Church Publishing: Ins and Outs

 Bill Sr. From The Witness: 9/22/55

Efforts have been made several times to merge Church magazines. One of these was in 1947 when the Episcopal Evangelical Fellowship set up a committee, headed by the Rev. Samuel Shoemaker, which took the initiative in calling a conference to discuss the matter. The Rev. Frederick J. Warnecke, now bishop of Bethlehem 1, was present as editor of the SOUTHERN CHURCHMAN; THE WITNESS was represented by the Rev. Roscoe T. Faust, the editor, and I was there as managing editor. The Rev. Wilbur L. Caswell, who had carried on the CHRONICLE, a monthly, since the death of the Rev. Alec Cummins, was unable to be there but he did send word that his publication was game for anything since it was about to fold in any case.

Bill Jr.: It is interesting that two significant Episcopal publications were not invited: THE LIVING CHURCH, edited by Clifford L. Morehouse, who was to become president of the General Convention’s House of Clerical and Lay Deputies; and THE CHURCHMAN, edited by the Rev. Guy Emery Shipler, which was the oldest Episcopal magazine in continuous publication and close to THE WITNESS in terms of editorial policies. THE LIVING CHURCH, then and generally now, through several editorships, is considered more Anglo-Catholic in orientation and, presumably, was not invited by the E.E.F. group.

Bill Sr.:  Also present was an outspoken gentleman, William Starr Myers of Princeton, N.J., who had a lot to say about the running of the Evangelical Societies of Philadelphia which, it was hoped, would put up some cash. He greeted me with: ‘I have always wanted to meet you since I have been unable to understand how a man can be at once a Christian and a Socialist.’ My answer was that Archbishop Temple managed it, and in this country, Prof. Reinhold Niebuhr, so I thought I was in good company.

When the meeting opened Prof. Myers presented his ideas of what a Church paper should be like. It should concern itself ‘solely with religion’ and should have nothing whatever to say about labor, race, the United Nations or any social questions. THE WITNESS, he said was ‘an ecclesiastical New Republic’, always mixing into things that were not the business of the Church. He further gave his idea of what a Church paper should not be like by branding the CHURCHMAN a ‘Bolshevik paper.’ The Rev. Guy Emery Shipler, the editor of that publication incidentally had the good sense, weeks ahead, to say that he had no interest whatever in the proposed merger. So most of those present agreed on what a Church paper should be like, with Mrs. Henry Hill Pierce, the only lay person there who disagreed with the Princeton professor. She is a very quiet lady but she wasn’t on this occasion.

Next we came to procedure. THE SOUTHERN CHURCHMAN and THE WITNESS were to turn over their assets ‘for the good of the Church’ The Evangelical Societies maybe (no promise) would put up some money to launch an entirely new weekly to be named the EPISCOPALIAN, which would start with the circulations handed over by the two papers going out of business. What was counted on chiefly in the way of money was that I would persuade my fellow trustees of Bishop Paddock’s estate, Bishop Charles Gilbert and the Rev. John Gass, to make a substantial grant. The Episcopal Evangelical Fellowship had no money to aid the venture but they ‘would get behind it’ by promoting circulation. Individuals present, who were to run the show, offering nothing in the way of cash, though several were in positions to do so.

Then who was to have a hand in running the new paper was discussed at length. Several clergymen were suggested as a possible editor, but the selection was left to a later date. The Rev. John K. Shryock, then the director of the Evangelical Societies, stated bluntly that I should not be the managing editor and when Fred Warnecke disagreed, Mr. Samuel Thorne tactfully suggested that ‘it is a matter which can be determined later.”However it seemed to be agrteed that i should have some place in the set-up, chiefly as a reward for past services and for my apparent willingness to attempt to persuade the directors of THE WITNESS to turn over the works. But it wass soon obvious that this would not satisfy Prof. Myers who seemed to be in the drivers seat as far as a grant from the Evangelical Societies went. In any case he wrote Sam Shoemaker makding it clear that he would not go along if i was in the picture. He was reassured by the Calvary rector who wrote Dr. Myers: ‘Many of lus are wholly dissatidsifed with Spfford. We do feel that in the light of his long responsiility for THE WITNESS, and also his very nice spirt about the combining in this one magazine, with another man as editor, that he ought to have a right to a column under his own signature. I should hope that even this might be cut out after a time.’ Another meeting was scheduled for laer. Meanwhile I summed things up after a bit. I was to turn over THE WITNESS, on which I had worked for years, lock, stock and barrel. Then I was to do my best to get a sizeable hung of money from the Paddock trustees, of which I was one. Then after everything was safely in the hands of this new bunch, I was to be allowed to write a column for a awhile, and then be kicked out completely. My ‘very nice spirit’ somehow didn’t hold up. Whether that later meeting was ever held I do not know. I wasn’t there.

Bill Jr.  Church publication is a tough business. THE SOUTHERN CHURCHMAN trransformed into the EPISCOPAL CHURCH NEWS, which folded. The national Church put out THE EPISCOPALIAN, under a good editor, Henry McCorkle, first as a slick-paper magazine and then as a newspaper-type offering. It didn’t do very well in either guise and closed down in a reorganization at headquarters.  Now, EPISCOPAL LIFE tries to do the task, getting its editor from the lively Canadian CHURCHMAN. Somehow, it isn’t very lively and appears as a ‘house organ’ by and large. Of independent publications, THE CHURCHMAN has turned into THE HUMAN QUEST, and doesn’t pretend to be particularly Eiscopal in orientation. Since Dad’s death, THE WITNESS has gone through two reorganizations and is more tied to an ecumenical and issue agenda than it was under Dad, and it doesn’t produce much about the Episcopal Church’s life and witness. THE LIVING CHURCH, alone, stays Episcopal and, as Dad used to say, if you wanted to find out what jobs were opening up or who has died, you read it. Interestingly enough, Berkeley Divinity School, no longer in Middletown, but attached to Yale in New Haven, gave both Dad and Samuel Shoemaker2  honorary degrees on the same day. That must have been interesting,and, surely, both men must have been ‘gentlemanly’ in honor of their seminary’s occasion.

  1. and Dad’s bishop when he lived in Tunkhannock
  2. Shoemaker was a founding influence on AA, on Bill Wilson, and to a lesser extent, on Dr. Bob; see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Shoemaker