Bishop’s Address of 1990


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

I say “Grace” for without God’s loving gift of grace, supernatural assistance, all our striving would be for naught.
I say “peace” for without peace we are without the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom we so frequently pray to be established on earth as it is in heaven.

Harry Woolston ShippsHoliness becomes us. At the recent clergy retreat at Honey Creek, Sister Barbara Jean, SHN, recalled the clergy to their vocation to holiness. She asked, “Who are the examples, the models for holiness for future generations, if not the present generation?” Has the search for holiness given way to a frenzy for programs, activities and professional skills as care givers? In short, has zeal for ministry overcome the need for sanctity, as if they were somehow mutually exclusive? If so, what will become of righteousness whose roots are in holiness?

o That we would study carefully the lives of the saints, so important for Christian formation.

Professor Philip Turner of General Seminary has recently written that holiness is preceded by metanoia, repentance, a turning around. This must be followed by a deep immersion in Holy Scripture so that we might give account of the hope that is in us. Dr. Turner continues, “We cannot understand the Scriptures properly if we do not continue in the Apostles’ teaching. Episcopalians, clergy and laypersons alike, have difficulty giving an account of the faith within them.

Parish programs and activities in themselves do not lead to holiness or sanctity, nor do they guarantee that the Episcopal Church will continue in the apostolic faith and fellowship.

Our parishes and missions must be schools of Christ wherein we learn to put off one way of life and put on another, with the seven Pauline virtues and the Beatitudes of Jesus as our guidelines.

Will you leaders, clergy and lay, be willing to insist that such a life, such priorities, prevail in your congregation? For our sake and that of our children, I pray so!

Turning to evangelism: The big “E” word is part of everyone’s baptismal covenant. To enter into the Decade of Evangelism we must be able to clearly resolve two basic questions; questions we have too often taken for granted. 1) Why be a Christian? Can you provide a compelling reason? 2) Then, why be a Christian in the Episcopal Church? There are other, attractive options.

If you and I cannot answer these questions convincingly, we will not make evangelists. Furthermore, we would have no rationale for supporting mission congregations or for presenting the teaching of the historic catholic faith in our Georgia Diocese.

Once we feel we can respond with clarity and conviction, then we need skills, motivation and courage. These can come with the aid of trained leaders and teaching methods appropriate to our ethos (the current issue of St. Luke’s Journal provides sonic fine points to consider). We anticipate eagerly our Clergy Day on Evangelism with Bishop Alden Hathaway later this month.

The locus of evangelism is your own neighborhood or work place and, of course, your own parish. I know we can proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ if we will to. Courage! Let us begin the Decade of Evangelism this spring as a group of parishes and missions infused with confidence and enthusiasm!

However, when all is said and clone, I suspect that evangelism is primarily an outgoing Christian manner – a manner that is typically enthusiastic, positive, winsome, and characterized by a genuine excitement about Christ and His Holy Catholic Church – and a natural desire to share it. Such a person has contagious Christianity!

Now the big “S” word: Stewardship. Finances are daily upon me! Our Vision for Mission and Ministry campaign obtained pledges of $1.1 million, for which a number of our growing mission congregations are most grateful, as will be the users of our conference center at Honey Creek. I commend the many leaders of that campaign and more especially area leaders Charles Jones of Albany and William Eager, Jr. and William Eager III of Valdosta. I am not sure why the campaign did not capture the imagination of more of our people. In any event, as we enter the second of the three-year pledging period, I ask for diligence in fulfilling the pledges. Before you leave Augusta please drive by the new Church of the Atonement on Tobacco Road and see what the campaign funds already are doing for one of our missions.

Regarding the funding of our diocesan operating budget, we can be cautiously pleased. Pledges from our parishes and missions are up slightly as is the percent of acceptance of the askings, and this with the three-year averaging formula begun at the request of the last convention.

