Project Canterbury

The Custody of Church Property.

By George Woolsey Hodge.

From The American Church Review, 1879, volume 31, number 1, pages 42-59.

There is an evident uneasiness manifested throughout the whole Church in regard to the present manner in which our Church property is held. The recent final decision of the case of Christ Church, Chicago, on the ground that the trust for the Protestant Episcopal Church was not with sufficient distinctness declared in its title, has caused the question to be asked, what the courts consider a sufficiently clear title? Is any of our property safe from the danger of being alienated from the uses for which the original donors intended it? There have also been lately, in various parts of the country, some glaring instances of misappropriation of Church funds. Several valuable properties have been lost to the Church, and others saved only by the most strenuous exertions. The community has been startled by the discovery of the enormous debts with which some of our largest and most important churches have been allowed to become encumbered, debts which for a long time have been a terrible burden to carry, and in these hard times have very seriously jeopardized many valuable properties. These facts have aroused the mind of the Church to consider the question whether the habit into which we have fallen, of intrusting our property to a multiplicity of small, independent corporations, is wise or safe? Some of our Bishops have had themselves constituted as corporation sole, and are [42/43] endeavoring to obtain possession of all the Church property in the diocese. The present Bishop of Iowa has had transferred to himself the property of the three churches in Davenport, and refuses henceforth to consecrate any church until the title deeds shall be vested in himself and his successors in office. In several other dioceses trustees to hold Church property have already been appointed, or the diocese itself incorporated. And in the recent conventions of Michigan, Western Michigan, Indiana, Delaware, Easton, Central Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and New Jersey, committees were appointed to consider the whole question of the tenure of Church property, and report to future conventions. Most of our Church papers also have lately been calling attention to the same subject. Manifestly, then, the mind of the Church is moved in this matter. There is a widespread uneasiness, an impression, that as our Church property is now held, it is not as safe as it should be, nor is it administered to the best advantage. It is well worth while, therefore, to enquire how far this is the case, and, if so, what practical remedy can be suggested.

The general system which has prevailed hitherto throughout our Church, is that of having each parish constituted a separate, legal corporation, having entire ownership, control and disposition of the property belonging to it. The only restrictions upon the action of these bodies are certain general and diocesan canons, providing that no church shall be consecrated until free from debt, or mortgaged or alienated after consecration except with the consent of the ecclesiastical authority. But these restrictions can be entirely avoided, either by allowing churches to remain unconsecrated, as is the case with some of our wealthiest parishes, or by accumulating debts in other ways than by mortgage, which, however, are just as much a lien upon the property; so that the sheriff may seize and sell it out without asking or needing any ecclesiastical consent. Practically, therefore, our parishes are almost absolutely free to administer and dispose of their property as they choose. And, this being so, [43/44] is it not diametrically opposed to every idea of Diocesan Episcopacy? Is not the cry going up all over the land that our parochial system is pure Congregationalism? Our Church property is held and administered not for the good of a diocese as a whole, churches are not built and maintained according to the spiritual needs of a district, but simply for the interests of the individual parish, according to its prospects of financial support. Hence there arise among the parishes of the same diocese, all the rivalries and antagonisms, and efforts to supplant one another, which are witnessed among the different denominations. Costly churches are crowded together in wealthy districts, while vast, densely peopled, poor districts are provided for only by a few miserable mission chapels, or by some old churches which have been left stranded by the receding tide of wealth, and which only maintain a most feeble and inefficient existence, until an opportunity offers for a successful financial transfer to a richer neighborhood. There is not a single diocese in the union which does not present this spectacle, and it is the natural necessary outcome of our financial system. As long as the Church deliberately allows the funds belonging to it to be vested, not in trustees who have _the interests of the whole diocese at heart, but in those having only local and individual interests, no other result can be looked for. To what purpose is it to enact canons prohibiting the building of new churches within certain distances of, or without the consent of existing churches? That only protects these parochial interests, and is a hindrance to Church growth. What is wanted is a power in the diocese itself, which shall be able so to control and direct the Church property in it, that it shall be used for the good of the whole, and churches be built and maintained only in accordance with the spiritual wants of the several parts. The theory and ends of Episcopal government can never be answered till that power is obtained.

