The American Journal of Sociology/Volume 01/Number 2/Local Alliances
Within a few years there has taken place a remarkable change in Christian public opinion touching the relations of the church to society. The increasing recognition of the social mission of the church has prepared the way for the formation of local organizations which the Evangelical Alliance for the United States now invites.
REASONS FOR FORMING LOCAL ALLIANCES.
The following reasons, in brief, for forming such organizations afford at the same time a statement of their objects.
1. To bring conscience to bear on the life of the nation.—A quickened and enlightened conscience is the great need of the times in the relation of employer and employe, in all private business, in all public trusts, in politics and in legislation, municipal, state and national. In whatever sphere men ought, there it is the right and duty of the church to urge the dictates of the Christian conscience. But in the unorganized condition of the churches there is no medium through which the Christian conscience of the city, the state, the nation can utter itself. For lack of this saving salt, municipal government has rotted and legislatures have become corrupt. Every year needed reform legislation fails and laws are enacted which do violence to the Christian conscience of the state because there is no adequate medium through which that conscience can be brought to bear. By such organization as is proposed, a legislature could be flooded with hundreds of thousands of names, in petition or protest, in a single week.
2. To close the chasm between churches and workingmen.—This chasm is largely one of misunderstanding and indifference. Individual church members have done much in behalf of workingmen, but they have not done it in the name of the churches, and hence are not understood to represent the churches. Their vidual efforts may prove their individual interest, but do not convince workingmen that the churches, as such, are interested in their welfare. Nor does the establishment of mission chapels and Sunday schools, by the churches, prove their love. Such efforts are credited to proselytism and are considered oftentimes only an evidence of selfishness. When the churches, as churches, undertake to improve social conditions they will rapidly remove popular misunderstanding and indifference.
Many outside the churches are coming to believe that true Christianity consists in love to man, and are making philanthropy a substitute for religion instead of an expression of it. Already we hear of a "Labor Church" movement which lays the chief emphasis on the second great commandment of Christ. Should this movement become general, it would widen the chasm between the churches and workingmen. The best way for the churches to prevent the teaching of a half Christianity is to live a whole Christianity, exemplifying love to man while we preach love to God; and the best way to convince the multitude of our love is to follow the example of the Master and meet them on the plane of their conscious needs.
But while it is extremely important to have men well housed, well fed, well employed, and well governed, and while all of these are necessary to the salvation of society, yet all together they are insufficient. Jesus Christ is the only Saviour either of societv or of the individual, and all efforts at social amelioration, therefore, of whatever kind, should be made tributary to the supreme result of bringing all men under the law of Christ and into vital relations with him.
3. To gain the strength which comes from organization.—The generation which has seen the hordes of China's unorganized millions helpless before the small but disciplined forces of Japan needs no homily on the effectiveness of organization.
War, manufactures, commerce, business, politics, education, have all been reduced to system. Nearly all the great factors of civilization, except religion, philanthropy and reform, have in some comprehensive way laid hold of the strength which comes from organization. The next great step to be taken, and for which a thousand interests wait, is the organization of churches into coöperative relations which will enable them to meet the higher needs of our civilization.
4. To prevent the indefinite multiplication of organizations.—The new interest in philanthropy and reform is creating a great number of unrelated societies, many of which overlap and develop friction, resulting in the waste of time, money and effort. What is much needed, in the interest of both economy and of effectiveness, is a common center where efforts to improve the community may be coordinated and adjusted to each other in some comprehensive plan—an organization which can survey the whole field and throw united effort into any one of many directions at the opportune moment.
5. To prevent competition and waste in locating missions and churches.—When denominations prosecute the work of church extension each with reference to its own growth rather than the growth of the kingdom, there results an unwise distribution of forces—a congestion of churches in the best part of the community and a dearth in the worst. Such a condition of things is as criminal as it is needless.
6. To cultivate Christian fellowship between different churches and different denominations.
7. To reach homes with elevating and transforming influences.—Most of the great evils of our times, whether physical, social, moral, or spiritual, can be effectively reached and overcome only in the home; and the homes of a community will not be effectively reached with Christian influence without the intelligent coöperation of the churches.
