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THE ECONOMIC STRUGGLE WITHIN THE 
MINISTERIAL PROFESSION 



WM. E. HAMMOND 
Walker, Minnesota 



It may be taken for granted that few men enter the Chris- 
tian ministry from selfish motives. Were it merely a question 
of making money, the Christian ministry, as a vocation, would 
receive no consideration. For the young man who enters the 
ranks of the clergy is under no delusion in this particular, at 
least. Big financial returns are not expected. On the contrary, 
a certain amount of self-denial is anticipated. It is this devo- 
tion to Christian idealism that sustains him through those long 
years of preparation for his life's task. While his friends are 
establishing themselves in the business world, he abandons him- 
self to four more years of grind and poverty in the hope of 
adequately equipping himself for the work that lies before him. 

Once in the actual ministry, however, the young minister's 
purposes often suffer in an unexpected way. So subtle is the 
transformation that comes over him that the change takes 
place before he is aware of it. He leaves the seminary for a 
position that pays a mere pittance, and soon discovers that it 
will take years of self-denial to free himself from the debts 
accumulated in school. True, he had not anticipated that the 
profession would be a bed of roses. But he had failed to 
realize the amount of strength and courage it takes to sacrifice 
in the midst of abundance. Were his lot cast among those 
less fortunate than himself, he would endure his privations 
without complaint. But he finds himself among a people 
who are comfortably situated, or who have, at least, some 
prospect of prosperity. Soon he finds himself raising the 
question, "Am I justified in sacrificing myself in the midst 

513 



514 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

of plenty, and for a people who can well afford to pay me a 
living wage ?" The question becomes more acutely felt when 
he finds himself obligated to provide for a wife and children. 
Where is the parent of moderate means who does not wish for 
his children greater advantages than he himself enjoys ? And 
a minister is not unlike the rest of men in this respect. He 
feels responsible for his family's well-being, and wishes to save 
them from all unnecessary privations. What would happen to 
those he loves should permanent disability or death overtake 
him ? From whence is coming the money to pay for his chil- 
dren's education ? How can he provide against the monetary 
ills of old age? — are among the thoughts constantly upper- 
most in his mind. In short, the young minister's idealism is 
threatened by the economic factor. 

There is another cause that even more seriously affects a 
young minister's purposes. A little distance away a minister 
of the same denomination is drawing a salary considerably 
larger than his own. The question immediately suggests itself, 
"Why should I be content to live on a mere pittance when 
larger salaries are to be had ?" The Christian ministry offers 
as many opportunities for advancement as any other profes- 
sion. There are within most denominations all varieties of 
churches, paying from starvation wages to competent stipends- 
Why should not the young minister of meager salary qualify 
for a better paying position ? Why should he not make his 
present charge a stepping-stone to something more remunera- 
tive ? Is he not justified in seizing any offer that may come 
to him (regardless of the opportunities for service that his 
present location may present) that promises escape from eco- 
nomic serfdom? In a word, his temptation is to sacrifice 
his Christian idealism to economic expediency. Of course, he 
still intends to make service his life's great purpose. But why 
can he not serve on a larger, just as well as on a smaller, 
salary ? As a matter of fact, he has surrendered his ideal of 
disinterested service to material prosperity. 



THE ECONOMIC STRUGGLE AND THE MINISTER 515 

Once the young minister recognizes that he, too, is the 
victim of the competitive system, he will seek to discover, and 
to apply himself to, those methods and means that guarantee 
success. Experience will soon teach him that "quick returns" 
are of supreme value in the economic struggle in which he is 
engaged, and that tangible results in the form of increased 
money and members are generally accepted as signs of minis- 
terial ability. For the minister who is able to show an increase 
in the membership of, and attendance at, every department of 
the church's activities under his care, and is able to raise the 
figures of his budget (especially for the support of his denomina- 
tional machinery), is invariably pronounced successful. The 
quicker and greater his returns, the better chance he stands of 
favorable recognition. 