But even supposing that this system of separate parochial corporations was consistent with our theory of Church [44/45] government, which it is not, are our parochial trustees wise and efficient administrators of Church property? Is it even safe in their hands? In the first place let us consider how these corporations arc constituted. They consist of the rector and from eight to twelve vestrymen. The latter are supposed to be elected by the pew holders or worshippers in the church. But practically they never are, excepting in the case of a contested election. In every parish in the land, the vestry are really appointed by the rector, or by one or two influential members of the congregation. To how large an extent personal preferences, or opinions, ecclesiastical views, temporary interests, and above all pecuniary considerations, enter into the motives governing such appointments, it is not necessary to point out. The rector or the lay-pope of the parish may be the most conscientious men in the world, and in making up the ticket for the annual vestry election may put on it only the men who in their judgment are best for the interest of the parish, and yet the considerations which weigh most with them may result in the selection of those who are the very worst possible trustees for Church property. One rector may consider it the all-important thing to have his vestry filled with men who will support his ecclesiastical views, no matter how incompetent as business men they may be, or how little interest they may have in the temporal welfare of the parish. Or--and this is most frequently the case--a man is selected for the vestry, simply from his pecuniary or social ability to be of benefit to it, no matter what maybe his religious opinions or manner of life. Indeed, whether he have any belief at all, is often considered a matter of no importance if he is a rich man, and it is thought something may be gotten out of him by putting him in the vestry. It can be asserted, without the least fear of contradiction, that this is the chief motive governing the selection of vestrymen in the vast majority of parishes in the land. Consequently our vestries are filled with men who are not only often non-communicants, but many who seldom even [45/46] go to church at all, men whose only interest in the Church is because their wives and children go, or because some social influence or prestige, or business, or pecuniary advantage may result from their keeping up this connection. Is it likely that such men will prove conscientious, careful, painstaking trustees of Church property? And even if our practice corresponded with our theory, and our vestries were really elected by the congregations, there would be no security that the same, and even lower motives would not control the appointments. Partisan aims, especially, might easily override every other consideration. Then again the constituency of our parishes is so fluctuating, families are so constantly moving, districts so rapidly change. A parish that is now full of wealth and refinement may in a few years become poor and deserted. And so many of our churches are such feeble, ill-considered enterprises that it is frequently found difficult to obtain the requisite number of men of any sort to fill the offices. Consequently persons are frequently put on from very necessity, who from sheer ignorance and incompetence, are utterly unfit to discharge any position of trust. There are Church properties in the land which are in danger of falling entirely under the control of one or two individuals who are the very last persons in the world to whom this should go, or even in some cases of having no one at all to claim or represent them. Then again, once a vestryman, always a vestryman. If through some blunder an unfit man has been put on a vestry, or after having been put on proves himself unfit, it is almost impossible to remove him. It would often ruin the temporal prosperity of a parish to attempt at any future election to drop him. And, on the other hand, vestries are so carelessly elected that at any time designing or unscrupulous persons might, by a surprise, turn out an old vestry, put in others who would be legally elected, and yet be in no wise the representatives of the congregation, and who might seriously injure, if not alienate, the property before they could be displaced. We hold, [46/47] therefore, even as a matter of theory, that our church corporations are too loosely constituted and subject to too great dangers and vicissitudes to be safe custodians of property. But, beyond this, how is it with the practical working of the system even under the best circumstances? Take the case of the vestries of our largest and most intelligent congregations. Consider the position of a vestry. It is a corporation having charge often of large financial interests; it is to a great extent, a business venture. And yet it has not simply its own interests to consider; it is professedly only part of a diocese; it is to be governed by spiritual considerations; it is to build for the future as well as work for the present. But how often do we find vestries governed by financial considerations and no others. The one question always is, how the revenue can be most increased, how the concern can be made to pay best, and with the least possible call upon the pockets of the vestrymen themselves. Naturally, therefore, the interests of the parish alone are considered. The average vestryman is a simple congregationalist, ho never thinks of the diocese, excepting as he may be interested in some general institution, or is a representative in the diocesan convention, which possessing no property, is practically powerless to do much for the diocese as a whole. So for the parish itself the financial question is so imperative that the spiritual needs of a district or wants of a congregation, must entirely give way to it. The one point considered is how can the church be supported; how ends be made to meet, in what locality or by what means can it be made most--not spiritually--but financially successful? Now we are arguing for good business management of our property, but we hold that the one object of that management should be the spiritual good of the district to which it belongs, and that is not the first consideration of even the best of the vestries that now hold it. So as regards the future, what vestryman thinks of that? He is only elected nominally for a year, so he has no responsibility beyond. It is natural, therefore, if the [47/48] present and future interests of the parish clash, that the present only should be considered, especially if providing for the future involve any extra call upon the present members. If a vestry is fortunate enough to possess any property beyond its church edifice, etc., the temptation to use it for improvements or for current expenses has been found almost always too great to be resisted. Many parishes could be mentioned which have lived for years on the principal of funds which should have been preserved inviolable as an endowment for a day when there may be within its limits far less wealth and far more poverty. In one case where an endowment had been expressly raised to preserve an old church in a poor district, the warden deliberately encroached upon the principal on the ground that all the property of the church was liable for any obligations it contracted. In one of our wealthy city churches a large--and in the judgment of outsiders useless--addition has been lately made, not by the subscriptions of the congregation, but out of money which had been left to it, and which in the near future will be required to preserve the church from destruction. In another case large tracts of land received from colonial times have been alienated to defray current expenses, which had they been preserved, would have constituted a most valuable endowment. So notorious is the fact that vestries are not faithful trustees of money given to them, that it has now become the rarest thing for them to receive any such benefactions. While our hospitals and other like institutions are gradually accumulating handsome endowments, no one thinks of leaving money to parishes, though they naturally would excite greater personal interest, simply because their future is altogether too uncertain: there is really no security that the money would be used in accordance with the donor's wishes, in fact every likelihood that it would not be. For even if you were sure of the intelligence and faithfulness of the persons at present constituting a vestry, you have no security whatever how it will [48/49] be constituted ten, five, or even one year hence. I know of a vestry possessing something of an endowment fund, in which the propriety has been seriously discussed of investing it in a trust company, in order to prevent its being tampered with by future vestries.

