The shortage of clergymen has caused much concern among a number of church denominations. Even more alarming is that the shortage is likely to become more acute with passing years. The president of Catholic St. Michael’s College in Vermont, the Rev. Francis Moriarty, had this comment on the situation recently: “In the age-old diocese of Sens, France, there are 520 parishes and only 220 priests. In our own North Carolina, two of our priests have to cover 2,000 square miles. This is a problem to which we must address ourselves.”
Two Protestant denominations are doing just that. The Lutheran Church of Finland has cut one year from the period of study required for ordination in its aim to fill 80 pastoral vacancies, most of them in sparsely settled areas. Theology students at the University of Helsinki will be eligible for degrees after four-and-a-half years of study. The present term of study is five-and-a-half years.
An experimental program also has been inaugurated by the Christian Church, or Disciples of Christ. This program is aimed at recruiting more ministerial students. In California, two pilot guidance and recruitment conferences recently saw 155 high school students undergo tests for psychological fitness after they had expressed interest in church careers. Those making high scores on the tests will be given church guidance in planning their scholastic careers. At the time they become college juniors they will be expected definitely to decide whether they wish to make church service their careers. The director of the Christian Church’s United Christian Missionary Society, the Rev. Jay Calhoun, emphasizes that the present complement of 3,400 full-time ministers must be increased to at least 4,500 by 1975. That is necessary, he says, if the present proportion of ministers to church members is to be maintained.
Charlotte, North Carolina: A South Carolina attorney has told a Methodist Church fact-finding panel that Southern Methodists will not integrate their schools or churches. Hugh S. Sims, of Orangeburg, South Carolina, said, “Very frankly it doesn’t make any difference what the Supreme Court or the Methodist Church does. The attitude is not going to change.” Some others, however, disagreed. The Rev. Jack Crum, of Raleigh, North Carolina, said, “Segregation is wrong. I am opposed to segregation in our church. As a Christian, I can no longer sit in silence as my church denies the power of Christ’s love within its bounds.”
Indianapolis, Indiana: A Denver minister warned members attending the American Urban Convocation that the sins of segregation are weakening in the churches of America. The Rev. Wendell Liggins said, “Communism feeds upon inconsistencies and hesitancies and confuses our youth.” The racial problem in the United States, he said, is the foremost issue in the world today.
Cleveland, Ohio: A prominent church leader of New York City has urged that large American foundations join the government in sponsored student exchanges between American and Russian higher educational institutions. The Rev. Dr. Ray Gibbons recently returned from a tour of Western Europe and Russia, and said, “There is genuine desire among the common people of Russia for peace with America.”
Vatican City: The Roman Catholic Church has decreed that young men must fulfill their military obligations before they take permanent religious vows. The Sacred Congregation of the Religious, in a decree published in the official Vatican news bulletin, said the measure was adopted because military service often affects a young man’s mind about monastic life.
Again Indianapolis, Indiana: A Baptist leader says three press associations, four radio and three television networks dominate much of American thinking. The Rev. Paul O. Madsen, of New York, addressing the Baptist Urban Convocation, said the press associations and networks have taken over the role of shaping the mind, morals, and thinking of the nation. This, he said, once was the function of ministers.
Vatican City: Pope Pius will go to Rome from his summer villa at Castel Gandolfo next week to attend the annual Requiem Mass held in memory of the cardinals who have died during the past 12 months. Those to be commemorated are Jules Saliège, of Toulouse, France, and Pedro Segura y Saenz, of Spain.
St. Louis: 30 Protestant denominations having a total of 37.5 million members discussed a wide range of subjects this week in the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches. Of the many significant resolutions approved at this supreme policy-setting conclave, one stood out. In the light of the new age of rockets, nuclear weapons, and satellites, the General Assembly called for greater effort to achieve worldwide disarmament. It pointed out, quite rightly, that the present arms race can lead to nothing but a war which conceivably could destroy civilization. In the words of the assembly, “Efforts must be redoubled to realize the final goal of worldwide disarmament in the framework of the United Nations.” Well, few would disagree with the desirability of disarmament, but whether it will ever be possible under the U.N. as presently constituted, there is certainly no consensus.
In other actions, the assembly adopted resolutions:
- Calling for more help to refugees.
- Urging increased world trade.
- Terming a menace to our liberties recent attempts by some local and state governments to suppress certain voluntary associations by forcing them to name members – a blow dealt to some chapters of the NAACP.
- Protesting that Negro delegates to the assembly have been refused service by some St. Louis restaurants and taxicabs. Then promptly took action not to hold another such meeting anywhere that delegates will not be treated with the same courtesy regardless of their race.
