THREE hundred of the clergy of this country are declared to be allied with the Socialist movement by open profession, while many more are secretly in sympathy with the cause, but hesitate for prudential reasons to make an open avowal. Only a few years ago, it is stated, Socialist principles seemed to be confined to a small number of Unitarian preachers, "who, being radical in theology, readily became radical in sociology likewise." But now, we read in a statement issued by the Christian Socialist Fellowship, "not only do the Unitarians smell of the malady, but Episcopalians by the score, and numerous Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Disciples, Lutherans, Congregationalists, Universalists, and even Roman Catholics have become infected with the Socialist microbe and stricken with the disease." An active propaganda is contemplated by the ministers who have recently formed in New York what is to be known as the Ministers' Socialist Conference, which will hold closed sessions in order to avoid misrepresentation by the press. At a meeting held on April 29 a declaration of principles was adopted, and, as given to the press by the secretary, Rev. John D. Long, pastor of the Park Side Presbyterian Church, Brooklyn, embodies the following purposes:
"The United States Government according to the Constitution is a government of, by, and for the people. We go a step further and say that the people should also own the means of production and distribution. We realize that this can not be brought about suddenly, but everything is tending that way. The post-office system, the water supply, the public-school system, and several other things now run by the Government are applied Socialism. We believe that a republic is one step from a monarchy to Socialism, and by evolution helped by education Socialism is bound to come. It may, we believe, take a generation to establish Socialism in place of the present forms of government, as the people will gradually have to overcome long-cherished prejudices before they are prepared for the new order of things.
"Meantime the evolution is going on. We believe that the trustification of lines of business is collective ownership for the benefit of the corporations and will be followed by collective ownership for the benefit of the people. The Ministers' Socialist Conference does not concern itself with election campaigns or the nomination of Socialist candidates, but takes up Socialism in the broad sense as the coming order of things, which it can help to hasten by educating the people to the realization that Socialism is the highest form of social and industrial development. Socialism will not come in the form of a sudden revolution, but will come naturally and logically. We believe in living up to our obligations as citizens under the present form of govemment until Socialism takes its place."
A convention will be held in New York from June 1 to June 3, so it is announced, to make the organization a national one. Dr. Long, in speaking on an earlier occasion to a representative of The Sun, said of the motives behind this movement :
"The clergymen who have affiliated with the new organization have come to the conclusion that Christianity will not work under a competitive commercial system and that the inauguration of Socialism is necessary for civilized human beings. We regard Socialism as the economic expression of the Christian life and believe that it is now the duty of the Church to step in and advocate Christian Socialism in the United States. H. H. Rogers in a recent magazine article said that business is war; and if business is war and if, as another man said, war is hell, then business and the competitive system must also be hell. Several of the trustees of the largest corporations are also behind the new movement, but their relations to us are of the most confidential nature and they have enjoined me from mentioning their names."
From statements made by Dr. Long we gather the following historical account of the larger organization, whose membership includes laymen as well as ministers. Considerable attention has recently been attracted to the meetings of the New York branch of this body which have occurred on Sunday evenings at the Church of the Ascension. The publicity gained by these Socialistic discussions finally proved distasteful to the vestry, and last week it was voted to eliminate this subject from future church meetings. Dr. Long thus presents the facts :
"The formation of the National Christian Socialist Fellowship dates from a conference held in Louisville, Ky., two years ago. One year since, a much larger conference was held in Chicago, and this year, May 28 to 31, a national conference is to be held in New York City.
"The movement at its beginning established a paper called The Christian Socialist, which is published in Chicago by a couple of preachers, Rev. E. E. Carr and Rev. J. O. Bentall. . . . . . .
"The object of the Christian Socialist Fellowship is declared to be 'To permeate churches, denominations, and other religious institutions with the social message of Jesus; to show that Socialism is the economic expression of the Christian life; to end the class struggle by establishing industrial democracy, and to hasten the reign of justice and brotherhood upon earth.'
"It is asserted that the movement is not political, yet it is admitted that it is through political action that its principles are to become operative, and it is not denied that those most active in pushing the propaganda are also active members of the Socialist party."