« AnteriorContinuar »
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.
"Life corrected the error of thought," says Archbishop Benson of the Cyprianic councils. Right living will usually correct wrong thinking, and in the Church it must be the life of the whole Body that ripens and perfects its thought and enlarges and quickens its work. The corporate life alone can meet the problems of to-day: problems of theological thought, problems of action, problems of economic peace, of national and international justice and fair dealing. Only when we have recovered our hold on this truth, will the Church really be a working Church and a believing Church.
I have enlarged upon this conception of the Christian society because I see no hope of developing an actively serving laity save as we make it clear that between the member and the minister there is no difference of essential obligation in the Christian calling. The only difference is in the way the service shall be rendered and the circumstances in which it is to be fulfilled. The standard of the service is alike, to redeem and consecrate all human life, individual and corporate, personal and social, and to bring it into the kingdom of God.
That demands service of necessity, and the layman will see it the moment he senses his high calling. He will no longer be indifferent; he will no longer be summoned from such indifference by a call to support the Church gratefully as the society which offers him help; he will come to greet it with great joy as the Body which claims of him service. He will not regard the Church, or think of its worship, or listen to its teaching, solely as a varying repetition of the offer, "see what I can do for you." He will regard it rather as the great challenging voice which demands, "What will you do for me-and for the cause for which I exist?" That is the very purpose of the priesthood. "He gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints unto the work of ministering.
In St. Paul's catalogue elsewhere he lists the diversities of gifts in such order as to imply that work for the Church may have its sphere of activity outside the Church. When he speaks of "first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after
that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues," we might easily paraphrase the list in modern nomenclature. By apostles we would understand bishops; by prophets those who are gifted with the ability to discern the times, whether preachers, poets or editors; by teachers, all who exercise the teaching office in any way; by miracles, scientific discoveries, the marvels of engineering, etc.; by gifts of healing, surgeons, physicians; by helps, the whole order of business and professional and industrial life; by governments, the political and economic order; by tongues, the world of literature and scholarship. Every honorable calling is a part of the divine order, working for God's honor and glory and not for self-advancement, working in the power of the selfsame spirit who divideth to every man severally as He wills.
While we need, however, to emphasize the sacredness of all life to recognize all work as religious work, the layman will not actually rise to his responsibility until he discovers that the advancement of the kingdom and the evangelization of men is as much his task as it is the special work of the clergy. Evangelization! The word calls up scenes of crude excitement at revival services, with methods wholly foreign to our ideas of worship and offending our sense of reverence, with a free use of religious phraseology that verges on sacrilege and smacks of canting insincerity. But all this is not of the essence of the evangelistic spirit. The real thing is to think of the man or woman outside and then for every Christian man-mindful of what religion means to him and of what those outside miss in not accepting the faith which has so changed his life-to try to put the warmth of his heart and life against another man's heart and life and fire him with faith, zeal and devotion. The curse of mass evangelism is that it has become professionalized. What we need is to take it out of the hands of the revivalists; for that matter, to cease to act as if the work of converting men were solely the province of a ministerial order, and to make it a matter, not of professional duty, but of spontaneous individual and personal interest. The preacher's work is largely the edification of those who have already accepted the Christian religion;