So again the temptation of providing for the present needs of a Church, without any regard to the future, by allowing large debts to accumulate, or by mortgaging the property in some way, is a very great one. Instead of keeping expenses within the ordinary receipts, or making special efforts to meet them, some of our largest parishes indulge in extravagances they cannot afford and meet them by permanently encumbering their property. So, too, under our present system, each parish has to shift entirely for itself, there is no way by which the strength of the wealthy parishes can be made available tor the support of the weaker, except by an ignominious, miserable, and utterly uncertain system of begging. No matter how great the spiritual needs of a district may be, the only way in which a church can be supported within it is from the resources that can be drawn from the district itself, how poor soever it may be. Consequently our churches in poor districts, the very places where they are most needed, are very few and very feeble, and they are in constant danger of extinguishment. A slight shifting of the population, the removal of one or two families may deprive them of the little support they have, then they can no longer make both ends meet. They fail to pay the interest on the mortgages with which they are almost always encumbered, and they fall into the hands of the sheriff. In all our large cities properties can be pointed to which were once churches, but which have passed in this way to the Roman Catholics or one of the denominations, or worse still, been converted into places of business or, public amusement. And in the uncertainty of the future, owing to the rapid growth of population, and the change of the character of localities, there is not a church in the land, however unlikely it may [49/50] seem now, which is safe from the possibility of such a fate. So that the troubles of which we are speaking are far from being imaginary. The less than a hundred years which have passed since our existence as a separate national church have witnessed a really vast amount of mismanagements, misappropriations, alienation and loss of Church property which might have been avoided had the titles of our property been otherwise vested.

There is another evil connected with this system. These feeble, struggling parishes, scarcely able to keep themselves afloat, these vestries made up of any material that can be scraped together, even of the most unchurchly elements, have just as much interest and voice in our diocesan conventions as any others. Their vote tells for as much as that of the most cultured and wealthy parish. Our dioceses in fact are ruled for the most part by the representatives of the feeble and moribund parishes, as they are generally far superior in point of numbers to those which are strong and self-sustaining.

Is it any wonder that in view of all these facts there should be no little uneasiness in the mind of the Church upon this subject, that on all sides we have the present vestry system decried, and the question asked what practical remedy can be suggested? I propose to consider whether in this very important matter of the title of our property, some remedy for the present evils can be found.

The two chief remedies suggested are, either to have each Bishop constituted a corporation sole, capable of holding all the property of his diocese in trust, or to have a body of Diocesan Trustees. In regard to the former proposal, it is only in some of our States that the law recognizes or allows such a trust, and even where it is allowed, the objections to it are that it throws an amount of responsibility and of business upon the Bishop which he ought to be spared, and it is hardly in accordance with the genius of our Church to put so great a power as it would involve into the hands of any one man.

