Speaking of the Roman clergy, the late G. K. Chesterton said: “The direction of preferment should begin after seminary with the office of Bishop, and only after years of accumulated wisdom and experience should it result in promotion into the parish ministry.”
In the contemporary scene, some students see a movement that, if unchecked, could bring some very undesirable results. I refer to the movement of trained people away from the areas of difficult work, up (?) or into positions of programming and administration; in other words, the movement of skilled people from the areas of the particular and the specific into the areas of the vague and the general.
I have a dentist friend. He has applied at several dental supply houses for a position to sell and demonstrate dental equipment. He is no longer interested (after only a few short years) in the drudgery of office hours, appointments, human beings. This is prosaic and wearying—and no place for a person of talent in search of status, power, and position. He anxiously awaits the chance to leave his working profession for an administrative, selling position. He tells me that within his profession such a change represents promotion, such a change is up on the ladder of preferment. But is this really true? And it so, who says so? And if so, is this as it should be?
Obviously I cannot jump from this one incident to a conclusion about all of life. But I can note something very similar in some areas of the Protestant ministry. Here there is what may well be called a movement away from the parish into areas that have little or nothing to do with ordination vows. Along with this movement away from the parish is also developing the idea that this is a promotion up the ladder of preferment, that those who prefer to remain in the vineyard, both early and late, are untalented dullards capable of only lesser things. But again, is this really true? And if so, who says so? And if so, is this as it should be?
The most obvious movement to be seen within some areas of the Protestant ministry is the one that leads to the college campus. Now I am sure we are aware that “God moves in mysterious ways his wonders to perform.” I am also sure we are all aware of how very understanding the Holy Spirit is in that he “always calls to larger parishes at higher stipends.” My question with regard to this movement is simply this: Is such a move up or down the ladder of preferment? If it is up I should like to know who says so. If it is down I should like to know whence the cause of self-immolation among the brethren. Surely it cannot be maintained that college campuses are the place where all the great issues of life are being met and debated and that therefore they require our best and most talented men. Except for visiting lectures, most campuses (especially church-affiliated campuses) are graveyards of unanimity, peace, and quiet.
My second concern has to do with the results, spiritual and material, that flow from vacancies left by men on the way up (?) the ladder of preferment. Congregations that are left without a pastor simply cease being a church and become a religious club. Such necessities as faith, discipleship, stewardship simply do not flourish in the absence of a pastor, or under an absentee pastor—a supply pastor from another church or from a college campus. As for the material side of this problem: How many congregations will continue in good spirit to support a denomination that allows its ministers to crowd away from the “lesser” tasks of preaching, marrying, burying, and baptizing for the “larger work of the Church”—teaching, or administrative positions within the hierarchy? In plain words, does not this movement up (?) cut off the source of revenue?
Thirdly, I am also concerned with an attitude that is beginning to develop regarding what I consider to be my sacred calling. All through seminary I was assured (and I still have no real reason to doubt it) that the parish ministry is the highest of all high callings. But now I find myself in this present movement the object of such remarks as, “Good that you are comfortable where you are” … “nice that you find your work rewarding” … this from those who are on the move up (?).
Dr. Jacques Barzun of Columbia University has addressed himself to this same problem in the teaching profession, that is, teachers who desert the classroom for “research” have not been promoted and thus have no reason for condescension toward those who remain to plod at mundane chores. Should not something similar be done to reverse the trend away from the parish?
The “macerated ministry” was the subject of much debate in one of our national journals some time ago. Is not the subject of the “decimated ministry” a part of this same problem? While America experiences a population explosion, many churches are without proper leadership because ordained men have moved up (?) to teach, to sell and program, and to administer the organization. Is it not time now to “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he send forth laborers into his harvest,” if not to remain in the parish at least to admit that one becomes defrocked when one moves from an active to a passive role while so much remains to be done?
