Project Canterbury


Pastoral Letter

Adopted by the



November 9, 1933






The House of Bishops designated the First Sunday in Advent
(December 3rd) as the Sunday for the reading of the Pastoral Letter.


Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, 2008



IN THIS momentous period in the life of the Church and State, your Bishops, with a solemn sense of their responsibility, lay before you certain matters that they believe deserve your serious consideration. They do this in the hope that at this time of stress the Church may contribute its full share to the stabilization of those things that are indispensable to the happiness, peace and security of the nation.

A finer type of Christian faith and courage calls for service and sacrifice to meet the modern world chaos.

The rehabilitation of agriculture and of industry we recognize as urgently important, but causes deeper than those that have to do with economic dislocation, with its attendant privations, lie at the root of the world's ills. Spiritual recovery must be made coincident with economic recovery. Apostasy, the neglect of fundamental Christian principles as related to domestic, social and industrial conditions have contributed to the catastrophe of recent times. The reactions from the severe strain of the great war resulted in the lowering of moral standards that had been the security of our people, standards that had given them a place of commanding power and influence at home and abroad. The consuming passion for gain, disclosed in an era of wild speculation, with its accompanying excesses and indulgences that brooked no restraint; the untempered lust for varied and unwholesome forms of pleasure; recent disclosures of incompetence and mal-administration; the looseness of marital ties leading to the disintegration of the home; these and other moral lapses contributed to the breakup of our social and economic institutions, and made easy the way for our common disasters and misfortunes. Widespread suffering, [3/4] hunger and distress in the face of unparalleled power, mechanical ingenuity and prodigal abundance present an appalling paradox such as our nation has never before witnessed.

In arrogance and conceit we had built our house upon insecure foundations, thinking the while that our cunning and skill could arm us to resist the blighting ills of panic and misfortune. Our pride and self-confidence have suffered a severe shock and our boasted capacity to weather all storms has brought us perilously close to a condition bordering on the overturn of our cherished institutions. A selfish and soulless individualism that was insular and arrogant impaired our security and wrought havoc in our social and economic life.

No appraisal of the events of recent years can leave out of consideration these factors. Unless they are frankly recognized and repented of there can be no salutary change effected in our economic and social order. Coincident with the lowering of moral standards we have witnessed a most malevolent and violent attack upon Christian institutions and the Christian faith. This attack is made on many fronts. In magnitude and persistence it is without parallel. It is insidious, cunning and determined. It pervades our literature, the drama, the screen, and touches with its blighting influence schoolhouse and university. It addresses itself particularly to the younger generation. As we survey the drifts and tendencies in our modern life it becomes increasingly evident that cleavage or division in our household of faith, stress upon individual conceits, over-emphasis upon practices unrelated to the supreme purpose of Christ's Church must contribute to inevitable failure and defeat. "A house divided against itself cannot stand." The Church's unity and solidarity are indispensable; never more so than now. To point more definitely the responsibility that is laid upon us as Christians and Churchmen we present certain matters we hold to be vitally important.


INVOLVED in an economic situation which has left millions confronted by the horrors of unemployment and dire want in the midst of plenty, the world abounds in many and, at times, conflicting experiments which seek to meet the needs of suffering humanity. There is no certainty in the minds of most men as to which of these experiments will surely solve our problems. It is, however, our conviction that Christians must assert without compromise that no experiment which falls short of the demands of Christ can permanently advance the welfare of all mankind. No standards short of the Christian standards can lead us out of our darkness into light. No ideal save that of the Kingdom of God can satisfy the minds and hearts of Christian people.

No experiment which seeks to bring recovery for any one group, industrial, agricultural, or any other, without considering the needs and welfare of all men is in accord with the mind of Christ. If we would be saved we must be saved together, for in God's sight all human beings of whatever kindred or tongue are equally precious. The members of the Church must make it clear that, as followers of the Master, they cannot give their support to any program of reconstruction which does not recognize the fact that national recovery depends upon world recovery.

No mere reestablishment of an old economic order will suffice. Christ demands a new order in which there shall be a more equitable distribution of material wealth, more certain assurance of security for the unemployed and aged, and, above all else, an order which shall substitute the motive of service for the motive of gain. Christians should face the fact that this new order can succeed only as the followers of Christ sacrifice and suffer greatly. It is not enough for us to "do our part". The Master calls for us to consecrate our all. For us the Cross stands as the symbol of a world recovery act. It demands that we become world recovery agents who dare to carry the Cross. It demands that through loyalty [5/6] to our King we serve as leaders in bringing to pass a national and world recovery and redemption.

