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When we met in National Council in Cleveland, in 1907, this was an enterprise not thought of. As an undertaking with a definite monetary object, it has gone far beyond the dollarmark. As a denominational endeavor, its results have been pronounced, and, I believe, permanent.
For the first time in many years, our missionary societies are now out of debt. This of itself is a notable thing. But the way in which they came to be delivered from their heavy, hindering, financial load is even more notable.
Competing methods were wholly discarded. There was no duplication of agencies, no waste either in labor or literature.
Our secretarial statesmen saw eye to eye. To them is due the credit for the conception of the campaign and for its successful execution. The labor involved was neither little nor limited. The entire group of our Missionary Societies entered into the canvass of the church membership upon an agreed and equitable basis. Thus united, they carried through a program marked by entire freedom from rivalry, and in a spirit of coöperation as fine as it was successful. Gratifying and helpful as were its financial results, it produced at least three important effects:
1. The “Together Campaign ” gave an impressive exhibition of the essential unity of all the mission work which we have had, and now have, in the denomination.
2. It did much to promote and establish unity. Coöperation between our Missionary Societies is now made vastly easier; and, through the presentation of the Apportionment Plan in that campaign, it has come to pass that our churches are more than ever inclined to insist upon an all-round and balanced missionary effort.
3. As a part of these results, or rather as including them both, there came into existence a larger consciousness of the importance and of the claims of the missionary cause than we had for many years, if ever. This did not come through addresses to large audiences, for in most places the attendance was small; but it did come about because, through the wise and wide statement of the plans and purposes of the campaign, and through the final achievement of the minimum amount sought for, our people were led to think of missions in a more general way than had been the case in recent years.
These results were a triumph and a prophecy. There are les
sons for us as a denomination in this wonderful union effort. Greater things for the kingdom must be conceived and undertaken. The business judgment of our thoughtful men approved the methods followed in this canvass. The way in which the campaign was conducted met the hearty commendation of our churches. The churches represented in this National Council, and the societies affected, cannot but contemplate their own and each other's future somewhat in the light of that which has been taught by this experience.
THE WORK OF OUR NATIONAL SOCIETIES.
The work which the national societies are managing, as agents of our denomination, needs only to be carefully studied to be cordially approved. That work has been and is being carried on with broad intelligence, with splendid courage, with great efficiency, and with rigid economy.
1. What our Congregationalism is:
Do we realize how many kinds of Christian service our denomination is actively engaged in, both at home and abroad?
Are we in sufficiently close touch with their various enterprises to keep informed regarding the nature and extent of the work which our national societies are doing in our name and for us, in establishing and maintaining hospitals and dispensaries, and in other humane physical relief which they are furnishing to the needy every hour, in some part of the world?
Do we appreciate the fact that through them we are helping to support, abroad and in the homeland, an educational system, where the "color line" is never drawn; in which class and caste are obliterated; in which primary and grammar and high school branches are taught; in which academic, and industrial, and normal courses are provided; where the open Bible has a large and honored place, and is taught by competent instructors; and that we are keeping at work presses which supply a religious and ethical literature of the very best type?
Are we aware that countless communities exist, in which our societies have planted stations and chapels and churches, which are practically the only moral and social and literary, as well as religious, centers?
And do we follow, even afar off, the widely and wisely sustained efforts of our societies, in providing, here and in foreign lands, a redemptive force, with thousands of converts, who are the choicest youth of their races and generation?
2. What it costs:
The ever-recurring inquiry as to the cost of the administration of these benevolent societies seems here again to call for an answer. There is an impression, that, to quote an oft-repeated phrase, “ it costs a dollar to send a dollar to a missionary or mission field.” Such an opinion is very wide of the mark. In the newer work of any denomination, the expense for administrative purposes is necessarily greater than for that which has long been established. The standard may better be discovered by the use of statistics gleaned from such societies as have for some time been maintained. We therefore look to the American Board, our oldest society, for information in this particular. The figures for administration of the American Board include salaries of secretaries, treasurers, and business representatives, rents, clerical and agency expenses, cost of traveling of returned missionaries and of secretaries, publications, postage, shipping, etc. These form what are called “ administrative expenses.' They show that, for this large and important work of the American Board, there is an annual outlay of between nine per cent and ten per cent. So that for the services rendered and the returns had, the cost is small indeed.
