Bishop’s Address of 1900

By the Rt. Rev. Cleland Kinloch Nelson
Third Bishop of Georgia

Beloved Brethren of the Clergy and Laity:

Grace be unto you, and peace, from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Your presence here bespeaks your recognition of important duties to be fulfilled for that portion of the Church committed to us. Let us at the outset and throughout the session be continually mindful of the character of our work and of Him under whose benediction we proceed. It will materially improve the character and spirit of our meeting to have before us why we are come together.

Bishop C.K. NelsonIt is but a partial view that our work is accomplished when reports are in form, the committees are prompt and accurate and the legislative business dispatched with intelligence and judgment. So much might be said of any sort of Convention. A Diocesan Council, while properly as active and as thorough as any other business meeting, should be dominated by the thought of its relation to the whole great body of which it is an integer. Its underlying motive should be the promotion of an institutional and monumental religion of Divine origin, under the eyes of its Founder, and animated by His Spirit.

As the machinery and modes of operation are not the Church, so the Church has higher business and a greater commission than to make canons, collate reports and compute finance, These should be done, nevertheless, in a full realization of their bearing upon the spiritual fabric in the edification of which we are engaged.

In the midst of the Church’s business, it is human and too common to forget Him for the progress of Whose Gospel we are sworn. If we do not forget we shall be more zealous of His honor than of our rights and privileges, more ready to make sacrifices than to exact a proportionate reckoning, and our chief enquiry will be by what means can we give new impetus to efforts to help and to save those whom He has redeemed.

A very especial need, and in Diocesan relations a necessity, is the wider view of the Churchman’s duty. The self-centering of interests and the narrow confinement of benevolence are the marks of congregationalism, than which nothing can be more utterly opposed to Church principles and Church polity. The effects of parochialism, another word for the same thing, are indifference to the claims of new fields, segregation of small corporate bodies to the detriment of the real unit—the Diocese, and a local autonomy which places the Bishop in the position of an intruder, or at best of an invited guest requested to administer a few acts for which the Rector is incompetent, rather than as the permanent factor in Diocesan life, whose connection with the Parish is substantial, active and vital.

A loyal clergy and a loyal laity cannot fail to show loving reverence to the over-shepherd, while careful to instill and render the obedience due to the officer and the ruler. It may be well often to recall one of Milton’s wisest and soberest thoughts,

“Orders and degrees
Jar not with liberty, but do well consist.”*

as expressive of the complete harmony between constituted authority and corporate rights.

My brethren of the clergy are well aware that ours is an analytic age, bordering in many things upon destruction of all institutions of the past. Tradition however venerable is closely associated in some minds with superstition. Criticism which set out to be scientific has degenerated into captiousness. “Onanes non possumus scire onania” is paraphased —We know the present and that is all we want to know.

But it is a great mistake that all the greatest and wisest and best and noblest people in the world belong to these classes of thinkers. Look about you for the men and women who are influencing their fellows to make life sweeter, home happier, society purer, the world more peaceful and by word and example increasing faith, hope and charity; how many of them belong to the class of analysts, destructionists? There is a big world and a strong majority of thinkers of another sort. They are the people for whom life has a real meaning—so has death, so also the hereafter. They feel as man has ever felt, the need of revelation ; and having it they appreciate it and want to know more of it.

Now, how shall we fulfil our mission as preachers of righteousness? By spending our twenty minutes allowance a week dealing our heaviest blows at these scattered and distant philosophers? In advertising freely the various schools of science, metaphysics, esoteric philosophy and agnosticism ? Let us read again our ordination vows specially as to teaching, monition and exhortation. Our Parishes are not honeycombed with false doctrine, but they may be if ”instead of presenting our cause we abuse our adversary’s counsel.” ” We want [I have been told it repeatedly by intelligent people] to hear the Gospel preached. We can read at home all the new-fangled ideas. We go to Church to hear something better, higher, helpful and stimulating to a good life.”

My brethren, you may be sure I have represented the people correctly. Let us fill the desire of their souls by preaching to cessful intercession and of the infinite honor which He has done them of grace, of redemption, of pardon and peace, of the power of Christ’s resurrection to produce newness of life, of His successful intercession and of the infinite honor which He has done us in admitting us to a share in His achievements. These are ever fresh, living truths which we may revolve continually before our people without wearying them. Let us keep abreast of the times; observe the march whether it be of progress or recession. Let us be men of thought as well as action. But let us not consider it the proper discharge of the herald’s commission to review the thought developments of the week. Let us never overlook or underrate the purpose of the Catholic Church to witness to the saving truths of God’s Holy Word, or substitute any plan of our own for His chosen method of presenting these truths in a garb which will attract the sinner, win the wise, revive the dispirited and afford the comfort of a reasonable, religious and holy hope.


