From time to time the clergy notice the lack of men in the church; the clergy even propose that “something must be done.” It never is.

In their triennial Pastoral Letter, issued in 1856, the bishops of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States point with alarm:

“We proceed to notice a third defect, which it rests upon the Laity to rectify, and this lies in the all-important work of male education. It is a mournful and alarming fact, that, as a general rule, boys are found so much fewer in number than girls, in all our Sunday schools; and that, for the most part, females exceed the males at the sacred rite of Confirmation, in the proportion of three to one. There can be no other reason for this, than the want of due attention to their training. If the fathers of our families were careful to set their sons a religious example, and if [16/17] our schools for boys were conducted, as they ought to be, on true Christian principles, it would be impossible that such a reproachful disinclination to the plain duties of youth could exist in the Church of God. The limits of this address do not allow us to discuss the subject as it deserves; but we could not pass it by without recommending it to your most earnest and prayerful reflection, in the full belief that the lack of religious reverence, amongst the males of the rising generation, is the most dangerous, increasing, and prolific evil of our day. Indeed, we do not hesitate to say, that if it be not effectually checked by the adoption of a higher rule of duty in families and schools, it is enough, of itself, to insure the final decay of the Church, and the certain ruin of the Nation.”

The bishops were correct; the alienation of men from the churches explains, I think, much of the dynamic of secularization. And perhaps this letter helped encourage the  foundation of the preparatory schools for boys which helped transmit the faith to at least some boys.

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