« PreviousContinue »
door work, and who of us but often need responsible counsel and help, and how invaluable they would be to the juniors among us!
Our churches suffer from the lack of oversight. Pastors tend well the folds over which they are severally set; but, with here and there an exception, our Presbyteries and Synods very imperfectly watch the shepherdless flocks. As ecclesiastical bodies do not and cannot whisper caution and advice and encouragement and stimulus to those of their members who call for the delicate administration of such an office, so they are too cumbersome for all the activities of a missionary field. They are compelled to undertake them by the exigencies of new settlements, and are occasionally aroused to them in established communities, but their efforts are generally transient and fitful. And the result is disastrous. Scores and hundreds of churches die of neglect, and scores and hundreds of opportunities for churches are lost. Episcopacy has an advantage here, and Methodist Episcopacy is making the most of it. It takes up our expiring flocks and puts them in well-tended folds.
And would not an arrangement for a kind and measure of supervision, by individuals as well as by bodies, abate an evil, of which both our church and ministers are the victims? I can hardly bring myself to publish the fact, for it seems like proclaiming either our weakness or our shame, and yet the stress of the case compels me to state, that while our last minutes report 4,181 ministers, and 4,330 churches, more than 1,000 of our ministers are stated supplies, or without permanent engagements;' and nearly 800 are wholly unemployed, and less than 1,500 are pastors; and more than 1,500 of our churches are served by stated supplies, and nearly 1,000 have no regular supplies of any kind. Suppose that onehalf of these unemployed ministers are aged or infirm, or otherwise incompetent for pulpit and pastoral labor, we then have 400 ministers, qualified to preach and visit, without pulpits and parishes. Most of the 1,000 vacant churches are small and feeble, but the greater their need of care, and with 400 able-bodied and well-trained ministers disengaged in our bounds, they ought to be served.
The impossibility of a support for these 400 ministers in these 1,000 churches is not the reason of their being unemployed, for long-continued experiment by a sister denomination shows that it can be furnished. What is needed, though not all that is needed, is an accepted medium of communication between the two, and also some degree of authority to bring them to terms. Left, as each church so much is left, to provide for itself, and left, as each minister so much is left, to settle himself, our Minutes will continue to report their humiliating tale. And is it not distressing to
think of this amount of cultivated and consecrated power lying idle in the
midst of this abounding waste, and must there not be something faulty or wanting in the administration that admits of it?
All modification of our methods of ecclesiastical action may seem too perilous to be risked; but more is to be feared from a timid conservatism than from a bold amendment. None of us, I am sure, are content with our present degree of efficiency. We make no comparisons with other denominations, but we are dissatisfied with ourselves. We have not the life, the vigor, the enterprise that become a Christian church in this day and in this land.
According to the plan of Reunion adopted by the Assemblies of 1869, the Moderators of the two Assemblies of 1869 jointly presided until the new Moderator was chosen. By this arrangement the Rev. Philemon H. Fowler, D.D., Moderator of the Assembly that met in May, 1869, in the Church of the Covenant, New York, having preached the sermon, the Rev. Melancthon W. Jacobus, D.D., LL.D., Moderator of the Assembly that met in May, 1869, in the Brick Church, New York, took the chair, for the purpose of putting the votes and deciding questions of order.
Prayer having been offered by Dr. Jacobus, the Rev. J. Trumbull Backus, D.D., was by acclamation elected Moderator. Also by a unanimous vote, the following gentlemen were elected clerks :
The Rev. Edwin F. Hatfield, D.D., Stated Clerk, the Rev. Cyrus Dickson, D.D., Permanent Clerk; and the Rev. Villeroy D. Reed, D.D., Hon. S. F. McCoy, and Ezra M. Kingsley, Esq., Temporary Clerks.
The following telegram was read, and received with applause:
ALLEGHENY CITY, PA.,
To the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church:
immediately preceding the separation, sends greeting to the first Reunited Assembly of the same through their Moderator, praying that their proceedings may be distinguished by the wisdom that is from above, and cemented by the charity which is the bond of perfectness.
The Rev. Dr. Hatfield, by appointment of the Assenbly, prepared a reply, using for the purpose the words of Psalm xcii., verses 12-15: "The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; to shew that the Lord is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him."