It is most gratifying t0 notice that the salaries of our faithful missionaries are all fully paid up to May 1, 1900.

Three causes have contributed to this result, the careful restrictions of the Board to the sum accepted in Convention as the basis of their appropriation, the payment in full by all but a very few Parishes and the sleepless attention and activity of our valuable Treasurer, whose services deserve your special commendation. There are still to be provided for two past due notes to the Treasurer of the Corporation and to the Bishop, which will not be covered even if the delinquent Parishes make their returns during this session.

As no amount of information, counsel or exhortation which I have given has had any perceptible effect in increasing our income, I make no further appeal, but refer you to my words and to our successes of the past eight years, concluding all present reference to this subject by remarking that the demands are more urgent than ever. We are more perfectly equipped in the mission stations than ever before, the debts are few and small, our clergy are faithful and industrious, good fruits abound in most places ; and we need but one thing—that the Parishes wake up to their opportunity.


Within recent years various Churches in the Diocese (10) have enjoyed the beneficence of the American Church Building Fund Commission. We have received donations amounting to $1,500.00 and $400.00 more on the way. We cannot praise too highly the management of this Society, but we ought to do more. Not only is each beneficiary Church obligated to take a collection once a year for the Society, and this should never be omitted until the gift is returned, but a little perception will grasp the utility of its methods for ourselves and for others. I do commend the Society to the people of the Diocese and suggest that you give it a place, even if it be a small one, on your list of annual offerings.


The subject of our participation in the blessed work of spreading the Gospel abroad must never be allowed to chill. Less now than ever, when the most winning opportunities are opening on every hand. Read Bishop Whitaker’s report from Cuba, Bishop Whipple on Puerto Rico, Bishop Potter on the Philippines, the redoubtable Graves on China, and the eloquent Kinsolving on Brazil, and say if ever in your knowledge or in all history there was a time when so many doors were open at once, and such a rich harvest of souls awaited the reapers to be sent by us. The story is so attractive, the information so complete, the personnel of our central offices so efficient, and the enthusiasm of the most sober so deep and strong, that the impulse seems irresistible to throw ourselves heart, mind and fortune into this cause. Take up The Spirit of Missions, the best and brightest missionary magazine in the world. Read it from cover to cover; familiarize yourselves with the men and women engaged, study the location and peculiarities of the Missions. Better than the romance which abounds are the examples of exalted manhood and womanhood and the demonstration that the Spirit of God is brooding over the waters.

Keep the literature of the subject close at hand ; subscribe for and circulate The Spirit of Missions. Georgia should have five hundred copies instead of thirty-seven. With reading will come knowledge ; then will follow interest, zeal and the delight of enthusiasm.


While my individual experience affords no ground of complaint for lack of clergymen enough to fill all vacancies and to supply new stations, for I have every year many more applications of valuable men than I have room for, I am confident that the interests of the South are best subserved by clergymen who are indigenous—a native ministry, so to speak. Of these the supply is very scant, and is further limited by the demands for our young men in the North and East.

A recent letter from one of the Professors at Sewanee so well describes the situation that I quote with brief comment.

“In the seventeen Dioceses associated in the support of the University of the South, fifteen clergymen, on an average, depart this life every year.

“The number of theological students annually graduated from the Seminary of the University ranges from three to six, inclining to the lower number. Today, the Senior, Middle and Junior classes in this Seminary amount to four, six and five men, respectively—only fifteen in all, and only four to be put into the field next Summer. Yet the school has accommodation for more than thirty, and there ought to be on an average of at least ten men in every class. The most effective educational work cannot be done with fewer.

“The southern seminary is not fulfilling the purpose of its existence quantitatively. Far from being able to contribute to the extension of the Church in the Southern States, it cannot even fill one-third of the vacancies annually made by death in her clergy list—not to mention removals.

“This numerical failure is deeply discouraging to all who have at heart the Church’s welfare in this section. For a church that is not reproducing itself, that has not a native ministry, but has to rely upon a. supply from without, is in the condition of an exotic.

“Quantitatively a failure, the said Seminary is qualitatively a success. The demand for Sewanee men is greatly in excess of the supply. Parishes compete for our graduates. Bishop’s apply for each other’s candidates.

“The question that insistently presents itself is: Why is the supply so far short of the demand? Why is the `raw material’ withheld, while the `finished product ‘ is in such request ?

