John Ireland.

A second solemn appeal to the church : containing remarks and strictures on the late violent proceedings of a pretended ecclesiastical court against the author online

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tional provision is made for a peculiar quorum, either two- thirds or three-
four4,hs being required to render the action valid. But in all cases, where
no such constitutional provision exists, a majority is a quorum. Have we
any such constitutional provision for a peculiar quorum in our Churches, in
regard to acts pertaining to a covenant or constitution ? If so, when and
where did it originate ? If not, a majority is a quorum, and its acts are valid
and final. Church covenants have been revised and altered in numerous in-
stances, and since the days of Jonathan Edwards, some scores of half-way
covenants have been dissolved. Was this not done by majorities ? Was
Edwards obliged to wait till every man in the Church would agree to abolish
a half-way covenant before the thing could be done ? Let us look to the fu-
ture. We are now mourning the general withdrawing of the Holy Spirit
from the young. The Churches are dwindling. This was the case with our
fathers, and in their alarm lest Church after Church should become extinct,
they invented the half-way covenant. May not our children do the same
thing, or something worse ? It belongs to the very genius of Congregation-
alism to have the right to modify a covenant, because it arose and has lived
in opposition to an established religion. If we may not modify a covenant,
we have as truly an established religion as any in the world. Any obstruc-
tions which we throw in the way of so doing, would be suicidal. If the
next generation shall introduce un-Christian covenants, and some future
Edwards shall be raised up to reform the Churches, shall we hamper him
with the rule that on such a subject, a majority shall not govern, and all the
stereotyped heresy, and petrified folly which a godless generation shall have
thrust into church-covenants, must stand till every member of the Church
shall agree to their removal ?

For myself I certainly would not demand more than a majority in any
Episcopal Church, to dissolve her covenant of baptismal regeneration, nor
would I ask for more in any Baptist Church to abolish her covenant of close
communion. It is self-evident that any authority which can modify a cove-
nant, can abolish it. The apostle appealed to our common sense when he
declared that only such things as cannot be shaken are the things that re-
main. 1 therefore enter my remonstrance against the proposed rule, that
no Church can be dissolved until every member consents. Have not articles
been introduced recently into some of our Churches, prohibiting the admis-
sion of such men, hereafter, as traffic, or dabble improperly, with alcohol or
slavery ? And is it ever required that every member must agree to such an
act, to render it valid and binding ?

What effect would the above named rule have upon the question of prop-
erty ? If the vote of the majority to dissolve Howard Street Church is in-
valid and a nullity, and those constituting the minority are now the veritable
old Howard Street Church, then, as we are told by high legal authority, all
the property belonging to said Church, at the time of the vote to dissolve,
belongs now to the minority. The same would be as true had the minority
been but one. Is this according to the law of righteousness, the law of
Christ ? Is there here no temptation to man to constitute himself a minority ?
no bounty upon disagreement among brethren ? Can it be that a Christian
Council will sanction such a principle ? There is something in man's
heart which led the great Guardian of right to declare, " Thou shalt not
covet." Shall we, by our decision, add provocatives to nature on such a
point ?

With these thoughts, I remain the Council's most affectionate brother,

Calvin Hitchcock,







January 13-16, 1869.

standard Press, New Bedford, Mass.


An Ecclesiastical Council convened in the Church-building of the
First Congregational Church'in Washington, D. C, on Wednesday,
January 13, 1869, at eleven o'clock, a. m., in accordance with let-
ters-missive in form as follows :

Nov. 9, 1868.
The First Congregational Cliurcli in "Washington, D. C, to tlie Congrega-
tional Clmrcli under the pastoral care of Eev. .

Bevercnd and Beloved :

You have heard that there are some difficulties in this church. We first
endeavored to settle them by a committee of our own number. We in-
tended, if this should fail, to ask the advice of our sister churches. Before
the committee could make its final report, an ex-parte Council was demanded
by a minority of the church. Upon our representation, the ex-parte Council '
was not held.

At the request of our pastor, a mutual Council, to consider all our diffi-
culties, was called, — he asking that the minority should be represented on
the Council by churches of their own selection. Such churches were agreed
upon, but those of the committee representing the minority refused to sign
the letter-missive, though drawn in exact accordance with the action of the
church ; and thus the Council was defeated by them. The pastor, on the
sixth of September, offered his resignation, which of course involved a
Council. A large majority of the church and pew-holders requested him to
withdraw this, and he did so on the eighteenth of October, and at the same
time presented his request for a mutual Council.