What does this imply ? It compels the young minister to 
enter into the keenest competition with the men, not only of 
his own, but of all denominations. His task is "to make 
good." But such is the task of every other minister. It is 
necessary, therefore, that he shall effectively meet the challenge 
of his fellow-competitors. By some means, fair or foul, he 
must attract people to, and interest them in, his own specific 
religious organization. Service becomes a secondary matter. 
He must learn the art of "catching" men for his own cause. 
To accomplish this, he must compete with every minister of 
the community in matters of advertising. Too much money 
is spent on advertisements to question its importance as a 
business asset. A well-established firm, organization, or pro- 
fession may regard further publicity unnecessary; but to the 
obscure — or where competition is keen — advertisements are 
of vital importance. It is therefore the task of the minister 
to excel his brethren of the profession in the art of advertis- 
ing. Nor can the young minister who is striving to further 
his personal interests afford to ignore the spice of novelty 
and variety. Novel methods, new "stunts," striking innova- 
tions, ingenious competitions, and pleasing variations are not 



516 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

to be disdained if the curiosity of the crowd is to be aroused. 
Of course, after he has attracted the unattached (granted he 
is honest enough to refrain from proselyting), there still 
remains the sphere of personal qualities to capture for himself. 
He must tower above the rest of his fellow-ministers either as 
a speaker or in social qualities; preferably in both. Fortu- 
nate is that young minister who, in addition to the other 
demands made of him, finds himself both the best speaker 
and most popular man among the preachers. of the community 
in which he resides. 

But the young minister finds himself engaged in more 
than a local struggle; he must compete with the men of his 
own denomination. There are numerous churches scattered 
throughout the country whose doors remain closed. This is 
due to the fact that their members are unable to support a 
minister. When we come to the better paying churches, the 
supply is found to be more than equal to the demand. There 
are always a large number of ministers who are waiting for an 
opportunity to improve their financial status. And advance- 
ment for the obscure man rests almost entirely with the denomi- 
national official under whose charge he happens to be. There 
are denominations whose churches are privileged full autonomy 
in the management of their local affairs. These not infre- 
quently select their ministers without consulting outside 
officials. To this class of church a young minister may 
be introduced and called through the recommendation of 
some friend. But until such time as he has won for himself 
a large circle of ministerial friends, or has achieved more than 
a local reputation, he must invariably look to his bishop or 
superintendent to recommend him to the consideration of 
other churches. It is, therefore, imperative that he should 
gain the approbation of those upon whom his chances for 
promotion depend. Ignoring all evidence of favoritism — 
found in church as well as all other relationships — our young 
friend must attract the attention of those under whose charge 



THE ECONOMIC STRUGGLE AND THE MINISTER 517 

he is. Here again, as in the case of the local situation, 
"numbers" are of primary importance. There lies on my 
desk as I write an official questionnaire relating to the Easter 
Membership Campaign now established as an annual custom 
in many of our Protestant churches. The information desired 
is, in brief, "How many members did you take into your 
church Easter Sunday ? How many on Confession of Faith ? 
How many by letter? And what were the methods used to 
secure these results?" However far removed the purpose of 
these questionnaires may be, the work of the young minister, 
as he answers or refuses to answer these questions, goes on 
record. " Results " are made the test of his winter's endeavors. 
The young minister knows that these returns are pouring into 
the office of his superintendent and that he must submit a 
glowing report if advancement is to be known. He is also 
fully aware that in his efforts to impress his denominational 
leaders with the merits of his claim to preference, he is compet- 
ing with the rest of his brethren of the ministry, especially 
those belonging to the class receiving a stipend comparable 
with his own. Nor is this all. If his financial status is to be 
improved, the young minister must get behind all denomina- 
tional programs, however unreasonable or exorbitant some of 
them may appear to be, and support his denominational 
machinery. The denominational machinery must of necessity 
depend upon the loyalty of the local church for its existence. 
Consequently, the local church is asked to share with the rest 
of the churches of the body politic the expenses incurred in 
extension work, missionary enterprises, educational activities, 
and in the general upkeep of the larger organization. Now 
the bigness of the machinery depends on the number and 
size of the churches within the sect in which it operates. The 
demand made of the local church is determined by the size 
of its budget. The funds at the disposal of those in office 
depend on the number of active churches within the 
denomination. The economic struggle is now more than 