3. What we owe, and to whom:
Besides the onerous duties of the secretaries who bear the laboring oar, we would here take occasion to express our heartiest appreciation of the large debt we owe to the busy men and women who comprise the working crews of the craft forming our home and foreign fleets. They have given liberally of their time and of their substance in this behalf. Without them, and their unremitting voluntary services, and their large contributions, our benevolent societies would be seriously wanting in some of their most useful and beneficent features.
4. Fiscal years:
In this connection, attention is called to the confusion which prevails regarding the dates for the closing of the fiscal years of the seven societies.
These dates now are: A. B. C. F. M., August 31 Church B. S., December 31 A. M. A., September 30 Education S., June 1 C. H. M. S., March 31 Minist'l Relief, May 1 S. S. & P. S., March 1
It is recommended, for the benefit of contributors, and to give further value to the statistics published in our Year-Book, that the societies rearrange their financial years so as to make them the same.
THE RELATION OF OUR NATIONAL SOCIETIES TO
A subject which has received much attention during the past three years, and which I believe to be the most important administrative question now before the denomination, is:
How may our national societies be brought into closer relation to our churches?
Several of the methods suggested provide for the direct control and management of all the societies by the National Council; and for yearly meetings of the Council. And they contemplate the assumption by the Council in the near future of the administrative functions of the societies.
It was apparently not in the minds of the founders of the Council to make of it an administrative body. Rather did they seem to hope and plan for an inspirational assembly, through and from which the spirit in the churches might be quickened and sustained.
To change radically this purpose raises a fair inquiry as whether such a constitutional reconstruction might not do away with, or at least dull, the spiritual and inspirational character of the Council, by the substitution therefor of a business or administrative assembly only, or largely, whose success as such under existing circumstances may be problematical. The ideal to which we may confidently look is a union of the inspirational and administrative, and the beneficent results which should follow such a real union.
No one would have the temerity to assert that our existing agencies and methods may not be improved. We surely should, above all things, wish to maintain only such means as shall best
do the work committed to us as a denomination. And we should certainly be the first to adopt changes, when their necessity and value are recognized.
Obviously, then, the practical questions before us are: Where shall this readjustment begin, and how, and when?
1. It would appear that it should begin with a society, or with societies, each conducting two or more branches or departments of work which clearly are unrelated; branches or departments which can be separated with the least possible friction or interference with their efficiency; which can be divided to the satisfaction of each society concerned; and whose readjustment along something like these lines will generally be approved by our constituent churches.
2. It would appear that, should a readjustment in this particular be considered wise, the National Council, presently the only body directly representing our churches as a whole, would more nearly and naturally be considered by our denomination as the most convenient existing agency through which it may be accomplished.
The Council took the first step in what may be called the “New Congregational Nationalism,” in Cleveland, three years ago. It was then and there that it adopted into its family the Board of Ministerial Relief, no doubt "the first-born among many brethren."
The plan by which the suggested readjustment may be brought about should be carefully considered and worked out with deliberation by a competent committee. In general, it involves:
1. The attitude and action of the societies themselves.
2. The opinion of the churches, so far as that can be ascertained.
3. The judgment of this Council, or its successor, on the propriety and necessity of the change, or of any change, proposed.
It is a proper question for us to consider if it would not greatly increase the efficiency, and greatly lessen the expense, if the missionary work of the Sunday-School and Publishing Society were not speedily transferred from the latter to the Congregational Home Missionary Society, and thus leave the Publishing Society to become that, and all that, which its name indicates.
We need not here discuss in detail the matter of the quite