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The following statistics, quoted from the "Post" articles, indicate the situation in greater detail:
modern life, while laymen wait for interpretative ethical leadership in the mazes of present-day political, social, and industrial relations, and stories of Attendance in Episcopalian theological equally ineffective clergymen who turn
seminaries decreased from 463 in 1916 to 193 in 1920; in all Presbyterian seminaries from 1,188 to 695; in Methodist seminaries from 1,226 to 976; and in Congregational institutions from 499 in 1910 to 255 last year. Roman Catholic seminary enrolment has increased rapidly, however, bringing up the entire total to an approximate pre-war status, although the Protestant institutions have not recovered.
Attendance in all theological seminaries in the United States-Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Jewish-increased very gradually from 3,354 in 1870 to 10,588 in 1915. There was a noticeable jump in registration before America entered the war to 12,051 in 1916, followed by a slump to 9,354 in 1917-18.
Back of these bare statistics lies a story of profound human interest. Some day some interested publicist will give us a significant book on the problem of religious leadership in the United States. It will not be a book of special pleading, but a book of superreporting. These statistical tables will be translated into illuminating stories of communities of "sheep without a shepherd," stories of communities in which religious leadership has failed to challenge either the mind or the creative moral impulses of the people, tragic stories of great spirits broken by the economic slavery of the American ministry, stories of ignorant pulpits starving and insulting intelligent pews, and, contrariwise, of intelligent pulpits strangled by illiberal pews, stories of clergymen who turn their churches into retreats for mystics, discussing esoteric doctrines that bear no relation to
their churches into mere reform clubs, arguing for planks in a program without stimulating the passion that will incarnate the proposals in constructive action. This book will dramatize every existing type of religious leadership in the country. Without argument, without dogmatic generalization, it will illustrate the futility of certain types of leadership and the desirability of other types. It will be an indictment not only of certain types of clergymen, but of certain types of laymen as well. It will, by the simple reporting of facts, give us a pretty complete picture of American civilization, a complete story of the innumerable forces that play about the pulpit, influencing the courage and timidity of the ministry. The times cry aloud for a muck-raking of pulpit and pew by an honest reporter. No other single thing, if this were honestly done, would give so great an impetus to authentic Christianity.
The first of the "Post" articles presented the statistics of the situation. In succeeding articles the investigator presented the results of interviews with outstanding clergymen and theological professors, reporting their interpretations of the situation. From the mass of interviews I disentangle eleven reasons why, in the judgment of these leaders, young men are less and less inclined to enter the ministry.
First, the influence of the war. This assertion runs through many of the interviews, but in no case is it very
clearly or convincingly stated what is meant by it. The war itself is pictured as a instrument of disillusion, wrecking the faith of many in the power of things spiritual. It is pointed out that the spiritual renaissance which many expected to follow the war failed to materialize.
Issue is taken with this conclusion by several leaders. Some assert that the war sent the really strong men back stronger, the weak men weaker. Others assert that the war had little if any effect on the situation.
Second, the decline in the economic status of the minister. The disgracefully low salary schedule of American clergymen needs no emphasis here. It is obvious. Some leaders find grounds for hope in the present campaigns for pension funds for aged ministers. It may be asked, in passing, whether such campaigns, dramatizing as they do the difficult economic problem of the minister, may not themselves discourage many prospective candidates for the ministry. Many leaders think this is true.
Third, the decline in the social influence of the clergy. The decline in the minister's economic status has had something to do with this, no doubt, but many factors, too involved for full consideration here, have entered into the change from the early days, when the minister was the dominant personality in the community.