Without some such organization as is proposed the churches cannot accomplish their social redemptive work. Through such organization they can demonstrate the vitality of the Christian religion by manifesting its power to meet existing needs, thus molding the civilization of the new century.
The practicability of such organization, both local and general, has already been demonstrated in England.
SUGGESTED LINES OF WORK.
A standing committee is appointed on each line of work which the Alliance decides to undertake; and the success of the organization will depend very largely on the wisdom with which the chairmen of these committees are selected and the faithfulness with which they serve. As conditions differ in different communities, no two Alliances may have exactly the same list of committees. Each organization is of course free to undertake as many or as few lines of work as it deems wise. At first an Alliance will naturally limit itself to a few, selecting those whose need is most urgent, and adding others with increasing strength and experience. The following are offered by way of suggestion:
1. Comity.—Through this committee the various church extension societies of the city should be brought into touch so as to prevent overlapping in some neighborhoods and neglect in others.
2. Social conditions.—This committee should investigate the religious and social conditions of the community and of the surrounding country. They may appropriately form neighborhood or Church Reading Circles, Home-culture Clubs and Maternal Associations. By enlistening the coöperation of a large number of judicious women and assigning to each a small district, the churches can come into friendly and helpful personal relations with all of the needy homes of the community, and bring to them blessings, sanitary, economic, domestic and spiritual.
3. Evangelization.—Through this committee the Alliance should care for the religious needs of prisons, workhouses and neglected neighborhoods.
4. Relief.—To this committee will be referred cases of sickness and want not otherwise provided for.
5. Temperance.—This committee may profitably undertake, through sub-committees, work along various lines; e. g., public meetings, the organization of church temperance societies, the systematic distribution of wisely selected temperance literature, the study of the local problem, with a view to finding the best solution, etc.
6. Sunday observance. — Much can be done to improve Sabbath observance by showing the people the basis on which our Sabbath laws rest, which is very commonly unknown, especially by foreigners. Members of Endeavor Societies, Epworth Leagues, and the like might render great service by systematically distributing Sunday and temperance literature.
7. Law and order. — Under this general head special attention will be paid to the saloons, disorderly houses, gambling and Sabbath desecration. The town should be districted and each member of the committee assigned a district in which he will keep vigilant watch of all law breakers.
8. Legal advice. — Good legal advisers will be necessary.
9. Publication. — An important service is rendered by preparing a digest of the liquor, tobacco, gaming and Sunday laws of the state; also of the laws specifying the duties of public officials, such as Mayor, Prosecuting Attorney, the Board of Excise, Excise Inspector, the Police, etc. Knowledge of the fact that the public is well acquainted with the law will often bring officials up to duty, and also prevent the violation of law. Furthermore, knowledge of the law serves to strengthen public opinion in regard to its enforcement. This digest should be widely scattered.
Further service is rendered by first carefully verifying facts concerning the characters and records of unworthy candidates and of unfaithful officials, and then giving them publicity in a non-partisan way. An association of citizens in Boston so exposed an unworthy candidate for the mayoralty as to force him to leave the city.
10. Municipal reform. — Instead of "going into politics," the Alliance will aim through this committee to separate municipal elections from state and national politics. It will insist on the official fitness of candidates, oppose incompetent and corrupt men, and sustain the constituted authorities in a faithful administration of the public service. 11. Civic improvements.—Most cities in the United States are in need of public baths and lavatories. Many young and growing cities neglect to make adequate provision for parks until it is too late.
To this committee many suggestions for the public good will come, also complaints of abuses and nuisances. These latter, after first being investigated, should be referred to the proper authorities. Care should be taken not to antagonize officials unnecessarily.
12. Labor.—Through this committee the Alliance will seek to aid labor reforms, to encourage the arbitration of labor difficulties, to establish labor bureaus, form working-girls' clubs, encourage cooperative housekeeping for self-supporting girls, oppose the sweating evil and child-labor, and demonstrate to workingmen the desire of the churches to serve them in every legitimate way.
13. Education and recreation.—This committee will seek to create an intelligent interest in the public schools, to take the schools out of politics, to see that buildings are sanitary and that they provide adequate accommodations, that school laws, like that requiring instruction as to the effects of alcohol and narcotics on the human body, are enforced, and that the schools enjoy the best facilities for attaining the highest efficiency. This committee might appropriately consider the introduction of university extension, the kindergarden, manual training, cooking and sewing classes, the English continuation and recreation schools, playgrounds, summer excursions for poor children and sickly mothers, outing clubs, fresh air funds, holiday houses, and the like.