One vital issue faces us at this moment, the imminent repeal of the Prohibition Amendment. It calls for renewed emphasis upon the value of temperance. Such a period of change as that upon which we are entering will lay upon us the demand for self-control and the exercise of vigilance that unrestricted traffic in liquor shall not become a menace to our people.


SIGNS on the horizon give evidence of a growing suspicion among nations. Beneath the surface the world seethes with unrest. The horrors of the World War seem to be forgotten as nation rises against nation and competition in armament once again occupies a sinister place in the chancellories and parliaments of the world. Pacts and agreements, readily entered into, are regarded lightly, if not abandoned. The hopes of a peaceful and orderly world are shadowed by distrust and selfish ambition. Forbidding and terrible as the contemplation of a fresh outbreak may be, direful and disastrous as may be its consequences, unless America, as the most potential force to world peace, can play a part consistent with her high ideals, and do it with Christian fidelity, a situation may ensue beyond her power to restrict or restrain. It is our duty as disciples of the Prince of Peace to insist upon policies that are consistent with the maintenance of equity, fair dealing and the sanctity of pacts and agreements among races and peoples. We are bound by every solemn obligation to wage unremitting war against war. An excess of nationalism or an attitude of detached unconcern for the ills of other nations, together with the building up of an armed force beyond reasonable national needs, deprives us of any opportunity to be a conserver of the world's peace. Love of country must be qualified by love of all mankind; patriotism is subordinate to religion. The Cross is above the flag. In any issue between country and [6/7] God, the clear duty of the Christian is to put obedience to God above every other loyalty.

No nation can live unto itself. We must cooperate or perish. War will be abolished finally only when Christ's spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation is in control of the world's international relations.

We make this appeal especially to the youth of America. Encouragement is found in the fundamental soundness of modern youth. We acknowledge that we, their leaders, have not always understood our young people. Their ways are different from our ways. Many of their standards were not those of our youth. We were born of the old world; they are the children of the new. We trust them, we thank God for the honesty of their approach to religion, and we confidently look to them, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to fashion a more enduring social structure than their fathers builded.


DAYS of material anxiety are days of spiritual opportunity. The present situation gives the Church one of the greatest opportunities in history, because the Church has spiritual gifts to impart, which were never needed more than now. Our power to help in a time of confusion and change lies in our grasp upon those things which are unchanging and eternal. Christian people must demonstrate spiritual values and share the world-wide vision of service given us by Jesus Christ.

We urge upon you, the people of the Church, to dare to do some of the things Jesus Christ died to make real in a Christian's daily living. If it is a question of compromise between honesty and anything less, dare to do the honest thing. What if it is costly? Are we followers of Jesus Christ or not? That is the final question. Let us show the people around us that we care, that our Christian religion really works. If it is a decision between the pure and the impure, take the Christ way. We must dare to discourage any other way. Buy and sell on the basis of the Law of Love, "Thou [7/8] shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Let us not be misled by the false slogan, "My country, right or wrong." Dare to meet intolerance with good will. Christ's way is the only way for a Christian, and the only way for a world in need. Stand alone if we must. Be counted a fool if it is necessary. Let us dare to do the thing now that counts. Let us practice what our religion stands for.

The world is coming to a new birth, and the pains of travail are to be expected. They may well be wholesome, if unpleasant. The times call for a stiffening of our faith. Too much spiritual ease makes soft Christians. Therefore we are told that "We must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God." We should be better prepared for it than our fathers of Apostolic days. They endured much hardness for Christ, because of the hope that was set before them. We still have that same indomitable hope, and in addition we have behind us the reassuring experience of twenty centuries of Christian fortitude. Confidence is our watchword, not confidence in ourselves, but in Christ, to whom our loyalty is pledged.

Though material values collapse, spiritual values remain unimpaired. We are followers of those who faced lions without flinching, and who endured the perils of persecution without whine or whimper. In Him we find the assurance of final victory. God has not abdicated. Christ is not dead. The power of the Holy Spirit still prevails. The foundations of the Church remain secure. We cannot be dismayed, God reigns. We dare not be discouraged, Christ lives. We may not relax our Christian loyalty, the Holy Spirit moves again over a chaotic world. Let us prove our faith in practice, and nothing can withstand the spiritual momentum that must follow.

Lift up your hearts; a new Advent of the Son of Man is at hand.

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