518 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

local. It has to do with sectarian competition in the widest 
sense. Sect is pitted against sect in its endeavors to capture 
new territory or to maintain and to expand the work already 
established. And the size of the denominational budget 
determines the number of its high-salaried official positions; 
for the greatness of responsibility involved in any office must 
be met by equally great ability, which, in turn, must 
be correspondingly remunerated. It is in the interests of 
sectarian officialdom, therefore, that the machinery shall not 
only be kept going, but that the denomination shall enlarge 
rather than diminish. Sectarian officials, too, are caught in 
the thrall of the competitive system. The denomination they 
serve must hold its own against the aggressiveness of other 
religious bodies, and, if possible, strengthen its position even 
at the expense of all other sects. And in the economic struggle 
in which the denomination is engaged, the sectarian official 
must rely on the local pastor for support. He depends on him 
for the execution of his programs and to raise his ever growing 
budgets. And the young minister knows that if ever he is 
to gain favor in the eyes of those above him, upon whom his 
welfare so largely hangs, he must meet their requirements, 
however exacting. "To make good" involves substantial 
increases in the church's contributions for the wider denomina- 
tional program and activities. Insurgency may be tolerated 
in one who is too well established to be either hindered or 
destroyed; but the young minister soon learns that loyalty 
to the denominational machine pays better than open criticism 
or revolt. 

Several obvious evils resulting from this economic struggle 
as found in organized religion may be briefly stated. In the 
first place, the young minister is tempted, if not compelled, 
to sacrifice quality in his work to quantity. Many learn from 
bitter experience that such a thing as a thorough training of 
a group of young people for Sunday-school work does not 
count. It is not one of those things that looms up conspicu- 



THE ECONOMIC STRUGGLE AND THE MINISTER 519 

ously. Nor is there any special merit attached to the task of 
drilling a young men's class or a congregation in the practical 
application of Christ's teaching — teaching that will not only 
stand them in good personal stead, but will make for a better 
quality of Christian living, especially as it affects their human 
relationships. The young minister discovers that such service is 
at a discount in the economic struggle in which he is engaged. 
During at least the early years of his ministry, he cannot afford 
to lay out extensive and carefully evolved educational plans 
which require a period of years for their execution. His own 
economic struggle, as well as the demands of the church he 
serves, necessitate plans and methods that, in their working, 
bear evidence of progress. His primary task is to enlarge 
his membership rolls — church, Sunday school, young people's 
society, etc. — to fill his church pews, and to increase his church 
budget. These are the things that count to his advantage. 
And oftentimes he so far forgets himself in his anxiety to give 
evidence of his worth as to violate the common ethical prin- 
ciples of honesty, truthfulness, and justice. He practices the 
shrewdest methods of the business world; never fails to take 
an undue advantage of a fellow-minister; succumbs to schemes 
of wholesale proselyting; and perverts all ethical sense in his 
efforts "to succeed." 

The effect of the competitive system on the local church 
is no less pernicious and pronounced. In the first place, each 
church is out to procure the best possible man "in the market. " 
It is not considered unethical for a church to hold out every 
inducement to persuade a minister to resign his present charge 
in its favor. If the church with which it is competing is able 
to raise its price, or the minister is unwilling to relinquish 
his work for the advantages offered him, then it must 
continue its quest in another direction. Churches not only 
recognize the right of a minister to further his material 
interests, but encourage him to do so by their own competitive 
methods. The young minister knows that if his work does 



520 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

not show numerical gains, he will be asked to resign. He also 
knows that if ever he is to be invited to a better paying pas- 
torate his record of ministerial achievements must be satisfac- 
tory. Nor is this all. His work is judged by the conditions 
existing in the other churches of the community. If the church 
which a man serves is not enjoying as great prosperity as a 
neighboring church (apart from the methods used in securing 
that prosperity), his whole work is in danger of being under- 
estimated, depreciated, and discredited. His congregation 
grows restless and dissatisfied, and eventually calls for his 
resignation or removal, as the case might be. It is immaterial 
whether or not he is doing a more permanent piece of work 
than the minister whose prosperity they admire. Results, 
quick returns, are the things principally insisted upon in 
religious work; for these are made the standard and test of 
progress. Consequently, the most prevalent demand made of 
the modern minister is that he shall be a good business manager 
in the sense that the money expended on the institution in his 
charge must prove a profitable investment. He is called upon 
to compete successfully with the rest of the ministerial business 
men of the community. To be and to do this, he must possess 
all the qualifications of a good business manager. He must be 
neat in appearance, a good mixer, an expert organizer, an 
adept advertiser, qualified to run every department under 
his care, tactful, sociable, and jolly, especially with the young 
people, and an entertaining talker. An expert knowledge of 
the Bible, a broad outlook on life, an uncommon insight into 
.the deep things of God, and a sane interpretation of life's varied 
problems are not urgent as long as these other requirements 
are met. The quality of a minister's work and message is, 
alas, too often sacrificed to pretentious statistics. And sooner 
or later the church suffers from the system under which it 
exists. We have reference now specifically to the smaller 
churches. They suffer from short pastorates. The same 
competitive method by which they secure a minister is respon- 



