Bishop’s Address of 1845

Brethren of the Clergy and Laity:

Assembled once more in Annual Convention, let us beseech our Heavenly Father, from whom cometh every good and perfect gift, to shed down upon us the influence of his Holy Spirit, that we may deliberate with that wisdom, which is first pure, then peaceable, and act with that charity which is of the very spirit of the blessed Jesus,—for indeed, in the times in which we live, we need to be wise as serpents, at the same time that we are harmless as doves.

The Rt. Rev. Stephen Elliott

The first act of the past Ecclesiastical year was performed in your sight on Sunday the 5th of May, 1844, in St. Paul’s, Augusta, at the close of our last Convention, and consisted of the confirmation of fourteen persons, a most interesting class, of whom one was coloured. Such an accession would have been valuable to any Church, but especially so to one suffering so much from emigration as St. Paul’s. On Monday the 6th, the Convention closed its business. I preached at night in St. Paul’s.

On the 9th of June I commenced my visitation of St. Simon’s, and on the 10th baptized one adult and one child, and confirmed four whites. On the 11th I examined and admitted the Rev. Edmund P. Brown to the Priesthood. The Church at St. Simon’s appeared at that visitation to be in a flourishing condition under the ministrations of its Rector.

On the 15th of June I reached St. Mary’s, Camden county, and on the 16th preached in the Presbyterian Church, which was kindly tendered me, both morning and evening. During the services I baptized five children and confirmed three persons. The Holy Communion was administered to all in the Church who felt inclined to partake of it.

On the 18th I organized a Church in this place under the name of the Church of the Messiah, and constituted it a Missionary station. It was not filled until January last, when the Rev. Joseph A. Shanklin was appointed to it. I have not been able to visit this infant Parish since its organization, although exceedingly anxious to do so.

From St. Mary’s, I returned to Savannah, where I was occupied until the 17th of September in the performance of Parochial duty. On that day I departed to meet the General Convention, which assembled at Philadelphia on the 2d of October and continued in joint session until the 22d of October. On that day the House of Bishops adjourned to meet in separate session on the 23d and 24th in Philadelphia, and on the 30th and 31st of October at the General Seminary in New York.

During the session of the General Convention many important Canons were passed and some important acts were consummated. The Canon which affects us most as a Slaveholding Diocese, is the VI. Canon of 1844, entitled “Of a discretion to be allowed in the Calling, Trial and Examination of Deacons in certain cases,” which makes it lawful, for any Bishop, upon being requested so to do by a Resolution of the Convention of his Diocese, to admit to the Holy Order of Deacons persons not tried and examined as prescribed in the Canons entitled “Of Candidates for Orders,” “Of the learning of those who are to be ordained,” and “Of the preparatory exercises of a Candidate for Deacon’s Orders.”

This Canon, after long consideration and earnest discussion, has at last been submitted to the Church for trial. Although introduced first, as I believe, to the notice of our Church by the Bishop of Vermont, it has been most warmly advocated by the South and West as especially needed in those Dioceses, to meet the wants of the slave population and to supply thinly peopled districts with zealous, strong-minded Missionaries, who, lacking the higher education of our Colleges and Seminaries, might yet be eminently useful in the propagation of the Gospel. After looking at the subject in every point of view, I see no mode, by which our Church can operate, for a long time to come at least, upon large sections of country, except by means of Deacons of the nature contemplated in this Canon. Our supply of educated Clergy is barely sufficient to supply the wants of the cities and villages of the various Dioceses, and the whole rural population is almost every where alienated from the Church. In many of the large Dioceses of the South and West the name of the Episcopal Church is scarcely known beyond the precincts of the cities and towns, and it is not even recognised as preaching the glad tidings of great joy to the nations. It is either unheard of, or so confounded with the Roman Church, as in the minds of the people to be considered idolatrous. To reach and obviate such a condition such a condition of things calls for an itineracy, such as is contemplated by this Canon, strong-minded men of the soil, zealous for Christ and his Church, and acquainted with the manners, habits, modes of thought and feelings of the people. Many and many a fair prospect for the Church has been blighted by the want of adaptedness of scholastic men to the positions into which they have been thrown among people, whose prejudices were jarred and whose feelings were wounded by them at every turn without any the slightest intention on their part. For the most important purposes of the Church and the Gospel, such Deacons as those provided for in this Canon, will, in many a field of labour, be altogether competent and serviceable.

That there may be Dioceses, in which, from a fortuitous concurrence of circumstances, such Deacons may not be required, I have no doubt: and the Canon meets this objection by two safeguards which prevent its operation where it is not sought for. First: No Bishop can ordain such a Deacon unless previously requested by his Convention. Secondly: Such Deacon is not transferable from one Diocese to another, unless requested in writing, by the Bishop to whose Diocese he is transferred, of the Bishop to whose jurisdiction he belongs. This class of Deacons can therefore be kept out of any Diocese where their services may be wanted.