Business And Life
BASIC AND VALID—Why, from a Christian point of view, should one broadcast religious programs? This is a matter in which I for a long time have had an interest and a concern. Let me as a Christian layman put this in the simplest of terms stating my convictions. First, we should use all practical means to propagate and to give witness to the good news our Lord has provided for us. Mass communications by radio and television are such means. Second, the purpose should be to point men to Jesus Christ. Third, the objective should be to develop in our fellow man a knowledge and an acceptance of His saving grace. These are the basic and the valid reasons.—Dr. ELMER W. ENGSTROM, President, Radio Corporation of America, in remarks at the annual meeting of the NCC Broadcasting and Film Commission.
ALL THE SAME—Don’t ask me please if I’m planning to change my religion. I have no guilts about myself, my religion or my color. I was brought up a Protestant and no matter what religion a person is, he worships the same God. I don’t think changing my religion is going to give me any more peace of mind or inner content, and it certainly isn’t going to change my color. I’m satisfied where I am.—EARTHA KITT, Hollywood star and songstress, who played the feature role in 1960 in the Presbyterian missionary film The Mark of the Hawk.
LAW AND HONESTY—We have always told and will continue to tell our members to live up to the letter of the law.—DAVID DEERSON, chairman of the Board of the New York-Bronx Retail Meat and Food Dealers, Inc., when told that the Department of Markets would seek an ordinance to prohibit dealers from concealing excessive fat by adding beef blood to ground beef. (New York authorities confiscated packages of hamburger containing 90 percent fat, which costs two cents a pound.)
THE CLAMOR FOR CHANGE—In college and seminary during the 1930s, I was persuaded that I had joined a gallant, prophetic band when I myself became a liberal-socialist. And I recall the hope which sustains every prophet, whether true or false, namely, the eventual triumph of his maligned minority view. Well, that earlier ‘prophetic minority’ has been in the saddle now for at least a generation. The Communists … now control a third of the world, and the Fabian Socialists … hold the reins in most of the other two-thirds. If the triumph of an idea is itself the index of prophetic truth, we must be living in the Golden Age! Except that we aren’t! We live in an age of chains.… Either something has gone terribly wrong with the ‘prophetic vision’ of the liberals and progressives, or else their vision was not really prophetic.… The Biblical prophets never thundered for change just for the sake of change. Their visions of the future were built upon insights and principles rooted in the past. Insofar as they offered something new, it was a fresh revelation of verities at once old and new, because eternal. The cry of the Biblical prophets was not simply ‘come up’ but also ‘go back’ to principles and values that were being betrayed and lost.… Liberalism is proving to be morally, intellectually, and spiritually bankrupt, therefore a false prophet. If ‘the conservative demonstration’ can rise to the stature of its inherent genius, it can prove itself the truer prophet of our century.—The Rev. EDWARD W. GREENFIELD, Chaplain of the Church of Reflection, Knott’s Berry Farm, Buena Park, California.
BETTER HEADS—The record of the beer industry during the past decade has been one of slow growth, declining profits, and increasing concentration. Total beer sales advanced only 6% from 1950 to 1960 because the prime age group of beer consumers, young adults between 20 and 39 years of age, remained almost static.… The combined effect of greater overall growth in consumption, continued concentration, and better pricing should permit the leading brewers to operate at higher rates of capacity than in the past and to achieve better profit margins. Between 1960 and 1965 they should average an annual growth of close to 5% in barrel output, of 6% in sales, and of 7% to 8% in earnings.—Fortnightly Review prepared by Carl M. Loeb, Rhoades & Co., New York.
WHAT’S ‘GOOD BUSINESS’?—In the fiscal year that ended last June 30, Playboy magazine … grossed $8, 295, 193 and has a pre-tax profit to sales ratio of nearly 22%—good for any business.… The average net paid circulation in the first six months of 1961 was 1, 223, 328.—Business Week, Jan. 20 issue.
FAITH’S POWER—Faith can move a slab of granite.—From the Warner Brothers film The Young Ones.
THE MINISTRY OF WORDS—We live in a country in which words are mostly used to cover the sleeper, not to wake him up.—JAMES BALDWIN, “As Much Truth As One Can Bear,” The New York Times Book Review.
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