« PreviousContinue »
the Congregational Education Society. A recommendation to this effect appears in the plan of readjustment submitted herewith.
It may be added that the experience of other denominations furnishes abundant data on which to base an estimate of the usefulness of such a Secretary. Nearly all important denominations except our own have long had the plan in force and thoroughly believe in it. The field covered does not conflict with that of the general publicity efforts of the Boards since it deals exclusively with the young and primarily with consecutive educational efforts through Sunday School instruction, summer conferences, etc. It would be necessary of course for such a secretary to work in close conference and harmony with the mission boards. But he would have a definite field of his
A TERCENTENARY FUND
We are approaching the three hundredth anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims. We are advised that the Executive Committee will submit a plan for a suitable observance of the date. But in addition to such recognition as we may make by denominational gatherings or the printed page we ought to undertake some task worthy of our denomination, whose achievement will both promote the cause which the Pilgrims counted dear and attest our devotion to the faith by which they lived and died. Two lines at once suggest themselves. One would be a fresh consecration of life to the service of Christ, taking the form of the enlistment of a great company of the young in definite Christian life work. The other would be a new devotion of our possessions, taking the form of a large special gift in support of the undertakings to which we are pledged. Your Commission is perfectly clear that both these things should be done. It feels too that the obvious direction in which gifts either of life or treasure should go is that of our mission work at home and abroad. No more suitable and inspiring thing could be imagined than the enlistment of let us say one thousand young persons in such work and the raising of a fund of five millions of dollars or more for uses outside the regular annual budget of the Societies. Concerning the first of these matters no conference has been held. The Commission plans to take it up at an early day. It feels clear that nothing could do so much for our denomination as such a movement. To the second much thought has been given and certain tentative plans have been formulated. It is not, however, necessary or desirable to attempt to settle the details of such a project at this Council. Your Commission will welcome instructions to proceed with the effort to work out a plan and to have everything in readiness to go forward at once in case the plan be approved by the 1917 Council.
THE APPORTIONMENT PLAN
The Commission has no change to suggest as to the general policy under which the Apportionment Plan for gathering missionary contributions has been conducted. The plan has beyond question operated to make the support of our mission agencies more stable. It is worth noting that since the clearing of all debts by the Together Campaign of 1908 no serious deficit has been reported by any of the Boards. In some degree this must be attributed to the influence of the Apportionment Plan. The soundly conservative policy pursued by the Boards in the making of budgets and the handling of legacy receipts has also been a large factor in the case.
But it is necessary again to call emphatic attention to the fact that no considerable increase has accompanied this greater stability of income. Despite a steady though small increase of church membership, and despite the presumably very considerable increase in financial ability which have marked the past five years, our missionary resources remain substantially at their previous 'level. Counting those strictly applicable under the Apportionment Plan, both from churches and individuals, we have a total of only $1,237,347 the past year which is $7,219 less than the average of the past five years. There is, however, a view of the case which is somewhat more cheering. A considerable sum annually received in individual gifts cannot under any plan which has yet been devised be credited as applying on the Apportionment. Putting into the totals all such gifts so far as they are in any sense intended for the support of the current work of the Boards, we have a total of $1,450,000, which is probably (data are not available for a comparison of close accuracy) from $50,000 to $75,000 more than the recent average. The gain has been mainly in our foreign mission funds. It is clear that we cannot be satisfied with this showing, nor content that it shall be duplicated for the future. Renewed, persistent and sacrificial effort should be asked and given to secure a steady rise in the level of our missionary resources. Fresh emphasis needs to be laid on a comprehensive and diligent campaign of education carried on by every local church every year.
