Our Semi-Centennial (1928)

The Living Church has attained to the dignity of an age of half a century. Its fiftieth year was completed with last week’s issue; the present issue begins the fifty-first year. The fact that it also begins the eightieth volume is a little misleading, since the volumes, originally covering a full year, now cover only six months. A year’s quota consists of nearly two thousand pages, an average of nearly thirty-six pages to an issue.

The first number of The Living Church was dated November 2, 1878. It consisted of twenty-four pages, slightly smaller than the present page. A reduced size facsimile of the cover page is printed on the cover of this issue. Most of the issues for the first year consisted of sixteen pages, and the subscription price was $3.00 a year. Since the present contents are more than double those of the first volume, though the increase in price is only from $3.00 to $4.00, it will be seen that the greatly increased costs of publication are reflected not at all in the present subscription price, and the Class B sustaining subscribers are paying scarcely a higher rate than did the original subscribers under the conditions of fifty years ago.

The paper began with the subscription list of The Province [of Illinois], formerly The Diocese, which had been published in Knoxville, Ill., for the Illinois dioceses, by the late Rev. Charles W. Leffingwell, D.D. The first editors of The Living Church were the Rev. Samuel S. Harris, D.D., rector of St. James’ Church, Chicago, and the Rev. John Fulton, D.D., rector of St. Paul’s Church, Milwaukee, while the Rev. George F. Cushman, D.D., rector of St. Stephen’s Church, Chicago, was described as associate editor. The publication office was in Chicago.

The first editorial leader recalled that “not very long ago” there were two parties in the American Church, but that now (1878) “the High Church party seemed to have carried all before it.” Of late, however, “the ‘advanced’ men of the ritualistic school were recognized as forming a new ‘Catholic’ party, and they forthwith found themselves opposed not only by Low Churchmen but by staunch High Churchmen with whom they had previously been allied.” There were, however, “no organized parties in the Protestant Episcopal Church, and what is better still, the spirit of party is in universal disrepute.” It is declared that The Living Church is not to be “the organ of any school or party in the Church, and just as little will it be the enemy of any.”

IT was only about six months that the paper remained under the management of Drs. Harris and Fulton, and the avowed nonpartisanship did not prevent rather frequent “hits” at “ritualists,” which, however, was then the popular indoor sport in the Church. Notwithstanding that, a high order of contents was maintained and the paper was a credit to its two distinguished editors.

They had found, however, that even with the assistance of an associate editor, the editorship of a high-class weekly paper required more than merely the spare time of busy men, and they were unable to carry it on. Appealing, then, to Dr. Leffingwell, who was rector of St. Mary’s School, Knoxville, Ill., they returned the paper to him and he became the owner and editor, continuing the publication office in Chicago. The form was changed to that of a blanket sheet, about double the former page size, with eight pages to the issue, and the subscription price was reduced to $2.00.

Under Dr. Leffingwell’s editorship, which lasted for twenty-one years, the paper became widely known, and was less and less a western or sectional organ. Its Churchmanship became rather more robust than it had been in the earlier regime. A notable service was performed at the time of the revision of the Prayer Book in the eighties and early nineties by a series of constructive criticisms from the pen of the Rev. William J. Gold, D.D., which had much influence in the final outcome. Another great service to the Church consisted of the serial publication of Dr. Arthur Wilde Little’s Reasons For Being a Churchman, which afterward, in book form, became one of the classics of the Church.

A notable experiment made during several years at this time was the attempt, by reducing the subscription price to $1.00 a year, to enroll a really large circulation, such as would popularize The Living Church among the rank and file of Churchmen who, then as now, subscribed to no Church paper, and such as would command a large advertising constituency. The result was a disastrous failure. There were, of course, large additions to the subscription list, but not in such quantity as to attain the desired end. Even in that day of low costs, as compared to the present day, the paper cost more than one dollar a year to produce, and the advertising did not nearly pay the deficit thus created. After losing a very considerable sum, the price of $2.00 was wisely restored, and at that it remained until the advanced costs of later years demanded its increase.


IT WAS early in 1900 when Dr. Leffingwell surrendered the editorship and the present regime began. Dr. Leffingwell retained his interest in the publication to the end. Living a retired life at Pasadena, Calif., until he passed quietly to his rest less than a month ago, The Living Church was always his pride. He looked upon it, rightly, as his child.

The Young Churchman Company (now the Morehouse Publishing Company) purchased the publication, and the issue of February 3, 1900, was the first to be issued from the new office in Milwaukee, and under the editorship of Frederic C. Morehouse.

The Young Churchman Company owed its name to the weekly periodical of that name which had been founded in 1870 by Linden H. Morehouse, Sr., and which had obtained a wide circulation in the Church. That name was retained for the corporation until after the death of the founder, when, in commemoration of him, it was changed to the present name. A book publishing business had been added in 1884, and when, in 1900, The Living Church was added to the list of publications—the Living Church Annual had been added fifteen years earlier—the responsibilities of the publishers were greatly increased. The editorship has remained unchanged to the present time, so that Mr. Morehouse has not only exceeded Dr. Leffingwell’s term of years as editor, but has also attained the seniority among all the editors of Church publications, weekly and monthly.

In the prospectus of the new owners it was declared:

“The world—its literature, progress, politics, art—will be viewed from the standpoint of the Church, and the Church from the standpoint of Catholic thought. The editorial policy will always be frank and outspoken; but controversy will not be its main desire. We shall attempt to be Broad rather in intellectual grasp than in Churchmanship; to learn and to teach. There will be ‘malice toward none,’ ‘charity for all.’ In short, The Living Church will be The Young Churchman grown up.”

