Page images
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

624

Non-Christian

132,255

Total ...

165,297 20,618,307

From this it appears that the non-evangelical and nonChristian bodies are about equal in communicants or members, and that together the non-evangelical, non-orthodox, and non-Christian bodies count less than half a million, or less than 2.4 per cent of the aggregate. The evangelical communicants are to the non-evangelical as 103 to 1, and constitute more than 67 per cent. of all communicants, Christian and non-Christian.

It further appears that the evangelical organizations outnumber all other organizations 11 to 1, and form no less than 92 per cent. of the aggregate.

XII.

THE GENERAL STATISTICAL SUMMARIES.

The extended tables given at the end of this book are not, perhaps, very attractive. But they will repay careful study. There are many significant facts to be obtained from an examination of the summaries of colored organizations, of denominations arranged according to polity, and of churches in the cities. The last is a new feature in church statistics.

Of the classification according to polity a word of explanation is necessary. It is difficult in some

cases to know how to classify. It is clear enough that Baptists, Congregationalists, and Disciples of Christ are congregational; but it is not so clear where the vast body of Lutherans belongs. They are not, I am persuaded, purely presbyterian, nor purely congregational, and certainly not purely episcopal. My own inclination was to classify them as presbyterian, and I wrote to representative men among them for their opinion, and it will be interesting to quote from some of the responses.

[ocr errors]

Professor Henry E. Jacobs, of the body known as the General Council, says:

I am not surprised at your perplexity concerning the classification of Lutherans with respect to church polity. As the form of government is regarded as unessential, and to be determined according to circumstances, there is a lack of uniformity. The Synodical Conference gives to synods only advisory power, and requires the ratification of all synodical resolutions, and even the election of professors of theology, by the congregations. Nevertheless, they agree with the Presbyterians in maintaining a distinction between the lay and preaching elders, as one resting upon Scriptural foundations. Muhlenberg's scheme of church government clearly belongs to a generic presbyterianism; and this has been propagated in General Council, General Synod, United Synod of South, and most of the independent synods. The General Council rejects, however, lay elders, as not warranted in Scripture; although in most of its older congregations the constitutions have not been changed and a lay eldership is retained simply as a useful but not a Scriptural or necessary church institution.

However you may classify us, you will, therefore, not escape criticismand that, too, with some basis of truth; but taking everything into consideration, I believe that you are right in classifying us as presbyterian.

The Rev. J. Nicum, of the same branch, says the Lutheran Church is not strictly presbyterian, though usually so classified, nor is it congregational.

Everywhere in the Lutheran Church there are conferences, synods, consistories, etc., to whom questions of ordination, discipline, appeals from decisions of vestries or congregations are taken.

If you now ask me for a positive opinion as to what the polity of the Lutheran Church really is, I say it is episcopal, or at least more nearly so than anything else. Our presidents of conferences and of synods are really bishops. They are everywhere charged with the supervision of the churches, their visitation, the ordination of pastors, and the recommendation of suitable men to vacant parishes. They also lay the cornerstones to new church buildings, dedicate them, install ministers, or appoint suitable persons to attend to these matters for them. This practice is universally followed in the Synodical Conference, in the General Council, and in almost all the independent synods. Jure divino, every pastor is bishop of his flock, but the insti. tution of diocesan bishops is a matter of human expediency. This is the Lutheran view,

Professor M. Günther, of the Synodical Conference, writes :

You may be right in supposing " that it is, rather, presbyterian,” if you have in view Eastern bodies. But for them (General Council and General Synod) I would not speak.

As to the Synodical Conference, its polity is not strictly congregational, but near to it—in reference to the main principle of congregationalism, that every congregation is independent and self-governing. We differ in regard to the mode in which Congregational churches assist each other, etc.

Our congregations have freely entered into a synodical union for mutual assistance and oversight, for the purpose of more effectually securing unity and purity of doctrine, and of more successfully advancing the general interests of the church institutions, missions, etc.). They are represented by their pastors and lay delegates, who act in their name, in some cases being instructed by them. (Pastors whose congregations have not as yet joined synod have no vote.) Synod with us has only advisory power, no legislative or judicial power.

Our synodical organization differs quite from that of other bodies, even Lutheran. In our body congregations govern themselves—decide matters in congregational meetings. In others, congregations are governed by church councils. Synods are regarded as legislative and judicial bodies, deposing pastors, etc., giving pastors whose congregations do not belong to synod a vote, etc.

The polity of the Synodical Conference is, therefore, neither strictly con. gregational nor presbyterian. It is based on the so-called “ Collegial System” (in contradistinction to episcopalism and territorialism), formed according to the liberty which the church enjoys in this free country.

Professor George H. Schodde, of the Independent Synod of Ohio, says:

In theory, and in practice too, among the most thorough-going representatives of historic Lutheranism, the congregational principle is maintained and lived up to; in reality, and by common consent, so much power has been delegated to the synods that the polity almost seems presbyterian. There is no disagreement in principle among us as to the congregational character of our polity; but in practice synods are generally a good deal more than advisory bodies. When, however, it comes to a clash, I have never heard of a synod of any prominence that has claimed a right to control the affairs of any congregation. The latter is the highest court of appeal. “Synod is merely an advisory body” is in theory the fundamental basis of our polity. The struggle between the Ohio Synod and the General Council some fifteen years. ago was only on the practical application of this principle, not on the principle itself. I think our leading men would with one voice say that our pol. ity is congregational, and the church to be classified as such.

I give a single other opinion, from a letter by Professor E. J. Wolf, of the General Synod. He says:

Theoretically, our polity is congregational. Practically, it has varied according to environment, especially so because Lutherans have never claimed any polity to be of divine right. The Missourians carry out strictly the congregational idea. Their churches are republics, their ministers are presidents, though when in office they are almost absolute monarchs. In the other divisions we have synods corresponding to the presbyteries of Calvinism, and general bodies made up of deputies from the synods ; but when it comes “to the powers and functions of the synod,” they can hardly be said to conflict seriously “with the idea of pure congregationalism.” These powers are almost wholly “advisory.The exceptions to this rule are that the Augsburg Confession is the ackonwledged or implied basis of every Lutheran church, and the General Synod reserves the exclusive right of publishing hymnbooks, liturgies, and catechisms. Should, however, any congregation decline to use such manuals as the General Synod provides, it cannot be disciplined, although cases may arise where the synod will forbid one of its members to officiate in a recalcitrant congregation. The congregation itself cannot be dissolved, and if it sees fit to withdraw from the synod, it does not lose its character as a Lutheran society, though the synod would not allow one of its members to serve such a congregation.

In other words, the synod has control over the ministers, which it can depose as well as ordain, although again theoretically, in both cases, only at the instance of a congregation. But the congregation does not stand or fall through any action of synod. And just here is the pivotal point where congregationalism and presbyterianism both come into our polity. A minister once a member of a synod is subject to its requirements—he must submit to the body he has joined. A congregation can defy a synod's action; but the only prejudice it suffers is to lose its connection with the synod. It resumes an independent relation, or it may join a synod connected with another general body.

Amid such conflicting opinions, I have deemed it proper to make a sort of compromise, and classify the Synodical Conference and the Ohio Synod, which all agree are less presbyterian than other Lutheran bodies, as congregational, and all the rest, except the independent congregations who also go into the congregational list, as presbyterian.

The tables devoted to the statistics of the churches in

« PreviousContinue »