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something purely official and professional; while the laity (all the rest of the Church) face the equally serious possibility that their religion may become formal and conventional, a mere nonchalant acceptance of truth, their faith and practice resting on authority alone, without experience, their individual obligation lost in a loose corporate idea. All of which sounds trite, commonplace and academic, of course. But as plain matter of fact it is vitally important and highly practical.
What has been the attitude of the clergy, for example, as to vestries, diocesan organizations, synods, even the general convention; especially, what has been the attitude of the clergy of the Catholic school? Half the parish troubles with which a Bishop's life is burdened come from the failure of the clergy to see in the vestry system not an evil to be bemoaned but splendid possibilities of service to be developed. A large proportion of the remaining half come from the criticisms of laymen who have never begun to do their own duty. ("The Church should do this" and "the Church should do that"-forgetful that the Church is not the clergy alone, nor a vague entity of some sort, but you and I and Smith and Brown and Jones.) Here we may take a leaf out of the Presbyterian book. Whatever of error may be faulted in the Presbyterian's system and however unscriptural and uncatholic may be its distinction of teaching and ruling elders (laymen holding eldership as an administrative office) did not the error spring out of a reaction from a fatally false conception of the ministry which emptied the work of the layman till there was left only a bit of negative nothingness? In revulsion against the degradation of lay membership, the Presbyterians have created an office, contrary to the apostolic rule, but at least giving the center around which has gathered a splendid body of lay people, with a keen sense of responsibility and a generous interest and activity in all good works. Laymen have their clearly marked duties in connection with congregational affairs: their work of administration in poor relief, giving them a knowledge of parochial life impossible with us, where meagre communion alms are administered by the rector alone; their privilege of consultation and
advice in the reception of converts into membership; even their measure of authority in matters of discipline.
Or, take the Methodists. The very soul of their system lay in the assumption of the responsibility by the lay people, who were class leaders, teachers, lay preachers-charged with the work of Church extension, concerned particularly with the instruction and training of new members, given distinct responsibility for the evangelization of their particular bit of the world, and called to "come out and be separate" in a consecrated life, with a book of discipline that set before them a very high, even though mistakenly puritanical standard of holiness.
Why not learn some of these lessons from the past, and earnestly endeavor to restore to the layman his place and importance -particularly, as we have had, all along, the correct theory in our own ecclesiastical system, with possibilities of co-operation such as no other system affords? We might begin with the vestry and make use of it in the development of a lay strength that shall make of each parish, not a field only, but a force; and compel the parson to become a captain of industry as well as a spiritual chaplain, the head of an energetic band of workers to whom he gives, as prophet, the inspiration for service, for whom, as a priest, he pleads the perpetual sacrifice and to whom he ministers grace that they may be strong to serve? Let the vestryman know that he counts for something. With him as a beginning, let all the lay strength of the parish be enrolled in service. Not only give the men something to do, but let them do it and do it in their own way, without interference or over guidance. The real reason why more men do not work is because we insist upon keeping them subordinate and even when we assign them tasks make the assignment with a proviso, as if we feared to trust them or really did not expect them to secure results. The vestry should be made an advisory board; gradually responsibility should be thrust upon them. There should be committees on church extension; investigation and report of possible forward work; the organization of parochial hospitality committees and educational enterprises; committees for parochial canvass, not for money, but for men; fellowship cam
paigns as well as missionary campaigns; Bible classes taught by lay people rather than the clergy, even though they be less qualified to teach, and we have to risk the promulgation of some strange doctrines. Finally, we must urge upon the layman a labor of evangelization. How far we have fallen from such a conception will appear in the attitude of the ordinary parish towards the confirmation class. "The rector made a fine showing this year." "I wonder where Father So and So found all his candidates." "We must congratulate you on your splendid class." But it ought not to be his class. It is yours. You ought to be represented there by some one you have brought, some one who represents your effort and is the fruit of your ministry.
