The C.L.I.D. to the Episcopal League for Social Action

Note from tim spofford:  Because of Dad’s (not to mention Grandpa Bill’s) sometimes peculiar and sui generis writing “styles,” including among other things frequent switches from first to third person voices and back again, it is sometimes hard to tell who wrote what. 1  This article, down to the bold attribution to “Bill Jr.” near the end, is one strong but unfortunate example.  I think most of it is Dad (WBS Jr.) but I’m guessing.  In the original manuscript, it’s credited to THE WITNESS, January 29, 1948, page 5-6.  If anyone should look up the original and want to send me a copy, I’ll revise as appropriate.


        WBS, Jr. had become the executive secretary of the C.L.I.D. in 1946, succeeding his father. During that time, after functioning out of New York City and Jamaica, L.I., he became rector of St. Thomas’ Church, Detroit, and, also, was a student at the University of Michigan School of Social Work.

         During that period, the C.L.I.D. was converted from its original name to the Episcopal League for Social Action, after much debate and, in general, the Witness editor’s disapproval.  He never really accepted the fact that perhaps industrial and labor issues were solved or would go away, although he came to see that labor ‘power brokers’ could be as greedy and corrupt as any other kind.

         E.L.S.A.. by its title, sought to emphasize ‘action’.  Its program mission said:  ‘The League is concerned with the relation of men and nations in the process of production in the light of Christian teaching.  Production — the bringing forth of abundance from nature’s resources — is here regarded as the area of man’s relation to nature and his use of nature’s resources for human life.  The League’s aim in this area is to promote in all industry the full expression of Christian concepts which constitute for us as Christians the sure source and guarantee of the essentials of true democracy.  Democracy in industry and in all other phases of the social order as an aim for us is an obligation imposed by Christian teaching.  The League considers that its social responsibility is to interpret to Church people for their information and action the important issues in the field of its concern.’

         The story continues with a bit of the history under Dad’s leadership from C.L.I.D.’s founding in 1919:

         ‘This past year, following a polling of the membership, the name of the organization was changed to the Episcopal League for Social Action.  The action was taken because it was thought that the field of the League’s concern was no longer localized to just ‘industrial democracy.’  As expressed by the present executive secretary, the Rev. William B. Spofford, Jr.:  ‘Democracy is an indivisible term.  You may be able to work for it in specific areas but you can’t approximate it unless it is comprehensive and total.  We are concerned with racial, political and social democracy, even while recognizing that, in our interdependent industrial society, many of these things are dependent on an honest extension of democracy to the economic field.’

         Listing some of the things that C.L.I.D. had done during the immediate past, under the presidency of Bp. Edward Lambe Parsons of California, it was pointed out by the secreary that the sole statement of purpose of the League is ‘to bring together for study and action those who seek to apply the principles of Christ in industrial society” and, hence, there is a wide diversity of opinions within the organization on specific issues, although the general position is definitely oriented towards a progressive point-of-view.

         During 1947, also, a book, CHRISTIANITY AND PROPERTY, was printed, which consisted of papers delivered at a League summer school conference at E.T.S.2 in Cambridge.  The book was dedicated to WBS, Sr.  Also, it was announced that, besides the U.C.C.D., the League was an associated member of such bodies as THE RELIGION AND LABOR FOUNDATION;  THE NATIONAL COMMITTEE FOR ATOMIC INFORMATION,  THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF SOCIAL RELATIONS and THE SOCIAL LEGISLATIVE INFORMATION SERVICE.

         Pointing out that it was hoped that E.L.S.A. would be able to relate to issues and concerns of youth, WBS, Jr. said that the theme for 1948 would be the topic of racial relations because it is in this field that American culture is most obviously culpable in the world’s eyes.  The members of the League, said he, believe that there is no longer any choice of a compromising position on this issue in the Church or in our overall society.  Believing that the report of the President’s Committee on Civil Rights deals realistically with the interracial problem, the League sent copies of the report to all of its members and sought to have their efforts bent towards its implementation.

         The story concluded with….’In 1941, under the direction of the late Archbishop William Temple, the famous Malvern Declaration was issued.  The League, particularly through the efforts of the late Stanley Matthews, layman of Cincinnati, spread the message of Malvern through the Church in the U.S.  The League still believes in the principles and program laid down at Malvern.  If adopted and applied, the League believes, the material base of life will be supplied and order for all men, and humanity could get on to the divine task of worshipping God in spirit and in truth.”

Bill Jr.;  Actually, I was always uncomfortable as executive secretary of the League, partially, because I was succeeding Dad, who was a charismatic genius at organization.  Also, I was more interested in being rector of St. Thomas, Detroit, and earning my Master of Social Work degree.  So, too, in 1947, we added triplet sons to our first son, Timothy, and in 1950, the year I graduated as an M.S.W., we had our fifth son, Daniel.  Balancing too many balls in life’s juggling act made it necessary to turn E.L.S.A. over to Andy van Dyke, who had succeeded Dad as rector of Christ Church, Middletown.

         Most of the people who belonged to the C.L.I.D./E.L.S.A. groups knew each other and, to that extent, it was an ingrown force.  Around the issues of race, the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity came into being after 1955 and, in many ways, led the struggles in the area of racial relations while persons like John Burgess, Tollie Caution, Malcolm Dade and, ultimately, John T. Walker became symbols of black leadeship.  Once again, however, in both the areas of deployment and preferment in the Church and in society in general, nationally and internationally, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

         In many ways, in the Easter season of 1993, it seems as though we have gone back to 1914, the year that WBS, Sr., graduated from Trinity and went to Berkeley Seminary, what with Yugoslavia breaking into constituent and conflicting states; the Soviet Union becoming a host of separate and nationalistic entities; and with all economies going broke in terms of armaments, competition and industries running away to areas of cheaper and less controlled labor forces.  ‘The same old tune’, I am sure WBS, Sr., would have said!

  1. Another example that has plagued my work with this manuscript is Dad’s habit of using 3 or 4 periods — not ellipses — for almost any pause, en dash, em dash, colon, semi-colon, ad infinitum.  He was, to the end, a hunt-and-peck typist; this might be part of the reason.  I’ve replaced most of them with more appropriate, even if not always correct, punctuation..
  2. the Episcopal Theological School