New Testament led him to 
believe that Christ required of his followers earnest striving for 
moral perfection. Moreover, Calvin considered it the duty of minis- 
ters to point the road toward purity, and when necessary to force 
travel along that road. Consequently, the citizens of Geneva were 
punished not only for such sins as dishonesty, violence and lewdness, 
but also for dancing, staying away from church, criticizing ministers 
and speaking well of the Pope. One man received a three-months' 
banishment for observing when he heard an ass bray, "He chants a 
fine Psalm." This stern view of morals had subsequently a pro- 
nounced influence on the moral ideals of the Puritans, both in England 
and in America, as we shall see. 

Calvin set in motion forces which resulted in the modern evan- 
gelical form of worship, the form most widely used in the United 
States today. His influence on theology was also very great. He wrote 
a best seller, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, a work which 
furnished for many years the doctrinal basis for the majority of the 
Protestant churches. Calvin was sure, however, that he had not 
originated a theology; he and his followers believed that he merely 
expounded what was clearly taught in the Bible. A modern student 
of Calvin has declared, "No writings of the Reformation era were 
more feared by the Roman Church, more zealously fought against, 
more hostilely pursued, than Calvin's 'Institutes.' "* 

Calvin's influence on politics was also great and furnishes an 
excellent illustration of the carrying power of ideas which achieve the 
deepest religious sanctions. He contended that, according to the 
New Testament, ecclesiastical government, instead of resting in the 
hands of one man, should be in the hands of public representatives, 
persons chosen to protect the interest of the Church as a whole. This 
ecclesiastical theory spread widely over the Western world and was 
adopted by secular as well as religious thinkers. Calvinism un- 
doubtedly played a leading part in the development of democratic 


For the past three centuries, the center of Presbyterianism in 
Great Britain has been Scotland. The leader in bringing this nation 
to Protestantism was John Knox. Knox, a devout Roman Catholic 
priest, was converted to Protestantism about the middle of the 
sixteenth century. He joined those in his country who had taken 
arms against the Catholics, was captured, and spent nineteen months 
as a rower in the galleys of France, the nation which came to the 
assistance of the Catholic rulers of Scotland. After his release he 
spent twelve years in exile, first in England, and then as pastor of the 
English refugees at Geneva; Calvin was then at the height of his 
powers and influenced Knox greatly. Knox returned to his native 
land in 1559; a year later the Scottish Parliament, supposing it 
could legislate belief, abolished Catholicism, and declared the Re- 
formed faith to be the religion of the state and all the people. 

Naturally this action did not accomplish the Reformation in Scot- 
land. A long and dramatic struggle ensued between the Catholic party, 
led by Queen Mary, and the Protestant party, led by Knox. In the 
end, Knox, aided by the misdemeanors of the Queen and the power 
of the English government, brought his party to victory. He estab- 
lished Calvinist theology as the doctrine of the Church and Calvinist 
polity as the government of the Church. The Scotch have succeeded, 
sometimes in spite of great difficulty, in maintaining Presbyterianism 
as the dominant religion of their country down to the present day. 

Calvinist beliefs exerted a tremendous influence on English poli- 
tics in the decades between the death of Henry VIII, in the middle of 
the sixteenth century, and the passage of the famous Act of Tolera- 
tion, in 1689. This period of European history was dominated by the 
celebrated principle, Cujus regio ejus religio, the religion of a coun- 
try and of all its people should be that of its sovereign. The sovereign 
of England during the last forty years of the sixteenth century was 
Elizabeth, a woman whose primary interest was politics, not religion. 
Nevertheless, she was the daughter of Anne Boleyn and, therefore, 
was forced to maintain England's Protestantism, or else have herself 
declared illegitimate and unlawfully Queen. Yet, Elizabeth had no 
wish to alienate unnecessarily her subjects who retained Catholic 


sympathies. Consequently, she and her bishops steered a middle 
course; under their direction the Church of England adopted, gen- 
erally, a Calvinist theology while it retained many of the traditional 
rites and ceremonies. 

The political nature of this arrangement meant that religion was 
often attended to as an official duty. The clergy, dependent on the 
favor of the Queen, frequently went about their tasks in a mechani- 
cal, ear-to-the-ground sort of way. Soon most Englishmen of genu- 
ine piety were intent on change. Two movements resulted: one was 
called Separatism and the other Puritanism. The Separatists were 
the most radical; they believed the difficulty of getting reform in the 
Church of England was so great that they must withdraw, must 
separate, from the existing Church in order to re-establish the Church 
of Christ and the Apostles. The story of their experiences will be told 
in the chapters on the Congregationalists and the Baptists. 

The Puritans, on the other hand, insisted that the Church of Eng- 
land must be "purified" of Roman Catholicism, rid of the "rags of 
Popery." The Puritan (originally a term used in contempt) found 
the basis for his faith in the Bible, a book which he studied with great 
care. All over England, by the end of Elizabeth's reign, were to be 
found individual men seated by their firesides, spending long evenings 
poring over the Scriptures, searching for the will of God. Thus Bible 
study became fixed in the habits of many generations of English- 
speaking Protestants. 

The Puritans are responsible also for other customs which had 
widespread influence in England and America: the possession of a 
family Bible, family prayers, faithful self-examination as a substitute 
for the confessional, the undecorated church building, extempore 
prayer in worship, the omission of the sign of the cross and of kneel- 
ing before the altar in worship, the wearing of lay apparel by the 
clergy, belief in the correctness of public worship in unconsecrated 
buildings, and the "English" (solemn) as against the "Continental" 
(gay) Sabbath. 

The conflict between the Anglicans and the Puritans grew so 
serious during the reigns of Elizabeth's successors, the Stuarts, as 
to become the all-absorbing concern of British politics. The Stuart 
kings, especially Charles I, were bent on exercising the royal authority 


over the Church. The Fenians were in high disfavor. "Such as could 
not flee," as a writer of that day declared, "were tormented in the 
bishop's courts, fined, whipped, pilloried, imprisoned, and suffered to 
enjoy no rest." Finally, rebellion broke out the King and the 
Anglicans on one side, the Puritans and the bourgeois on the other. 
The latter were victorious, and eventually Charles I was dethroned 
and beheaded. The Puritan armies of this period had a morale such 
as comes only from deep-seated conviction. Their victories gave rise to 
the quip, "There is nothing as dangerous as a Presbyterian just off Ms 

During the Puritan ascendancy, Parliament, in an effort to estab- 
lish standards in religion, called to Westminster a group of leading 
clerygmen, most of them Presbyterians. This Westminster Assembly 
prepared the famous Westminster Confession of Faith, a creed 
which in general summarized the teachings of Calvin. Parliament 
abolished the Prayerbook, adopted the Presbyterian Directory of 
Worship, and adopted the Presbyterian form of church government. 

Then came a reaction under Cromwell. He was an Independent 
who favored tolerance for all persons who held to the Protestant 
fundamentals; he had as little use for compulsory Presbyterianism 
as for compulsory Anglicanism. During the ten years of his rule, 
religious toleration became the guiding principle of the government. 

But after Cromwell, the Stuarts again required religious con- 
formity. Finally, under William and Mary a new dynasty was estab- 
lished, the old idea of conformity was abandoned, and the legal 
foundations of religious toleration were laid down. The Toleration 
Act (1689) is a great landmark in religious history. This Act was 
not perfect; it failed to grant freedom to all groups, notably to non- 
trinitarians and to Catholics. But it did establish toleration as a 
principle, both in England and in her colonies. 


All Protestant churches in America show markedly the influence 
of Calvin's genius. This influence is most evident today in two of 
our denominations. One is called Reformed. On the continent of 
Europe chiefly in Switzerland, France, Holland, Hungary and 
Germany most of the churches which adopted the Calvinist teach- 


ings took this name. When members of these bodies migrated to 
America, they naturally brought their churches with them. There 
are in the country about a half million persons in churches now using 
the name "Reformed." 

The second American denomination in which Calvin's influence 
is especially evident is, of course, the Presbyterian. The first presby- 
tery was organized in 1705 and the first synod in 1716, In these 
early decades Presbyterian churches made steady progress, chiefly 
in the middle colonies. New Jersey to South Carolina. 

During the Revolutionary War, Presbyterians were active in the 
struggle for independence; one writer claims that "more than any 
other single group, [they] were responsible for the development and 
success of the American Revolution," 2 Some English leaders called 
the Revolution "a Presbyterian rebellion," and Horace Walpole said 
in Parliament, "Cousin America has run off with a Presbyterian 
parson." These statements no doubt put too much stress on religion 
as a factor in the immediate causes of the American Revolution. Yet 
there can be little doubt that the contribution of the Presbyterians to 
the war was very great. Many of them lived in those colonies where 
the Church of England was the religion of the state and where 
proposals had been made to bring over from England a bishop who 
would be supported by taxation. 


One Presbyterian clergyman played such a prominent role in the 
struggle for independence that a review of his career will be illu- 
minating. He was also the leading figure in the Presbyterian Church 
through two formative decades. 

John Witherspoon was bom in Scotland, fifty-three years before 
the signing of the Declaration of Independence. His father was a 
clergyman of substantial though not outstanding gifts. But the son 
proved to have exceptional abilities. It is said that he could read the 
Bible at age four, and that subsequently he was forced to memorize 
so much of it that at one time "he could repeat nearly all the New 
Testament." 3 Later in life, he once declared that after writing a ser- 
mon he would engage to repeat it word for word after reading it over 
three times. At thirteen lie was pronounced ready for the University 


of Edinburgh, an early age even for that day (the philosopher, David 
Hume, Witherspoon's elder contemporary, entered at eleven). Three 
weeks after celebrating his sixteenth birthday, Witherspoon became 
a Master of Arts, no doubt a comment on the kind of education pro- 
vided by the University as well as on the brilliance of the student's 
mind. He continued at the University for four more years, studying 
theology. At age twenty-two he was called to a substantial parish 
and two years later first became a member of the General Assembly, 
the ruling court of the Church. At age twenty-eight, he was selected 
to preach at the General Assembly the "annual sermon before the 
Lord High Commissioner." 

At age forty-five, after a successful and stormy career in Scotland, 
Witherspoon was asked to become president of Princeton, then 
called the College of New Jersey. The College in that day was a tiny 
institution of four professors (including the president), two or three 
tutors, and about a hundred students. It was a Presbyterian strong- 
hold, supplying most of the Presbyterian clergymen in all the middle 
colonies. Witherspoon came to America as a missionary venture and 
at considerable financial sacrifice. The College was a young, strug- 
gling institution, badly in need of vigorous leadership. Moreover, 
American Presbyterianism, rent by controversy and feeling the at- 
tacks of eighteenth-century secularism, needed guidance from the 
old country. Benjamin Rush, later to become a famous physician 
and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, enthusiastically 
assured Witherspoon that he could become "a bishop among the 

In America he soon came into prominence; at his first appearance 
at the annual meeting of the Synod of New York and Phila- 
delphia, he was made a member of no less than eight separate com- 
mittees. Never a great preacher and a rather ugly man ("an in- 
tolerably homely old Scotchman"), he nevertheless, according to 
one observer, had more "presence" than any public character save 
George Washington. One Presbyterian clergyman wrote that Wither- 
spoon was "as plain an old man as I ever saw and as free from any 
assumption of dignity"; yet at General Assembly he "evinced such 
an intuitive clearness of apprehension and correctness of judgment, 
that his pointed remarks commonly put an end to the discussion." 4 


He served as president of the College of New Jersey until the end 
of his life, twenty-six years after Ms arrival in America. He proved 
to be an able administrator; and the College prospered until the 
Revolutionary War took away its students, damaged its buildings, 
and dissipated its funds. But Ms administrative powers were out- 
weighed by Ms abilities as a teacher. He liked and understood boys; 
and he believed in them. To one graduating class he said: 

It is a common saying that men do not know their own weaknesses; 
but it is as true, and a truth more important., that they do not know their 
own strength. . . . Multitudes of moderate capacity have been useful in 
their generation, respected by the public, and successful in life; while 
those of superior talents from nature, by mere slothfulness and idle habits, 
or self-indulgence, have lived useless and died contemptible. 5 

Here is expressed an understanding worthy of the best modem 
educational psychology; the powers of most students will blossom 
in a climate so full of encouragement and confidence. Witherspoon's 
students made a distinguished record in the early decades of our 
national life. Less than five hundred graduated from the College 
during Ms tenure. But of these, one, James Madison, became Presi- 
dent of the United States. Another, Aaron Burr, became Vice-Presi- 
dent Ten became members of the President's cabinet; three, justices 
of the Supreme Court; twenty-one, members of the Senate; thirty-nine, 
members of the House of Representatives; twelve, governors of states. 
But it was in the fields of religion and education that Ms students 
made their most notable contributions. Twenty-three per cent of 
Ms students became clergymen, and of these 11 per cent became 
presidents of colleges, including such institutions as Princeton, Uni- 
versity of North Carolina, University of Nashville, University of 
Georgia, and Oglethorpe. In addition, Ms students founded acad- 
emies and elementary schools in community after community. In 
that day, as in tMs, Presbyterian interest in education was high; the 
Presbyterian minister on the frontier was half schoolteacher. 

After Witherspoon had been on this side of the Atlantic scarcely 
half a decade, he began to take a prominent part in the struggle 
against England. Prior to tMs time he had held firmly to the convic- 
tion that clergymen should not meddle in politics. He feared state 
control of religion and defended the theory that the Church can best 
serve society by being above social conflict. But he found eventually, 


as will those who hold a similar thesis today, that the theory is good 
only when it concerns relatively unimportant matters. When men are 
straggling for survival, or for liberty, or for justice, the Church will 
either be a part of the straggle or the Church will be abandoned. 

Witherspoon arrived from Scotland a loyal subject of the Crown; 
but soon his democratic nature was greatly impressed by the relative 
absence of class distinction in America, by the assured and straight- 
forward demeanor of common men, by the extent to which prosperity 
was shared by all groups, by the absence of beggars, by the possibility 
of traveling from town to town without armed escort, and by the 
climate which, as one Scotsman put it, is "no such black, foul weather 
as at home." Lite many a later immigrant, Witherspoon soon gave to 
America Ms unstinted loyalty. When England made clear that she 
intended to rule the colonies in the interests of British economic im- 
perialism, there was no question where his sympathies lay. 

On July 4, 1774, he was made one of nine members of the leading 
revolutionary group in Somerset County, New Jersey, the Com- 
mittee of Correspondence. Two weeks later he represented his 
County at a New Jersey congress, met to consider the developing 
situation. Later that same summer, he published his first political 
writing, a vigorous pamphlet entitled Thoughts on American Lib- 
erty. In August, John Adams went through Princeton on his way to 
Philadelphia to attend the first session of the Continental Congress; 
there he drank a glass of wine with the president of the College of 
New Jersey and pronounced him "as high a son of liberty as any man 
in America." 

The news of the Battle of Lexington and Concord, eight months 
later, galvanized the Presbyterian Synod of New York and Phila- 
delphia into political action; Witherspoon was made chairman of a 
committee to draw up a pastoral letter in which the Synod urged 
clergymen to avoid politics in the pulpit no longer, and to remember 
that the most courageous soldier is the pious man who has been filled 
with righteous anger. 

In June, 1776, Witherspoon and four others were elected to rep- 
resent New Jersey in the Continental Congress and were empow- 
ered, "... if you shall judge it necessary or expedient," to join 
with the delegates of other colonies "... in declaring the United 


Colonies independent of Great Britain.*' The New Jersey representa- 
tives arrived at the Congress on June 28; six days later they joined in 
signing the Declaration of Independence. 

Then began for Witherspoon a period of strenuous activity and 
great harassment. Service in the Continental Congress proved very 
burdensome not only because of the magnitude of the problems 
with which the Congress had to deal, but also because of the personal 
difficulties in the midst of which delegates had to work. The states 
refused to provide properly for the support of their representatives; 
in addition, this was a time of great inflation. At one point conditions 
became so bad that "it began to look as if some morning soon 
members of Congress would not be able to pay for their breakfasts." 6 
Attendance at meetings was veiy irregular, delegates often yielding 
to the temptation to mount their horses and ride home. Moreover, 
Congress had upon occasion to flee before the British and even be- 
fore the wrath of its own unpaid troops. 

In the midst of this situation, Witherspoon proved to be one of the 
most valuable members of the Continental Congress and one of its 
most consistent attenders. He served for four straight years, and 
then, after a year's interval, served another year and all at great 
personal sacrifice, since he had of necessity to neglect his personal 
affairs. Once when Robert Morris needed a sum of money for the 
use of the Congress, Witherspoon signed a bond for the amount; 
after his death his estate had to make the bond good. 7 He served in 
all on more than one hundred and twenty committees and was a 
member of two standing committees of supreme importance the 
Board of War and the Committee on Foreign Affairs. So prominent 
was his role that a rumor a false one circulated widely to the 
effect that he was a member of a junto which was supposed to control 
congressional action. His biographer sums up his contribution in the 
Congress as follows: 

He . . . took an active part in the . . . debates on the Articles of Con- 
federation; shared in the formation of the new government's foreign 
alliances; witnessed that government floundering in a bankruptcy of 
which he had given it plain warning; assisted in organizing the executive 
departments that superseded the earlier committee plan; was a leader in 
the discussion of the perplexing problem of western lands; . . . when 
peace with Great Britain was impending he was conspicuously prominent 


in directing the preliminaries in selecting the American commissioners, 
and actually dictated himself their most important instructions. In addi- 
tion to these major concerns he was occupied with a multitude of lesser 
activities which may be classed under the head of humanitarian endeavors 
such as the kindlier treatment of prisoners, the checking of cruelty in 
warfare, the better administration of military hospitals, the improvement 
of health and morals and therefore of discipline, in the army. 8 

When the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown ended the Revolu- 
tion, Congress promulgated a Thanksgiving Proclamation which it 
had asked Witherspoon to write. 

In spite of his consuming revolutionary activities, Witherspoon 
continued Ms educational and religious leadership. He struggled to 
keep the College from disintegrating; all through the war, he man- 
aged never to miss commencement or a trustees' meeting and he 
usually was on hand at the beginning of the school year. In 1779, at 
his suggestion, Ms salary was cut in half and the amount saved was 
applied to the salary of one of the professors; four years later this 
arrangement was made permanent. For several years, he permitted 
himself to work under a rule wMch provided that he was personally 
responsible for student arrears in tuition. It was necessary for him to 
put forth heroic efforts to repair the campus buildings after their 
habitation by both British and American troops. 

He also continued throughout the war his leadership of American 
Presbyterianism. Often he was found in the pulpit, preacMng vigor- 
ously, as his duties took him about the country. In 1771 he had been 
elected treasurer of the Synod of New York and Philadelphia, an 
office he filled for a decade and a half. When he was free at the close 
of hostilities to devote himself again to the Church, he was placed 
by his clerical colleagues on many important committees. The most 
significant of these assignments was the chairmanship of a committee 
wMch framed a new constitution for the Church. Thus he had a 
prominent part in shaping the present structure of American Presby- 
terianism. At the first meeting of the General Assembly of the newly 
organized Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, 
Witherspoon preached the opening sermon and presided until a 
moderator was elected. 

Two years later at the meeting of the Assembly, Witherspoon is 
reported to have said to a delegate, "You can scarcely imagine the 


pleasure it has given me in taking a survey of this Assembly to be- 
lieve that a decided majority of all the ministerial members have not 
only been sons of our college, but my own pupils/' By actual count, 
of the thirty-six ministers present, twenty-eight were graduates of 
the College of New Jersey and sixteen Witherspoon's own students. 9 
What better evidence could be given of the worth of the religious train- 
ing he had given at Princeton? 


The activities of the Presbyterians during the Revolution only 
one of their ministers was Tory and he was expelled early in the war 
placed the Church in a comparatively strong position at the close 
of hostilities. The conflict had made the religious climate rigorous for 
all church groups; but public opinion reacted so favorably to the 
indomitable temper of Presbyterianism that it was placed in a strong 
position from which to attack the problems of the expanding West. 

In the decades that have intervened between that time and our 
own, Presbyterian churches have had a steady growth; they have 
today a total membership of four and one-third million and a total 
constituency much larger. Except for New England where their 
cousins the Congregationalists are exceptionally strong, the Presby- 
terians are well-represented throughout the nation. They are especially 
strong in the Middle Atlantic area. 

They are divided among ten bodies. Most of them are small. Two, 
however, are large institutions. The United Presbyterian Church in the 
U.S.A., often called Northern Presbyterian, has three and one-quarter 
million members; it was formed in 1958 by the joining of the large 
Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and the much smaller United 
Presbyterian Church. The Presbyterian Church in the U.S., often 
called Southern Presbyterian, has nine hundred thousand members. 
The Northern Presbyterians and the Southern Presbyterians formed 
one Church prior to the Civil War. 


Although a large percentage of Presbyterian laymen would be sur- 
prised to hear it, the seventeenth century Westminster Confession of 
Faith is still the nominal standard of Presbyterian doctrine, in both the 


North and the South. This three-centuries-old document contains the 
familiar Christian teachings such dogmas as are found in the 
Apostles' Creed. Present-day Presbyterianism holds to the sovereignty 
of God, the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrec- 
tion, the Grace of God, the Revelation of God in the Bible, Original 
Sin, Eternal Life. Presbyterianism is conservative in its theology and 
evangelical in its mood. 

But in addition to these traditional teachings, the Westminster 
Confession contains other dogmas, to which few contemporary 
Christians adhere; among the most noteworthy of these is predestina- 
tion. The following are examples of the statements on predestination 
which are still printed in the Constitution of the Northern Church: 

By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men 
and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained 
to everlasting death. 

These angels and men, thus predestinated and foreordained, are par- 
ticularly and unchangeably designed; and their number is so certain and 
definite that it cannot be either increased or diminished. . . . 

The rest of mankind, God was pleased ... to pass by, and to ordain 
them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious 
justice. . . . 

We are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and 
wholly inclined to all evil. . . . 

Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ 
through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth. 
So also are all other elect persons, who are incapable of being outwardly 
called by the ministry of the Word. 

Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of 
the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they 
never truly come to Christ, and therefore cannot be saved; much less can 
men, not professing the Christian religion, be saved in any other way 
whatsoever than by Christ, be they never so diligent to frame their lives 
according to the Hght of nature, and the law of that religion they do 
profess. . . . 

There is no sin so small but it deserves damnation. 

Does the average Presbyterian believe all these dogmas? Emphati- 
cally No! In the classic era of Presbyterianism, they were believed. 
At one time all Presbyterian (and most Anglican, Congregational 
and Baptist) ministers preached that all men deserve damnation, but 


God chooses some men for heaven and others for hell. As late as 
two or three generations ago, some Presbyterian clergymen were still 
preaching that some infants, though they could not possibly have 
sinned before their death, were to spend eternity in the tortures of 
hell. Some morbid preachers, driving the point home in their ser- 
mons, cried, "There are babies in hell not a span long." Nor was the 
blow softened by the insistence that infant damnation was but half 
the story, the other half being the salvation of other infants. 

Such doctrines have been vigorously denied by Presbyterians for 
decades. One clergyman was quoted as saying in 1884 concerning 
the extreme statements of the Westminster Confession, "Need I 
assure you, that we reject every one of these revolting ideas, with as 
much sincerity as any of those who charge us with them." 10 The Con- 
stitution of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. verified his position. In 
1903, a Declaratory Statement was adopted by this Church; the 
Statement continues as part of the Constitution of the United Presby- 
terian Church. A portion of this Statement follows: 

Concerning those who perish, the doctrine of God's eternal decree is 
held in harmony with the doctrine that God desires not the death of any 
sinner, but has provided in Christ a salvation sufficient for all, adapted 
to all, and freely offered in the Gospel to all; ... The Confession of Faith 
... is not to be regarded as teaching that any who die in infancy are lost. 

This Statement, of course, directly contradicts parts of the West- 
minster Confession of Faith, which still begins the Constitution. The 
contradiction is not explained or resolved. Subscription to the Con- 
fession is not required of persons who seek ordination. Rather they 
are asked, "Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of 
Faith of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in 
the Holy Scriptures?" An affirmative answer to this question, as 
some Presbyterians are at pains to point out, is not equivalent 
to asserting personal faith in the Confession. Also, laymen who seek to 
join the Church are asked merely to make a public profession of their 
faith. One who is not a Presbyterian wonders why a document which 
so definitely misrepresents the actual beliefs of most contemporary 
Presbyterians, is permitted to occupy so prominent a place in Presby- 
terianism. One Presbyterian clergyman wrote, "Presbyterians have a 
built-in invitation to dishonesty as long as the Westminster Confession 


of Faith and the Catechisms are subscribed to as the authoritative 
statements of Christian Doctrine. These documents no longer say 
what they mean and when we repeat them, we don't mean what the 
say.'* 11 Other denominations also retain creedal statements which are 
not representative of current beliefs, as will be noted later. 

Among the Northern Presbyterians, theological self-consciousness 
had led to a number of embarrassing church fights. One was the heresy 
trial of Professor Charles A. Briggs. This scholar was expelled in 1893 
from the Presbyterian ministry for teaching propositions which the 
overwhelming majority of Presbyterian clergymen in the North today 
would accept. 

In 1924, Hariy Emerson Fosdick, a Baptist employed as preacher 
by a Presbyterian church, was "invited" by the Presbytery of New 
York to become a Presbyterian minister; thus the Presbytery made 
clear that Fosdick could not continue in one of its pulpits unless he 
conformed doctrinally. He chose to resign. 

In 1936, about one hundred ultraconservative ministers, headed by 
J. Gresham Machen, were expelled because they established an Inde- 
pendent Board of Presbyterian Foreign Missions; they felt that the 
Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions followed policies which were 
not in accord with a strict interpretation of the Confession of Faith. 

In 1959, a group of Fundamentalists tried to persuade the General 
Assembly not to confirm Dr. Theodore A. Gill as president of San 
Francisco Theological Seminary because he had written concerning 
the virgin birth, "What of us who make the Virgin Birth no part of our 
personal confession . . . ?" and had added that this miracle is "some- 
thing to worry about." Some members of the Assembly demanded 
that Dr. Gill be asked simply to say, "I believe in the virgin birth." 12 
The Assembly, however, voted overwhelmingly to confirm him with- 
out requiring any such declaration. One estimate put the fundamental- 
ist vote at about twenty out of nearly one thousand Assembly mem- 
bers. 13 

These controversies were a sad experience for all concerned. Today 
there is apparent among most Presbyterians a desire to permit real 
latitude of theological expression but at the same time to hold firmly 
to the Christian tradition. They hope for doctrinal unity without 
uniformity. Most Presbyterians appear determined to drive down the 


middle of the theological road veering neither toward Fundamental- 
ism nor toward Liberalism. 


Presbyterian polity can be illustrated by outlining the government 
of the United Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. 

A local church is governed by the Session, a body composed of the 
minister and a small group of ruling elders. A ruling elder is a layman 
who has been elected by the members of the church, and then ordained 
to eldership. In the old days elders held power for life. At present 
their term is limited to six years. The Session has complete over- 
sight of the spiritual life of the Church. It is the body which supervises 
worship, controls church buildings, plans educational programs, 
admits to membership; the Session can even excommunicate. But it 
does not have the power to choose the minister; that power is exer- 
cised by the congregation. 

The Sessions of a district usually ten to thirty are organized 
into Presbyteries. The Presbytery consists of all ministers in the district 
and of as many elders from each church as the church has pastors. 
The powers of this body are extensive: the Presbytery must veto or 
approve a local church's selection of minister, must arrange for his 
formal installation, must approve his resignation, must give consent 
to his dismissal, and may require Ms dismissal. The Presbytery ex- 
amines and ordains candidates for the ministry, has oversight of 
vacant churches, founds churches, unites them, divides them. These 
powers are y of course, used with discretion; Presbyterians will not be 
pushed around any more than will the rest of Americans. Yet a Pres- 
bytery can show its teeth on occasion. 

The authority of the Presbytery restricts the powers of the local 
churches and increases the security of the pastor. Thus Presbyterian 
clergymen are in a much less vulnerable position than are the clergy- 
men of congregationally controlled groups, but are in a more vulner- 
able position than are Episcopal clergymen, whose dismissal cannot 
be arbitrary, and whose salaries cannot suddenly be lowered by 
disaffected vestries or administrators. 

The Presbyteries (not less than three) are organized into Synods. 
The Presbyteries are also organized into the General Assembly. This 


body is the highest authority in the Church and is vested with legisla- 
tive, executive and judicial powers. 

In all these governing bodies, every member stands on an equal 
footing. Elders have the same voting power as the clergy and one 
clergyman's vote is as good as another's. There is no House of Bishops 
in Presbyterianism. Yet each minister is officially a "bishop"; he joins 
with Ms fellow bishops in exercising the episcopal function whenever 
Ms Presbytery acts in a supervisory capacity over a group of churches. 
Another title held by the minister is "teaching elder." 

Women may be elected as ruling elders and as representatives to 
the higher courts. But they were not permitted to be ordained as 
ministers until recently. A vigorous effort in the late forties to 
secure the passage of legislation permitting the ordination of women 
went down to ignominious defeat. The mood of the debate was fre- 
quently on a level beneath the seriousness of the problem. One clergy- 
man asserted that with women in the pulpit a new item would have 
to be introduced into the worship service: an organ interlude so the 
pastor could powder her nose. Another declared ordination "would 
increase the alarming tendency to throw the whole burden and re- 
sponsibility of church work upon women." A pastor in New York 
City said: 

[The proposal to ordain women] is absolutely contrary to the Bible 
and to common sense. . . . Women are not temperamentally fitted to be 
ministers. . . . Women are not especially good at keeping other folks' 
secrets and that is one of the things a minister must do. Women are apt 
to be influenced by their feelings in matters of belief rather than by sound 
judgment, . . . Women are usually too kind and sympathetic with other 
women. 14 

In 1956, however, the Church declared officially: 

The Bible does not prescribe a permanent and specific social structure 
for the Church or society; it is proper to speak of equality of status for 
men and women both in terms of their creation and redemption; and 
there is no theological ground for denying ordination to women simply 
because they are women. 

For a long period Presbyterian efforts at church union had dis- 
appointing results. In 1904, three-fifths of the Cumberland Presby- 
terian Church (a body which had broken away a century earlier) went 
back to the Northern Presbyterians; but the remaining two-fifths re- 


fused to reunite and insisted on maiHtaiiiing the Cumberland name and 
organization. A recurrent flirtation between the Northern and South- 
em churches has shown the Southern Presbyterians to be filled with a 
spirit of denominational complacency, even of self-righteousness. In 
1957 the vote by Southerners not to merge with Northerners was in- 
fluenced by some men who objected to being "unequally yoked 
together with unbelievers." The unfortunate experiences of the North- 
em Church in dealings with the Episcopalians have already been re- 
counted. Recent experiences have teen more encouraging. In 1958, 
the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and the United Presbyterian 
Church joined to form the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. 
And in I960, the leading official of this denomination preached a 
sermon which precipitated a nationwide discussion of union by the 
Methodist Church, the Protestant Episcopal Church, the United 
Presbyterian Church, and the United Church of Christ. 

As has been noted, one of the things Presbyterians are famous for 
is their high educational standards for the clergy. The Presbyteries 
examine the academic qualifications of candidates for ordination with 
great care. The standing of Presbyterian theological seminaries, if not 
the highest of any denomination, is certainly as high as any. The 
Cumberland secession sprang in part from opposition to ordaining 
none but educated men. This insistence was a severe handicap to the 
growth of the Church in the pioneer period, since not enough men 
could qualify to meet the demands of the growing frontier. Baptists 
and Methodists, whose educational standards were much lower, grew 
much faster. A Southern Presbyterian comments as follows on the 
contemporary educational emphasis; 

We think; we have a very scholarly ministry. One can scarcely lift a 
leaf in this part of the world without uncovering a doctor of divinity. 
Almost exactly half of the men who died in our ministerial ranks last year 
were D.D.s. That means that everybody thinks of himself as an expert 
in the mysteries of God with the result that each is inclined to look on 
everybody else as wrong if he does not agree. "I've been to school and 
I know," might be written over the study door of every Presbyterian 
pastor. 15 


A traveler trying to find a characteristic expression of American 
religious life could do no better than to investigate Presbyterianisau 


It is at the religious center. Theologically, Presbyterians are moder- 
ate supemataralists. Govemmentally, they are conservative demo- 
crats. Liturgically, they are tamed evangelicals. Politically., their 
clergymen fall slightly on the conservative side of center. 16 

Such facts do not mean that Presbyterians are merely lukewarm 
about the Church; in many ways the Presbyterian record is outstand- 
ing. In missionary giving, in concern for religious education, in re- 
ligious journalism, in support of colleges, in church extension, Presby- 
terians are at or near the top among Protestant denominations. Yet 
one Presbyterian near the close of World War II could write about his 

Nothing no great cause nor any master irritant is deeply disturbing 
the Presbyterian Church at the present time. . . . This is, of course, ex- 
actly what disturbs those who love it that in a day of such indescribable 
catastrophe our church should be relatively undisturbed, characterized by 
the same old comfortable spiritual lethargy, continuing to sit on well 
cushioned pews and listen to sermons preached primarily to please the 
parish palate, . , . and never dreaming of using its full power to imple- 
ment its principles. . . . 

One of our greatest troubles is that, as Spinoza observed, "We confine 
ourselves to the possible, and so we have no problem." . . . 

Stanley Jones was disturbingly close to the truth when he remarked 
that the modern church is more of a field for evangelism than a force 
for it. 17 

Fifteen years later another Presbyterian could write that 

at our best we have tried to transform the world more into accordance 
with the will of God, by the Spirit and in the might of God. In recent 
generations it has taken quite a spasm of historical imagination to re- 
member this about our placid, settled selves. But it is true, nonetheless: 
we Presbyterians were a revolutionary party, we were a radical bunch 
when our bright reputation was burned into the history books. Presby- 
terians in their shining hour knew that the Church is not here for its own 
sake, that the Church is here to help with all the wrenching and razing 
that is necessary if the world is ever to be reoriented to the will of God 
who made it and loved it well enough to live in it and die for it to save 
it. We Presbyterians came boiling up out of Geneva, spreading out over 
the world, a rambunctious, disputatious, bookish outfit, resisting the 
massive status quo wherever we went, suffering martyrdom, leading revo- 
lutions, raising rebels, crossing oceans, founding schools and hospitals 
and libraries, inventing new forms of government, even monkeying with 
the inherited economic system. . , . 

That day is largely over now. Running as hard as we can, we cannot be 
sure that we will even catch up with the world, much less take the lead 


again. Nowadays world leaders lead, events happen, and the panting 
Church far back in the ruck gasps Its consternation and feebly pipes its 
well-meant counsel, knowing ail the while in its despairing bones that 
leaders will continue to lead by less avoidable lights than ours, and that 
events will continue to happen by another quite oblivious logic. How 
could we expect more when so few for whom the church seeks to speak 
understand any more what she says or why she says it, and when so few 
to whom the Church speaks have any idea of her reference or her 
meaning? . . . 

What ails us as a Church? It seems to me that we Presbyterians are 
relying too much on our vast machinery to move us. And the farther out 
we push our glittering rim, the hollower we seem to go at the heart. 18 

These judgments apply with equal cogency to most of our religious 
organizations. Caa the spiritual problems of our time be met by 
middle-of-the-road policies sponsored without passion? Revolutionary 
occasions demand revolutionary measures. No lesson of history is 
plainer than the fact that in time of crisis the voice of moderation is 
drowned by the shouts of a chorus of extremists. This principle is as 
true of religion as it is of politics or economics. 



THE BOLDEST and In many ways the most interesting effort to practice 
the ideals of the ecumenical movement is the formation of The United 
Churcli of Christ. Prior to its emergence, only bodies with similar types 
of church government had united: episcopally governed bodies had 
united, and congregationally governed bodies had united. But in the 
United Church of Christ a presbyteriaHy governed body, the Evangeli- 
cal and Reformed Church, and a congregationally governed body, the 
Congregational Christian Churches, formed a union into which went 
aspects of both systems of government. 

An understanding of this newly formed denomination can be had 
only on the basis of a description of the two bodies which joined 


"To belong to a Baptist church," wrote one authority on Congrega- 
tional polity, "one must be a Baptist. . . , To belong to an Episcopal 
church one must be an Episcopalian." But "a Congregational church 
is not a church of Congregationalists, but a church of Christians in 
which the congregation governs. It has absolutely no sectarian tests." 1 
Another Congregational writer contended that Congregationalism is 
the pristine type of Christianity; "the Churches of the apostolic age 
were Congregational Churches." 2 

The claims of these writers are greater than would be made by 
most students of Congregationalism. Nevertheless, these claims point 
the direction of thinking in this group. Like the members of the other 



Christian bodies we are studying, Coegregatioealists are Irmly con- 
vinced they are the true inheritors of the spirit and message of 
early Christianity. The modem phase of Congregationalism out of 
which grew Unitarianism began with the conflicts in Elizabethan 
England. But Congregationalists would no more date the beginning 
of their movement in the sixteenth century than Roman Catholics 
would date the beginning of theirs with the Council of Trent or 
Episcopalians the beginning of theirs with Henry VIII. 

The Elizabethans who were given the name Congregationalists 
found in the New Testament a clear command to seek perfection, to 
which end they felt compelled to hurry on the Reformation "without 
tarry-ing for any." They believed in a "gathered" church, a church 
composed only of True Christians as they called themselves- They 
lived in a time when it was generally assumed that a person became a 
Christian simply by being bom into a Christian society and receiving 
the rite of baptism. But the True Christians contended that Christ's 
Church consists only of persons who give clear evidence of their 
Christian character and thus are "proved saints." These Congrega- 
tionalists also contended that the local church is not subject to the 
outside control of either bishop or presbytery but is properly governed 
in ecclesiastical matters by the members who are united together by a 

The Congregationalists differed among themselves over their views 
of the Church of England. Some of them were Separatists; they be- 
lieved the Church of England was not genuinely Christian and that 
they must withdraw, must separate, from it. Others believed that the 
Church of England was the true Church because, they affirmed, there 
had always been in it some genuine Christians who had practiced 
Congregational principles. Both of these groups played a prominent 
part in the establishment of Congregationalism in New England as 
will be indicated later. The story of the Separatist Congregationalists 
will be highlighted here because they founded the first successful 
colony in New England and because they espoused ideas somewhat 
more like ideas which came eventually to dominate the New England 

The Separatists met in little private groups for instruction and 
worship after what they considered to be the manner of the New 


Testament. Of course, such practices were In direct opposition to the 
clearly stated policy of the government. It considered conformity to 
the Church of England essential to the nation's safety, and legislated 
all manner of penalties against nonconformity. An ecclesiastical 
Commission, a kind of Inquisition, was established with the purpose 
of enforcing uniformity: the Commission was commanded to prevent 
private prayers if more than the immediate family were present, to 
forbid preaching by all persons except men ordained by the Church 
of England, to require the use of The Book of Common Prayer in the 
conduct of services of worship. In 1592, the death penalty was pre- 
scribed "for the Punishment of Persons obstinately refusing to come 
to church." * 

But the True Christians had seen a vision and were not to be dis- 
suaded from following it by persecution. They gathered secretly in 
homes, on board ships, out in the forests, in abandoned gravel pits. 
Many were thrown into prison and some were hanged. But the meet- 
ings continued. Men are not easily deterred from a course of action 
on which they believe rests their eternal salvation. - 

Separatism had a foothold in London, where the very size of the 
city gave protection. But for our story, the chief center of the move- 
ment was one hundred and fifty miles north of London on the great 
road that ran to Edinburgh. There, near Sherwood Forest, were two 
villages, Gainsborough and Scrooby, in which lived a group of peo- 
ple whose fortunes were destined to become well known in America. 
To this rural section, in the reign of James I, came men who had 
been trained in the Puritan atmosphere of Cambridge University. They 
had moved on in their thinking to Separatist convictions, and before 
long had a considerable following among the countryfolk. 

The King resolved to make these sectaries conform or to "harry 
them out of the land." Soon their position became intolerable and they 
decided to flee. William Bradford, later governor of Plymouth Colony 
in America, wrote concerning their situation: 

Having kept their meeting for the worship of God every Sabbath in 
one place or another, notwithstanding the diligence and malice of their 
adversaries, seeing that they could no longer continue under such cir- 
cumstances, they resolved to get over to Holland as soon as they could 
which was in the years 1607 and 1608, 3 


Thus the story of the Pilgrim Fathers. The record of their 

experiences will furnish another illustration of the extremes to which 
people are willing to go when they are in the grip of deep religious 


Hie Scrooby Separatists moved to Holland because they knew that 
there they would be granted religious liberty. They were not the first 
group of Separatists to migrate to that country; groups from London 
and Gainsborough had already gone over. The Dutch were unique in 
that era and in most others in the extent to which they had 
learned from their own sufferings the lesson of tolerance. 

In preparing for the trip, the Scrooby group had to work by stealth; 
for, leaving England without permission was as unlawful as was re- 
maining at home without conforming to the Church of England. The 
crossing was completed only at the expense of many trials, dangers and 
conflicts with the law. 

Settling in Leyden, the Pilgrims found it difficult to make a living; 
so difficult that some "preferred to submit to bondage, with danger 
to their conscience, rather than endure these privations. Some even 
preferred prisons in England to this liberty in Holland, with such 
hardships." 4 Moreover, they saw their children adopting the customs 
and speech of a strange land. And in addition, King James, by bring- 
ing pressure on the Dutch government, was finding ways to continue 
his harassment. And there was a strong probability of the renewal of 
war between Holland and Spain. Thus, these simple folk began again 
to ponder the wisdom of moving their homes, and their Church, to 
a foreign land, this time to America, a place as far from the reach of 
the King's molestation as earth afforded them. 

Even the contemplation of an attempt to colonize in America 
seemed foolhardy to many. Their resources were so meager that one 
authority on American colonization could write, 6t No enterprise in 
overseas settlement thus far undertaken can compare with this des- 
perate project of the Leyden Separatists." 5 But in spite of the hazards, 
a portion of the Church determined to make the attempt. After months 
of negotiation, planning and anxious conference, they finally made an 


agreement with the Plymouth branch of the Virginia Company to 
settle In the lands under its control. The prospects were so unfavor- 
able that only about a sixth of the members of the Church decided to 
make the first voyage. 

John Robinson, their pastor, remained behind with the majority 
of the Church. Before the departure he preached a sermon in which 
he stated principles still revered by Congregationalists: 

I charge you that you follow me no farther than you have seen me 
follow the Lord Jesus Christ. ... I am verily persuaded, the Lord has 
more Truth yet to break forth out of His Holy Word. ... I beseech you, 
remember, 'tis an Article of your Church Covenant, that you be ready 
to receive whatever Truth shall be made known to you from the written 
Word of God. ... It is not possible . . . that perfection of Knowledge 
should break forth at once. 

Sailing to England they were joined by about eighty more passen- 
gers, only one or two of whom were avowed Separatists; the rest had 
been hired by the Plymouth Company to aid in the work of coloniza- 
tion. The colonists set out in two ships; unfortunately, three hundred 
miles beyond Lands End they had to turn around and make for port, 
one ship proving "leaky as a sieve." They abandoned her and trans- 
ferred passengers and goods to the Mayflower except that a score of 
the passengers, including one of the Separatist families, abandoned 
the project. "Thus, like Gideon's army," wrote Bradford, "this small 
number was divided, as if the Lord thought these few too many for 
the great work He had to do." 6 

On board was a company of just over one hundred passengers, 
thirty-five from the Leyden Church, crowded on a tiny ship of one 
hundred eighty tons. In midocean, a storm was encountered during 
which one of the main beams amidships bent and cracked alarmingly. 
Some persons counseled turning back. But temporary repairs were 
made, and the ship sailed on. During another storm, one of the 
passengers, venturing out on deck, was washed out into the sea; but 
providentially he caught hold of a rope that was trailing in the water 
and was dragged back on board. Finally, at the beginning of the winter 
of 1620, the Pilgrims sighted Cape Cod. 

Before they landed, they drew up and signed the famous Mayflower 
Compact: "solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and of one 


another [we] covenant aad together into a civil 

body politic." This type of covenant was familiar to the Separatists; 
for, the covenant idea inheres in the very nature of the gathered 
church. The Mayflower Compact extended the covenant idea to civil 
government and was a long step down the road toward democracy. It 
was signed by the adult males without distinction of class or religious 

The rigors of the succeeding months cannot even be imagined by 
persons who have never at any time of year spent a single night out- 
of-doors with no covering and in wet clothing. That needs to be 
experienced to be understood. The Pilgrims were forced to anchor a 
mile and a half out in the harbor, and could come ashore only at high 
tide. On December 25, the first building was begun, and by the middle 
of January most of the group were living ashore. But in the following 
weeks they faced the most terrible ordeal of all their experiences. A 
sickness which they called "galloping consumption" came upon 
them. Six died in December, eight in January, seventeen in February, 
and thirteen in March. 

In the time of worst distress, there were but six or seven sound per- 
sons, who, to their great commendation be it spoken, spared no pains 
night or day, but with great toil and at the risk of their own health, 
fetched wood, made fires, prepared food for the sick, made their beds, 
washed their infected clothes, dressed and undressed them; in a word 
did all the homely and necessary services for them which dainty and 
queasy stomachs cannot endure to hear mentioned; and all this they did 
willingly and cheerfully, without the least grudging, showing their love to 
the friends and brethren. 7 

Fear of the Indians and wild animals caused much anxiety. Most 
of the colonists were so innocent of the true nature of life on the 
frontier that they had not mastered the use of firearms and received 
instruction in this essential skill after the plantation was reached. 
Fortunately, before many months the colonists made a treaty of peace 
with the nearest Indian chieftain, a treaty which remained in force for 
many years and which furnished a continuing source of security and 

During the second and third years the colonists faced the constant 
threat of starvation. According to their agreement with the Plymouth 
Company, they were to receive supplies from England; but the sup- 


plies never came. In the spring after the arrival, the twenty-one men 
and six boys who had not succumbed to the epidemic began to prepare 
the land for planting. Twenty-seven acres were cleared and sown to 
com and small grains. The latter crop failed but the corn was a 
success. By fall, prospects were brighter. 

Unexpectedly, in November, a ship arrived bringing thirty-five new 
colonists, most of them healthy young men. "But they brought not so 
much as a biscuit-cake, or any other victuals with them." The colony 
had then to take "an exact account of all their provisions in store, and 
proportioned the same to the number of persons, and found that it 
would not hold out above six months at half allowance, and hardly 
that." 8 In the months ahead, except when the fish were running, 
hunger was always near. 

That spring more land was cleared and planted. But in June, the 
representative of the Plymouth Company sent seven men whom he 
asked the colonists to accept as guests until he could establish a settle- 
ment for them up the coast. A little later, sixty more arrived for a 
stay of six weeks. This group brought their own food, but they were 
quartered on shore. Many of them were of doubtful character and, 
learning that green corn roasted in the ear furnished a welcome relief 
from the monotony of their fare, they began foraging in the Pilgrims* 
fields. Such as were caught were whipped soundly; nevertheless they 
did much damage. These depredations, along with insufficient cultiva- 
tion due to the Pilgrims' own weakness, seriously reduced the autumn 
yield and food again was short. In the months before the next harvest 
(the third), there was a considerable period when the colony was 
without bread or any kind of corn; it had to depend on nuts, clams, 
and what fish could be caught with inadequate tackle. And in June, 
there set in a drought of seven weeks' duration. 

During this trying period, the Pilgrims' reliance on religion never 
wavered; they continued to put their trust in the providence of God. 
We are told that Elder Brewster, sitting down to a meal of boiled clams 
and a pot of water, thanked God that he was permitted to "suck of 
the abundance of the seas, and of the treasures hid in the sand." As 
the drought wore on the Pilgrims began to examine their own lives 
to discover secret sins which might be the cause of God's disfavor. 
Finally, they decided to meet publicly for prayer and confession. For 


the space of eight hours they themselves before God; they 

recalled His promises, acknowledged their sins, exhorted one another, 
and prayed for the end of the drought. Even as they left the place of 
meeting, the clouds were already gathering; the rain began to fal and 
it continued until "it was hard to say whether our withered com or 
drooping affections were most quickened or revived/" 9 

TTie subsequent crop proved to be a good one. "God gave them 
plenty, and the face of things changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of 
many for which they blessed God." The desperate part of their struggle 
was over. 

Twenty years later, Bradford, reminiscing on their trials, wrote as 
follows concerning the source of their strength and the reasons they 
had been put to the test: 

What was it then that upheld them? It was God's visitation that pre- 
served their spirits. . . . God, it seems, would have all men behold and 
observe such mercies and works of His providence as towards His people, 
that they in like cases might be encouraged to depend upon God in their 
trials, and also bless His name when they see His goodness towards others, 
Man lives not by bread alone. It is not by good and dainty fare, by peace 
and rest and heart's ease, In enjoying the contentment and good things 
of this world only, that health is preserved and life prolonged. God in 
such examples would have the world see and behold that He can do it 
without them; and If the world will shut its eyes and take no notice of it, 
yet He would have Ms people see and consider it. 10 


The territory to the north of Plymouth, the Massachusetts Bay 
Colony, was settled by Congregationallsts who did not wish to with- 
draw from the Church of England; they agreed with Plymouth on 
many important ecclesiastical questions, but did not approve of sepa- 
ration. Massachusetts was more advantageously situated commercially 
than was Plymouth it was better located, was backed by adequate 
resources, and was under the supervision of Influential leaders. It 
prospered from the beginning and soon outshone Plymouth and 
wielded more influence. Both Massachusetts and Plymouth favored 
congregational principles: they believed in the gathered church, prac- 
ticed the covenant relationship, insisted on the right of the local con- 
gregation to choose its own pastor, opposed the use of the Prayerbook. 
Their polity became normative for the early New England churches . 


The movement toward ecclesiastical democracy undoubtedly had 
a marked influence on the development of political democracy. Most 
of the early colonial leaders did not believe in popular political rule. 
Although the governor at Plymouth was elected annually by demo- 
cratic vote, once elected his rule was arbitrary. John Winthrop, a 
leader of the Massachusetts Colony, declared that the few are the 
wise "and the fewer the wiser." Seats in church and in schools were 
assigned on the basis of social status. In 1631 Massachusetts passed 
a law limiting the privilege of voting to church members and for 
decades church membership was a jealously guarded privilege, a 
privilege tied closely to the attempt to restrict the ownership of land. 
"Up to 1643, out of fifteen thousand inhabitants [of Massachusetts] 
only seventeen hundred and eight had been permitted to become 
freemen." 11 Two-thirds of the adult males of Boston were disfranchised 
even at the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. 

Yet a drift toward political democracy set in soon after the begin- 
ning of colonization. This movement still in process was no doubt 
greatly influenced by secular factors, chiefly the freedom of economic 
opportunity afforded by the developing country; but of large im- 
portance also were the widespread convictions that local control of 
church affairs is prescribed by the New Testament and the habits 
engrained by long practice in church meetings. 

The Congregational churches in colonial New England were "estab- 
lished," that is, they were supported by taxation. This system con- 
tinued even after the adoption of the United States Constitution and 
its First Amendment, which provides that "Congress shall make no 
law respecting an establishment of religion." Establishment was not 
abandoned in Connecticut until 1818, in New Hampshire until 1819, 
and in Massachusetts until 1833. 

New England clergymen played an important role in achieving 
American Independence. Before the era of newspapers, sermons had 
a far more general significance than they have today. Often they were 
the means of broadcasting news, and clergymen did not shun editorial 
comment. They were not afraid of politics as are their successors 
today. Some careful scholars contend that in New England the clergy 
were among the chief agitators for the American Revolution. 12 

In the first quarter of the nineteenth century, the CoHgregationalists 


spit into two groups, the Trinitarians and the Unitarians. The Uni- 
tarian movement will be considered In a chapter. 


At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Congregatlonalists 
were the largest and most influential religious group in America. 
Today they are far from that. When they joined in creating the United 
Church, they had but one million four hundred thousand members, 
being outnumbered by the Roman Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, 
Presbyterians, Lutherans, Jews, Episcopalians and Christians (Dis- 
ciples). How can we account for the failure of Congregationalism to 
increase as rapidly as other denominations? 

