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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

But the Scotch deaconesses are responsible to a church


The

mention of any facts that can bring before us the varied character that the deaconess work can assume is valuable. For to be truly useful, this cause needs to provide a place for women of very unlike qualities, and also to allow a certain degree of freedom which will insure the individuality of each worker.

The action of the Church of Scotland has had its influence upon the Reformed Churches throughout the world holding the presbyterial system. At the session of the London Council of the Alliance of Reformed and Presbyterian Churches during the summer of 1888, Dr. Charteris presented a report embracing many of the features of the elaborate scheme which he had previously devised for the Church of Scotland. And the Council, in receiving the report, not only approved it, but "commended the details of the scheme stated in the report to the consideration of the churches represented in the Alliance." We may regard the Presbyterian churches of Great Britain, therefore, as committed, not only to the indorsement of deaconesses as officers in the service of the Church, but to the organization of the whole work of women in the churches, under ecclesiastical authority and direction.

There is one feature of the deaconess cause as it has been developed in the Church of Scotland that is of especial interest to the Methodists of America. Most of the great deaconess houses of England have sprung from the personal faith and works

of earnest-souled individuals. Mildmay, for example, is a living testimony to the faithfulness and energy of the Rev. Mr. Pennefather and those associated with him. Within the Church of England the recognition accorded deaconesses is a partial one, resting on the principles and rules signed by the archbishops and eighteen bishops, and suggested for adoption in 1871. But as yet the English Church has not formally accepted this utterance, and made it authoritative. The German deaconess houses, while receiving the practical indorsement of the State Church of Germany, are not in any way officially connected with it. Even Kaiserswerth itself is solely responsible to those who contribute to its support for a right use of the means placed at its command. The same fact applies to the Paris deaconess houses. They are all detached efforts, not parts of a general system. But the Scotch deaconesses are responsible to a church, and a church is responsible for their work. The Church of Scotland is, therefore, justified in its claim when it says that the adoption of the scheme of the organization of women's work by the assembly of 1888, "is the first attempt since the Reformation to make the organization of women's work a branch of the general organization of the Church, under the control of her several judicatories."[77] The second attempt was made, which was the first also for any Church in America, when, May 18, 1888, the Methodist Episcopal Church of the United States instituted the office of deaconess, and made it an inherent part of the Church economy, under the direction and control of the Annual Conferences.

[75] _Organization of Women's Work in the Church of Scotland._ Notes by A. H. Charteris, D.D.; p. 4. [76] _Report of Committee on Christian Life and Work_, 1888, p. 36. [77] Nearly all of the facts, both printed and personal, concerning the deaconess cause in Scotland have been furnished the writer through the kindness of Lady Grisell Baillie, Dryburgh Abbey, Scotland.

CHAPTER XIII.


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