페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

no more reliable prognostic of his decline than that which is indicated in the increasing deficiencies on the annual claim. While others increase he must decrease, and soon, too often, “lost to sight and to memory dear,” he must pine in neglect for material and social enjoyments and necessities. Such a prospect does not inspire the self-sacrificing toiler with either confidence or encouragement. The members of our traveling connection are required to submit themselves to episcopal authority; to go where sent; to remove their family where appointed, thereby losing all opportunity of local accumulations ; and to accept the risks of ill-health, poverty, lack of appreciation, and all other disadvantages of a systematic itinerancy. Had the heroic apostle chosen his own appointment, according to the plan of call and contract, he could demand no expression of sympathy or proffer of aid from a connectional source when the inevitable superannuation should arrive. He must take his chances when “no man hath hired” him, but he who waives his immediate interest for the perinanent commonweal, is certainly entitled to constant recognition and equitable compensation.

Our care for the Conference claimant has seemed to smack more of sentiment than of principle. We have, too often, apparently regarded the support of the superannuated preachers and the ministerial widows and orphans as a benevolence rather than as a claim. Quite frequently the younger ministers give but little attention to the matter, while those on the ragged edge of retirement set up a whine. The solicitude of the older preachers would strike us as very unbecoming if actual penury did not stare them in the face. The amounts reported to the Annual Conferences by the active and promising are in many instances lamentably small, while the returns of those advanced, or advancing, in years are often largely out of proportion with the regular benevolent collections. This condition of affairs is a source of embarrassment and shame. The system which characterizes our effort in other directions must be practical and reliable in the permanent support of the ministry.

It must be conceded that, if a man sacrifice his hope of worldly gain for the care of souls, he is entitled to a fair living until God removes him from the earth, or until he forfeits his

claim by iinmorality or demerit. A faithful minister should be made to understand that, if he devotes himself wholly to the work of the Church, he may relieve his mind from consuming anxieties in regard to the bread that perisheth. “Bread shall be given him ; his water shall be sure.” It is a wise economy for the Church to command the undivided attention of one called to the work of the ministry and pre-eminently successful in winning souls, while others who excel in temporal pursuits contribute a portion of their gains to the maintenance of the Lord's chosen evangelist. Every man to his work. Money-getting may be a part of Gospel effort, and the Lord has some of his servants engaged in this duty; but let the priests remain at the altar, lest they attempt that for which they are unfitted, and to which they were never appointed.

Exclusive devotion to the work of the ministry may henceforth disqualify a preacher for most, if not all, of the secular vocations. By long continuance in the pastorate, he has been weaned from the tastes and adaptations of a life which is financially remunerative. Even if he were physically able for the task, and by nature inclined to it, he would find that the commercial world in the last quarter of a century had gone ahead of him, so that he could make but a very low score in the race for wealth. His time, if profitably employed, must be devoted still to matters more or less ecclesiastical. Though he is no longer able for pastoral duty, his usefulness as a laborer in the vineyard is not at an end. He may yet render valuable assistance in revival efforts, occasional preaching, writing or selling books, distributing tracts, or visiting from house to house, Leisure hours may be advantageously occupied with such bodily exercises as will return a small profit; but from all of these a competent support cannot be obtained. His efforts must be subsidized by the special offerings of the Church.

The preacher's family is a recognized force in Methodism. The wife is expected to be a prominent factor in social and religious life, and must devote much of her time and energy in visiting the sick and well, and in attendance on all public services. Withal, there are the children, usually in considerable numbers, who add to the influence, power, and sympathy of the pastor. On the circuits especially his visits are hardly counted as such unless he is attended by the entire household.

Large families in the ministry have tended to develop the liberality of the Church, and therefore have been an important missionary agency. Many charges would never have grown into the habit of giving a respectable salary had they not been compelled first to do so from an acknowledgment of the needs of a numerous household thrown upon them for a support which they dared not repudiate. The children of a minister can do very little toward their own maintenance. Their father's occupation is such that he cannot accompany or instruct them in lucrative employments. His is a work that none other can do. Wife and children, by indiscretions and improprieties, may prevent the collection of the full claim, but they cannot, except in an indirect way, bring anything more than what salary commands for the larder or wardrobe. Frequent removals interfere with profitable investments in real estate for future use. If the head of the house is taken away before some, at least, have reached adult age, dependency, if not destitution, follows. Against such a painful emergency it is the duty of the Church to provide.

