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DENOMINATIONAL CO-OPERATION IN
ADDRESS BY REV. A. F. SCHAUFFLER, D. D., OF
For four' men, passing over different roads, to meet at a given point, is not difficult. For four regiments to traverse four roads and meet at the rendezvous, requires careful management. For four armies to accomplish the same task, requires the highest degree of skill and the rarest talent. In the same way, for a few Christian workers to co-operate in aggressive effort is a simple matter easy of accomplishment. A larger measure of grace and a higher degree of ability is needed to unite four churches of the same or of different denominations in a given work. But to unite many churches of many denominations in the work of any large city, calls for the very highest degree of unselfishness, and the very wisest adaptation of means to ends.
Probably no man living has wisdom enough to lay out any plan of co-operation among denominations in large cities, that would be anything more than ideal. Before it could become a reality, it would have to be largely discussed and extensively modified. If as the result of such discussion, any plan were eventually adopted, experience would soon point to needful changes.
In all discussion of our theme, one or two facts of past expe. rience must ever be borne in mind. Foremost among these is the fact that for more than a quarter of a century the tendency has ever been toward a tightening of denominational ties. Especially has this been true in great cities. The very power of a multitude of churches of the same polity concentrated in one city has made each denomination feel that it is sufficient unto itself, and need not look abroad for allies. The result has been that the segregation of these bodies has gone on rapidly, until to-day' none ever thinks of asking what the other is doing. Each works along its own lines, practically ignoring the existence of the others.
There are at present, however, signs visible to the close observer —not many indeed, nor very well defined, but none the less realthat a turn in this denominational tide is slowly setting in. The problem of how to reach the masses is being discussed with an eagerness that augurs well for the future. The sad fact that in great cities the denominations have one and all been falling behind in the work of the church, is arousing anxious attention. In this case, as in so many others, to fully recognize the evil is a great step towards remedying it. The very existence of a great conference like this, which seriously discusses the question of denominational co-operation, proves that leading minds are actively engaged in seeking for the solution of a most difficult question. We have no idea that denominational barriers are about to disappear. But we do believe and devoutly pray that in that aggressive evangelistic work, which surpasses the resources of any single religious body, a form of co-operative effort may yet be devised and carried into effect.
As a feeble contribution towards this much-to-be-desired consummation, we offer the following thoughts in a tentative way.
Three methods of pursuing the work lying before the church are supposable.
First. Carry the work on in purely denominational ways. This has been tried for many years. That much good has been accomplished in this way, all gladly admit. That friendly rivalry even, when properly restrained, has had a wholesome influence, none will deny. But the fact remains that the work undone has steadily increased from year to year. In great cities, the world is gaining on the church. This may be explained by referring to the fact of immigration, but explanation does not do away with the stern facts of the case. Yes, in great cities, the world is gaining on the church Purely denominational effort has not met the case. At least, in New York no single denomination has yet developed force enough to hold the ground against the adverse power of incoming godlessness. Our Episcopal friends, by reason largely of their greater solidarity of government, have come the nearest to this desired end. But even they would hardly claim that they had done all that the case demands. If, then, we may judge of the future by the past, something more than purely denominational work is imperatively called for.
Second. Carry on the work in an inter-denominational way. By this we mean, let the various bodies unite, and, through their representatives, push the battle into the lines of the enemy. Let presbytery and classis, association and convocation, co-operate organically in aggressive action. However desirable such union might be, we presume all would agree that, for the present at least, it is entirely impracticable. Before any such millennial consummation would be reached, denominations must have learned at least the lesson of territorial non-interference. This lesson is still unlearned, and if learned, is unpracticed. There remains, therefore, only one alternative.