There is only too much reason to fear that the adoption of the Apportionment Plan has here and there been accompanied by decline of educational activity. Wherever this is true the Plan has tended to become a formal and mechanical thing having no vital grip upon the present life of the church and no promise for the future. People will not permanently give to or under a Plan unless it stands in their minds for definite work and definite agencies, which have their confidence and appeal to their interest. In addition constant effort must be used to escape bondage to the letter of the Plan. Legalism anywhere is a vicious thing. If the amount assigned a given church be considered a maximum, if it be collected in the spirit which says: "Let us have it over with,” if it be raised as a barrier against every sort of special appeal, it becomes a menace to the health of the church. On the other hand if the Apportionment be accepted in the spirit of fraternal team work, if it be regarded as a minimum, and if it be constantly remembered that obligation is measured by ability and by the needs of the Kingdom, not by formal demand, then it unqualifiedly promotes the health and usefulness of the church.
In view of the whole situation the Commission recommends that the Apportionment Plan be carried forward during the coming biennium upon lines whose spirit and general trend are indicated in the following items:
1. The cultivation of a large sense of responsibility on the part of state and local apportionment committees. The success of the Plan lies largely in their hands. It is of the highest importance that they accept in the fullest sense the responsibility of pressing it to its full measure of development. In doing this it is urged that they use every effort to bring the percentages adopted by each state into agreement with the national schedule. To this end the Commission through its Secretary is seeking conference with each state apportionment committee in the endeavor to work out so nearly as circumstances permit a uniform schedule and to aid such committees in lifting the giving of the churches they serve to the level which the Apportionment Plan contemplates.
2. The central emphasis should be upon that form of self apportionment which is made by the local church when it accepts the figures suggested by the Conference or Association Committee as its minimum and then proceeds through an Every Member Canvass, methodically, intelligently, enthusiastically and prayerfully carried out to secure that minimum and as much more as the congregation are willing and able to give.
3. To the end that the whole question of mission obligation be brought home to all the churches the Commission suggests that the Council approve the undertaking of a nation wide plan of deputation visits.
This suggestion is based on the experience of the past year in certain states of the central West. At the suggestion of the Commission and under the immediate leadership of Rev. L. O Baird, D.D., of the American Missionary Association, these states carried out such a plan with results so immediate and satisfactory as to suggest the extension of the idea throughout the nation. Under this plan each church in a given state is visited by a deputation of two or three persons, who conduct in that church an all-day meeting for the purpose of increasing the sense of fellowship between the churches, of emphasizing certain great common obligations, and of seeking to enlist the church in their discharge. It is suggested that the subjects to be emphasized the coming year be Evangelism and Missions, and that the aspect of the latter theme to receive central emphasis be the Every Member Canvass. Extensive correspondence has been carried on with state organizations and with few exceptions conditions are favorable for carrying out the plan. There is peculiar reason for undertaking it at this time because of the fact that the Laymen's Missionary Movement is to hold great conventions in seventy-five leading cities of the country. Of course these conventions will touch but the smallest fragment of our churches and membership. But they will be helpful to, and in turn be helped by, such a campaign of deputation visits as is suggested. It may be added that these visits would of necessity be made mainly by teams of ministers and that it has been found possible to finance the expenses of the plan through the gifts of churches visited. The Commission will undertake to furnish printed matter of every sort needed and to render such other assistance as its Secretary may be able to extend.
4. In the reorganization of the office of the National Council financial considerations demanded the discontinuance of the plan of assigning the entire time of a Secretary to the promotion of the Apportionment Plan. For sixteen months past the Secretary of the Council has been obliged to care for this interest in connection with his other duties. With generous aid from former Apportionment Secretary Merrill and others he has been able to attend to the routine matters involved and to push certain aggressive plans as indicated above. The Council will, however, readily apprehend that the effort to stimulate 6,100 churches scattered over 3,600,000 square miles of territory to the adoption of sound methods of missionary finance is a task without visible limits. It is, moreover, a task of such primary importance that we are warranted in giving it as definite and conspicuous place in the total sum of our efforts as is possible. The Commission believes that at the earliest feasible date an Apportionment Secretary should be again appointed to assist the Secretary of the Council in this phase of his duties.