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“On Some Results of the Voluntary System,” by J. H. Allen

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“On Some Results of the Voluntary System, Especially in Our Country Parishes”

J. H. Allen

The Christian Examiner, March 1868

Joseph Henry Allen

Joseph Henry Allen
Courtesy of Andover-Harvard Theological Library, Harvard Divinity School

Joseph Henry Allen (1820 – 98) was ordained in 1843 and served several Unitarian Churches before moving into writing and teaching. In 1878, he became a lecturer on ecclesiastical history at Harvard Divinity School.

A generation after church tax abolishment in Massachusetts (1834) Allen looks at the result, particularly in the towns.

His essay suggests that the change in church financing had profound results, which seem to be neglected in studies of Unitarian development.

  1. Did the fiscal uncertainty of a ministerial career serve as a barrier to securing competent ministers?
  2. Did the change in the basis of church support make the clergy hirelings and particularly dependent on wealthy supporters?
  3. What methods of church finance were undertaken after 1834? Why did they eventually give way?
  4. Does the way a church finances itself affect its polity?

The full text of Allen’s essay is available through Google Books, here.