Third. Carry on the work in an undenominational way. Let the various bodies maintain each its own churches, as heretofore. But for the attack on the seats of Satan, from which particular denominations have so largely recoiled, let undenominational energies be enlisted. While it may yet be too much to expect that presbytery or association shall officially recognize any work not under its exclusive jurisdiction, it is not vain to hope that individual churches may largely unite their energies in union work along strictly evangelical lines. In addition to this, there are many laymen of large means and larger hearts who will respond willingly to any call for help that comes from work well done. Much undenominational work is already being done, which from its very nature cannot be accomplished in any other way. The Young Men's and Young Women's Christian Associations, the Children's Aid Society work in emigration and in education, the Industrial Education Association and other kindred organizations, show their means and their workers from all bodies of evangelical believers. They stand as proof of the fact that undenominational work is not only possible, but actual. This liberal spirit may well be cherished and applied to new fields of activity. The London City Mission Society shows what can be done in the world's metropolis; and what has been so grandly accomplished there, is possible in our large cities. In New York an undenominational city mission exists, in addition to Methodist, Baptist and Episcopal city mission societies. That which has there complicated the problem and caused the three bodies above mentioned to withhold largely their support, has been the fact that, unlike the London Society, ours has gone so far as
to establish churches and administer the ordinances. The New York society still receives aid from all denominations through individuals, but many churches have ceased to contribute, on account of the difference of opinion and of the proper ministry in the methods of administering the sacraments. Yet all these churches at the same time cordially acknowledge the evangelical and Christian nature of the churches established by that society. Co-operation in any large city in undenominational work, such as visitation, night missions, gospel temperance meetings, neighborhood meetings, should be easy, and is perfectly possible. The initiative must in all such cases be taken by individual clergymen and laymen, since, as we have seen, official endorsement is not yet to be expected. We go farther than this, however, and believe that with wise management denominational co-operation is possible, even when the work is pushed in destitute districts as far as the establishment of churches in which the sacraments are administered. Under a recent change in the New York society, signs are already apparent that the support of laymen of various religious bodies is on the increase. Churches, also, which have thus far held aloof, are slowly falling into line, recognizing that the society fills a vacancy unfilled by any denomination, with the growth of a sense of need, and the proof that an undenominational body can better meet that need, at least in some of its phases; and with a corresponding growth of inter-denominational confidences, we are persuaded that the ground lost would be recovered.
DR. STRONG : We have all heard of the work which was inaugurated in Philadelphia a year ago — the canvass which was made of a million of people. The vice-president of the organization that did that work is present with us, and for five minutes will talk to us about it-Rev. R. A. Edwards, of Philadelphia.
REMARKS BY REV, R. A. EDWARDS.
MR. PRESIDENT, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: You have heard in a general way, no doubt, of the work in Philadelphia. It differed somewhat from the work that you have heard of as done in Oswego and New York, in that it struck, as in our orderly Quaker City would be expected, the happy mean. We did not get things quite as they have them in Oswego, nor are we quite so denominational in Philadelphia as they are represented to be required in New York. When the work began, we found it'difficult to get our people to go out to visit, particularly in the good neighborhoods. The ladies of my own congregation said, “Give us the little streets and the by-ways; we do not like to go to these better-class houses with their beautiful fronts."
The result was with most pastors as it was with me, that we had almost to drive the “ dear things” out of the lecture-room to the work. Their chief difficulty lay in the matter of introducing themselves, so I prepared a little card for them, which was afterwards. adopted by the central committee, and used all over the city. It read as follows:
W E should be glad to see some member of the family
for a few moments.
“We have called with reference to the special religious services to be held by the churches of the city during the second week in January.
VISITORS.” This was handed the servant. They were relieved of embarrassment, and the persons called on knew they were not going to see booksellers or sewing-machine agents. When they came back it was almost like the disciples returning to the Master, and saying, “ The spirits are subject unto us." Their faces were radiant, their hearts glad and their spirits thankful.
That visiting work was the best part of the whole thing. In January we held services for a week in the 300 churches in the movement. I cannot say that was a success. All the churches being open, as a general thing only the regular attendants came; but there was an impetus given to the work by that week's meetings that has been felt since in all the churches. In my own church the Bishop of the Diocese came, and presided and spoke at a meeting in which the Episcopal service was rendered, and addresses were delivered by Rev. Dr. Danforth, of the Congregational church, Rev. Dr. Tiffany of the Episcopal church and others. Then the elegant First Regiment Armory was opened for religious services. Objection was made this morning by a very able speaker, whose essay is worthy of all praise, to these outside services