Dr. Steele’s Resignation from St. Luke and The Epiphany (1933): An Editorial from Church News

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From an editorial found in the March 1933 Church News [Official publication of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Pennsylvania]

“Quite the most unexpected and significant event in the Diocese in many months has been the resignation of Dr. Steele as Rector of the Church of St. Luke and The Epiphany. To most people it seemed almost unbelievable that he had been waging such a long, and, in his opinion, losing battle to increase the attendance at St. Luke’s; for outsiders, who knew the parish only by reputation, and who always suppose that every brilliant preacher attracts huge throngs, never suspected the disheartening struggle that he has described in an interview published in the daily papers recently.”

“Though it is a pity that an outstanding clergyman should have to sacrifice himself in such a spectacular way to awaken the Diocese, perhaps the dramatic suddenness of his action will force everyone interested in the welfare of the Episcopal Church in Philadelphia to at least think seriously about a situation that concerns not only the unfortunate central-city churches themselves, but the whole Diocese, whose welfare is vitally affected by this sickness that has developed at its very center. Where once it was strongest, the Church is now weakest.”

“There is, of course, a visible growth in the Diocese. Many parishes, especially in the suburbs, report notable increases in membership. But it is not always a healthy growth; for a large proportions of the suburban additions have been subtractions from central-city parishes; and it is not much to the credit of a suburban church to grow strong by taking the lifeblood from St. Luke’s and St. James’ and Holy Trinity. Nor it is in general beneficial to the Diocese as a whole that this should occur unless the city churches can replace the members they have lost by new adherents from some other source.”

“St. Luke’s has tried remarkable preaching – no parish has better. Its music has long been recognized as of the highest quality. Its services are dignified, reverent, and uplifting. Yet these methods of attracting people, for generations the most approved and effective, are no longer successful in the center of the city except in sporadically filling a church with a floating congregation.”

“Whether any of these revolutionary ideas are adopted or not, most people hope that the work will not have to be abandoned, but that in some way the problem may be solved – it it is soluble. Dr. Steele has done a great service by stating it so clearly and by placing the challenge squarely before the Diocese as a whole.”

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