This request the church granted.

We therefore invite your attendance, by pastor and delegate, at a mutual
Council to be held at our church-edifice, on the corner of G and Tenth
streets, in this city, on Wednesday, the thirteenth day of January next, at.

eleven o'clock, a. m., to hear such statements as may be made by the church
and pastor, or either of them, concerning our affairs, and to advise with us
in regard to our difficulties, our interests, and our wants.
Wishing you grace, mercy, and peace,

We subscribe ourselves, yours,

Chakles B. Boynton, Pastor.


K. H. Stevens,
A. B. Bartlett,
H. C. Spekcek,
J. S. Delano,
A. L. Stuktevant,

Committee of the Church.
The churches invited are :
Church under pastoral care of Rev. 11. S. Storrs, Jr., b.d., Brooklyn, N. Y.
" " " " " H. W. Beecher, " •'

" " " " " J. P. Thompson, D. D., New York.

" " " " " J. C. Holbrook, d. d.. Homer, N. Y.

" " " *< " Edward Strong, d. d., Pittsfield, Mass.

" " " " " H. M. Parsons, Springfield, Mass,

" " " " " A. H. Quint, D. r>.. New Bedford Mass.

" " " " " Mr. Goodell, New Britain, Conn.

" " " " " Samuel Wolcott, r>. D., Cleveland, Ohio.

" " " " " H. D. Moore, Cincinnati, Ohio.

" " " " " Charles G. Finney, Oberlin, Ohio.

" " " " " Plavel Bascom, Princeton, 111.

[And, by subsequent letter, the church under the care of Rev. C. E. Lord,
Chester, Vt.]
Suitable accommodation will be provided for pastors and delegates.

Rev. Samuel Wolcott, d. d., of Cleveland, Ohio, called to order,
and ascertained that a majority of the churches invited were repre-

The Council then organizecl, by choosing Rev. Joseph P. Thomp-
son, D. D., of New York, Moderator ; and Rev. Alonzo H. Quint,
D. D., of New Bedford, Mass., Scribe.

The Roll of the Council was made up as follows :
From the Tabernacle church. New York city,

Rev. Joseph P. Thompson, d. d.. Pastor,
Dea. William H. Smith, Delegate.
From the Church of the Pilgrims, Brooklyn, N. Y.,
Rev. Richard S. Storrs, Jr., d. d.. Pastor,
Dea. Richard P. Buck, Delegate.


From the Plymouth church, Brooklyn, N. Y.,

Dca. Charles C. Duncan, Delegate.
From the church in Homer, N. Y.,

Rev. John C. Holbrook, d. d., Pastor,

Dea. Ebenezer G. Eanney, Delegate.
From the Second church, Pittsficld, Mass.,

Bro. Willard Carpenter, Deleg£j,te.
From the First church, Springfield, Mass.,

Eev. Henry M. Parsons, Pastor,

Bro. Henry Morris, Delegate.
From the North Congregational church, New Bedford, Mass.,

Rev. Alonzo H. Quint, d. d.. Pastor.
From the church in New Britain, Conn.,

From the Plymouth church, Cleveland, Ohio,

Rev. Samuel Wolcott, d. d.. Pastor,

Bro. Lucius F. Mellen, Delegate.
From the Vine Street church, Cincinnati, Ohio,

Rev. Henry D. Moore, Pastor,

Bro. Joseph P. Walker, m. d,, Delegate.
From the First church, Oberlin, Ohio,

From the church in Princeton, 111.,

Rev. Flavel Bascom, Pastor,

Bro. William Converse, m. d.. Delegate,
From the church in Chester, Vfc.,

Rev. Charles E. Lord, Pastor.

The letter-missive was read by the Moderator, upon which it ap-
peared that the Council was properly constituted ; and the Moder-
ator opened its proceedings with prayer.

The Council then declaring itself ready to receive statements,
upon the subjects proposed in the letter-missive, —

Papers were read by Rev. Dr. Boynton, pastor of the church,
and by Dr. Hiram Barber, in behalf of the committee of the church ;
and copies of correspondence between the committee and certain
disaffected members, regarding the calling of this Council, were
also presented. It was then

Voted, That having heard statements presented by the pastor and the
committee of the church, and also correspondence between the committee

and certain disaffected members of the church, the Council is now ready to
proceed to hear from such disaffected members such statements as they, by ■
a committee, may desire to present, upon the matters covered by the state-
ments of the pastor and the committee, and referred to in the letter-missive.