[51] We think that, it is generally agreed that the only way in which the dangers of our present system can be avoided, will be by having our property vested, not in the multitude of small, weak, inefficient, uncertainly constituted and selfish corporations, as it is now, but in one strong, intelligent, representative body of Diocesan Trustees, which will hold and administer all the property of the diocese for its good as a whole. Such a hoAy would have to be representative, not a close corporation, but elected by the Diocesan Convention, and responsible to it, though its election would have to be guarded against the surprises and tricks of partisan warfare. It would be intelligent, because it could command the best talent in the diocese. And it would be strong, from the interests it would control, from the prudence with which its affairs would have necessarily to be managed, and from the confidence it would be sure to inspire. If such a body were constituted in every diocese, and the title of all our Church property vested in it, it would be safe from alienation or loss, because such a body would not accept any property that was not financially sound, nor would it have any personal motive for allowing it to be subsequently encumbered. It would certainly command the confidence of the community, and being responsible to the Diocesan Convention, and all its transactions subject necessarily to public scrutiny, there would be no danger of misappropriation of funds or violation of trusts. Donors would be sure that their wishes would be strictly, legally complied with, so it would be certain to secure large benefactions, like our hospitals and other similar institutions. Persons would give or leave large sums of money to it, knowing that these would be always used for the good of the Diocese, when they would not think of giving to individual parishes, which are wholly irresponsible as to the use they make of their funds, and whose future cannot possibly be prognosticated. In this way the strength of the wealthier portion of the Diocese could be made available for the weaker. [51/52] Churches could his built and maintained in districts where they were needed. Personal preferences, fancies and abilities would no longer be the sole motive governing the erection of churches. No crazy, rotten, paper corporations would be launched into existence as full blown parishes. The name and sanction of the Church would be given to no enterprise, unless there was an assured guarantee of its support. If existing churches should, through adverse circumstances, become incapable of self-support, funds would soon accumulate in the hands of such a body, which could be used for their aid. Two or more weak parishes could be consolidated. And if in a given district, through change of population a church was no longer needed, it could be removed, not as would be the case now to a wealthier neighborhood where it could be better supported, but to one more spiritually destitute. We might be sure that in all cases the good of the diocese as a whole, would be considered, and sound business management obtained. The shame and disgrace and misfortune of having church property encumbered beyond possibility of redemption, seized for debt and disposed of for any alien or secular purpose, or saved only by the most piteous and abject appeals to the generosity of Churchmen, would be no longer seen. The Church would gain the power belonging to all strong moneyed corporations. And such a body once constituted, would he capable of holding property for any church purpose. If there is an Episcopal fund, or if in any Diocese, a general sustentation fund, or a retiring fund for aged or feeble clergymen, or a general Church Building Fund were accumulated, they could be held and administered by such a body, instead of necessitating the creation of separate societies and incurring the risk and the weakness inherent in small, separate corporations.

Rut it is asked, how could such a body be constituted? Are there no objections to it? And would it be possible now to effect such a change of system? In reference to the first question, it is certainly within the canonical, legal [52/53] and moral right of any diocese to make any regulation it sees best as to the investment of the church property within it. We regard 'the diocese as the unit in this matter; evidently, for the very reasons we have mentioned, the parish should not be. Provinces, we have none, and to constitute one body of trustees for the whole property of the church at large, would be altogether too gigantic and unwieldly an operation to undertake. It would be perfectly competent for any Diocesan Convention to create by canon, a body of Trustees to hold any or all the church property that might belong to it. For purposes of unification, and to obviate the necessity of electing so many different bodies, the standing committees of our dioceses, together with, the Bishop of course ex-officio, and the Treasurer and Chancellor, might well constitute the board required. Excepting in one or two dioceses, the standing committees consist of an equal number of clergymen and laymen, and the treasurer and chancellor being lay, there would, therefore, be an actual lay majority, which in some states is required by law, in any body holding ecclesiastical property, and which, whether legally required or not, is expedient, as the lay mind is certainly better fitted for the administration of financial and business matters, than that of the average clergyman. The standing committees, too, are already intrusted with many diocesan interests, and are the Bishop's councils of advice, so it would certainly be but natural and tend to unity and efficiency of action, to give to them the control also of the Church Property. Only in that case the committees instead of being elected as now, the whole committee annually, should be elected in sections, say one-third each year, in order to prevent surprises and danger of radical alteration of its membership, to which no body having charge of such important interests should be subject.