One factor was the loss of the Unitarians. Another factor was the 
very sense of power and leadership which Congregationalism had A 
feeling of security, if it leads to complacency, is a disadvantage at any 
time, but especially so during a time of expansion such as the nine- 
teenth century in America. Another factor was the conviction on the 
part of many of the denomination's leaders that the Congregational 
type of government was ill-suited to the frontier; they felt that the more 
closely knit Presbyterian government would furnish infant churches 
more careful supervision and make for a more effective religious life 
in the pioneer communities. A Plan of Union was adopted between 
Congregationalists and Presbyterians whereby the two groups agreed 
not to compete in the western communities, both communions supply- 
ing men and money. The Plan "worked in almost every instance to 
the advantage of the Presbyterians." 13 Congregational historians esti- 
mate that the Plan lost the denomination over two thousand churches. 
These statistics are disputed, but there can be little doubt that 
through the arrangement with the Presbyterians "Congregationalism 
lost the momentum of an always-westerning frontier." 14 The denom- 
ination finally abandoned the Plan of Union and undertook sectarian 
home missions; but the end result was poor Congregational representa- 
tion in many states. Two-thirds of the Congregationalists are to be 
found in New England and five other states : New York, Ohio, Illinois, 
Michigan and California. The representation in most of the other 
states of the North and West is thin and is especially small in the 


Throughout most of their history, Congregationalists have had 
a deep concern for education. This fact can be seen by simply listing 
some of the colleges whose beginnings were determined or greatly in- 
fluenced by Cocgregationalists: Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Williams., 
Amherst, Mount Holyoke, Wellesley, Smith, Oberlin, Grinnell, Carle- 
ton, Pomona. All these institutions, in accordance with the Congrega- 
tional theory, were placed under the charge of independent boards of 
trustees. As a result the denomination has control over none of them 

In 1931, the Congregationalists joined with The Christian Church 
to form The Congregational Christian Churches. The Christian 
Church had about one hundred thousand members and was itself the 
result of a merger of some Baptists in Vermont, some Methodists in 
North Carolina and Virginia, and some Presbyterians in Kentucky. 
This body was one of the denominations influenced by the Campbells, 
whose work will be discussed later, in the section on the Christian 
Churches (Disciples of Christ). The Christian Church was congrega- 
tional in its polity. 

Congregationalists, like a number of other groups in America, wield 
more influence than their numbers would seem to warrant. Part of 
the explanation is social. On the whole, Congregationalists have more 
wealth than the members of most other American churches (see page 
135); and with wealth comes privilege and prestige. Also, the Con- 
gregationalists are well educated. They live in the sections of the 
country which provide the best educational advantages. Moreover, the 
Church's system of government gives a clergyman the freedom which 
is essential to the development of creative ideas. Congregationalism 
thus tends to attract independent minds from other denominations. 
The result is a leadership which is intellectually alert and influential in 
the religious councils of the nation. It is my impression, however, that 
in those sections where Congregationalists are prominent, clergymen 
exert less influence in their communities than they do in the South 
and in some parts of the West. 


An English priest once said that from the viewpoint of Europeans, 
all American churches are congregational in their polity. This obvious 


exaggeration points to the fact that nowhere In American Protestant- 
ism is to be found that "fine, old ecclesiastical arrogance* 1 which 
characterizes so much of Europe's church government. In many 
sections of Europe, the churches are governmental or semigovem- 
raental institutions, their leaders holding office through the sufferance 
of public officials. Such leaders are freed from dependence on popular 
approval to a degree that an American clergyman is not. 

But in the formal sense, only about two-fifths of American Protes- 
tants have a Congregational polity; among this number are the Bap- 
tists, the Disciples, the Quakers, the Unitarians, and, of course, the 

In this polity, the power of the local church is theoretically un- 
limited. It has complete control of its own affairs, both financial and 
doctrinal. It hires its minister. It holds title to its property. It main- 
tains such relations with other churches as it itself determines. It co- 
operates or declines to co-operate with denominational agencies. It can 
even ordain men to the ministry, though in actual practice this power 
is almost never exercised, the local congregation preferring to join 
with the other congregations of its neighborhood in judging the fitness 
of clerical candidates. 

The denominational executive has nothing but an advisory relation- 
ship to the local church, and frequently not even that. He wields a 
large influence in some churches; in others he is completely ignored. 
He has no power to discipline or to command local groups, except in 
missionary churches where he holds the purse strings. About the ulti- 
mate in disciplinary action is for the denomination to vote to "drop the 
name" of a local church "from the Yearbook." 

However, these theoretical propositions concerning congregational 
government overstate the real situation. Regarding churches of the 
Congregational type, a former editor of The Christian Century con- 

[They] are not a whit more independent than Presbyterian or Episco- 
palian congregations. If they exercise their imagined independence be- 
yond a certain point they are dealt with just as similar variations are 
dealt with by the other denominations, the only difference being in the 
technique, not in its effectiveness. 

The editor amplified this remark, saying: 


[There Is] no suggestion that the kind of irregularities or variations 
wMch would cause them to be "dealt with" were the same in all de- 
nominations. . . . But the principle of conformity obtains no less in one 
group than in the other. A Congregational, Baptist, or Disciples local 
church . . . conforms to an organic whole which is larger than itself, a 
whole of which it is a subordinate and cooperating part. 15 

The position of the local church in the larger denominational fel- 
lowship can be likened to the position of a college student; a student 
will put up with a great deal of what he thinks is autocratic interference 
with Ms personal liberty in order to stay in college. Similarly^ the 
average local church will go to considerable lengths to avoid ex- 
pulsion from the larger fellowship. Thus, being "dropped from the 
Yearbook" is not as ineffective a penalty as it might appear to be. 

The Congregationalists federate their local churches into three 
types of organization. Next above the local church is the Association; 
then comes the State Conference; and finally a national organization 
called by the Congregationalists the National Council and in the newly 
formed United Church called the General Synod. These bodies are 
composed of representatives from local churches. The state and 
national organizations have paid executives, usually called Secre- 
taries, Superintendents, or Ministers. 

The Associations control ordination, a departure from the practice 
of the early New England Congregationalists who ordained men 
through the agency of the local church. The power of the Association 
in this matter is illustrated by the case of one well-known New Eng- 
land clergyman who was defrocked because the Association of which 
lie was a member disapproved of his divorce and remarriage. On the 
other hand, the power of the local church is illustrated by the fact 
that he was called to a Congregational parish and serves as its pastor. 
The local church is not disciplined. Although the clergyman is under 
many professional disabilities because of the disfavor of Ms fellow 
ministers, his only clerical disability in ministering to the local parish 
is lack of authority to solemnize marriage; and this authority comes 
not from the church but from the state government which looks to the 
Associations to determine who are bona fide Congregational clergy- 

Though Congregational officials have little authority over the local 
church, they have great authority over the specific organisation they 


head. One Congregational clergyman wrote, "The development of the 
slate superintendency in personnel and prerogative In the last decade 
evidently presages a sort of pragmatic diocesan episcopacy." 16 This 
increase in power on the part of Congregational executives comes 
from the fact that much of the work of the denomination is performed 
by boards which have an independent corporate existence. The best- 
known boards of this type are the American Board of Commissioners 
for Foreign Missions and the Board of Home Missions; the General 
Council is itself incorporated, as are most of the State Conferences. 
The power of election to membership in these corporate bodies usually 
rests with the representatives of the local churches. But once the 
boards are elected, they have great power. They choose the denomina- 
tion's leaders and determine denominational policy. Most of the 
actual decisions of the boards are as far removed from the consent of 
the local church member and pastor as the decisions of the State 
Department are removed from the consent of the average citizen. Even 
the board members themselves meeting but briefly and sporadically 
are usually under the necessity of accepting the advice of their paid 
executives. Many board actions simply rubber-stamp executive recom- 
mendations. This situation obtains, of course, in all the denominations; 
it is inherent in the American approach to democracy. 

Control by administrators so disturbed Roger Babson, the invest- 
ment counselor, during Ms period of office as moderator of the General 
Council, that he called the denominational secretariat fi *the Vatican." 
One pastor complained: "Our leaders draw down the curtains on thek 
inside negotiations*" "Whether it's in business, the army, or in church 
life," he wrote, ". . . the most dangerous thing for an ambitious 
young man to do is to oppose the powers-that-be." 17 

That there is truth in these allegations can scarcely be denied. Yet a 
false picture is drawn if the reader concludes from these statements 
that the Congregational clergyman is under the control of denomina- 
tional machinery to the same extent that clergymen in the presbyterlan 
or episcopal systems are. Some of the problems which confront con- 
gregational government will receive further discussion in the next 

One phrase quoted on the previous page from The Christian Cen- 
tury editorial needs amplification. The editor pointed out that 

while congregatlonaly organized denominations have in practice genu- 
ine power over the local churches if they want to exercise it, the 
"kind of irregularities" which are tolerated vary greatly. To this com- 
ment should be added another: the amount of irregularity which is 
tolerated also varies greatly. The Southern Baptists, for example, are 
much less tolerant of deviation than are the Congregationalists. Con- 
gregational churches tolerate a great deal of deviation. In the leading 
Congregational state, Massachusetts, no local church has been 
expelled from the fellowship in the current century. 

This willingness to tolerate deviation accounts not only for the 
theological variety which is found in the denomination, a situation 
which will be discussed later, but also for the number of ecclesiasti- 
cal prima donnas who find shelter under the denomination's wings. 
The amount of freedom permitted for personal idiosyncrasy is so 
much greater among Congregationalists than in most other groups 
(much greater certainly than the amount granted by the episcopal 
or presbyterian systems) that many a personality who wants to play 
a steOar role unhampered by the restrictions inherent in group effort 
naturally gravitates into Congregationalism. Almost every Congrega- 
tional clergyman knows half a dozen such men. If they are asked to 
speak at church gatherings, they accept with alacrity, and their partici- 
pation makes the occasion in their eyes important. But they do not 
attend such meetings while other leaders speak. The churches served 
by such men, though often large and rich, are usually near the bottom 
in the amount they give to denominational causes. One pastor, author 
of many books, widely known lecturer, much loved by his own people, 
wrote in answer to a denominational appeal for a gift from his un- 
usually wealthy church for help with church extension: "We have 
just undertaken to raise a hundred thousand dollars for the installa- 
tion of a new heating plant and have found it necessary to discontinue 
all outside giving." The clergymen of this man's neighborhood are 
unanimous in condemning this and similar actions on his part. But 
he is not disciplined. He will continue to make merry with the 
ecclesiastical machinery and to push only those enterprises from 
which he hopes to get front-page coverage; he will also continue to 
have his name printed in the Yearbook. 

Theoretically there is no sex segregation in the Congregational 


ministry. Women are ordained, and lave elected to the highest 
honorary office in the Church, the Moderatorship of the General 
Council. Practically, however, there is discrimination against women, 
Just as there is in most American institutions. "Of the approximately 
six thousand parsons listed in our 1954 Year Book, only 4 per cent or 
about 240 are female and less than one-third of these about eighty 
are actually ministers of congregations." 18 The churches wMcfa these 
women serve are generally small. They are also generally rural. One 
woman wrote concerning the status of ordained women in the 

There is often small difference between the denominations that do and 
do not ordain women. Ordination of women really means very little when 
the same churches that ordain these women balk at accepting them as 
ministers of their churches. Ordination thus becomes the end rather than 
the beginning for many women seeking service in the pastoral ministry. 

Many women ministers I have talked with believe that most churches 
would not even consider calling a woman minister if they could afford a 
man. But even this is not accurate. Many churches with a small budget 
prefer having a student preacher rather than a fully qualified woman 
minister. And it is all too sadly true that the women in our local churches 
are often stanchest against accepting then- sisters in the pulpit. 

If ordination of women is to mean anything more than a pat on the 
back for the denominations that are broad-minded enough to follow this 
practice, then the local churches must come to recognize that a woman 
who is called of God and who has diligently prepared herself by college 
and seminary training has both the desire and the ability to serve as a 
faithful minister. 19 

A former Director for Town and Country Work for the denomina- 
tion wrote concerning the woman minister; 

While women have proved that they can serve any type of church, 
whether rural or urban, it is true that some smaller churches take women 
pastors, particularly single women, mainly because they can live on a 
smaller income than a man, especially a family man. 

What kind of work does a woman pastor do? They do better work 
than men in rural churches, not quite as well as men in city churches. 
This latter fact may be partly because city churches which women serve 
are weaker fields to begin with. However, the rural churches served by 
women are smaller than our average rural church and still they do better 
than the denominational average in quality of rural work. 

Women pastors have a higher than average rating in members re- 
ceived by confession of faith and for total members received Women 
excel among rural pastors very decidedly in Sunday school and young 
people's work if comparative enrollments mean anything. Their greatest 


single achievement In which they exceed the average performance for 
all our rural churches is in contributions of their churches to apportionate 
benevolences. They also get their town and country churches to do 
tetter ... in contributions to home expenses and they preach in better 
than average rural church buildings. 20 

Congregational churches frequently invite clergymen from other 
denominations to serve as their pastors; many of these men transfer 
their ministerial affiliation to Congregationalism. But "often as many 
as five hundred churches have continued under the pastoral care of 
ministers who belong to other denominations." 21 A great deal is 
learned about Congregationalism when the full implications of this 
fact are pondered. 


The early New Englanders were vigorous Calvinists. The West- 
minster Confession, after its formulation, became the standard of 
doctrine and remained so for many decades. However, congregational 
polity, unlike presbyterian or episcopal polity, permits of easy change. 
Whenever a majority in a local Congregational church came to feel 
that the Westminster Confession no longer represented its living faith, 
the Confession was abandoned and another affirmation of faith put in 
Its place. 

Today Congregationalism is less traditional in its doctrine than is 
any other large, old-line denomination. A few of the churches are 
very conservative; a few also are very radical. But most of them adopt 
a solid Liberal position. Few of them use the ecumenical creeds in 
services of worship. Many Congregationalists would agree with the 
clergyman who said he accepted the Apostles' Creed as an "adequate 
refutation of the heresies it was intended to combat." Probably the 
statement which would fit the beliefs of the large majority in the 
Church is the Kansas City Statement, so named because it was adopted 
by the General Council which met in that city in 1913: 

We believe in God the Father, infinite in wisdom, goodness and love; 
and in Jesus Christ, his Son, our Lord and Savior, who for us and our 
salvation lived and died and rose again and liveth evermore; and in the 
Holy Spirit, who taketh of the things of Christ and revealeth them to us, 
renewing, comforting, and inspiring the souls of men. We are united in 
striving to know the will of God as taught in the Holy Scriptures, and hi 
our purpose to walk in the ways of the Lord, made known or to be made 


known to us. We hold it to be the mission of the Church of Christ to 
proclaim the gospel to all mankind, exalting the worship of the oae true 
God and laboring for the progress of knowledge, the promotion of justice, 
the reign of peace, and the realization of human brotherhood. Depending, 
as did our fathers, upon the continued guidance of the Holy Spirit to 
lead us into all truth, we work and pray for the transformation of the 
world into the kingdom of God; and we look with faith for the triumph 
of righteousness and the life everlasting. 

Most local churches do not require before admission to membership 

formal subscription to any statement of faith; most of them ask in- 
stead subscription to a covenant or to a statement of purpose. 


The Congregational Christian Churches formed but one of the 
sources of the United Church of Christ. The other source was a body 
which itself was the result of a merger, consummated in 1934, of two 
church bodies. These bodies were The Reformed Church in the 
United States and The Evangelical Synod of North America. 

The term commonly used to describe the churches on the Continent 
of Europe which owed their reformation impulse to the work of John 
Calvin is reformed. His influence was so pervasive that churches fol- 
lowing reformed doctrine and polity were found even in Germany 
where most of the churches were Lutheran. The German reformed 
churches, especially influential in the Palatinate, held a theology simi- 
lar to that already described in the discussion of the earlier phase of 
Presbyterianism; this theology was formulated in the middle of the 
sixteenth century into the Heidelberg Catechism. At this time also 
was formulated "a plan of modified Presbyterian church government." 

In the late colonial period Germans who held reformed convictions 
migrated to America settling for the most part in the middle colonies. 
Before the American Revolution the churches organized by these per- 
sons were under the guidance and supervision of the reformed 
churches of Holland. After the ties with Europe were broken by the 
Revolution these churches became self-supporting and autonomous. 
They grew in number, expanding especially into Ohio and Wisconsin. 
Eventually the German Reformed Church in the United States was 
organized; very shortly thereafter the word "German" was dropped 
from the name. In the early years the German language was the major 


means of communication. Dropping from the name of the Church 
this reference to a foreign country symbolizes a development which 
characterizes the experiences of most American church organizations 
which have had their origin in non-English-speaking lands. At first 
these churches have used the foreign tongue; but as their communi- 
cants became more and more at home in this country and became 
more and more skilled in the use of English, the pressure mounted 
for a shift to English as the language of worship and of publication. 
The change-over has often been resisted, especially by the older mem- 
bers of the churches. Bilingual services have often been resorted to. In 
the end the English language has been generally adopted. Churches 
now struggling with this language problem are the Eastern Orthodox, 
as will be noted later. 

The persons who formed The Evangelical Synod of North America 
also came from Germany, but a century later than those who organ- 
ized the Reformed Church. By this time in Germany, many of the 
Lutheran and Reformed groups had been merged into churches to 
which the name "Evangelical" was often applied. Most of these 
churches acknowledged the validity of both Lutheran and Reformed 
ordination, and while using the Augsburg Confession also permitted 
the use of the Heidelberg Catechism. Immigrants from these churches 
arriving in the United States at the time of the great nineteenth-cen- 
tury westward expansion often settled in the Midwest "with St. Louis 
as the main point of distribution." In the early years the churches 
formed by these immigrants received missionary support from the 
homeland; support also came from the American Home Missionary 
Society, an organization largely supported by eastern Congrega- 
tionalists and Presbyterians. In 1872, after thirty-five years of group- 
ing into smaller organizations, these churches united into one body, 
which shortly afterward was given the name, The Evangelical Synod 
of North America. In 1922, this body began discussions of merger 
with the Reformed Church; together they created in 1934 The Evan- 
gelical and Reformed Church. 

The Constitution of this body provided that the doctrinal standards 
of the Church were to be the Heidelberg Catechism, Luther's Cate- 
chism, and the Augsburg Confession; however, the President of the 
Church wrote that the Constitution "hastens on to provide" that; 


Wherever these doetriaa! standards differ, ministers, members and 
congregations, in accordance with the liberty of conscience inherent in 
the gospel, are allowed to adhere to the interpretation of one of these 
confessions. However, in each case the leal norm is the Word of Gad. 

The type of government provided was a "modified presbyteri- 
anism." The President of the Church wrote; 

Powers of the synod and genera! synod and their respective officers are 
carefully defined in the denomination's Constitution and By-Laws, but the 
rights and freedoms of ministers, laity and congregations are preserved 
with equal care; so much so that Evangelical and Reformed people feel 
that a denominational constitution and by-laws serve much more as a 
guarantee of freedom than as a threat to it. 22 

The Evangelical and Reformed Church had about eight hundred 
thousand members; "95 per cent of its congregations and its com- 
municant membership" were "found east of Montana, Wyoming and 
Colorado, and northeast of Texas and the Mississippi Delta States." 23 


The effort to bring the Congregational and the Evangelical and 
Reformed groups together was long and stormy. Negotiations began 
in 1942. Strong opposition developed immediately in the Congrega- 
tional Churches; it arose because of a fear that the liberty and au- 
thority of the local church would be abridged. A poll of Congrega- 
tional churches on the proposed merger was taken in 1948; prior to 
the poll, the announcement was made that approval by 75 per cent of 
the churches would be considered sufficient warrant to proceed. At 
the deadline date only 65.5 per cent of the churches had voted af- 
firmatively. After an extension of seven months 72.2 per cent had 
approved. The General Council voted to proceed on this basis. A law- 
suit was brought by one part of the minority group in an effort to 
prevent the merger. The suit was lost but it delayed the merger for 
several years. 

Much bitterness remains as a result of the conflict. The Constitu- 
tion of the new denomination is attacked on several grounds. It is 
attacked because it is alleged to take away the freedom of the local 
church. Yet it provides that the "autonomy of the local church is in- 
herent and modifiable only by its own action. Nothing in this Con- 


stitution . * . shall destroy or limit the right of each local church 
to continue to operate in a way customary to it." 

The Constitution is attacked because '"what a document grants it 
can later retract," "even to the deleting of the 'guaranteed' para- 
graphs." Yet it provides that "Nothing in this Constitution . . shall 
be construed as giving to the General Synod, or to any Conference or 
Association, now or at any future time, the power to abridge or impair 
the autonomy of any local church. . . ." 

The Constitution is attacked because it threatens the ultimate 
control of church property by a "centralized hierarchy." Yet it pro- 
vides that no authority above the local church shall "now or at any 
future time" be able to limit the power of the local church "to acquire, 
own, manage and dispose of property and funds," and further pro- 
vides that the local church can "withdraw by its own decision from 
the United Church of Christ at any time without forfeiture of owner- 
ship or control of any real or personal property owned by it." 

The Constitution is attacked because certificates of ordination must 
bear the signature of the President of the Church; some President at 
some "future time" might withhold Ms signature against a man whose 
theology or politics he disapproved. However, ordination is definitely 
fixed as the prerogative of the Associations, and the By-Laws clearly 
provide that "after ordination or in anticipation of it a certificate is 
issued bearing the signatures of the proper officers of the Association 
and the President of the United Church of Christ." 

The Constitution protects the rights of the local church as ade- 
quately as any document which defines a relationship of trust should. 
Where the Constitution does fail is in not providing adequate control 
by the local churches of the Church's superstructure. 

The officials in the two uniting denominations have believed deeply 
that the merger is the will of God; one of them said, "This is probably 
the most important step our churches have been called upon to take, 
or will be called upon to take, in this century." Convictions have run 
so high that the debate has often been characterized by stubbornness, 
meanness, and inaccuracy, A writer in the official Congregational 
magazine characterized those who opposed the merger as "a recalci- 
trant and divisive group," 24 and one clergyman wrote, "They are a 
group opposed to the vigorous expression of the Gospel in any 


sphere." 25 The term antimergerite has become In most of Congrega- 
tionalism a stigma whicti affects profoundly a clergyman's professional 
status. But the minority also has used sharp words. Some of Its mem- 
bers have said that records have teen "juggled," that "contractual 
agreements" have not been lived up to, and that "the whole thing 
seems more like a power-centered political movement than a devout, 
spiritually motivated call for united witness and work 6 in Christ.' ** M 
Focusing attention on the bitterness which has arisen fails to indi- 
cate the deep spiritual motivations which have prompted action on 
both sides. One distinguished clergyman, a member of the minority, 

We are interested in a drawing together of Protestants to affirm a basic 
devotion to Jesus Christ, but we cannot support a movement aimed at 
exalting an institutional church as the necessary expression of that de- 

The Pilgrims came to America to get away from superstructures. They 
affirmed the local congregation as a fully adequate "outcropping" of the 
invisible fellowship of Christ's people. Each local Church is to ordain its 
own pastor, govern its own affairs, make its own witness, and look to the 
presence of the Eternal Christ in its midst It is Jesus who guides and 
inspires. No other organizational structure is Scriptorally recognized. 

But whatever safeguards the United Church may propose to guarantee 
local freedoms, these are secondary to its intent to subordinate local con- 
gregations to a real, visible, ecclesiastical superstructure called "The 
United Church." 27 

Another member of the minority wrote: 

The sin of ecumenicity is that it puts right organization in the place 
reserved for a right spirit, obedience in the place reserved for free re- 
sponse, and possession of power in the place reserved for possession of 
love. Ecumenicity is, indeed, one of the crop of modern heresies which 
corrupt the gospel, and which lead men to believe in something very 
much less than the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . 

The goal of one "Great Church** one big world-embracing organized 
Church body was achieved in most of Western Europe in the days of 
Pope Hildebrand. The visible, worldly authority of "that Church" was 
virtually complete. But, at the same time unprecedented corruption came 
into the ecclesiastical courts. What happened was not that "The Church" 
conquered the world. What happened was that the world conquered 
"The Church!" 28 

On the other hand, the leader among Congregationalists in the fight 
to create the United Church wrote: 


The uniting groups do not expect the beams of the millennial sun to 
break out through the new relationships; but neither do they expect to be 
separated from that light which illumines every achievement planned for 
God's glory and carried out with devotion. If nothing else of reward 
comes to them than to have the sense of having felt a caE of God in this 
age and having responded, it will be enough. If their plans carry, there 
will be one less denomination among the many, the too many, in America* 
One step will have been taken away from the scandal of denoininational- 
isra toward that one world which the church should at once prophesy 
and demonstrate. 29 

No doctrinal norm has been set for the United Church. The Con- 
stitution affirms that the Church 

claims as its own the faith of the historic Church expressed in the ancient 
creeds and reclaimed in the basic insights of the Protestant Reformers. 
It affirms the responsibility of the Church in each generation to make 
this faith its own in reality of worship, in honesty of thought and ex- 
pression, and in purity of heart before God. 

In 1959, the following Statement of Faith was adopted by the 
United Church as a "testimony not a test." 

We believe in God, the Eternal Spirit, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ 
and our Father, to whose deeds we testify: 

He calls the worlds into being, creates man in His own image and 
sets before him the ways of life and death. 

He seeks in holy love to save all people from aimlessness and sin. 

He judges men and nations by His righteous will declared through 
prophets and apostles. 

In Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, our crucified and risen Lord, He 
has come to us and shared our common lot, conquering sin and death and 
reconciling the world to Himself. 

He bestows upon us His Holy Spirit, creating and renewing the Church 
of Jesus Christ, binding in covenant faithful people of all ages, tongues, 
and races. 

He calls us into His Church to accept the cost and joy of discipleship, 
to be His servants in the service of men, to proclaim the gospel to all the 
world and resist the powers of evil, to share in Christ's baptism and eat 
at His table, to join Him in His passion and victory. 

He promises to all who trust Him forgiveness of sins and fullness of 
grace, courage in the struggle for justice and peace, His presence in trial 
and rejoicing, and eternal life in His kingdom which has no end. 

Blessing and honor, glory and power be unto Him. Amen. 



THE SIXTEENTH century Reformation was a half-done job, according 
to most Baptists and Christians (Disciples). To be sure, it freed the 
Church of the usurpation of Rome and "went back of the distinctly 
medieval dogmas, such as transubstantiation and exaltation of the 
Virgin Mary and the saints. 9 * 1 But the Reformation did not go "back 
of the Nicene dogmas of the fourth century." 1 Genuine New Testa- 
ment Christianity, according to this view, lapsed soon after the Apos- 
tolic Age and was not again given a real chance until a century after 
Luther; moreover, in the opinion of highly placed Baptists, it was "in 
America, not in Germany, that the genuine Reformation culminated." 2 
On its negative side this "genuine Reformation" consisted of the 
rejection of restrictive creeds, of episcopal or presbyterial govern- 
ment, of a stated ritual, of infant baptism. On its positive side, this 
reformation consisted of the "adoption of a spiritual and New Testa- 
ment Christianity." The Baptists and the Christians (a BaptistHke 
group here in America, sometimes called Disciples, which became a 
separate denomination about a century and a quarter ago) find little 
in the New Testament to support "the elaborate forms" found in most 
other types of guistia.pj.ty. According to the Baptist view, the Roman 
Catholic religion is dominated by externals; the Lutheran and Episco- 
palian churches moved a step or two away from this domination; the 
Presbyterians moved considerably farther away; the Congregation- 
alists farther still; but it was with the Baptists that true freedom from 
unscriptural, medieval formalism was achieved. 



Baptists hold that BO person can be a Christian until he has re- 
ceived regenerating grace. As they read the New Testament, they find 
that no one in the Apostolic Age was admitted into the Church by 
baptism until he was old enough to understand and accept Christ's 
message and until he had been "born again," until his moral and 
spiritual life had been regenerated. The Baptist churches, therefore, 
are composed exclusively of "adults," that is, persons who can choose 
for themselves. Baptists hold that their organization and doctrine rest 
solely on New Testament teaching and not on "human opinion" 
(creed). They consider a local church or a denomination to be only 
an external body, the Universal Church being wholly invisible. 


Most Baptist historians place their denominational beginnings in 
biblical times, but modern Baptist history begins with the Reforma- 
tion. One important aspect of this beginning was a group called the 
Anabaptists. These biblical literalists were committed to the develop- 
ment of a strict ethical religion. They did their best to follow scrupu- 
lously the life described in the Bible as they read the Bible. For 
example, they held their property in common, and, usually, refused 
military service these actions find sanction in Holy Writ. But in ad- 
dition to such practices the Anabaptists were also the first modern 
Christians to practice "believer's baptism"; like the present-day 
Baptist groups, they denied the validity of infant baptism and baptized 
only believers ("adults"). Catholics and Protestants alike were horri- 
fied by this practice and called it "ana" or "re" baptism, since these 
adults had aH received "baptism" in infancy. For a time the Ana- 
baptists flourished, but their combination of radical social and radical 
religious ideas brought upon them persecution of the bitterest kind, 
including death by drowning, a fate considered by their enemies to 
be particularly appropriate. Soon their movement died leaving no di- 
rect institutional progeny except the Mennonites, and they rejected 
many of the radical Anabaptist practices. 

The Mennonites were named for their founder, a converted Catho- 
lic priest, Menno Simons. Their movement began in the sixteenth 
century, in freedom-granting Holland. From Holland, the Mennonites 


spread in over of Europe. Persecution drove 

many of them to America, Today are about one hundred and 

sixty thousand in this country; they are divided Into more than a 
dozen different sects. 

They adopt OB the whole a very conservative theology; most of 
them emphasize the Second Coming, the necessity for conversion, 
baptism of believers, baptism by pouring, opposition to taking oaths, 
simplicity of worship, and foot washing (in addition to baptism and 
the Lord's Supper) as an ordinance instituted by Jesus. Pacifism is 
the doctrine for which the Mennonites are best known; during World 
War II, 40 per cent of the conscientious objectors were members of 
this small denomination. The Amish Mennoaites (numbering about 
twenty thousand, in three groups) are the ultraconservative wing of 
the denomination; they strive valiantly to maintain the simplicity of 
their way of life, fastening their garments with hooks and eyes in- 
stead of with buttons in order to avoid the ostentatious display con- 
demned by the Bible. The Old Order Amish will not use carpets, 
curtains or wall pictures in their homes; and they worship in private 
houses, thinking church buildings improper. This group is opposed 
also to centralized schools. 


Some historians begin Baptist history with English Separatism. 
(See pages 199, 217 ff.) In the time of James I, John Smyth, an Angli- 
can clergyman, set out to convert the Separatists in Gainsborough, 
near Scrooby. But instead of turning them to the Church of England, 
he was himself converted to Separatism and soon became their 
teacher. Under his leadership, a group from Gainsborough moved in 
1608 to Holland, migrating ahead of the Pilgrims, as has been noted. 
There Smyth, following out the logical implications of his Separatist 
principles, became convinced of the correctness of believer's baptism, 
and in 1609, along with thirty-seven other Englishmen, established 
(according to one opinion) the first modern Baptist church. Smyth 
baptized himself by applying water to his own head, and then bap- 
tized his followers. To persons who question the validity of such a 
baptism, Baptists point to their contention that the Church is spiritual 

and not mechanical In nature. They contend that no person can truly 
be a member of the Christian Church until he has been u bom again." 
As the group In Amsterdam put It, "the churches of the apostolic 
constitution consisted of saints only." After a few years most of the 
Amsterdam Baptists concluded that it was their duty to return to 
England, there if necessary to face persecution in the effort to re- 
establish true Christianity. 

The earliest English Baptists were not concerned about how a per- 
son should be baptized; they were concerned about who should be 
baptized. Baptism by complete immersion of the body in water, 
rather than by pouring or sprinkling the water, is supposed by many 
people to be the distinctive Baptist principle. But it was not until 
nearly a half century after John Smyth's time that the mode of bap- 
tism came into serious controversy. Then careful study of the New 
Testament convinced the Baptists that immersion, which was the gen- 
eral practice of the Church until the thirteenth century, was the 
method used in apostolic times; immersion accordingly was adopted 
and is retained by most Baptist and Disciples churches. 

The term Baptist was coined, like the names of most of the other 
Christian groups, by the opponents of the movement. But its members 
preferred the names "Baptized Believers/' or "Christians Baptized on 
Profession of Their Faith." Soon, however, these terms proved too 
cumbersome and the popular usage was adopted. 

It was through the Baptists that the singing of English hymns of 
original composition became popular; formerly, English Protestants 
had sung rhymed versions of the Psalms, a practice still followed in 
America by a few Presbyterians. The new hymns were long con- 
sidered by non-Baptist Christians in England to be a bold and im- 
proper innovation. A powerful weapon in the controversy over the 
new hymns was Pilgrim's Progress; many of the songs Bunyan put on 
the lips of Christian came to enjoy great popularity. 

The English Baptist churches grew slowly during the eighteenth 
and nineteenth centuries. Today there are somewhat more than a mil- 
lion Baptists in Europe. It was in America, as has been intimated, 
that the Baptist movement had its major growth; twenty-five million 
persons are reported as baptized members of Baptist, Christian or 
Churches of Christ groups in this country. If they counted children in 


their membership totals they would no doubt number considerably 
above thirty million.* 


It is probably not true that Roger Wiliams founded the first Bap- 
tist church in America, as is commonly supposed. He was in fact a 
very poor Baptist, denominationally speaking. But there is no ques- 
tion about the immense contribution which Roger Williams made to 
the development of Baptist tenets, nor about his immense contribu- 
tion to American democracy. His career is outlined here because by 
common acknowledgment his life embodied Baptist principles to a 
greater extent than any other American leader. He was the first to 
found a modem commonwealth in which full religious liberty and the 
separation of church and state were put into practice; moreover, he 
created in this commonwealth a simple but vital political democracy. 

Williams was the son of a London shopkeeper and was born, 
probably, in the year that Queen Elizabeth died. In his youth, by his 
ability to use shorthand, then a new and uncommon art, he attracted 
the attention of Sir Edward Coke, a famous jurist who was electrifying 
England by Ms opposition to King James 9 claim to rule by divine 
right. Sir Edward, attracted also by the keenness of the young man's 
mind and by the charm of his personality, offered to help Mm 
through the University of Cambridge. As an undergraduate, Williams 
gained a Mgh degree of scholarship, refinement of manners, Puritan 
sympathies, and a keen sense of the injustice of the University's class 
structure wMch permitted young aristocrats to lord it over the sons 

*The result obtained by Increasing the total reported for these churches 
by 38.7 per cent is above thirty-four million. This is the percentage of 
persons under fourteen years of age in Protestant households according to 
a poll of thirty-five thousand households by the Bureau of the Census; see 
the Bureau's report Series P-20, No. 79, Feb. 2, 1958. However, some of 
the churches, in the Southern Convention, for example, are said to admit to 
membership a significant number of persons who are under thirteen years 
of age. Thus the thirty-four million figure is probably too high. According 
to Bureau of the Census figures, extrapolated from the poU noted above, 
the number of persons in the country fourteen years of age and over who 
said they were Baptist was 23.5 million; the number who said they were 
Roman Catholic was 30.7 million. Thus the Baptist total (without the 
Christian Churches and the Churches of Christ) is about 77 per cent of the 
Catholic total. These figures are subject to sampling errors. 


of the commonalty. This sense of injustice is the key to much of Ms 
later behavior. 

After graduation, he received ordination and served for a short 
time in a minor post in the Church of England. But Williams saw 
clearly that he could not continue in the Church unless he was will- 
ing to manhandle Ms conscience and pretend to revere what in fact 
he despised. He might have had a distinguished ecclesiastical career; 
certainly he had most of the qualities wMch make for preferment in 
the Church: piety, intelligence, wit, enthusiasm, leadersMp, win- 
someness. But he had also a stem conscience, so stem that often in 
later years he seemed to scruple at trivia. 

Becoming convinced that the Christianity of the New Testament 
was Separatist, he gave up his position with the Church, left England 
though the move was to him "bitter as death" and migrated 
with Ms bride to Massachusetts, two years after the founding of that 
colony. In Boston, he made such a good impression that the Puritans 
invited him to become their teacher in the First Church; but after 
a careful survey he declined because, as he wrote later, "I durst not 
officiate to an unseparated people." I might "have run the road to 
preferment, as well in Old as New England." He startled the people 
of Boston by saying that he could become their teacher only if they 
made public repentance for their sin of having been members in the 
old country of the Church of England. He also told the magistrates 
that they had no right to punish persons who broke the Sabbath; he 
said civil officers should have power over civil conduct only, not 
over religious practice, belief or expression. 

After these unpleasantries at Boston, he was offered the position of 
teacher in the church at Salem. TMs position he accepted. But the 
Massachusetts magistrates, smarting under Ms censures, brought 
their influence to bear and in a short time he was dismissed from the 
Salem church. He then settled for a time in Plymouth. The Pilgrims 
recognized Ms great abilities. Bradford described him as "a godly and 
zealous man, with many rare abilities," and wrote that Ms teaching 
was "MgMy approved, and for its benefit I still bless God, and am 
thankful to him, even for Ms sharpest admonitions and reproofs, so 
far as they agree with the truth." Bradford as well as Williams could 
read the New Testament and try Ms hand at interpreting it 


After about two years in Plymouth^ conditions In 
permitted Williams' retura to Salem as pastor of the Church 

there. His years of experience not him caution, nor had 

they silenced Ms conscience. Soon he was again in conflict with the 
Massachusetts officials. He continued to teach that magistrates have 
no right to interfere in religious matters, He also taught "a magis- 
trate ought not tender an oath to an unregenerate maa w ; and, most 
significant of all, that the colonists had no right to their land, the 
rightful owners being the Indians who had never been properly com- 
pensated. "Christian Kings (so-called) are [not] invested with right 
by virtue of their Christianity, to take and give away the lands and 
countries of other men." 

These teachings brought Williams into immediate trouble. The 
members of the oligarchy which had control of Massachusetts were 
intent on perpetuating the inequality inherent in the English social 
structure. They forbade the commoner to ape the gentleman in Ms 
manner of dress. They arranged that the punishment imposed on a 
poor man for a crime should be more severe than the punishment 
imposed on a member of the aristocracy for the same crime. They 
silenced, or fined, or deprived of political privilege any person they 
considered too bold in speaking out against their power. They con- 
trolled the distribution of land in their own interest, granting small 
parcels to some of the more energetic and tractable colonists, but 
assigning themselves large and impressive holdings. 3 

Roger Williams came into direct conflict with this undemocratic 
system. like the other clergymen, he might easily have become a 
member of the ruling clique. Instead, he chose to stand for a more 
democratic way. After he had been back in Salem for about a year, 
the magistrates, thinking to further intrench themselves, passed a 
regulation requiring all residents to take an oath swearing their 
loyalty to the magistrates and promising to give speedy notice of any 
sedition plotted or intended against the government. Persons who 
persisted in refusing to take this oath were to be banished, Williams 
refused to make this obeisance to the local squirearchy. Instead, he 
declared Ms opposition and persuaded others to join him. He said an 
oath requiring the use of God's name is an act of worship and the 
taking of an oath by an unregenerate man is taking God's name in 


vain. Williams believed the separation of church and state should 
be complete and considered that the clergy had entered into an un- 
holy alliance with the magistrates to bolster an unjust social order. 

Such defiance brought prompt action. He was summoned to ap- 
pear before the General Court and roundly lectured. But he remained 
unconvinced and obdurate. No sentence was passed at that time and 
in the weeks that followed he continued to oppose the oath and won 
so many to Ms stand that "the Court was forced to desist from that 
proceeding." The Salem church then voted to promote him from as- 
sistant pastor to pastor. 

But the will of the Massachusetts rulers was not to be balked. 
They had previously decreed a uniform church discipline throughout 
the colony, a ruling which Williams of course opposed. Accordingly, 
he was called before the Court a second time and charged with teach- 
ing freedom of religion. The leading ministers pointed out during the 
proceedings that under his system "a church might run into heresy, 
apostasy, or tyranny, and yet the civil magistrate could not intermed- 
dle.' 1 The Court also censured the Salem church for calling as pastor 
a man who was "under question"; if such actions and attitudes spread, 
a free pulpit and an independent Church would surely follow. Salem 
and Williams were granted time in which to ponder the situation, and 
Williams was instructed to return to the next session of the Court and 
give satisfaction or expect sentence. Then, as the crowning act of that 
session, the Court rejected a petition of the Town of Salem to lands 
in. Marblehead, because the Town had chosen Williams as its pastor. 

When news of the Court's action reached Salem, indignation ran 
high. The colonists had but recently fled from England to escape the 
Stuart tyranny; now they were running into another tyranny, one im- 
posed by some of their fellow religionists. A public meeting was held 
and a letter was drafted which explained the Salem situation and ap- 
pealed for the support of the populace. Copies were sent to the 
churches of the colony. But the oligarchy, getting wind of the enter- 
prise, warned its representatives in the various communities; the 
letters were quietly pocketed and never were read before the people. 

Before Williams could take effective further action, he became 
seriously ill of an infection. During his convalescence, he wrote a 
letter to the Salem church in which he reaffirmed Ms Separatist 


opinions urged severance from the of the colony in spiritual 
matters. But now the oligarchy struck hard. It unseated the Town's 
deputies from the General Court and home. Moreover, it 

continued to refuse to grant the Marblehead lands and made clear 
that dismissing Williams was a condition of receiving them. 

The a cooler" heads in the Town now to waver in their con- 

viction and soon concluded that the time had come to submit. The 
Church members held a meeting and voted both to continue com- 
munion with other churches and to accept the conditions dictated by 
the Court. (Six months later the Marblehead lands were granted to 
Salem.) Williams immediately resigned from the Church. The Court 
now had him completely at its mercy; he was summoned again for 

In that day, the General Court of Massachusetts was a body which 
held final legislative, executive and judicial powers, and it operated in 
inquisitorial fashion. Williams was presented with no formal indict- 
ment; he had no attorney; no jury was chosen; and Governor Haynes 
acted as both presiding judge and leader of the prosecution. Still weak 
from illness, Williams was confronted by fifty of the best minds in 
New or old England, including ex-Governor John Winthrop; Al- 
lerton Hough, former Lord Mayor of Boston, England; John Cotton, 
Puritan apologist; and Thomas Hooker who would subsequently 
found Hartford and of whom it was said Ms majesty was so great he 
could put a king in Ms pocket. Against this group Williams was 
forced to stand alone, no member of the Court daring to come to his 

His conviction was a foregone conclusion, but the leaders shrank 
from passing sentence. Consequently, they thought by argument and 
by weight of dignity to persuade him of the error of his way. Hour 
after hour they grilled him. But he would not recant. The Court 
wearied, and still he stood Ms ground. Finally, the Court adjourned 
in order to give him time to ponder the consequences of forcing a 
sentence. But when they convened again they found him ready "not 
only to be bound and banished, but to die also/' Accordingly, he 
was ordered to leave Massachusetts. However, in view of his recent 
illness and the imminent birth of his second daughter (who was to 
receive the name "Freeborne n ) they permitted him "to stay tin 


bet him 4fc not to go to draw others to Ms 

but did continue 

to Ms in private. The General Court hearing of this 

his arrest, to him to England. Friends 

him of this and he fled, GO foot, in the depth of 

the forest. 

a full of Roger Williams' banishment have 
out that his years in Massachusetts were "a desperate time 
ID the history of the colony," 4 and that he would probably have re- 
treatment ia most of the nations of the seventeenth 
century* Even we have not learned the full implications of free- 

we still sternly with pioneer thinkers. Three centuries 

Roger Williams' trial, the General Court (legislature) of Massa- 
sought to make amends by rescinding Ms sentence of ban- 
ishment; the Governor of Massachusetts personally carried the writ 
of acquittal down to Rhode Island, where the chief executive dressed 
up in colonial costume to receive the document. But it was 
In same year that Massachusetts (aping Rhode Island) estab- 
a teacher's oath. Robert M. Hutchins has observed, "We do 
not throw people into jai because they are alleged to differ from 
official dogma. We throw them out of work." 5 To be sure, we seldom 
throw people out of work for their opinions on religion. But opinions 
in the field of politics and especially economics are quite another 

Williams might well have perished in the forest had not friendly 
Indians taken him in. He lived with them till spring and later that 
year (1636) joined half a dozen of his followers in founding Provi- 
dence, so named because he believed God had at last brought him 
to a safe refuge a faith which proved correct. After a time, under 
his leadership, a commonwealth developed which was dedicated to 
"soul liberty,*' as he put it, and designed "for those who were desti- 
tute especially for conscience's sake." Sanctuary was available in 
Rhode Island for persons of any type of religious faith Separatists, 
Puritans, Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Jews, Moslems. 

Such practice of religious freedom brought down scorn and de- 
rision. Cotton Mather wrote that Williams had a windmill in Ms 


Cotton "the of 

in New England," "all sorts of riff-raff 

people" there, Dutch clergymen in New Amsterdam called 

Island "nothing the sewer of New England." Be- 

the colony did not meddle with the matters of private 

morals, It was habitually caEed "Rogues* Island.*" The rest of the 

colonies were appalled by the fact that a Rhode Island court denied 

the right of a husband to force his wife to behave in religious matters 

as he thought proper. 

Williams did not stop with mere toleration; he believed in full- 
fledged equality for all religious groups. He wrote, "I desire not that 
liberty to myself, which I would not freely and impartially weigh 
out to al the consciences of the world beside." He disagreed vigor- 
ously with the religious ideas of many of Ms neighbors. Often he 
argued with them; on one occasion he engaged in a three-day debate 
with some distinguished Quakers. But always he kept his disagree- 
ments in the realm of ideas; governmental authority was never used 
to bolster religion. Rhode Island, unlike most of the colonies, never 
had an established church. 

Through Williams* influence, the government of Rhode Island 
was controlled by the democratic vote of all persons who owned 
land, no matter how small an amount. The right to vote did hinge 
on the ownership of land; however, he fought for, and to a large 
extent succeeded in securing, the right of all men to purchase land. 
He wrote, "I reserved to myself not one foot of land or inch of voice 
more in any matter than to my servants and strangers." To be sure, 
his democratic practice did not measure up to our own; it fell still 
farther short of the democratic ideal. But in its own setting his 
achievement was truly stupendous. He was nearly two centuries 
ahead of his time. 

Unfortunately, political democracy in Rhode Island did not long 
survive him. The sons of the founding democrats learned to love the 
fruits of special privilege and to develop methods of keeping new- 
comers in their place. Rhode Island grew rich in the eighteenth 
century on the triangular trade in molasses, rum and slaves. Not 
until Dorr's Rebellion in 1842 did the State give up land ownership 
as a qualification for voting. 

250 AND 

The of the the 

it on a in the 

of and The had a large in 

this We do not just what 

had to the Baptists. of Ms life con- 

that he a church. Unfortunately, 

War, the most of the buildings in 

Williams' own house; this fire destroyed 

many valuable documents including some which might have cleared 

up the of Williams' relationship to the Baptists. He was, 

of course, familiar with the teachings of the English Baptists, who 

democratic church management and the freedom of the 

from civil domination. We know that soon after founding 
Providence, Williams became convinced that Baptist Separatism 
was New Testament Christianity than Congregational Sepa- 

It seems probable that he was u rebaptized" by one of Ms own 
followers, whom Williams then in turn "rebaptized," along with ten 
others. But it is certain that he was active in the Baptist group for a 
period no longer than four months in length. His ever-roving mind 

came to the conclusion that no visible church can demon- 
strate that it is in the true Apostolic Succession. Consequently, he 
aligned himself with the Seekers, an unorganized and extremely 
individualistic group whose members denied the apostolicity of any 
visible church. In general, he continued to accept and to preach 
Baptist doctrines; but on the question of the nature of the Church, 
lie concluded that he could not accept even the lowest of low-church 

Williams* theories were roundly denounced by pamphleteers 
on both sides of the Atlantic; he wrote many defenses. The most 
famous was The Bloudy Teneni of Persecution for Cause of Con- 
science. This work, bristling with Biblical quotations and historical 
allusions, was produced at the beginning of the Cromwellian Revo- 
lution, while Williams was in England obtaining a charter for the 
new colony. The Bloudy Tenent touched off an angry debate which 
reverberated all through English political thinking in the 1640*s* 
In one year, no less than twenty-six pamphlets made direct mention 
of Williams and his ideas; in another year, at least eighteen did the 


the He the 

of of John and Sir 

Hemy Vaoe. Williams the who 

and In England and America. One writer 

him "the founder of American liberty democracy." 7 
The following passages from Ms writings are classic expressions 
of ideas which eventually secured a Inn hold on the of 

Americans. They need to be pondered against a seventeenth-century 
setting, a setting filed with such ideas as the divine right of kings, 
heresy equated with treason, some classes bom to privilege and 
othere bom to ignominy,, the suppression of opinion, and an es- 
tablished church casting over all these dogmas the rosy light of 

The sovereign, original, and foundation of civil power Ees in the 
people. ... A people may erect and establish what form of government 
seems to them most meet for their civil condition. . . . Such governments 
. . . have no more power, nor for no longer time, than the civil power 
or people consenting and agreeing shall betrust them with. 8 

It hath fallen out sometimes, that both Papists and Protestants,. Jews 
and Turks, may be embarked in one ship; upon which proposal I affirm 
that all the liberty of conscience that ever I pleaded for, turns upon these 
two hinges that none of the Papists 9 Protestants, Jews or Turks be 
forced to come to the ship's prayer or worship nor compelled from their 
own particular prayer or worship, if they practice any. 

[A state church is] opposite the very essentials and fundamentals of the 
nature of a civil commonweal. 

The Christian church doth not persecute: no more than a lily doth 
scratch the thorns, or a lamb pursue and tear the wolves. 

A believing magistrate is no more a magistrate than an unbelieving. 
The spiritual and civil sword cannot be managed by one and the same 

person. 9 


After the beginning in Rhode Island, Baptist churches grew but 
slowly. They were tmder many disabilities in New England, and 
made no great gains there until the time of the Great Awakening* It 
was in the middle colonies that the Baptist movement in America 


got its By 1 707 the of this were 

to the Philadelphia Association. 

This in the from southern New York 

to Virginia, to a tremendous influence on the 

development of the denomination. One historian even, wrote, 

"Pretty much everything in our history, from 1700 to 1850, 

be traced to its initiative or co-operation." 10 

During the Revolutionary War, the Baptists came into promi- 
through their efforts to further religious liberty. They ap- 
pealed to the Massachusetts authorities for the disestablishment of 
Congregationalism; taxation without representation, they said, is 
as bad in religion as in politics. The appeal was turned down. "The 
Baptists,* 1 John Adams is reported to have commented, "might as 
well expect a change in the solar system as to expect that the 
Massachusetts authorities would give up their establishment.** 11 
Nevertheless, a decade later the First Amendment was written into 
the Constitution of the United States, As a result, religious liberty 
soon came to exist "in America in a sense and to a degree in which it 
had never before existed anywhere in Christendom. ... In England, 
at this time [the early nineteenth century], a nonconformist could 
not be a member of Parliament, attend a university, hold a commis- 
sion in the army or navy 5 or be legally married except before a 
minister having 'holy orders.'" 12 Undoubtedly, more credit for the 
achievement of religious liberty in America is due the Baptists than 
to any other religious group. 

The major growth of the Baptist and Christian denominations 
came with the nineteenth century and the opening np of the terri- 
tories beyond the Allegheny Mountains. The freedom, informality 
and warmth of the Baptist way of doing things appealed to the 
frontiersman. Moreover, the older denominations could not Bud and 
support enough trained clergymen to serve the multiplying frontier 
communities. This situation offered an opportunity to unlettered 
but fervent evangelicals to assume leadership. The Baptists and the 
Methodists were willing to take these men as ministers and thus were 
able to lay on the frontier the foundations for their tremendous later 
growth. As a consequence, today these two groups are the largest 

AND 253 

in the country, a member- 

far of the Roman Catholic Church,* 

The "have a every years of thek 

history** 13 in America an evidence of vitality as wel as of a tend- 
ency to disagree. Today the Baptist such groups as 
the General Six Principle Baptists distinctive feature is the 
laying on of hands at the time of baptism; the Seventh Day Baptists 
who celebrate Saturday rather than Sunday as the Sabbath; the Two- 
Seed-in-the-Spirit Predestinarian Baptists who believe that every 
person contains in Ms heart two seeds, one of good and the other of 
evil, one from God and the other from the Devil; the Primitive* 
Baptists who are stern CaMnists; and the Duck River Baptists who 
arc liberal Calvinists and "practise washing the saints* feet." 