Fourth, the increased attractiveness of other professions. It is pointed out that in recent years many new forms of religious leadership other than the ministry have been developed, as, for instance, secretaryships in the Young Men's Christian Association, socialwelfare work, and the like. What is not sufficiently emphasized in any of
these interviews is the fact that, aside from such strictly religious forms of leadership, preaching has in our day got outside the churches, slipped out of surplice and pulpit, and found many new and secular avenues of expression. Novelists, dramatists, college professors, university presidents, judges, labor leaders, secretaries of state, governors, journalists, and other public men have in our day "preached" with all the passionate emphasis of Puritan parsons on the moral ideals of the race. of these men would, had they lived in early New England, have entered the ministry. Had Theodore Roosevelt lived in the New England of Cotton Mather, his preaching of "the square deal" would doubtless have been hurled from the pulpit to the enlivening of many a somnolent Puritan congregation. Had William Jennings Bryan lived then, he would doubtless have been a settled pastor instead of the itinerant political evangelist he is today. Winston Churchill's "The Inside of the Cup" would doubtless have been delivered from a pulpit to a limited congregation instead of reaching a best-seller-novel audience. Charles Rann Kennedy, the playwright, would in earlier days have turned naturally to the pulpit rather than to the stage as the medium for the expression of his servant-in-the-house ideas. As Governor of New York, Charles Evans Hughes preached from the rostrums of county fairs and political mass meetings the same basic moralities his father preached for forty years from the pulpit. When Woodrow Wilson, a layman, became President of Princeton University, his appeals to the conscience and idealism of its young men were as high appeals as any made by his clerical predecessors. In fact, it
would be difficult to name any outstanding leader of American public life who has exerted a dynamic moral influence upon the country during the last half century who, a few generations ago, would not have naturally turned to the ministry. This is a sweeping but, I think, sound statement. Who will say that, under present day conditions, any of these men would have rendered greater or as great service had they entered the pulpit? But all this, although in ultimate moral effect good, has meant a turning away from the regular ministry and has helped to create the present problem of the empty pulpit.
Fifth, the lack of freedom of speech in the modern pulpit. The pews of the leading churches in all of our communities are filled with men who have a big material stake in the existing social and economic order. Naturally they resent recklessly radical attacks upon this order by the clergyman whose salary they pay. Men never have and never will cheerfully pay men to attack them or their interests. A certain amount of such conservative influence upon the clergy, as upon school teachers and editors, is salutary, but there is no danger that the necessary minimum of conservative safeguarding will ever be lacking. The danger is all on the other side. danger lies in those pew-holders who insist upon the preacher's sticking exclusively to the "old gospel," by which they really mean sticking to a safely irrelevant doctrinal sermonizing which will not disturb their Sunday morning devotions in the way impertinent discussions of "Christianizing the social order" do. The danger lies in those pew-holders who want the world of devotion and the world of dividends kept
safely distinct in air-tight compartments. It is manifestly true that no young man of intellectual insight and sincerity can look forward with any degree of satisfaction to a limitation of his public utterances to pious exhortations to abstract moralities. He knows that under such limitations he can never be more than a seller of rhetoric. And whether it be noble or ignoble, religious or irreligious, the able young man of to-day is not interested in the exclusive task of “labeling men and women for transportation to a realm unknown" and sedulously avoiding straightforward consideration of that reconstruction of human society which Jesus of Nazareth had in mind when he talked of the kingdom of God coming on earth.
Sixth, changes in religious emphasis during the last half-century. Very Reverend H. E. W. Fosbroke, dean of the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church, is reported by the "Post" investigator as asserting that one of the great deterrents to entering the ministry to-day is the fact that "many of the ablest young men believe that the churches still insist upon a literal interpretation of the scriptures which conflicts with their scientific study at college." This, of course, is not true in any sweeping sense, but it is true enough in many quarters of the church to make it not wholly an invalid belief on the part of our young men. The constructive scholars of the church have never fully met their duty of popularizing the results of their studies. We should not be in the critical situation we are now in respecting religious leadership if the great scholars who have done so much to rescue Christianity from the fogs of myth and mysticism had matched the
itinerant evangelist's ardent preachments with an equally effective presentation of their findings. If the young men of America knew the results of modern Biblical research, many of them would not feel, as they now do, that they would have to scrap their scientific training if they entered the ministry.
Seventh, the feeling that ministers are made a class apart and "shunted out of the main stream of affairs into narrow channels of merely theological interest." This goes back to the question whether the ministry is to be conceived by laymen and by clergymen as a task of "exhortation to abstract moralities" alone or a task of leadership in "Christianizing the social order" as well. Where the ministry deals mainly with abstract moralities alone, clergymen will be a "class apart," but when it fully assumes its rightful leadership in the morals of public affairs, this apartness will disappear.