Perhaps it might be better to have a larger, more representative body than the one suggested, such as is "The church body," in Ireland, which performs for the church of [53/54] that land very much the office of the body we are advocating. But then there is but one such body for the whole church of Ireland, and therefore in order to embrace representatives of each diocese in the three orders, it is necessarily much larger than one for a single diocese need be. And, in a body so constituted, we have all the elements needed; the Bishop, the head of the diocese, who has all its interests at heart, and should have the oversight and a voice in the administration of all its affairs; five prominent intelligent clergymen and as many laymen, the best the diocese contains, who are already entrusted with a large share of its government, being constitutionally associated with the Bishop in it; the treasurer, who, perhaps, might be made a permanent officer on good behavior; and the chancellor, the legal adviser of the Bishop and of the diocese. Every one of these officers, except the Bishop, being elected, and capable of being displaced by, and responsible to, the diocesan convention, which is the representative of the diocese. Such a body would contain the best talent and intelligence the diocese could command, would have the interests of the whole diocese at heart, and be able to administer all the affairs of the diocese in concert and harmony, and yet be truly representative and capable of speedy and entire alteration of its membership, but free from the danger of surprisal and sudden change.

But are there not objections, to the constitution of a body of this kind and the investing in it all the property of a diocese. Would it not be a dangerous centralization of power? We cannot see that it would. Are not all our great financial concerns managed entirely by a comparatively small body of trustees? And would not the body we have suggested, be far more truly representative, far more freely elected, far less liable to contain dishonest, selfish, unscrupulous, or inefficient members, its whole policy and proceedings be more capable of being scrutinized and understood than, say that of the board of [54/55] directors of one of our great railroads? Besides, the powers of this board could be limited as much as was deemed best. For instance, no property could be alienated or church torn down or removed, without a special vote of the Diocesan Convention, if it was so prescribed by canon. It is admitted on all sides that the Roman Catholic Church possesses an enormous power, which we do not have, from the fact of all its property being concentrated in the hands of its Bishops, and being freed thereby from the scandals, mismanagement and losses, with which we are afflicted. Would not the plan proposed give us that power, without the accompanying disadvantages of the clergy being, as they are in the Roman Church, entirely dependent upon, and subject to the will of the Bishop? But, it is asked, might it not interfere with the liberty and independence of both the clergy and vestries? Not in the least. On the contrary, as regards the clergy, it would have the effect of making them freer; for the general tendency of the system unquestionably would be to the accumulation of endowments, which would make the clergy less dependent upon fluctuations and caprice of pew-rents and offerings. As for vestries, their position would be simply altered from having a freehold to having a leasehold of their property. Instead of absolutely owning their churches, they would have an indefinite lease of them. They could still be chosen as before, be as ecclesiastically free as they were before; elect their own Rector and manage their own domestic affairs; they would still be responsible for the current expenses of the parish, for the maintenance and even repairs of the fabric, unless special arrangements were made in individual cases or a fund provided for the purpose. They would have the right to do every thing that one renting or leasing a house would have the right to do, and they would be just as independent. My house is my castle just as much if I rent it as if I own it. In this case there would be no payment of rent, but the vestry or its predecessors being the original donors of the property, would have absolute [55/56] right to its use, as long as there was any one to represent them. All of which could be prescribed in the deed of donation. The only difference, but the great difference, would be that they could not touch the principal, they could not encumber or alienate the church property itself. The idea would be that the title deeds of all church property now owned within a diocese should be transferred to this body of diocesan trustees, and that the property of all churches hereafter formed should be vested in these trustees, but that in all other respects the individual congregations should be left as free as they are at present. In the case of enlarging or rebuilding or making alterations in a chinch, the vestry would have to apply for permission to the trustees, just as in England the rector and church-wardens have to apply to the Bishop for a faculty. But there would be no hardship in that, as, if it were really an improvement and needed, and funds were in hand for the purpose, there could be no question such permission would be granted. In cases where a parish was run down, or in a district where there was no material for the formation of a vestry, or where it was thought best to dispense with the vestry system, canonical provision could be made for the administration of the internal affairs of the parish, say as it is in England, by the rector and church wardens. But no where, where vestries now exist, or it, is desired to have a vestry, need their liberty be in any way interfered with, except in this most needed matter, of the disposal of the property itself. If vestries were still extravagant, or mismanaged things, only the money at their disposal, arising from pew rents, offerings or subscriptions would be liable. The title deeds to the property or the endowment fund, if any, not being vested in the vestry, could not be held responsible for any debt contracted by it. And in cases where there was no vestry, and there are many who think that there should be such cases, this plan would afford a perfectly safe and easy way by which the property could be held. And it would be by no means an ecclesiastical [56/57] monopoly. It would not be, as might be supposed, the giving over of a diocese bound hand and foot into the bands of the dominant party whichever it might be. For the trusteeship would be simply a trusteeship of property. The liberty of action of individual rectors would be no more interferred with, than is the liberty of a bishop, because the endowment fund from which he derives his income is in the hands of trustees. The board holding the property would not have the appointment to the benefice, unless it were specially given to it, nor would it have any control whatever over the incumbent once appointed, or over the vestry, except as to alterations in, or the disposal of the property it holds. The body proposed would be similar to that of Ecclesiastical Commissioners in England, and we certainly do not find that the liberty of the individual parishes in England is in any way curtailed by the fact of their having no control over the principal of their church endowments.