Alas, however, so too the financial needs of the Church continue to rise! We were unable to meet the full requests mission congregations submitted for their 1990 subsidies. For the first time in memory I will have difficulty in placing clergy now awaiting assignments. There are no funds to begin new work. This has caused anxiety all around.
The Task Force on Stewardship and Asking appointed at the request of the 1989 Diocesan Convention has done a diligent job, worked hard and will make their report to this convention. I commend their report to you for your enthusiastic acceptance. It provides a plan for good stewardship of parish and diocese.

The newly inaugurated wardens conferences are additional occasions when I explain what a diocese is and how missions function and are funded.

We will quicken our stewardship consciences with our friend Mr. William U. Whipple leading a Clergy Day in September.

In all of our financial needs you and I know – we can if we will – we are able! We are not without the necessary resources. It is a question of Christian commitment to Christian stewardship for the sake of God’s Church and our souls’ health.

I add here a renewed request that parish vestries and mission councils have in their future plans serious consideration for educational sabbaticals for their clergy. The benefits are not only for the priest but, in the long run, the benefits flow into the congregation.

Our conference center at Honey Creek continues to be the focal point of diocesan life, a school for ministry and Christian formation. When sufficient funds are on hand from our Vision for Mission and Ministry campaign we will commence construction of the much-needed addition to Stuart Hall, thereby doubling our motel quarters.

I am delighted to report that the Conference Center Commission has nominated to me the Rev’d Charles Hay to be the next manager of the center. Father Hay has accepted this call and will take up his new ministry on 1 March. We pledge him our hearty support! His leadership combined with the building program and imaginative new programming should provide us with an exciting new chapter in conference center life.

Amongst the good news I have to report is the approach of the Church of the King, a Pentecostal congregation in Valdosta, to the Episcopal Church. They see in us attributes we often take for granted: Historicity, sacraments, creeds, liturgy and apostolic orders. These are the very marks of the Catholic Church we ought to hold up in our own evangelistic appeal.

I have already received over three hundred of these persons as baptized people and made the Church of the King an unorganized mission of the diocese.

God willing, on Easter Day evening I will administer confirmation and declare them a mission congregation. Pastor Stan White is seeking Holy Orders and following procedures of Canon 10 under my and the Commission on Ministry’s direction. We welcome them warmly into our fellowship of Christian pilgrims following the apostolic path to the Kingdom! Furthermore, we hope to learn from them, especially in areas of evangelism.

Canons call for the bishop to give annually at convention a State of the Church report. This I do in the context of the Bishop’s Address and in the form of printed material which you will receive in abundance.

And now our life as a family:
As for the past twelve moths, since we last gathered in convention, my daily prayer has been:

“Lord Jesus Christ, who said to your apostles ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you’, regard not our sins but the faith of your Church, and grant unto it that peace and unity which is according to your will” for the forgiveness of our sins and for the faith, peace and unity of the Church.

Unity and peace are somewhat like God, the flag and sandlot baseball. We give them positive lip service. But fellow Christians hear St. Paul’s proclamation “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself’ – and therefore each one of us to the other in his mystical body the Church.

I want, on this 15th day of February to call for an armistice. An end to all judging and discrediting of our fellow Episcopalians; An end to righteous indignation! St. Paul writes to the Corinthians (and to Episcopalians) these words: “I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgement. For it has been reported to me that there is quarreling among you, my brethren.” (I Cor. 1:10-11)

The Church cannot go forward, make an evangelical appeal, if we continue to inflict wounds upon ourselves. Our strength is sapped and our appeal discredited! This is especially true regarding internal strife between priest and parishioners.

There is One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism. One God and father of us all, whether we be for or against the ordination of this person or that person – or whatever the issue. Unity is not built on conformity or agreement or on moral perfection but upon our oneness in Christ and creedal orthodoxy. The bishop is both sign and symbol of that unity. In my ministry as your bishop I pledge myself once again to proclaim and witness our unity in Christ. The good news is that we don’t have to originate peace and unity. They arc already given, bequeathed by our risen Lord. It remains for us to discover and claim them for our own.

