The Witness, 9/24/1931 “THE CHURCH AND INDUSTRY” by Vida Dutton Scudder1
‘This Church League for Industrial Democracy has a great heritage. Behind it lies a series of voluntary organizations in our Church. After the Christian Socialist movement of Maurice and Kingsley lost its definite outline, in the middle of the last century, there followed a long ebb-tide of social feeling. But in the 1870’s rose various groups, such as the Guild of St. Matthew and the Christian Social Union, precursors of the Industrial Christian Fellowship and the League of the Kingdom of God, and before the end of the century, the official Church, which had been very sound asleep, began to declare in sundry pronouncements its concern for social justice. The Church in our country followed suit: from about 1911, not only in our communions but in all others, social service commissions and departments came thick and fast.
The Churches now are well equipped with mechanisms for expressing their social conscience. This is cause for thanksgiving. Great the opportunity, acute the responsibility, of such departments. But the need for voluntary associations is as marked as eve. And they exist; many of the oldest or most notable societies in the Church, like the Girls’ Friendly and the Woman’s Auxiliary, have experienced, shall we say, a social conversion. But the C.L.I.D. has a more specific function than these. It is the child of many prayers, and prayer still sustains it; for of worldly resource it has the minimum. Its aims are implicit in its name. It is old-fashioned; it believes in democracy, — thereby separating itself from the creeds of Mussolini or Lenin. Further, it believes that democracy should be applied to industry, — thereby separating itself from at least the usual ideas of capitalistic organization. When in 1918 the League started in Baltimore, at the suggestion of that friend of liberal causes, Mr. William Cochran, it inherited much from the little Church Socialist League, then moribund, now dead. But it was deliberately placed on a broader basis. Its first beloved President, Bishop Williams, was as all the Church knows, a Single Taxer. So far as I am aware, not many of its twenty-six bishops, to say nothing of its other members, carry any special label. We are organized for action rather than theory. But we stand where we think our Master stood, with the workers and the poor. So we are likely to be found, in the person of our secretary, wherever industrial trouble breaks out: in Marion, In Gastonia, in West Virginia; not holding helplessly aloof, nor necessarily taking sides, but seeking the way of justice and honorable peace, and bringing into those hot centres of pain and strife the message that Christian people grieve and care. And our secretary serves with the Federal Council of Churches, with the Civil Liberties Union, with the Church Emergency Committee; standing everywhere as a Churchman and a Christian for the responsibility of Christ’s lovers toward the social wrongs and injustice which cry to Heaven. People who know Mr. Spofford only through THE WITNESS do not realize how he is to be found, like a knight of the Table Round, wherever there are dragons to be fought or captives freed. He pursues the aim of the League he represents: that democracy, which means shared control and a chance for every man, should obtain in our industries as it is at least supposed to obtain in our government. So one side, and that the more important, of our activities faces the workers. The other side faces the Church: we try to play our little part in the education of the Christian social conscience. Here too our secretary is busy, whether he is attending a seminar at Dr. Keller’s or organizing a conference for theological students, or giving a course in the School of Christian Social Ethics at that miniature university, the Wellesley Conference. In this School, organized by C.L.I.D. at request of the conference committee, and conducted so far by its members, we attain the union we desire, of spiritual faith and brave social thinking. Students pass from studying the deep social implications of the Catholic faith or of the Gospels, to shocked contemplation of the evils of our prisons, of current violations of civil liberty, of the unemployment tragedy; and perception quickens that only in the light shining from Him Who is the Truth can be discovered the right direction in which these things can be escaped. Mother Church has long perceived this direction; the duty of bringing to her children fuller realization of what she commits them to, is going to be more and more urgent during the next ten years.
Many groups, many persons, recognize this duty; opportunities for educational work within the Church are on the increase. C.L.I.D. wishes to add to these opportunities, and to do its share. Sometimes it seems as if the League did nothing except send its hard-worked secretary on difficult enterprises. But this is not quite fair. Its achievement should not be measured wholly by its corporate activities. Slowly it draws to itself as considerable number of the forward looking, consecrated men and women in our communion; slowly it acquires a representative quality, and becomes a factor in the impression made by our Church on Labor, on other religious bodies, on the public at large. These impalpable values are not the least. And when one takes the roll-call of the League’s membership, any devoted member may be excused a little pride, so unmistakeable is the note of distinction. Whether we look to clergy or laity, to Bishops, professors in our seminaries, clergymen of light and leading, or to lay men and women known throughout out the country for notable service to the principles for which the organization stands, one can give thanks for the contribution of our branch of the Church of Christ to the pitifully slow advance toward His Kingdom. To mention names at this point is a temptation. Fortunately it is quite time for this article to stop.”