The bulk of the Baptist membership is in three major groups: 
the American Baptist Convention (called until 1950 the Northern 
Baptist Convention) which has a membership of about one and 
one-half million persons; the Southern Baptist Convention which has 
almost ten million members; and two bodies of Negro Baptists 
totaling about seven and one-half million members. The names of 
these two bodies are National Baptist Convention of America and 
National Baptist Convention, U.S.A. Inc. Prior to the Civil War 
these bodies were one. The Northern and Southern groups separated 
in 1845. The creation of the Negro bodies was a post-Civil War eSort 
on the part of ex-slaves who found in Baptist democracy and simplicity 
the answer to their religious needs. 

Baptists live in large numbers all over the United States, but their 
concentration is heaviest in the South; they are easily the dominant 
religious group of that section. 


"We have constructed for our basis no creed/* announced the 
Southern Baptists at the formation of their Convention, "acting in 
this matter upon a Baptist aversion for all creeds but the Bible.** 

* To obtain this result, membership must be judged by the same standards; 
i.e., children counted for all groups or only adult communicants counted for 
all groups. 


Yet are principles. As we seen, em- 

phasize to the Testament, believer's 

of church state, simplicity of worship, 

in an outlook. One other matter 

to be we have the foil picture; the Baptists believe in 

call "soul competence." Every person, according to this 

is competent himself to deal directly with God and has the 

and for such dealing. True religion, therefore, cannot be 

in creeds and handed down from one person to another. True 

is voluntary, dynamic, alive; it is personal and must be 

experienced. There is no inescapable necessity for a person to belong 

to a church or to receive the traditional ordinances (baptism and the 

Lord's Supper). The individual soul itself can enter into the very 

Holy of Holes. 

However, the doctrine of soul competence is not equivalent to 
saying that an atheist, for example, or even a Unitarian could con- 
tinue as a member of most Baptist churches. "It has never been true 
that cue could be a Baptist and believe as he pleased." 14 Regional 
organizations have maintained a few unwritten theological norms, 
and exacted adherence. One way Baptists took to enforce their 
standards was the practice of having membership open only to per- 
sons immersed on profession of their faith. Another way was "close 
Communion" Communion refused to any but Baptists. These 
practices were once universal in Baptist churches; however, by the 
middle 1940*s, one careful observer could write: 

Today Northern Baptist churches which practice close communion are 
rare. But the majority still require the immersion of Christians who come 
from non-immersion churches before admitting them into full member- 
sMp. Yet the practice varies all the way from strict application of this 
rule to a very few churches which will admit into full membership any- 
one who states that he believes in Christ. The matter of baptism is left 

Several years ago there was some agitation among Baptist churches 
of the north over the adoption of open membership. This movement took 
two forms. One is complete open membership by which a baptized Chris- 
tian from an evangelical church was admitted into fuU fellowship without 
immersion. All church rights and privileges were granted to such a mem- 
ber. Incidentally, tMs is the accepted practice among English Baptists 
and is commonly held without regard to theological views. The other form 
is that of an "associate membership," which provides for the reception 

AND 255 

of from la the church, 

but the they are not to be at a 

convention. 15 

In 1961, one American official that 

80 per cent of the American Baptist Churches still require 
for full membership. 

Hie Baptists and Christians hold there Is no thing as a 
sacrament, an act which conveys saving grace to the soul. They call 
the Lord's Supper and baptism "ordinances/ 5 acts prescribed by God, 
and consider them to be simply the "marks' 1 of disclpleship. The 
ordinances can, if a local church so directs, be administered by 
imordained persons. 

The power to ordain clergymen rests with the local church; but in 
practice few churches presume to act independently. Thus, ordination 
is usually performed by the Association. (The structure of denomina- 
tional organization follows in general the Congregational pattern.) 
Ordination conveys no sacerdotal powers; clergymen are considered 
to* be simply laymen who carry organizational responsibilities. TMs 
doctrine is so vigorously held that among the Christians some of their 
early ministers "never were ordained, and even today an occasional 
pastor will grow into his work and rise to national prominence 
without taMng time for this particular formality. 9 * 16 

Baptists believe they are even more congregational than the Con- 
gregationalists. Some Baptists contend that their movement constitutes 
6 *the most extensive experiment in pure democracy in all history," 17 
The autonomy of the local unit is carried so far that many Baptists 
**are highly scandalized" 18 by the phrase Baptist Church; the correct 
expression is thought to be Baptist churches. The churches of the 
Southern Convention are so jealous of their prerogatives that they do 
not send "delegates" to national meetings; delegates might become 
representatives and assume power to make decisions which could 
hobble the independence of the local congregation. The Southern 
churches, therefore, are represented by "messengers.'* 

Tie Baptist determination to be democratic comes out clearly in 
the conduct of national assemblies. At the Northern meeting in 1944 at 
Atlantic City one session was thrown into such a turbulence Of ex- 
pression over a war resolution that an official Baptist paper could say 


the was as as the sea that surged the 

pier the Convention Hal." 19 But that same meeting of the 

went all the labor of distributing, mark- 

ing, and counting twenty-six hundred ballots, because one 

his constitutional objected to the casting of 

oae by the secretary. 

Baptists continue to place great emphasis on the separation of 
church and state. TMs emphasis is the ground of such actions as the 
refusal of a large portion of the Southern ministers to co-operate with 
the United States Government in taking the 1936 census of religions 
(an action which was a major cause of the discontinuance of 
the census of religious bodies) and the questioning by some Southern 
leaders of the propriety of chaplaincies in the army and navy. 20 


A percentage of Protestant leaders consider the Southern 

Baptist Convention to be the "problem child of American Protestant- 
ism.** To be sure, these churches show evidence of vigorous health. 
They possess a very high degree of devotion to Christianity, and the 
statistics of their growth are impressive. Their rate of membership 
gains has been well above the national average. Their Sunday school 
enrollment steadily increased in a period when a declining birth rate 
produced a decrease in most denominations. In 1960, they reported a 
total of 1,406,326 tithers. And in the 1956-60 period "nearly 10,000 
new churches and missions" were established. 21 

But the credit of such a record is not enough, in the opinion of 
many observers, to blot out the debit of an intransigent insistence that 
only the ways of Southern Baptists are scriptural. Most Southern 
Baptists insist that their faith and it only is ordained of God; their 
plan for a united Church is for all Christians to become Southern 
Baptists. '^Southern Baptists have the only message to save lost 
men.** 22 Hie Southern Convention refuses to join the National Council 
of Churches; the President of the Convention in 1960 said there 
are no possibilities that it will join the National Council. The Con- 
vention of 1948 ^shouted down*' a committee recommendation that 
an unofficial observer be sent to the founding of the World Council of 


Churches at Amsterdam. In at oae Convention "almost all refer- 
the to the Northern Baptists were unfriendly In 

tone, several of them were applauded."** 23 The Southern Conven- 
has deliberately embarked on a program of expansion into terri- 
tory formerly thought of as belonging to the American ("Northern") 
Baptists, even though the Convention refused to Canadian Bap- 

tist churches to convention fellowship on the grounds that "It would 
encroach upon territory Canadian Baptists have occupied for years.** 
The Convention has twice held its annual meeting in Chicago, 24 A 
Southern journal characterized Chicago as "the greatest challenge of 
any area in America for Southern Baptist witness"; a Southern official 
predicted three thousand Southern Baptist churches in the Great 
Lakes area by 1975; 25 a Southern report noted that the number of 
Southern Baptist churches in Oregon-Washington increased from 19 
in 1948 to 155 in I960. 26 Spurred no doubt by these developments, 
the ecumenically-minded American Baptists have recently appointed 
a a general missionary in the South" and are establishing churches 

The Southern Baptists reiterate the conviction that their denomi- 
nation has no peer. "The leadership of the Christian world today is 
largely a Southern Baptist problem, because Baptists are the most 
rapidly growing denomination in the world.** 28 One embarrassed mem- 
ber of the denomination wrote: **We are forever talking about our- 
selves. . . . Take as an example the 1955 meeting of the convention 
in Miami, which blew the Southern Baptist horn long and loudly. . . . 
Perhaps we feel that by constantly speaking about ourselves and to 
ourselves we can keep the 'evil spirits* away/' 29 

A major cause of such sectarian behavior is the constitutional setup 
of the Convention. It has adopted a "mass meeting" approach to the 
solution of its problems. Since no less than ten thousand messengers 
attend the annual meetings and since they have a "propensity for 
feudin*, fussin* an* fightin'/' according to ex-Congressman Brooks 
Hays who served a term as Convention President, 30 anything like 
genuine deliberation is out of the question. Carefully considered com- 
mittee recommendatioiis are pushed aside by opinionated majorities 
who carefully shield themselves from exposure to any religious ideas 


and are fond of to Bryan- 

virtues and excoriate the weak- 

of It was a rejection of a committee report 

led to the Ote to "invade** the "Northern" states; the vote was 

by a 'Volume of cheers applause [which] was deaf- 

ening.'" 31 la the of World War II the president of the Conven- 

tion, a former Governor of Texas, opened the sessions with an address 

the of which was reported by Harold E. Fey of The Chris- 

Century to run as follows: 

Evil have arisen ... to challenge the continuance of Christian 

civilization. So God has commissioned Christian America to free the 
world of its chains. The invasion is about to begin in Europe. "George 
Washington will be there. Thomas Jefferson will be there. The Unknown 
Solder will be there. He will stand by Woodrow Wilson and in the hour 
of certain triumph they will stand and sing, *My Country, 'tis of thee.' " 
The last time America defaulted on her responsibility to the rest of the 
world, **But if this great country will look to the southland, where democ- 
racy is purest, where Anglo-Saxon blood is purest, and take its direction 
from the Southern Baptist Church, it will not default again. Our first 
responsibility therefore is to bring about a revival of the old-time religion, 
the religion of heaven and hellfire and damnation, to keep the church 
bells ringing, to inoculate our youth with faith in the principles of our 
forefathers and in God, the same yesterday, today and forever. Let us 
rise and sing 'Onward Christian Soldiers.**' The Convention rose and 
sang lustily. 32 

Time reported the 1953 meeting in these words: "They clapped, 
rumbled their approval and cried an occasional 'Amen' as this year's 
president . . . made a metaphorical speech ridiculing the idea that 
Southern Baptists might affiliate with the National Council of 

An editor of The Christian Century commented as follows on the 

situation inside the denomination: 

Some leaders talk of 4 *the miracle of Southern Baptist unity," but 
others know that underneath the surface appearance of unanimity pre- 
sented by a controlled and undemocratic convention there is serious 
and growing disaffection. Large numbers of Southern Baptists are dis- 
turbed by the fact that at present all avenues to peaceful, democratic 
change seem to be blocked. . . . They confess that ... the only way in 
which dissenters can bring about change is through backdoor methods of 
personal influence, backstairs intrigue at conventions, "deals" between 


In power, and carrying the favor of and patronage 

. . . 

Meanwhile the boards of the church go their own ways, 

the policies which are sometimes by nothing more 

the exigencies of maintaining and extending their own power. 34 

To Infer that such generalizations characterize the attitudes of all 
Southern Baptists would be very far from correct. Southern Baptists 
are no more all alike than are all Jews, or all Congregationaiists or all 
Negroes. One writer declared: "Southern Baptists probably have the 
widest range of belief and practice, culture and ignorance., to be found 
in any denomination." 35 Moreover, changes are occurring in denomi- 
national moods. Two decades ago one estimate had It that there were 
"a number" of open-membership churches and that close communion 
was "not nearly so common as many would suppose." Today accord- 
ing to the estimate of one denominational official **possibly ten per 
cent but probably not more than five per cent of the churches practice 
open membership.'* This official furthermore writes: "Without a great 
deal of fanfare about the matter, I would say that most Southern Bap- 
tist pastors make no attempt to limit participation in communion 
beyond the fact that It is an observance for believers who are mem- 
bers of churches." 

Changes are occurring in other areas also. One observer wrote, 
*Tfae day when demagogues could sway the great Southern Baptist 
Convention may be over, although the fear of the demagogue is still 
strong in official circles."* 5 Another observer wrote that Southern 
Baptist churches are entering councils of churches "in increasing num- 
bers all across the south." 37 There are signs also of a quickening social 
conscience. In 1948, the Messengers refused to send congratulations 
to their fellow member, Harry S. Truman; many observers felt this 
refusal stemmed from Mr. Truman's stand on civil rights. However, in 
1954, soon after the Supreme Court's decision on segregation in 
schools, the Convention issued a statement urging compEance with the 
law. Prior to this time, the Convention's theological seminaries (al- 
though not its colleges) had been opened to Negroes, and the denomi- 
nation's Social Service Commission had issued a "solemn warning** to 
all churches against accepting "bribe money** from the Ku-Klux Kkn. 
One prominent clergyman, when laymen refused at Communion to 
serve Negroes, defied Southern mores and served them himself. 



During a service in Glasgow in 1809, a young 

Presbyterian sat thinking intently. He had attended the preparatory 
the as to his to commune, and had 

a token which, according to the cnstom of that day, 

to receive the sacrament. As he sat in the quiet of the 
church, group after group of communicants went forward; but he de- 
layed. Finely, as the last group began to commune, he rose, marched 
to the front, deposited his token on the communion table, and stalked 
out of the church. 

This young man was Alexander Campbell. At that time he was 
twenty-one years of age, had just spent a year in the Uniersity of 
Glasgow^ and was soon to embark on a voyage to America where he 
would settle on the frontier (West Virginia) and join with Ms father 
and some other Presbyterians in rejecting Calvinism and in re-estab- 
lishing the 4 *Christian Church." Young Campbell had come to the 
conclusion that the Church of which he was a member in Glasgow 
the Anti-burgher Seceder Presbyterian Church was not established 
after the New Testament pattern. He came to believe that each local 
group must be independent, that the New Testament is a perfect con- 
stitution for the doctrine and discipline of a New Testament Church, 
that clerical privileges and dignities have no place, that creeds are 
nonscriptural, that laymen have the right and duty to preach, that the 
Lord's Supper should be observed every Sunday, that immersion of 
regenerated believers was the apostolic practice. 

After Campbell reached America, he found under the leadership 
of a Presbyterian minister, Barton W. Stone, a body of persons who 
held similar ideas. He joined with them in focusing the attention of 
many people on these doctrines and they became the locus of religious 
practice in a widening area. Their affinity to Baptist doctrines was 
soon noted and for a time the new group was numbered among the 
members of that group. But finally the Campbells and their colleagues 
came to consider that the Baptists were a "denomination" while the 
New Testament provided simply for "Christians/ 9 Consequently a new 
body was born ironically enough through an effort to avoid sectari- 


There considerable a for the new 

group. One favored the term Christian, Acts 11:26, 

* 4 The were called Christians.* 9 Another favored the 

Disciples. Alexander Campbell this to be more 

distinctive and less Invidious than "Christian," The name of 

Christ finally adopted. In 1957, however, the official was 

changed to International Convention of Christian Churches (Disciples 
of Christ). But the terminology is not exact. Local churches of this 
group (they do not Eke to be called a denomination or a sect) are 
called "Christian;* "Disciples of Christ," and "Church of Christ 1 * 
(though they have no connection with the Churches of Christ which 
are described later in this chapter. (See also page 226 for a discussion 
of another body which used the term Christian.) The Christian 
Churches have frequently been called Campbeliite, a practice wMch 
for a number of years has teen obsolescent 

The early Mstoiy of the Disciples was marred by violent contro- 
versies. The members accepted a literal view of the Bible, as was 
customary in that day, and sometimes acted on the belief that no re- 
ligious practice is proper unless it has explicit warrant in the New 
Testament. Some of the societies accordingly adopted resolutions op- 
posing preaching from notes, paying salaries to the clergy, and using 
the title Reverend. "Imagine," ran the argument, "saying 'The Rev, 
Simon Peter!* " The most violent controversy concerned the correct- 
ness of missionary societies. (There was no question about missionary 
work.) The antisociety group contended that the New Testament 
sanctions no organization but the Church itself, that a missionary 
society has its beginning in human thoughts, that it has a "money 
basis/' that it "joins churches together" and is, therefore, a dangerous 
temporizing with ecclesiasticism" and the "beginning of apostasy . MSS 
This controversy continued for many years and was finally settled only 
by the withdrawal from the Disciples of the antisociety group. 

Another controversy had to do with the propriety of using organs 
in the churches. One spokesman for the antiorgan group declared that 
since organs were not used in the worship of the first century, they 
were "an insulter of the authority of Christ, and ... a defiant and 
impious innovator on the simplicity and purity of the ancient order. 
Let no one who takes a letter from one church ever unite with another 


an lei live out of a than go into 

a den." his.) si One church in pet up a building with 

so Harrow the customary organs of that day 

be In, In 1960, a in the Kentucky courts 

was In which a group In a church who favored the use 

of music was declared to exclusive use of the 

property. 48 

The of the Christian churches believed organs should be used. 
Bat a stubborn minority continued to hold otherwise. They were the 
group which opposed missionary societies. As a result, a new 
sect was bom, an antisoclety, antiorgan sect. It has the name Churches 
cj Christ reports a membership of over two million adults. How- 
ever, in 1947 it reported but one million and in 1936 but three hun- 
dred thousand. This rate of increase seems improbable. Texas has 
more members of this group than any other state; other states where 
the Churches of Christ are prominent are Tennessee, Kentucky, Ala- 
bama, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. 

Some of the members of the Churches of Christ share with the 
members of many other sects a conviction that there is but one road 
to salvation their own. The stubbornness with which this conviction 
is sometimes held is made clear by a letter which came from a local 
minister to a woman who asked for the transfer of her church member- 
ship to a Congregational church. The letter ran in part as follows: 

We do not issue church letters for anyone to enter into some denomi- 
nation. Perhaps you didn't understand that according to the Scriptures 
when you accepted Christ and became obedient to Him, He added you 
to His Church (the church of Christ). You have no Scriptural authority 
to go join any man-made organization that is called a church. . . . Con- 
gregationalism with human names and false teachings will cause your 
soul to be lost . . . Don't listen to what men have to say but be sure you 
laave a *Ttius saith the Lord" for what you do religiously. 

The spirit of this letter does not characterize the Christian churches. 
They began as an effort to get rid of sectarianism and achieve Christian 
unity; their plan was for al Christians to get back to pristine Christi- 
anity. To date, this body has succeeded in being merely another de- 
nomination. They have never been party to the actual union of two 
denominations. They deplore this fact. Nevertheless, a serious recent 
discussion of merger with the American Baptists was discontinued. 


The Christian Churches are the United Church 

of Christ the of merger body. 

The Christian Churches Communion Sunday morn- 

ing practice open Communion. Open however, is 

another matter. In 1929, only churches oat of six 

"openly and avowedly** admitted to persons 

baptism had not taken the form of immersion. By 1948, one 
hundred seventeen churches were "known to practice open member- 
ship/ 5 but probably four hundred more actually practiced it "quietly" 
and said "nothing about it." A still larger number who do not practice 
open membership i4 are restrained from it by considerations of ex- 
pediency only, not by conviction." 41 In 1957, a wei-Moraed observer 
wrote that "not one-fourth" of the eight thousand churches practice 
open membership. 42 

The Christian Churches number about one million eight hundred 
thousand adults. Their chief strength is in the North-Central States 
with Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio and Kentucky leading the pro- 
cession. Texas also has a large Obtristian contingent These six states 
contain about half of the Christians in the country. 


The claim so often made by the congregationally organized 
churches that they practice an especially purified brand of democracy 
is far from accurate. A careful investigation by Paul M. Harrison of 
the government of the American, Baptist Convention led him to write 
in Ms impressive Authority and Power in the Free Church Tradition 
that "the Baptist denomination has been no more successful in estab- 
lishing a 'democratic polity' than many other Protestant denominations 
which do not place a primary emphasis on this goal." 48 

The power of American Baptist leaders he said is "oftentimes con- 
siderably greater than the official ecclesiastical authority of the Episco- 
palian or Methodist bishop." 44 

In aH of the "free" churches Baptist, Christian, Unitarian-Uni- 
versalist, United Church of Christ the local church has a high degree 
of control over its own affairs, much greater control than in the episco- 
pal or piesbyterian systems. The democratic failure occurs at the state 


of life. If democracy is a system in 

the to the top, In which the persons 

at the top are by the at the bottom, and in which policy 

is by at the or by their elected repre- 

free-church government as ordinarily practiced in the 

is not outstanding for its democratic procedures. Usually 

the denominational are not democratically chosen, 

they serve for indefinite periods f commonly until retirement aa 

of about twenty years), and they habitually determine as well 

as administer denominational policy. 

On paper, the free churches operate democratically. The newly 
Constitution of the United Church of Christ, for example, 
provides for a General Synod composed of delegates from the grass 
roots who have power to elect officers and to determine policies. This 
theory is general. In practice, however, on most policies and in most 
elections the national assemblies are "bypassed" by denominational 
"elites," to use Harrison's words, who use the national assemblies as 
means for promoting previously determined policies and for electing 
previously chosen persons. 45 

The composition of the average national assembly is such as to 
force this de facto disavowal of democratic processes if denomina- 
tional life is to move onward at a pace which most informed observers 
consider to be wise and necessary; the average national assembly is 
incapable by itself of making wise and fully considered judgments 
concerning denominational policy and personnel. A large number of 
the delegates are attending for the first time. Frequently they have 
teen chosen as a reward for yeoman service in the local church and 
not because they are prepared by experience and study to take an 
active part in the assembly's deliberations. They do not know the 
ropes: they do not know how to present motions so that they will be 
considered, how to jj^in admittance to the ecclesiastical equivalent of 
the smoke-filed room, how to get the floor at times of debate. They 
are intimidated by the onward rush of an overfull agenda, bewildered 
by the complexity of the problems on which they are asked to vote, 
and know that the kind of free debate and discussion which would 
clarify the issues would lengthen the time the assembly must sit to 
very expensive lengths. Accordingly the assembly tends except for 


an to rubber-stamp and recom- 

transferring real authority in the from 

to the committees and boards. 

As noted, of the denominations have a mass- 

meeting type of national assembly. "If all [American Baptist] churches 
were represented there would be a minimum of 12,744 voting 

delegates at annual meetings." 48 Over ten thousand delegates attended 
the 1960 assembly of the International Convention of Christian 
Churches. Over eleven thousand Messengers attended the 1959 
Southern Baptist Convention. The Constitution of the United 
Church provides for a Synod of about seven hundred, a size consider- 
ably larger than that of the national House of Representatives, a size 
which many political scientists feel is unwieldy. C4 In the present stage 
of their development, the annual conventions bear a singular resem- 
blance to county fairs." 47 Confronted by such a situation, men who 
have the responsibility for national denominational leadership must 
choose among anarchy, inaction, submission to demagoguery, 48 and 
efforts to "bypass" the assemblies. Effective power both for the making 
of policy and for executing it rests in fact with the leaders. Tins the 
basic separation-of-powers principle does not operate. 

In some of the assemblies, discussion is discouraged. One leader 
said, "Conditions are such at the present time that we cannot risk it" 
Another leader said, "If we started an open discussion of theological 
issues we'd blow the 3id off a boiling pot." 49 One reporter wrote con- 
cerning the 1959 General Synod of the United Church of Christ: 

Dissatisfaction erupted on the last evening. Speakers rose and asked 
an honest airing of issues which had been troubling delegates. After some 
veiled efforts toward this end, it developed that Congregationalists were 
unhappy over the constitutional provision for what they look upon as 
fragmented or compartmentalized boards which report directly to Gen- 
eral Synod, as distinguished from the old inclusive Congregational boards* 

. . . But apparently there had been a gentlemen's agreement to confine 
discussion of such matters to committees, and E & R President James B. 
Wagner . . . was deeply cut. With a grim smile he spoke of this **unr 
fortunate sequence of events'* which had violated the hope that such 
matters would be wrestled with "in smaller meetings." 50 

Harrison's study indicates that less than three hundred persons 
"actually run** the American Baptist Convention. 51 Some such figure 


an study of the leadership 

of These leaders tend to be 

a since they determine nominations for 

and and for salaried positions. The 

rubber-stamps nominations. Concerning 

the United Church, one Congregational clergyman contended: 

The Constitution and By-laws lend themselves to the making 

of a benevolent oligarchy. 

. . There is no limit to the number of years a staff executive can 

in the or a related position. It is possible for a man to become 

an executive or staff member of an instrumentality at the age of 30 or so 

continue in office until he retires at 70. 

. . . The present by-laws would entrench a system that makes the selec- 
tion of instrumentality or board members the right of the present board 
and staff* Prolonged over decades this would make the United 
Church the virtual property and private domain of a very few indi- 
viduals. . . , 52 

The situation here described has resulted from an uncompromising 
detenainatioE to preserve the freedom of the local church. The theory 
in of the denominations is that persons who go to regional or 

national assemblies must not go as delegates or as representatives. 
Such persons could take action which might bind the local church. 
Consequently a power vacuum developed which pragmatically minded 
leaders, filed as best they could. In the Congregational Christian 
Churches, a theory developed which if put into operation would have 
denied representative government. The theory claimed for the Gen- 
eral Council the same freedom and independence that was claimed for 
the local church. In the midst of the merger struggle, the chief ex- 
ecutive officer of the denomination wrote a book in which he asserted 
that "a coundl is a kind of congregation," 53 and the editor of the de- 
nominational magazine wrote that ** Tower' no more rises from the 
bottom in our fellowship than it descends from the top." 54 

Representative democracy is surely the best means yet devised for 
determining the will of large numbers of people, for distributing power 
in large organizations, and for preserving the freedom of local organi- 
zational units. The free churches do not practice representative de- 
mocracy at the national level. They have not yet faced up to the 
realities of power. Their national organizations are comparatively 


new, of the centuxy for the part. These 

will one clay provide in their govern- 

structures for the separation of powers, for 

for so that they can for true 

deliberation, for genuine elections of delegates and 

officials., and for limited tenure in office. Until the time 
reforms such as these are by the congregationaly or- 

churches, claims that they practice a superior type of de- 
mocracy are in error at the regional national levels. The govern- 
of the local churches is another matter; there the forms of 
democracy obtain and are exercised according to the concern and skill 
of the local members. 


As a denominational family the Baptists and Christians make their 
greatest contribution to our national life through their insistent pres- 
sure for the preservation of religious liberty and the separation of 
church and state. These churches can always be counted on to take 
action opposing an ambassadorship to the Vatican* or disapproving 
the granting of public funds to sectarian schools, or condemning the 
State Department for adopting Roman Catholic policy in South 
America. It is no accident that the first executive of the organization 
"Protestants and Other Americans United for the Separation of 
Church and State" was a Baptist clergyman. Baptists in Alabama and 
in North Carolina turned down large federal grants for hospital build- 
ings at a time when Methodists and Roman Catholics in Washington, 
D. C., sought such aid. 53 On the other hand, Baptists seem on the 
whole to agree with most of the denominations in opposing the move 
to take away tax exemption from religious property and thus are 
willing to accept police and fire protection as well as other services 
from the state. "In one shockingly casual vote the [Southern] conven- 
tion ordained all of its foreign missionaries just to satisfy a provision 
of the Social Security law." 56 

Belief in the separation of church and state has become the firm 
belief of the overwhelming majority of Americans. Unfortunately, a 
considerable percentage assumes that the doctrine means the separa- 
tion of religion and state, that all phases of religion are outside the 


of the But, if the In the first chapter of 

this Is correct, a Is only because a group of peo- 

ple a set of values; the heart of a state Is religious faith, 

on the of citizens their common ideals are infinitely 

worthy of supreme devotion. 

It be 3 therefore, that unthinking efforts to keep the state from 
all with religion will be self -destructive. The thesis is that 

if a preserve its spiritual center, it will perforce be sup- 

planted by a kind of society which is more spiritually aware; and this 
of spiritual awareness need not, indeed usually has not, led to 
religious freedom. We will return to this thesis in the last chapter. 



THE SOCIETY of Friends was bom in seventeenih-centuxy England, 

the same England which produced the Separatists, Cromwell, the 

Baptists, Roger Williams, the Seekers and the Act of Toleration. The 
Society was founded by George Fox. He was the son of a poor weaver. 
Fox wrote in Ms Journal that at nineteen years of age, in 1643, 

... at the command of God, ... I left my relations, and brake off all 
familiarity or fellowship with old or young ... a strong temptation to 
despair came upon me. ... I continued in that condition some years, in 
great troubles, and . . . went to many a priest to look for comfort, but 
found no comfort from them. [Then I] ... looked more after the Dis- 
senting people. . . . But as I had forsaken the priests, so I left the Sepa- 
rate preachers also. . . . And when all my hopes in them and in all men 
were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could I tell 
what to do; then, oh! then I heard a voice which said, * fc There is one, even 
Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition"; and when I heard it, my 
heart did leap for joy. . . . Jesus Christ . . . enlightens, and gives grace 
and faith and power . . . this I knew experimentally. My desires after 
the Lord grew stronger, and zeal in the pure knowledge of God, and of 
Christ alone, without the help of any man, book, or writing. For though 
I read the Scriptures that spake of Christ and of God, yet I knew Him 
not, but by revelation. . . . Then the Lord gently led me along, and let 
me see His love, which was endless and eternal, surpassing all the knowl- 
edge that men have in the natural state, or can get by history or books." 1 

Fox's spiritual victory brought with it important convictions: such 
as that an Oxford training in divinity is not of itself sufficient evidence 
of a man's fitness for the Christian ministry, that religious services 
need not be held in consecrated buildings, that within the heart of 
every man is a divine spark which will leap into flame unless it is 
smothered by sin and indifference, that speaking in religious services 



be the of the Holy Spirit, true 

be that every plowman Is as 

as any peer, that all be treated with love and 


were and creative Ideas. But Fox's true significance 

lies not as much in the nobility of his vision at any time in history 

is a of people who dream of how the world can be 

as in the extent to which he incorporated Ms ideals into 

living, Ms own and that of other people. Without a university 

and without ordination by the Church, he dared to become a 

of Christ. His presumption brought him into conflict with the 

authorities, and he was thrown into prisons foul places eight 

times,, for a total of six years. He was mobbed and beaten; but he never 

became bitter or counseled violence. And he insisted on treating all 

men as equals. 

In carrying out his belief in equality. Fox declined to adopt the 
growing custom of showing honor to highly placed persons by using 
the pronoun "you* 5 (then used only in a plural sense) in addressing 
a single person. Commoners were addressed by the singular "thou" 
or "tfaee." Fox insisted on using the singular in addressing any one 
person of whatever class. Some Quakers still continue the practice 
among themselves, even though it has ceased long since to be a protest. 
Most of them also drop all titles when addressing one another; they 
use simply first and last names; Herbert Hoover, Rufus Jones, Richard 

Fox also, like Roger Williams, refused to take oaths. An oath, he 
said, is in direct contradiction to the Sermon on the Mount wMch 
reads, c *Swear not at all." Moreover, an oath assumes a double stand- 
ard of truthfulness; Fox asserted that there are no special occasions 
for wMch scrupulous truthfulness should be reserved. 

The Quakers also adopted the practice of numbering the days of 
the week First Day, Second Day, etc.; they adopted a similar prac- 
tice with the months. These names were chosen because the names 
commonly given are not Christian, but "pagan" in origin. 

Fox had no intention of establishing a sect; he wanted simply to 
help stumbling, unhappy men and women. He found in town after 
town a multitude of people who flocked eagerly to hear him; the soil 

27 1 

by the of day: Baptists^ 

Seekers, Ranters, Levellers. He converts 

groups. Soon a considerable number, especially in the north of Eng- 
land, "under convincement,* 9 a organization ap- 
peared, and about score of of women! 
to emulate Fox in Ms Itinerant ministry. 

These traveling preachers were youths, practically all of than in 

twenties. It is Instructive to ponder the fact that the majority of 

the epcxjfa-making contributions in the of religion have been 

initiated by men under forty, as is evidenced by the careers of such 

persons as Jesus, Gautama, Loyola, Luther, Calvin, Wesley and Fox. 

At first the new group called themselves u Childreii of Light" or 
"Children of Truth" or "Friends of Truth." Finally, the name "Re- 
ligious Society of Friends" was chosen. The term Quaker was first 
used in derision, probably because some of the members of the Society 
trembled under the urgency of their emotions. 

Thirty years after the beginning of the Society of Friends, there 
were about sixty-five thousand Quakers in England. The number in 
that country today is about a third of what it was then; thus the pro- 
portion of Quakers in the population has greatly decreased, since the 
population has steadily increased. Today there are about two hundred 
thousand Quakers throughout the world, 60 per cent of them in the 
United States. 


In 1667, William Penn, an English gentleman, twenty-two years of 
age, son of a famous admiral,, fresh from a successful term in the army 
and a season of polishing in France, came under convincement He 
adopted Quaker ways, wrote, preached, came into conflict with Ms 
father, offended the bishops, and like many another Quaker contem- 
porary spent weary months in prison. 

At the death of Admiral Penn ? his son came into possession of a 
debt of sixteen thousand pounds owed his father by King Charles IL 
Penn proposed that the debt be settled by a grant of land in America. 
The King, hard pressed for funds to keep his elaborate menage going, 
was pleased to get rid of his obligation by giving feudal rights to a 
section of the American wilderness over which he nevertheless re- 


the of In 1681, the charter was signed and the 

the Pennsylvania, in honor of the Admiral, not of 


The Friends a strong foothold in America, espe- 

cially in Island, New Jersey, Maryland and the Carolinas. Perm 

not to a refuge for persecuted Quakers, but also 

to a "holy experiment" in applied Quakerism. The govern- 

he was remarkably progressive for its time, Ms relations 

the Indians proving especially happy; he was father to the famous 
treaty of Shackamaxon, "the only treaty," said Voltaire, 
"never sworn to and never broken.*' 

By 1700, claims one Quaker historian, the "Friends were the 
rel^OES organization in the English colonies as a whole, 
both in their influence and in their promise." 2 A century later, the 
Friends were stifl a large body, ranking in number of local groups be- 
low the Coagregationalists, Presbyterians, Baptists and Episcopalians, 
in that order. Below the Friends, came the Reformed, Lutherans, 
Roman Catholics and Methodists, again in that order. 3 Today the 
Quakers have dropped in numbers far behind all of these groups. Only 
one hundred and twenty-five thousand Americans are Quakers today. 
**Two centuries ago, 10 per cent of the population of Pennsylvania and 
New Jersey were Friends. Today they are one tenth of 1 per cent 
there." 4 

The major reasons for this decline were probably two. One was the 
cooling of the spiritual fires which had provided power for the found- 
ing of the movement. A time came "when American Quakerism be- 
came so quietistic and ingrown that concern for non-Friends almost 
died/* 5 One blunt observer "likened the Society of Friends in Phil- 
adelphia to a fragile antique: exquisite, quaint, otherworldly." 6 The 
quietistic mood lingers on. A contemporary Quaker wrote in the 
Friends Journal of her "great disappointment and sorrow*' that an- 
other writer in the Journal had urged Quaker membership in the Na- 
tional Council of Churches thus showing "little conception of going 
the lone road of individual responsibility." 7 A member of the meeting 
where I worship replied to some proposals for increasing attendance 
by saying, "I have no interest in numbers." The birth of another tem- 
per may be signaled by the announcement that "in 1962 the first three- 

THE 273 

year Quaker is to to 

over a of five years into an 

the American Association of Schools/' s 

Another for the Quaker to was the of life 

the Quakers OB their living; a & *peciilar 

people." They wore broad-brimmed hats, said **thee* f and "thy," and 
to take oaths. They disowned Qoakere who married non- 
Quakers, permitted women to be "ministers," conducted their worship 
in silence, and refused military service. Such sectarian standards nat- 
urally repeled many people. Any religions group "whose mores are 
markedly different from those of the general population, Is bound to 
be smaM. Conversely, no religious group can become large the 

standard of behavior on which it Insists is fairly similar to that of the 
general population. 

There was a revival of spiritual fervor among many Quaker groups 
about the middle of the nineteenth century. Beginning then some of 
the distinctive "nonessentials" began to be abandoned. Today, 
Quakers no longer wear the plain dress or disown their members for 
"marrying out of meeting." And they date their mail just as do other 
Americans. But the spiritual and ethical essentials remain. 

A number of divisions have occurred in American Quaker history . 
The best known was the split in the third decade of the last century 
between the Orthodox and the Hicksite groups. The fficksltes felt 
that only through separation could they preserve their liberty, and 
"witness" to an Increasing liberalism In theology. A marked tendency 
toward the healing of these divisions is evident in the twentieth cen- 
tury, influenced no doubt by the widespread ecumenical temper of 
American Protestantism, 


Quakers take satisfaction in the fact that they have no creed; in 
fact, one observer wrote that modem Quaker theology is "nebulous 
almost to the point of invisibility." 9 Consequently, Quaker thinking 
roams all over the theological landscape. Most Friends are evangelical 
in their viewpoint; but some are practically Fundamentalists and a 
veiy few practically Humanists. 

Nevertheless, there are some teachings on which all Quakers agree. 


is the of the Church; all that the true 

Church Is and Hot or ecclesiastical In nature. Another 

is the for to be personally experienced Not 

the to Friends, can be put in the place of 

the Spirit. Fox wrote: "You will say, Christ 

and the say this; but what canst tfaou say? Art thou 

a of the Light, and thou walked in the Light, and what thou 

Is it inwardly from God?"* ll} 

The distinctive Quaker teaching Is the doctrine of the Inner Light. 
AH say the Friends, have within themselves the true source of 

their religious inspiration. God is known directly. He is truly im- 
manent and is present in every human heart. (He is also tran- 
thus * 4 extends infinitely out beyond and above all hu- 
man lie.") 11 Many names have been given to this inner experience 
of God: the Light, the Light of Christ, the Light Within, the Spirit, 
the the Root, the Truth, That of God in Every Man. Today the 

name universally used is the Inner Light. 

This teaching accounts for the dignity and confidence with which 
early Quakers treated all sorts of persons: criminals., Indians, jailers 
and women. The Quakers early gave women full spiritual equality 
with men. They continue to rank above all other old-line religious 
groeps in the opportunities they give women. 

At times in Quaker history, the doctrine of the Inner Light has been 
debased by some Quakers to a kind of superstition. They came to be- 
lieve that the inner voice must be trusted hour by hour for all the little 
decisions of ordSnaiy living; and more than one leader came to the 
conviction that he had a wire connecting him directly with God, and 
that Ms opinions, therefore, were infallible. 12 Present-day Friends hold 
that the promptings of the inner voices are not always or all of God, 
nor their apprehension of spiritual realities always correct and must, 
therefore, be checked by experience and be presented for the judgment 
of other Christians. 

The most notable application of the doctrine of the Inner Light has 
been to the traditional service of pubic worship; see pages 1 f. for a 
brief description of such a service. This historic type of Quaker wor- 
ship (still practiced by about a third of American Friends) is built on 
the assumption that God speaks directly to the human heart. It is a 

THE 275 

to of this in of 

Is but a for the of life and the 

Light Traditional Quakers their wor- 

is "unprogramed," it is as as no present 

is of the Spirit to witness to the Truth is in him. The 

Quaker is alive, not dead; it is the of a greenhouse, not 

of a graveyard. And there are no special persons erf 

ordination are thought to be especially to preach or teach. 

Consequently, there is no professional leader in the meet- 

ing. ""Since we have no [professional] minister"* in the iiBprogramed 

meeting, writes one Quaker, "all of us have a responsibility it is not 

the abolition of ministry, but the abolition of the passive laity that the 

Society of Friends has ever striven for/ 513 

Worship in the ideal meeting is a wondrous experience. It can take 
place only among friends, kindred spirits who trust and love each 
other, who have risen above the necessity of saving face, and who are 
willing to share their spiritual travail. When a true Mend stands simply 
and humbly in Ms place and speaks of the joy which follows after self- 
less devotion, or of the insight that is gained from honest prayer, many 
a bewildered and lonely seeker feels as though a hand has dasped Ms 
in the dark; he ceases to wander alone and becomes part of a spiritual 
brotherhood wMch moves onward together. 

Of course, many a meeting fails to reach the ideal. Meetings are 
sometimes attended by strangers whose cMef interest is curiosity; they 
sit the silence out, doggedly waiting for something to happen. Some 
meetings are disturbed by the habitual speaking of persons whose 
"opening" seems to come not from God but from the 6t will of the 
creature.** Cranks and neurotics also occasionally put in their appear- 
ance. Such disturbers are "eldered," that is, they are visited and gently 
but nevertheless firmly instructed that their inspiration is "not of God." 
But of all the ills wMch beset traditional Quaker worsMp the most 
common is unwillingness to speak. Many a Friend goes to meeting 
with the firm intention of keeping silent, no matter what vistas may 
open to him. In most meetings all the witnessing is done by a small 

term minister is used by traditional Friends to designate a person 
who has been singled out as one whose public witness is especially notable. 
OfJaer denominations would use the term lay preacher* 


of the consequently during 

no one 

The of worship has been abandonee! by the ma- 

jority of Quakers. This development resulted from a revival 

which began shortly after the Civil War, The revival 
into the Society a considerable number of persons who were 
not Quakers. Thus, in some meetings the number of persons 

were familiar with the traditional pattern dropped to almost zero. 
These meetings often employed a pastor. Soon he began to perform 
the functions ordinarily performed by pastors in other denominations; 
also services of worship followed a more or less set pattern and 
became in general like the services conducted in neighboring Method- 
ist or Baptist churches. Programed (pastoral) meetings center in 
the Middle West and unprogramed ones on the Atlantic seaboard. 
In other parts of the world, except for a few meetings in Canada, all 
Friends meetings are unprogramed. 14 About half of the pastoral meet- 
ings have Fundamentalist leanings. 15 


The silent-meeting Friends are the best-known American exponents 
of that type of religious experience known as mysticism, an experience 
which is found among all traditional religious groups. Students of 
mysticism disagree sharply concerning its nature, characteristics, and 
definition. For purposes of this exposition, a religious mystic can be 
defined as a person who feels that he has "an immediate, intuitive, 
experimental knowledge of God/' 16 The following are some mystics 
whose religious experiences are well known: the prophet Isaiah (see 
Isaiah 6), the Apostle Paul (see Acts 9), Francis of Assisi, Martin 
Luther, Ignatius Loyola, Bemadette Soubiroux and George Fox. 

To such sensitive persons come moments when they feel they are 
enveloped in God's power, and earth becomes the very vestibule of 
heaven. Fox describes one such experience as follows: 

Now was I come up in spirit through the flaming sword, into the 
paradise of God. AH things were new; and all the creation gave another 
smell unto me than before, beyond what words can utter. I knew nothing 
but pureness, and umocency, and righteousness. . . . The creation was 
opened to me; . . . And the Lord shewed me that such as were faithful 

THE 277 

to Him. In the power and of Christ, up the 

In which Adam was fie fell. 17 

Wordsworth In Tintern a experience: 

That serene and blessed 

In which the breath of this corporeal frame. 
And even the motion of our blood* 

Almost suspended, we are laid 
In body, and become a iving soul: 
WMIe ? with an eye made quiet by the power. 
We see into the Ife of things. 

Students of mysticism sharply disagree concerning its source and 
nature. Some of them contend that all mystical extremes are to 
degree pathological. Contemporary psychologists especially tend to 
dismiss the extreme forms by calling them self-hypnosis, hallucination, 
hysteria,, endocrine imbalance, and point out that similar experiences 
can be produced in almost anyone by the administration of certain 
drags. 18 Tie mystic himself often will admit that such factors play a 
part in Ms experiences. 19 But lie will not admit that they account for 
the whole of it; on occasion he may even insist that God works through 
such psychological mechanisms, just as He works through the other 
laws of nature. The extreme mystic has no doubt whatever that some- 
thing real has happened to him; he "knows" he has communed with 
God and not merely with Ms own unconscious self; the testimonies of 
the extreme mystics are unanimous at tMs point. The person who 
wishes to understand religion will ponder tMs fact; perhaps the mysti- 
cal capacity is a sixth sense, slowly emerging in the long evolutionary 

Extreme forms of mysticism are rare, very rare in pragmatic Amer- 
ica. But milder forms are common, even usual. Any person who has 
the emotion of worsMp has a type of mystical experience, one whose 
most significant difference from the experience of the extremist is the 
degree of intensity. It is this mild sort of mysticism that the Friends 
cultivate. No visions, or apparitions, or dazzling lights appear to 
Quakers in meeting. Silently they seek the presence of God; they feel 
the warmth of IBs presence, gam a sense of wholeness, review their 
actions, renew their dedication. This same experience is, of course, 
the fruitage of every successful service of worsMp, held under what- 
ever auspices. 


do just a pleasant Journey in a 

It necessary to foEow some system or 

in sometimes say they pegs 

on to the silence. One Quaker in a widely read article 

Ms very personal method as fellows: 

The thing that I do Is to close my eyes and then to still my body 
in order to get It as far out of the way as I can. Then I still my mind and 
lei It open to God. ... I thank Goci inwardly for this occasion, for the 
week's happenings, for what I have learned at His hand, for my family, 
for the work there is to do, for Himself. And I often pause to enjoy Him, 
Under His 1 search the week and feel the piercing twinge of re- 

morse that comes at this, and this, and this, and at the absence of this, 
and this, and this. Under His eyes I see again for I have often been 
aware of it at the time the right way. I ask His forgiveness for my faith- 
and ask for strength to meet this matter when it arises again. 
There have been times when I had to reweave a part of my life under this 

I hold up persons before God in intercession, loving them under His 
eyes seeing them with Him, longing for His healing and redeeming 
power to course through their lives. I hold up certain social situations, 
certain projects. At such a time I often see things that I may do in com- 
pany with or that are related to this person or to this situation. I hold up 
the persons in the meeting and their needs, as I know them, to God. . . . 

When I have finished these inward prayers I quietly resign myself to 
complete listening letting go in the intimacy of this friendly company 
and in the intimacy of the Great Friend who is always near. 20 


Quaker business at the level of the local congregation is transacted 
through what is called a monthly meeting. Above the monthly meet- 
ings are quarterly meetings and yearly meetings, each rising in au- 
thority and in area of jurisdiction. The yearly meeting is the court of 
last resort in any particular branch of Quakerism. Theoretically, these 
regional meetings are gatherings of the whole group; any member can 
attend and give voice to his concerns. Most of the yearly meetings send 
delegates to the Five Years Meeting or to the Friends General Con- 
ference. The Five Years Meeting is the larger having about 65 per 
cent of the total number of American Friends; the General Conference 
has about 25 per cent. A half dozen other Quaker bodies are listed in 
the Yearbook of American Churches. 

A Quaker business meeting at its best is a highly democratic 

THE 279 

The Quakers to at a 

for to a victory by out-talking or out-voting 

factions. When a Is discussion, the Friends 

to be very leisurely, even 7 member receiving ftil opportunity to 
Ms mind. At the end of the discussion, no vote Is taken. The "recording 

clerk," who has listened carefully to the discussion, writes out a 
tfc mlEiite," a short statement, In which he records the "sense of the 
meeting." This minute Is ttiea read aloud; if It Is generally approved, 
It stands as the action of the meeting. 

Ordinarily the clerk is careful not to record the sense of the meet- 
ing unless there is practical unanimity. Most Quakers are very anxious 
to do complete justice to minority opinion; unless they are in the 
midst of a crisis, they usually prefer to let a matter go unsettled, even 
for months or years, rather than to force a small but sincere group to 
act against its convictions. Many Friends think that this process is the 
most democratic form of doing business yet devised. 

One factor which militates against the democratic character of the 
Quaker system is the possibility that clerks can take more seriously 
the remarks of some Friends than of other Friends. The most serious 
split in Quaker history the Or&odox-Hicksite division was oc- 
casioned in large measure by the fact that the clerk of the Philadelphia 
Yearly Meeting was accustomed to give "no weight** to the opinions 
of "practically all" the men who later became the leaders of the 
Hicksite group. 21 That such tendencies have not been entirely over- 
come is shown by the following excerpt from a letter printed in the 
correspondence columns of the Friends Intelligencer. 22 

What are Quakers offering the seekers who fill half the benches espe- 
cially in the city meeting houses? . . . Many convinced [as opposed to 
birthright] Friends have been given Meeting responsibilities. But how 
many times are those the ones who have formed matrimonial or eco- 
nomic ties, or both, with the old Quaker families? . . . The Religious 
Society of Friends must use all the abilities of all its members. 

The tendency to bureaucracy also plagues the higher reaches of 
Quaker administration. A leading Quaker notes: 

[There is evidence of anl unintentional transfer to a few persons of 
both the labor and the authority that formerly large committees or the 
whole community shared. In spite of appearances to the contrary, often 
a few secretaries and their associates formulate policies and in effect 


and the rank and file are only too wiling to fiave 

it so. 23 

an role in Quakerism, just as in Giber Ameri- 

can institutions. Indeed, the consciousness of status consciousness of 
a position in a social structure plays a very prominent part 

in the psychology of ail the religious groups with which I am familiar. 
A priori, one suppose that professed followers of Jesus would 

to humility. But many leaders do not. The motive of service is 
strong among churchmen, but not that of self-effacement. A man who 
is in a position to make personal observation says that at one denomi- 
national headquarters the thickness of the carpets oa the floors of the 
offices corresponds to the ranks of the various executives. Among 
ecclesiastics there is at least an average amount of pride, rivalry, 
competition, and comparing position with position. This opinion is 
expressed here because striving to achieve status is probably less 
characteristic of the Quakers than of the other groups discussed in this 
book. Yet self-magnifying motives are still clearly evident in many a 
Quaker meeting. One Quaker leader in his personal actions reminds 
me of the story of the monk who is said to have declared about Ms 
order, "We do not have as much influence, or learning, or zeal as some 
other people; but in humility we beat the world." 


Most Quakers have not been content merely to enjoy their religion; 
they have harnessed it to the task of alleviating the ills of society. Their 
record in the field of social service is consequently very distinguished. 
All through the colonial period their friendship with the Indians was 
notable. At the time of the Revolution, the Quakers initiated a great 
reform in the treatment of criminals. One historian of the social 
sciences writes: 

The reaction against the brutality of corporal punishment seems to 
have been due almost entirely to the Quakers. . . . This group took its 
Christianity very literally. In the last quarter of the seventeenth century, 
in the two Quaker colonies of West Jersey and Pennsylvania, the savage 
European and Puritan criminal law was repudiated, corporal punish- 
ment abandoned, and imprisonment substituted as the normal method of 
treating the violator of the law. 24 


The Friends pioneered in the in the 

to secure rights for women, in the effort to secure 

treatment of the insane. Religious institutions the 

in need and after the of a 

approach has been demonstrated step secular Institutions 

over. An Interesting example is the Studeal Y.W.C.A.; It 
pioneered In such firmly established academic procedures as student 
employment services, vocational counseling programs* foreign-student 
advisor}' programs, freshman orientation sessions, and even physical 
education classes for women. 25 

The best-known contribution of the Quakers to public morals has 
been in the peace movement. They rejected the use of force as a substi- 
tute for fair dealing. They believed that all men have the capacity 
to respond to love. In their Christian experience, they saw no occasion 
for war, not even "to do God service." By the time of the American 
Revolution, they had adopted a doctrinaire pacifist position, and most 
of them refused to serve in the army; those who did not refuse in- 
cluding Generals Nathanael Greene and Thomas Mifflin were read 
out of meeting. The Orthodox repeated this pattern during the Civil 
War, one Quaker periodical of that period declaring that to speak of a 
"fighting Quaker" was like speaking of a "blunt sharpness, a jet black 
whiteness, or a sinful godliness." 26 

The strictness of the Quaker opposition to participation in war 
slackened considerably in the subsequent decades; by World War I, 
Orthodox meeting no longer disowned members who enlisted. The 
chief cause of the change was that the nineteenth century revival 
emphasized a type of religious experience which did not necessarily 
include the removal of all military service from the "saved believer's" 
character. One historian estimates (on the basis of incomplete sta- 

... of the young men drafted or liable to the draft possibly 350 stood 
against any service under military direction as straight out C.CX's [con- 
scientious objectors]; about 600 accepted some form of non-combatant 
service, and about 2300 went into combatant service. . . . The "tton- 
pastoraP yearly meetings and the students and alumni of Quaker schools 
furnished a larger proportion of C.CX's than other groups. 27 

By the time of World War II, a large percentage of the Quakers 


a of the Yearly Meeting, la 


We do not Friends who conscientiously take part in the war 

for failure to create conditions that might 
to war, 28 

were absolute pacifists favored this 

resolution. According to one "roughly 1,000 men were in 

CP.S. [Civilian Public Service], 1,000 in non-combatant service, 
1,000 and 100 in prison; while 8,000 were in the armed 

forces." 29 Quaker families had one son in the army and another 

in the conscientious objector's camp. 