Bro. William F. Bascom, a member of the chm'ch, tlien proceeded
to present some statements of the. views of disaffected members.
But there having arisen a question as to the extent to which such
members might present their statements, or the Council might con^
sider them, it was

Voted, That the Council understands that the letter-missive, by which it
is convened, authorizes and requires it to investigate, as far as it deems
proper, all matters bearing on " the difficulties, interests, and wants" of the
church calling it ; and to give advice as to what will be likely to heal or
remove those difficulties, promote those interests, and meet those wants.

It was also Voted, That the Moderator now ask the pastor of the church,
the committee of the church, and those persons who appear to represent
disaffected members, respectively, Avhether they agree with this understand-
ing of the letter-missive.

The Moderator then asking this question as directed, Bros. Will-
iam F. Bascom and Oliver O. Howard, for disaffected members,
accepted fully this understanding of the Council. But, some dis-
cussion ensuing with the pastor and committee of the church, it was

Voted, To appoint a committee of three to confer with the pastor and
committee of the church.

And Rev. Henry M. Parsons, Eev. Samuel Wolcott, d. d., and
Dea. William H. Smith, were appointed such committee.

It was then Voted, That the Council take a recess until half-past sis
o'clock, V. M.

The Council re-assembled at half-past sis o'clock, p. m., and its
session was opened with prayer by Rev. Dr. Wolcott.

The minutes of the preceding session were read and approved.

Voted, That the Council meet in the morning at nine o'clock; that at one
o'clock, p. M., a recess of half an hour be taken ; aud a recess from four
o'clock, p. M., to half-past six o'clock, p. m.

The committee appointed to meet and confer with the pastor and
committee of the church, reported that " the pastor and committee
accept the understanding of the letter-missive as declared by the
Council ; with the common understanding that these three principles

are held, viz. : 1. That of the self-government of the local church.
2. That a majority governs, in the church. 3. That a minority in
a church is not to be recognized as an organized body."

The report was unanimously accepted.

Eev. Dr. Boynton then laid before the Council the following ques-
tions, upon which the pastor and church desired answers :

1. Is this church truly CoBgregational iu its theory or its practice ; and
has the pastor, ia his teachings or his practice, departed iu any degree from
the principles and customs of our denomination ?

2. In what respect, if any, do the principles and practice of this church
and pastor, in regard to tlie colored race, difl'er from those of a majority of
the other Congregational churches of the laud?

3. Has the pastor been guilty, as charged by the minority, of nnministei'-
ial or unchristian conduct, either in the neglect of pastoral duty, or at the
communion session, or at the preparatory lectures, or in any other essential

4. Has the success of this enterprise been such as should satisfy the rea-
sonable expectations of its friends ?

Bro. William F. Bascom then resumed the presentation of the
views of disaffected members, and continued until a quarter before
ten o'clock p. m., when the Council adjourned, with prayer by Rev.
Flavel Bascom.

The Council met at nine o'clock, a. m., Thursday, and prayer was
offered by Rev. Henry D. Moore.

The minutes of the session of the previous evening were read
and approved,

Bro. William F. Bascom then resumed his presentation of the
views of disaffected members, which, with various questionings,
occupied the time until the hour fixed for a recess, when he con-
cluded. At one o'clock, p. m., a recess was taken until half past one

The Council being again iu session, it was

Voted, That further statements from Eev. Dr. Boynton, and the committee
of the church, be, at their request, assigned for a hearing at half past sis
o'clock, p. M.

In behalf of disaffected persons, statements were made by Dea.
S. H. Hodges and Bro. O. 0. Howard ; and the testimony of Mr.
Cook, a former applicant for admission to the church, was introduced.

A discussion ensued upon the financial condition and history of


the society, in the course of which the relation of the enterprise to
the American Congregational Union came before the Council. It
was then

Voted, That the examination of this relation be referred to a committee,
to report in the evening.

And Rev. H. M. Parsons and Dea. Richard P. Buck were ap-
pointed such committee.

At four o'clock, p. m., the Council took a recess.