THE ECONOMIC STRUGGLE AND THE MINISTER 521 

sible for his quick departure. No time is allowed for a piece 
of good, educational, constructive work. Oftentimes they 
suffer from "watered stock." They carry a bulk of worth- 
less material — people who are a hindrance rather than an 
asset to the church's life. In their anxiety for "quick returns, " 
they lower the standard of Christian discipleship, depreciate 
the value of Christian fellowship, and make church member- 
ship perilously easy. All these things have a demoralizing 
effect on Christian living and the moral life of the community 
in which they are found. 

Two panaceas have been offered during recent years for 
the ills of the competitive system as found in organized religion. 
A great deal has been written and said on the overchurched 
community. On the assumption that there are such com- 
munities, a process of elimination has been urged whereby 
only such churches shall be allowed to exist as are able to 
pay a minister a living wage. Personally, I have often ques- 
tioned the moral right of religious leaders and journalists 
(men who, for the most part, live in large cities where they 
are within easy access of the church of their choice) to deter- 
mine the form of creed and worship to which any person must 
of necessity conform. Undoubtedly, there has been too little 
recognition of, and attention given to, the fact of religious 
temperament in approaches to, and conclusions arrived at, on 
the question of religious organic unity. Observation has 
brought home to the writer the fact that when the religious 
temperament is not adequately provided for, efficiency results 
in moral and economic loss rather than gain. 

There have also been, during recent years, serious efforts 
put forth by various denominations to secure a minimum 
wage for its ministers. No one questions the worthiness of 
such efforts. But a minimum wage does not solve the problem. 
As long as one minister draws a larger salary than another, 
the competitive system under which ministers and churches 
today exist, with all its concomitant ills and dangers, will 



522 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

continue to menace organized religion. Neither a minimum 
wage nor schemes of federation can accomplish the end desired. 
The abolition of the system itself will provide the only correct- 
ive and cure so sorely needed. 

One often wonders why the current zeal for social reform 
does not seek more definite expression in reform within the 
church. Perhaps nowhere has the social question received 
greater consideration during the past decade than in religious 
journals and conferences. One has grown quite accustomed 
to the ceaseless attacks made upon the flagrant inequalities 
and injustices of the present social order. Endless discussions 
have gathered round the question of industrial relationships; 
while, with increasing insistency, social wrongs have been 
denounced and the urgency of the social application of Christ's 
teaching passionately proclaimed. Facts and figures have been 
assiduously collected and widely distributed. Most congrega- 
tions have been informed of the glaring, iniquitous disparities 
existing between the extremely rich and the extremely poor: 
conditions of wicked luxury and extravagances as contrasted 
with the grind, hardships, and privations of those existing at 
the opposite end of the social ladder. These things are 
discussed in every religious conference of today and receive 
no little publicity through religious journals; while there have 
been numerous religious commissions appointed during recent 
times to investigate social and industrial conditions for the 
purpose of advising the church what attitude it should assume 
toward some of the pressing questions of the hour, of disseminat- 
ing facts, and of discovering possible remedies for those defects 
in our common life which are generally conceded to call for 
drastic treatment. With these discussions, publicity, and 
commissions most Christians are in full sympathy; in fact, 
they are widely felt to be long since overdue. 