- Voting to admit four new denominations to the council. One of them is the Polish National Catholic Church in America, the first nominally Catholic church to join. They bring the total of 34 Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholic denominations to 38 million members.
- Sending a telegram to the AFL-CIO Convention in Atlantic City commending it for working to oust corrupt and racketeering elements.
- Suggesting a Senate committee conduct a full inquiry into malpractices of management.
- Renouncing racial segregation as contrary to the teachings of Jesus and the gospel of love, and appealed to local churches and citizens to do more to end it in schools and elsewhere.
On the matter of church integration, the Rev. Dr. Liston Pope, Dean of Yale Divinity School, said the churches are making slow but steady progress toward ending segregation. Dr. Pope informed the assembly that about 10 percent of America’s congregations are now integrated, five times the percentage in 1947. This would indicate that about 30,000 churches are now integrated. Contrasting reports were heard by the assembly on this point. A Presbyterian layman and president of the Virginia Council of Churches, Francis Pickens Miller of Charlottesville, said race relations in his home state and other Deep South states are steadily deteriorating.
My report and comments two weeks ago evoked considerable discussion and apparent disagreement among some of you listeners. That is good, and is exactly what I had hoped, for I was dealing with the question of revelations, the firm belief held by Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Mohammedans, and others, that their bibles were the result of revelation, and that in each group there are some who insist that their bible only is right. This would be fine if all revelations were the same, so it seems hardly reliable to depend upon revelation as a basis for religious insight.
It would, indeed, be convenient if we could get such revelations from some other world, so we could know on what horse to bet, what job to take, in what to invest our money, what girl to marry, and so on. Unfortunately, there is no such easy way. It would be wonderfully convenient for those too lazy or too pleasure-loving to think and study if they suddenly could find themselves in possession of such truths. But I have not yet met such a person. I have met a number of deceivers, but what they claimed as revelation was not knowledge at all but mostly imaginative nonsense. It would appear that you have to study, work, and think in order to be wise in any field, and religion is no exception. There is no miraculous substitute for honest endeavors and hard work in the field of learning, as the educationists are being told by about everybody in these Sputnik days.
Scientists tell us all knowledge, that is, all awareness, comes to us through the sense as sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and the like. There is no such thing as non-sensory experience, or revelation. There are no ways of discovering or apprehending truth unique to the field of religion. Religious knowledge is not acquired in any other way than is knowledge of any other field. Progress can and will be made in religion only to the extent that it is given the same kind of critical thinking that is applied to other areas. It is no good to think scientifically in terms of cause and effect all during the week, then on Sunday, park your brains in the vestibule, along with your hat and coat, and enter an atmosphere where all sorts of impossible things happen.
Through all history, people, some sincere and some not sincere, have believed they received special revelation. They have claimed visions, dreams, trances, illuminations, and many of them insist that such experiences came from God. But it is equally true that drug addicts, alcoholics, and the mentally ill have such experiences also, and it is likely that the revelations of the latter have about as much foundation as those of the former. They are worth nothing because they bring us no important knowledge.
This reporter has yet to learn of any great truth benefiting mankind that was arrived at in a non-human way. Great truths are the result of careful experiment and patient observation. The great laws of the universe to which we must make adjustment were not revealed. They were discovered. The great marvels of human achievement did not come by revelation, but they were built on discovery. Few of us doubt that God is in and through it all. He is both law and author of law. Man, by use of the intelligence that God has given him, may progressively discover these laws and make adjustment to them. If he does not, he will perish. All of this is intended to indicate that there is no shortcut to heaven, no cheap and easy salvation schemes, but to study religion, society, and self, that we make the largest possible contribution to human enterprise. This may not be – it is definitely not – orthodox; it may not accord with the fine-spun theology. But it does offer a working hypothesis that will enable one, building on it to make progress, whether it is in the field of more mundane everyday affairs or in the loftier realm of man’s experience that we call religion.
Newspapers are dreary reading these days – mainly about bigger and better ways of killing people. Friends talk about this competition in devilish instruments of destruction much the same way they did about the last World Series. Education is urged not to make people better, but to produce scientists who can contribute to carnage. The advisers of an amiable but befuddled president have launched a great campaign to get the American people to give the government an ever-increasing part of their subsistence for what may literally destroy them. I am old enough that I can remember when it was not only respectable to work for peace but it was thought to be a religious obligation to do so.
Christmas is only 17 days from now. I wonder if those responsible for doing so have ever thought of giving the citizens of Washington County a Christmas present by bringing to justice those responsible for the April 30 dynamite slaying in the Sulphur Springs community. They will have had a long time in which to perform this duty.