During the cold war aonpacifist attitudes among Quakers have 
continued. Elton Tnieblood, a widely known Quaker, after a term of 
in the United States Information Agency, wrote as follows 
in answer to the question: "Is the old pattern of conscientious objec- 
tion to war enough?" "Assuredly it is not. . . . The Quaker, pro- 
viding he is sincere about wanting peace, will not try to undermine the 
deterrent power of the West." 30 Tmeblood was reported in the press 
as having attacked presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson for being 
"irresponsible" in proposing an end to nuclear tests and for "talking 
nonsense" in suggesting the end of the draft. 31 

Some indication of the extent to which pacifist attitudes still obtain 
among Friends is given by a poll of 287 Friends and nonmember 
attenders in the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting "between" the ages of 
sixteen and twenty-one. Some type of pacifist position was taken by 
46 per cent, while the position favoring regular military service was 
taken by 32 per cent; the rest were uncertain. 32 

Quakers are probably more prominent than any other denomination 
in promoting dramatic efforts to bring pacifism to public attention. An 
Illinois group sponsored a movement to promote voluntary taxation 
for the benefit of the United Nations. The Pacific Yearly Meeting pro- 
posed legislation permitting persons "with sincere convictions against 
military preparations" to pay their income tax to the United Nations 
International Children's Emergency Fund provided that as a proof 
of sincerity they paid 5 per cent more than their normal tax liability. 
The New England Friends delivered to President Eisenhower a 
petition signed by ten thousand persons urging the banning of nuclear 

THE 283 


in was held at Fort Detrick, 

Maryland, a center for research in warfare. The 

twenty-one months; ten hours a day, two to over hundred persons 

quietly opposite the gate a sign which 

they were "an to preparation for war- 

fare. 9 ^ 3 

Quakers with pacifist beliefs have not been content to sit the wars 
out. On the contrary, they have considered that the suffering and 
tragedy of war Imposed on them an obligation to serve. The best- 
known of the Quaker efforts in this direction has been the American 
Friends Service Committee, founded In the middle of World War I; the 
founders declared: 

We are united In expressing our love for our country and our desire to 
serve her loyally. We offer our services to the Government of the United 
States In any constructive way in wMcJa we can conscientiously serve 

They appled their principles even more effectively outside thaa 
inside the United States the need was greater there. After the lifting 
of the food blockade, the Quakers went to great lengths to feed the 
starving children of enemy nations. In 1921, a million children were 
fed; in 1922, half a million; and again in 1923, a million. At one point 
the Quakers were the largest distributors of milk in the city of Vienna. 

These humanitarian activities, along with the assurance by the 
Quakers that they had no ideological goods to peddle but were trying 
merely to alleviate suffering, won a wide measure of confidence. So 
much so, that the Nazi government even permitted them in 1938 to 
give help to the Jews who were victims of the great pogrom touched 
ofi by the shooting of the Nazi leader von Rath. 

After thirty years of existence, the American Friends Service Com- 
mittee had dispensed about seventy million dollars (much of it given 
by non-Quakers) in goods and services to about six million people. 34 
In its fortieth year of existence, the Committee dispensed more than 
six million dollars and had four hundred and twenty members on its 
world-wide staff. 35 And in 1947, the Committee received (along with 
the Friends Service Council, London) the Nobel Peace Prize. 

The Friends have insisted that their service activities should be non- 


in This and the Quaker philosophy in 

has in for much That this praise is by no 

Is shown by the foDowing pointed paragraphs: 

The Quakers are by and conservatives. They are not so 

"fion-pollilcaF as they like to think. Typical of a group which has known 

(even If in the historical past) and has finally gained social 

acceptance, they have a deep desire for conformity. Economically, too, 

they a in the preservation of the status quo witness the 

percentage of strong anti-New Dealers. Wealth is not a sin to 

Pennsylvania Quakers, and the system through which they got 

their wealth must of necessity be worthy of protection. 

But to attribute the Quaker political position entirely to such motives 
would be superficial. A more subtle reason for stand-pattism among the 
Quakers is their doctrinaire opposition to "violence" and their 
advocation of the "friendly way of life." Their position on the war is 
plain and generally known, but from a similar motive they are apt to be 
conservative in domestic affairs. By "violence" the Quakers are likely 
to mean any kind of coercion, not alone military, and opposition to 
violence might conceivably mean opposition to expropriation of all 
Incomes over $25,000 as well as opposition to one man's killing a brother 
possessed of the same "inner light. . , ." 

He can excuse his political indifference by saying that had he opposed 
fascism in a Madison Square Garden rally, he would not be allowed to 
help the Jews in Germany. 36 

A leading Quaker counters these objections by noting the exist- 
ence of the Friends Committee for National Legislation and by saying, 
4t We do not work through political parties, but we can hardly be said 
to be unconcerned with governmental policies/' 

That the Quakers generally are conservative in their politics is 
probably true; that they are more conservative than the other old- 
line denominations is surely not true. The probability is that in all 
American churches economic conservatism and radicalism are func- 
tions of the stake in the status quo held by the membership. Genuine 
economic radicalism is confined to a small minority in the churches. 

The Quakers must be reckoned with in any assessment of the 
spiritual condition of the nation. Their numbers are small; their in- 
fluence is large. Quaker tolerance, Quaker democracy, Quaker spiritu- 
ality, and above all, Quaker philanthropy have been much copied by 
other denominations. During the thirties, Quaker pacifism found many 
followers among the Protestant clergy, and it may find them again. 37 
The chief contribution of this denomination, apart from its ministry to 

Its be to be IE the of the 

Quakers pioneer. But 

a on the sensitivity, 

of the church member. Thus, It clear In 

our present religious climate the Quaker is to 

continue to be and the Quaker can hardly be to 

play a dominant role in solving the major spiritual problem which 
immediately faces the American people as a whole, the problem of 
achieving a spiritual integration of American culture. 




I would rather address a Methodist audience than any other audience 
in America, . . . The Methodists represent the great middle class and in 
consequence are the most representative church in America. 1 

The magazine Life commented on this denomination as follows: 

In many ways it is our most characteristic church. It is short on the- 
ology, long on good works, brilliantly organized, primarily middle-class, 
frequently bigoted, incurably optimistic, zealously missionary and touch- 
ingly confident of the essential goodness of the man next door. 2 

In number of members, counting children, the sixteen million 
persons in the Methodist family of churches rank third behind the 
Roman Catholics and the Baptists. However, one organization, The 
Methodist Church, containing "99 per cent of all the white Methodists 
in the United States" 3 probably continues to be our largest Protestant 
body, although the Southern Baptists may soon overtake it and may 
even surpass it in size. It has about twelve and one-half million mem- 
bers (counting children) . There are a score of other Methodist bodies. 
The large influence of this denomination in national affairs is seen by 
the fact that in 1961 it had a representation in the national Congress 
almost as large as that of the Roman Catholic Church, ninety-five 
senators and representatives listed themselves as Methodists while 
ninety-eight listed themselves as Roman Catholics.* 

* See Christianity Today, Dec. 5, 1960, p. 205 and Jan. 2, 1961, pp. 287 f. 
Using the data presented by Christianity Today, I have computed congressional 
membership in comparison to the reported size of the denomination. This 
computation shows that the groups below the average for the denominations 
are the Roman Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Jewish; the groups near the 


THE 287 

Yet one years ago the were 

the of to 

the of the nation, Eighty-three preachers 

thousand comprised the of the Methodist 

Episcopal Church at Its organization in Baltimore in 1784; it a 
young, upstart organization, often contempt; yet in a 

over fifty years It had become the Protestant body in 

America. 4 The story of this remarkable growth in England, a 

century after the Puritan revolution, 


The founding of Methodism was the work of an Anglican priest 5 
John Wesley, perhaps the greatest religious leader the Anglo-Saxon 
peoples have produced. He was bom in 1703 in a country parsonage, 
just fourteen miles from Scrooby, original home of the PEgrims. Dur- 
ing Ms long life, he Ived through the revolt of the American colonies, 
saw the industrial revolution develop strongly, and got news, a year 
and a half before Ms death, of the storming of the Bastille. 

Wesley was greatly concerned over the religious condition of his 
time. The Puritan revolution of the previous century had provided for 
religious freedom but had not abolished the Establishment. Sheltered 
behind the wall of tax support, many Church of England leaders be- 
came complacent. They catered to the aristocracy and all but ignored 
the needs of the common people, who were being forced by the in- 
dustrial revolution into new localities and into new ways of living. 
"Enthusiasm" in religion was particularly despised; all throughout 
polite society in eighteenth-century England, visible concern for the 

average are the Methodist, Christian, and Mormon; and the groups above ^the 
average (in a rough order of increasing distance from the average) are United 
Church of Christ, Presbyterian, Friends, Christian Scientist, Episcopalian, 
Unitarian. This listing compares one denomination with another. All the 
denominations listed have their share of representation according to their ratio 
of the total population. This result is possible because according to the data 
only three members of Congress are "not listed" according to denomination 
while the churches reported as members less than two-thirds of the population. 
Relationships among the denominations correspond roughly to the relation- 
ships which obtained in 1948 (see Jacob S. Payton, "The Church in Congress, 9 * 
The Christian Advocate, Apr. 15, 1948, p. 495). The chief difference between 
1948 and 1961 is that both the Jews and the Roman Catholics rose in the com- 
putation to the point where they became roughly equal to the Baptists and the 


of or one's was definitely 

bad Wesley's was the successful of a number of 

spiritual which cfaaienged this moral 

children, his pietistic and methodical 

within him a remarkable religious sensitivity, 

and a capacity for scholarship. At Oxford, he had a dis- 

record, at graduation was made a Fellow of Lincoln 

There, he the center of the Holy Club, a group of 

young who banded together for the purpose of cultivating per- 

piety* The Club was strongly ascetic, adopting austere rules for 

the guidance of the members. One rale required: 

[They should frequently] interrogate themselves whether they have 
. . . prayed with fervor, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and on Saturday 
noon; if they have used a collect at nine, twelve, and three o'clock; duly 
meditated on Sunday, from three to four, on Thomas a Kempis; or 
mused on Wednesday and Friday, from twelve to one, on the passion. 5 

Such religious fervor and, above all, such systematic regularity was 
completely foreign to the Oxford pattern of life. Consequently, under- 
graduates derisively called the group Methodists. 

In Ms middle thirties, Wesley began a serious effort to revitalize the 
church life of England and also to carry the message of Christianity 
to the unconverted. For the rest of Ms life, he traveled back and forth 
over England, preaching and forming Societies. At first he worked 
within the parish churches, but soon their pulpits were denied to him. 
Then he made the momentous step of preaching out-of-doors. TMs 
action scandalized Ms fellow clergymen, who were strongly imbued 
with the idea that religious services could take place only in a properly 
consecrated building. Vigorous opposition developed, but in spite of 
protest, ridicule, and even mob violence, Wesley persisted. He strove 
particularly to reach the neglected poor. 

His magnetic personality soon attracted able leaders; some of them 
were clergymen, but most were laymen, and before many years the 
country was being systematically covered by Ms band of itinerant 
preachers. Progress was rapid. The year before he died, at the ad- 
vanced age of eighty-seven, there were over five hundred preachers 

THE 289 

and one and fifty in the 

Societies. 6 

Wesley always a priest of the Church of England. More- 

over, lie considered Ms were an of the Church 

of England; and he refused to that he had In fact founded 

a new denomination, even after the of events clearly pointed in 
that direction. Immediately after his death, however, systematic 
snubbing by the Anglican clergy forced acknowledgment that a new 
Church had indeed come into being. 

The most difficult problem for the early Methodists involved ordina- 
tion. Wesley twice asked the English bishops to lay their hands on Ms 
preachers; but the request was twice refused. Finally, Wesley himself 
undertook to ordain, affirming in defense of his action that in the first 
century any full-fledged Christian minister had the right to consecrate 


Methodism crossed the Atlantic ten years before the outbreak of 
the American Revolution. During this first decade, the development 
was encouraging; but during the Revolutionary War, the Methodists 
had hard sledding. Their preachers from England were Tories, and 
consequently all but one thought it wise to leave the country after 
the beginning of the fighting. Nevertheless, they continued to grow 
throughout the war years as the result of the work of lay preachers. 

After the war was over the ties to England were definitely cut, the 
Methodist Episcopal Church was organized, and leadership was 
assumed by an ecclesiastical genius, Francis Asbury. Like Wesley, 
Asbury was an itinerant, a man on horseback. Tirelessly, he rode 
from Maine to Georgia and back, and across the mountains and 
back, in and out of the new frontier, organizing and visiting the 
Methodists. "He visited practically every State in the Union every 
year.'" 7 He was the prototype of the circuit rider, the consecrated and 
fervent evangel to whom Methodism owes most of its present strength 
and to whom (along with his rival, the Baptist farmer-preacher) the 
West owes most of its religion and much of its education. 

In that day the frontier was a rough and often immoral place, char- 



For at fifty years following Independence a vast struggle was 

on the Alleghenies and the Mississippi River; between 

Christian morality on the one hand, and barbarism on 

the and the outcome of that straggle fauag the fate of the 

nation. 8 

Hie to keep alive the standards of civilized society, 

to from damnation, and to found churches. 

The frontier Methodist minister lived a hard life. He had responsi- 

for maintaining churches in a given territory, over 

he required to travel regularly. Some of these territories 

heroic in size: in 1804, one man was appointed to "Illinois/' and 

in 1807, another was appointed to "Missouri." 9 Ordinarily, the 

circuits were of smaller compass, such as the preacher could cover in 

a or six weeks of systematic travel. Wrote one man: 

I traversed the mountains and valleys, frequently on foot, with my 
knapsack on my back, guided by Indian paths in the wilderness, when 
it was not expedient to take a horse. I had often to wade through mo- 
rasses, half-leg deep in mud and water; frequently satisfying my hunger 
with a piece of bread and pork from my knapsack, quenching my thirst 
from a brook, and resting my weary limbs on the leaves of the trees. 
Thanks be to God! lie compensated me for all my toil; for many precious 
souls were awakened and converted to God. 10 

The circuit rider planned to preach every day except Monday. Daily 
he would arrive at some appointed place usually, in the early years, 
simply a settler's cabin and lead the small group which gathered in 
divine worship; he would speak words of comfort and instruction, ad- 
minister the sacraments, receive members (on probation and into full 
membership), adjudicate disputes, expel persons who had proved 

His financial status was precarious; in 1816, salaries were raised 
to one hundred dollars annually. Asbury wrote that at one conference 
"the brethren were in want, and could not suit themselves; so I 
parted with my watch, my coat, and my shirt," 11 So rigorous was the 
life of the circuit rider that only the most robust could stand It for 
long, "Of 672 of those first preachers whose records we have in full, 
two-thirds died before they had been able to render twelve years of 

THE 291 

serviced 22 But to the of 

they left an on the West. la any 

fair appraisal, they be the creative forma- 

live in American history. 

In 1844, the Methodists spit two over the slavery issue. 

After the close of the Civil War, efforts immediately to 

get the two groups back together again. These efforts were not sac- 
1939; in year, the Methodist Episcopal Church, the 
Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and the Protestant 

Chiircli united to form the Methodist Church. 


The Methodists describe their Oiurch as **a company of men having 
the form and seeking the power of godliness, united in order to pray 
together, to receive the word of exhortation, and to watch over one 
another in love, that they may help each other to work out their 
salvation." 13 

It is commonly said that there are no distinctive Methodist doc- 
trines. In the first decade of the Methodist movement, Wesley wrote: 

The distinguishing marks of a Methodist are not his opinions of any 
sort. His assenting to this or that scheme of religion, his embracing any 
particular set of notions, his espousing the judgment of one man or an- 
other, are all quite wide of the point. Whosoever, therefore, imagines that 
a Methodist is a man of such or such an opinion is grossly ignorant of 
the whole affair. 14 

Yet Wesley had no hesitancy in setting forth bis own opinions on 
certain matters. For example, he attacked vigorously the dogma of 
predestination, a doctrine which had dominated Protestant thinking 
ever since the Reformation, He would have no part of arbitrary 
damnation. Instead, he held that God deskes the redemption of all 
men, that His Grace is free, and that man has an indispensable part 
to play in Ms own salvation. The difference between the Calvinist and 
the Wesleyan teachings at this point can be indicated by an illustration 
which comes from India; it contrasts theories of salvation by com- 
paring them to the differing ways cats and monkeys carry their young. 
Kittens are carried without effort on their part; but young monkeys 
must themselves hang on. Wesley taught that man is himself responsi- 
ble for being in a position where he can receive the Grace of God. 


therefore, to who has faith and a 

life. Wesley was not the Srst to declare this doctrine 3 

but It was him that It throughout American 

"We are al! now," said one clergyman. Thus 

in of fact, Wesley one of the greatest contributions 

to thought. 

Wesley was heir to the Pletist-Baptist-Qoaker teaching that religion 

is an experience, an emotion, an attitude rather than 

primarily a theology. Present-day Methodism continues to be deeply 

concerned that the presence of Jesus be felt warmly in every Christian 

and that Ms teachings be taken seriously. Borden P. Bowne, 

Methodist teacher of the last generation, overheard a scholar 

from another church reproaching the Methodists for contributing little 

to thinking; Bowne's reply is classic: "They have been too 

busy providing the data of religious experience, about which other men 

may generalize." 

One result of this refusal to split theological hairs has been a deep 
sense of theological freedom. The Methodists have never gone in for 
heresy hunts. As a consequence, there is a wide range of theological 
opinion in the Church, The majority of the membership is solidly 
Evangelical; yet a sizable proportion is Fundamentalist and a stiH 
larger proportion is Liberal. 15 In the South, the Methodists are the 
most liberal of the denominations and in the North only two small 
groups are more liberal: the Congregational part of the United Church 
of Christ and the Unitarian-Universalists. In a poll of clerical beliefs 
taken by the Opinion Research Corporation for Christianity Today, 
the order of the denominations from liberal to conservative was: 
Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Baptist, Lutheran. 16 In a poll 
of Methodist beliefs (including both clergymen and laymen), 37 per 
cent said they believe that "Jesus Christ is both divine and human"; 
however, 36 per cent said they believe that "Jesus Christ is a man 
uniquely endowed and called by God to reveal Him to man." 17 

In spite of this Liberalism, an inquirer who reads the Doctrines and 
Discipline of the Methodist Church gets a decidedly conservative im- 
pression, even though the book is revised every four years. Twenty-five 
Articles of Religion are printed near the beginning. They are a 
redaction made by Wesley of the Thirty-nine Articles of the 

THE 293 

Church of The Church still 

to even they tie of a 

of In a of the 

of Methodist ministers living in and near 

Springfield, Massachusetts, of the 

propositions in the Articles of Religion averaged Oer one-third. 18 

Moreover, one printed in the Discipline, 

after the Articles of Religion, a of called the 

General Rules. These directions were framed by Wesley for the guid- 
ance of Ms societies and fitted admirably the moral and spiritual 
of eighteenth-century converts who often came from locales noted for 
their vice. But the Rules contain certain items which today have a 
decidedly antiquarian flavor. They proscribe, for example, slave- 
holdingj buying or selling slaves, brawling, railing., the using of many 
words in buying or selling, the putting on of gold and costly apparel, 
and laying up treasure upon earth. Few Methodists could be found 
who would thank of these proscriptions as speaking to their spiritual 
condition, A person who wishes to join the Church is not asked to 
subscribe to the Rules or to keep them. Yet they are so placed in the 
Discipline that anyone who undertakes a serious study of Methodism 
is inevitably confronted by them. 

Here again we meet the tendency in religion to conserve and to 
honor the heritage from the fathers, especially their words. This 
reverence for the words of the past persists long after religious faith 
has changed, and after language too has changed. Hie growth of 
language is such that the words of yesteryear cease after a time to 
convey the meanings even of yesteryear. Yet the Church persists in 
lauding its ancient formularies and often requires the faithful to sub- 
scribe to them. 19 


The local Methodist church is controlled by a large committee 
called the Quarterly Conference. This body is commonly self-per- 
petuating; the low democracy of this method of control seems to be 
satisfactory to most Methodists.^ 

The local churches are organized into District Conferences. At 
the head of each District is a clergyman called in earlier years Presid- 


ing but This official 

"travels" ttie of the District, counseling, directing 

and But Ms authority is small, except in 

are involved and except in meetmgs 

the are of Ms true powers, ("Did you 

ever see a District pat over a program in Quarterly 

Conference? 9 " a who read this paragraph.) 

Above the District Conferences are the Annual Conferences. These 
groups, "the bodies in the church/ 5 are composed of 

"all the preachers in full connection" 21 and of one lay mem- 

ber charge. The bishop who presides over the 

Annual Conference ifc appokts 5 " theoretically, the ministers to the 
various churches more of this later. The Annual Conference 

controls ordination and the relationship of ministers to the Church; in 
these responsibilities the lay members of the Conference have no 
vote, and no voice. There are about one hundred Annual Conferences 
in the country. 

The Annual Conferences in the United States are organized into 
about forty Areas; a Bishop presides over each Area. The Areas are 
organized into six Jurisdictional Conferences. These conferences elect 
the bishops. Aside from this responsibility, the functions of the Juris- 
dictional Conferences vary from the North to the South; in religion as 
well as in politics southerners tend to a "states rights" view. Accord- 
ingly southern Methodists put a considerable organizational emphasis 
on the two southern Jurisdictional Conferences. But a northern bishop 
wrote that he "pays little mind to Jurisdictional organization." 22 

Five of the Jurisdictions are geographical; they cover the entire 
nation. One Jurisdiction (the "Central") is racial; it is for Method- 
ism's Negroes. The creation of the Central Jurisdiction was a con- 
cession on the part of northern Liberalism to southern Conservatism. 
Prior to Methodist reunion, there were no Negroes in the Methodist 
Episcopal Church, South; most southern Negro Methodists had chosen 
right after the Civil War to withdraw and found their own branch of 
Methodism. However, Negroes in the northern branch of the Church 
had continued their membership in the white organization, but on a 
segregated basis; northern Methodism had nineteen Negro Annual 

THE 295 

of in the They on la the 

Church as the Jurisdiction. 

The In the is the It Is 

of by the 

representatives are one-half and 

do not vote and are not to are 

to do so. The Genera! has lb iiill power 

over all matters distinctly connectional." 28 

According to Methodist practice, a is a of 

an Annual Conference in the "effective relation" has a to 

employment by the Church; he can a pastoral charge. In the 

old days, the power to appoint the to the churches was ex- 

dusively in the of the bishop; said one clergyman, "I 

can remember when the was God." 24 The bishop still deter- 

pastoral appointments in some sections, especially in the South. 
However, in most of the country, the bishops ministers 

chicly to the smaller churches. The laymen in the larger and wealthier 
churches usually insist on making their own selection of ministers, 
just as do the laymen in congregationally organized denominations. 
In some cases the laymen have obtained the clergyman they wanted 
in spite of the disapproval of the bishop. 25 "The bishop is like the 
King of England," said one minister; **he has all sorts of power, but 
he dare not exercise it." 26 

Not until 1956 were women permitted to become full-fledged 
ministers. Prior to that time they had been ordained "local preachers," 
and as such were appointed to pastoral charges and were permitted to 
administer the sacraments. But the "traveling" relationship (member- 
ship in the Annual Conference) was denied. During one debate in the 
General Conference on a motion to permit women full clerical privi- 
leges until they married, a clergyman said: "We must keep the pulpit 
masculine so we can get red-blooded men. Our sacred ministry is a 
fraternity, not a sorority." 27 Clearly, there is a considerable per- 
centage of the clergy in all the larger denominations who echo the 
sentiment of Samuel Johnson; he said that a woman preaching is like 
a dog dancing, the wonder is not that it is done well but that it is done 
at all. In 1956, a proposal which came to the General Conference 


full rights only for unmarried 

widows. But after a stirring debate the Conference gave 
all full equality with In for Methodism's pul- 

pits. Less one-tenth of I per cent of the persons serving as 

are women. 28 

The Central Jurisdiction with Its provision for racial segregation 
has the object of discussion. Defenders of the arrange- 

out that other denominations have had to accept seg- 
regation, and that the climate of opinion in the South has been such 
that a denomination either segregated Negroes or it did no work in 
action of the country among whites. Episcopalians and Roman 
Catholics usually segregate Negroes at the local level. The Congre- 
organized separate synods for their Southern Negro mem- 
bers. The Northern Presbyterians maintain some segregated synods. 
Negroes themselves have established separate Baptist and Presbyte- 
rian as wel as Methodist bodies. Some years ago leaders of the Amer- 
ican Unitarian Association prevented (with difficulty) the passage 
of a resolution by the Association declaring that no church which 
practiced segregation could be a member of the Unitarian fellow- 
ship. The passage of such a resolution would have given effective 
witness to the overwhelming conviction among Northern churchmen 
that segregation must be destroyed. But the resolution would have 
been equally effective in keeping Unitarianism out of an area in 
which it has great opportunities for expansion. Since the Supreme 
Court decision calling for the integration of the public schools, prac- 
tically all of the local Unitarian groups in the South have taken 
integrationist stands. Thus the churches deal with the problem vari- 
ously; they all compromise to some degree and many of them, ap- 
pallingly enough, lag behind other institutions. 

In 1956 Methodists set up a heavily financed commission to study 
the problem presented by the Central Jurisdiction. After exhaustive 
study the commission recommended that segregation be retained 
and the recommendation was adopted by the General Conference. 
The General Conference even refused to set a target date for the 
abolition of the Central Jurisdiction. This action was taken in spite 
of "the overwhelming grass-roots willingness"^ discovered among 
Negro Methodists to forgo the special privileges conferred by seg- 

THE 297 

Two by the la 

of of Hie Central Jurisdiction. was that was 

the the North and the prior to the 

Abandoning would not be completely 

fair with the southern of the Church and even 

jeopardize the union. Defending the one of the northern 

wrote: "It Is very easy ... to proclaim the evis of com- 
promise. But I remember that Lincoln wrote . . . 'My paramount 
object in this straggle is to save the Union.' ... I feel the same way 
the Methodist Church." 30 

The second argument advanced in favor of the Central Jurisdic- 
is that it provides for a marked degree of integration in the 
upper levels of the Methodist hierarchy. Negroes are less than 4 per 
cent of the total Methodist membership, "and yet they have on the 
high echelons of the Church a representation of approximately 16.7 
per cent." 31 Four Negroes serve as bishops. (However, "no Negroes 
have been appointed to the highest administrative posts in general 
boards and agencies." 32 ) No other church has a similar record. The 
Protestant Episcopal dioceses are integrated; yet no Negro serves as 
bishop in that denomination. Much public attention has been directed 
toward the laudable Roman Catholic efforts to effect integration, but 
the Roman Catholic Church in America has no Negro bishop; and 
in 1953 it had only fifty-four Negro priests. 33 This latter figure con- 
trasts with the over fifteen hundred Negro Methodist ministers. If 
the Central Jurisdiction were abandoned, Negroes would become "a 
hopeless minority" in the white jurisdictions. "They could never hope 
to elect a Negro bishop." 34 

Moreover, integration at the jurisdictional and conference level 
will not be very realistic until there is a widespread desire among 
laymen in the local church to really practice integration. When 
Bishop Gerald H. Kennedy of Los Angeles appointed a Negro as 
pastor of an all-white church, two-thirds of the members resigned 
in protest. 35 

Many persons inside and outside the Methodist Church criticize it 
for an alleged lack of democracy. Methodist machinery is certainly 
complex, and many people find it to be overly restrictive. One 
Methodist wrote that Methodists are "the most supervised people 


the church.'* 80 But democracy does not 

the of order. All government 

IE The to ask In judging 

the quality of a are: Who determines policy? 

Who the policy? What are there for choosing and 

the executives? The Methodist practice of democracy is 

a way perfect, as the brief foregoing descriptions show; 

bet at the level it compares favorably with that of 

American Institutions and specifically with most religious 

denominations. If Methodist supervision seems oppressive, the elected 

General Conference could change that any time it chose, 

The Church is often accused by those who know it best of being 
a great machine. Borden P. Bowne once remarked that 

"undoubtedly the Grace of God is operative everywhere, but it often 
less evident in an Annual Conference." 37 One member of the 
United States Congress is reported to have said, "All I know about 
politics I learned at General Conference. 59 Concerning the 1960 
General Conference, the editors of an official denominational pe- 
riodical wrote that there was a "tendency to freeze in lines of force 
dictated by power blocs. . . . This resulted in battle plans for 
debate and in many agreements made off the floor, even outside the 
committee rooms. It was a Conference of compromise. . . . Some 
said it compromised on everything but tobacco." 38 * One observer 
wrote in Christianity and Crisis: "A General Conference of The 
Methodist Church resembles nothing so much as the Democratic Na- 
tional Convention. There is the same feverish air of excitement; the 
same unfortunate tendency to lapse into the more florid forms of 
rhetoric; the same unpredictability of action." 39 

Church polities, of course, play a major role in determining clerical 
careers in all the sects. The ambitious man keeps Ms ear to the 
ground; the sincere man is fortunate if Ms convictions coincide with 
the current opinion. 

Methodists, wrote Paul Hutchinson, have a well-developed case 
of "denominational egotism wMch breaks out in speeches and 
articles and wMch tries to keep alive the idea that there is something 

* The Conference refused to Hft the ban on the use of tobacco by ministers. 

THE 299 

die way behave." 4f) 

of one of 

the Conferences, was on a by a 

Conference to 4% Enlarge OE the and 

March of Methodism/ 9 Lite Americanism, to be 

insular. The Churefi Is so the in It so 

Methodist ministers are the 

of the institution and with how they can get In It. When 

Edward L. Tfaomdike wished in Ms study of to in- 

vestigate a highly competitive occupation, one in 

their occupational level, he chose the ministry. In 

Methodism the ambitious keeps his fences mended; that en- 

deavor cuts down the and interest he has for non-Methodist 

movements and personalities. 

The Methodists are strong all over the United States, but they are 
strongest in the Middle West and the South. From 1940 to 1948, 
their rate of membership increase was 5 per cent greater than that 
of the population as a whole. 41 In 1960, however, the rate of increase 
was 20 per cent less than that of the population as a whole. 42 


Methodists are prominent in the movement to use the churches 
as agencies for social change. Since this movement has found vigor- 
ous protagonists in all of the large denominations* our story of its 
development will deal with the broader picture. 

The "Social Gospel/' according to its followers, is as old as the 
Hebrew prophets; Amos, Micah, Isaiah were fearless in their con- 
demnations of luxury and in their demands for a better deal for the 
poor. During most of Christian history, the desirability of Church 
action in social situations was accepted by everyone. But latterly 
many Christian leaders promulgated the thesis that the Church has 
responsibility for the salvation of the individual only; reformed in- 
dividuals will reform society. 

This point of view is challenged by the social action effort. A 
major manifestation of social action in America was the antMavery 
movement. Another dramatic episode was prohibition; it became a 
Protestant cxusade. Working through the Anti-Saloon League, the 


churches chiefly Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian 

-were the In the enactment of temper- 

laws. 43 clergymen did not 

to pulpits. For example: 

On a Sunday the pastors In more than 2000 churches in Illinois 

a temjperance measure. . . . On the last Sunday la 

January, 1917, more than 3000 [New York] pastors bad engaged in a 

discussion "of the issues then pending before the legislature." 44 

After the collapse of prohibition, the Protestant churches con- 

to be the major enemy of the liquor traffic. To be sure, many 

ceased their open attacks on drinking and within the broad 

of Protestantism were to be found a few "sophisticated" church 

who came to "think it a breach of good manners not to 

offer the parson 4 a short one* when he calls." 45 Nevertheless, in 

1950* Protestants still wrote "more letters to their Congressmen on 

Prohibition on any other subject." 46 In one carefully planned 

campaign, Methodists sent no less than two hundred thousand letters 

to a Congressional committee about an antiliquor bill. 47 

The campaign against liquor seems to have quickened in recent 
years. The Christian Century published an editorial in 1958 entitled, 
"And Now Repeal Has Failed." The editorial asserted that since 
repeal, insanity attributable to alcohol has increased three times 
more than other mental disease cases, that crime directly related to 
drinking has increased three times more than crimes not "stemming 
from the use of alcohol/* that the nation has spent more than twice 
as much for liquor as it has spent on schools, that in Massachusetts 
the "gross alcoholic beverage taxes pay only one-eighth, of the ex- 
penses the governments and people of Massachusetts incur through 
the use of intoxicants.*' 48 A writer connected with the Methodist 
Board of Temperance asserted the correct figure for "social drink- 
ers who have become alcoholics is not one in 20. It now has in- 
creased to one in I2" 49 The Methodist bishops in their Episcopal 
Address to the 1960 General Conference called beverage alcohol 
<e a beast tearing at the vitals of society." And the editor of an official 
Baptist magazine attacked a correspondent in the magazine who 
urged the "biblical distinction between moderate and excessive 
drinking" by asking whether the writer was "prepared also to justify 
moderate murder, moderate stealing, moderate pluralistic sex rela- 

THE 301 

war, of to be 

in of the Bible?" 50 

The complexity of the Protestant Is shown, however^ in 

the fact other a of the op- 

to liquor. A survey by the University School 

of Theology, reported in 1961, shows that "nearly one-third of all 
Methodists [according to a see no harm in moderate 

drinking of alcoholic beverages." 51 And in that year, the 

United Presbyterian Church for the first time in its history recognized 
the right of individual members to drink moderately, saying that 
those who drink and those who abstain "should respect each other 
and constructively work together in dealing with the problem of 
alcohol." 82 * 

Many other social problems have received the attention of the 
churches and synagogues. Most of the major denominations have 
made ringing pronouncements on social questions. The following 
are illustrative of the tenor of these statements: 

It is the tragic record of humankind that many of those who find com- 
fort in the existing order often fail to apply themselves seriously to the 
consideration of the ills that plague society. It is part of the great social 
message of the prophets of our faith that salvation can be achieved only 
through the salvation of society as a whole. Centra! Conference of Ameri- 
can Rabbis (1928) 

Ruthless competition must give way to Just and reasonable State regu- 
lations; sordid selfishness must be superseded by justice and charity. 
Archbishops and Bishops of the Administrative Board of the National 
Catholic Welfare Conference (1940) 

We recommend that new motives besides those of money-making and 
self-interest be developed in order that we may develop an economic 
system more consistent with Christian ideals. General Assembly, Presby- 
terian Church, U.S.A. (1934) 

We stand for . . . the subordination of the profit motive to the creative 
and cooperative spirit, General Conference, The Methodist Church 

Wage workers in agriculture are denied most of the legal and economic 
protections long accorded to wage workers in industry. . . . The principles 
of workmen's and unemployment compensation, minimum wage laws, 
and the right to organize and bargain collectively under the National 
Labor Relations Act should be extended to wage workers in agriculture. 
(leneral Board of the National Council of Churches (1958) 

* Chapter XVn contains a brief description of Alcoholics Anonymous. 


of power, controlling the of information, 

of conformity and slavish striving 

for do not satisfy. General Synod, United Church of Christ 

We . . . Congress to enact that would require as a con- 

of every contract for federal aid in the housing program . , . 

the property Involved shall not fee restricted against any person, on 

the of race, color, re!igioo ? creed or national origin. American 

Convention (1960) 

We urge Governments of the United States and Canada recognize 
the People's Republic of China and . . . work for its admission to the 
United Nations. American Unitarian Association (1960) 

The widespread of social action in the Churches is indi- 

cated by a number of opinion polls. Two of the most informative 
were conducted three decades ago. One poll asked Protestant min- 
isters and whether they favored "drastic limitation' 3 
of the "annual income that may be legally retained by an individual." 
The clergy answered "Yes" by the following percentages: Jewish, 
84 per cent; Methodist, 81 per cent; Congregational, 81 per cent; 
Disciples, 80 per cent; Unitarian and Universalist, 77 per cent; Pres- 
byterian, 75 per cent; Baptist, 72 per cent; Episcopal, 68 per cent; 
Lutheran, 68 per cent. 53 

Another poll asked the question, "Are you personally prepared to 
state that it is your present purpose not to sanction any future war 
or participate as an armed combatant?" Clergymen answered "Yes" 
to this question in the following percentages: Disciples, 69 per cent; 
Methodist, 67 per cent; Jewish, 59 per cent; Northern Baptist, 57 
per cent; Congregational, 55 per cent; Unitarian and Universalist, 
53 per cent; Southern Baptist, 52 per cent; Northern Presbyterian, 
46 per cent; Episcopal, 39 per cent; Southern Presbyterian, 38 per 
cent; Lutheran, 35 per cent. 54 

The conservative journal, Christianity Today, expressed the opin- 
ion in 1960 that "the Protestant clergy . , . are slowly moving away 
from their earlier larger commitment to the left toward a more con- 
servative social view." This opinion was based on a poll conducted 
for Christianity Today. The methods used in this poll were not pub- 
lished (see pag^s 109 i); nor were the results. The results were sum- 
marized by Christianity Today as follows: "Whereas a decade ago 
a ministerial survey indicated that 33 per cent of the Protestant 
pastors (as attested by their answers to barometer questions) sub- 

THE 303 

to the by a is effected, 

the recent narrowed the to 25 per {In 

to 40 per cent for the average)." 155 

The of in 

by two of the at the University of liHnois. 515 
The folowing are among the results: 


Politics should call forth the serious and intelligent 

concern of the conscientious Christian. 

Christians should support the U.N. try to be in- 
formed on the major Issues that come before it. 

Racial discrimination and segregation in such areas 
as education, employment, and religion should be 

The church should encourage disarmament among 

the nations with the United States taking the lead. 

The church Is responsible for encouraging better 
farming and business methods which will lead to 
better living standards and the possibility for a more 
wholesome life for all. 

Every person should have the freedom to refuse to 
serve in the Armed Forces If such service conflicts 
with Ms religious convictions. 

Profit, resulting from methodical and well-ordered 
work, Is valued and praised as a profit of God's 

The church should be responsible for helping attain 
fair and just relations between labor unions and 

In the sight of God, no race or color of man is 

better than another. 

In advancing economic and technical aid to under- 
developed countries and under-privileged people, 
the United States should have as their first concern 
not American interests, but the needs of the people 

Percentage of 

Methodist laymen 

who accepted the 







A vigorous and vocal section of Protestantism, reacts violently to 
the social action program. This group wants no changes in the pres- 


cut One the National Council of Pres- 

Nfen, no a so accurately or successfully as 

has "set up In conformity with the true na- 

ture of man." 57 writer IE a journal specifically established to 

la the churches wrote: 

Who can that in the entire story of God and man as given In His 

revelation* His Church Is built on and In the capitalist system? . * . Those 

are known as the business minds In history were chosen 

by God for His special revelation and kingdom bulldieg. ... A wealthy 

successful cattleman was called to be the father of the faith and the 

faithful. A millionaire king was appointed to build Him a house of 


The who attack the social-action point of view claim that 

they represent the true attitude of an overwhelming majority of lay- 
One former clergyman wrote: 

There are tens of thousands of Christian laymen to whom the luxury 
of writing resolutions is not vouchsafed, who are devoted to the capitalist 
system though such devotion, to the minds of the cliche-ridden left, is 
in itself proof of ignorance or venality are daily giving courageous evi- 
dence that our capitalist economy can be used to advance Christian ob- 
jectives. 59 

Statistical verification of this point of view comes from a survey of 
lay Protestant opinion in Baltimore: 

The pocal] church, as an institution, elects its conservatives to office; 
and, unless one is the minister, the farther one gets into the administration 
of local church affairs, the more conservative one is likely to be. 60 

Church members vote more conservatively than citizens in general. 61 * 
The opponents of social action have formed many organizations 
in the effort to prevent the churches from "meddling in secular af- 
fairs.** Spiritual Mobilization and the Christian Freedom Foundation 
are two of the most prominent. The well-known industrialist J. How- 
ard Pew has been very active in such organizations. He made an 
address before a meeting of the National Council of United Presby- 
terian Men in which he said: "Many men in business and in the 

* The various sets of data cited concerning the opinions and actions of church 
people on social issues are conflicting; the data are not cited in the hope that a 
clear picture can be given of the status in the churches of given positions on 
social issues but in order to indicate the amount of attention which they receive 
from some present-day churchmen. 

THE 305 

. . . to far [to the Qiurch] 

do. of to to 

churches, and not at all to the Church. . . . 

our cor|X)rate Church 

and pronouncements on as have 

in the press." 62 (The Church is "not for sale*' sharply the 

editor of Presbyterian Life.) At of Presbyterian Men, 

the delegates after listening to many from conservative busi- 

nessmen treated with "unforgivable rudeness" the of one 

lone representative of labor. 

There were insulting cries from the audience, applause and shouts for 
the honest admission that later unionism "is not a perfect organization," 
calls of * A No, no s no" when he proposed to develop a line crediting 
unions. The moderator of the meeting at one point had to reprimand the 
delegates with Ms own little lecture on courtesy. One huddle of Presby- 
terians . . . proposed a flying wedge to move on the speaker singing 
i% Onward Christian Soldiers.** 63 

The ardent social gospeler would agree that wealthy laymen in 
the churches are indeed of a different mind than are those persons 
who frame and pass the churches' social resolutions. But the opinion 
of wealthy laymen, though they may in general control the Protestant 
churches and the synagogues, is not a good index of the opinion of 
the man in the pew, any more than the newspapers are a good index 
of the opinions of the man on the street, especially in an election 
year. The devotee of social action is "sharply critical of the variety 
of devices whereby a conservative finds measles as bad as leprosy, 
regulation the same as socialism, high taxes the same as dictatorship, 
and Franklin Roosevelt easily linked with Karl Marx." 64 One bishop 
wrote that "no one is against pronouncements on public questions if 
the given position taken happens to correspond with Ms own posi- 
tion. ... I Itave often preached against communism . . . and I 
have received nary a letter of condemnation." 65 

Methodist Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam tells the story of how 
Thomas E. Dewey, Republican candidate for President in 1948, chal- 
lenged him by saying that when clergymen talk of economic and 
social problems they become "fuzzy-minded." Oxnam replied that 
if so the Republican Platform of 1948 was also fuzzy-minded since 


that of the urged by the churches 

in the Creed of the Churches, in 

1908 % the of Churches. 66 T. 

of the Council of Churches, wrote, * 4 lt 

the Jesus made on controversial mat- 

ters to the cross. If he confined himself to little 

he would never have been heard of." 67 

The for social action holds a position much 

like of the wrote concerning unemployment in a 

generally considered to be prosperous: 

Nearly five million people, desperately needing and seeking jobs, can- 
not them. . . . Physical misery, moral and spiritual breakdown grow. 
Mass purchasing power declines, effecting more cutbacks, more job- 
more misery, more degradation. . . . 

Let the economists debate the question as to when our unemployment 
will be * 4 serious* 5 and of depression proportions. It is already alarming 
for us who seek full, useful employment; who believe with Jesus in the 
vast worth of every individual: and who serve a God who wills not one 
of the least of His children to perish. For millions of our jobless brothers 
sisters depression is already here. 68 


A leading exponent of social action was Francis J. McConnell; he 
was a bishop of the Methodist Church. The editor of a prominent 
liberal weekly called Mm "one of the greatest assets which our na- 
tion possesses/* but a conservative editor called him "the most dan- 
gerous man in the Church." A review of Ms career will illuminate 
some Methodist patterns and indicate the concern wMch the devotee 
of social action brings to the problems of suffering and injustice. 

McConnell was the son of a Methodist minister, the graduate of a 
Methodist college and theological school, the pastor in rapid succes- 
sion of five Methodist churches, and for a period of three years the 
president of DePauw, a Methodist college. At DePauw, he demon- 
strated his administrative ability by leading a financial campaign 
wMch doubled the college's endowment. 

In 1912, at forty-one years of age, McConnell was elected bishop. 
He was assigned to the Denver Area and was also given supervision 
of Methodist missions in Mexico. In order to fulfill this latter re- 

THE 307 

he the of Latin Amer- 

ica, so so 

Wilson council, at Its 

the United Government in the af- 

fairs of Latin American even to the of 

intervention in Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, 

Honduras, and Mexico. 

In Mexico, American oil companies^ by the 

E. L. Doheney, with the help of United senators (includ- 

ing a later to be President of the United States and 

later to be sent to prison for accepting a bribe), were using the threat 
of war in the effort to steal oil rights from the Mexican people. In 
the end, this effort failed and the Good Neighbor Policy was substi- 
tuted for Dollar Diplomacy. This shift was possible because of an 
aroused public opinion. Samuel Guy Inman, a leader in the effort to 
change the climate of opinion., commented: 

The history of our changing foreign policy . . . during this period 
shows the influence of moral ideals and the religious spirit. It illustrates 
how courageous public officials like Woodrow Wilson, Dwight Morrow, 
and Cordeil Hull, when backed by vigorous Christian leaders of public 
opinion, can successfully challenge the most powerful reactionary forces, 
industrial and ecclesiastical. At the same time it indicates the notable 
part that Bishop McConneE played as leader of these religious forces. 89 

In 1920, McCormell was transferred to the Pittsburgh Area of the 
Methodist Qiurch. There he was catapulted into national prominence 
by the Report on the Steel Strike of 1919 issued by the Interchurch 
World Movement This Movement was the dramatic and highly pub- 
licized effort of some post-World War I church leaders to put inter- 
denominationalism into practice on a wide scale, at home and abroad. 
For various reasons the Movement failed: because it smacked too 
much of high pressure methods; because interdenominationalism was 
too feeble at the grass roots; and because, so it was often said, the 
Report on the Steel Strike offended big business. 

In 1919, conditions in the steel industry were deplorable. A fourth 
of the employees worked twelve hours a day, seven days a week. 
Hours for all workers averaged 68.7 per week. "The annual earnings 
of 72% of all workers were, and had been for years, below the level 

set by government experts as the minimum of comfort level for 
families of five." 70 The industry was not unionized and any workman 
caught joining or even advocating a union was promptly discharged. 
The companies owned the steel towns lock, stock and barrel, and 
systematically suppressed freedom of press, speech, and assembly. The 
following excerpt from a letter written to McConnell by a working 
man gives a small indication of conditions: 

I am trying hard to live a Christian life, I love my Church . . . but I 
must confess that when I leave my home in the morning at 5:15 and do 
not get home until 6:30 at night, and then eat my supper it is after seven 
and I am too tired to get ready for prayer meeting, and then I must be 
in bed at nine if I want to get even seven hours or seven and one-half 
hours sleep. . . . Now, what time have I to spend with my family under 
such a working system? . . . My prayer is that you will be successful in 
seeing that humane beings are treated as humane beings. 71 

In September, 1919, the steel industry boiled over in what was up 
to that time the largest strike in United States history. The issue was 
fought out in the arena of public opinion. And the strikers lost, 
chiefly because the newspapers were almost unanimous in giving only 
the companies* side of the story and in labeling the newly formed 
union as an organization of "reds" and "bolsheviks." The newspapers 
of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the center of the steel industry, were 
particularly servile in publishing only the interpretations furnished by 
the steel companies. 72 

In the midst of the strike, the Interchurch World Movement ap- 
pointed a Commission, headed by McConnell, to investigate. The 
Commission did a thorough job, concluded that the steel companies 
were engaged in callous exploitation of the workers, exonerated the 
Union from any connection with "Bolshevism," and recommended 
"limiting of the day to not more than ten hours on duty, with not 
more than a six-day and a fifty-four hour week, with at least a mini- 
mum comfort wage." Moreover, the Commission urged organized 
labor to "democratize" the control of unions, to repudiate "restriction 
of production as a doctrine," to formulate "contracts which can be 
lived up to." 73 

The Report turned the tide of public opinion. The published docu- 
ment appeared a year and a half after the strike had been broken. 
Yet within eight months after publication, the United States Steel 


Corporation had announced that the seven-day week had "been en- 
tirely eliminated" and the twelve-hour day would probably be elimi- 
nated "in thirty days or a little more." 74 The power of an aroused 
public conscience had again been demonstrated. 

The reaction to the Report was by no means all favorable. The 
unfavorable reactions can be summarized by quoting from the book 
which presented the steel industry's answer to the Commission: 

From the very nature of their business, ministers of the Christian re- 
ligion have not the training or the experience to make such an investiga- 
tion, or even to plan and guide such an investigation. ... If , in the dis- 
cussion of a partisan question, he [a minister] confines himself to dwelling 
upon the importance of the truthful and wise solution of the question, 
... he will usually have accomplished his duty far more effectively than 
if he attempts to instruct Ms congregation in the merits of the question 
itself. 75 

To this point of view, McConnell made an emphatic answer: 

There should be unremitting emphasis on human values; we should 
be willing to accept every new insight into the moral character of God 
and apply it to human life. ... It is not the business of the Church to tell 
in detail how to conduct industry, but to create a public opinion insistent 
upon the human values which the industrial world must heed. 7e 

If you want to know the facts about the human consequences of the 
modern industrial system, the best place to go is to the pastors of the 
churches. Employers as a class are hopelessly ignorant of the human 
values involved. They know their job superbly, but they do not and can- 
not see the human side. The Church can speak with authority there. 77 

Nobody is pleading that the Church turn itself into a bureau dealing 
with social and economic problems, but it can do much to build a 
righteous public opinion. 78 

McConnell was no demagogue. Indeed, his native reticence and 
brevity of utterance were responsible for a widespread reputation 
for coldness. But coldness is an improper characterization. He was 
rather concerned to let facts speak for themselves. He was an in- 
tellectual, a creative philosopher and theologian, a man who liked 
for recreation to study higher mathematics. He once debated with 
atheist Clarence Darrow, who reported afterward that the experience 
was like "monkeying with a buzz-saw." To such a person, the appeal 
to force or excessive emotion in a conflict seems especially inap- 

He was the object of much criticism from conservative groups; 
charges of "bolshevism" and "communism" were legion. At General 
Conference in 1928, he was accused of "maladministration" and 
"immorality"; but he was exonerated "with the most tumultuous per- 
sonal tribute" seen at General Conference in a decade. In spite of 
the opposition to his social message, McConnell was given many 
posts of leadership. In 1928, he was moved to the New York Area, 
then unofficially recognized as the leading administrative post in the 
Methodist Church. In 1929, he was made President of the Federal 
Council of Churches. In addition, he headed the Religious Education 
Association, the American Association for Social Security, The Peo- 
ple's Lobby, the North American Committee for the Aid of the 
Spanish Democracy, the Board of Foreign Missions of the Methodist 
Church, and (for three decades) the Methodist Federation for Social 

McConnelTs motivation was always religious. His fearlessness, 
calmness and patience came from his faith that God has created all 
men of infinite worth and that the churches can be major instruments 
in achieving the Kingdom of God. He saw and had a major part in 
bringing about a widespread change in the Protestant conception of 
the Church's social function. 

The power of religious motivation is commonly overlooked by 
social analysts. Yet men who really believe they labor for ends which 
are sanctioned by the very nature of things have a staying power 
denied to all others. One testimony to this fact comes from the non- 
clerical secretary to the Commission which made the steel Report; 
writing years later, he said: 

At first skeptical of clergy, I wondered why they all went through to 
the end. ... A commission of lawyers, or legislators, by my experience, 
would have weaseled out, and scientists would have qualified. These 
churchmen, faced by the simple "This is the truth, shall the word be 
spoken?" all, though with some "Lord help me's," voted aye. 80 

McConnelTs religious motivation and moral earnestness are illus- 
trated by the following passages: 

We must believe in the God of the fair chance for men here and now 
the chance to find those laws of life the adjustment to which means 
the largest liberty laws which are the expressions of God's own life 


and mastery of which means communion with Him. Progress in Christian 
liberty can only mean increasing voluntary assumption of higher and 
higher laws. 81 

Under the present competitive economic system we have reached a 
stage which lends warrant to the remark . . . that this earth is the lunatic 
asylum of the solar system. The [present] social organization . . . allows 
men to starve because there is too much food, to go without roofs over 
their heads because there are too many houses, and to do without clothes 
because there are too many clothes. If this is not social lunacy the word 
lunacy has no meaning. 82 

What is there so sacred about the profit system that the Church must 
not call it to account? What is profit? It is what remains in business after 
wages and salaries, interest and insurance, and all forms of service are 
paid for. In prosperous times this remainder may be just like 'findings," 
representing no service on the part of the finder. 83 

Jesus did not attack wealth as such, but protested against the injustice 
and misuse of wealth. One difficulty in which we have come at the pres- 
ent time is that we have not taken material wealth for granted; we think 
of it in a sordid, materialistic way, 84 


The major thesis of this volume is that society by its very nature 
is a religious affair, an affair of sharing a code of behavior, and of 
believing that code to be part of the very structure of things; the 
thesis is that such sharing and believing is essential to the preserva- 
tion and vigor of any society. 