Ninth, the lack of a program, with anything near the unanimous support of church leaders, that challenges the intelligent faith and courage of young
All this goes back to the statement made before that young men will be interested in the ministry if it is stated in terms of concrete contemporary affairs as well as in terms of abstract preachments.
Tenth, the decline of religious life in the home. On this point there is room for wide difference of opinion. There has been a marked decline in the ritual observances of religion in the homes of the United States. The modern American family does not assemble daily for prayer and reading of the Bible as it did in earlier days, and fewer fathers "say grace" at the table, but in fundamental moral atmosphere and in wholesomeness of outlook upon life I believe that modern American family life is preferable to the stern ritualism of earlier days.
Eleventh, the failure of the InterChurch World Movement. It is pointed out that young men who returned from the war, still intending to enter the ministry, saw this greatest plan for Christian unity ever attempted go to wreck and ruin through denominational jealousies, petty animosities, and the determined opposition of certain lay forces who disliked its dabbling in social and economic conditions. This, it is believed by certain leaders, shattered the faith of many young men in the power of the church to effect genuine readjustments in human so
Eighth, the materialism of the age. This is an old cry. It is easy to damn an age with an adjective, but to call our time materialistic and say that passion for money, for comforts, for luxuries, accounts for young men's failure to enter the ministry in which there are no financial prizes is, I think, shallow reasoning. I believe there has never been a time when as many young men of intellectual power and a sense of social responsibility were devoting themselves to poorly paid work because some program of achievement challenges their interest and their courage. Hundreds of such young men in government service, in scientific lab-ciety. oratories, in journalism, in teaching, have turned their backs upon more profitable fields because they have found a challenge.
These, then, are the reasons advanced by prominent churchmen for the decreasing number of young men who enter the ministry. They make
a rather dark picture. The one bright spot in the situation, to many, is that the majority of the more liberal seminaries and those having university connections are better attended than ever before, while many of the conservative seminaries are searching desperately for students to fill their halls. For instance, the Union Theological Seminary, the Yale Divinity School, and the University of Chicago Theological Seminary, with liberal reputations that have evoked the disapproval of great groups of churchmen, are popular. This speaks well for the intellectual quality of the students who have chosen these institutions.
I want to conclude this discussion by relating the story of one young man who entered the ministry, but later left it for reasons that will appear in the story. He has never wavered from the purposes that prompted him to enter the ministry, but he is to-day in a secular position from which he is exerting the influence he had hoped to exert through the ministry. I tell his story because it dramatizes, I think, the problem confronting many young men to-day. I shall call him John I shall call him John Gordon, as a convenient name for him to hide behind, and I shall call the old doctor who was his confidant Dr. Ambrose. The story, however, is "from the life," as he has told it to me several times, and as I watched its development.
Gordon had packed, to standingroom capacity, his church. Men who had not darkened church doors for years became regular attendants, but many of the "regulars" in his church grew doubtful. The instinct of heresyhunting, seemingly as inseparable from
some natures as hunger or thirst, began to manifest itself. It was not that Gordon had attacked or denied any of the doctrines of orthodox theology. He had ignored them. He rarely referred, save in the reading of a lesson or the taking of a text, to the incidents of Bible times. He talked a good deal about the Carpenter of Nazareth, but always in terms of candid intimacy that left the impression that he was discussing a contemporary living leader. He talked much of the Christianizing of American society, American politics, and American industry. What he said was shot through with an ethical passion that gripped and moved the unchurched who crowded to hear him. There was about him something reminiscent of the old Hebrew prophets. He seemed to share their sense of reality, and to burn with their hot hatred of the futile formalism into which religion tends to fall.
But this seemed not to impress the "regulars" of his parish. Unfortunately for Gordon, he was ministering to a community that was one of those hermetically sealed pockets of population, still to be found in our country, into which had filtered nothing of that modern thought which is rescuing Christianity from the hair-splitting theologians and sinister interests who have colored it with their prejudices or bent it to their purposes. He was talking a new language, and they missed the ancient accents. That it was the language of the founder of their church was not apparent to them. His sermons did not "sound like the regular preaching we 've been used to." He had likewise been severely criticized by several of his fellow-ministers. He was disturbed.
In his difficulty he turned for coun