The Council i-esumed its session at half past sis o'clock, p. m.,
and prayer was offertsd by Rev. Mr. Lord.

For the committee upon the relations of the society to the Amer-
ican Congregational Union, Rev. Mr. Parsons made the following
report, which was accepted, and ordered to be put upon the records :

The committee appointed to examine the facts relating to the collection of
funds under the indorsement of the Congregational Union, find, —

1. That the date of the circular sent out from Washington, and indorsed
by Dr. Boynton, was after an interview between Dr. Boynton and Dr.
Palmer, Secretary of the Union, in which Dr. Palmer distinctly withdrew
the sanction of the Union to the appeal Dr. Boynton proposed.

2. That Dr. Boynton told Dr. Palmer he should use the old indorsement
made by Kev. Mr. Langworthy, a former Secretary, three years before.

3. That W. F. Bascom says that Dr. Boynton remarked in his hearing
that he was refused sanction by Dr. Palmer, but should use the old one
before the churches.

The pastor and committee of the church not being ready to pre-
sent their case, a few minutes were occupied b}^ Bro. 0. O. Howard.

Rev. Dr. Boynton then presented his further statements, and an-
swered questions proposed by members of the council.

After brief explanations by various persons, the committee of
the church declared its statement to be closed ; and at half past ten
o'clock, p. M., the Council went into private session.

In private session, each member of the Council expressed his
views of the facts presented. It was then

Voted, That Kev. Dr. Quint, Rev. Dr. Wolcott, and Bro. Henry Morris,
be a committee to di'aft a Result.

Having voted to meet at 12 o'clock, noon, at half past two o'clock,
A. M., Frida}'-, the Council adjourned.

The Council re-assembled, in public session, at twelve o'clock,
noon, Friday. Prayer was offered by Rev. Dr. Storrs.
Rev. Dr. Holbrook was appointed Assistant Scribe.

It was Voted, That the hearing be re-opened, so far as to allow the com-
mittee of the church to mate further statements.

Dea. Lyman, and Bros. Rumsey, Sturtevant, and Bartlett, then
made statements in behalf of the church.

At the close of these statements, the committee declared their
entire satisfaction with the opportunity given them for expressing
their views, and at two o'clock, p. m..

Voted, That a recess be taken until three o'clock, at which time the Coun-
cil shall meet in private session.

The Council met in private session at three o'clock, p. m.

The committee appointed for the purpose then reported a draft
of Result, which, after full discussion, was referred to a committee
consisting of Rev. Dr. Storrs^ Rev. Mr. Bascom, and Dea. William
H. Smith ; to which the former committee was also added.

The Council then adjourned.

At half past six o'clock, p. m., the Council met in private session,
and prayer was offered by R^v. Mr. Parsons.

The committee on Result reported a draft, which was fully dis-
cussed, and slightly amended. It was then adopted, every member
of the Council voting in the affirmative, and is as follows :


This Council has assembled at the call of the Eirst Congregational Church
in Washington — a call occasioned by the difficulties which have existed in-
that church — to hear the statements of the church and its pastor concern-
ing their affairs, and to advise with them "in regard to their difficulties,
their interests and their wants." Its members have listened, patiently and
with attention, to all the statements which have been presented, orally or
in writing, by the pastor, the committee of the church, or the committee
representing disaffected members of the church ; and have desired and en-
deavored to form such a judgment upon the statements thus presented as
should be satisfactory to their own minds, and should contribute to relieve
the difficulties of the church, to promote its interests, and to meet its wants.
They are happy to recognize, and put on record, the fact that the various
persons who have appeared before the Council, representing various and

opposite parties in the church, have treated each other, in the main, with
entire Christian courtesy, and have evidently sought to be altogether tem-
perate and accurate in their representations.

If the Eesult to which the Council has been brought shall contribute, in
any important degree, to promote the harmony and advance the welfare of
the church which has convened it — a church concerning which so many
high and affectionate hopes have been cherished, not only by its own mem-
bers, but among all the churches of our faith and order throughout the
land— the members of the Council will rejoice to have given the time and
effort necessary to secure an end so important.