14. Legislation.—This committee, by means of petitions and protests, will bring to bear the Christian conscience of the community on the legislature of the state with a view to encouraging good and defeating bad legislation touching social, moral and religious interests. Before the legislature convenes, this committee should district the community and assign to each district a competent person who, on short notice, will circulate such petition or protests as the Alliance may decide to send to the legislature.
15. Finance.—If in order to encourage the largest membership the Alliance dispenses with an initiation fee and annual dues, a committee will be necessary to secure voluntary financial support.
In large cities some of these committees will, each one, do the work of a large society, and should, therefore, have a large membership divided into sub-committees.
A BLANK CONSTITUTION.
THE EVANGELICAL ALLIANCE OF. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Art. I.—Name. This organization shall be known as The Evangelical Alliance of. . . . . . . . . . ., auxiliary to the Evangelical Alliance for the United States of America.
Art. II.—Objects. The object of the Alliance shall be to declare and prove the deep, practical interest of the allied churches in whatever concerns human welfare.
The Alliance shall aid such directly religious efforts as it may approve for united action, and further such moral and civic movements as it may deem to be of large importance. Its objects shall include the aid, in all practical ways, of such existing organizations as, in its judgment, are wisely seeking the common well-being.
The Alliance shall stand in the name of Christ on the side of practical religion, good citizenship, the enforcement of law, the promotion of sobriety, the prevention of cruelty, the alleviation of suffering, the correction of injustice, the rescue of the unfortunate, the reformation of the depraved, and for such kindred ends as pertain to the true social mission of the church.
In the furtherance of such objects it is distinctly declared that the Alliance shall not attempt to exercise ecclesiastical or administrative authority over the allied churches. It shall be the servant of the churches, recommending such united action as it deems most wise. It shall be a purely voluntary association, which leaves the churches, with all their diverging views of doctrine and polity, absolutely unsolicited either to worship or to fellowship which would contradict their independent convictions. Nor shall it lay the churches under any financial obligations.
Art. III. Membership.—Section 1.—All persons in sympathy with the objects of the Alliance and purposing to coöperate with it may become members by signing the Constitution.
Section 2.—Any evangelical church desiring to become a member of the Alliance, and having so determined by appropriate action on its part, shall be deemed a coöperating church.
Art. IV.—Management. The management of the Alliance shall be vested in a Board of Managers, to consist of the Pastor of each coöperating evangelical church, and two of its members elected by said church prior to the last Monday of October.
The President, Secretary and Treasurer of the Alliance shall be ex officio President, Secretary and Treasurer of the Board of Managers.
Art. V.—Officers. The officers of the Alliance shall be chosen by the Board of Managers. And these officers shall be a President, a Vice-President from each cooperating denomination, a Secretary, a Treasurer, and an Executive Committee consisting of the President, Secretary and Treasurer ex officio, together with seven other members.
Art. VI.—Amendmetits. This Constitution may be amended at any regular or special meeting of the Alliance by a two-thirds vote of the members present, provided the amendment shall have been previously approved by the Board of Managers.
Art. I.—President. The President, or in his absence one of the Vice-Presidents, shall preside at all meetings of the Alliance.
Art. II.—Secretary. The Secretary shall keep the minutes of all meetings, shall preserve all records and papers, and shall give notice of meetings.
Art. III. — Treasurer. The Treasurer shall have charge of the funds of the Alliance subject to the direction of the Executive Committee. He shall report to the Alliance at its annual meeting, and to the Board of Managers when so requested.
Art. IV. — Executive Committee. The Executive Committee shall carry into effect such plans as the Board of Managers may adopt, shall recommend such plans or modifications of plans as their own study and experience may suggest, and shall direct the disbursement of the funds of the Alliance.
Art. V. — Standing Committees. Standing Committees for the prosecution of various departments of work shall be appointed by the Board of Managers.