That was the ideal of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew in its origin and is still its aim. And yet strange to say, the clergy (or some of them) have been decidedly cool to the Brotherhood. At times they have adopted an attitude of resentment at the so-called officious interference of laymen who were supposed to be obsessed with a sense of their own importance (as unquestionably some of them were in the first flush of enthusiasm), making themselves a sort of minor order in the Church, sure of their own value and critical of all who doubted the wisdom of their methods. So some of the clergy complained, forgetful that if you want a man to do work, you must trust him to do it without interference. "Better make mistakes than make nothing." In fact, the Brotherhood plan is essentially apostolic. The Twelve were energetic lay missionaries before their ordination, when "He breathed on them," or when at Pentecost their consecration was completed. The Seventy who went two by two were lay workers helping to bring in the coming of the kingdom.
Nor is it a mark of pure Catholicity to bewail the departure from Anglican custom in the organization of the American Church; especially when our brethren in England are laboring with such difficulty to give to the laity some of the representative privileges which have been ours all along. The general convention may occasionally bring some of us to the verge of tears
or profanity (especially when we listen to debates on prayer book revision), but the powers given to the laity in the American Church are quite in keeping with primitive practice. Archbishop Benson brings this out very clearly in connection with his accounts of the baptismal controversy in the North African Church. The councils, he tells us, were really representative. Their members were men of the world who were penetrated with Christian ideas, the very flower of the episcopate; yet the results reached were uncharitable, anti-scriptural, uncatholic --and unanimous. Why? Because the laity were silent. Cyprian was neglecting principles he himself had stressed in the earlier days of his episcopate, and the councils were purely clerical councils, in which laymen had no voice. Because the laity had no place in the Church legislation, disaster followed. Yet it was among them principally that there were in existence and at work the very principles which so soon not only rose to the surface, but overruled for the general good the voices of the councilors themselves. "The mischief was silently healed, by the simple working of the Christian Society."
It is a matter for just pride, not a thing to be decried, that in our national church nothing of importance in the way of legislation can pass, except by a vote of the three orders. For that matter, what good would it do if legislation were passed without lay consent? Even if true, the proclamation of the council would be academic apart from the firm conviction of its truth and vitality, of its importance and usefulness, by the whole Body of the Church. Had the Bishops and clergy, some years ago, changed the Church's present name to something more satisfactory, what advantage would have followed of necessity? The essential thing was to make a catholic-minded Church, not merely to give the Church a catholic name—and a Church can be truly catholic in spirit only when its lay members have been converted to the catholic life.
Nor is that all. We want, not a grudging acceptance but a thankful appreciation of the place of the laity in the organization, government and legislative authority of the American Church. Again and again in our history we have seen that
the mind of the whole Church is wiser than the mind of any order or class. And even when the principles at stake have, for the time being, been apparently sacrificed, it has been abundantly evident that any assertion of them apart from a firm conviction of their truth by the whole Body would have been, as we have pointed out, largely academic.
So the really essential thing in the development of a better, or more efficient and effective laity in the Church is a frank and full recognition of the vitality of the lay membership. Tell the layman that he counts for something and he will make himself amount to something. Show him his high calling and help him to magnify his office and there will be no question of his activity and usefulness in the Church's work. "Will the time ever come," asks Canon Bate, "when to be baptised, confirmed and a communicant is felt to be of itself the highest of all vocations? We feel and speak now as if the difference between man and priest, priest and layman, were a difference in kind, whereas that between Churchman and non-Christian were only a difference in degree. Shall we ever come again to feel that to be in or out of the Body of Christ is an alternative so tremendous that in comparison with it the difference between priest and layman dwindles into insignificance?"
Bishop Westcott has pointed out that we must concede real authority to those from whom we ask substantial service. There must be a sense of responsibility running through every part of the Body, if every part is to exercise its function and perform its work. Only so can we bring to all parts of a society, often isolated and discordant, the consciousness of one duty, one aim, one service. The Church will be crippled in its work so long as this unity is lacking. The most exalted conception of the ministerial priesthood is not inconsistent with-nay, it must be gladly held in common with-the thought of the priestly Body, whose every member feels himself a member, not a mere isolated unit. Any other conception of the priesthood makes the Church an organization superimposed upon its people. rather than an organism which is its people, which reflects their life, grows with them, works through them.