But, it is asked, would it be possible to introduce such a system now? In new dioceses it could be readily done by prescribing by canon that no church should be consecrated or admitted into union with convention until the deeds to the property had been transferred to the diocese. In old dioceses the same thing could be done in reference to all new property and congregations. As to existing property, all the weaker churches would be glad enough to give up their deeds, especially if the diocesan trustees were strong enough to assume any of the obligations by which they are encumbered. For the stronger parishes, if their representatives in convention see the wisdom of, and vote for, such a measure, and if a request come to them, with all the force of diocesan authority, to comply with it, most of them, surely, would do so. Moreover, inducements might be held out. As the body of trustees became stronger, they might offer to keep in repair the fabric of any church transferred to them, or perhaps to appropriate to it a small endowment. It might take time to [57/58] accomplish, but, if in practice, it was found that this system was a safe and wise way of investing and managing church property, there does not seem to be any reason why it should not in time be generally accepted. In this way we might at length have what there does not seem to be any possibility of ever having under our present plan, a real parochial system; churches designated and made responsible for certain districts, according to their spiritual wants, not as they are now, built and maintained only according to the financial ability they can command. Of course there would be nothing to prevent individuals or a company of persons erecting and retaining for their own use proprietary chapels, as in England. But such chapels would form no part of the parochial system of the church, would have no rights in the diocesan convention, and the church would in no way be responsible for any disgrace or disaster which might attend them. If the trusteeship advocated were established in every diocese, we should at least have a working system at hand, which could receive at once any property given to it, which would gradually become stronger and more efficient as opportunities offered, and which eventually might entirely supersede the present system which is attended with all the evils that have been depicted.

Of course the scheme here presented is only in its merest outline. All its details would have to be thought over and provision made against all possible abuses. But it is submitted that it is perfectly feasible, that it would have manifold and obvious advantages, and that if wisely considered and efficiently advocated, it is likely to meet with general acceptance. Let each diocesan convention appoint a committee of its wisest members to thoroughly consider the whole subject, and, if they see best, report a scheme for the establishment of a diocesan trusteeship, carefully prescribing its purposes and powers, together with forms for the transfer or donation of property, containing the terms of the trust by which it is to be held, and it [58/59] will simply require the enacting of a canon, to put it into operation. Then let all the force and authority of the diocese be brought to bear in favor of it. Lot the advantages to arise from it be widely made known. Let it be everywhere understood that there is a body in existence capable of holding any and every kind of church property. A body which can be trusted to hold and administer property strictly and solely for the purposes for which it is deeded. And, if it is once thoroughly known that there is such a body and what its purposes are, and that it can be trusted, it will not be long before most of the property now belonging to the parishes would be transferred to it, and if it once gains the confidence of churchmen, it will soon accumulate funds in addition, which would never be given to the representatives of individual congregations.

Thus should we have a system in thorough accord with our theory of church government, and which would add immensely to its efficiency. We should have a security from loss and misappropriation we have not now; be delivered from many of the evils of Congregationalism from which we suffer; have the prospect of establishing eventually a thorough parochial system, which might become a blessing to the nation; and gradually accumulate wealth, which would add enormously to the power and influence of the church. The mind of the church is now thoroughly aroused to a consideration of the importance of this subject. Let it be carefully deliberated and let us see if we cannot adopt a system by which we may in some measure retrieve the errors of the past; lay our foundations strong and deep for the future, and no longer trust to the workings of that system upon which we have fallen by chance, for there is no principle involved in it, and which on almost all sides is acknowledged to be most faulty.

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