the slaughter house and all its horrors, and the cruel treatment of myriads of our ‘little brothers and sisters’ which is inseparable from our present method of food supply, are immoral, thus it becomes imperative for every earnest man and woman to set his or her face against flesh-eating, and by every means to promote real Food Reform.
We desire very much to enlist your sympathies in this matter, and should be glad if you would read the enclosed pamphlets and let us know of your opinion on the subject. Other literature will gladly be sent on application and practical difficulties discussed.
The Herald of the Golden Age, September, 1898.
The document became an undenominational manifesto and a perennial exercise, upon the participation of further clerical signatories. Yet as early as 1899, in an editorial entitled; The Silence of the Pulpit – Beard disclosed that:
“On more than one occasion we have sent hundreds of those who occupy the pulpits of our land, a consignment of pamphlets, accompanied by a courteous letter bearing the signatures of a considerable number of Ministers of various denominations, asking for some expression of their opinion and their sympathetic co-operation, without receiving a single word of response from more than one in a hundred of them.
“Is it any wonder that so many humane and thoughtful persons are leaving the Churches, or that a force of practical Christian workers is being mobilised outside their walls?” (11)
The Herald of the Golden Age, January, 1899.
A further insight into the ecclesiastical climate which prevailed in relation to vegetarianism towards the twentieth century, is afforded by a prominent figure within the Food Reform movement of the time:
“A vegetarian cleric is regarded as somewhat, indeed very much, of a curiosity. At the Congress time, one not unnaturally expected an invitation to this effect, ‘Will you allow yourself to be exhibited; a glass case will be provided, and all expenses will be paid?”
Rev. A.M. Mitchell, M.A. (1853-1936), Vicar of Burton Wood, Lancashire.
The Herald of the Golden Age, November, 1898.
Although Beard remained confident that the Churches would eventually become receptive to humane ideas, it was a belief which was invested; “…in the young amongst the laity of the Churches, and in those who are outside the Churches altogether, rather than in “the Masters of Israel.” (12) The Administrative and Platform activities of the O.G.A. were to remain integral to the strategy of the organisation for the twentieth century. However, Beard was acutely aware that:
“The press is rapidly taking the place of the Pulpit as far as the work of moulding the destinies of our race is concerned.”
The Herald of the Golden Age; September, 1900.
A Literary Brigade of O.G.A. members began to take their message to the Church and public alike through the correspondence pages of regional newspapers. It was an opportunity for the organisation to present their case in a manner which was less constrained to that required of the Church Halls. The press became an increasingly favourable forum for a new century:
“Whereas ten years ago such letters were generally consigned to the waste paper basket, they now get printed, and many of our most influential journalists are actively in sympathy with the work of the Food Reformation.”
The Herald of the Golden Age, January, 1905.
The Biblical bearing on vegetarianism was to prove no less central an issue to the letters which appeared in secular newspapers. Throughout the summer of 1899, a lengthy correspondence occurred in the pages of The Macclesfield Courier and in the course of which Rev. A.M. Mitchell responded to several objections which had been raised by fellow clergy. Whilst acknowledging that “Neither Old nor New Testament can be requisitioned to bolster up the case for or against food reform” – Rev. Mitchell also asserted that:
“Now and again we hear some feeble person arguing, ‘but if flesh eating is wrong our Lord would have unhesitatingly condemned it.’ Not so; that was not his plan. He knew well the evils of slavery, for example in His own day; yet He has left us in the four Gospels no direct condemnation of it.
“The Christ gave His principles to the world, committed them to His Holy Church, and left the centuries to do their work. The evolution of the Christ principles leads on to vegetarianism, as surely and as truly as it does to Universal Peace. Vegetarianism needs no express commands from Christ – it is, I submit, the inevitable development of the principles of mercy.”
The Herald of the Golden Age, September, 1899.
The earliest offices of the O.G.A. were based at Exeter, in Devon, prior to their move to Paignton during 1900. However, it was the Macclesfield area which was to become something of an early stronghold for the society. This was largely attributable to the charismatic ministry of Rev. J. Todd Ferrier who remained at the town’s Congregationalist Church until 1903. (13) In December of 1901, the Christmas edition of The Macclesfield Recorder contained reprints of O.G.A. leaflets and essays whilst Rev. Ferrier became the leading contributor to a further batch of debate in The Macclesfield Courier, early in 1903.
In an article entitled; “The O.G.A. and its Offspring” the departure of Rev. J. Todd Ferrier to found The Order of the Cross was announced with some magnanimity:
“The world is very wide, and there are vast multitudes of men and women who are still uninfluenced in favour of our humane ideals; and, therefore, we have every reason to welcome with all sincerity of heart every new worker, or band of workers, that can be raised up for the attainment of our common aim and object.”
The Herald of the Golden Age, January, 1905.
The same month saw the first appearance of The Herald of the Cross which introduced itself as; “A journal whose Teachings are the Gospel in a New Interpretation…” Whilst Rev. Ferrier’s writings contained profound – as well as seemingly contrived – allegorical understandings of Scripture; the journal went far further in its heterodoxy. In presenting exclusive “Sayings of Jesus” amongst other esoteric assertions, the tenets of The Order of the Cross became unpalatable to many of Ferrier’s former associates.
The Herald of the Golden Age was itself featuring essays on re-incarnation, auras, mind-reading and other aspects of mysticism throughout the 1900’s. It was therefore more than mere doctrinal differences which prompted the disclaimer which appeared in The Herald of the Golden Age, July 1905:
“I shall be glad if our Friends and Readers will take notice of, and make known the fact, that The Order of the Golden Age is not in any way connected with a society entitled The Order of the Cross; neither is it associated with certain extraordinary doctrines which are officially presented in the magazine of the said Society…”
It was certainly necessary for Beard to make an official distinction between the two Orders. The Executive Council of The Order of the Cross was comprised of three members that until 1904 had held the same position in The Order of the Golden Age. Moreover, the earliest publications of The Order of the Cross contained the claim that their new sect was: “(Formerly The Order of the Golden Age).” Vegetarian journals, initially, accepted and publicised this announcement whilst the dispute took a further year to become discretely resolved. The two respective Orders pursued their ideals without further co-operation or acknowledgement after 1906.