“An answer, very much to the point, suggested by a remarkable fact that has recently transpired, is that the clergy are remiss in presenting the claims of the Ministry to eligible young men. The fact is, that of the southern candidates now pursuing their studies, at this Seminary, not one is here because of any word spoken by his Rector.”

If we are ever to have a goodly native ministry in the South the suggestion and encouragement must come from the clergy in their parochial ministration, their Sunday Schools, Guilds and Bible Classes, not by general invitation to the good lads, but by picking out judiciously the very best material of heart and head in their intercourse with the youth of their cures. When such an one is found, let the seed be planted and nourished until further experience determines the wise course. It is as much the part of wisdom to discourage some as to urge others forward; but no man is likely to gain a candidate and perpetuate his order unless he sincerely believes that the Ministry of Christ Jesus is the noblest vocation and the best investment of the powers of a life.


We cannot approximate the end of the world when churches will be included in the universal demolition of matter. Our customary action assumes the probability of the continuance of the present order of things. This being so, the earliest moment, this present year is the best time to begin to lay up somewhat for the future of our parishes, churches and missions.

With due acknowledgement to a valued layman for his suggestion, I recommend that in every place steps be taken to secure an endowment fund, the interest of which may be available after ten or twenty years. It might be begun in a simple way. One offering a year carefully invested and protected, with regular increase and accumulations, will prove at the end of twenty years of very great service, and the effort will never be felt. Penny banks and small savings have probably contributed more to the comfort of a large number of mankind than diamond mines or coal-oil property.

The Committee on the State of the Church may, if it see fit, propose an outline of such a plan, including a general treasurer for those who may wish to avail themselves of his services. The plan might well include partial endowment by means of life policies in favor of the parish; where few if any could or would remember the Church in their last will and testament. The clergy might in this way obey one of the very reasonable and practical admonitions of the Prayer Book.


The proposition to furnish additional Episcopal work as well as oversight by relieving your present Diocesan of a portion of his territory as well as of his banking and conveyancing business, is not, in the opinion of your committee, disposed of. (Journal, 1899.)

For fear of seeming unduly urgent about a matter which is of interest to me solely because of my conviction of the prospective gains for the Diocese, I await the report of the committee, if perhaps it may throw additional light upon the subject. Perhaps we shall be prepared to go before the General Convention of 1901 with an application for division into two nearly equal parts.

Let us not lightly dismiss the subject.


The decease of the principal benefactor of the Appleton Church Home, Mr. William Appleton, whose interest and gifts continued to the end of his active life, directs our attention to the need of new supporters of this institution, which is a memorial, in fact, of Bishop Beckwith as well as of his honored friend, and impresses upon us more than anything else can the urgent and reasonable demand for larger and more sympathetic offerings for this purpose.

It is a satisfaction to observe a larger number of churches taking an offering, and a larger aggregate for the work than in some years past—seventeen collections and $182.30 against $76.18 of the previous year. But that only thirteen parishes and four missions report an offering indicates that in twelve parishes and a large number of missions this object was overlooked and Canon XXI. was disregarded. Bear in mind that this is not an optional matter. Either keep the law and take the collection or move for a change of the Canon.

The management of the Home, both on the part of the Treasurer and of the good Deaconesses in charge, challenges your warmest commendation.


Savannah, is far and away the best example of an institution managed by women that has ever come to our knowledge. The institution is not so heavily endowed but that it welcomes your gifts and interest.


Pursues its beneficent way quietly but vigorously and successfully. It will repay you to visit it, to know the Directress, and to examine its aims and methods. The Rev. Mr. Dodge of blessed memory established this and gave it a good endowment as a perpetual memorial of a darling son bearing his own name.


may be described for late comers and dilatory friends as an institution founded to commemorate the virtues of the First Bishop of Georgia, and according to the ability afforded, and by the spell of his name to renew the effort to provide a Church School for Georgia girls.

The Trustees of the Weston Bequest apply the interest of that fund, amounting to nearly $300.00, for this school. The tuition fees amount to $400.00, making a total of about $700.00 with which we educate thirty-seven girls. Scholarships are given to a certain number in consideration of the grant from the Weston Bequest.

I put in a plea for this institution to the men and women of the Diocese not only on account of the name which it bears, but because of its proven value and the indisputable need. My desire is, as soon as practicable, to open a boarding department, which I am sure could be filled in a short time and support itself. We shall do well to remember that while all the larger denominations have many and some very excellent as well as successful schools, the Bishop Elliott School is the solitary symbol of our belief in the value and advantage of an education tinder the auspices of the Church, which in times past has been noted as the chief promoter of sound and godly learning.

Bishop of Georgia.

*Paradise Lost, Book V., hue 792.