But merely sharing a code and believing in it profoundly is no 
guarantee of its moral quality. Many a society is stable and vigorous 
without being righteous. The moral quality depends on the nature of 
the code, not on the amount of reverence given. 

In the America of the future, a religious code a mode of life 
believed to represent ultimate reality and believed with passion is 
bound to play the dominant role. The question is what kind of code 
will it be? Will it be a code such as the ardent social gospelers es- 
pouse, which would deny luxury to any until decency has been made 
possible for all? Or will it be a code such as our business commu- 
nity wants, which gives the major rewards to the strong, and the 
intelligent, and the industrious and to those who inherit wealth? 
Or will it be a code such as the Communists and Fascists seek which 


attempts to gain social security at the expense of individual freedom? 
Or will It be some compromise code? The answer depends on which 
set of moral convictions come in the future to have the deepest foun- 
dation in the religious beliefs of Americans. 

In Methodism we can see the moral potential of America. Method- 
ists have over and over again shown their willingness to exhaust 
themselves and their resources in moral crusades. Today, like the 
rest of Americans, their indignation has been aroused by system- 
atic propaganda to hatred of Communism and of Russians. By an 
equally deliberate effort, their moral passion could be aroused to the 
support of a more positive program, to the support of a kind of 
society more truly democratic than the present political and economic 
structure of the United States. 



THE NEWEST denomination to appear on the American scene Is the 
Unitarian Universalist Association. It is the result of a merger be- 
tween the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist 
Church of America. Talks between these two groups looking toward 
union were held as long as a century ago. The present union is the 
result of active negotiations held during the past dozen years; the 
last stone in the arch was put in place in 1961. The story of each of 
these denominations must first be outlined. 


"Unitarianism is simply a return from corrupted doctrines of ortho- 
dox Christianity to the pure religion of the New Testament," wrote a 
Unitarian historian. 1 The claim that the first Christians were uni- 
tarian (believed God is a unity and did not believe Jesus was God) 
has far more basis than the average orthodox Christian would like 
to think. There is no positive affirmation of the Trinity in the Bible. 
A definite reference to this doctrine does appear in I John 5:7, the 
King James Version: "For there are three that bear record in heaven, 
the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." 
But doubtless this verse was not written by John, since it does not 
appear in the oldest copies of John's Letter. Most Liberals contend 
that the other New Testament passages where the Trinity is suppos- 
edly mentioned have, if read honestly, no trinitarian meaning. One 
Unitarian wrote that in the first three Gospels, the oldest ones, there 
is "not the remotest suggestion of the doctrine of the Trinity. . . . 



In these Gospels we find Jesus simply regarded as the Messiah a 
man, sent of God for a high purpose, endowed with superior powers, 
yet dependent upon God, acknowledging himself not so good as God, 
and limited in knowledge, authority, and power." 2 

The modem Unitarian movement dates from the Reformation. 
During this period, orthodox Protestants as well as Catholics pun- 
ished persons who persisted in denying belief in the Trinity. Calvin 
was instrumental in bringing to death the great antitrinitarian, Ser- 
vetus. The Catholic Inquisition used every device to ferret out and 
have punished Unitarian tendencies. "Even in England at least ten 
Protestants were put to death for some form of Unitarianism, and 
there is no telling how many more died in prison." 3 But in spite of 
persecution, liberal doctrines continued to be believed. By the seven- 
teenth century Unitarian ideas had gained considerable status and 
were espoused in one form or another by such stalwarts as John 
Milton, John Locke, William Penn and Sir Isaac Newton. 

Modem Liberalism in Christianity got its first great impetus from 
Deism, a radical religious movement of the eighteenth century. The 
Deists put their trust in reason rather than in revelation; they con- 
tended against the supernatural view of the universe, the miracles, 
the deity of Jesus, the infallibility of the Bible. For a time such views 
became the fashion in England; and in America they had a wide 
influence, both inside and outside the churches. Many of the Found- 
ing Fathers held Deistic positions: Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, 

Among the New England clergy the liberalizing tendency was far 
advanced by the beginning of the nineteenth century especially in 
eastern Massachusetts. Ministers in Leominster, Hingham, Quincy, 
Salem, and Boston attacked Calvinism and. espoused a "more reason- 
able way." In 1785, King's Chapel (Anglican) in Boston adopted 
Unitarian doctrine and worship, and in 1787 this church itself or- 
dained a layman as its minister. In 1805, Harvard appointed an out- 
and-out Liberal to its Hoflis Professorship of Theology. 

These developments so alarmed the conservatives that they began 
a vigorous attack. But the Liberals did not fight back; controversy 
was far from their wish. They were in a strong position; many were 
pastors of old and distinguished churches, and had no wish but to 


exercise the freedom inherent in congregational polity. Yet the con- 
servatives insisted on battle. They denounced Liberalism in sermon 
and pamphlet. They asserted that the Liberals were not Christian, 
refused them co-operation, and formed associations from which they 
were excluded. Finally, in 1825, in order "to diffuse the knowledge 
and promote the interests of pure Christianity," a small group of lay- 
men and a few of the younger ministers joined in forming the Ameri- 
can Unitarian Association. 

The adoption of this name repeated a familiar pattern. At the be- 
ginning of the controversy, the term Unitarian had been used by the 
conservatives in derision. The Liberals had preferred to call them- 
selves rational, or catholic, or liberal Christians. But by 1825 the 
term Unitarian was chosen by the new group; thus again a name used 
in odium came into honor. 

The Unitarians were particularly strong in and near Boston, where 
the majority of the people of wealth and position were liberal in 
sympathy. Twenty of the twenty-one oldest churches in Massachu- 
setts went with the Unitarians including the historic First Parish in 
Plymouth. The development in that town was typical of the develop- 
ment in many localities. The orthodox members of the Plymouth 
congregation formed a new organization and claimed that it was the 
real Church of the Pilgrims. Two church buildings now face each 
other across the street. On the Congregational building is a tablet 
which reads in part: 

This tablet [honors those who] adhered to the belief of the fathers 
and . . . perpetuated at great sacrifice . . . the Evangelical faith and 
fellowship of the church of Scrooby, Leyden, and the Mayflower, or- 
ganized in England in 1606. 

But the Unitarian tablet claims that it honors 

The Church of Scrooby, Leyden and the Mayflower, [which] 
Gathered on this hillside in 1620, [and] 
Has ever since preserved unbroken records, 
And maintained a continuous ministry. 

In many a Massachusetts town the First Parish is Unitarian, and 
the Second Parish, Congregational. 

The development of Umtarianism belied its early promise. In 1959 
the reported membership was a hundred and ten thousand. The rea- 


sons for this lack of growth will be discussed later. Boston continues 
to be the Unitarian stronghold so much so that the denomination's 
enemies sometimes taunted it by saying that its creed runs as fol- 
lows: "I believe in the Fatherhood of God, the Brotherhood of Man, 
and the Neighborhood of Boston." 


Belief in the unity of God rather than in the Trinity is by no 
means an adequate characterization of Unitarian belief. It is much 
more complex than that. Unitarians want no part of a restrictive 
creed; they insist on freedom of belief. Yet they would in general 
subscribe to the positions outlined under Liberalism in Chapter HI. 
Perhaps the best way to indicate the full range of Unitarian convic- 
tion would be to set down some of the Affirmations of Faith which 
are frequently used in services of worship. One which for a genera- 
tion was used almost universally in the churches is: 

We believe in 

The Fatherhood of God, 
The Brotherhood of Man, 
The Leadership of Jesus, 
Salvation by Character, and 
The Progress of Mankind Onward and Upward 

This statement is seldom used now; belief in inevitable progress 
is too hard to maintain in a time when man threatens to destroy him- 
self. Of a half dozen Affirmations printed in the Unitarian hymn- 
book, the following appears to be the most comprehensive: 

We believe in God, Father of our spirits, life of all that is; infinite in 
power, wisdom and goodness, and working everywhere for righteousness 
and peace and love. 

We believe in the ideal of human life which reveals itself in Jesus as 
love to God and love to man. 

We believe that we should be ever growing in knowledge and ever 
aiming at a higher standard of character. 

We believe in the growth of the kingdom of God on earth, and that 
our loyalty to truth, to righteousness, and to our fellowmen, is the meas- 
ure of our desire for its coming. 

We believe that the living and the dead are in the hands of God; that 
underneath both are his everlasting arms. 


Some understanding of the differences between Unitarian and 
orthodox thinking can be gained by reading a redaction of the 
Apostles* Creed which was prepared by Charles Edwards Park, pas- 
tor emeritus of First Church in Boston. 

I believe in [a single, eternal, all-inclusive, all-pervading Life Principle 
whose source and perfect embodiment is God, who finds varying degrees 
of embodiment in all forms of life, who is the prototype of every grace, 
power, and nobility found in his creation, and whom I call] God, the 
Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, [not] 
his only Son, [for whose son am I? But] our Lord, [because he is a more 
nearly perfect embodiment of the Life Principle than any one I know;] 
who was [neither] conceived by the Holy Ghost, [nor] born of the Virgin 
Mary, [but was conceived and born exactly as we are all conceived and 
born; and who] suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and 
buried. He descended into [no] hell, [for, as hell is not a place but a 
spiritual condition, he never saw the outer door-mat of hell.] The third 
day [the eager women found his tomb empty, and jumped to the conclu- 
sion that in the night] he rose again from the dead; he ascended into 
[no] heaven, [for as heaven is not a place but a spiritual condition, he 
never left heaven,] and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Al- 
mighty [if it is any comfort to you.] From thence he shall come [if he is 
not already here] to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy 
Ghost [whom I call Holy Spirit: the spirit hi which God works;] the 
holy catholic Church [so long as it tries to be holy and catholic;] the 
communion of [what] saints [there are;] the forgiveness of sins; the resur- 
rection of the body [if body means personality: not, if body means this 
mortal frame, for I am sick to death of my mortal frame and hope to 
be rid of it soon;] and the life everlasting [meaning a chance to finish 
out the interrupted opportunities of this life,] Amen. 4 

According to a well-worn quip, "Unitarians believe that there is 
at most one God." However inadequate this sentence may be when 
used to summarize Unitarian doctrines, it does clearly indicate a 
major point of tension in the denomination. Some Unitarians are 
humanists. This term is used in some quite different ways. When it is 
used to refer to a type of left-wing Protestantism, humardsm means 
a belief that all that exists is natural (as against supernatural) and 
that human life is the aspect of the universe which religion should 
be most concerned about. Many humanists would go further and 
affirm that human life is the highest aspect of the universe; thus they 
deny the existence of God. One critical Unitarian clergyman wrote: 

The humanists are not just activists who think God helps those who 
help themselves; they are for the most part outright atheists. They have 


no prayers in their services, the name of God is not mentioned, and 
they dismiss the people with "closing words" instead of the benediction. 
While some of them are gentle in their atheism, others are blatant and 

offensive. 5 

But another clergyman states the issue quite differently: 

It is much more in keeping with the spirit of religious humility to 
admit that whatever divine or creative element is present in life is best 
apparent on the human level in personalities consecrated to new out- 
reaches of the human spirit rather than by making unwarranted asser- 
tions about the behavior of the divine apart from the human. 6 

With this kind of thinking going on inside the denomination, a 
good many conservatives have challenged the right of Unitarianism 
to be called "Christian." An organization was formed within the As- 
sociation itself, the Unitarian Christian Fellowship, whose purpose 
was to insure the Christian character of Unitarianism. Ex-Governor 
Robert F. Bradford of Massachusetts, descendant of William Brad- 
ford, spoke before this group saying, "I, for one, will not continue 
with the label 'Unitarian' if it cannot include Christianity." At the 
1949 meeting of the American Unitarian Association, the women of 
the Church engaged in a heated debate over changing the name of 
their organization from the General Alliance of Unitarian and Other 
Liberal Christian Women to the Unitarian Women's Alliance. Many 
feared the effect of dropping Christian out of the title. This issue is 
still very much alive, as later pages will show. 


Unitarian government is identical in form with that of Congrega- 
tionalism. Local churches have the same freedom and they are or- 
ganized into the same kind of superstructure. Unitarian government 
has been troubled by many of the same problems which trouble 
Congregational and Baptist government. For example, The Christian 
Register, the former name of the denominational monthly, published 
an editorial complaining about the concentration of power in the 
hands of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the 
American Unitarian Association: 

All actions of the Committee were reported to the Board through the 
medium of mimeographed minutes. But the minutes were elliptical rather 


than complete and were sometimes so excessively discreet as to cany 
little meaning to the reader. . . . The effect is that many major policy 
items are decided by the Executive Committee alone. 7 

There is probably even more freedom in Unitarian government 
than in Congregational government. The Unitarian desire for free- 
dom amounts to a passion. This fact explains why there are no doc- 
trinal tests in the denomination and why the humanists are so strong 
in it. On the other hand, there is in the Church a considerable 
amount of theological smugness, and of intolerance for any but 
leftish liberal thinking. One well-informed observer who read these 
pages even wrote, "The kind of liberalism for which a large part of 
the Unitarian group stands may be the most utterly dogmatic and 

There have been many explanations of the failure, until the last 
two decades, of the Unitarian group to grow at a pace corresponding 
to the pace of many other denominations. One is that Unitarians are 
"too intellectual/' Most Unitarian services leave a large percentage 
of potential converts with an impression of coldness, of lack of emo- 
tional depth. Many observers could say, "When I go to a Unitarian 
church I usually feel as though I were attending a lecture rather than 
a service of worship." The effort to achieve a rational faith has fre- 
quently taken a negative turn. One minister said, "Many times we 
have seemed surer about what we don't believe than about what we 
do believe. People join the Church for the answer to skepticism, not 
for skepticism." 

Perhaps the major reason for the small size of the Unitarian de- 
nomination is its lack of missionary zeal. Unitarians have developed 
an antipathy to missions. Deploring the situation, one minister wrote: 

The very word "missionary" was anathema: it was synonymous in our 
thinking with ecclesiastical inquisitions, religious imperialism and the 
sight of innocent, morally-erect natives being forced to wear unnecessary 
clothing and embrace a totally unwanted and even harmful faith. 8 

Shortly after the end of the Spanish-American war, several million 
Filipino members of the independent Church of the Philippines be- 
gan a serious flirtation with the American Unitarians. "But our 
Unitarian principles obliged us to refrain from sending missionaries 
to the islands to help propagate the faith." 9 The bishops of this 

Filipino Church finally secured ordination to the episcopacy from 
bishops of the Protestant Episcopal Church. 

The attitude toward missionary work witMn the United States 
was until recently of the same order. In 1949 the American Unitarian 
Association reprinted a pamphlet in which the pastor of a Portland, 
Oregon, Oiurch wrote, "We are not actively engaged in proselyting 
and I think, almost without exception, those who belong to this 
church . . . belong because they took the initiative." 10 Two years 
before the merger another clergyman wrote: 

To imagine a world won to Unitarianism lias no meaning; a Unitarian 
world, a mankind persuaded of liberal religion, is from our point of view 
neither possible nor desirable. 

The varieties of human thought are too numerous, differences in hu- 
man temperament are too deep, and the needs of people emotionally and 
intellectually are too divergent to permit the possibility that any one reli- 
gion ever could satisfy the world. 

Yet this writer went on to say: 

But most religious liberals are not yet convinced that anything beyond 
their local church is really necessary to the advance of their religious 
outlook in society. . . . 

Yet the truth is that we shall not advance toward enlisting our potential 
following and achieving our potential influence in the world unless and 
until we are ready to recognize that an active and adequately supported 
program on a continental scale is imperative for the advance of Uni- 
tarianism. . 

It is only lack of money that is delaying the organization of dozens of 
new Unitarian churches which need assistance at their outset. 11 

One denominational leader affirms that though Unitarians still 
oppose the idea of a missionary program to "convert the heathen," 
they no longer think that "they must remain silent and that poten- 
tial liberals must blunder into a Unitarian Church by accident." He 
further asserts that during the 1950's the rate of growth was the 
greatest of any denomination in the country. Growth has been espe- 
cially large near college and university campuses. 


The term universalism refers to a belief that in the end all men 
will be saved. The term arose as a reaction against the orthodox 


beEef that hell is not only a place of punishment, but of eternal pun- 

The Universalists assert that their faith is older than Christianity 
and was the belief of some of the most distinguished of the early 
Christians: for example, Clement and Origen, and "probably Chrysos- 
tom and Jerome." The assertion is also made that universalism had 
defenders during a large part of Christian history. The organized 
form of the movement, however, is American in origin. In the late 
colonial period, men who reacted against the view that a loving God 
could condemn men to an eternity of punishment and who were 
influenced by the mood of Deism began to preach, to write, and to 
organize churches. In the midst of the Revolutionary War, in 1778, 
the first association of Universalist societies was formed. 

The Winchester Profession, a doctrinal statement, was adopted in 
1803. It expresses the general faith which was held in the churches: 

We believe that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments 
contain a revelation of the character of God and of duty, interest, and 
final destination of mankind. 

We believe that there is one God, whose nature is Love, revealed in 
one Lord Jesus Christ, by one Holy Spirit of Grace, who will finally 
restore the whole family of mankind to holiness and happiness. 

We believe that holiness and true happiness are inseparably connected, 
and that believers ought to be careful to maintain order and practice 
good works; for these things are good and profitable unto men. 

Often the Universalists were attacked for what was alleged to be 
a belief that a man could do evil without being punished. But in fact 
they believed that the sinner must pay for his misdeeds. They em- 
phasized God's justice. The teachings which appalled them were 
those which emphasized God's supposed vindictiveness. The true 
punishment of God, they believed, brings healing, it is intended to 
effect repentance, reformation and final salvation. 

Universalist theology like Unitarian theology has been in the 
vanguard of liberal thinking. In general the affinities between the 
Universalists and the Unitarians have always been close; but these 
affinities were often ignored in the early years. A Unitarian leader 

Sadly, there was never any enthusiasm among emerging Unitarian 
leaders for close ties with the embattled Universalists. From 1815 to 


1840, as Unitarians were seceding from Congregationalists and Congre- 
gatiooalists were repudiating Unitarians, the Universalists, whose cause 
was virtually identical on the issues involved, looked longingly for en- 
couragement, cooperation, understanding, and fellowship from Unitarians. 
Universalism did not possess the social and cultural status of Unitaiian- 
ism, and reinforcement was desperately needed. It was not forthcoming. 
Unitarians, for whatever reason, were unable to muster any enthusiasm 
for the beleaguered religionists who were their closest theological 
cousins, 12 

The polity adopted by the Universalist churches was congrega- 
tional. The freedom possible under this system has been made full 
use of. "Liberty clauses" which guarantee that no doctrinal state- 
ments will be used as creedal tests have characterized the denomi- 
nation almost from its organization. As a result a considerable theo- 
logical development ensued. In 1899, a statement was issued which 
reflected influence by the Darwinian theory of evolution and which 
affirmed belief "in the Bible as containing a revelation from God." 
By 1935, a change in emphasis was reflected by a statement which 
avowed "faith in the authority of truth, known or to be known." At 
one time the idea of salvation held by most Universalists was similar 
to the idea of most Christians; it centered on the afterlife. In the 
twentieth century the emphasis has been placed on this life and on its 
processes of individual fulfillment and social transformation but not 
to the necessary exclusion of belief in an afterlife. 

In the last century a favorite means of contrasting Universalists 
and Unitarians was the quip: "Universalists believe God is too good 
to eternally damn man; Unitarians believe man is too good to be 
eternally damned." This proposition is much too neat. Both groups 
believed emphatically in "salvation by character" as the Unitarian 
phrase put it. The Universalists declared: "We avow our faith in 
the power of men of good will and sacrificial spirit to overcome all 
evil and progressively to establish the Kingdom of God." 

Freedom in the denomination has meant that persons of all kinds 
of liberal belief have joined its membership: theists, humanists, mys- 
tics. Some wish to be known as Christians; others wish to abandon 
that name. In 1942, the charter of the Church was changed to read: 
"To promote harmony among adherents of all religious faiths, whether 
Christian or otherwise." 


New England has been the center of Universalism. In 1960 the 
Church had seventy thousand members. To the average American 
Protestant, the usual Universalist church has less to distinguish it 
from Ms own church than has the average Unitarian church. The 
IMversalists "know something more of piety, of the emotional com- 
ponents of religion." 13 


In both denominations the votes to merge were overwhelmingly 
favorable, more so than were the votes of the Congregational Chris- 
tians, for example, in the formation of the United Church of Christ. 
A "ground rule" was set up for the votes which provided that 60 
per cent of the local units must vote on the merger and 70 per cent 
must approve. Over 90 per cent did vote and approval came from 91 
per cent of the Unitarian groups, and 79 per cent of the Universalist 
groups. 14 

The opposition to the merger though small in numbers was spirited 
in attack. A committee formed by the opposition wrote: "We pro- 
claim that cooperative freedom is more precious than restrictive 
consolidation. We trust that our brethren will not barter their heritage 
for the beguiling myth of merger." 15 A central point of the opposition 
was the alleged lack of a satisfactory name for the merged churches. 
One opponent wrote: "We have spent many years building up the 
names Unitarian and Universalist. . . . Now the proposal is that 
we throw these names out the window." He called this problem "the 
crux of the matter." 16 Tensions over this problem were no doubt 
increased by a well-publicized crack made by a delegate at one of the 
conventions. He proposed that the name be Unitarian; "uni" for the 
Universalists and "tarian" for the Unitarians. 

Of even more import, however, was the relation of the new de- 
nomination to Christianity. Long debate at a joint conference of the 
two churches led to the following paragraph as one of the "corporate 

To cherish and spread the universal truths taught by the great prophets 
and teachers of humanity in every age and tradition, immemorially sum- 
marized in the Judeo-Christian heritage as love to God and love to man. 

This paragraph was attacked from both the right and the left. One 

group published a "remonstrance" In which they wrote, "The name 
of Jesus has been excluded from the proposed constitution." On the 
other hand, a wen-known clergyman said: "Religion is a bigger word 
than the word Christian. We look upon truth as universal. . . . 
There are many good Unitarians who did not grow up in the Judeo- 
Christian tradition." 17 He hailed an emerging "new world faith/' 
Another clergyman wrote: "We are coining to see that our basic 
philosophy Is making of us a distinctive religious movement that is no 
longer just a heretical sect within Christianity. Our approach to re- 
ligion constitutes the birth of a fresh faith in the world of organized 
religion. 9 ' 18 

Concerning the theological situation in the denomination a re- 
porter in The Christian Century wrote: 

It would be quite inaccurate to see the churches of this new association 
as simply preserving the modernism of the 1920s; to do so would be to 
overlook a left wing that shades off almost imperceptibly into nonthe- 
Istic humanism and Ethical Culture and a right wing of various neolib- 
erals and TillicMans. Within this numerically small denomination is 
probably to be perceived the greatest diversity that has ever sought and 
claimed to have found common religious experiences. 19 

One very interesting aspect of the new Constitution is the pro- 
vision for what appear to be genuine elections for the leadership of 
the denomination. As has been noted, in some congregationally or- 
ganized bodies the leadership is actually selected by committees, and 
these selections are approved by national assemblies in what are 
called "elections." In the Unitarian Universalist Association, nomi- 
nation is by committee; but additional candidates may also be nomi- 
nated by petition. In 1961, a genuine election developed for President 
of the Association. The terms of office in the Unitarian Universalist 
Association are for four years; the elected leaders of the denomina- 
tion may serve no more than three terms. 


A major force which urges Unitarian Universalists toward an 
active break with the Christian tradition has no doubt been the 
treatment they have received from the ecumenical movement In 


some instances, they have been refused admittance; in others, they 
have been expelled. Neither the National Council of Churches nor the 
World Council of Churches admitted them into membership. Con- 
cerning these actions one Unitarian wrote: 

I call upon the liberals in other churches to repudiate the two-faced 
position in which they are placed by the formation of the World Council 
of Churches with a creedal test. If the World Council has to be formed 
on this basis and it is fait accompli then liberals must decide once 
and for all whether they belong to a liberal or a creedal tradition. 

You can see the unenviable position in which the liberals in these other 
churches are placed. It is the same old position in which a liberal in any 
creedal church is placed; that of professing creeds which he does not 
believe that he might remain a part of a great ongoing organization. 
Or else a man must decide to take the creeds out of their historical 
context and interpret them allegorically or poetically. . . . Either one 
must be honest and profess not to believe the creed which makes one 
suspect, and in this instance would bar one from membership in the 
World Council of Churches, or else one must accept the creeds and give 
them an interpretation which historically is dishonest. . . . 

I have no quarrel with those who can take this creed and repeat it 
honestly, straightforwardly, consistent with its history and original inter- 
pretation. Men of this mind should form some sort of an orthodox World 
Council of Churches. My issue is with those who accept this rock bottom 
basis of unity with tongue in cheek and link themselves with orthodox 
and traditional Christianity to "get in on the big game" and be on the 
popular side. They have sacrificed principle for power. 20 

Concerning the exclusion of the Unitarians from the Federal 
Council of Churches (an ecumenical organization which preceded the 
National Council), the late Frederick May Eliot, former President 
of the American Unitarian Association, wrote: 

Unitarians may be simple-minded and naive, but they just cannot 
imagine Jesus Christ barring the door of any church, or fellowship of 
churches, that accepts his name and sign, to anyone who asked in sin- 
cerity for admittance. By our definition of Christianity, such an act 
would be unchristian in the highest degree, and any definition of Chris- 
tianity which makes such an act proper seems to us in itself a denial of 
the essential spirit of the Master. 21 

Evidence that anti-Unitarian Universalist attitudes continue is 
given by the action in 1959 of the Greater Philadelphia Council of 
Churches. It expelled two Unitarian and one Universalist churches 
from full membership and offered "associate membership," a rela- 


tionship which would require financial support but would deny voting 
rights. The alleged reason for the action was the refusal of these 
churches to "accept our Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior." This 
allegation is called into question by the fact that in 1957 a Friends 
Meeting was admitted to the Council even though it explicitly de- 
clared its unwillingness to accept the Council's creedal statement; and 
by the fact that these three churches had been accepted into mem- 
bership in 1946 when the creedal statement was adopted by the 
young and struggling Council even though they could not subscribe 
to the statement. The ministers of the three churches wrote: 

We have grave doubts as to the wisdom, in view of the moral, ethical 
and spiritual problems which confront the world (and Greater Philadel- 
phia) today, of any action by a group of churches which would indicate 
that the council is unwilling to accept, on equal terms, the support of all 
who believe that the ultimate solution of these problems lies in a more 
widespread acceptance of Christian values as formulated by Jesus of 
Nazareth. . . 

It is said that this action is necessary to induce other churches, now 
outside the council, to come in and work with the council. . . But can 
they seriously be concerned about the voting rights of three churches in 
an organization of over 500 churches? Or is it that they will not be em- 
barrassed if we join with them in promoting through the council those 
spiritual values for which we all stand, as long as we do so as strictly 
"second class citizens"? 

Whatever the reason, we believe that the proposed amendment can be 
justified only on the ground of expediency, and not on principle. A 
prophet was moved hy God many years ago to say, "And what doth the 
Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk 
humbly with thy God?" 22 


The orthodox frequently contend that Liberalism of the kind 
found in Congregationalism and Unitarianism is bound in the end to 
fail, that Liberalism is only a bread-and-water religion and lacks 
the capacity to nourish the deepest loyalties of men, that the denomi- 
nations most deeply touched by liberal thinking have not grown as 
fast as the nation generally. Men naturally, the orthodox continue, 
are trustful supernaturalists and any religion which puts the em- 
phasis on man's responsibility rather than on God's sovereignty is 
bound in the end to fail. 

Liberals, stung by such fighting words, retort that movements far 


to the theological left of Christian Liberalism have shown abundant 
capacity to endure: Confucianism, early Buddhism, Marxism. In the 
struggle against Nazism, the record of Liberals was at least as good 
as the record of the more conservative religious groups; "the first 
international treaty of the Nazi regime was the concordat with the 
Vatican." 23 

Moreover, Liberals contend that the size of the so-called liberal 
denominations is not a correct indication of the growth of the move- 
ment. The number of Liberals outside the Unitarian or Universalist 
churches far exceeds the number inside; Liberalism has strong repre- 
sentation in all the large Protestant denominations, except Lu- 
theranism. Some indication of how high these percentages are is gained 
from a review of a study made in the late twenties of the beliefs of 
five hundred ministers in and near Chicago. 24 The following are some 
of the dogmas concerning which the ministers indicated their belief 
or disbelief. The figure following the statement is the percentage of 
the ministers who were uncertain or who disagreed; these percentages 
were considerably lower than they would have been if the Lutheran 
ministers one-fifth of the total had not been included. 

Uncertainty or 
Dogma Disbelief 

God is three distinct persons in one. 20% 

God occasionally sets aside law, thus performing a miracle. 32% 

The devil exists as an actual being. 40% 
The New Testament is, and always will remain, the final 

revelation of the will of God to men. 34% 

Jesus was born of a virgin without a human father. 29% 

Heaven exists as an actual place or location. 43% 

The body will be resurrected. 38% 
A visible bodily second coming of Jesus to establish a reign 

of righteousness on earth will occur. 60% 
All men, being sons of Adam, are born with natures wholly 

perverse, sinful, and depraved. 47% 
In order to be a Christian it is necessary and essential to 

belong to the church. 56% 

Another investigation showed in even more emphatic fashion the 
extent of Liberalism in supposedly orthodox denominations. Thirty- 
seven Methodist clergymen living in and near Springfield, Massachu- 


setts in 1935-36, indicated as follows their disbelief or uncertainty 
concerning certain dogmas: 25 

Uncertainty or 
Dogma Disbelief 

When Christ rose from the dead, he took again Ms body. 86% 

In the unity of the Godhead there are three persons, the 

Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost 27% 

The Son took man's nature in the womb of the blessed 

virgin. 73% 

Original sin is the corruption of the nature of every man 

whereby man is of Ms own nature inclined to evil, and 

that continually. 65% 

Christ ascended into heaven and there he sitteth until he 

return to judge all men at the last day. 86% 

The reader may remember that in a previous chapter, reference 
was made to a poll by Christianity Today, reported in I960, which 
indicated that only 14 per cent of the clergy considered themselves to 
be Liberals (see pages 109 1) . The discrepancies in the results of these 
various studies can be accounted for in such ways as the differences 
in the composition of the groups wMch were queried, in the phrasing 
of the questions, in the techniques of sampling, and in the skill of the 
investigators. These statistics on the beliefs of clergymen must be used 
with caution. 

Obviously, Liberalism is a strong movement. But the question 
remains: What is the future of Liberalism? What are the prospects of 
religions of tolerance in competition with religions of dogmatism? 
Can the effort to maintain an open mind be ultimately successful in 
an area whose very nature demands an ultimate devotion? Can a 
church withstand violent social pressures unless its followers believe 
it to be a divine institution? On a college examination a group of 
students in a class on "Marriage and the Family" were asked, 
"In what ways do you want the rearing of your children to differ from 
your own rearing?" A large percentage answered in substance, "In 
religion our parents gave us little direction; they told us to choose 
for ourselves. We want to keep our children from floundering the 
way we have had to." William James is credited with the remark, "We 


can't have anything without having too much of it." If Liberalism is 
to be the religion of future ages, as many adherents believe, will it 

not have to be a new Liberalism, a Neo-liberalism, whose major ori- 
entation comes, not from negation, but from bold and dynamic af- 



Aix THE organized religions of America, with but minor excep- 
tions, are the spiritual children of Judaism. Moreover, the Jewish 
culture is the oldest mode of living which survives in the West. The 
fact of its survival, in spite of centuries of attrition and savage per- 
secution, is one of the most amazing and moving stories in history. 
Jews debate the question whether Judaism is a religion or a com- 
plete civilization. Some hold that Judaism, like Methodism or 
Christian Science, is a part of culture. Others hold that Judaism is a 
complete way of life. In order to understand this debate and to get 
an adequate perspective on the role of Judaism in present-day 
America, and its potential for the future, we must note some of the 
major facts of the Jewish historical development. 


Our knowledge of the first centuries of Judaism comes chiefly from 
the Bible.* The story begins in Palestine three and a half millenniums 
ago with the familiar names of Biblical history, Abraham, Isaac and 
Jacob, and includes Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Saul, David, Solomon, 

*What Jews call the Bible, Christians call the Old Testament. From a 
strictly Jewish point of view, the terms Old Testament and New Testament 
are invidious. They imply that the Jewish Scriptures have been superseded. 
Traditional Jews teach that God made a covenant with the Hebrew people 
through Moses. Traditional Christians accept this thesis, but contend that 
centuries later God made a new covenant through Jesus Christ. Jews deny 
that there was ever a new covenant (testament), reject the New Testament, 
and contend that then* Holy Scriptures are not an "Old" Testament. But, 
since the term Bible in our predominantly Christian culture usually is meant 
to include the New Testament, Jews in talking to Christians commonly use 
the term Old Testament as a name to designate their Bible, thus illustrating 
again the tendency of religious groups to give derogatory terms new meanings. 



Elijah, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. A notable civilization 
developed in this era, a civilization characterized by theocratic gov- 
ernment, a nonidolatrous religion, a high code of ethics, and the 
writing of the most influential book of all time. From a military point 
of view, this civilization was weak. Consequently, during more than a 
millennium of Hebrew cultural ascendancy in Palestine, the Jews 
were politically sovereign for only two brief periods; once under 
David (c. 1000 B.C.) and Ms immediate successors, and again under 
the Maccabees, in the second and first centuries B.C.* The rest of the 
time, they were subject to one mighty empire after another. 

In the centuries immediately preceding the Christian Era, there 
arose in Palestine the sect of the Pharisees. Concerning their im- 
portance, a Jewish scholar writes: 

The Pharisees constituted a religious Order of singular influence in the 
history of civilization. Judaism, Christianity, and Mohammedanism all 
derive from this ancient Palestinian Society; and through their influence 
in the preservation and advancement of learning, it has become the 
cornerstone of modern civilization. . . . Fully half the world adheres 
to Pharisaic faiths. 1 

Most liberal scholars feel that Jesus, though he severely criticized 
the Pharisees, was greatly influenced by them. 

Early in the Christian Era, Palestine ceased to be the center of 
Jewish culture. Goaded by national pride and the maladministration 
of the Romans, who at that time were in power, Jewish groups main- 
tained for decades a state of almost constant rebellion. Finally, 
the emperors determined to destroy the remnants of the Jewish state. 
A vicious war ensued which ended in A.D. 70 with the destruction of 
Jerusalem and the issuance of decrees forbidding any Jew to live in 
the city. 

* Instead of the abbreviations A.D. and B.C., some Jews write C.E. and B.C.E. 
(Common Era and Before the Common Era). This action is a protest against 
beginning the calendar with the birth of Jesus. 

Traditional Jews have a calendar of their own. In it the year 1 is set, 
supposedly, at the creation of the world, and the beginning of the fifty-eighth 
century, the year 5701, occurred in September, 1940 A.D. This Jewish calendar, 
which is based on the cycles of the moon, comes down from ancient times 
and consequently does not correspond as accurately as does the Gregorian 
calendar to solar time. As a result, complex adjustments are a regular necessity 
if Jewish festivals are to continue to be celebrated in the same seasons. Even 
with these adjustments, the festivals "migrate" within the Gregorian calendar, 
much as does Easter. 


Following this catastrophe, the cultural center of Jewish life 
shifted to the provincial towns in Palestine. During these years the 
so-called Oral Law was developed to a point which has enabled it 
to serve as the foundation of Judaism down to modern times. The 
nucleus of that Oral Law is the Mlshnah, which is supplemented by 
collects of Scriptural interpretation known as Midrash. After about 
two centuries, the center of Jewish life moved outside Palestine al- 
together. It is probable that except for a brief period, the Jews were 
never altogether driven out of the country; 2 but it was not again to 
be a center of Jewish culture until our own day. 

For half a millennium or more residents of Babylon assumed 
leadership of the widely dispersed Jewish population. There was 
developed the famous Babylonian Talmud. This encyclopedic work 
is for the most part a record of discussions based on the Mishnah; 
they are interpolated by homilies, legends and ethical maxims. The 
Old Testament is far more than simply a book of "religion," in the 
narrow, modern sense of that term. The Old Testament is also a 
book of history, of poetry, of fable, and especially of law. The 
Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) contains the major 
legal enactments of the ancient Hebrew civilization. (See, for exam- 
ple, Exodus 20-24, Deuteronomy 12-26, 28.) These laws were 
believed to have been revealed by God, to be the Torah, the Teach- 
ing, the Law of God; (the term Torah in the narrow sense is applied 
to the Pentateuch). But the Pentateuch, according to an ancient 
rabbinic count, has only 613 laws. They are believed to be funda- 
mental; yet they leave many points of conduct untouched. Thus 
arose the Talmud. It is a vast compendium of writing, over four 
thousand pages of print, according to one edition. Traditional Judaism 
is, like every complex culture, a legalism, an attempt to carry stand- 
ards of conduct down to the level of practical regulations for everyday 
living. Consequently, in ancient and medieval Judaism, law and re- 
ligion tended to be one. 

In the tenth century, the center of Jewish culture shifted to Moslem 
Spain. There the Jews were granted economic opportunities, political 
security and religious liberty as long as the tax levies were met 
promptly. Judaism flourished; so much so that this period in Spain 
is called by some historians the Golden Age. 


The first crusade marked the beginning of four centuries of con- 
tinuous and religiously motivated Jew-hatred. European Jews became 
outcasts. They were forced to live in ghettos, in segregated and walled 
sections of the cities into which they were driven at night. They were 
required to wear a badge, frequently a red or yellow wheel-like piece 
of cloth, in order that they should never be mistaken for Christians. 
They were permitted to enter only the meanest of occupations. They 
were accused of invoking magic to inflict the Black Death. They were 
expelled from England (in 1290), from France (several times, 
finally in 1394), and Spain (in 1492). 

Driven into the ghetto, the Jew fortified his spirit by religion; he 
erected out of the Law a wall behind which he retired and to which 
he gave deep reverence. More and more Ms conservatism grew. 
Gripped by fear of any change that might disturb the little security 
he had, he came to worship tradition. 

Yet he also dreamed of the future. He forecast the day when he 
would again be independent, as he had been in the time of King 
David. He looked for the Messiah, a heroic leader who would make 
Jewry the leading people in the world, and Jerusalem the center of 
the earth's civilizations. The Christians claimed that the Messiah 
had come in the person of Jesus. They called bim Christos, which is 
the Greek for Messiah. But for the Jews it was unthinkable that the 
Messiah could have been executed on a cross. They continued to 
believe that God would send a leader who would lift them out of all 
their troubles. 

The major effort toward Jewish emancipation was initiated by the 
French Revolution. Little can be said in favor of wax as an institu- 
tion; it is a highly reactionary force, making for spiritual havoc. Yet 
wars sometimes jar people loose from their outworn ways and make 
for salutary change. It was so with the attitude of Europeans toward 
the Jews. The French Revolution leveled the walls of the ghetto and 
began the movement which gave the Jews in most nations the same 
privileges, legally, which were enjoyed by other citizens. 

But systematic, governmentally sponsored Jew-hatred did not 
completely disappear. In Russia, throughout most of the nineteenth 
century and up to the Communist Revolution, fierce persecutions 
continued. From Germany emanated anti-Semitism, which spread 


throughout the world and which culminated in the diabolic plan 
during World War II to exterminate the Jews. "Eighty per cent of 
all European Jews [exclusive of Russia and England] were starved 
to death or killed by the Nazis/' 3 "Six million were slaughtered in 
the Jewish Lidice of central and southeastern Europe." 4 

Throughout the centuries, one reaction of the Jews to persecution 
has been migration; they have spread all over the Western world, In 
the past hundred years these migrations have had two focal points. 
Prior to World War I and the subsequent passage of American im- 
migration quotas, Jews came in large numbers to the United States. 
From the earliest colonial times, Jews were to be found in America; 
the first synagogue was established as early as 1682. But the bulk 
of Jewish immigrants arrived between 1880 and 1914. During the 
Nazi madness, very few, unfortunately, were admitted; but they in- 
cluded some fifteen thousand intellectual leaders. 

In recent decades, the bulk of Jewish migration has gone east- 
ward, to Israel. The establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine is a 
story with which we will deal more fully later. 

There are about twelve and one-half million Jews in the world 
today. Somewhat more than one and one-half million of them live in 
Israel and about five and one-half million live in the United States. 
This last figure is often given as the number of Americans allied with 
synagogues, but is instead an estimate of the number of all American 
Jews. Many of them have no interest in Judaism as a religion. The 
number of actual synagogue affiliations is not known with any accu- 
racy. One opinion poll (1952) indicated that half of the American 
Jews think of themselves as members of a synagogue. 5 

Each of the three major branches of American Judaism claims 
about a million members. American Jewry is predominantly urban, 
87 per cent, according to one estimate, living in cities of over one 
hundred thousand population. 6 Jews tend to be concentrated on the 
North Atlantic seaboard, as do other recent, European immigrants. 


Jews disagree about religion almost as much as do Christians. 
There are Jewish fundamentalists, middle-of-the-roaders and modern- 


The most conservative group Is the Orthodox Jews, or, as they 
like to refer to themselves, the Torah-trae Jews. They maintain as 
much as possible of the traditional culture, trying to observe scrupu- 
lously all the commandments of the Law. According to their belief, 
Judaism Is a revealed religion, Palestine is a sacred land, the Jews are 
a sacred people, Hebrew is a sacred tongue, the Bible is literally the 
word of God, the Messianic prophecies will be literally fulfilled, the 
Jew should take seriously the commands of the Law. 

The commands considered to be obligatory in America deal 
chiefly with ethics and ceremonial. The ethical commands are the 
familiar moral injunctions of our Judeo-Christian tradition. The best 
known are, of course, the Ten Commandments. But the Jewish moral 
code includes also many loftier commandments; for example, Leviticus 
19:18, the famous injunction quoted by Jesus, "Thou shalt love thy 
neighbor as thyself." In that same chapter, Jews are enjoined to 
love strangers as themselves. 

The ceremonial commands of the Torah are many and complex. 
They require, for example, that no work shall be done on the Sab- 
bath day. The devout follower of Orthodoxy goes to extreme lengths 
to carry out this command. Since the Jewish Sabbath begins at sun- 
down on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday, places of business 
belonging to truly Orthodox Jews are closed during some of the best 
trading hours of the week. On the Sabbath, no food Is prepared, no 
burdens carried, no fires kindled. I once saw an Orthodox rabbi 
avoid picking up, on the Sabbath, a small object he was describing 
to a class; if he had picked it up, he would have violated the law 
against carrying burdens. Orthodox Jews are taught not to turn on 
the electric lights on the Sabbath; such action is considered a viola- 
tion of the law against kindling a fire. The lights may be turned on 
before sundown or a gentile may be hired to turn them on. Orthodox 
Jews consider that riding on a train or in a car on the Sabbath is 
contrary to the Torah. 

The best known of the Orthodox laws are doubtless those which 
deal with food. In the Torah, Leviticus 11, is a list of the animals 
which may not be eaten. Forbidden are animals that have died of 
themselves, animals which have solid hoofs, animals which do not 
chew the cud, fish which have no scales or fins. Forbidden also is the 


mixing of dairy and meat dishes at the same meal. la order to be 
certain that he does not in any degree mix these two kinds of food, 
the Orthodox Jew has two sets of dishes, one for dairy meals and the 
other for meat meals. During one of the festivals, Passover, he must 
also avoid all leaven. In order to make doubly certain that he runs no 
risks of eating leaven during Passover, the Orthodox Jew has two 
more sets of dishes. 

Food that is ceremonially clean is called kosher. The manufac- 
ture of kosher food is carefully guarded; it must be prepared by or 
under the supervision of especially trained and ceremonially ap- 
pointed functionaries. Consequently, kosher is ordinarily more ex- 
pensive than is food bought in gentile markets. Yet the number of 
Jews who buy kosher is substantial enough that many large manu- 
facturers seek the Jewish trade. The H. J. Heinz Company, for 
example, advertises a long list of its products as kosher. And at Pass- 
over, this company is at considerable pains to warn the Jewish house- 
wife which of its products are not ceremonially clean for that season. 
The Wall Street Journal reported that the sale of kosher foods is "a 
big and growing business." 

The inconvenience and difficulty which the Orthodox Jew ex- 
periences in attempting to keep the many regulations prescribed by 
the Torah are obvious. He clings to them in the difficult environment 
of America because he believes they have been commanded by God. 

Orthodox veneration for the Scriptures is as great as is to be 
found among any sect of Christians. The Bible is studied with the 
same absolute belief in its inerrancy that an astronomer would use 
in his study of the stars. The orthodox scholar believes that every 
word is inspired, the genealogies of the patriarchs being no less 
sacred than the 23rd Psalm. 

The Orthodox rabbi is firmly convinced that the Law is complete 
and final. He feels that Jews who fail to try to keep the whole Law 
are renegade. Moreover, he tends to look upon the principles of 
Orthodoxy as "beyond reproach," "the source of every Jewish asset." 7 

In the early 1940*s an Orthodox rabbi said that Orthodoxy was 
the "Judaism of the overwhelming majority of Jews in the United 
States." 8 This generalization applied especially to the earlier Jewish 
immigrants to this country. But, said this same author, "as the immi- 


grant and Ms children and grandchildren gain a firmer economic and 
social hold, they regard the demands of Orthodoxy as burdensome and 
tend to break away. Those who remain are, as a role, the financially 
weak." 9 About half the synagogues in the United States are Orthodox. 
Although this proportion is large, the size of the average individual 
Orthodox congregation is small when it is compared with the average 
size of the less traditional congregations, 

The Orthodoxy of most of those who try to be faithful to the 
tradition is a watered-down variety. Living according to all the 
precepts of ancient Jewry is so difficult in modern America that even 
most of the Orthodox rabbis do not succeed in it. There is, for ex- 
ample, an injunction in the Torah which reads, "Thou shalt not mar 
the comers of thy beard." American manners and prejudices are 
such that practically all Jews disregard this precept. Many keep a 
kosher home; but many more abide by the Law for only certain items 
of food or for certain seasons. One writer estimated that in a Mid- 
western city "no more than 20 per cent of the Jews . . . purchase 
kosher meats for home use. . . . [And that] the number who insist 
upon using kosher meat exclusively within their homes and eating 
only kosher foods outside their homes, is no more than 10 per 
cent." 10 A large majority are forced by economic necessity to work 
on the Sabbath. The consciences of a considerable portion are, of 
course, much troubled by such compromises. But a large number of 
others are either in a state of open rebellion against all ceremonial 
laws or demand changes in those laws. Those who rebel are secu- 
larists; those who demand changes belong either to the Reform or 
Conservative wing of Judaism. 


Hie most radical of the Jewish religious sects is Reform: in 
theology, it is very like Christian Liberalism; in ritual, it has aban- 
doned a large portion of the traditional Jewish practice. 

Reform Judaism began in Germany in the first decades after the 
defeat of Napoleon. That was a time of profound reaction, such as 
is common after a period of war. Most of the privileges granted the 
Jews under the influence of the French Revolution were then taken 
away: Jews were forced back behind ghetto walls. The only way of 


escape from discrimination and ignominy was apostasy. Conse- 
quently, a wave of baptisms struck Western Jewry; in Berlin a third 
of the Jewish population turned Christian. 

This alarming situation forced on Jewish leaders a reconsidera- 
tion of the role of tradition. Some of them concluded that Judaism 
needed to cast off its ancient dress. By making Judaism "less medie- 
val/' they reasoned, they could fortify the spirits of those who were 
tempted to renounce the faith. Changes in creed and in ceremonial 
requirement were made few at first but eventually many. 

The Reform temper soon spread to America: since the middle of 
the nineteenth century American rabbis have had a major influence 
on the development of the movement. Their most important con- 
tribution was in theology. They abandoned belief in an inerrant 
Bible, and became leading exponents of the liberal approach to 
Biblical studies. They ceased to believe in the coming of a human 
Messiah, and adopted instead a belief that mankind can by collective 
effort achieve a glorious Messianic age. They denied the authority 
and relevance of the Talmud, and substituted the dictates of rational 
ethics for the requirements of the Law. 

Many ritualistic changes were made by the Reform synagogues. 
The minutiae of Sabbath observance were abandoned: travel, the 
conduct of business, the preparation of food on the Sabbath, all 
became acceptable. The dietary laws were also abandoned; Reform 
Jews have no theoretical objection to eating pork, for example, 
although many of them, reared in Orthodox homes, feel uncom- 
fortable in doing so. 

In earlier decades Reform Jews believed that for Americans 
Judaism is a religion and not a civilization. Jews in America, they 
held, live in one culture and not in two. Their culture is American; 
their religion, Jewish. Today, however, many Reform Jews hold 
that Judaism is a culture as well as a religion. 

During the last decade or two, many Reform congregations have 
concluded that they abandoned too much of the Jewish tradition. 
There is accordingly a moderate movement back toward reinstating 
the "more meaningful" ceremonies. 

This branch of American Judaism has 575 congregations. The 
Reform synagogues tend to be large, well-financed, and served by 


able leaders. Moreover, the membership is largely recruited from 
the well-educated, prosperous, influential and younger members of 
the community. Consequently, Reform Judaism plays a role in 
American Jewish life which is out of proportion to its numerical 



Early in the present century, some American rabbis founded a 
movement which lies between Orthodoxy and Reform. Like Reform 
rabbis, the leaders of this movement called Conservative Judaism 
contend that any literal following of all the ceremonial require- 
ments of the Torah is not only undesirable but impossible. On the 
other hand, Conservative rabbis hold that Reform goes so far in 
discarding the ancient practices as to emasculate religion, and favor 
retaining all the traditions which can be kept without sacrificing 
personal efficiency and public esteem. Conservatives retain many 
of the Sabbath customs, many of the dietary laws, and large amounts 
of Hebrew in the service of worship. 

A wide range of thought and practice characterizes Conserva- 
tism; it runs all the way from near Orthodoxy to near Reform. Con- 
gregations decide for themselves the extent of their adherence to the 

Conservatism has 660 congregations; it is "the most rapidly grow- 
ing group of American Jews," receiving "many accessions from the 
ranks of the former orthodox." 11 

Within the past two decades a small group of Conservative leaders 
has formed a movement called Reconstructionism. They hold that 
Judaism is a religious civilization complete with folkways, law, 
religion, education, philosophy, literature, art and urge the en- 
hancement and revitaHzation of this civilization. They contend that 
Jews, in order to fulfill their obligation to Judaism, must live in two 
cultures, one American and the other Jewish. However, Jews "owe 
their sole civic or political allegiance to the states to which they be- 
long and are nationals of those states alone." 12 

The Reconstructionist view of ceremonial observance is as follows: 

A regimen of Jewish religious habits and practices is essential for 
Jewish religion. But for a great number of Jews in our day the tradi- 


tional regimen of observance has broken down, in whole or in part, be- 
cause of changes in conditions or in mental outlook. For them a revised 
regimen needs to be developed based on a revaluation of traditional 
observances, one that would satisfy their spiritual needs. 

Traditional forms of Jewish ritual observance should be retained, even 
if their original meaning is no longer valid, provided they have acquired 
new and valid meanings for us through reinterpretation. Those traditional 
forms, however, which have no valid meaning for us and do not lend 
themselves to reinterpretation, need to be modified or replaced by others. 
Such changes should not be imposed by communal or organizational 
pressure on those who are not convinced of their need. 

New forms of observance giving expression to newly felt needs should 
be introduced into the ritual of the synagogue and the home. 13 

Reconstnictionists deal chiefly with the Jewish culture but they 
apply their theory to civilization in general. They hold that religion 
must play a vital role in every worthy culture and consider that the 
major need of every modern civilization is the revitalization of its 
spiritual values. Reform as well as Conservative Jews support the 


Creeds play no such role among the Jews as they do among the 
Christians; there is no Apostles* Creed in Judaism. Jews may, in- 
deed, depart widely from the common beliefs of the members of 
their synagogues and still suffer no disabilities as members. One Jew 
has written that Judaism is "theologically . . . feeble/' 14 and another 
that "no religion has since the Middle Ages concerned itself less with 
philosophy." 15 Judaism is often defined as a system of ethics, a way 
of living, a way which includes both moral and ceremonial standards. 

The famous Rabbi Hillel, who lived in Palestine in the century 
before Jesus, was once asked to sum up the Law briefly, while he 
stood on one foot. He replied, "That which is hurtful to thee do not 
to thy neighbor. This is the whole doctrine. The rest is commentary." 
It is sometimes said that Judaism is summed up in Psalm 15, another 
ethical statement. 