After the preliminary organization, in which was thus exhibited an entire unanimity, the Assembly commenced its appropriate work. A Joint Committee on Reconstruction had been appointed by the Assemblies of 1869. This Committee, of which the Rev. Dr. Mus grave was Chairman, and the Rev. Dr. Hatfield, Secretary, reported at an early stage of the proceedings. The consideration of this report, that involved the boundaries of the Synods, arrangements for the formation of new Presbyteries, and important constitutional changes, occupied more of the time of the Assembly than any other subject. It originally proposed the establishment of all the Presbyteries during the sessions of the Assembly of 1870, a plan being suggested by which the various representatives of the Synods in the house should meet and nominate bounds to be afterward ratified by the whole Assembly. For this, the method finally adopted was, after not a little discussion, substituted. The
specific work of reconstructing the Presbyteries was remitted to the Synods, when organized, as defined by the Assembly. These Synods were directed to meet for the purpose of thus arranging the bounds of the new Presbyteries previous to July 15, 1870. In several other particulars the very able report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction was changed by amendments, all of which were fully discussed and quite unanimously adopted.
As this report will possess a historical value, it seems proper to insert it in here in its amended form:
Your Committee have held three several meetings in the city of Philadelphia one in January, another in March, and the final one the present month, just before the meeting of the Assembly. The second, and most important of all our meetings, had the presence of every member. We have endeavored diligently and faithfully to attend to the business of Reconstruction, which had been intrusted to us.
Our duties, as described in the concurrent resolutions of the two Assemblies for our appointment, were- "to prepare and propose to the General Assembly of the United Church a proper adjustment of the boundaries of the Presbyteries and Synods, and the ratio of representation; and any amendments of the Constitution, which they may think necessary to secure efficiency and harmony in the administration of the Church, so greatly increased and so rapidly extending." Under this minute, especially the latter part, many supposed our powers very extensive, and our range of subjects almost unrestricted. We have not so judged, but preferred to keep closely to what is more specially mentioned or clearly implied.
Numerous communications on these matters have reached us; a few from ecclesiastical bodies, or associations of ministers, but chiefly from individuals; all which have been respectfully and patiently considered, though the suggestions contained in some of them we may have failed to adopt. Many of them either fell in with our own convictions, or tended somewhat to modify them; a few recommended changes so great and radical in the constitution of Presbyteries, Synods, and the Assembly, that we could not approve of them; some, we thought, might better come before your body from another quarter; while others, though important and salu
tary, would cause such agitation and opposition, if proposed, as might seriously disturb the peace and harmony of our so-happily united Church. We have thought proper to recommend only measures which were of immediate and pressing necessity, leaving other matters to future and fuller development.
First, then, as to the consolidation, adjustment, and defining the boundaries of Synods; we recommend the following, viz., the Synods of — 1. LONG ISLAND; to comprise the counties of Kings, Queens, Suffolk, and Richmond, N. Y.
2. NEW YORK; to comprise the counties of New York, Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Rockland, Orange, Ulster, and Sullivan, N. Y., with our ministers and churches in the New England States.
3. ALBANY; to include north of the line of the Synod of New York, and east of the west line of the counties of Greene, Schoharie, Montgomery, Fulton, Hamilton, and Franklin, N. Y.
4. UTICA; to extend west of the Synod of Albany, to the west line of Tioga, Cortland, Onondaga, and Oswego counties, N. Y., and to the State line on the north.
5. GENEVA; to comprise the counties west of Utica to the west line of Steuben, Ontario, and Wayne counties, N. Y.
6. GENESEE; to embrace all the counties of New York west of the Synod of Geneva.
7. NEW JERSEY; to be conterminous with that State, and have also attached to it the Presbytery of Corisco.
8. PHILADELPHIA; to embrace the eastern part of Pennsylvania to the west line of the counties of Bradford, Sullivan, Luzerne, Schuylkill, Lebanon, and York; and to have attached to it the Presbytery of Western Africa.
9. HARRISBURG; to comprise the central counties of Pennsylvania west of the Synod of Philadelphia, and east of the west line of the counties of McKean, Cameron, Clearfield, Blair, and Bedford.
10. ERIE; to comprise the north-west counties of Pennsylvania, west of the Synod of Harrisburg, and bounded south by the counties of Cambria and Westmoreland, and the Allegheny and Ohio rivers, to the State line, except that part of Indiana County lying east and south of the Blacklick Creek.
11. PITTSBURG; to comprise the remainder of Pennsylvania west of the Synod of Harrisburg, and south of the Synod of Erie; with all of West Virginia west of the Allegheny ridge.
12. BALTIMORE; to contain Delaware, Maryland, the District of Co