Some C.L.I.D. History from VDS

Bill Jr

The Nov. 15, 1949, issue of The Witness was a special C.L.I.D. number. The Rev. Andrew van Dyke was executive secretary at the time and it was an attempt to explain the change of name to “Episcopal League for Social Action” (E.L.S.A.)

The lead editorial was by Vida Dutton Scudder, professor emeritus of English of Wellesley College:

“To an old woman in her ninth decade, events in the early years of the CLID belong to prehistory. Memory sends flashes into dim shadowy past years. It recalls the uneasy sense of a few Anglicans — some ‘High Church’, some ‘Low’ — that their beloved communion was pretty soporific in its social attitude compared with some others, and that there should be a rallying point within it for loyal Episcopalians convinced, as a Quaker leader recently put it, that Christianity should “astonish”; that therefore a group of us should gather to serve as a forum for people aware of the perennial conflict in Christian dialectic between continuity and revolution, as group seeking the synthesis of the two demanded by an ominous future.  For already, in 1919, the approaching storm now sweeping over civilization rumbled in the air.

“So, in the approved manner, a society was formed. It called itself the Church League for Industrial Democracy, and sought a secretary.  I recall that the position was offered to young Mr. Norman Nash, then teaching at the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge  1 He considered the job with grave sympathy but declined it; and that, under sure guidance of the Holy Spirit, our choice fell, at the suggestion of Dean Ladd of Berkeley, on a young man named W.B. Spofford, who had had unusual contacts in Chicago with the labor movement and the general economic situation. I remember a meeting in New Haven, after which, again at Dean Ladd’s suggestion, we appointed a fellow named Joe Fletcher, whom we sent to England, that he might meet a group commanding our special sympathy. This was a group closely allied with Archbishop Temple.  It included Canon Widdrington. the Rev. W.S. Peck; the future Canon V.A. Demant and the searching and exciting author, Maurice Reckitt. It edited an audacious and scholarly quarterly which was called ‘Christendom’ “Flashes of confused memory multiply down through the years.

“As time passed, the prescient remorse of our little group over our failure in America and elsewhere to control corporate and economic life by Christian incentives has been unjustified, as the rumblings of thunder overhead have become a tempest threatening the nations with destruction. But C.L.I.D. has survived. It has changed its name.  It appeals alike to advocates of free enterprise at its best and, if you can bear the word, to advocates of Communism as rescued and fulfilled by Christianity. Marvelous is opportunity. Greatly needed is the witness of our still modest group to the certainty that in the life of prayer, and there only, can be discovered how concretely to apply the laws of the Kingdom of Heaven to the corporate social and economic situation. Deeper and deeper is our conviction that only through action following such discovery can our threatened western civilization be rescued and redeemed.”

  1. Bill Jr.: Norman Nash was professor of E.T.S., then head-master of St. Paul’s School, Concord, N.H. and, ultimately, bishop of Massachusetts.