But it would be a mistake to assume that there is not in Judaism a 
basic core of theological belief on which a large percentage agrees. 
Before the emancipation practically all Jews accepted the thirteen 
principles of Maimonides, the most famous rabbi of medieval times. 
They are as follows: 


1. The belief in God's existence. 

2. The belief in His unity. 

3. The belief in His incorporeality. 

4. The belief in His timelessness. 

5. The belief that He is approachable through prayer. 

6. The belief in prophecy, 

7. The belief in the superiority of Moses to all other prophets. 

8. The belief in the revelation of the Law, and that the Law as con- 
tained in the Pentateuch is that revealed to Moses. 

9. The belief in the immutability of the Law. 

10. The belief in Divine providence. 

11. The belief in Divine justice. 

12. The belief in the coming of the Messiah. 

13. The belief in the resurrection and human immortality. 

Amplification of some of these statements will indicate the extent 
to which they are held by modern Jews and also will indicate some 
points of contrast between Judaism and Christianity. 

Jews are strict monotheists and consider that the dogma of the 
Trinity is a denial of monotheism. 

All Jews in the past believed and Orthodox Jews still believe that 
God spoke in a supernatural manner to mankind through the Old 
Testament prophets. But the age of prophecy ceased with Old Testa- 
ment times. Jesus is not considered by traditional Jews to be a 
prophet. Many liberal Jews do consider that Jesus was in the line 
of the prophets. But Liberals would deny supernatural powers to 
any man. 

Liberals would deny that the Law as contained in the Scriptures 
was completely, or even chiefly, revealed to Moses. They would also 
deny the unchangeability of the Law. And they substitute, as has 
been noted, beEef in the coining of the Messianic age for the belief 
in the coming of a Messiah in human form. 

Jews believe that human nature contains the seeds of both good 
and evil. They deny "natural" and "total" depravity. 

Judaism teaches that man is composed of both body and soul and 
that the soul is immortal. Jewish conceptions of the future life are 
much less explicit than are some Christian conceptions. 

Judaism teaches that the Jews are a "chosen people"; the Jewish 
liturgy "constantly refers to the term, Thou hast chosen us from 
all the people/ " ie This teaching is interpreted variously. For many 

Jews, it is undoubtedly a source of great pride; they consider that 
God set the Jews above all other people and in His own good time 
will make Jewish superiority manifest. Gentiles are frequently irked 
by this attitude; for example, George Bernard Shaw wrote, "The 
fault of the Jew is his enormous arrogance based on his claim to 
belong to God's chosen race." 17 Chauvinistic as this interpretation of 
the chosen people doctrine is, it finds clear parallels in most of the 
sects we have studied. Moreover, the conviction that they were to 
be the most favored of all the sons of God doubtless made it possible 
for the Jews to retain their self-respect and maintain their civilization 
through centuries of persecution. 

The dogma of the chosen people is also interpreted to mean that 
they are chosen to serve mankind or to fulfill a mission. One Jew 
wrote as follows: 

The doctrine of the chosen people offers the Jews no privileges denied 
to others; on the contrary, it imposes on them a mission, loyalty to which 
must bring them suffering, humiliation, agonies of pain and death; . . . 
the doctrine implies no superiority inherent in the Jewish people, apart 
from the superiority that is attached to one who is charged with the duty 
to carry an important message. It is the message and not the messenger 
that is superior. 18 

The Reconstructionists hold that the "idea of Israel as the Chosen 
People, must ... be understood as belonging to a thought-world 
which we no longer inhabit." They consider the idea to be an anach- 
ronism, and not susceptible of successful reinterpretation. 19 

It should be observed parenthetically that the Jews are not a 
"race" in the biological sense. The whole concept that there are 
significant biological differences among the major human groupings 
has been pretty thoroughly exploded by modern anthropologists. 
The only peoples who "breed true to type," apart from such bio- 
logically unimportant traits as skin color and hair texture, are small 
groups who have been isolated from their neighbors for many gen- 
erations. All the large land masses are occupied by hybrid peoples. 
The Jews are mongrel, like the rest of Europeans and Americans. 
There is no biological characteristic which identifies a person as a 
Jew. 20 

On the other hand, there is a considerable "race consciousness" 


among Jews. Their attitudes toward Negroes, for example, are about 
the same as those of other whites. Moreover, there is often prejudice 
within the Jewish group itself, the older immigrants looking askance 
at the more recent. A student of German ancestry told me that her 
mother objected strenuously whenever she dated Polish or Russian 
Jewish boys. 


In traditional Judaism the home rivals the synagogue as a place 
of worship; an elaborate system of prayers and blessings is prescribed 
both for the family and for its individual members. The ritualistic 
obligations of the adult male are especially heavy. They begin im- 
mediately after he has awakened: with each act of getting up and 
making his toilet, he recites formal blessings or prayers. Then, before 
eating, he begins a period during which he gives Ms full attention to 
worship; if the entire ritual is completed, this period may run to 
nearly an hour. Twice more during the day in the afternoon and at 
dusk the observant Orthodox Jew engages in formal worship. These 
periods are best observed in the synagogue; but today they are fre- 
quently, perhaps generally, observed at home or at the place of 
business. One rabbi wrote: 

Between times he invokes God's name frequently, since the Tradition 
ordains benedictions for almost every juncture of his life. Should he 
partake of food between meals, should he don a new garment, taste a 
fruit just then in season, see a flash of lightning, hear thunder, catch a 
glimpse of the ocean or of a rainbow or of trees burgeoning in the 
spring, encounter one learned in Torah or in secular lore, hear good 
news or be the recipient of bad for almost every conceivable contin- 
gency there exists a brief but appropriate word of blessing. 21 

In the traditional home, prayers are said at the beginning and end 
of each meal. At sundown on Friday evening, the Sabbath is "ushered 
in": the mother recites a blessing while lighting the Sabbath candles, 
the father chants a prayer over a cup of wine, and the family sits 
down to the most elaborate meal of the week, a meal which is sancti- 
fied by prayers, hymns and the recitation of passages from the 
Scriptures. Throughout Saturday, the members of the family are kept 
aware of the presence of the Sabbath by ritualistic prescriptions, and 


just before sundown the Sabbath is "ushered out" by another home 
service. Many of the annual festivals are celebrated by special prayers, 
blessings, and meals in the home. A traditional Jewish family, as an 
evidence of its piety, places on the doorpost of its house a small, 
pencil-shaped box, a mezitzah, in which are placed specified passages 
of Scripture. If the family moves, a special service of dedication is 
held for the new dwelling.* 

Worship in the traditional synagogue takes place three times daily. 
It requires the presence of ten adult males, and is conducted in the 
Hebrew language, except when a sermon is delivered. Then the lan- 
guage used is the one which happens to be the vernacular of the 
worshipers. No instrumental music is permitted in the traditional 
synagogue; nor are men and women permitted to sit together. Both 
are required to wear hats. 

The central object in the synagogue building is the Ark, a cur- 
tained cabinet which contains one or more copies of the Pentateuch; 
it is located at the front and center of the assembly hall, the focus 
of all eyes. Above the Ark is a symbolic representation of the two 
tablets of the Ten Commandments, and above and in front of the 
Ark is a light which is supposed never to go out; it symbolizes the 
eternal light of God. Near the Ark are many-branched candlesticks. 
In front of it, American synagogues customarily place two desks. 
From one, the cantor, the leader of the ritual, intones and chants 
the service, and selected members of the congregation read the Scrip- 
tures. From the other desk, the rabbi speaks. In the most Orthodox 
synagogues, these desks are sometimes placed in the center of the 
room, the traditional position. 

Synagogue worship follows a prescribed order; "extemporaneous 
services are discouraged in Judaism." 22 "Only divinely-favoured indi- 
viduals are capable of spontaneous prayer." 23 Thus the exact words 
to be said during worship are set down in a Prayer Book. The serv- 
ices include prayers, blessings, Scripture readings, hymns, benedic- 
tions, sermons. There are no sacraments in Judaism; that is, no 

*As a result of an investigation in Minneapolis it is estimated that "less 
than 50 percent" of the Jews in that city make a religious occasion out of the 
Sabbath evening meal, and "no more than 10 percent" place mezuzah on 
their doorposts. Albert I. Gordon, Jews in Transition (University of Minne- 
sota, 1949), pp. 93, 191. 


"external" acts which are believed to "mediate the grace of God." 
Jews affirm that their relationship with God is solely dependent on 
their moral and spiritual condition, and their worship is a spiritual 
and not a physical function. 

During worship, every person present should read or repeat all 
of the service. The function of the cantor is not to say prayers while 
others listen, but to set the pace of a congregation, the members of 
which are individually offering the prayers and saying the blessings. 
If a worshiper arrives late, he is expected to start at the beginning of 
the ritual and to catch up with the congregation as soon as he can. 
A worshiper may repeat the service silently to himself; but he may 
also in moments of fervor break into song. At certain points, unison 
and responsive reading are indicated. The cantor does not intone the 
entire service aloud; he intones the important sections, such pas- 
sages as he thinks necessary to guide the congregation, and passages 
where his own fervor may break forth. In some Orthodox syna- 
gogues, the cantor is assisted by a male choir, a cappella. 

Some of the traditional services are very long; the conduct of Sab- 
bath morning prayers, for example, requires about three hours to 
complete, dose attention during all this period is not given by the 
average worshiper, unless he requires the full time to read the various 
passages. Consequently, an air of informality characterizes the 

Admiration and reverence for the Prayer Book are very high. The 
following are two passages of appreciation. 

It breathes a spirit of invincible faith, an earnest desire to be in har- 
mony with God and to understand and do his will. ... It is a not un- 
worthy sequel to the Psalter from which it has drawn so much of its 
inspiration. 24 

When we come to view the half-dozen or so great Liturgies of the 
world purely as religious documents, and to weigh their values as devo- 
tional classics, the incomparable superiority of the Jewish convincingly 
appears. 25 

The most important service of the week in the traditional syna- 
gogue is held on Sabbath morning. A brief outline of some of its 
details follow; the original is, of course, in Hebrew. 

Upon entering the House of God worshipers say: 


How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, thy dwelling places, O Israel! . . . 
May my prayer unto thee, O Lord, be In an acceptable time: O God, in 
the abundance of thy lovingkindness, answer me with thy sure salvation. 

The service proper begins with a statement of some essential prin- 
ciples of Judaism; the first lines of this statement are: 

The living God we praise, exalt, adore! 

He was, He is, He will be evermore! 

No unity like unto His can be: 

Eternal, inconceivable is He. 

No form, or shape has the incorporeal One, 

Most holy He, past all comparison. 

Then after a number of prayers and blessings, nine Psalms are 
read. After these comes a period of praise; and then is read, after 
introductory prayers, the oft-quoted and much-loved Shema. It is 
composed of passages of Scripture (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:13-21; 
Numbers 15:37-41) and holds a place in Judaism corresponding in 
prominence to the place of the Lord's Prayer in Christendom. The 
best known lines of the Shema read: 

Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one: And thou shalt love the 
Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy 
might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be upon 
thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and 
shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou 
walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. 

After reading the Shema and a long passage glorifying it, wor- 
shipers recite a series of benedictions prayers of praise and thanks- 
giving called the Amida, which is considered to be "the essential 
element in all these services" 26 of the synagogue. On weekdays, the 
Amida which must be recited standing consists of nineteen bene- 
dictions; on Sabbaths, of seven. 

After the Amida comes the reading of the Bible. The Ark is 
opened with great solemnity, a copy of the Torah is ceremonially 
brought forth, and it is carried in procession around the synagogue 
for all to see. The scroll is then placed on a desk and, after prayer, 
the reading begins. The Torah is so divided that in a year the Penta- 
teuch is completed. Traditionally the reading was done by seven men 
from the congregation. But today the average man's knowledge of 
Hebrew is inadequate for this task; he, therefore, repeats the se- 


lection sotto voce } or but the first few Hues, The passage is read to 
the congregation by a special official. 

After the passage from the Torah, a passage from the Prophets is 
read. Then come prayers and blessings and the solemn return of the 
scroll to the Ark. 

The rabbi now may, and usually does, preach a sermon. Then 
follows an additional Amida, and the closing of the service. Just be- 
fore the end all mourners rise and repeat silently a passage of praise 
to God. Then, in conclusion, all those present sing a hymn, the be- 
loved "Lord of the World": 

Lord of the world, He reigned alone 
While yet the universe was naught, 
When by His will all things were wrought, 
Then first His sov'ran name was known. 

I place my soul within His palm 
Before I sleep as when I wake, 
And though my body I forsake, 
Rest in the Lord in fearless calm. 

The services in Reform and Conservative synagogues are revisions 
of this Orthodox form. The Reform congregations shorten the service, 
conduct most of it in English, demand decorum of all worshipers, 
install organs, do not require men to wear hats, permit men and 
women to sit together. (The novelist Herman Wouk in Ms defense 
of Orthodoxy wrote that he was "almost ashamed to record" that 
seating the sexes together is "the biggest religious issue today in 
American Jewry.") 27 Some congregations hold a major service on 
Sunday mornings. Conservative congregations make more use of 
Hebrew than do Reform congregations and require men to cover 
their heads. Women may sing in the choirs of Reform and Conserva- 
tive synagogues. 

Another important service in the Reform and Conservative syna- 
gogues is held on Friday evening. The holding of this service is an 
innovation, a concession to our modern schedule of living. The Friday 
evening service follows the Sabbath morning pattern, except that the 
service is much shorter, more hymns are sung, and the reading of the 
Torah does not take place except in some Reform congregations. 
Hymn singing among the Jews seems to the Christian ear to be very 
monotonous, the same songs being repeated in service after service. 


No collection Is ever taken during worship; the primary support 
of the synagogues comes from annual dues. 

Jews have a major conception concerning worship which is 
foreign to Christian ideas. It is that study of the Torah and the 
Talmud is itself an act of worship, "a means of communion with 
God. According to some teachers, this study is the highest form 
of such communion imaginable." 28 Consequently education and 
scholarship rank much higher in traditional Jewish opinion than 
they do in Christian opinion. 

Just as Christians observe special seasons throughout the year 
such as Christmas, Lent and Easter so the Jewish calendar pro- 
vides for the celebration of holy days and festivals. They are for 
many Jews the most meaningful and colorful aspects of Judaism. 
Three periods in the Jewish calendar are of especial interest: the 
New Year, the Day of Atonement and Passover. 

The New Year falls, usually, in late September. It is a very 
awe-inspiring festival and begins the Ten Days of Penitence, a 
period which ends with the Day of Atonement. On this day observant 
Jews fast no food or drink from sundown to sundown, and spend 
all of the daylight hours praying in the synagogue. The number who 
complete this arduous regimen is "still surprisingly great"; 29 those 
who do not complete it feel obliged to find a good excuse. The New 
Year and the Day of Atonement are called the High Holy Days, 

Passover usually comes in early April and commemorates the 
Exodus from Egypt, the liberation of the ancient Hebrews from 
bondage. Passover is pre-eminently a home festival, celebrated by 
a ritualistic family meal called the Seder. 

Jews who have lost all other contact with Judaism as a religion 
continue in large numbers to celebrate these three major festivals. 
During the High Holy Days the synagogues in many centers of 
Jewish population prove inadequate to seat the congregations which 
assemble, and it is necessary to provide the essentials for worship 
in temporary quarters. 

Some of the other holy days are: Sukkoth, a day of thanksgiving 
for the year's harvests (it usually falls in October); Hanukkah, a 
commemoration of the Maccabean victories (December); Purim, 


a commemoration of the victory over Hainan, as told in the book of 
Esther (March); Pentecost, thanksgiving for the "first fruits" of the 
fields and also for the revelation of the Law (May). 

A Jewish boy is circumcised on the eighth day after Ms birth; 
"circumcision is still regarded as a religious necessity" 30 by all 
branches of Judaism. At the age of thirteen, the boy is made Bar 
Mitzvah, that is, son of the commandment, thereby coming into 
religious adulthood. As part of the ceremonies, he is called to the 
front of the synagogue on the Sabbath and asked to read from the 
Torah and to recite a blessing. He may even demonstrate Ms knowl- 
edge of the Law by delivering a discourse. The Bar Mitzvah cere- 
mony is often the occasion for elaborate, birthdaylike celebrations. 
Will Herberg writes that these celebrations more and more take pre- 
cedence over the synagogue ceremonies, the emphasis being put on 
"a lavish and expensive party, with the religious aspect reduced to 
insignificance, if not altogether ignored." 31 Bos Mitzvah (daughter 
of the commandment) services are used in a few American syna- 
gogues. A new type of "confirmation" service for both boys and girls 
is being widely accepted in all branches of Judaism. 


Synagogues are run congregationally. The affairs of each local 
organization are in the hands of its members, that is, of its men: 
they control finances, choose prayer books, determine denomina- 
tional affiliations, Mro the rabbi. The women have much influence 
but little legal authority. 

There is no hint of MerarcMcal control in American Jewry. There 
are synagogue unions with wMch local groups may become affili- 
ated. The Reform synagogues support the Union of American 
Hebrew Congregations; the Conservative synagogues, the United 
Synagogue of America; the Orthodox, the Union of Orthodox 
Jewish Congregations. The sharp insistence on ecclesiastical inde- 
pendence is seen in the fact that "after forty-three years of work, 
the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America" had not 
"drawn even one-tenth" 32 of the Orthodox synagogues into its mem- 
bersMp; however, the rate of affiliation has been increasing of recent 

years. The Synagogue Council of America receives support from 
substantial elements in all Jewish sects and attempts to unite all of 
them in their public relations. 

The Jewish community is outstanding in its support of philan- 
thropy. The Luce magazines have "more than once" said that the 
United Jewish Appeal is "the No. 1 phenomenon of U.S. philan- 
thropy/* The Department of Commerce reported that in a recent 
year Jewish organizations sent ninety-five million dollars abroad; 
the corresponding figures in that year were for Protestant organiza- 
tions seventy-three millions and for Roman Catholic organizations 
eleven millions. 33 Jewish philanthropy is so firmly established that 
one astute observer could write that perhaps the American Jewish 
community "does possess what comes close to being a single hier- 
archical structure embracing the entire community, and that is the 
machinery of fund raising and fund allocation." 34 

Traditionally the rabbi was primarily a scholar, a layman whose 
long hours of study had won him a deep understanding of the Law. 
He was not a priest. There are no real priests in Judaism. There are 
cohardm (hence the name Cohen) who presumably are descended 
from Aaron, the brother of Moses; but today the cohen has no 
unique functions, except to lead an occasional ceremony in the syna- 
gogue. Nor was the traditional rabbi the leader of worship; and he 
was not, except incidentally, a preacher. His function in the semi- 
autonomous medieval communities was primarily that of inter- 
preter of the Law. His function in contemporary America continues 
to be that of student of the Law, especially so in the Orthodox syna- 
gogues. But he has assumed many other functions, especially in the 
Conservative and Reform synagogues. There his role has become 
much like that of a liberal Protestant minister: he is a leader of 
worship, a preacher, and the executive of synagogue activities. 

The right to act as rabbi could be conferred, traditionally, by 
any other rabbi. It is now customary for students at the theological 
schools to receive ordination from their teachers. 

The status of women in Judaism is no better than it is in most of 
the Christian sects. Jews are proud of the fact that in past centuries 
the status of women in Judaism was somewhat better than in Chris- 
tendom. Commented one rabbi, "The Christians, who deified Mary, 


did not allow women to come near the altar." But this same writer 
said, "Few aspects of Jewish thought and life illustrate so strikingly 
the need of reconstructing Jewish law as the traditional status of the 
Jewish woman. In Jewish tradition, her status is unquestionably 
that of inferiority to the man." 35 In the Morning Service, a man 
blesses God that He "has not made me a woman"; and a woman 
blesses God "who hast made me according to thy will." No women 
have been made rabbis even though the Central Conference of 
American Rabbis passed a resolution in 1922 declaring that "women 
cannot justly be denied the privilege of ordination." Women "have 
been known to be admitted as students in rabbinical schools." 36 In 
Israel, the Orthodox have fought bitterly against giving women the 
right to vote. Wives, according to traditional Judaism, may not divorce 
their husbands; but husbands may divorce their wives "at will." 37 If 
a man "disappears" without divorcing his wife, she may not remarry 
unless his death is certain. "It is a well-known fact that twenty-five 
thousand such unfortunate 'agunahs* [permanent widows] were the 
result of the last [first] World War." 38 Even among Reform Jews, as 
in American society generally, few women can be more than the 
"power behind the throne." 

Marriage with gentiles is greatly frowned upon. Some parents 
whose son or daughter has married outside the fold and embraced 
Christianity mourn as for the dead. Even the most "emancipated" 
among the religious Jews retain a strong taboo against intermarriage, 
unless the gentile spouse becomes a Jew. The number of rabbis who 
will officiate at a mixed marriage is microscopic. 

Judaism is not, today, an active missionary agency; most persons 
who become Jews do so because of intermarriage. One estimate has 
it that about two thousand persons are converted in the United 
States to Judaism each year, that four out of five are women, and that 
nineteen out of twenty become Jews because of the "involvement 
of marriage." 39 Converts are asked by the rabbis to "renounce" their 
former faith. 


Ever since the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, Jews have 
dreamed about the time when Palestine would again be in Jewish 


hands. "At every public service, morning, afternoon and evening, in 
each private devotion whether in the grace after meals or on retiring 
at night, Jews prayed for their return to Zion." 40 

But traditionally Jews did very little about actually getting back 
to Palestine except pray; Orthodoxy expected God in the fullness 
of His wisdom to arrange one day for the return. But about sixty 
years ago, a Viennese journalist by the name of Theodor Herd 
became convinced that anti-Semitism would not be conquered until 
the Jews had a homeland to which they could flee, and a national 
government which could come to their defense. He was convinced 
that a homeland could be won only by political means; therefore, he 
founded the Zionist movement. 

Its success was phenomenal. Received at first with almost universal 
skepticism (wrote Herd, he "who wants to be right in thirty years 
must be thought crazy the first two weeks"), 41 Zionism won in an 
astonishingly short time the support of a majority of the Jews, the 
sympathy of many Christians, and the official approval of the govern- 
ments of both England and the United States. Within half a century, 
under the Nazi spur, "the greatest colonizing enterprise of modern 
times" 42 was in full swing and the State of Israel had come into being. 
Immediately the infant state proved the accuracy of Herzl's insight; it 
became the haven of refuge for the persecuted thousands of European 

Palestine is a small country, about the size of Vermont, and the 
Jews have but a part of it. Moreover, its agricultural potential is 
forbidding to the American eye; the land is stony, the rainfall sparse. 
But the colonists have irrigated the deserts, terraced the hills, planted 
trees, drained the swamps, and made their nation again a "land flow- 
ing with milk and honey." After a careful survey, Walter Clay 
Lowdermilk of the United States Department of Agriculture wrote, 
"This effort is the most remarkable we have seen while studying land 
use in twenty-four countries." He concluded that by the utilization of 
all resources, the country could support three million persons in addi- 
tion to those then living there. 43 

Opposition to Zionism developed from two major sources. One was 
the Arabs and their sympathizers, chiefly American oil companies 


and Christian missionaries in Moslem lands. The Arabs had lived in 
Palestine for some thirteen centuries, it was their home, and they 
saw no justice in their being asked to take a subordinate place and to 
turn their government over to Jews. Many Arabs suffered severely, 
especially because of the war between Israel and Trans-Jordan. 

But there is another side to the story. The Government of Israel 
contends that the suffering during the war was largely the result of 
policies of the Arab armies, that more Arabs live in the territory of 
Israel than did before the Jews returned to Palestine, and that the 
native standard of living is much higher than when the Arabs were 
in sole possession: they have better working conditions, better wages, 
better food, better sanitation, better educational facilities, better care 
during illness, better life expectancy* The Arab case, say the Jews, is 
not the case of the poor Palestinian farmer, but the case of the feudal 
landlord, who is fighting to preserve a situation which permits him to 
exploit the Arab workers. 

Opposition to Zionism comes also from Jewish sources. For many 
years, most Reform Jews in America were set against the movement. 
But in the thirties, Hitler's savagery altered the opinions of the over- 
whelming majority. Nevertheless, a few continued their opposition. 
They contend that Judaism is a religion and should have no en- 
tangling alliances. They affirm that the American public must not be 
given the slightest justification for thinking that Jews give their 
primary allegiance to a foreign power. An answer to this point of view 
is stated by one writer as follows: 

Methodists, Quakers, Roman Catholics and Christian Scientists main- 
tain relations with sister churches and brother communicants all over 
the world. British, Irish and Swedish Americans are sentimentally 
attached to the lands of their origins and keenly interested in their 
fortunes. Nor is the Quaker, the Catholic, the Swedish or the Irish 
American the least compromised in his Americanism therefor. 44 

An ardent American Zionist and a great rabbi was Stephen S. Wise. 
A description of his career will give color to some of the abstract 
principles of Judaism, make clear some of the tensions that stir the 
American Jewish community, and demonstrate at how many points 
the problems of Jewish and Christian leadership are similar. 



u My sermon this morning will light a million-dollar blaze," said 
Stephen Wise to his wife one Sunday during the Steel Strike of 1919. 
In Ms discourse that day he accused the steel industry of "deluding 
the nation" and "resorting to every manner of coercion." So many 
large subscriptions to a projected synagogue building were canceled 
as a result that the building had to be postponed. Wise wrote in his 

In opening my address, I reminded my congregation that I knew that 
some of the members might refuse to lend their help in the building of 
the synagogue home as a result of what I was about to say but also 
again made clear that, while it might not be necessary for them to build 
a synagogue, it was necessary for me to speak the truth as I saw the 
truth on great issues. 45 

The Board of Trustees meeting shortly afterward refused "in the 
friendliest terms" to accept his resignation but made clear that the 
rabbi speaks to and not for the congregation. 

On another occasion Wise delivered a stirring attack on the Associ- 
ated Waist and Dress Manufacturers, many of whom were members 
of his congregation. When some of them threatened to resign, "he 
enthusiastically invited them to do so." 46 

Born in Budapest, the seventh rabbi in direct succession in his 
family, he was brought at the age of one year to New York City, 
where his father became rabbi of Temple Rodeph Sholom. Young 
Wise attended the public schools, the College of the City of New 
York, and Columbia University from which he received in 1901 the 
Ph.D. degree. 

His choice of the rabbinate as a lifework was made very early; 
apparently he never gave serious consideration to any other profes- 
sion. At nineteen he became assistant rabbi at the Madison Avenue 
Synagogue, and a year later was made its head. From 1900 to 1906, 
he served a synagogue in Portland, Oregon, "often descending from 
the temple to the market place to expose civic wrongs." 47 He was the 
author of the first child-labor law passed in Oregon. 

In 1905, the pulpit of Temple Emanu-El of New York, the 
"Cathedral Synagogue of the country," became empty; he was invited 
to preach before the congregation. 


One who preaches trial sermons lays himself open, as no man with 
self-respect should, to harassing experiences. ... I had to listen to such 
expressions as "Doctor, it was a fine sermon." It was my soul that was 
tried; I had poured it out in earnest and unafraid appeal to these people 
to be single-minded and greathearted Jews. They responded to me as if 
I had been delivering a high-school prize oration. 48 

Like many other congregationally organized synagogues and 
churches, Emanu-El was controlled by its Board of Trustees. Emanu- 
EFs leading member was the philanthropist, Louis Marshall. So dom- 
inant was Marshall in synagogue affairs that one rabbi said, "Temple 
Emanu-El lives under Marshall law." The Board sent a committee to 
ask Wise under what conditions he would become the Temple's rabbi. 
On the committee were leading New Yorkers, including Marshall, 
M. H. Moses, and Daniel Guggenheim. In his autobiography, Wise 
tells the story as follows: 

I spoke in simple and earnest terms, ". . . You have heard that I have 
gained for my temple, Beth Israel, my people throughout Oregon, and 
their rabbi, the respect and for the most part the good will of the entire 
Northwest community. If I have achieved that, it has been because in 
my inaugural sermon at Beth Israel, September, 1900, I declared: This 
pulpit must be free.* " 

Mr. Marshall, . . . without a moment's hesitation and without even 
the faintest pretense of consultation with his colleagues, said rather 
testily, as was his wont, "Dr. Wise, I must say to you at once that such a 
condition cannot be complied with; the pulpit of Emanu-El has always 
been and is subject to and under the control of the Board of Trustees.'* 
My answer was clear, immediate, unequivocal: "If that be true, gentle- 
men, there is nothing more to say." 

And that would have been the end had not one of Mr. Marshall's 
colleagues . . . interposed the question, "What do you mean by a free 

I replied fully and deliberately, putting my worst foot forward, "I 
have in Oregon been among the leaders of a civic-reform movement in 
my community. Mr. Moses, if it be true . . . that your nephew, Mr. 
Herman, is to be a Tammany Hall candidate for a Supreme Court judge- 
ship, I would . . . oppose his candidacy in and out of my pulpit." I 
continued, "Mr. Guggenheim, ... if it ever came to be known that 
children were being employed in your mines," having reference to his 
presidency of the famous copper mines, "I would cry out against such 
wrong." 49 

Later in an Open Letter, Wise expounded his position: 

The chief office of the minister, I take it, is not to represent the views 
of the congregation, but to proclaim the truth as he sees it. How can he 


serve a congregation as a teacher save as he quickens the minds of his 
hearers by the vitality and independence of his utterances? But how can 
a man be vital and independent and helpful, if he be tethered and 
muzzled? A free pulpit, worthily filled, must command respect and in- 
fluence; a pulpit that is not free, howsoever filled, is sure to be without 
potency and honor. A free pulpit will sometimes stumble into error; a 
pulpit that is not free can never powerfully plead for truth and righteous- 
ness. 50 

Wise now determined to establish Ms own free pulpit in New York. 
In spite of an offer from his Portland congregation of a "lifetime 
contract, at an unprecedented salary," 51 he went back to New York 
and founded the Free Synagogue. For the first year, he received no 
salary; and for the second, the sum of three thousand dollars. At first, 
Sunday morning services were held in a theater, but in 1910 they 
were moved to Carnegie Hall, the leading concert hall of the city. His 
dramatic, reforming temper led to much criticism. A Reform journal 
denounced Mm, declaring, "We have from the start protested against 
the use of the word 'synagogue 5 as applied to the movement over 
wMch the Rev. Dr. Stephen S. Wise presides." 52 A prominent New 
York rabbi described the Free Synagogue as "a hall, with an orator, an 
audience, and a pitcher of ice water." But Wise's vitality, leadersMp, 
and moral earnestness brought large numbers into the movement. Not 
only was he dramatizing the need for freedom in the pulpit; he was 
also uttering Ms "deep protest against the lifelessness of what had once 
been a great and living Jewish movement, the lifeblood of wMch had 
been pressed out as witnessed by the smugness characterizing New 
York temple Judaism. TMs had ceased to be Reform Judaism without 
even ever having become liberal. Its strength, such as it was, lay 
merely in its opposition to equally unvital Jewish Orthodoxy." 53 

Wise early leaped into civic and national prominence. His excep- 
tional powers as an orator brought Mm invitations to speak all over 
the nation. But these powers were matched by his abilities as an or- 
ganizer. In addition to the Free Synagogue, he founded the Zionist 
Organization of America and the Jewish Institute of Religion, a 
theological seminary. He also played a prominent role in the creation 
of the American Jewish Congress, the World Jewish Congress, and 
the Near East Relief. He was the friend of five Presidents of the 
United States, and he wielded real influence with two of them; Wood- 


row Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt. The day Wilson left office, he 
mentioned Wise as among "some friends, a very few, [who] have never 
asked anything for themselves and given me every service." 54 

Wise thrived on controversy. He attacked "evil institutions" and 
"pernicious ideas," and did not hesitate to name names in order to 
"serve my people." Some of his clerical colleagues accused Mm of 
being a sensation monger and publicity seeker for a decade and a 
half The New York Times took notice of some activity of his on the 
average of once a week. It is undoubtedly true that he loved the lime- 
light and was not at his best when it failed to shine. But his vigorous 
methods often succeeded where a milder approach would surely have 
failed. Wise and his causes could not be ignored. He was, for example, 
so close to the center of the movement which ousted Mayor James J. 
Walker from New York's City Hall, that Walker's successor, 
Fiorello La Guardia, could say at the banquet celebrating Wise's 
sixtieth birthday, "If I am here tonight as Mayor it is because Dr. 
Wise was in New York many years before." When Dr. Wise "takes an 
interest in municipal affairs the business of the steamship lines picks 
up." 55 John Haynes Holmes, New York clergyman, called Wise the 
first citizen of New York, the greatest Jew of his day, the greatest 
religious teacher of his time, and added, "No civic leader can be 
matched with him for sheer eloquence, personal power, moral passion, 
and idealistic influence among the great masses of the common 
people." 56 

On the Sunday preceding Christmas, 1925, Wise preached on 
"Jesus, the Jew." The New York Times reported him as saying, "For 
years I have been led to believe, like thousands of other Jews, that 
Jesus never existed. 'Jesus was a myth* is the common belief among 
many Jews. I say this is not so. Jesus was." 57 Then Wise affirmed 
that "Jesus was man not God; Jesus was a Jew, not a Christian; Jews 
have not repudiated Jesus, the Jew; Christians have, for the most part, 
not adopted and followed Jesus, the Jew." 58 For these statements Wise 
was condemned by many Orthodox groups. One called his position a 
"grave menace to Judaism," and the Union of Orthodox Rabbis de- 
clared his statement "threatens to tear down the barrier which has 
existed between us and the Christian Church for over 1900 years 
which may drive our children to conversion." 59 


Wise was excommunicated by the Orthodox rabbis and demands 
came from several groups that he resign Ms chairmanship of the 
United Palestine Appeal, which was then launching a campaign for 
five million dollars. He presented his resignation, but the Zionist 
Organization refused to accept it, voting "overwhelmingly" in favor 
of Ms retention of the office. The ensuing campaign collected the 
largest amount raised by the organization up to that time. 

Very early in Ms career, he came to look upon Zionism as the 
answer to anti-Semitism. "Almost alone among the younger American 
Jews, Stephen Wise recognized and rallied to Ms [Herzl's] leader- 
sMp." 60 Up until the founding of the State of Israel, Wise was easily 
the American most vocal in furthering the Zionist cause. He organized 
mass meetings, headed parades, wrote editorials, solicited funds, 
urged boycotts, denounced compromise, poured out Ms wrath on 
politicians who were unsympathetic to the Zionist cause. 

Wise claimed he was the first American to call attention to the 
dangers of Nazism. Six months before Hitler's seizure of power, the 
American Jewish Congress, under Wise's leadersMp, sent a message 
to "about tMrty leading Jews" in Germany asking what American 
Jews could do to help: 

[All the Germans,] with one exception, had declared that "Hitler 
would never come to power." ... A group of them with utmost sarcasm 
had sent me the following message: "Say to Rabbi Wise that he need not 
concern himself with Jewish affairs in Germany. If he insists upon 
dealing with Jewish affairs in Europe, let him occupy himself with 
Jewish problems in Poland and Rumania." 61 

Five years later, pleading at a national convention for co-operation 
from American Jews who feared to jeopardize their security by identi- 
fying themselves with Zionism, he said: 

In 1933 ... we offered German-Jewish groups an opportunity to 
unite. . . . They said they were Germans first, Germans who happened 
to be Jews. I am a Jew who is an American. I was a Jew before I was an 
American. I have been an American all my life, but I've been a Jew for 
4,000 years. 62 

Against those who would appease the Nazis, Wise said to a World 
Jewish Conference: 

Grievous fate it is to be among the victims of Nazism without help 
and without redress. Infinitely more tragic it were to come to an under- 


standing with Nazism. To die at the hands of Nazism is cruel; to sur- 
vive by its grace were ten thousand times worse. We will survive Nazism 
unless we commit the inexpiable sin of bartering or trafficking with it in 
order to save some Jewish victims. 63 

Wise lived to see the founding of the State of Israel. But in the 
last years the fruits of the Zionist labors seemed about to be snatched 
away by the pressures on the British Foreign Office. Wise led the 
outcry in America against this danger, voicing the claims and aspira- 
tions of Ms people. Just prior to the Fortieth Annual Convention of the 
Zionists Organization of America, he wrote an editorial whose basic 
proposition is a summary of the message of his whole ministry. 

The Israel which faltered not in an hour without hope, will not yield 
one jot or tittle of its rightful aims and claims in this hour. Britain is a 
mighty empire, but there are forces in the universe mightier and more 
enduring than empire or dynasty. . . . Empires live in the terms of 
centuries. Millennia have witnessed Israel's suffering and shall yet crown 
the triumph of Israel's hope. 64 


A large portion of American citizens consider the Jews to be a 
group set apart, a back eddy in the stream of American life. This 
judgment is surely erroneous. I know of no religious sect whose 
membership as a whole is more aware of current social trends, more 
sensitive to current mores, more proud of American achievements, or 
more anxious to help in maintaining and vitalizing democratic insti- 
tutions. Most Jews are so well integrated into American culture, that 
I am emboldened to take sides in the debate on the nature of Judaism: 
American Judaism (Israeli Judaism is another matter) is a religion in 
the same sense that Catholicism, Lutheranism, Congregationalism, 
Mormonism are religions; and American Judaism is a culture in no 
other sense than such Christian movements are also cultures. The 
Jew is every inch an American. 

But the bitter facts of anti-Semitism are such that he feels insecure. 
Statements of opinion could be assembled to the effect that anti- 
Semitism is decreasing. Even though these opinions may be correct, 
much discrimination remains. A study of nineteen thousand job 
orders in the mid-1 950's showed that "23 per cent of the orders con- 
tained specifications that barred Jews from being considered." 66 A 


survey in Cincinnati showed that fifteen of the largest public-account- 
ing firms employed only three Jews. A survey in Detroit showed that 
"most local banks and trust companies hired only white Christians 
and that 95 per cent of the private employment agencies reported that 
Jewish applicants face serious barriers in attempting to qualify for 
jobs." 60 Jews are often excluded "from resorts and the semipublic 
clubs that have become an important aspect of business and political 
life." 67 "The power structure of any small city is usually centered in 
the number-one country club and rare indeed is the 'prestige' club 
that admits Jews." 68 A survey of the opinions of 159 Jewish students 
found that 40 per cent agreed with the statement, "I am convinced that 
anti-Semitism is likely to interfere with my search for personal success 
and happiness," and 60 per cent agreed with the statement, "I often 
worry lest anti-Semitism take on more violent forms in the United 
States." 69 One Jew wrote: 

Any amateur psychologist knows that you cannot build peace of mind 
on fear. He also knows that the best way to begin the conquest of fear is 
to examine its source. In our case, the source is anti-Semitism, an anti- 
Semitism exacerbated by the worldwide Jew-consciousness stimulated 
by Hitler. . . . 

We must recognize that we have developed an inferiority complex 
from the fact that we are Jewish. Every normal human being has an 
inferiority complex about something in this neurotic day: he is cross- 
eyed, color-blind, poor, wealthy, uneducated, a long-haired intellectual, 
a Polish-American with an unpronounceable name, a hick, a bad athlete, 
sexually insecure, or bald and if you touch the sore spot you will get 
a reaction of pain and embarrassment. In the case of Jews, the sore 
spot is often the very fact that they are Jews. 70 

This situation undoubtedly affects the contribution which Jews can 
make to the spiritual revitaHzation of American culture; it would be 
surprising if a community which is the object of so much prejudice 
and discrimination could furnish leadership for creative, nationwide 
religious experimentation. Moreover, many Jews are spiritually smug. 
Most of them are spiritually self-isolated, consumed as far as religion 
goes with things Jewish, eager to keep the relationship among religions 
in America just what it is. Nevertheless, the Jewish contribution 
toward quickening our national religious sensitivity can be substan- 
tial. Jews uniformly believe in freedom of religion, for others as well 
as for themselves. They have been made acutely aware by the fate of 


European Jewry of the spiritual danger of political fanaticism. They 
have in Reconstmctionism the most mature socioreligious philosophy 
on the current horizon, even though it is a philosophy couched in 
terms too exclusively Jewish. And they have a deep sense of inter- 
nationalism, a sense which can help prevent the glorification of 
American ideals from deteriorating into a cheap nationalism. 



ALTHOUGH THE majority of Orthodox church members in the United 
States are by now second- or third-generation Americans, the Ortho- 
dox churches give the impression of being strictly old-world institu- 
tions, the least Americanized of any large religious group in this 
country. Orthodox communicants proudly assert their Americanism; 
but their churches tend to be foreign enclaves in the midst of American 
society, seldom influencing and not much influenced by the major 
currents of American thought and mores. The reasons for this situa- 
tion are many; they run far back into history. An explanation of the 
distinctive characteristics of the Orthodox churches must be based on 
an outline of some historical conflicts and on an explanation of rela- 
tionships with the homeland churches. 


The Christian Church was founded, according to Eastern Orthodox 
belief, in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost by Jesus Christ. He 
established her as one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. The meaning 
of the last three of these terms is similar to the meaning gjven by most 
other Christian groups. But long ago the Eastern Orthodox and the 
Roman Catholics began to argue over the meaning of the term 
one. No hint is found in Scripture, say the Orthodox, that Jesus 
Christ thought of one ecclesiastical organization. One Church means 
rather a body of people who are one in faith, in discipline, and hi type 
of government. 

After Pentecost, local Christian churches were founded by the 



Apostles. They had received authority, according to the Orthodox, 
from Jesus Christ himself and they passed it on to their successors, 
that is, to the bishops who ruled first over the local churches and then 
over the dioceses into which the local churches were organized. These 
bishops were equals in all spiritual matters even though the dignity and 
prestige of their offices varied considerably, bishops in the large cities 
usually having more prestige than bishops from the provinces. Final 
authority in the Church rested with Ecumenical Councils which the 
bishops attended. The essential matters of doctrine and discipline were 
debated and settled by these councils in which the bishops all had 
equal votes. The situation might be likened to an educational con- 
ference attended by the presidents of American colleges and uni- 
versities. In such a group, the president of a little college in a small 
town would not have the prestige of the president of, say, Columbia 
University or the University of Chicago; but his vote would be equal 
to theirs and his influence in debate might be even greater. 

Only seven Ecumenical Councils have been held, say the Orthodox; 
the last one convened in the eighth century. All councils held since 
that time have failed to meet ecumenical standards; the Council of 
Trent, for example, which played so prominent a part in the counter 
reformation and the Vatican Council which enunciated the dogma of 
papal infallibility were simply synods of a Christian sect. The Orthodox 
do believe in infallibility, but its seat is not any one person but is 
rather the body of bishops in the Apostolic Succession sitting as an 
Ecumenical Council and none has met for over a thousand years. 

The councils did not create dogma; they simply stated the teaching 
of the Apostolic Church, defended it from error, and prevented any- 
thing from being added. Mistakes were avoided through the power of 
the Holy Spirit. Thus Orthodoxy claims to be the "one saving and in- 
fallible church," "the sole infallible holder of the Apostolic tradition," 
an institution which has "nothing to learn" where dogma is concerned. 1 

In the early centuries, the Roman Catholic Church began to break 
away from the eastern churches by asserting the right of the Roman 
bishop to rule over all other bishops. Today East and West are 
completely separate institutions. The breach did not suddenly appear; 
only after centuries did most Christians recognize it as final. But for 
the last nine hundred years relations between Eastern Orthodoxy and 


Roman Catholicism have usually ranged in the area between frigid 
formalism and violent hostility. The date of the final break is often 
placed at 1054; but the Pope's sponsorship of the Fourth Crusade in 
the thirteenth century was perhaps the injury which most embittered 
the Orthodox. The crusaders sacked Constantinople, the leading 
Orthodox city, massacred its Christian population, and carried off 
its treasure. One Eastern Orthodox wrote, "Soldiers and Latin clergy 
vied with each other in their attempts to seize some part of these 
riches for themselves; even the precious Holy Altar of St. Sophia was 
polluted, broken in pieces and sold." 2 

Today Eastern Orthodoxy is a group of independent churches 
whose boundaries usually follow the lines of secular states. Thus 
national Orthodox churches are found in Greece, Russia, Romania, 
Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Albania, etc* These churches form a 
loose federation bound together by a common faith, a common tradi- 
tion, and a common liturgy. No common administrative agency 
exists. The bishops of the various national churches do meet in coun- 
cils which exercise great power. For several decades efforts to bring 
the various churches together "came to nothing mainly because of 
political obstacles. The absence of the Russian Church . . . during 
some thirty years of the Communist regime was paralyzing to all inter- 
Orthodox intercourse." 3 In 1961, however, a Pan-Orthodox "con- 
ference" was held and a "full-scale synod" is planned for the near 

At the head of each national church is an official titled variously: 
sometimes archbishop, sometimes metropolitan, and sometimes patri- 
arch. The highest office in the churches is that of the patriarch. The 
leading patriarch in point of dignity has his residence in Istanbul. The 
number of the faithful in his patriarchate has shrunk to less than one 
hundred thousand; nevertheless, the memory of the centuries when 
that city headed the Byzantine Empire is sufficient to give him the 
honorific title of Ecumenical Patriarch. 

Eastern Orthodox churches in the United States retain their national 
orientations. Thus in this country are found over twenty bodies; the 
major ones are Russian, Greek, Romanian, Bulgarian, Serbian (Yugo- 
slavian), Syrian Antiochan, and Ukrainian. Culturally all these 
churches have close affinities for the fatherland; for example, most of 


them persist in using its language as the chief vehicle for worship. 
Some of the churches remain under the direct administrative super- 
vision of the fatherland church. Others, however, in view of the 
Communist domination of most of Eastern Europe doubt the continu- 
ing orthodoxy of the church at home and consequently have set up 
independent organizations. American Russians have split into three 
groups over the problem of loyalty to the homeland church, and 
American Romanians into two groups. For many years efforts to form 
in the United States one Eastern Orthodox Church uniting the many 
groups received little support either from American Orthodox or from 
homeland officialdom. However, in 1961, Archbishop lakovos, Greek 
Orthodox Primate of North and South America, was reported in the 
press as forecasting the consolidation of all Eastern Orthodox com- 
munions in the Americas perhaps within two years. 


The basic tenets of Orthodox theology are already familiar to 
readers of the chapter on Roman Catholicism. Indeed, the Orthodox 
insist that all sects insofar as they are truly Christian received their 
dogmas through the undivided Orthodox churches. The source of their 
theology is believed of course to be Jesus Christ. The teachings of 
Jesus came down to the Church through two channels: the Bible and 
tradition. Veneration for the Bible is very high; but veneration for the 
tradition is equally high. The late Archbishop Michael of the Greek 
Orthodox Church in North and South America wrote: 

The Holy Scriptures and the Apostolic Tradition have the same 
significance and the same power for the Orthodox. . . . The Apostolic 
Tradition preceded the Canon of the Holy Scriptures. . . . There exist 
in Tradition elements which, although not mentioned in the New 
Testament, as they are in the Church today, are indispensable for the 
salvation of our souls. . . . Since . . . the books which constitute the 
Holy Scriptures, in their form and number today, were preserved because 
of the Apostolic Tradition, it follows that the Apostolic Tradition is the 
most precious and valuable thing and absolutely useful for the life and 
existence of the Church. It follows, also, that those who ignore or con- 
tempt the Apostolic Tradition as well as those who enlarge Tradition 
and add to it elements foreign to the fundamental dogmas that have been 
passed on down to us, suffer a grave loss. To the former belong all the 
Protestants who have declared an implacable war against Tradition. To 


the latter belong the Roman Catholics who went as far as embodying 
in Tradition the primacy of the bishop of Rome. 4 

This reverence for tradition has developed into a suspicion of any 
move that might result in change. "We do not change the boundaries 
marked out by our fathers: we keep the traditions we have received," 5 
reads a quotation from an ancient father featured on the cover of an 
American Orthodox periodical. One standard Orthodox work even 
asserts that "the first mark of the Church is that all her teachers and 
pastors agree with each other in everything." 6 As a result of such 
attitudes there is no "liberal" movement in the Orthodox churches 
and a frequent observation concerning them is that their theological 
thinking is uncreative. One Lutheran writer asserted flatly his judgment 
that Eastern Orthodoxy is in a state of "theological stagnation.'* 7 

The traditional summary of Orthodox beliefs is the Nicene Creed. 
(See page 177.) The first two Ecumenical Councils meeting in A.D. 
325 and 381 at Nicaea and Constantinople formulated this creed 
which is the only one the Orthodox recognize. Its basic elements have 
already been expounded in earlier chapters; here it is necessary only 
to indicate the major points at which Orthodox beliefs are distinctive. 
Many readers will consider some of these points to be picayune. But 
they are not picayune to the Orthodox nor to the Roman Catholics. 
The smallest break with revelation is intolerable. Each group has 
repeatedly made serious efforts to persuade the other of the error of 
its ways. Differences which seem minor when they are seen at a 
distance often become great when they are seen right at hand. 

The "chief dogmatic difference" 8 between East and West lies in 
the addition to the creed of the words "and the Son." This phrase is 
written in Latin "filioque"; hence the resulting controversy is often 
called the "Filioque Controversy." The words were added to the creed 
by the West The controversy concerns the relations among the three 
persons of the Trinity. The "procession" of the Holy Spirit is the 
specific point at issue. Does he proceed from the Father alone, as the 
Orthodox assert, or from the Father and the Son, as the West asserts? 
The portion of the creed hi question should read as follows according 
to the Orthodox: "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of 
Life, Who proceeds from the Father." The West makes this sentence 
read: "Who proceeds from the Father and the Son." (The meaning 


of "'proceeds" in this connection is not known.) Tie creed says of the 
Son that he was "begotten" of the Father. The Father is thus the 
source of the divine nature in both the Son and the Holy Spirit. But 
the difference between "beget" and "proceed" is not made clear in 
the revelation. However, say the Orthodox, the revelation makes clear 
whom the Holy Spirit proceeds from. Jesus Christ himself said, "But 
when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the 
Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he 
shall bear witness of me" (John 15:26). 

"Rivers of ink have flowed because of this question," wrote a 
Roman Catholic priest, and he added that the issue "has never yet 
affected the piety or practical faith of any human being." 9 But an 
Orthodox theologian wrote, "It [adding the fUloque] is not only 
technically illegal and illegitimate, but essentially wrong. . . . Even 
as a theological opinion it is vicious and inadmissible." 10 

The Virgin Mary, according to Orthodox teachings, became im- 
maculate, free from sin, only at the time of the Annunciation, not at 
the time of her conception by her mother, St. Anne. A person who 
accepts the Immaculate Conception believes the Virgin Mary pre- 
ceded Christ in sinlessness. 

Orthodox beliefs about the next life differ somewhat from Roman 
Catholic beliefs. The condition of man between the particular judg- 
ment and the general judgment is said to be that the soul gets a fore- 
taste of the state in which it will finally live, either heaven or hell. The 
existence of purgatory and limbo are consequently believed to have 
no foundation in Scripture or in tradition. Indulgences also are 
thought to have no proper foundation. 

In Orthodoxy the sacraments are the familiar seven, and four of 
them are believed to be necessary for salvation: baptism, confirma- 
tion, communion, and penance. So important are these four that 
the Church uses care not to let sudden death prevent their reception. 
Infants are baptized forty days after their birth, earlier if necessary, 
and immediately after baptism are confirmed and receive Holy Com- 
munion. Thereafter, infants should be brought to the Church at least 
four times a year for the reception of Holy Communion, and as soon 
as they reach the age of accountability and are capable of mortal sin, 
they go to confession. 


The importance of receiving these four sacraments is emphasized by 
an article written by a Greek priest concerning the conversion of the 
writer, Elliott H. Paul Paul had long been a vigorous exponent of 
agnosticism but finally from his own investigation had become con- 
vinced of the correctness of Eastern Orthodoxy. He was in his last 
illness when he sent for the priest. This official, as soon as he was con- 
vinced of the genuineness of Paul's conversion, went into immediate 

Because of Ms seriously ill condition ... I had to make a fast de- 
cision. I was told that Mr. Paul could live six hours, six days or six 
months, as Ms name remained on the critical list. I, therefore, felt person- 
ally responsible. I could not allow him to pass away suddenly without 
receiving the Sacraments of Crismation (Confirmation), Penance (Con- 
fession), and Eucharist (Holy Communion). . . . There was no need 
for baptism, because Elliott H. Paul, in Ms early youth was raised in 
the Congregational Church, a trinitarian faith, which baptizes its com- 
municants. This early baptism was recognized by my Church. 

