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The National Council in session in Cleveland in 1907, voted, “That the Local Association, composed of churches and ministers, and hence thoroughly representative of the churches, which holds both licensure and ministerial standing, be also the agency for ordination, the initiative always to be taken by the local church.”
It is manifest that the time has come for a new declaration with reference to the relations of the District Association, formerly sometimes called the Local Association, with reference to ministerial standing. Our older authorities on Congregationalism stoutly contended that an Association could not deprive a minister of his ministerial character because it could not destroy that which it could not create. But under the present ruling of the National Council, and the accepted usage of our churches, the District Association can create ministerial character, and is the custodian of ministerial standing; and, therefore, logically has the right to terminate that which it is empowered to create and for which the churches hold it responsible. The custom of calling an ecclesiastical council for the purpose of withdrawing fellowship from a minister has become practically obsolete. A local church having had an unhappy experience with an unworthy minister, will seldom take the initiative in such a matter, nor assume responsibility beyond that of depriving him of his local pastorate. There is both logical reason and eminent practical wisdom in recognizing the right of the Association to do what in the very nature of the case it is now compelled to do, in discharging the responsibility which this Council recognizes as belonging to it in guarding the safety of our churches, and the purity of our ministry. We, therefore, memorialize the National Council to add to its previous resolutions on the subject of ministerial standing this which appears to the State Conference of Illinois a necessary corollary to that which the National Council already and repeatedly has adopted.
“Resolved, That the National Council having already recognized the right of the District Association to ordain ministers; and having therefore recognized the District Association of ministers and churches as responsible for
ministerial standing, further recognizes the right and duty of said Association to terminate the ministerial character of any of its members for good cause, and that the name of a minister from whom fellowship has been withdrawn by a District Association shall not be printed in the Year Book, or otherwise recognized by the National Council as that of a Congregational minister.”
On behalf of the Congregational Conference of Illinois, its Committee on Polity submits to the National Council this Memorial. Wishing you grace, mercy and peace, we are,
WILLIAM E. BARTON
(B) We, the representatives of the Congregational churches of Illinois in seventy-second annual conference assembled at Rockford, May, 1915, express deep concern that so many of our Congregational homes, here and elsewhere, fail to subscribe for our denominational journals and thus keep in touch with our denominational activities, and hence are uninformed and unconscious of the challenge of our Congregational opportunities in these critical days.
We have one weekly journal, owned and supported by the entire denomination, published in the East and finding its largest constituency there; two other weeklies owned by members of our churches are published in the middle and far West. As at present conducted each of these has a field more or less distinct and limited, and perforce each must limit the other.
We have two national monthlies, besides the two publications of the Women's Boards, and numerous state organs to some extent competing therewith, and all of these maintained by the help of contributions from missionary funds.
All of these expensive and conflicting enterprises fail of their purpose to reach our constituency and are constantly reinforced by expensive printed matter sent under first-class postage.
A careful survey of this entire situation has led to the conviction that co-ordination at least and amalgamation where 'possible would materially increase the value and constituency and decrease the expense of these publications. Immediate or ultimate ownership of all three weeklies might make possible the maintenance of their individual integrity and yet secure the simultaneous publication of much common material and syndicate advertising. A national monthly magazine might publish state editions with local insert sections and practical amalgamation be thus secured.
We therefore respectfully memorialize our National Council to give earnest and early attention to this important matter, and to take such steps as may seem wise to acquire and manage as a whole our weekly and monthly, national and state publications, with the object of presenting to our membership our denominational work in the large, and as a complete and harmonious campaign for the great kingdom.
THOMAS C. MACMILLAN
REPORT OF THE COMMISSION ON RELIGIOUS
AND MORAL EDUCATION
To convey a sense of the present opportunity and responsibility which faces our denomination, the Commission on Religious and Moral Education desires to preface its report with a statement regarding the new and vigorous emphasis which the subject of religious education has received in recent years. It has come to be recognized that the welfare of Protestant Christianity, as a mere question of growth, will depend very largely upon the quality of its educational processes. More fundamental than that, the problem of moral control in a democracy, is in the last analysis, a question of religion. Religion is an inward disposition, based on convictions about God and the inner life of man which have far-reaching moral effects. Religion deals with the roots of life from which character and conduct spring. One of its essential functions is to establish the kind of moral attitude in men and women which shall purify society, insuring social justice and economic righteousness. It goes beyond the ethics of custom and social contract by carrying the issue to the final court where God is the judge.
It is this rising conception of the fundamental importance of religion that has brought into being the Religious Education Association which is now exerting so wide an influence. Similar impulses have stimulated the International Sunday School Association to new and greatly enlarged activity. Recognizing the need of more effective measures to insure their own growth, and to care more adequately for the religious training of their own people, young and old, several Protestant denominations have thoroughly reorganized their methods and their agencies in the field of religious education. This is notably true of the Methodists, the Baptists, the Episcopalians and the Unitarians. All these denominations have greatly strengthened their educational work by intrusting its leadership to consecrated men and women who are experts in their field.
It is cause for gratification to be able to say that much of the progress in the wider field of religious education is due to individual leaders who are Congregationalists by origin and training. The Religious Education Association has looked largely to our denomination for leadership and support. The secretary of the International Sunday School Association is an honored member of our body. The chairman of the International Lesson Committee, under whose auspices the new graded lessons have been issued, is B. S. Winchester, until lately the educational secretary of our Sunday School and Publishing Society. Letters received by your commission from the boards of seven denominations, represented on the International Committee, express the urgent request that means may be found to retain Dr. Winchester on the committee, and on the Sunday School Council of Evangelical Denominations, because his services are held to be so valuable that their loss at this juncture would be irreparable.
Such considerations as these point to the peculiar responsibility for leadership which our denomination inherits. Surely, this is no time for backward steps. In all that will be said in this report, we earnestly desire that the members of the National Council may have this question in mind: In order to fulfill the responsibility intrusted to us as a denomination in this field, must we not devise ways to strengthen our own educational processes under the direction of the most expert leaders the denomination affords? The rising interest in religious education has produced a new profession; experts are available to whom we may intrust the important task which faces us. Recent investigations, conducted by the Council of the Religious Education Association, reveal the enormous waste which occurs through ill-advised expenditures for buildings, equipment and supplies; and the still more deplorable waste of human energy, or religious consecration, which