This article was first published in the March 28, 1948, issue of The Living Church.
Religious Support for ERP
Under the auspices of the Federal Council of Churches, a substantial body of church opinion was registered in favor of the European Recovery Plan as Congress concluded its debate on the historic measure.
During a conference in Washington of the Department of International Justice and Goodwill, the Federal Council [since 1950, the National Council of Churches] representatives delivered to Congress a petition supporting the plan signed by 723 leaders of American Christianity.
Text of the petition follows:
“To the Congress of the United States:
We the undersigned, endorse the action of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America in its support of the European Recovery Program. We believe, with the Federal Council, that this program can be one of history’s most momentous affirmations of faith in the curative power of freedom and in the creative capacity of free men.
That the motives and objectives behind the program should be essentially moral and spiritual and should be above political partisanship and considerations of narrow self-interest;
That the right of European nations to choose their own way of life should be safeguarded;
That these nations should carry out their expressed purpose to work cooperatively, establish and maintain monetary stability, and reduce trade barriers;
That the relevant agencies of the United Nations should be encouraged to undertake an increasingly important role in the recovery effort;
That trade between Western and Eastern Europe should be encouraged;
That, if required to assure a fair allocation needed goods, necessary government control should be adopted;
That an undertaking so conceived and directed merits material sacrifice because it is a cause which enlists our Christian conscience and conforms to our Christian commitments.
We appeal to the Congress of the United States to adopt such legislation as will carry forward the European Recovery Program in the spirit of these recommendations.
Among the signers were the Presiding Bishop [Henry Knox Sherrill] and forty other bishops of the Episcopal Church as well as the deans of five theological seminaries and other leaders among the clergy and laity.
Conference Discusses Steps Toward European Recovery
The Conference on the Churches and the European Recovery Program, held in Washington, March 11th, by the Department of International Justice and Goodwill of the Federal Council of Churches, had two main parts. First there was a session at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in which reports were made as to the ways in which constituent churches of the Federal Council had informed and mobilized their members on the European Recovery Plan, with an off the record talk by a representative of the State Department.
The second part was the service in the evening at the Washington Cathedral, attended by President Truman and other dignitaries, at which Bishop [Angus] Dun [of Washington] and Secretary of State George C. Marshall made brief addresses, and [presidential advisor and later Secretary of State] John Foster Dulles delivered the main address of the evening, interpreting the American tradition as one of world moral leadership based on Christian principles.
At the afternoon session, in which the Episcopal Church was represented by a substantial group from the Second Province, reports were given of action taken to acquaint members of the various communions with ERP, and to bring their influence to bear on senators and representatives. Mailings, meetings, telegrams, letters, and visits to Congressman were reported, with a number of examples of their effect in changing an “anti” vote to a “pro.”
The Rev. L.B. Henry of the Diocese of New York pointed to the action of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church as the first official action on ERP taken by any religious body. He said that the implementation of the bishops resolution vary greatly from one diocese to another, but cited the Diocese of New York through the leadership of Bishop Gilbert, as one which had rallied its members to the support of the Marshall Plan.
In the discussions it was brought out that the plan was not directed against any nation, but rather “against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos.” It includes no military features nor war supplies. Under it, the 16 participating nations will be sending goods to and receiving them from each other as well as from the United States. Much of the American portion will be sent directly from private industry in the United States to private enterprise overseas, with payments handled through the two governments.
The wishes of some of the delegates to take steps against the production of alcoholic beverages and tobacco were mentioned, but not urged.
Dr. Edwin E Aubrey, chairman of the Department of International Justice and Goodwill, presided at the session, assisted by the Rev. Dr. Walter W. Van Kirk, executive secretary, and the Rev. Richard M. Fagley, co-secretary.
Secretary Marshall Urges “Calmness”
Washington Cathedral was crowded to the doors on the evening of March 11th, when the public service on behalf of the Churches and the European Recovery Program was held. The President and many other notables in Church and State were in the congregation. Bishop John S. Stamm of the Evangelical United Brethren Church presided, giving brief introductions to speakers, hymns, and other parts of the service, and leading the reading of Psalm 93. Bishop E. Bromley Oxnam read the lesson. The Very Rev. John W. Suter, dean of the cathedral, led the prayers, and Bishop Dun of Washington gave the blessing, as well as a brief address emphasizing the relation of the subject of the evening to the holiness of God.
Mr. Dulles, in his address, traced the development of America under the impress of the Christian idea of the dignity and rights of man, and warned against the spiritual temptations of prosperity and power. He brought out the importance of the church’s interest in ERP not only a powerful pressure group to get it adopted, but as interpreting the plan as an act of human brotherhood with peace, not war, as its objective.
We talk of making a European Recovery Plan. But let us also make it an American Recovery Plan. It can be that that and it will be that if it evokes vision and sacrificial effort such as enabled our founders to make our nation great… It behooves our generation to carry on the great American tradition and therefore preserve for our beloved nation the quality of moral grandeur.”
Secretary Marshall, in his brief address, called for calmness in “an extremely serious situation.” “Almost everything we do is misunderstood abroad,” he said. “Our most generous motives are suspected, our good intentions are condemned. And we, on our side, are apt to grow passionate or fearful, overzealous in our passions or failing in action because of our fears.”
The secretary expressed his gratitude for the support of the churches and Christian people, and referred to the fact that many had written to say that they were praying for him. “These messages have been of much comfort to me,” he declared.
What should be done in the world situation “immediately and affirmatively,” he said, was to get the European Recovery Program in operation as the means of building a united Europe.
The European Recovery Program, colloquially known as the Marshall Plan, passed the House and Senate by wide margins on March 31,1948, and was signed into law by President Truman on April 3. During the four years it was in effect, the United States government donated $17 billion (equivalent to $221 billion today) to help 16 European countries rebuild after the devastations of World War II. The gift represented about 6.5% of U.S. GDP in 1948. The plan was designed and overseen by Secretary of State George C. Marshall, an Episcopalian, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953 in recognition of the effort.
Marshall Plan funds rebuilt war-damaged communities and modernized industrial production across Western and Southern Europe. Nations who received funds were required to join the Organisation for European Economic Co-Operation, which dismantled trade barriers and set in motion a process of integration that led to the founding of the European Union. By 1952, the economy of every nation that participated in the program had surpassed pre-war levels.