I excused myself for a few moments, . . . conversed with my bishop 
by telephone, and then requested the head nurse on duty to have the 
bed clothing changed, and to prepare Mr. Paul for the Sacrament of the 
Church. In the meantime, I returned to my Church to pick up the neces- 
sary ecclesiastical appointments and sacred vessels. Within the hour, I 
was back at the hospital ready to proceed with the religious ministrations 
of the Church. 11 

Baptism is performed by triple immersion. This method is vigor- 
ously defended: it was the method used by the "undivided church"; 
sprinkling "was originated by the Roman Church in the fourteenth 
century"; the abandonment of triple immersion is "an innovation in a 
sacrament which is basic for the salvation of souls." 12 

A person is confirmed, as has been noted, immediately after his 
Baptism. The Orthodox consider that Roman Catholics make a major 
error in withholding confirmation until the adolescent years and in 
limiting for all practical purposes the right to administer confirmation 
to bishops. The Roman Catholics err also in withholding Communion 
until the age of understanding. The spiritual graces granted the soul 
by these sacraments are needed during our earliest as well as during 
our later years. 

The Orthodox are enjoined to confess to the priest at least twice a 
year. The impersonal relationsMps of the Roman Catholic confes- 
sional usually do not obtain. The priest "acts like the doctor, who in 


treating a bodily illness, must know the patient personally." 13 Con- 
fession may, however, be made to a priest who is a stranger. The 
penitent stands facing the East and confesses to God; the priest is 
witness and counselor rather than judge. The priest does, however, 
pronounce words of absolution. 

Mixed marriages are frowned on, but are nevertheless permitted. 
* 4 The children born of such a marriage must belong to the Orthodox 
Church." 14 

Divorce with the privilege of remarriage is also permitted; but a 
person may marry no more than three times. Parish priests may 
marry before they are ordained, but not after. The bishops are always 
chosen from the unmarried clergy. 

Holy unction is given to persons who are ill either bodily or 
spiritually. It is not reserved for persons who are in danger of death. 
Thus the terms extreme unction and last rites are not appropriate. 

The Orthodox consider that Lent should begin on a Monday. 

Theoretically the East sets the date of Easter in the same way as 
does the West: both celebrate it on the first Sunday after the full moon 
on or after the vernal equinox. However, one additional regulation by 
the East (Easter must come after the Jewish Passover) means that 
most of the time the Orthodox celebrate Easter one or more weeks 
later than the West does. 


There is a legend which explains that Russia adopted Eastern 
Orthodoxy because some Russian envoys attended services in Con- 
stantinople and were so impressed they came back saying, "We felt 
we were in heaven." The aesthetic impact of Orthodox worship on 
those who know it best is truly substantial. On the other hand, 
standards of beauty are so subjective that many Americans receive 
quite another impression; often after their first experience with 
Orthodox worship, they tend to agree that it is "stiff with gold and 
gorgeous with ceremonial." Certainly, understanding Orthodox wor- 
ship is very difficult for the Westerner who comes to it unprepared 
by a knowledge of any one of the foreign languages in which it is con- 

The floor plan of an Orthodox church is usually that of a Greek 


cross; this type of cross has arms of equal length. The crossing of the 
church is usually covered by a great dome, and often on the interior 
walls are hung or painted scenes from the Bible and pictures of the 
saints. The most prominent item of furniture is a large screen called 
the iconostas which stretches across the whole width of the church 
and divides the eastern arm of the cross from the rest of the building. 
The space behind this screen is thought to be so holy that only the 
clergy and laymen with special responsibilities may enter it. In it are 
found the altar, the sacred vessels and vestments, and the place for 
the preparation of the bread and wine which will become the Body 
and Blood of Our Lord. In the iconostas are three doors. The center 
one is called the beautiful, or royal gate because it is believed that 
Jesus Christ passes through it in an invisible manner when the sacra- 
ments are conducted. The altar is visible when the door is open. The 
two other doors are near the ends of the iconostas. Painted on the 
iconostas are pictures of Christ, of angels, and of saints. These 
pictures are called icons. They have been especially blessed and are 
painted after the flat and formal style of the Byzantine school. The 
Orthodox do not place statues in their churches. This limitation 
is the result of a long and bitter conflict in the eighth and ninth 
centuries. At that time, some Christians, called iconoclasts, believed 
the use of either images or pictures tends toward idolatry. On the other 
hand, another group favored their use because they were believed to be 
a valuable aid to worship. The latter group was finally victorious. Thus 
"representations" are permitted today in Orthodox churches, but "by 
tacit consent" 15 sculptured figures are no longer used, and icons are 
pictures in which a studied effort is made to avoid a three-dimensional 

Directly in front of the iconostas is a slightly raised platform run- 
ning the width of the church. On this platform near its center is a 
pulpit; at the north end is a desk for the lay reader, and at the south 
end is a throne for the bishop. The choir is located out of sight, usually 
in a balcony. Near the door as one enters stands a large icon before 
which worshipers pause as they enter. They kiss it, light a candle, and 
offer a prayer before giving attention to the ongoing service. 

The service, called the Divine Liturgy, is very long, beginning 
usually about nine o'clock of a Sunday morning and ending about 


noon. However, attendance for the first two-thirds of It tends to be 
sparse. In essence It Is the same service which other Christians call the 
Eucharist, the Lord's Supper, the Mass, or Holy Communion. It has 
much in common with the Roman Catholic Mass, although the out- 
sider finds difficulty at first in seeing the similarities. The term Mass is 
not used. 

The service begins with the ritual and ceremonies surrounding the 
preparation of the bread and wine for consecration. Then comes the 
Little Entrance: the priest, preceded by altar boys and carrying the 
Gospel, comes through the north door of the iconostas. They march 
to the back of the church and then come down the center aisle. A 
hymn is sung; a passage Is read from the Gospel; prayers are said; and 
the sermon is preached. Then comes the Great Entrance: the priest and 
the altar boys again come forth from the north door, the priest holding 
high the bread and wine which are about to be consecrated; again the 
procession marches to the back of the church and comes down the 
center aisle; the priest carries the elements through the royal door to 
the altar; the door is shut; prayers are said; the Nicene Creed Is re- 
cited; the door is thrown open; the words of consecration are said; 
the door is again closed; the priest receives Communion; the door is 
opened, and Communion is offered to the laity. Shortly thereafter 
comes the dismissal; during this period, the members of the congre- 
gation come forward and receive from the priest pieces of bread 
which have been blessed. The bread is consumed as the worshipers 
leave the church building. 

This brief outline fails to communicate any sense of the elaborate 
detail which surrounds the Divine Liturgy; special readings from the 
Scripture, special prayers, special litanies, and special movements 
abound. The priest is richly vested and the choir seems to be almost 
constantly active. Its music is strange to western ears. Eastern music 
often uses modes and intervals to which Americans are quite un- 
accustomed. Yet a Roman Catholic author could write that the sing- 
ing in Slavic churches is "probably the most beautiful Church music 
in the world." 16 Such a level of excellence is difficult to achieve in the 
far different American environment. 

This outline of Orthodox worship also fails to communicate the 
attitude in which an Orthodox worshiper goes to his church. Nicolas 


Zemov, a member of an Eastern Orthodox communion, describes this 
attitude by contrasting it with the mood in which the average 
Westerner goes to church. The setting of his description is England; 
but the mood of Orthodox worship in America is the same, with a 
minor exception or two which I will note later. 17 

Let us compare, for example, the Sunday service in England with that 
of an Eastern Orthodox country. In both instances one can usually 
recognize even in the streets people who intend to take part in Sunday 
worship, but by quite different marks. An English person going to church 
is better dressed than others; he often carries a prayer book; and there is 
something special about his walk also: it is solemn, yet slightly hurried, 
for he wants to arrive at the church the very moment when the service 
is due to begin, and not to be too late or too early. On entering the 
church, an English Christian first kneels for private prayer and then sits 
down and quietly waits for the service to start. During the service every- 
one behaves like everybody else; the congregation stand, sit, or kneel 
at precisely the same moment, and if by chance an individual fails to 
follow the prescribed movement, he feels most uncomfortable and tries 
to correct Ms mistake. The priest or minister occupies the position of a 
leader who directs the actions of the congregation. As soon as the service 
is over the people leave the church in a body, with the sense that Sunday 
duty has been fulfilled. The services are straightforward and well-timed; 
and there is a sense of obligation attached to them; they foster the spirit 
of discipline and obedience, and make a strong appeal to the will and 
moral responsibility of each individual Christian. 

The Eastern Christians behave quite differently. They go to church 
in a slow, leisurely fashion, stopping often to talk to those of their friends 
who are also going to join in the worship. When they arrive at the 
church they go in, whatever point the service may have reached; their 
first act is, as a rule, to light a candle in front of one or the other 
of the pictures of the saints, and only after this has been done do they 
join in the worship of the congregation. . . . There is complete freedom 
and spontaneity of action. But this lack of uniformity, and the fact that 
all the time fresh people are coming in and others going out, do not 
destroy the sense of corporateness in an Eastern service. On the con- 
trary, they give the impression of a united family gathering where every- 
one feels completely at ease and expresses in his own way his share in 
the common activity. This impression is further enhanced by the large 
number of children, and even babies in arms. . . . 

In the West the Christian acts, feels and thinks as an individual. . . . 
In the East, a Christian thinks of himself first of all as a member of one 
big family of all Christian people, both living and departed. . . . When- 
ever the Church of God is gathered together in an act of worship, it is 
the Saints and all the faithful departed who form the main body of the 
congregation, for they are the true worshippers of God, and the Christians 


who still live here on earth are only joining their company when they 
come to take part in a service. 

American Orthodox churches are tending to deviate from this 
pattern in the direction of greater unity of action on the part of the 
congregation. Perhaps the best symbol of this movement is the placing 
of pews in the churches. Traditionally, few seats were provided, most 
of the congregation being expected to stand or to kneel throughout 
the service. But seats are provided in America today and in some 
homeland churches. And uniformity of action on the part of the 
congregation is growing. The worshipers tend to stand and sit and 
pray and leave (but not to arrive) at the same time. Thus work the 
syncretistic tendencies of religion. Whatever clergymen may say, re- 
ligions do borrow from each other. All churches are influenced by 
the cultures in which they exist. 

Leavened bread is used in Holy Communion. The Gospels, accord- 
ing to Orthodox interpretation, make clear that Jesus Christ used 
leavened bread at the Last Supper since it was held before the 
beginning of the Passover. Using unleavened bread is, therefore, 
considered to be an unwarranted innovation. Moreover, laymen as 
well as priests receive the consecrated wine; "withholding the cup" is 
clearly contrary to Christ's statement, "Except ye eat of the flesh of 
the Son of Man and drink his blood, ye have no life in you" (John 
6:53). In Communion, the consecrated bread is soaked in the con- 
secrated wine, and then is placed by means of a spoon on the com- 
municant's tongue. 

Sermons ordinarily play a relatively small part in Orthodox worship; 
they lack the authority of tradition. That type of Protestant service 
which centers in the sermon was attacked by a Greek priest in the 
following language: 

[This] type of religious service ... is a comparatively recent de- 
velopment arising at the time of the Reformation in the sixteenth century. 
... If the minister's sermon is warm and inspiring, . . . then the 
relationship between man and God is heightened, but if the minister's 
sermon is mediocre, and because there is no liturgy in this type of re- 
ligious service, the remainder of the hour in church rarely has enough 
power to produce a definite mood of worship. . . . 

There is another defect which characterizes such a form of worship, 
and that is the passive role of the congregation. There is little for them 
to do but to bow then: heads and sing the hymns. The rest of the time 


they just sit and listen. . . . The main reason for going to church is 
to worship God; to worship Him in His presence; to partake of the very 
life of Jesus in the form of a sacrament; to worship God together. To 
worship God actively the congregation needs definite things to do. ... 
Everyone in the Orthodox Church has a definite role to play and every- 
one senses that he is needed for the drama that is being enacted. . . . 
The central act of the whole Orthodox Liturgy is the sacrament of Holy 
Communion in which Christ is actually present; He comes into the lives 
of the worshippers who offer their lives to Him and receive His life 
in return. It is not sufficient for man to read the Bible and to adhere 
to the teachings of Christ, but the very life of Christ Himself is neces- 
sary for the development of a healthy personality type. 18 

The Protestant's answer to such charges is of course that from his 
point of view Protestant worship demands much more of a worshiper 
than, does Orthodox worship, that the Orthodox come late and need 
not even pay attention, and that the sermon is the most effective means 
yet devised for preventing religion from being an escape, for making 
it relevant to the personal and social problems of our day or of any 

Orthodox theory concerning icons, like Roman Catholic theory 
concerning statues, is that no power inheres in the material object. The 
Orthodox do believe, however, that there is a supernatural link be- 
tween the icon and the person it represents, that "an icon is a place of 
the Gracious Presence. It is the place of an appearance of Christ, of 
the Virgin, of the saints, of all those represented by the icon, and 
hence it serves as a place for prayer to them." 19 Some of the faithful 
believe also that some icons have the power to work wonders to 
cure illness and to bring good fortune. Miracles are sometimes re- 
ported in connection with icons. In 1960, for example, the Ecumenical 
Patriarchate pronounced three weeping icons their eyes shed tears 
which were discovered on Long Island, New York, "a sign of Divine 
Providence." 20 "Icons not made with hands" are also believed to 
exist; for example, the face of Christ has appeared on cloths througji 
supernatural means, such as when St. Veronica wiped the sweat from 
Ms face as he was carrying the cross to the crucifixion. 

Western Christians are often impressed by Orthodox concern for 
what seem to be very small matters. Serious controversies have 
arisen over such questions as whether the "but" should be in or out of 


the phrase "begotten, but not made," 21 whether the gloria should be 
preceded by two or three alleluias; 22 whether the gloria should be suc- 
ceeded by two or three amens; 21 whether the sign of the cross should 
be made with two or three fingers; 21 whether in the Eucharist the 
"particle from the rest of the bread in honor of our Lady" 23 should be 
placed on the altar to the right or to the left of the priest. 


The number of Orthodox in the world is sometimes said to be 130 
million; a letter from the Office of Information of the Greek Arch- 
diocese claims 300 million. However, even the smaller figure assumes 
that one hundred million Russians still continue to think of themselves 
as Christians and that the overwhelming majority of the population 
in the satellite countries continue to do the same. Such estimates are 
quite unreliable. Statistics for the United States are often equally 
unsatisfactory. Writers have sometimes stated the size of American 
Eastern Orthodoxy by simply estimating the number of Americans 
who came or whose families came from Eastern Orthodox lands, thus 
claiming five or six million members. The number of Americans ac- 
tively participating in Eastern Orthodox church life is much smaller. 
The total of the reports made by the churches themselves was in 1960 
two million seven hundred thousand. 

To the outsider, language difficulties seem to reduce considerably 
the numbers to which the American Orthodox churches can minister 
effectively. Theoretically, the use of the vernacular in worship is 
encouraged. But practically, churches under homeland supervision 
are expected to use the homeland language. The number of Americans 
who really understand the language of worship is thus small, particu- 
larly so since the form of the language used is commonly an old one, 
one no longer used outside the church even in the homeland. The 
Greeks seem to be making more serious efforts than the other Ortho- 
dox groups to meet American conditions; they maintain, for example, 
an alert Office of Information. Yet two-thirds of the material published 
in the Greek denominational magazine, The Orthodox Observer, is in 
Greek. One wonders how many third-generation American Greeks 
can read these pages. On the other hand, the sermons, especially in the 


Greek and Russian churches, are often spoken in English, and in some 
of the churches on specified occasions English may be used for the 
entire Liturgy. 

The emphasis on foreign languages has meant that Orthodox priests 
often come from other lands and often have an imperfect knowledge 
of English. This fact handicaps the American churches and probably 
results in many misunderstandings or misinterpretations of American 
customs and institutions. One illustration is the inaccurate statements 
concerning Protestantism which sometimes appear in Orthodox writ- 
ings. One author wrote: "To be a Presbyterian . . . one must accept 
one man's interpretation of the Bible, that of John Knox, the founder 
of Presbyterianism." 24 Another statement reads, "Neither do the 
Protestants accept the doctrine that the Virgin Mary was virgin." 25 

American Orthodox groups are active members of the ecumenical 
movement. Participation in the movement, however, seems to be 
ambivalent. On the one hand, articles are written which point with 
pride to achievements of the National Council of Churches, to the 
Archbishop's service as one of the six presidents of the World Council 
of Churches, to the support the World Council is giving the Ecumeni- 
cal Patriarch in his "determination to remain in Istanbul irrespective 
of consequences." 26 On the other hand, the Orthodox have partici- 
pated in the ecumenical movement not so much to consider with other 
Christians the basic problems of religion in the twentieth century as to 
witness to the truth. An editor of the Christian Century wrote as 

Never a large ecumenical meeting is held that a representative of the 
Orthodox wing of the World Council does not rise before final adjourn- 
ment to explain that, while Orthodox Christianity is glad to have been 
involved in the discussion, it must clearly dissociate itself from the 
conclusions. Sometimes the disclaimers are calm, sometimes they are 
lofty, sometimes they are deeply offended. But always they are galling 
to the Protestant Christian, who can hardly be expected to rejoice in this 
regular rejection. 27 

However, another attitude may be in the making; the following news 
item appeared in Christianity Today in 1962: 

Eastern Orthodoxy came out of the New Delhi Assembly [of the 
World Council of Churches] playing a new role in the ecumenical move- 
ment, according to Archbishop lakovos. ... A change in posture 


toward the ecumenical movement was reflected in the Orthodox hier- 
archy's decision to discontinue the practice of issuing independent state- 
ments on the subject of unity at ecumenical meetings. Archbishop lakovos 
characterized the decision as a change of tactics. He said the Orthodox 
prelates felt they could register their opinions more effectively in helping 
to shape policy in committee work. 28 

Orthodox churches seem to be only slowly adjusting to America. 
Orthodox people have become rapidly adjusted in most other areas of 
American life; persons of Orthodox faith are found among the leaders 
in American business, politics, science, and art. But the inherent 
conservatism of Orthodoxy has made for extremely slow adjustments 
in church life. The continued rejection of the English language as the 
effective means of communication is a serious self-imposed handicap. 
Eastern Orthodoxy wishes to become known as one of the "major 
American faiths"; it has sponsored legislation which declares it to 
be such. But can it measure up to this standard while it persists in 
making major use of languages seldom used in America? The use of 
the vernacular is both dogmatically correct and institutionally wise. 
The acceptance of English as the major language tool would seem to 
be an adjustment without which the Orthodox churches can hardly 
meet fully the needs of their American constituents in the latter dec- 
ades of the twentieth century. 



THE HISTORIES of both Monnonism and Christian Science developed 
along the lines of the traditional American success story; after early 
years of struggle, hardship, and persecution both of these American- 
founded movements have won respect, influence and a wide follow- 
ing. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the official name 
of the body which early in its history was nicknamed Mormonism, 
grew from a membership of six at its beginning in 1830 to a member- 
ship of one and two-thirds million today. A writer in an official 
Mormon journal estimated that by the year 2000 the membership 
will number six million; moreover, he predicted that at that time the 
city with the largest number of Mormons, instead of being as it is 
today Salt Lake City, wOl be Los Angeles. 1 


Joseph Smith, Jr. (18051844), the founder of Mormonism, was 
born at Sharon in central Vermont. When he was ten, his family 
moved to Palmyra in western New York, a town located about 
twenty miles southeast of Rochester. At fourteen years of age, 
Joseph had an experience which Mormons believe changed not only 
the course of his life but also the course of modern religion. Deeply 
troubled by the conflicting claims of the rival clergymen in his neigh- 

* Most of the material of this chapter deals with, doctrine and history from 
the viewpoint of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which has its 
headquarters in Utah; the beliefs of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ 
of Latter Day Saints which has its headquarters in Missouri are dealt with 
specifically in only a single paragraph. 



borhood, Joseph went into the woods to seek the guidance of the Lord. 

He wrote about his experience: 

... I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart 
to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon 
by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing 
influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick 
darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I 
were doomed to sudden destruction. 

But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the 
power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment 
when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction 
not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from 
the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before 
felt in any being just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar 
of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which 
descended gradually until it fell upon me. 

It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy 
which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Person- 
ages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me 
in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name, and said 
pointing to the other "This is My Beloved Son, Hear Him." 

My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all 
the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, there- 
fore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I 
asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the 
sects was right and which I should join. 

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong, 
and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an 
abomination in his sight: that those professors were all corrupt. . . . 

Three years later Joseph had another vision. He was praying, he 
wrote, just after retiring for the night when a light filled the room. 
Immediately another personage appeared who was "glorious beyond 
description." This personage said he was Moroni and that he bore a 
divine message. God had singled Joseph out for a special work. 

. . . [Moroni] said there was a book deposited, written upon gold 
plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and 
the sources from whence they sprang. He also said that the fullness of 
the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior 
to the ancient inhabitants. 

Also that there were two stones in silver bows and these stones, 
fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thum- 
mim deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these 
stones were what constituted "Seers" in ancient or former times; and 
that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book. 


Joseph was directed to go to the top of a high hill near Manchester, 
a town a short distance from Palmyra. He did so and there under a 
large stone he found the plates deposited in a stone box. But he was 
not permitted to have possession of them until four years later. When 
he received the plates, he was given also the Urim and Thummim by 
means of which he was miraculously enabled to translate the strange 
language which was written on the plates. 

Only eleven persons, aside from Joseph, ever saw the plates. These 
eleven, however, attested that the plates were real and had "engravings 
thereon." Moreover, eight of the eleven said, "We did handle [them] 
with our hands." Six of the eleven later left the Church (two eventu- 
ally returned) but none ever repudiated his statement that the plates 
were real. One, however, when he was asked, "Did you see the plates 
and the engravings upon them with your bodily eyes?" was reported to 
have replied, "I saw them with the eye of faith." 2 

The translation which Joseph made of the engravings is the Book of 
Mormon. According to this book, which "in no sense supplants the 
Bible, but supports it," 3 North and South America were peopled by 
descendants of ancient Israel who journeyed eastward from Palestine 
in Old Testament times. With supernatural help they built ships and 
sailed in them to the Western Hemisphere. Eventually two peoples 
arose: the Nephites and the Lamanites; the former were a righteous 
group and the latter a wicked group. Most of the ruined cities of 
South and Central America probably were Nephite or Lamanite in 
origin. The Book of Mormon discloses how Jesus, shortly after his 
ministry in Palestine, appeared on earth a second time, in the Western 
Hemisphere. There he again revealed the Christian gospel, chose 
twelve disciples, and founded a Church. Many of his teachings were 
very like those of the New Testament. For example, two of the 
Beatitudes read as follows: 

Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is 
the kingdom of heaven. 

And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, 
for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost. 

About twenty-five thousand of the three hundred thousand words in 
the Book of Mormon parallel passages in the Old Testament and two 
thousand parallel passages in the New Testament. 4 


Finally the Lamanites destroyed the Nephites (who had become 
the more wicked) in a great battle which centered at the hill Cmnorah, 
located near Manchester. Mormon was the general of the defeated 
armies. His son, Moroni, buried the sacred gold plates at the top of 
the hill, where Joseph Smith testified he found them. 

Non-Mormon writers explain the origin of the Book of Mormon 
in other ways. Some say the book was the work of Joseph Smith's 
own fervid imagination. One non-Mormon biographer wrote: 

Perhaps in the beginning Joseph never intended his stories of the 
golden plates to be taken so seriously, but once the masquerade had be- 
gun, there was no point at which he could call a halt. Since his own 
family believed him (with the possible exception of Ms cynical younger 
brother William) , why should not the world? 5 

Mormons hotly deny such assertions. A well-known Mormon theo- 
logian wrote: "The fanciful theories of its origin, advanced by preju- 
diced opponents, are in general too inconsistent, and in most instances 
too thoroughly puerile, to merit consideration." 6 A Mormon historian 
asserts that the Book of Mormon is criticized only by "poorly trained 
scholars" who think they "can answer the question by referring to 
whatever tiny patch of knowledge" they happen to "sit on." 7 How- 
ever, concerning belief in the historicity of the events narrated, one 
Mormon wrote, "No competent student maintains that discoveries of 
archaeologists as yet prove the Book of Mormon. The Book of 
Mormon, as every faithful member of the Church knows, is a divine 
book . . . [which] must be accepted on principles of faith." 8 What- 
ever one may think about the material printed in the Book of Mormon, 
every fair mind must acknowledge its great influence on American 
life. Henry A. Wallace, Vice-President of the United States in the 
New Deal era, wrote: 

Of all the American religious books of the nineteenth century, it seems 
probable that the Book of Mormon was the most powerful. It reached 
perhaps only one per cent of the people of the United States, but it 
affected this one per cent so powerfully and lastingly that all the people 
of the United States have been affected, especially by its contribution 
to opening up one of our great frontiers. 9 

But the Book of Mormon was only one of the pillars on which the 
Church of Latter-day Saints was founded. Another pillar is the doc- 
trine of the restoration of revelation. Like most Christians, Mormons 

believe that Jesus Christ established the Christian Church. Mormons 
contend, however, that soon after its founding the Church fell away 
from the truth and came under the control of men who were apostates. 
"The reign of Constantine marks the period when the paganization of 
Christianity became complete." 10 The so-called Christian priests and 
ministers have "no more authority to administer Christian ordinances 
than the Apostate Jews." 11 The Devil became the foundation of the 
Church, 12 As a result of the apostasy of the churchmen, God with- 
drew revelation from mankind. Then in these latter days, He chose to 
re-establish His Church on earth and to begin again giving revelations. 
Joseph Smith was the Gist of the latter-day prophets through whom 
God's revelations came. Beginning on September 21, 1823, when he 
was eighteen years old, Joseph was the agent God used to instruct His 
latter-day saints. Some of the revelations which came to Joseph are 
printed in two books called the Doctrines and Covenants and the 
Pearl of Great Price. These two books, and also the Book of Mormon, 
have the status of scripture and are believed to contain revelation. 

Revelation continued, according to Mormon belief, after Joseph 
Smith's death. Nine men in all have been "modern-day prophets . . . 
responsible under the inspiration of the Almighty for directing this 
latter-day marvelous work." 13 Of the present prophet and revelator a 
Mormon leader wrote, "David O. McKay is the mouthpiece of our 
Heavenly Father in the earth today who does hold the keys of the 
kingdom, and the mantle of authority." 14 

The major revelations of the Doctrine and Covenants are of course 
basic Mormon teachings. (These will be outlined shortly.) But the 
book also contains minor revelations which are a source of consider- 
able difficulty for the non-Mormon reader. Why should God reveal, 
for example, that Joseph's first wife, Emma, should make a selection 
of hymns for use by the Church (25:11),* or that Sidney Gilbert 
should establish a store (57:8), or that William W. Phelps should be- 
come the printer for the Church (57:11), or that John Snider and 
others should build a hotel (124:22-24)? In view of the abuse of 
liquor on the frontier, understanding why a revelation came which 
forbade strong drinks is not too difficult; but why did God reveal that 

* The numbers refer to sections and verses in Doctrine and Covenants 
(Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1952). 


"hot drinks are not for the body or belly" (89:7, 9.)? On the other 
hand the correctness of the revelations seems to Mormon thinking to 
have been folly demonstrated. How else than through revelation could 
Joseph have prophesied in 1843 that "the commencement of the dif- 
ficulties which will cause much bloodshed . . . will be in South Caro- 
lina" (130:12-13.)? Mormons believe this is an obvious allusion to 
the Civil War, and to its beginning at Fort Sumter. 


After the Church's founding in 1830, it grew rapidly; in a year's 
time one thousand persons had been baptized. Persecution set in 
almost immediately. Early one morning, for example, while an im- 
mersion service was being conducted in a small stream, a mob 
gathered and threatened the worshipers. Joseph wrote that "it was 
only by the exercise of great prudence on our part, and reliance in our 
heavenly Father, that they were kept from laying violent hands upon 
us ... we were obliged ... to bear with insults and threatenings 
without number." 15 On two occasions Joseph was arrested for dis- 
orderly conduct; but he won acquittal both times. 

Such experiences led the leaders of the Church to decide to move 
their headquarters farther west. They chose to go to Kirtland, Ohio, a 
town near Cleveland where Mormon missionaries had won notable 
successes. In Kirtland, Joseph received many revelations concerning 
the Church, its doctrine, organization, and administration. There the 
saints began at great sacrifice the building of the first Mormon temple, 
some of the men contributing as much as one-seventh of their time 
to its construction. There also land fever led some of the saints to 
indulge in speculation. The economic difficulties which resulted and 
further persecution by non-Mormons led after a half dozen years to a 
move from Kirtland and to the establishment of the Church's head- 
quarters in Western Missouri. 

Independence, Missouri, in the 1830's was a recently founded 
boomtown, the take-off place for the old Santa Fe Trail; it was the 
key town along the whole frontier. Mormons had begun settling in 
Independence soon after the move to Kirtland. There also they met 
persecution; their peculiar beliefs, their exclusiveness, their desire to 
own more and more land, and perhaps above all their opposition to 


slavery brought down on their heads the wrath of their neighbors. 
Mobs gathered; they unroofed cabins, whipped men, tarred and feath- 
ered leaders. The militia which was called out to restore order was 
headed by an avowed Mormon enemy. The authorities persuaded the 
Mormons to disarm as a prelude to a peaceful settlement on the 
promise that the non-Mormons also would disarm. This promise was 
not kept. Accordingly, the mob could attack with impunity and 
worked a systematic havoc. In one night the homes of twelve hundred 
people were sacked; the men were beaten; and men, women and 
children were driven out into a November storm with no shelter but 
the woods which lined the Missouri River. There they shivered for 
days. Eventually they fled across the river into Clay County. They 
lived there for a time, but after about three years were asked to leave 
that locality also. Again they must start anew. This time they acquired 
largely unoccupied land on the edge of the prairie, organized Caldwell 
County, Missouri, and established the town of Far West as the county 

But persecution continued to dog their efforts to establish a Mor- 
mon home. Having tried disarmament, they now began to put their 
trust in force. Clashes followed which brought them into greater and 
greater disfavor. Finally the governor of the state declared they "must 
be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the 
state if necessary for the public peace." 

They fled to Illinois and established headquarters a dozen miles 
north of Quincy on a bend of the Mississippi River. Joseph named 
the site Nauvoo, a word which he said comes from the Hebrew 
language and means "beautiful plantation." For a time, security and 
prosperity seemed finally to have come to the Mormons. Hard work 
and alertness soon made Nauvoo the largest city in the state and one 
visitor wrote that it was an "orderly city, magnificently laid out, and 
teeming with activity and enterprise." 16 Joseph prospered and even 
ran for President of the United States in the campaign of 1844. At 
Nauvoo, Joseph also received a revelation sanctioning the practice of 
polygamy. The heart of it is in Section 132, verses 61 and 62 of the 
Doctrine and Covenants: 

And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood if any man 
espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her 


consent, and If he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have 
vowed to no other man, then Is he justified; he cannot commit adultery 
for they are given unto him; for he caenot commit adultery with that 
that belongeth unto him and to no one else. 

And if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot 
commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; 
therefore is he justified. 

Although this revelation was not openly acknowledged until 1852, 
the evidence seems clear that Joseph and other Mormon leaders prac- 
ticed polygamy in the Nauvoo years; the correctness of the practice 
continued to be taught in Utah until it was finally abrogated in 1890. 

As prosperity grew at Nauvoo, hostility grew in the neighboring 
sections of Illinois. Exclusiveness, economic competition, rumors about 
plural marriage, and the unwise destruction of a printing press led to 
calls on the Governor to summon the militia. This official went to 
Carthage, the county seat, and demanded of Joseph that he also go 
there to stand trial. Although Joseph was promised a safe conduct, 
adequate protection was not provided. At Carthage on June 27, 1844, 
a mob of one hundred and fifty men, many of them members of the 
militia, attacked the jail in which Joseph was imprisoned, and he was 
shot to death. 

In the struggle for the succession which followed, several divisions 
resulted hi the Church. Today the Mormons are divided into five 
groups. Three of them are very small ranging from three thousand 
down to less than one hundred members. The bulk of the Mormons 
are divided between two major groups: the Utah church which is 
much the larger and a church whose official name is Reorganized 
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The smaller group won 
the adherence of Joseph's immediate family, had his son Joseph Smith 
III as one of its first presidents, and has possession of some of the 
important properties. This group eventually located its headquarters 
at Independence, Missouri, and has today one hundred and fifty-five 
thousand members. The Utah group has an American membership of 
a million and one half. 

After Joseph's death most of the Mormons chose Brigham Young 
as their leader. About the greatness of this man there can be little dis- 
pute. The source of the qualities which produce the natural leader is 
mysterious: perhaps they are hereditary; perhaps they result from the 


unconscious learnings of early childhood. Whatever their source, 
Brigham Young possessed these qualities to a remarkable degree. He 
had that indefinable something which made men willing to trust his 
judgment and to put forth extremes of effort. His greatest abilities as 
a leader were immediately needed. The mobs of western Illinois con- 
tinued to attack and to persecute. Although the saints had already left 
three localities in the effort to find a place where their religion could 
be practiced in safety and in freedom, abandoning Nauvoo seemed the 
only wise course of action. This time they determined if possible to 
get out of the range of all possible mob violence and to settle in a 
land "so unpromising that nobody will covet it." The vast empty 
spaces of the West seemed providentially provided. Thus they decided 
to move beyond the Rocky Mountains. 

The exodus from Nauvoo began in a manner which presaged the 
rigors which were to come. Boats began to ferry the refugees across 
the Mississippi River before dawn on a day in the middle of winter, 
February 4, 1846. The wind was raw, the temperature twenty below 
zero, and only a rude shelter was available on the other side. The 
subsequent trip across Iowa, made in spite of the most forbidding con- 
ditions, shows the kind of heroism which had been built into the 
character of the Mormons; they fought cold, rain, and mud, and for 
a two weeks* period were even unable to light fires. 

After four and one-half months of strenuous effort, the travelers 
reached the Missouri River and there on a site just north of Omaha 
established a temporary settlement which they called Winter Quarters. 
All that summer additional Mormon parties struggled across Iowa 
until by fall as many as ten thousand people had gathered. 

Brigham Young saw clearly that the long trek ahead demanded 
farsighted planning, firm organization, and careful morale building. 
At the head of a party of 148 persons, he set out in the spring 
of 1847 to pioneer the way. On the basis of information he had col- 
lected, he hoped that the Salt Lake valley would prove to be their 
destination. This location had the necessary isolation, and if sufficient 
water were available, hard work, persistence, and vision could make 
there the base for a secure and righteous society. Finally on July 24, 
he got his first view of the valley. He had a vision then of "the future 
glory of Zion" and said, "This is the place, drive on." July 24 has 


been celebrated ever since by Mormons as Pioneer Day. On the 
second day after the first party arrived, potatoes were planted and 
soon a thriving and prosperous community appeared in the wilderness. 

For ten years thereafter the Mormons were relatively free from 
persecution. A Mormon empire began to develop; skills in irrigation 
were acquired, a de facto theocracy was established, scores of com- 
munities were founded, some of them hundreds of miles distant from 
Salt Lake City. In 1850, Congress established the territory of Utah. 
Almost immediately conflicts arose between non-Mormon federal 
officials and Young, who wished to control the policies of the newly 
organized territory. The conflict finally resulted in the "Mormon 
War." In 1857, President Buchanan sent a United States army 
to make federal authority firm. The Mormons organized their own 
army, and as the federal troops drew near the whole community went 
onto a war footing. A scorched-earth policy was adopted; outlying 
settlements were abandoned, grass in the line of federal march was 
burned, federal wagon trains were set afire, and thirty thousand per- 
sons began to abandon Salt Lake City for territory farther south. 
Finally an agreement was reached between Young and President 
Buchanan's agents, peace was restored, and the war was over. 

In the years which followed, Mormon numbers and prosperity 
grew, but conflict with non-Mormons was always near the surface. 
The chief cause was polygamy. The numbers of Mormons involved 
in this practice was always small; probably at its height only about 
10 per cent. 17 But any practice at all was enough to arouse Eastern 
alarm. Clergymen especially pursued the issue relentlessly and pro- 
duced definite action. Congress passed laws against polygamy, courts 
sent polygamous husbands to prison, and Protestant women built a 
home as an avenue of escape for wives who wished to escape from 
the "degrading bondage"; (no Mormon woman "ever entered its 
portals," wrote one Church leader). 

Periodically since 1850, Utah had been requesting statehood, a re- 
quest which had been regularly denied. By the beginning of the last 
quarter of the nineteenth century, the conflict had reached an im- 
passe. The Mormons refused to deny the correctness of a practice 
they believed to have been revealed by God, and the federal au- 


thorities were embarked on a campaign to enforce the law. The 
polygamists were forced underground. The national government dis- 
franchised Mormon voters and seized all Church property. Finally 
the Mormons decided that further resistance was useless and that 
peace and religious freedom could be won only by abandoning the 
teaching concerning the correctness of earthly polygamy. Accord- 
ingly, the head of the Church officially declared in 1890: 

Inasmuch as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural 
marriages, which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court 
of last resort, I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, 
and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which 
I preside to have them do likewise. 

There is nothing in my teachings to the Church or in those of my 
associates, during the time specified, which can be reasonably construed 
to inculcate or encourage polygamy. 

Six years later Utah was admitted to the Union. Today the practice 
of polygamy is definitely opposed by the Church. Evidence does 
exist that "several thousand" Mormon fundamentalists continue 
the practice. 18 But "the Mormon Church today is merciless in pro- 
ceeding against recusants who from time to time may . . . revert to 
. . . the plurality of wives." 19 

For decades the common saying about the Mormons was, "They 
are a strange people." This judgment is certainly not accurate today. 
Insofar as their religious beliefs allow, they try as earnestly now as 
any group to fit into American mores and to be normal according to 
American standards. 


Although Mormon doctrines clearly fall within the broad general 
outlines of Christian thought, they contain so large a number of 
surprising innovations as to make traditional churchmen wonder 
how they can have sprung from Christian soil. Perhaps the best place 
to begin an exposition of these innovations is with the doctrines of 
the eternity of the universe and of the pre-existence of man. 

Mormons teach that the universe has always existed, and that God 
organized rather than created it, a view contrary to the usual Chris- 
tian teaching, which is that God created the universe out of nothing 


at the beginning of time. Mormons hold that the matter, energy, and 
intelligence of the universe go forward eternally in "an on-going 
process characterized by increasing complexity." 20 They hold that 
all existence is material, and that spirit in the usual meaning of 
that word does not have reality. They do use the word "spirit," but 
mean by it, not a different order of reality, but rather a "more fine 
or pure" kind of matter. Joseph Smith received a revelation which 
told how to tell, if a divine messenger comes, whether he is spirit 
(in the Mormon sense) or has a body of flesh and bones: "Request 
him to shake hands with you." If he is spirit, he will not shake 
hands. If he has a body, "you will feel his hand." 21 

All human beings lived before their birth on this earth. Traditional 
Christians of course believe that each human being had his beginning 
on earth at or near the time of conception. But Mormons believe in 
pre-existence. "God, our loving father," writes a Mormon leader, 
"kept us with Him during our spiritual infancy." 22 In this state men 
were spirits, they had no bodies. Then God decided that a plan must 
be adopted by which men might gain greater exaltation. An ecclesi- 
astical council was held where God presented a plan. Lucifer offered 
to put it into effect, but in such a way as to receive the credit himself, 
to take away man's freedom, to destroy Ms hope of eternal progress, 
and to make him, a slave of Satan. Lucifer's offer was rejected and 
his rebellion came immediately. Jesus Christ then offered to imple- 
ment God's plan and to give all credit to God. Christ's offer was 
accepted. God's plan involved creating the earth for men to live 
on, preserving their freedom, sending to earth those who chose to 
come, giving them bodies, and thus presenting them the opportunity 
to work for their own exaltation. 

Our pre-existence was our first estate and our experiences on earth 
are our second estate. Here we come to understand the nature of 
gross matter, and are able to cultivate our inherent Godlike attributes. 
Our most important occupation on this earth is to improve and to 
develop in ourselves those qualities which win lead to the higher de- 
grees of exaltation in the next life. Death apparently is an inherent 
part of man's destiny "because some sin is inevitable," and death is 
the result of sin. However, we are freed from the consequences of sin 
by "a sacrifice of ultimate magnitude, the death of a very God." 23 

Thus we can participate in the resurrection and receive back our 
bodies because of the atonement by Jesus Christ. 

The next life has two phases. The first occurs between death and 
the resurrection. How long this phase will last for any individual is 
not known; but Mormons believe that the righteous will be the first 
to receive back their bodies. In the second phase of the next life, 
after the resurrection, men will have the benefit both of their 
experience on earth and of their experience during their pre-existence. 
The degree of a person's exaltation in this second phase will depend 
on the quality of his own efforts. There are three degrees of glory in 
the next life, second phase. The highest will be the celestial; in it 
one will Ive literally in the presence of God. The middle degree will 
be the terrestrial; it will be for those who though they lived honor- 
ably failed to keep God's law. They are denied God's presence, but 
Jesus Christ will come unto them. The lowest degree is the telestial; 
it is occupied by the largest number of men and women, those who 
have rejected Christ and have had no interest in his program. 

Mormons are universalists; they believe all men (except the very 
few Sons of Perdition, whose fate is uncertain) will be saved, that is, 
will finally arrive at the next life. But the degree of one's glory there 
will depend on oneself, on his works. 

Mormon views of God are unusual according to traditional Chris- 
tian standards. In the godhead are three gods: the Father, the Son, 
and the Holy Ghost. They are three separate beings, not three in one; 
they have one purpose but are three beings. The Holy Ghost is "a 
personage of spirit"; the Father and the Son have bodies of flesh and 
bone. The corporeality of God is one of the basic Mormon doc- 
trines. To deny it is to "depersonalize" God. Christ himself said, 
"If ye have seen me, ye have seen the Father," and everyone ac- 
knowledges that the Christ had a body when he said it. In the Book 
of Mormon is written the following: "He saw the finger of the Lord; 
and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood." 24 

The principle of eternal progression applies to God as well as 
to men. Joseph Smith once said, "God himself was once as we 
are now, and is an exalted man and sits enthroned in yonder 
heavens." 25 Moreover, He gained his present glory through his own 
efforts and righteousness. In other words, He is a self-made God. 


The logic of these beliefs adds up to polytheism rather than to 
monotheism. One Mormon apostle wrote: 

During the onward march of the Supreme Being, other intelligent 
beings were likewise engaged, though less vigorously, in acquiring power 
over the forces of the universe. . . . Next to God, there may be, there- 
fore, other intelligent beings so nearly approaching his power as to be 
coequal with him in all things so far as our finite understanding can per- 
ceive. These beings may be immeasurably far from God in power, never- 
theless immeasurably above us mortal men of the earth. 26 

The possibility that some men can ultimately achieve Godhood is 
definitely held before the Mormon faithful. A familiar Mormon state- 
ment is: "As man is now, God once was; as God is now, man may 
become." Nevertheless, Mormons think of God's attributes very 
much as do traditional Christians. He is omniscient, merciful, just, 
possessor of an infinite authority, deeply concerned for the welfare 
of all men. 

Clearly, Mormonism is an activist religion, one which puts great 
emphasis on works. What are the works men must accomplish on 
earth in order to increase the degree of their exaltation in the next 
life? First, they must have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith is 
more than a simple, "I believe." It is a living force in a person's life 
which gives Mm the power to endure. Second, men must repent. 
Repentance is more than a simple expression of regret. True repent- 
ance results in casting out of life the evils which sully it. Faith and 
repentance must be demonstrated before a person is accepted into 
church membership, and membership is necessary if a person is to 
gain any degree of exaltation. The essential step in becoming a 
church member is baptism. This ordinance is performed by immer- 
sion, and takes place after a person becomes eight years old, 
the age when Mormons believe a boy or girl is able to know right 
from wrong and thus has reached the age of accountability. After 
baptism a person is confirmed as a church member and receives the 
Gift of the Holy Ghost through the laying on of hands. After receiv- 
ing this gift, persons of merit have the constant companionship of 
the Holy Ghost; He increases resistance to temptation, strengthens 
spiritual and mental abilities, and is a source of deep inspiration. Per- 
sons of outstanding merit receive even greater gifts from the Holy 


Ghost. These may include prophecy, spiritual healing, speaking in 
tongues, the power to work miracles, the power to discern spirits. 
These gifts '*are given to bless and not to display to satisfy the curios- 
ity of men." 27 

Another work which males may perform is labor for the Church 
as a priest. Ordination is open to all worthy males twelve years of 
age or over and is entered into by about half of the eligible men and 
boys. The priesthood has two orders. The lower order is the Aaronic 
Priesthood; the higher order is the Melchizedek Priesthood. A young 
man becomes eligible for the higher order at age nineteen. Both of 
the priesthoods are divided into three grades or offices; the major 
positions in the Church are given of course to persons who have the 
highest office in the Melchizedek order; they are called high priests. 

The degree of exaltation which a person can attain in the next life 
is affected by his family life on earth. President McKay declared, 
"Parenthood is next to Godhood." Mormon marriage is of two kinds: 
for time and for eternity. Marriage for time is valid only for this life; 
at death this kind of marriage ceases. Persons who have been mar- 
ried only for time can have but limited glory in the next world; 
Joseph Smith wrote that they "are appointed angels in heaven; which 
angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy 
of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory." 28 
But marriage for eternity, also called celestial marriage, is valid in the 
next life and brings great glory. 

... if a man marry a wife by my word . . . and it is sealed unto 
them by the Holy Spirit of promise . . . [they] shall inherit thrones, 
kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths 
. . . they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to 
their exaltation and glory in all things. . . . Then shall they be gods, be- 
cause they have no end. 29 

Celestial marriage is performed only for those who are fully worthy 
and includes the "sealing" of one partner to the other in a service 
which may be witnessed only by Mormons in good standing. 

Mormons are opposed to birth control. The reason for this op- 
position is that procreation is the only means whereby the yet un- 
born, pre-existent spirits, whose number is definite, can reach earth, 
receive bodies, and begin the work of their own self-improvement. 


Having children is thus a religious duty. The Mormon birthrate is 
said to be 50 per cent Mgher than the birthrate of the rest of the 
nation. 30 

Vicarious baptism for the dead is a distinctive Mormon practice. 
Persons who died before they had a chance to be baptized into the 
Mormon faith can be baptized by proxy, living persons, usually direct 
descendants, being immersed instead. Since baptism is believed to 
be essential to salvation and since it can be performed only on the 
earth, baptism of unbaptized spirits already in the next life is a work of 
great mercy which brings additional glory. This work also may be wit- 
nessed only by Mormons in good standing. The belief in the im- 
portance of baptism for the dead, especially for ancestors, leads to a 
marked interest in genealogy; the Church possesses a large genealogi- 
cal library and "also a rapidly expanding file of microfilm records of 
international scope." 31 

Both celestial marriage and baptism for the dead are performed 
only in temples. The first of the Mormon temples was constructed at 
Kktland, Ohio, in the 1830's; it is now in the possession of the Re- 
organized Church and is open to the public. The temples of the Utah 
Church, however, are places where only private services take place, 
and accordingly only worthy Mormons are admitted. About a dozen 
of these buildings now exist. The majority are in the American West 
with the most famous located in Salt Lake City. Temples have re- 
cently been dedicated in foreign lands. One is now found in Switzer- 
land, one in England, and one in New Zealand. The famous taber- 
nacle in Salt Lake City, a building to which strangers are admitted, 
is not a temple but a place of public assembly. 

At the time of the beginning of the Millennium it may be near 
at hand Christ will come to earth. This period will be an era of 
peace: the righteous will have full power; Satan will be bound. Chil- 
dren will be born and will "live to the age of a tree" and then be 
changed from mortality to immortality in the "twinkling of an eye." 
After the Millennium, Satan will be loosed to tempt men for a little 
season. Then will come the Final Judgment and men will be assigned 
to glories according to their works, some to the telestial, some to the 
terrestrial, and* some to the celestial. 

Two earthly localities will be designated for the gathering of the 


saints: one will be in the Eastern Hemisphere at Jerusalem; the 
other will be in the Western Hemisphere at Zion. Joseph Smith re- 
ceived a revelation which indicated that Zion will be located at In- 
dependence, Missouri. 

Some of these beliefs are vigorously denied by the smaller of the 
two main branches of Mormonism. The Reorganized Church of Jesus 
Christ of Latter Day Saints affirms the following propositions: God 
is eternal and unchangeable; He is one; it is blasphemy to say He 
was once a man; baptism for the spirits of the dead is not essential 
to their salvation; the salvation of all persons depends not on any 
human action but solely on the saving grace of Jesus Christ; "God 
promised that Joseph Smith's blessing of prophetic leadership would 
be placed on the head of Ms posterity"; "None of the leaders of the 
Church in Utah have been of the seed of Joseph Smith and thus do 
not come within the promise of God"; 32 temples should be erected 
only after direct revelation; only the Kirfland Temple has God's 
sanction; the whole system of temple rituals as practiced by the Utah 
Church has no necessary relation to salvation; the doctrine of polyg- 
amy was vigorously attacked by Joseph Smith; he never received 
a revelation sanctioning it; he never practiced it; the true restoration 
movement has always been monogamous. 

The rest of the material in this chapter concerns the Utah group. 


Few large religious groups show as much zeal as do the Mormons; 
concern for their Church and its welfare is second for them only to 
concern for their families. All worthy Church members give a tithe, 
that is, they give a tenth of all income to the Church. The percentage 
of the members which actually meets this high standard is remark- 
ably large. One Mormon author noted that in a recent year the 
percentage of tithers in his ward, the Mormon name for the local 
Church, was 68 per cent of the membership. 33 

The wards are run by persons who in most denominations would 
be called laymen. They receive no salaries from the Church and 
earn their livings by secular pursuits. At the head of the ward is an 
official who has the title of Bishop. He holds the rank of high priest, 


and has two counselors who also are high priests. The wards are 
organized into stakes. Above the stakes are the General Authorities, 
the top agency of the whole Church. 

The General Authorities are thirty-four men. The ranking body in 
this group is the First Presidency. It consists of the President of the 
Church who is also "Prophet, Seer, and Revelator," and two coun- 
selors. Next in power and distinction is the Quorum of the Twelve 
Apostles; when this group acts unanimously, its authority is equal 
to that of the First Presidency. The Twelve Apostles have eight 
assistants. Next comes the First Council of Seventy, seven men 
who preside over the "seventies." Next comes the Presiding Bishopric, 
three men who administer the temporal affairs of the Church. The 
thirty-fourth man is the Patriarch; his function is to dispense special, 
personal blessings to Church members. He is normally a descendant 
of Joseph Smith, Sr., the father of Joseph Smith, Jr. These General 
Authorities serve for life, and along with a few assistants and a few 
heads of missions are the only persons in the whole active leadership 
of the Church who do not support themselves. Those who do receive 
support are not paid "salaries"; instead they receive modest "living 

Mormon zeal is nowhere more manifest than in the Church's mis- 
sionary program. Worthy members are called by the First Presidency 
to spread the Church's message by accepting full-time missionary 
service. The usual pattern is for young men between twenty and 
twenty-five years of age to give two years of service at their own or 
their family's expense. They must be members of the Melchizedek 
Priesthood and during their period of service must live under strict 
discipline. Two by two they go among non-Mormons seeking op- 
portunity to spread the message. Through personal contacts, door-to- 
door canvassing, speaking, tract distribution and similar activities, 
they meet potential converts; about 40 per cent of the rapid Mor- 
mon growth comes from conversion, mostly the conversion of 
adults. 34 Today about six thousand persons are serving as full-time 
missionaries. An additional eight thousand serve as part-time mis- 
sionaries. The members of this group continue to work at their regu- 
lar jobs, but give eight or more hours per week, in the evenings 
and on the weekend, to the work of proselytizing. As a result of this 

vigorous program, three new chapels are dedicated each week, on 
the average. 