Even in those Dioceses where such a class of Ministers may be desirable, very strong safeguards have been placed around the rash exercise of this privilege. The Convention must first ask from its Bishop the ordination of such Deacons. The party applying for ordination under it must be twenty-four years of age; must obtain the usual certificate from the Standing Committee; must remain a candidate for one year; must bring to the Bishop a testimonial, from at least one Rector of Parish, of his good qualification for this office, and must be examined by the Bishop and two Presbyters on his fitness for such ministrations as appertain to the office of a Deacon. After all this, he is not permitted to take charge of a Parish, but shall be always subject to the direction of the Rector of the Parish in which he officiates; neither is he allowed to have a seat in the Convention or to form the basis of any representation in the management of the concerns of the Church; nor yet can he every advance to the Priesthood except by passing through all the preparatory exercises of a Candidate for both Deacons’ and Priests’ orders as set forth in the Canons of the Church.

The points conceded by the Church in this Canon, then, seem to be these, that in certain cases and under certain restrictions, a class of Deacons may, at the request of the Convention of any Diocese, be ordained for such Diocese by its Bishop, who shall not have received a classical or collegiate education, and who may, in connexion with the Diaconate, pursue some lawful business or trade for their maintenance. Even with all these restrictions and qualifications, it seems to me that this Canon should for a time be very sparingly used, and it remains for you to decide, whether it shall be used at all.

The most important act consummated at the last Convention, was the nomination, election and consecration of Foreign Missionary Bishops. This measure, long desired by the Church, but wisely and cautiously deferred until it could be examined and discussed, presents our Missions abroad, as they should be presented, as the Missions of the Episcopal Church. Whether we deem it Apostolic or expedient, or both, that there should be Bishops in any case, there is no point of our Church operations at which their supervision is more needed than in our Missionary fields. What Duff said years ago to the Missionary Society of the Scotch Church has been too much neglected in our Missionary operations: “That instead of sending our young inexperienced men upon this most arduous duty, it is the Pauls and Apollos’ of the Church who should take up the Missionary staff and go forth as the heralds of salvation.” If this is impracticable for the want of I know not what, the next best step is that which has been adopted, to place at the head of such Missions the most experiences men that could be procured, and give them the opportunity of training for the Church such as may understand the Missionary work, and carry it on in the power and with the success of the Holy Ghost. The Bishop of China sailed in December for his Missionary work. The Bishop of Texas is engaged upon his first visitation, and the Bishop of Constantinople will soon enter upon his deeply interesting field of labour. I regret to say that the Missionaries upon the coast of Africa, have been again doomed to disappointment, as the Bishop elect declined the office to which the Church had called him. I was nominated by the Presiding Bishop to preach the Sermon at the consecration of these Foreign Bishops, which I did in St. Peter’s Church, Philadelphia, on Saturday October 26, 1844.

On Wednesday, October 30, I united with such of the Bishops as convened in New York, in a visitation of the General Theological Seminary, which occupied that day together with the 31st. It was principally occupied in reading the replies of the Professors to certain questions proposed by the Bishops as visitors, and was closed by the passage of a series of Resolutions, which will be found at pages 188 and 189 of the Journal of the General Convention of 1844.

From this time until the beginning of January I was occupied with the Presentment and Trial of the Bishop of New York. Upon the close of this painful duty I returned to Savannah, and my first official act was the ordination of Mr. Joseph Augustus Shanklin to the Holy Order of Deacons. Mr. Shanklin has been appointed Missionary to St. Mary’s, and is doing good service there.

On February 9th, I admitted the Rev. Rufus M. White to the Priesthood. I regret to add that severe domestic afflictions have called him away from his Church and his people at this interesting moment.

Just as I was about to commence my Spring visitations, the melancholy death of the Rev. Mr. Jackson forced me to remain and support and comfort an afflicted Church. Although Mr. Jackson had been but a very short time in the Diocese, those about him had formed a high estimate of his intellectual powers, and hoped for much from the growth of his religious experience. But their hopes were doomed to a dreadful disappointment, and the fearful word “insanity” stands written upon his early and lamented grave.

At the close of the first week in April, I was suddenly called to take charge of the Montpelier Institute, and have been closely confined ever since in administering its affairs. It was the only step which, under the circumstances, could preserve this valuable property to the Diocese and this excellent school to the State. I have already notified the public that it is my intention to continue in charge for the next term at least. This arrangement will not interfere with my Episcopal duties more than the service of a Parish. The two vacations will give me nine weeks of leisure at the best seasons of the year for visiting the various Parishes of my Diocese, and the central position of the Institute will afford me facilities of movement which will enable me to visit the nearer Parishes during term time, especially as it is my purpose to unite with myself a Clergyman of the Church as Steward, who will superintend and protect every thing during my absences.

It was found necessary, from various causes, such as the difficulty of procuring a suitable Head-Master, its too great proximity to the Female Institute, &c. to close the Boys’ School, which had been opened about a mile from Lamar Hall. The building has been removed over to the immediate neighbourhood of the Girls’ School, and when finished, which will be in about six weeks, will enable us to receive some pupils in addition to the fifty to which we have hitherto confined ourselves. The increase of number will make no difference in the conduct of the School, as the family arrangement will be preserved as strictly as before.