But the amazing thing is that it does not seem to occur 
to those religious leaders who are so ardently anxious to destroy 
the evils of the social system to deal with the flagrant inequali- 



THE ECONOMIC STRUGGLE AND THE MINISTER 523 

ties and obvious injustices of their own profession. A bishop 
will passionately denounce the wrongs of the social order and 
fervently urge the application of Christ's teaching to industrial 
relationships, while under his supervision are men whose 
strength is being sapped and spirits broken in their hopeless 
and unintermittent fight with poverty. And these are ex- 
pected, nay, almost compelled, to support their bishop that 
he may live in comparative comfort and maintain the dignity 
of his high office. It may be true that there are not in the 
ministerial profession those appalling contrasts provided by 
the self-indulgent extravagances of the idle rich and the drab 
struggles of the extremely poor; nevertheless, the monetary 
disparities are too great and unjust to be ignored. The fact 
must be faced that there are men (and their number is not 
small) who are eking out an existence (they can scarcely be 
said to be living) on a few hundred dollars a year when, but a 
little distance removed, is the minister who is drawing as many 
thousands in the same length of time. Not infrequently the 
preoccupying thought as one listens to the declamatory dis- 
cussions of the social question by high-salaried ministers is, 
"Physician, heal thyself!" The ill-paid pastor has qualified 
by his identification with, and experience of, the corrosive 
wear of poverty to speak on the subject. But there is some- 
thing incongruous about the well-paid religious leader denoun- 
cing social inequalities and industrial wrongs when similar evils 
remain unremedied, nay, not even considered, within his own 
profession. Is it right or is it wrong for a religious super- 
intendent to receive remuneration in figures of thousands while 
under his care are men who must meet the demands of life 
by the same figures in hundreds? Is it right or is it wrong 
for a missionary secretary to have enough and to spare while 
the minister and his family on the pioneer field are enduring 
all manner of hardships and privations? Is it not time the 
church faced some of these questions before she undertakes 
to eliminate the evils of the industrial world ? For the church 



524 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

and the Christian ministry of today are perhaps suffering as 
much as any institution or class of people from the evils of 
the competitive system. Its vicious demands tempt the young 
to place a premium on material success; subject the old to 
unnecessary strain and worry in their struggles to hold their 
positions; cause churches to compete with each other in their 
anxiety to procure the best man in the market for the money 
they can afford to pay; and hinder, in more ways than one, 
the progress of Christian unity. 

Of course, it may be anticipated that any proposal of a 
standardized salary among ministers would be met by the 
usual arguments put forth in favor of the competitive system. 
The present order would be defended on the grounds that 
equality in wages would rob ministers of all incentive to do 
their best, and would tend to encourage laziness. The under- 
lying confession of such an argument is that every clergyman 
is in the ministry for what he can get out of it. It was main- 
tained in the opening paragraph of this article that the majority 
of young men entering the ministry are actuated by unselfish 
motives; if a minister loses his Christian idealism for dis- 
interested service, it is largely due to the competitive system 
under which he labors. 

The world from time immemorial has paid homage to 
exceptional brains and ability. It has placed those possess- 
ing them in high office and felt in duty bound to reward them 
in accordance with the bigness of responsibility and tasks 
borne by, and entrusted to, them. And the church has 
accepted the custom of the world in this respect. But surely 
the standards of the church, where all men are supposed to 
be dedicated to the one common cause of disinterested service, 
should be different from those of the world. There is no New 
Testament evidence that God has placed a premium on brains 
and ability, or rewards men according to their material achieve- 
ments. As co-workers with God, the New Testament pre- 
sumes that each minister will do his best as opportunity and 



THE ECONOMIC STRUGGLE AND THE MINISTER 525 

gifts are granted to him. It teaches that privilege and talents 
are trusts that must be zealously safeguarded and liberally 
used. The only merit accorded to possession is the privilege 
of the larger responsibility and service it affords. As co- 
workers, the master is not above the servant, nor the servant 
above his lord. The harvest results from common effort, and 
its rewards are mutually enjoyed. And such teaching is not 
infrequently made the basis of appeal for Christian service. 
The humble worker is encouraged by the thought that his 
contribution, however small, is of equal worth in the eyes of 
God to the greatest contribution He receives. Then why not 
apply the teaching to the material rewards meted out to 
Christian service? It may not be through any fault of his 
that the missionary lacks the ability to fill a high executive 
office. But is it not enough that he is making his contribution 
to the common cause, and that upon his fidelity those in 
executive positions must rely for the execution of their plans 
and purposes ? If a missionary gives his best, what more can 
even a bishop give ? In the light of New Testament teaching, 
is it not, therefore, but just and honest that the work of the 
minister on the pioneer field be recognized as possessing a 
significance and worth equal to that of the missionary secre- 
tary who gives oversight to his work, and that he receive equal 
reward, material as well as spiritual, for a service of equal 
value in the eyes of Him whom they both serve ? 