This was further amplified in the first editorial under the new management by the explanation:

“We call it the Catholic standpoint because it is the standpoint which sees in the Protestant Episcopal Church a living branch of the One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of the Creeds, of the six—probably seven—Ecumenical Councils, and of history. It is not necessary to explain to any who read this how different is this conception of the Church from the Roman idea.”

THAT was the position and the platform enunciated twenty-eight years ago, and it is substantially that of Dr. Leffingwell twenty years earlier. Has that position been maintained since, or has it been materially changed?

It has been reassuring to ourselves to glance through the editorial pages during these years of the present management, and see how uniformly consistent with this position they have been. We have not sought controversy, and yet we have never run from it. “Crisis” after “crisis” has come and gone. That over the ceremonial and vestments used by the bishops at the consecration of the Bishop of Fond du Lac came only a few months after this administration had begun. Curiously enough, the attack was led by Dr. Fulton, co-founder of The Living Church, in the Church Standard, of which he was then editor; and it is difficult to reconcile that attack with the original prospectus of the two founders of The Living Church, though they showed more than once their lack of sympathy with “ritualism” in spite of the inclusiveness of their aims. The so-called Open Pulpit controversy, after the General Convention of 1907, was another in which The Living Church was forced to take an active position, maintaining that the legislation of that Convention on “Canon Nineteen” did not involve an “open pulpit” at all, and was, instead, a protection against such an abuse; but about twenty clergymen of Catholic sympathies abandoned their orders and went to Rome because of it—a simple misunderstanding of plain fact. Long since, the interpretation of The Living Church became generally accepted in the Church, and now it is the advocates of looseness who ask for the repeal of the legislation that is obviously restrictive. So time has its triumphs and the last word.

As to controversies of later years, we trust the position of The Living Church has accorded with those principles which the present editor avowed at the outset.

There are some interesting facts concerning the advertising department. That the whole trend of general advertising has been away from the religious press is, of course, true, and it has involved an increasing problem as to the support of all periodicals of that nature. The Living Church has not been exempt from that problem.

Notwithstanding that, we find, with surprise no less than interest, that seventeen present advertisers have used our columns for nearly or quite the whole fifty years; fifteen others for twenty-five years; while twelve others have been occasional advertisers during a very large part of the entire period. The advertising manager, Charles A. Goodwin, still in service, has held that position continuously since 1896, a longer term of service than that of the editor, and is well known to the advertising world.

THE future? No man knows.

But this disconcerting fact must be recognized.

Unless conditions so change that all subscribers will willingly pay a much higher subscription price than they can do today, The Living Church can never again pay its way on the revenues from ordinary subscriptions and advertising alone. This makes the problem of the future a grave one.

We began last winter the plan of arranging sustaining subscriptions of $10.00 and $20.00 each, and several hundred generous subscribers quickly accepted the higher rates, thus dividing a great part of the deficit on last year’s account among them. We are hoping that this generous response will be repeated for several years.

But we cannot assume that this will afford permanent relief. If The Living Church will be needed in future years, it must be partially endowed. Yet the endowment of a periodical is fraught with great difficulty, chiefly because no one can guarantee that it will be worthy of support in all perpetuity.

Our plan announced for the “Church Literature Foundation” obviates this difficulty. Such a Foundation has been organized and incorporated; but instead of operating directly to endow The Living Church, its trustees will decide annually (if there continue to be deficits in publication) whether the paper, as then published, is worthy of such support or not. Of nine trustees, six represent the Church at large and three The Living Church. Of the primary trustees, the former are Bishop Ivins (president), Bishop Webb, Bishop Manning, Bishop Rhinelander, Bishop Griswold, and Mr. Haley Fiske. It is a self-perpetuating organization, and men of that type may be counted upon to protect the income from misuse for all time. And it is hoped that an endowment may be secured large enough not only to pay deficits of The Living Church (if needed and if the periodical is deemed worthy of such assistance) but also to enable the publication of Churchly literature from the Catholic standpoint, such as would probably not pay its way, and to distribute such literature. In short, it is hoped that the Foundation may develop into an American S.P.C.K.

An objective of $250,000 for such an endowment is asked for as our semi-centennial request. The Rev. B. Talbot Rogers, D.D., well known among the clergy of the Church, has accepted an appointment as fiscal agent for the Foundation, and through the courtesy of Mr. Edwin S. Gorham will make his headquarters at the well established Church book store in New York, at 11 West 45th street. Dr. Rogers has undertaken, by personal calls and by use of the mails, to seek to raise at least the amount above indicated for endowment. We earnestly commend Dr. Rogers’ efforts to our Family. It is a self-sacrificing work in which he has engaged, and he does it because he thoroughly appreciates its value, and because he has been close to the work of the present publishers, knowing and sharing their ideals, from the days when Bishop Edward R. Welles, Bishop J. H. Hobart Brown, and Mr. L. H. Morehouse, Sr., entered into the venture of faith which is now the Morehouse Publishing Company.

Not alone that it may be the crowning event of the semi-centennial of The Living Church, but also because of its obvious merits and need, we are hoping that the Living Church Family will generously respond to this call for a really permanent service in behalf of the ideals for which this journal has invariably stood.

The Living Church, November 3, 1928, pp. 9-11.

Richard Mammana is the Archivist of the Living Church Foundation.


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