Should a Boys’ School be re-established, and one is very much called for, it should be located in the country North-West of the Chattahoochie, somewhere in Cass or Floyd counties. The healthfulness, cheapness and approaching accessibility of that region of our State, all point it out as the very position for such an establishment. But when commenced, it must be begun upon principles such as these, else will it never achieve the objects for which only it would be desirable. Its foundation must be laid upon the Prophets and the Apostles, Jesus Christ being the chief corner stone. Its superstructure must be raised gradually, according as the free-will offerings of the Church shall give warrant for its enlargement and increase. Its government must be parental and yet lacking the partial blindness of the parent. Its discipline must be strict, and if needs be, stern: its tone honest in every sense of the word. Such a school might be put into operation for a very little money, although additional sums would be required from time to time for its improvement and advantage. Should any member of the Church or any citizen of the State, feel a desire to employ some of the means wherewith God has blessed him, towards such an object, it would afford me much pleasure to see it properly and judiciously applied to what I conceive to be at this moment, the very best work for Georgia in which a Christian or a Patriot could engage.

While speaking of schools, it affords me much pleasure to add that the Rev. Mr. Scott of Marietta, has opened a Female Institute at Marietta in connexion with his Church in that place. From my intimate knowledge of Mr. Scott, I feel that I can heartily recommend it to the patronage of the Church and of the State. May it go on and prosper, and may many such arise through the length and breadth of the land, that the future Mothers of Georgia may be prepared for the high duties they will be called upon to perform, in connexion with the rising destinies of their great and growing country.

During the past year I have admitted Mr. Joseph A. Shanklin to the Holy Orders of Deacons, and the Rev. Messrs. Edmund P. Brown and Rufus M. White to the Priesthood. We have lost some very valuable Clergymen by removal, among whom I would especially name my former beloved colleague at St. John’s, the Rev. John B. Gallagher, who has been transferred to the Diocese of Kentucky, and my highly valued christian friend the Rev. John A. Vaughan, to that of Pennsylvania. The Rev. Messrs. Walker, Page, Berger and Smith, have also been transferred, the two former to the Diocese of South Carolina, and the two latter to that of Virginia. Mr. Jackson has been removed from us by death, thus making a heavy draft upon our numbers, which will be supplied in some measure by the band of young men now awaiting ordination and ready to press forward into the ranks and service of the Church.

Our Candidates for Orders are six—Messrs. Ellis, Mower, Thackara, Okeson, Williams and Flint; the four first of whom will be ordained at this Convention, leaving us two candidates, to whom others are about to be added. The Lord thus seems to be raising up for us, young soldiers to take the place of those who fall, or are forced by circumstances, to quit the Diocese. May they have patience to labour faithfully for Christ and not to faint nor grow weary in their work. The great mistake into which our young Clergymen fall, is in expecting great results to follow immediately from their labours, forgetting that in all Missionary work, the seed must be sown in tears, before they can return with joy, bringing their sheaves with them. No man will do anything for the Church in Georgia who does not come imbued with the motto of its Episcopal seal: “ In utrumque paratus, agree et pati”—and that long and patiently. Hard work, small reward and the harvest for your successors are all that we can offer. But then what you achieve will be your own work, for you will have no other man’s foundation to build upon.

From these observations I do not mean it to be understood that I consider it more difficult to extend the Church in Georgia than in other Dioceses. But the experience of all has been the same, and wherever we see our Church rapidly expanding herself, it is in Dioceses where long and arduous Missionary duty has been previously performed. The Church must be exhibited before it can be appreciated; must be known, before it can be understood; must prove itself to be Scriptural and Evangelical, before it will be embraced, and all these things require time, piety, prudence, long-suffering on the part of the Clergy. Nothing is to be gained by violent controversy, or angry abuse of others. “In quietness and confidence, is our strength.” Let the Church be seen in her beauty and scriptural holiness, and she will need no apologists and no champions. The Lord will be her Saviour and her Redeemer, and under His guidance “a little one shall become a thousand and a small one a strong nation.”

Before I conclude I would direct the attention of the Diocese to our Missionary Funds. Having but a very small invested capital for Missionary purposes, we are dependent upon the contributions of the Churches for the means of supporting our several Missionaries. I must therefore urge it upon the Congregations of the Diocese to turn their efforts within more than they have hitherto done, especially as we are left at the close of the year, with a considerable balance against us upon our Missionary books. For many years to come we must sustain in this way, several of our Churches, inasmuch as the expense of Church building and the furnishing of the houses of God will absorb all the resources of these feeble flocks. Let every one do what he can and the work will go on successfully.

The three years for which the contributions to the Building Fund were pledged, having expired, I would respectfully recommend their renewal, as that fund has helped us materially in the advancement of our Church.

Trusting that all your deliberations will be conducted in the spirit of Truth and Charity, “I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.”

Bishop of the Diocese of Georgia.