On Sunday Dr. Leighton Parks dramatically voiced the opinion of the great mass of college men, of undergraduates certainly and probably of many graduates, when he took up the fight against the pastoral letter of certain bishops, which has created such a stir in church circles during the last few days, Removing the vestments of a priest, and putting on an academic gown, he took his stand for liberty of thought within the church; for the right to interpret and to preach the Christian religion in a way consistent with the dictates of conscience and of reason. Dr. Parks does not ordinarily use sensational methods to carry his message. Yesterday, however, his action was dramatic, symbolical. The restraints of the church on honest thought were getting too great for one who had served it faithfully for years, and he felt that it no longer sanctioned his sincere beliefs.
There is no necessity for taking any stand on the merits of the "Theological doctrines in dispute. Brilliant scholars have quarrelled over them for centuries. It seems to the average layman, particularly to the young man, that to require adherence to those of the rigid sort suggested in the pastoral letter of the bishops, is in these latter days at least unwise. There are many who feel that they are rightfully within the fold of the church--and yet who feel that intellectual honesty forbids them to subscribe to doctrine which is to them antiquated and erroneous. The invariable answer from the Fundamentalists--(Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and many others; for there is a conservative wing in nearly every denomination)--is that there is room for such liberal teaching outside the church, but none within its doors.
We see conferences for young men to interest them in the ministry; we hear of the lack of young clergymen of high ability--and is it surprising? A young college student, used to independent thinking, eager for the truth, and anxious to enter the church, cannot be blamed for being somewhat discouraged by an altitude of opposition to all original effort and enterprise. If the young people of today lack religion,--and it has been the fashion for their elders to say so frequently particularly since the war; is it heresy to suggest that it is the church which lacks life rather than they? Young men will think if they are given something to think about; and most young men, although they hesitate to admit it in their more flippant moments, think about religion. Any attempt to confine their religious beliefs within the narrow scope of a literally-interpreted, ancient creed is likely to meet with failure, for such an attempt means death to thought and perhaps--to the church.