The Mormons do not emphasize the social gospel. A considerable 
reading of recent Church periodicals published by the Church dis- 
closed, for example, no forthright statement dealing with the prob- 
lem of war. At the General Conference in 1958 a member of the 
Presiding Bishopric did say, "Faith is the answer. . . . Because of 
the righteousness of the people, the Lord has seen fit to protect a 
nation." 35 Most Christians would not quarrel with this proposition, 
but it is a long way from a positive program for preserving peace. 
Concerning the race question, Mormons seem to be silent. In my 
reading of Mormon periodicals I found no discussion at all of segrega- 
tion; moreover, while Negroes are admitted to membership in the 
Church, no Negro may become a member of the priesthood. The 
justification for such discrimination lies in the belief that Negroes 
made certain choices before their birth. 36 On economic justice, how- 
ever, the Church becomes considerably more positive. The emphasis 
here is on the values of the free-enterprise system. Ezra Taft Benson, 
Secretary of Agriculture in the Eisenhower Administration and a 
member of the Council of the Twelve, echoed the general opinion 
when he said at the General Conference in 1958, "Let us remember 
that we are a prosperous people today because of a free enterprise 
system founded on spiritual, not material values." 37 Concern for 
persons in economic need led during the depression years to the estab- 
lishment of the famous Welfare Program. No Mormon, it is said, need 
ever be forced to accept public relief. The Church has an abundance 
of supplies kept on hand from which help is given to persons who are 
unable to meet their own needs. Usually goods rather than money are 
dispensed. The emphasis of the Welfare Program is to help people 
find the skills and secure the employment which will make them 

As a means of increasing the relief resources, faithful Mormons 
fast for two meals on the first Sunday of each month and give the 
money which is saved to the Church. 

The Church enjoins a strict avoidance of tobacco, liquor, tea, and 

Mormon worship follows frontier Protestant patterns. It is con- 


ducted in a chapel where the pulpit is centrally located, contains es- 
sentially the same elements as does evangelical worship, is on the 
informal side, is characterized by vigorous singing, puts a major em- 
phasis on preaching, is openly used as a tool for the building of 
group morale. The service is conducted by laymen (in the usual 
meaning of that word) and the various tasks in connection with it 
are passed freely from one man to another. The sermon, for ex- 
ample, is not preached regularly by the same person; instead many 
speakers are used. Usually the preacher is an outstanding man from 
the ward, but sometimes the preacher is a guest from another ward, 
sometimes a woman, and sometimes a youth. No collection is ever 
taken. The most solemn part of the service is the Sacrament of the 
Lord's Supper. In it the elements, which are ordinary bread and 
water, are usually blessed by the highest order of the Aaronic priest- 
hood, commonly young men sixteen to nineteen years of age. These 
elements are then passed to the seated congregation by the lowest 
order of the Aaronic priesthood, boys twelve to fourteen. 

Mormon hymns follow the evangelical Protestant pattern; many 
of them are hymns used by the Protestant Churches. Among the first 
thirty hymns printed in the Mormon hymnbook are the following: 
"Abide With Me," "Christ the Lord is Risen Today," "Come, Thou 
Fount of Every Blessing," "Come, Ye Thankful People, Come," and 
"All Creatures of our God and King." Of course the Church uses 
many hymns that are distinctively Mormon. Following is the first 
verse and chorus of a hymn in praise of Joseph Smith. 

Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah! 
Jesus annointed that Prophet and Seer. 
Blessed to open the last dispensation, 
Kings shall extol him, and nations revere. 

Hail to the Prophet, ascended to Heaven! 
Traitors and tyrants now fight him in vain. 
Mingling with Gods, he can plan for his brethren; 
Death cannot conquer the hero again. 

Mormons emphasize community recreation. They seem, because of 
their system of theology, to put major emphasis on the next life; 
but they do not neglect this life, its goods and its joys. Our life on 
earth is one essential aspect of our eternal development; the bodily 
joys are wholesome and profitable; an effort to pursue them right- 

eously is an earthly duty. In harmony with such beliefs, the Church 
sponsors parties, receptions, outings, dinners, movies, concerts, 
dramatic productions, athletic contests. In 1956 the all-church 
basketball tournament attracted twenty-five thousand players and the 
Church's dramatic program attracted over seventy thousand actors. 
In that same year over sixty thousand Church members sang in 
choruses. The world-famous Tabernacle Choir has 375 members. All 
these recreational activities are undertaken as a part of the religious 
life. Where else would a college dance be opened and closed with a 
prayer? 38 

Mormonism is a vital faith. Most observers of the Mormon 
churches in action are struck by the religious concern, the moral 
earnestness, and the deep spiritual security of the members; Mor- 
monism is at or very near the top among American religions in the 
comfort and dynamic which it supplies to its followers. 

Mormons insist that their Church is "the sole earthly repository 
of the eternal Priesthood in the present age" and "the one and only 
Church possessing a god-given charter of authority." 39 A member of 
the Council of Twelve wrote: 

This gospel has often been spoken of as a way of life. This however 
is not quite accurate. Consisting as it does of the principles and ordi- 
nances necessary to man's exaltation, it is not just a way of life, it is 
the one and only way of life by which men may accomplish the full 
purpose of their mortality. 40 



ALTHOUGH CHRISTIAN SCIENTISTS often insist that spiritual healing 
is not the most important part of their religion, healing is the best- 
known part and the most effective means Christian Scientists have 
of winning converts. Accordingly this chapter will begin with a testi- 
mony which relates a startling claim concerning the healing power of 
Christian Science. Dr. Ernest H. Lyons, Jr., professor of chemistry 
at Principia College told the following story over television. 

I was preparing a compound and I had to start with potassium cya- 
nide. ... To start the work I melted the potassium cyanide in an iron 
dish over a powerful burner. I set the iron stirring rod on the edge of 
the dish and turned away briefly. When I reached for the iron rod again 
I picked it up by the hot end. I dropped it immediately, but not before 
my hand was severely burned, and I could see crystals of the poison 
dislodged from the rod hi the wound. But I was not frightened of poison- 
ing for I was conscious of the presence of infinite Life, God, overruling 
the picture of accident and possible death. I washed my hand hi water 
and wrapped it in a towel, and I was able to go ahead and complete the 
preparation. Within three days scarcely a scar remained and in less than 
a week all effects disappeared. Later I talked to an expert on cyanide 
poisoning and he told me that such an experience would ordinarily prove 
fatal in a few minutes. 

Some viewers of the program doubted Dr. Lyons* competence as a 
chemist. In reply to one correspondent he wrote that his professional 
background included a B.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Tech- 
nology, a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, twelve years of 
service as Chief Chemist for the Meaker Company, and a summer 
of lecturing in chemistry at the University of Illinois. After learning 



these facts, a fellow chemist wrote Dr. Lyons a letter which read 
in part: 

As a chemist, you should be loath to give such testimony and make 
such statements as you did when you have no way of determining the 
amount of cyanide absorbed into your system at the time of the accident. 
Many of us in chemistry handle violent poisons, sometimes with our 
bare hands, and we do not suffer from them if we handle them intelli- 

In reply, Dr. Lyons wrote a letter, a part of which follows: 

The accident occurred when I was preparing potassium cyanide in 
order to carry out the Wohler synthesis of urea. The wound, which ex- 
tended across my right palm, exposed the tendons. There appeared to 
be several masses of white crystals in the fluids and burned tissues, but 
naturally I did not take time for an extended inspection. The wound 
was so deep that for some days my hand was drawn together. 

There appear to be five possible explanations for my survival: 

1. The material was not potassium cyanide. An old sample might be 
completely hydrolyzed to the carbonate. In this event, it would have 
been impossible to obtain urea. I obtained 10.8 g., whereas Coben's 
laboratory manual specifies 15 g. There is no reason to expect decomposi- 
tion of the cyanide on the stirring rod. 

2. The shock, pain, and fright might have led me to imagine crystals 
in the wound, or to mistake pieces of skin for crystals. Since the end of 
the stirring rod was heavily coated with crystals, it is virtually incon- 
ceivable that some were not dislodged and entered the wound, whether I 
saw them or not. After the first shock, I was surprisingly calm, and I 
doubt that hysteria influenced my observation. 

3. The amount of potassium cyanide absorbed was below the lethal 
level. This level is so low that such an occurrence is highly improbable. 
Furthermore, even a much smaller absorption leads to milder symptoms, 
none of which were observed. 

4. The cyanide was washed out of the wound without being absorbed. 
In the opinion of a safety expert from duPont, sent to check the safety 
practices of my former employers, who use cyanide in ton lots, this is 
impossible under the circumstances described. . . . 

5. Cyanide was absorbed but rendered harmless by the higher law 
of life. Although this may sound incredible, such instances are not un- 
common to Christian Scientists. There is ample evidence, meeting both 
legal and scientific standards, that Christian Science healings have oc- 
curred which contravene material laws. In many instances, competent 
medical diagnoses were made before and afterwards. 1 

This illustration shows clearly that from the point of view of ordi- 
nary common sense some of the claims of Christian Science are not 


short of fantastic. Nevertheless, for many thousands of Americans, 
they are the very essence of a correct view of life. An effort to under- 
stand these claims and to see why they are believed by intelligent and 
alert people should begin with a study of Christian Science's founder 
and leader. 


Mrs. Eddy was born in 1821 near the capital of New Hampshire, 
in the township of Bow. Mark Baker, her farmer father, was a Con- 
gregationalist of the stern Calvinist type common in that day. She 
said in her autobiography that he believed in "a final judgment-day, 
in the danger of endless punishment, and in a Jehovai merciless 
toward unbelievers." She added that the minister of the family 
church "was apparently as eager to have unbelievers in these dogmas 
lost, as he was to have elect believers converted and rescued from 
perdition." 2 

Her religious powers developed early, she wrote; at about age eight, 
she, like the biblical Samuel, heard a voice calling her name, and at 
age twelve she spoke in the church so earnestly that she confounded 
her elders and that "even the oldest church-members wept." 3 "Mary 
Baker Eddy's earthly experiences were and are often likened to those 
of Jesus." 4 

At age twenty-three, she married George Glover, a building con- 
tractor of Charleston, South Carolina. After but six months of 
marriage, Mr. Glover was suddenly attacked by a severe case of 
"bilious fever" and in less than two weeks died leaving his wife 
almost penniless and pregnant; she had to return to the home of her 
parents where her son was born. After six years her mother also 
died and within a few months her father married again. Since she 
did not get along with her stepmother, Mary went to live at the 
home of her well-to-do sister, Abigail; her son, apparently wanted by 
neither stepmother nor sister, was sent to live with a neighbor. He 
grew to maturity in that family. 

In an effort to support herself, Mrs. Glover opened a school; but 
it was unsuccessful. She did a good deal of writing poetry, essays, 
and fiction but had only modest success. Subsequently her health, 
never robust, went into decline. Her official biographer wrote: 


Mary was often confined to her bed for long periods. She was afflicted 
with a spinal weakness which caused spasmodic seizures, followed by 
prostration which amounted to a complete nervous collapse. . . . Abigail 
sought in divers ways to make her sister more comfortable. She had a 
divan fitted with rockers to give Mary a change from long hours in bed. 5 

Unfriendly biographers have asserted that her illness was hysterical 
in nature rather than organic, that the "divan fitted with rockers" 
was in fact a huge cradle, and that Mary was straggling to recapture 
the infantile comforts of her earliest years. 6 

After nine years of widowhood, she married Dr. Daniel Patterson, 
a traveling dentist. At the time of the wedding, she was too ill to 
walk downstairs by herself, and had to be carried down to the cere- 
mony. Now began the most unhappy years of a very rugged and 
often insecure life. Patterson's practice was not lucrative and he was 
usually in financial difficulties; they lived at first in a dingy tenement 
underneath a tailor's shop; and Mary was often prostrate with ill- 
ness. During the Civil War, Patterson was so unfortunate as to be 
captured by the enemy and spent months in a Confederate prison. 
At this time, Mrs. Patterson again went to live with her sister. Since 
her health continued unimproved, she was sent to Dr. Vail's Water 
Cure Sanitarium at Hill, New Hampshire, but at the end of three 
months of treatment was worse off than at the beginning. 

But now a new day was about to dawn for her. In Portland, Maine, 
the fame of Phineas P. Quimby as a mental healer had become firmly 
established and was spreading rapidly over New England. He was 
a clockmaker who had had only six months of schooling. But he had 
witnessed some of the therapeutic values in hypnotism, and later 
through Ms own experimentation had stumbled onto the values of 
simple suggestion. Mrs. Patterson became convinced that he could 
help her, and in October, 1862, she journeyed to Portland. Under 
his treatments, she seemed miraculously restored to health, her 
symptoms disappeared, and her spirits revived. Naturally she was 
jubilant. In the Portland Courier of November 7 ? 1862, she wrote: 

Three weeks since I quitted my nurse and sick room en route for 
Portland. The belief of my recovery had died out of the hearts of those 
who were most anxious for it. With this mental and physical depression 
I first visited P. P. Quimby; and in less than one week from that time I 
ascended by a stairway of one hundred and eighty two steps to the dome 
of the City Hall, and am improving ad infinitumJ* 


After staying in Portland for several weeks, she and her husband, 
who had escaped from prison, took up residence in Lynn, Massachu- 
setts, where he sought to establish a practice. Her cure unfortu- 
nately was not permanent; under pressure of the uncertain Patterson 
finances, her symptoms began to reappear. Accordingly in order 
to receive Quimby's treatment she returned to Portland for two 
other visits. 

On the evening of February 1, 1866, in Lynn, occurred the acci- 
dent which Christian Scientists look upon as the event which led 
to the discovery of Christian Science. On the way to a meeting, she 
slipped on the ice and was injured so badly she was carried uncon- 
scious into a nearby house. Reports concerning the seriousness of 
her injury vary sharply. Concerning it she wrote: 

Two weeks ago I fell on the sidewalk, and struck my back on the ice, 
and was taken up for dead. . . . The physician attending me said I had 
taken the last step I ever should, but in two days I got out of my bed 
alone and -will walk. 

Five years later she wrote: 

Dr. Gushing of this city, pronounced my injury incurable and that I 
could not survive three days because of it. 8 

Thirty-eight years later, Dr. Gushing made an affidavit in which 
he said in part: 

I ... kept a careful and accurate record, in detail, of my various 
cases. ... I found her very nervous, partially unconscious, semi-hysteri- 
cal. ... I did not at any time declare, or believe, that there was no 
hope of Mrs. Patterson's recovery, or that she was in a critical condition. 

Whatever were the facts concerning the seriousness of the fall, 
Mrs. Patterson came to regard her recovery as spiritual rather than 
physical, and Christian Scientists came to regard it as the birth of 
their religion. The revelation began at that time. Years later when 
the movement was well established, she wrote: 

On the third day thereafter [after the accident], I called for my Bible, 
and opened it at Matthew IX. 2.* As I read, the healing Truth dawned 
upon my sense. 10 

* "And behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a 
hed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, be of good 
cheer; thy sins are forgiven." 

But Mrs. Patterson still had some very hard years ahead. Her 
marriage had proved so unhappy that finally she and the dentist 
separated. "For several years he sent her an annual allowance of 
two hundred dollars;" 11 but eventually even that amount ceased to 
come, and in 1873 she obtained a divorce. Since she had no home 
of her own, and since her family refused further help, she lived in 
rooming houses or with friends. But over and over she was forced 
to move because of inability to pay her bills or because of conflicts 
with her hosts. She moved nine times in less than four years and 
once was put out into the street at night in a heavy rain. These 
struggles left their mark; how could it have been otherwise? Critics 
who in later years became sarcastic over her concern for money failed 
to give adequate consideration to her years of financial desperation. 
Her attention now was centered on healing. The new methods 
fascinated her and she spent a great deal of time studying them. She 
had profited greatly by her experiences with Quimby and did a 
great deal of thinking herself about the problem. Everywhere she 
went in Lynn she talked of healing. Some of her friends also became 
fascinated and wanted to be taught the new art. Moreover, they were 
willing to pay for instruction. Thus began the major career of her 
life. Some healings by her are recorded; but her pre-eminent success 
was as a teacher of healers. She became outstanding at it. And yet 
success came slowly and with difficulty. Not until the publication of 
her first and most important book was her career really launched. 

She had always wanted to be an author and had spent much of 
her energy writing smaller pieces. Now she had a topic worthy of 
her best efforts; therefore, she determined to write a book. The going 
was very hard, as it is at the beginning with many an author. She 
spent four years on the first draft, and then for some years afterward 
was unable to find a publisher. Finally two of her students put up 
the money which made publication possible. But sales were extremely 
slow. So slow in fact that door-to-door peddling was finally resorted 
to. But in the end persistence won out. Published in her fifty-fourth 
year, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures eventually went 
into 382 "editions" and has probably sold close to a million copies, 
according to one estimate; 12 a Church official, however, wrote of this 
estimate that it "seems fantastically inadequate." 


The book is hard reading for the person who has not had prior in- 
troductions to its major teachings. Many a person knowing of its 
influence and fame has taken it up for study but has been unable or 
unwilling to read far. Yet Christian Scientists think of it as a revela- 
tion from God. One writer in a recent issue of The Christian Science 
Journal said that Science and Health "contains ... the ultimate 
Word of God." 13 In the same magazine the Directors of the Mother 
Church wrote, "Hers was indeed the complete and final revelation 
of Truth." 14 

On the other hand, some non-Christian Scientists have been very 
caustic about the book. Mark Twain wrote of it: "When you read it 
you seem to be listening to lively and aggressive and oracular 
speech delivered in an unknown tongue." 15 An unfriendly biographer 
wrote, "It was at once a flight from reality and from the self within." 16 
A considerable amount of effort has been put into showing that the 
real source of Science and Health was one of the much-discussed 
movements of that day: Quimbyism, or Transcendentalism, or Hindu- 
ism, or Hegelianism. The outright plagiarism of some passages has 
been asserted and considerable data have been forthcoming to sus- 
tain the allegation. 17 However, some scholars who are essentially very 
critical of her works have either not been willing to accept the 
assertion or have denied it. 18 One unfriendly biography reads: "There 
was no question of direct plagiarism."* 9 Probably all students other 
than those with Christian Science leanings would at least agree that 
the author of Science and Health was heavily in debt to the thought 
of her own times even though she put on her work the stamp of her 
own creative abilities. Christian Scientists, however, indignantly deny 
the charge of plagiarism and vigorously assert the complete originality 
of Science and Health, except for its firm footing in the Bible. Its 
real source is said to be God Himself. She "was under the conviction," 
writes one painstaking student of Christian Science, "that Science 
and Health had been dictated to her by divine revelation." 20 She 
once wrote, "What can improve God's work?" 21 And she hinted that 
the little book in the hand of the angel written about in the Apoc- 
alypse, Chapter X, was Science and Health** 

The first edition of Science and Health appeared in 1875. In that 
same year the holding of public Christian Science meetings began. 


Two years later she married Asa Gilbert Eddy, one of her students. 
He proved to be a person markedly responsive to her moods and 
deeply concerned for Christian Science. His death after but five 
years was a serious blow not only to her personal happiness but 
also to her science of healing. She contended he died not of natural 
causes but from the malicious mental influences cast on him by her 
enemies. Apparently she had many enemies at this time for she was 
engaged in several embarrassing lawsuits. Late in the 1870's she 
began to teach classes and to hold services in Boston; soon she made 
that city her headquarters. 

At age sixty, Mrs. Eddy founded the Massachusetts Metaphysical 
College. This institution was remarkable indeed. The campus was 
one or two rooms in Mrs. Eddy's home, the faculty consisted of no 
one but herself, the curriculum contained but two courses, and the 
course met for only twelve sessions. Yet the College was hugely 
successful. Even though the tuition charged was three hundred dollars, 
at the end of six and one-half years she had taught over six hundred 
students. Even counting generous scholarships, a return of well over 
one hundred thousand dollars must have been realized. Her students 
became healers and centers for the propagation of Christian Science. 
When Mrs. Eddy no longer wished to continue teaching, she tried 
to turn the College over to associates; but they did not have her 
spark, insight, and classroom presence. Accordingly she closed the 
College after nine years of operation. 

Although Mrs. Eddy had been holding public services for a 
number of years, first in Lynn and then in Boston, her church was 
not formally organized until 1879. Growth was slow at the beginning; 
after three years the membership numbered only about fifty. But 
after eight more years, the story was different; over a hundred 
churches and societies had sprung up in various parts of the country. 
In 1892, the present form of organization was adopted and a charter 
granted. The name chosen was: The First Church of Christ, Scientist, 
in Boston, Massachusetts. This organization, called the Mother 
Church, is the primary Christian Science institution; it is governed 
by a self-perpetuating Board of Directors. Today the Mother Church 
has branch churches all over the world. 

Mrs. Eddy died in 1910. In the last years of her life, she was 


one of the most famous women in the world. She grew very wealthy, 
the newspapers printed a great deal concerning her activities and 
opinions, and thousands of her followers would have done for her 
anything she asked. 


A frequent statement about Christian Science is that it is neither 
Christian nor science. A consideration of each of these accusations 
is an excellent way to begin an explanation of the essential beliefs of 
this faith. 

The word Christian has a wide range of meanings. A "Christian 
act," for example, is one which has in it much of kindness and con- 
cern for others; Christian acts are of course often performed by 
Moslems, Shintoists, atheists, and other non-Christians. A "Christian 
nation" is one in which a majority of the citizens call themselves 
Christians; all Christian nations of course do many things which 
could not be classed as "Christian acts." In view of such a confusion 
of meaning, anyone who claims that the word must be restricted to 
some narrow and partisan meaning is clearly going contrary to 
current usage. And yet such claims are common. Sectarians of one 
type or another often say that no person is a Christian unless he 
has received a certain sacrament, or accepts a certain organization, or 
holds a certain belief, or can testify to a certain experience. On such 
grounds, the name Christian has been denied to Protestants, to Uni- 
tarians, to Quakers, to persons who do not believe in the deity of 
Jesus, to persons without a Pentecostal experience. 

Such eiforts to restrict narrowly the meaning of the word are 
unfortunate. They stem from beliefs that somehow it can be limited 
to persons whose acts are worthy or whose beliefs are true. A better 
practice would be to define the word in the same broad and inclusive 
way that the word American is defined, in such a manner as to in- 
clude many persons whose beliefs and conduct are disapproved of. 
Such a practice has firm support in present-day usage. I suggest that 
a Christian can fairly be defined as a person who has an attitude of 
reverence for the person and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, and 
who strives in some degree to follow his example and to be guided 
by the traditions which have grown up around his name. 


On the basis of such a definition, the Christian Scientists are as 
firmly in the Christian community as is any group. Mrs. Eddy taught 
that Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, was infallible, 
showed mankind the true way of life, mediated between God and 
man, and is " 'the resurrection and the life' to all who follow him 
in deed." 23 She distinguished between Jesus and Christ. "Jesus," she 
wrote, "is the human man, and Christ is the divine idea." 24 In view 
of such veneration of Jesus and of Christ, anyone who would deny 
the term Christian to Christian Science no doubt seeks a narrow 
usage which would deny the term to a large percentage of those 
whom the world now calls Christian. 

The term science is also used in several different ways. Popularly 
it often has a sort of institutional connotation, referring to the men, 
the organizations, and the equipment which are concentrated on 
the modern effort to study nature. Somewhat more narrowly, the 
word is sometimes used to indicate the results of such a study, the 
facts and the principles which students of nature discover. A still 
narrower usage emphasizes the methods by which physical nature is 
studied, the methods of direct observation, experimentation, and 
induction. If the term science is restricted to such usages, then it is 
misappropriated in the name Christian Science. However, there is 
a meaning of the word, perhaps more in vogue a hundred years ago 
than today, which applies it to the search for truth, to the effort 
to discover the nature of reality, to knowledge which is "compre- 
hensive, profound, or philosophical" as Webster's New International 
Dictionary (2nd edition) puts it. This is the meaning which Christian 
Scientists employ. They deny as emphatically as anyone that their 
system is scientific in the sense that science centers in the study of 
material nature. But they are positive that they have discovered the 
true nature of reality, that they have a knowledge of man and of the 
universe which is comprehensive and profound, and that this knowl- 
edge has been gained empirically, that is, from experience, and is 
capable of proof through demonstration. Accordingly from their 
point of view, theirs is the only true science, the only true knowledge. 

What is this knowledge? 

The basic tenet of Christian Science is the allness of God and the 


denial that anything truly exists which is not God or His manifesta- 
tion. Mrs. Eddy wrote: 

God is All-in-all. . . . nothing possesses reality nor existence except 
the divine Mind and His ideas. 

God is infinite, the only Life, substance, Spirit, or Soul, the only 
intelligence of the universe, including man. 25 

A corollary to the belief in the allness of God is a belief in the 
nonexistence of matter. Mrs. Eddy wrote: 

Matter is neither substantial, living, nor intelligent. 

God, Spirit, being all, nothing is matter. 

That matter is substantial ... is one of the false beliefs of mortals. 26 

Perhaps the best known summary of this point of view is the 
"Scientific Statement of Being"; it is found on page 468 of Science 
and Health and is recited at each Christian Science Sunday service. 
This statement has been called "the center of the doctrine of Christian 
Science." 27 

There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is 
infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all. Spirit 
is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error. Spirit is real and eternal; 
matter is unreal and temporal. Spirit is God, and man is His image and 
likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual. 

Strange as these ideas may seem to some readers, they have a 
familiar sound to the student of the philosophy of religion. The 
"allness of God" is usually called pantheism which is a belief that 
the universe itself and everything in it is God. Pantheism is a promi- 
nent aspect of Hinduism, is basic to some well-known Western 
philosophical systems (Spinozism, for example), and is close kin 
to the immanentism of some extreme religious liberals. Mrs. Eddy, 
however, was not a pantheist even though some of her words may 
read as though she were. She frequently said she was not and wrote: 
"Man is not God, and God is not man." 28 "Man is the offspring . . . 
of the highest qualities of Mind." 29 

The unreality of matter is also an idea which is familiar to the 
student of the history of thought. A whole school of philosophy, 
idealism, affirms that the basic reality is mind, and some of the 
world's greatest philosophers (Berkeley, for example) have held 
that man can have true knowledge of no other order of existence. 

Such a proposition seems to be egregious twaddle to the average 
common-sense realist. Yet belief in the nonexistence of matter can 
be based on some very sober thinking. Our knowledge of any material 
object, a tree for example, is not of the object itself, but of the sen- 
sations which are produced in us. We do not experience a tree as 
such. Rather we see the greenness of its leaves, the brownness of 
its bark, and the shape of its contour against the sky. We hear the 
noise of the wind in its branches, smell the fragrance of its blossoms, 
and taste the fruit it produces. When we have summed up all the 
sensations produced in us by a tree, we can be certain only of the 
sensations. We may make a leap of faith and believe that these 
sensations are produced by a material object. Such a belief is a 
faith, since the direct experience we have is not of any object but only 
of sensations. Accordingly, why not stop with the sensations? The 
simplest belief to adopt, then, is that what we call a tree is not 
material but rather is a cluster of mental experiences. The logical 
conclusion follows that all reality is mental and that the existence of 
matter cannot be proved. 

Mrs. Eddy did not emphasize this type of defense of her belief 
that matter does not exist. Indeed, her lack of knowledge of the his- 
tory of philosophy is clear. As has been pointed out, Christian Sci- 
entists reiterate their contention that her work was completely orig- 
inal, uninfluenced by any other major writing except the Bible. Mrs. 
Eddy explained that the belief in matter is simply an error of man's 
mind (of mortal mind as she called it), a delusion, a dream. She 

Mortal existence is a dream; mortal existence has no real entity. . . . 
A mortal may be weary or pained, enjoy or suffer, according to the dream 
he entertains in sleep. When that dream vanishes, the mortal finds himself 
experiencing none of these dream-sensations. . . . Now I ask, Is there 
any more reality in the waking dream of mortal existence than in the 
sleeping dream? There cannot be, since whatever appears to be a mortal 
man is a mortal dream. Take away the mortal mind, and matter has no 
more sense as a man than it has as a tree. But the spiritual, real man is 
immortal. 30 

In expanding this theory of Mrs. Eddy's, one of her followers, 
Neil K. Adam, an English chemist, wrote that matter is 


merely a false theory as to the nature of substance. . . . the substance of 
the universe is divine Mind, Spirit, which is neither distant nor unsub- 
stantial, but is present here and now and is permanent, tangible, and sub- 
stantial to the spiritually enlightened consciousness. . . . Natural science 
assumes things to be outside the observer and the mind that studies them. 
... In Christian Science, real creations must be observed and studied 
from the standpoint of divine Mind, which is continuously creating all 
that really is. 31 

Mrs. Eddy dealt with evil in the same way that she dealt with 
matter she denied its reality. Evil is an error of mortal mind. Evil 
cannot exist since God is All-in-all. Evil can have reality only in 
matter, and since matter is an illusion, evil is also an illusion. "Evil 
is nothing, no thing, mind, nor power. As manifested by mankind 
it stands for a lie, nothing claiming to be something." 32 This belief 
lies at the basis of her system of healing, as will be explained later. 

Since all reality is mental, human beings also are mental and not 
material. Man is "wholly apart from matter" declares a writer in a 
recent Christian Science magazine. 33 In Science and Health we read, 
"Man is not matter; he is not made up of brain, blood, bones, and 
other material elements. . . . Man is idea, the image, of Love; he 
is not physique." 34 

Belief in immortality is strong: since man is really in God, he has 
always existed and will always exist in "the ever-present now." 35 
Heaven is not thought to be a place nor to begin after "the change 
called death"; heaven is rather the attainment of divine Mind, the 
gaining of a state which is beyond both time and space. Thus 
Christian Scientists deny the reality of death, do not believe in the 
existence of hell, and believe that in the end all men will be saved. 
In view of Mrs. Eddy's belief in the allness of God, a natural view 
for Christian Science to hold would be that in immortal life human 
personalities are lost in the allness of God. But Christian Scientists 
do not hold this view. They believe strongly in the immortal in- 
dividuality of the person, in the survival of each personality. 

Man is thought to be inherently good. This belief follows naturally 
from the belief that God is all. "God is good, and therefore good is 
infinite, is all." "Man ... in reality has only the substance of good, 
the substance of Spirit." 36 One author wrote of the "pre-existent 
spiritual perfection of every child of God." 37 

Reflection exposes a serious difficulty with the basic Christian 
Science dogma. If God is All-in-all, how does it happen that matter, 
evil, error, could arise? Christian Scientists maintain that the correct 
answer is a practical demonstration of the fact that evil, like the 
proposition "two plus two equals five," does not come from any- 
where and consequently has no existence. Nevertheless, a person 
who is not a Christian Scientist is puzzled by the fact that Christian 
Scientists still struggle against error, which logically could never oc- 
cur if God is All. Like other Christian denominations, Christian 
Science has difficulty in reconciling evil with belief in an all-good 
and an all-powerful God. Theology in all religions often fails to 
account satisfactorily for important aspects of life. Men have ex- 
periences which they are unable to explain adequately. Practice is 
often better than theory. Christian Science started in experiences and 
it continues to live and to flourish because men and women continue 
to have experiences which help them, not because its theology has 
all the answers. 

Mrs. Eddy's ideas about salvation were radical. She attacked tra- 
ditional ideas of the atonement: "How can God propitiate Himself?" 
she wrote, **. . . Christ, Truth, could conciliate no nature above his 
own." "The atonement of Christ reconciles man to God, not God 
to man." 38 True salvation comes from the realization that all is divine 
Mind. Sin, sickness, and death are destroyed by the knowledge that 
matter, the product of mortal mind, is an illusion. Here doubtless is 
the real radicalism of Christian Science. The belief that matter does 
not exist is much more defensible than is the belief that ideas alone 
can effect changes in experience. 

Christian Science here expresses its faith in answer to a problem 
with which all religions deal. The problem is: Can man influence the 
ultimate issues of his life? Two different answers to this question 
are prominent in the religions of our day. One is traditional. It says 
that man can change his circumstances through prayers of petition 
to God, that God may act in a different way because man asks Him 
to do so. The other answer is that the only proper prayer is the 
prayer of communion, the prayer in which man seeks to conform 
his will to the will of God rather than to bend the will of God to con- 
form to man's will. Prayers of communion are the religious expression 


of an attitude which is dominant among modern materialistic sci- 
entists. They hold that men cannot change ultimates but must instead 
discover them, use them, conform to them. 

This latter view is held by Christian Scientists also; they believe 
the truth must be discovered and adhered to. The striking difference 
between the beliefs of Christian Scientists, on the one hand, and the 
beliefs of materialistic scientists and most of the believers in prayers 
of communion, on the other, is in the means man must use in order 
to conform to truth and through conforming to succeed in making 
changes in his experience. Whole-hearted believers in the sufficiency 
of materialistic science assert that the means are wholly material 
Most believers in prayers of communion assert that the means are 
both material and spiritual. But the Christian Scientist asserts that 
the means are wholly spiritual, mental. Moreover, he takes an ex- 
treme form of this view in asserting that the action of the mind is 
direct, it needs no mediators either physical or mental between it- 
self and the desired effect. "Man creates his own experience." 39 This, 
as a leading Christian Scientist says, is truly a "daring" faith. 40 This 
faith holds that the effect of mental action is to make immediate 
changes in experience. "As a man thinketh, so is he. Mind is all that 
feels, acts, or impedes action." 41 Mental facts realization, knowl- 
edge, affirmation, conception, idea leave at once their mark on 
human experience. They determine whether a person lives in ac- 
cordance with divine Mind, Truth, or in accordance with mortal 
mind, error. The extent to which a person overcomes errors deter- 
mines the extent to which he avoids evils, sickness, sin, and unhap- 
piness. These things result from ignorance, misconceptions, and 
denials of the Truth. 

The radicalism of the Christian Science faith is so great as to sug- 
gest some startling possibilities; the healing of human ills is but the 
beginning. One careful student of Christian Science wrote, "Any in- 
dividual who did not share in the erroneous judgment causative to 
the atomic bomb would have had a possibility of escaping the dis- 
aster even though a resident of Hiroshima or Nagasaki." 42 Christian 
Scientists believe that the change called death can be overcome by 
any person who like Jesus is wholly free from error. Jesus was the 
way-shower, the most scientific man who ever lived, 43 and what he 


accomplished we could accomplish if we but had sufficient realization. 
Mrs. Eddy's discovery "has made available a spiritual power that as 
greatly exceeds the usual forms of Christian influence as atomic 
energy exceeds all prior claims of physical power." 44 This power 
comes from a realization of the allness of the divine Mind, from the 
effect of a truly scientific understanding. 

Mrs. Eddy's conception of God is sometimes said to be impersonal. 
She did argue against crudely anthropomorphic ideas of God, but 
many of her statements indicate that she believed in a divine intelli- 
gence. For example, she defined God as "The great I AM; the 
all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; 
Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelli- 
gence." 45 She emphasized the feminine as well as the masculine as- 
pects of God, using the term Father-Mother God; she may have 
learned it from the Shakers, a religious sect who taught it and who 
had a settlement only five miles from her home during her late 
adolescence. She believed in the Trinity, but not in its traditional 
form. "Life, Truth, and Love constitute the triune Person called 
God," she wrote. She also equated the third person of the Trinity 
with divine Science. 46 

Christian Scientists do not deify Mrs. Eddy, Some of them may 
seem to come pretty close, but the emphatic opinion of the Church 
leaders is simply that she was a highly endowed human being guided 
by God to the discovery of divine Science. She is held to be a 
Leader, not God. Acknowledgments of her imperfections can appear 
in the writings of the stanchest Christian Scientists. Robert Peel, 
a member of the Committee on Publication for the Mother Church, 
notes that she employed for a time a Unitarian clergyman to help 
her with her writing, that in the early editions of Science and Health 
the preface began with a dangling participle, that "little Victorian 
touches . . , sometimes decorated her style," that she could indulge 
in "a splash of defiant rhetoric," and that she was not the "paragon 
of academic scholarship" some of her followers thought her to be. 
But Mr. Peel also wrote, "Years after her death many of those who 
knew her best . . . could hardly speak of her without tears filling 
their eyes, even while their faces lighted up with an affection more 
revealing than anything they could say." 47 



The case for spiritual healing is better than most modern Chris- 
tians and Jews are inclined to think. Persons who believe in its 
reality point out that it has a prominent place in the Scriptures, and 
claim that most of the people who reject its possibility have never 
looked at the evidence, but instead have simply adopted a world 
view in which by definition anything other than physical healing is im- 
possible. Belief in spiritual healing is probably growing slowly in the 
Christian denominations. For example: Professor Charles S. Braden 
sent questionnaires to 982 clergymen in the major denominations 
asking, "Have you ever as a minister attempted to perform a spiritual 
healing?" Fourteen per cent replied that they had. 48 The degree of 
faith in spiritual healing which is reached by some religious leaders 
is illustrated by the following passage from a chapter by Professor 
Cyril C. Richardson of Union Theological Seminary in New York. 

We are confronted with overwhelming testimony to remarkable cures. 
However much, moreover, we may discount earlier records, the patient 
researches of the Bureau des Constatattons medicates, at Lourdes, make 
us aware that such things happen in our own day. 

People are cured of a wide range of physical sicknesses without the 
aid of medical or surgical methods. Pulmonary tuberculosis, paralysis, 
rheumatism, fractures, ulcers, and cancer have been permanently healed. 
Of that there can now be no doubt. Nor would we be wise to try to 
explain such cures on the basis of psychosomatic medicine. They are 
much more far-reaching in their dramatic character. Just as many medi- 
cal authorities were in error a half a century ago when they denied 
the existence of such cures, so we now should be in error were we to 
resolve them solely into psychosomatic terms. 49 

Healings might be classified as taking place through physical, psy- 
chological, or spiritual means. Physical healings are accepted as a 
fact by almost everyone except of course the Christian Scientists. 
Psychological healings also receive almost universal acceptance; phy- 
sicians frequently assert that a majority of the ills they treat are 
neurotic rather than physical in origin. The problem is with healings 
by means which are said to be spiritual. A common attitude today 
is that they are in reality not a different order of healing but rather 
are simply psychological cures achieved under religious auspices. 
Some non-Christian Scientist believers in the reality of healing by 

spiritual means are fully aware of this possibility and accept the prob- 
ability that what is usually called a spiritual healing is in fact the 
result of mental and emotional readjustment in the patient's mind. 
But they also assert that healing does take place in the spiritual 
dimension, that there do emerge "latent, creative powers within a 
religious context" 50 which produce physical as well as psychological 
effects. Such cures are rare.* On the other hand, such spiritual cures 
as do take place are said to be sudden, to involve no convalescence, 
and to be permanent. Moreover, it is believed that perhaps they can 
be produced at a distance through intercessory prayer, although they 
cannot be produced on order simply by visiting a shrine or a faith 
healer. 51 

The possibility of spiritual healing receives some support from 
physicians. For example, Gotthard Booth, M.D., Associate, Colum- 
bia University Seminar on Religion and Health, wrote that spiritual 
healing has not been proved impossible, and that "medicine has 
known for some time that 'spontaneous cures' of cancer do occur, 
but so far scientists have not investigated the circumstances under 
which they took place." However, Dr. Booth stated also the negative 
side of the picture: "Almost all physicians have encountered sad 
cases of a curable disease becoming fatal while under some form of 
spiritual treatment." 52 

Most members of the "major denominations" who defend spirit- 
ual healing state emphatically that it should not be relied on to the 
exclusion of other types of healing. Drugs, antiseptics, anesthetics, 
surgery, psychiatry, autosuggestion, all have their place the major 
place in healing. However, these persons contend that God can 
and sometimes does heal through spiritual means alone. Many be- 
lievers in spiritual healing would also affirm that most of the highly 
advertised "faith healers" are at best in error and at worst charlatans. 
They would agree with the famous British clergyman, Leslie Weather- 
head, who wrote: "Healing missions produce in many people black 

* Some students of the cures at Lourdes, the ones which have been most 
carefully investigated, conclude that only "about one per cent (or less) of the 
pilgrims" receive physical healing. See Cyril C. Richardson, "Spiritual Healing 
in the Light of History," in Healing: Human and Divine, Simon Doniger, ed. 
(New York: Association Press, 1957), p. 208. 


depression and hopeless despair. Most of those who attend them are 
not healed, and their last state is often worse than their first." 53 

The beliefs of Christian Scientists about healing vary considerably 
from the ideas outlined above. In the first place, Christian Scientists 
of course deny emphatically that healing is physical. But they deny 
with equal emphasis that healing is psychological; so-called psycho- 
somatic healing assumes the influence of mind over matter, and there 
is no matter. They believe all real healing is spiritual in its nature and 
they deny that it is "rare," limited to "one percent (or less)." Spirit- 
ual forces account for 100 per cent of all genuine healings. The term 
"mental healing" is not in good favor among Christian Scientists when 
it is applied to the healing most people call "psychological." Nor do 
they like the term "faith healing." In the first place, the term tends, 
they feel, to have been pre-empted by a crude kind of performer who 
works on his subjects by assembling crowds, choirs, lights, and other 
paraphernalia in an effort to hypnotize his subjects. And in the second 
place, the ordinary kind of faith has little to do with healing; "faith 
must be lifted to spiritual, scientific understanding if one is to ex- 
perience permanent health and demonstrate God's government of 
man." 54 

For Christian Scientists, healing is a by-product, a secondary result 
of rooting out errors produced by mortal mind, of realizing the true 
nature of reality, of communion with God. Mrs. Eddy herself wrote, 
"Healing physical sickness is the smallest part of Christian Science. 
It is only the bugle-call to thought and action." Sin, sickness, and 
death form the great triad which Mrs. Eddy fought. 55 In the follow- 
ing passage she explains how divine Science enables man to be free 
of them. 

As the mythology of pagan Rome has yielded to a more spiritual idea 
of Deity, so will our material theories yield to spiritual ideas, until the 
finite gives place to the infinite, sickness to health, sin to holiness, and 
God's kingdom comes "in earth, as it is in heaven." The basis of all 
health, sinlessness, and immortality is the great fact that God is the only 
Mind; and this Mind must be not merely believed, but it must be under- 
stood. To get rid of sin through Science, is to divest sin of any supposed 
mind or reality, and never to admit that sin can have intelligence or 
power, pain or pleasure. You conquer error by denying its verity. 56 

Even though getting rid of disease is but one aspect of the Chris- 


tian Science faith, in actual practice members give more attention to 
gaining and maintaining health than to any other phase of their faith. 
A group of professionals called practitioners devote full time to heal- 
ing, make a career of it, and charge fees. Their methods, as has been 
stated, are strictly mental. Their "practice is based on the observation 
that a clear knowledge of the correct metaphysical position is a law 
of destruction to anything unlike it. 3 ' 57 Practitioners deny that they 
deal in miracles, in special acts of God which alter the course of 
nature. They deal rather with nature as it is, with the scientific facts, 
with mind. They have a deep sense of ministry. One practitioner 
wrote, "The faithful practitioner . . . can say with the Master (Matt. 
11:28), 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and 
I will give you rest!' " 5S 

The practitioner tries to bring the realization of Truth, which in 
turn brings healing. He may work audibly or silently, making denials 
of error and affirmations of Truth based on a clear sense of the 
presence of the healing Christ. His effort is not to influence the mind 
of the patient. His effort is to attain the absolute consciousness of 
good, and "through the divine energies ... get out of himself and 
into God so far that his consciousness is the reflection of the divine." 59 
He may work in the presence of the patient, or he may give what is 
called "absent treatment." The practitioner's own knowledge of the 
Truth, of the metaphysical realities, has power to heal. Even knowl- 
edge of the names, addresses, and supposed diseases of patients is 
unnecessary and irrelevant "for everyone touching his thought shares 
in and is blessed by the illumination." 60 Jesus is believed to have 
healed after this manner. Mrs. Eddy wrote: 

Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where 
sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour 
saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick. 61 

Denial of illness goes so far that in case of a supposed accident, 
say a burned finger, the finger should not be looked at or inspected 
in any way. "Inspection of the finger and the expectation of finding 
the marks of burning are ... what produces the familiar effects of 
burning." 62 Pity and anxiety for illness also aggravate the condi- 
tion. On the other hand, compassion for the person who is under 
error's control is in order. 63 


Belief in the power of absent treatment is so great as to lead to a 
general feeling throughout the Church that "addressing the thought" 
of another person without his consent is improper; his right to privacy 
should be respected. 

Unfortunately, there is a negative aspect to the belief in absent 
treatment. If good can be effected in tMs manner, evil can also. Mrs. 
Eddy was much impressed by this possibility and was greatly troubled 
by what she thought were the evil influences sent her way. Even 
though this aspect of Christian Science is much less prominent than 
formerly, the power of "malicious mental malpractice" is still recog- 
nized. Professor Braden wrote, for example, that he has "again and 
again come across a belief . . . that at certain times Roman Catho- 
lic monks deliberately work mentally" for the destruction of Christian 
Science. 64 

Every realist must admit that however he may explain it, healing 
does take place under Christian Science auspices. Persons of all 
classes, degrees of intelligence, and degrees of acquaintance with 
modern trends have been cured when other methods of treatment 
have failed. Testimonies to the healing power of divine Science 
pour by the hundred into the offices of the Mother Church. Of 
course, Christian Scientists do become ill, suffer, and die. They may 
upon occasion even call a doctor. Mrs. Eddy herself used spec- 
tacles, consulted dentists, probably used morphine. 65 The Church 
considers that these actions are not an indication of weakness in 
Christian Science doctrine, but rather of error or sin on the part of 
human beings who are not yet sufficiently free from the domination 
of mortal mind. Members of the Church often avoid direct reference 
to themselves as Christian Scientists, preferring rather to say that they 
are students of Christian Science. 

Contacts with Christian Scientists soon lead one to the conviction 
that they derive an immense benefit from their religion. On the whole 
they are a successful, happy brotherhood, looking on the bright side 
of life. My own observation leads me to the conviction that Christian 
Scientists receive immense benefit in the area which most persons call 
preventive medicine. On the other hand, the insistence that no illness 
is organic in nature is responsible, in the opinion of many observers, 
for much unnecessary suffering. A former dean of the Yale Divinity 


School, Charles R. Brown, is credited with the remark that for every 
adult who has been benefited by Christian Science methods of heal- 
ing, a child has been injured by inadequate medical attention. A 
Christian Science leader answers this charge by saying it is "untrue 
and unfair; as a group the children of Christian Scientists are notori- 
ously healthy. Furthermore, the statement carries an unfair connota- 
tion in its unspoken assumption that other systems may always heal 
in every case." No available statistics compare the percentage of 
healing successes by practitioners and by orthodox physicians. 

Practitioners now have a legal right to practice in every state in 
the Union, and the Church claims that hundreds of insurance com- 
panies now recognize Christian Science treatment as a substitute for 
medical care. 66 

Application of the Christian Science belief in the direct power of 
the mind is made of course to areas other than disease. An editorial 
writer urges the rejection of the "myth of heredity" 67 and a school- 
teacher denies the usefulness of the I.Q.; she wrote, " 'God is All-in- 
all.' God could not, therefore, manifest Himself in any limited way 
to His beloved children." 68 Mrs. Eddy wrote in Science and Health: 
"The daily ablutions of an infant are no more natural nor necessary 
than would be the process of taking a fish out of water every day and 
covering it with dirt." 69 On the other hand, one weakness in Christian 
Science theory and practice seems to be the failure to apply it in some 
very obvious ways. Members of the Mother Church seem to evidence 
as much interest in food, clothing, and the ownership of property as 
do the members of the more earthy sects. Yet logically if the control 
of disease, the destruction of death, and protection from the action of 
atomic bombs can be effected by Christian Science, it can also easily 
dispense with money. Yet I have never seen any writing proposing 
this theory or heard of any Christian Scientist who tried to put it into 
practice. Practitioners send bills, the Church seeks monetary con- 
tributions, and Mrs. Eddy died a millionaire. A spokesman for the 
Committee on Publication for the Mother Church counters this line 
of argument; he wrote in personal correspondence: 

To accept the revolutionary logic of Christian Science theoretically does 
not at once banish the apparent evidence to the contrary. . . . [Full 
demonstration of Christian Science] is not done at one bound. Our effort 


is first of all to wipe out what might be considered the abnormal phases 
of mortal experience, and we would include among these not only sickness 
but gluttony, excessive love of material possessions, economic anxiety, 
and so forth. 


The Board of Directors of the Mother Church was given final 
authority by Mrs. Eddy. This authority has stood up in spite of a 
vigorous challenge fought by a dissident group through the courts 
of Massachusetts. Today the five-member Board rules the Church, 
even though Mrs. Eddy wrote that for the "divine Principle" there 
is no "ecclesiastical monopoly" 70 and urged, "Let us serve instead of 
rule." 71 Professor Braden is of the opinion that this rule is often 
exercised arbitrarily without sufficient regard for individual freedom, 
and concludes at the end of a book largely devoted to the history of 
conflicts within the Church that "there is slowly building up a degree 
of disagreement with the present leadership and policies of the church 
which may, one day, and sooner than one might now be inclined to 
think, eventuate in an explosion that will rock the church." 72 

The branch churches are democratically organized; the local groups 
elect their own officers, own their own property, and manage their 
own affairs. Branch officers must, however, be members of the 
Mother Church and, therefore, are subject to the jurisdiction of the 
Board. A branch church must have at least sixteen members, four 
of whom must also be members of the Mother Church, and one must 
be an active practitioner. Groups which do not meet these require- 
ments are called societies. Members of the Mother Church are ex- 
pected to reach a higher standard of spirituality and morality than 
are persons whose membership is limited to the branch churches. 
Members of the Mother Church and of most of the branch churches 
are expected to abstain from the use of liquor and tobacco. 

Christian Science churches have no pastors, that is, no pastors in 
the ordinary sense. Mrs. Eddy decreed that no human pastor should 
minister in the denomination; but she did "ordain" the Bible and 
Science and Health as pastor to the Church. Accordingly there are no 
talks in the services of worship; instead, passages from these two 
books are read as the "lesson-sermon." The Sunday service is con- 
ducted by two "readers." It consists of hymns, Scripture reading, 


silent prayer, the Lord's Prayer, a solo, the lesson-sermon, a collec- 
tion, a benediction. The lesson-sermon is conducted after the following 
manner: the Second Reader reads passages from the Bible; then the 
First Reader reads correlative passages from Science and Health. 
These passages are selected by the Mother Church and are on any 
given Sunday uniform the world over. No prayer is spoken except the 
Lord's Prayer with its spiritual interpretation by Mary Baker Eddy: 

Our Father which are in heaven, 

Our Father-Mother God, all-harmonious, 
Hallowed be Thy name. 

Adorable One. 
Thy kingdom come. 

Thy kingdom is come; Thou art ever-present. 
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 

Enable us to know, as in heaven, so on earth, God is omnipotent, 

Give us this day our daily bread; 

Give us grace for today; feed the famished affections; 
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 

And Love is reflected in love; 
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; 

And God leadeth us not into temptation, but deliver eth us from sin, 

disease, and death. 
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. 

For God is infinite, all-power, all Life, Truth, Love, over all, and AIL 

A second service of the week is held on Wednesday evenings. 
This service varies from the Sunday service in that there is no col- 
lection, the First Reader alone presides, he selects the readings from 
the Bible and from Science and Health, the Lord's Prayer is spoken 
without its spiritual interpretation, and a considerable period is given 
to volunteer testimonies from the local members concerning the 
value of Christian Science to them. Anyone inclined to doubt the 
power of Christian Science to bring a deep feeling of spiritual se- 
curity should attend a series of Wednesday evening services. 

The Hymnal includes many of the great hymns of the Western 
world. Some have been slightly altered to bring them into conformity 
with Christian Science doctrine, and others have been considerably 
altered. Seven hymns by Mrs. Eddy are in the Hymnal. The Church 
makes no provision for baptismal, funeral, or marriage services. 
Funeral services are left entirely under the direction of the family. 


Some families have BO service at all; most of them, however, ask a 
reader or practitioner to conduct a simple service. When they wish 
to be married, Christian Scientists ask a Protestant clergyman to per- 
form the ceremony. The church building has a central pulpit which 
consists of two desks, one for each reader. On the walls in large 
letters are inscribed sentences from the Bible and from the writings 
of Mary Baker Eddy. 

Christian Science churches are not social institutions. The church 
supper so familiar in most American denominations has no place. "As 
a rule there should be no receptions nor festivities after a lecture," 
wrote Mrs. Eddy. ". . . he who goes to seek truth should have the 
opportunity to depart in quiet thought on that subject." 73 

A Sunday School is conducted for youths up to the age of twenty. 
This school is the lowest level of the educational system. For adults 
the Church conducts two kinds of classes: Primary Classes and 
Normal Classes. They are patterned after Mrs, Eddy's own teaching. 
Certified teachers may conduct but one Primary Class per year and 
the number of students who can be accepted is limited to thirty. A 
fee of one hundred dollars is charged for twelve lessons; the subject 
matter is limited to the chapter called "Recapitulation" from Science 
and Health; Roman Catholics are not admitted unless they have "the