Inasmuch as individuality, both in ministers and societies, is to a very great extent merged in the connectional idea of Episcopal Methodism, the responsibility for the perpetual support of accredited itinerants and their needy families is thereby centralized. In a limited sense, all must fare alike, both “he that goeth down to the battle, and he that tarrieth by the stuff.” By this reasoning, the worn-out veteran is as justly entitled to his stipend as the younger minister in the tenth or fifteenth year of his extending work and usefulness. The widow and orphan have claims that demand a hearing fully as much as the wife and daughter of the still living itinerant. The Discipline recognizes the correct theory in providing for statistical and Quarterly Conference blanks which call for the reports of the Conference claimants' collections under the head of “Support of the Ministry.” A few years ago the Bishops' fund was treated by some as a benevolence, but all now admit the propriety of dividends for this purpose from collections for the ministry in general. The symmetry will be complete when the rightful share of the so-called Conference claim. ants is included in the scheme of distribution. Such an arrangement may be liable to gross abuse, or, from the added

machinery, cause the entire scheme of ministerial sustentation to fall in pieces of its own weight; but the suggestion of the plan is worthy of some attention, and the force of recurring objections may be offset by other advantages.

Collections on this beneficiary account have sometimes been so sinall as indirectly to retard the growth of the Church. Many a preacher has been retained in the “effective” rank after the work suffers under his administration, because he cannot be adequately maintained in the superannuated list. The very ministers, too, who will most likely need the benefit of the fund are those who early fade, and thereby the evil is aggravated. The Church, if toned to a proper pitch of liberality, could far better afford to furnish such with a living, though unemployed, than to permit the cause to languish under a senile pastorate. A younger and more acceptable incumbent might not only advance the work more rapidly, but also, if the matter were properly understood, collect sufficient to make comfortable provision for those worn-out in the ministry. If the sums required are not inequitably or disproportionately large, the proposed scheme is not impracticable. With proper safeguards, the claims may be duly restricted and promptly honored, with no greater deficiencies than fall to the effective preachers.

To avoid failure, the most scrutinizing care must be exercised in calling men into the pastorate. None should be engaged unless there is a fair presumption that their services will be so valuable as to justify a perpetual contract. Many worthy claimants have suffered because the Annual Conferences were embarrassed with a large necessitous class, excessively swollen from those who became inefficient or non-supporting very soon after admission to the traveling ranks. These, when the circuits will no longer receive them, are placed in the superannuated list, to increase the demand to such figures that both people and pastors despair of doing a respectable thing, and hence do not profess to attempt to secure a full subsistence for all dependent. Unforeseen causes may early incapacitate a preacher, but these would give no serious trouble if due precautions were invariably taken in the examination of candidates for the itinerancy. Among the qualifications for the work, physical strength, the quality of intellect, and commer

cial habits, as well as spiritual advantages, should be considered. If these conditions were invariably observed, and the investigation was conducted rigidly on business principles, we might at once hopefully set about the task of providing for the actual necessities of all ministers, superanuated either after long services or by some exceptional occurrence.

It might be supposed that, if a life-long annuity was assured, some would ask for the superannuated relation long before they ought to retire from active duty. As age advances, many of the details of the work grow irksome, and there is an increasing distaste for the ever-recurring move. However, instead of a disposition in the declining itinerant to withdraw from the field, the very reverse is generally observed. Like the old war-horse neighing on the noise of battle, these veterans covet a charge when the Bishop reads off the appointments to others. There is reason to believe that the prospect of a straitened living has not nearly so much influence over the protesting superannuescent, as the seeming humiliation of dethronement from the power of the pulpit. A divinely appointed minister delights in nothing so much as in the active discharge of apostolic functions. The love of ease, so natural to humanity, especially as it is aging, is more than counterbalanced by the joy of work for the Master in so elevated a station.

If, however, the beneficiary funds are likely to be seized by lazy or inefficient applicants, some decisive way of preventing the abuse must and can be adopted. Disciplinary provision already has been made for the Connection to rid itself of unacceptable, inefficient, or secular preachers in charge by their summary, yet orderly, location. In a Methodist Conference the rights of a member to its financial emoluments are in no great danger of being ignored or trampled upon. The itinerants are ever disposed to deal justly, even leniently, with each other in regard to temporal claims. Severity is exercised only toward those against whom crime is alleged, because thereby the reputation of the calling is assailed, and its usefulness impaired; but in other concerns mutual regard and sympathy are entertained. In reference to professional defects in another, each accepts a personal admonition—“Restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be

« 이전계속 »