Of course, it will be objected that those holding the more 
remunerative positions have greater expenses to meet; that 
the difference in salary is offset by the difference in their 
respective expenses. True; but how many ministers would be 
only too happy to relieve some of their brethren of the expenses 
incurred by clubs, banquets, committee meetings, and con- 
ferences, and to share the comforts of their higher standard of 
living, were they only privileged to do so. Such are some of 
the little inequalities of the Christian ministry, that while 
there are men who are glad to be excused from some of the 



526 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

things to which they subscribe or for which they pay, others 
would most jubilantly take their place were they not debarred 
from doing so on financial grounds. Is it not a fact that, as a 
general rule, only the favored few are delegated to distant 
conferences, whereas the man who most needs the inspiration 
of these gatherings is rarely privileged to attend ? Were the 
system different, one man would not be surfeited by intellectual 
and inspirational feasts while his brethren go hungry — as is 
now, alas, too often the case. And this apart from the differ- 
ence existing between their respective standards of living. 
The present writer has often seriously questioned within his 
own mind whether it is in harmony with the spirit of Christ 
for a minister to enjoy a standard of living above that of the 
worst-paid member of the church he serves. Certain it is 
that were all professing Christians, laymen as well as ministers, 
unwilling to accept a standard of living denied to those of 
the same Christian fellowship, the social problem would be 
more than a subject for glib rhetoric, but would be faced with 
convincing seriousness. 

Is it not high time the church faced some of the facts and 
evils of her own vicious competitive system ? While she is 
emphasizing with increased insistency the need of applying 
Christ's teaching to social and industrial relationships, does 
she have courage to attack the economic wrongs of her own 
life ? Would she not be in a better position to appeal to the 
conscience of the business world were she to set her own house 
in order first ? For what success can she hope to have in tak- 
ing the mote out of her brother's eye while a beam remaineth 
in her own ? 

However much men might disagree as to the practicability 
of any scheme of uniform salary for the Christian ministry, 
and however many apparently insuperable difficulties might 
prevent its general acceptance, this much may be said in its 
favor. It would eliminate much, if not all, of the inane, 
suicidal competition so commonly practiced today by ministers, 



THE ECONOMIC STRUGGLE AND THE MINISTER 527 

local churches, and even by denominations as a whole. 
Organized religion would exist solely for the sake of serving 
humanity rather than for the purpose of making humanity 
serve its interests, as, indeed, is only too frequently the case. 
The emphasis would be on quality instead of quantity; just 
as it should be if ministers and churches are to do permanent 
and worthy work. The small churches, more particularly, 
would be better served. Its pastorates would be longer, and 
the feverish restlessness now so widespread both among clergy 
and churches would be considerably lessened if not practically 
unknown. The church whose doors are now closed because 
of its inability to support a minister would be provided for; 
its pastor would be guaranteed a living wage. The particular 
forms of religious worship and government existing in a 
community would be the choice of the people themselves and 
would not be thrust upon them, as so often has been the case, 
by the aggressive policies of competing sectarian officials. 
The old heroic call to the Christian ministry would again be 
heard — the call to serve rather than to compete. Nor would 
men so readily leave the ministry; for there would not be that 
feeling so prevalent among the younger ministers of today that 
if they are to enter the competitive field they may as well be 
where the odds are greater and the struggle more worth while. 
And the man in the street would be more inclined to support 
organized religion. For he would have the assurance that 
the purpose of both ministers and churches is to serve rather 
than to get. But best of all, the church would be able 
to appeal more effectively to the conscience of the world to 
practice the spirit of unselfishness in business relationships 
having cleansed her own purposes of all unselfish motives. 
She would be in a position fearlessly to preach social and in- 
dustrial righteousness as one who practices what she preaches.