Art. VI. — Meetings. There shall be an annual meeting of the Alliance on the first Monday in November, at such hour and place as may be designated by the Executive Committee. There shall also be stated meetings of the Board of Managers on the last Monday of October, January and April, the hour and place to be determined as above.
Art. VII. — Amendments. These By-Laws may be amended by a two-thirds vote at any duly called meeting of the Board of Managers.
Happily in this age of the world there is a strong public sentiment against all intolerance and against whatever looks like a "holier-than-thou" assumption.
The alliances of local churches which are being organized by the Evangelical Alliance for the United States are placed under evangelical management; and this fact has provoked some criticism because it has been misinterpreted to indicate a spirit of assumption and intolerance.
It should be understood that the object in organizing the local alliance is not theological but wholly practical. The purpose is not to conserve doctrine (that is done by the churches) but to secure the most effective cooperation and the largest possible results.
Obviously those who are to cooperate must be in substantial agreement as to the ends for which they are to labor and the means by which the desired ends are to be accomplished. If men of radically different faiths are to cooperate, their endeavors must be confined to the few objects on which they all agree. If on the other hand men are to cooperate for the furtherance of "whatever concerns human welfare" both of soul and body, the management must be narrowed to those who substantially agree concerning men's spiritual as well as physical needs. That is, either the scope or the management must necessarily be limited.
It is asked: Why not choose the former alternative and confine activities to the few lines of work on which all good citizens can agree? Because the object of the movement is to broaden the activities of the churches to the full measure of their mission. We are coming to see that Christianity was intended to save the whole man, "spirit, soul and body." The churches have heretofore laid emphasis on a fraction of the man. It is not worth while in their endeavors to exchange one fraction for another; we aim at uplifting the entire man. So intimate are the relations of soul and body that it is impossible to work most effectively for the one without recognizing also the needs of the other; and as men's spiritual needs are the higher, the churches must in all their activities make their spiritual work their supreme object. This ought they to have done and not to have left the other undone.
Again the churches are coming to see that Christ is not only the Saviour of the individual, but also of society. If the new civilization of the twentieth century is to be more Christian than that of the nineteenth, it will be because the principles of Christ's teaching are more faithfully and effectively applied to it; and if this application is made at all, it must be made by the churches. The great forces of civilization, such as manufactures, commerce, education and politics, are becoming more and more perfectly organized. If, therefore, religion is to retain its position among them as one of the great determining forces of civilization, and much more, if it is to gain a decisive influence over them all, the churches also must avail themselves of the greatly increased effectiveness which is afforded by organization and cooperation.
This movement then aims at the christianizing of society in all its interests and activities, and at the salvation of the whole man, spiritual and physical, without which society cannot be saved. Anything less comprehensive would not grasp the situation and be equal to the existing emergency. Is it not, therefore, quite evident, that those who do not sympathize with these objects, and those who do not regard Christ as a Saviour either of the individual or of society cannot participate in the management of the organization?
This limitation of the management is not intended to be, and is not, in fact, the slightest comment on the character of those who are not included in it. It should not be said that we are unwilling to cooperate with them; the truth is they are unable to cooperate with us, except on certain lines; and on these lines, concerning which all good citizens agree, the cooperation of all is cordially invited. Men of all faiths and of no faith, who sympathize with any of the objects of the Alliance, are alike eligible to membership, on precisely the same footing, with precisely the same rights and privileges, and may serve on standing committees with the same suffrage on all questions which come before the said committees. For the reasons given above, the general management is vested in a Board of Managers, consisting of the pastor of each cooperating evangelical church and of two members elected by said church.
One other consideration may be added to show that it would not be wise to narrow the scope to the promotion of men's physical welfare only, for the sake of leaving the management unlimited. Heretofore the evangelical churches in their efforts for the spiritual have failed adequately to recognize the physical. There is now a great awakening of interest in the latter; and human nature, being what it is, warrants the expectation that in due time there will be a tendency to the other extreme, and many will be liable to emphasize the physical to the neglect of the spiritual. If the evangelical churches, with all the stimulus which comes from united action, confined their coöperation to efforts in behalf of the physical, they would greatly facilitate an extreme action. But by directing their efforts to the service of the entire man they will be able to preserve a happy balance, on which their highest usefulness depends.
New York City.
Evangelical Alliance for the United States