In the judgment of this Council it has been from the first a misfortune to
this church, and probably, to some extent, a source of its troubles, that the
pastor of it has not been himself a member of it, and that his ministerial
relation has been, as it continues to be, with a distant Presbytery. A doubt
of his entire sympathy with the peculiar Congregational principles and
methods, has been not unnaturally occasioned, or encouraged, by this fact.
And, though the Council finds no reason to doubt his entire sincerity in the
expressions which he has given of attachment to the Congregational sys-
tem, which this church was established to represent, it cannot but feel that
it would have been for the good of the church, and for his own usefulness
and peace as its pastor, that he should have personally connected himself
with it.

In the administration of the church, as that has been exhibited before us,
certain grave and dangerous errors n'' "^-ar plainly to the members of the
Council to have been heretofore comiii. '■ out of which has largely come
the present unfortunate and threatening condition of aflairs. The princi-
ples affirmed and maintained by the pastor, and the majority of members in
the church, — and which, in theory at least, we do not find to be denied by
those who are opposed to the continuance of the present pastoral relation, — '
are among the familiar and elementary principles of the Cougregational
system, and are always to be held clearly in mind. • They are : first, that the
right and duty of self-government inhere in the local society of believers ;
while still such a society should recognize all the obligations which grow
out of the fellowship of the churches : second, that the majority of members
in each local society of believers has the right, and is under the obligation,
to decide in all cases upon the course of action which this should pursue :
and third, that a minority of members within a church cannot properly be
recognized as an organization.

These principles, as we have said, are correct and important : are, indeed,
fundamental, in the Congregational polity; and the pastor, and the majority
of the members in this church, in adhering steadfastly to them, only show
their intelligent appreciation of that system of ecclesiastical order which
they have adopted.

But while they have properly held these distinctly in view, they have at
the same time, in the judgment of the Council, taken measures, and adopted

courses of action, wliicli are not only uncougregational, but practically,
though not we presume intentionally, unjust.

' How far this has originated in the want of any sufQcient code of rules, for
the guidance of the church in the conduct of its internal afi'airs, it may not
be easy to say ; but the members of the Council are confident that the pres-
ence of such a code as is commonly embraced in the manuals of our
churches, would have saved this church from much of the confusion and
irregularity which have marked some of its important proceedings. They
learned with great surprise and regret that no such code'has hitherto been
adopted in this church. And one of the most earnest recommendations
which they have to make is, that this great defect, always certain to be
fruitful of mischief, be at once and carefully supplied.

In the absence of such a code of rules, defining the way in which a proper
meeting of the church for business can be called, it has been the custom
here for the pastor, with a majority or a moiety of the deacons, to call such
meetings, at their discretion; and petitions for a meeting, signed by num-
bers of the members of the church, and presented to the pastor, have nec-
essarily been left dependent for their success upon his personal views and
feelings, and those of the deacons who have sympathized with him. In
point of fact, such efibrts to obtain meetings have been several times unsuc-
cessful. Anything more utterly foreign than this arrangement from all the
principles, and customary practices, of Congregational churches, it would
not be easy to imagine. • A society that can convene, for the transaction of its
own business, only when it may p^^ - ^ ."" ^^P of its ofiicers to call it to-
gether, might as well save itsel^ ' " *^ *"'fouble, and relieve itself of future
responsibility, by putting all its matters into the hands of others, to be
transacted for it.

The only arrangement made for a regular bi-monthly business meeting of
this church, was made by a resolution, which has itself been set aside — as,
of course, it was liable to be set aside, at any time — by a vote of the ma-
jority of the church; and no such meeting has been held since the last

As the extraordinary power of convening or preventing meetings of the
church, at their discretion, has thus been assumed by the deacons of this
church, in connection with the pastor, so also an unusual power has been
exercised by the deacons in cases of discipline, without dissent on the part
of the majority of the church.

In one case of discipline, the particulars of which have been presented to
us, it is affirmed, and conceded, that the offending brother, having been
twice visited by two of the deacons, but not by the pastor — against whom
his alleged ofifense had been committed — was notified by the " Board of
Deacons," as it has here been called, to appear before a meeting of the
church, there to show cause why he should not be suspended from the com-
munion and privileges of .the church. His case, in other words, had been
first decided upon by the " Board of Deacons," and he was notified by that
body, and not by the church, to appear before the church ; as "if he were

Online LibraryJohn IrelandA second solemn appeal to the church : containing remarks and strictures on the late violent proceedings of a pretended ecclesiastical court against the author → online text (page 50 of 51)