Blessed Michael Ramsey, late of Canterbury, has written, “Come what may, Christ the Lord of the Church reigns and something which may loom very large at any moment in our consciousness is a tiny little incident in Christ’s empire”.
“It is for the bishop”, Archbishop Michael Peers, Primate of Canada, preached, “to exercise a ministry which tries to build community within the diversity of the Church in such a way as to fulfill the prayer of Jesus ‘that they may all be one.” The Primate continues, “If this is but a dream, the impossible dream, we of all people are most to be pitied.”

We, members of the Church, did not choose each other. We have been given to each other! We are as brothers and sisters are. Brothers and sisters in Christ, by adoption and grace, wherein we cry “Abba, Father”. Bishop Paul Reeves, my predecessor, explains that the root meaning of the word “blessing” is to mingle blood – blood brothers.

Recall the latter part of the parable of the Prodigal Son. When we stop saying “brother” and “sister” and say “this son of yours” or “this daughter of yours”, we move into the alienated world of the elder brother.

Presiding Bishop Browning pictures it this way in his splendid series of meditations entitled, “Beyond Anger”. “We are called by God to be both guests and hosts. The Church is the banquet hall. Into this assembly we are called, invited by God. We are his guests and we enjoy the abundant hospitality. But we have not made up the guest list. We don’t know who will sit next to us. We are not asked to judge the others but to be transformed in the presence of our host.”
From this I look into the eschaton to that heavenly banquet in the Kingdom. There will be no enemies around that table. We will be one people at unity and in peace. Pray that this increasingly is the case around our altar tables in the Church today, being a foretaste of the Kingdom to come.

Having said these things, I want you to know that I am very proud of this Diocese of Georgia. As I go around the Church I extol your virtues; your tenacious loyalty, and your gracious spirit. You are a people, clergy and lay, who give your bishop encouragement, support and enthusiasm. There is no finer diocese in the Episcopal Church!
“The Grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all”



The Convention Committee on the Bishop’s Address represents part of the variety of our great diocese. We have heard our bishop’s call to holiness. And we are moved to commit ourselves to seek holiness or perhaps better theologically to seek to be open to holiness. We urge our bishop as our chief pastor to keep this call to holiness before the people of the Diocese of Georgia as we believe it to be central to our vocation as the baptized people of God. We further ask our bishop as our chief teacher to help us picture what holiness might look like in human lives in the 1990s, We know as a committee that holiness has to do with “wholeness” – with a “connection to God”. At least one of us knew that the root of the word “holiness” means “dedicated”, “set apart”, “given” to God to be God’s possession – thus to be conformed to what God is like. We ask our bishop to help us grow in our human understanding – the way we think and talk about the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We were thankful for our bishop’s willingness to speak of the divisions that are among us – divisions which in part reflect the diversity that is brought upon us by our cultures and our being placed in a moment of history where the possibility of change for the good of human life and for the good of entire economic, political and biological ecosystem of our planet earth are balanced against the ever-present alternatives of individual alienation, corporate greed, chaos, and death.

We believe if we are to respond to the great opportunities before us – if we are to avoid the destruction desired by the Evil One that our first effort must be to claim one adoption as the sons and daughters of God and to grow in his holiness.

We suspect that there is a very close link between our bishop’s call to holiness and his call to unity in Jesus Christ. We suspect that some of our divisions are caused by our individual pictures or understandings of God which we are tempted from a ground level perspective to think are contradictory – whereas the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is so much richer and more wonderful than any human words or pictures that it is possible that from God’s perspective our individual understanding are complementary. I believe that based on the primacy of the authority of Holy Scripture and in keeping with the tradition of our family that God can never be contained in any human construction of language or images. However, our understanding of holiness will be affected by our picture of God – thus we call on our bishop to help us grow in our understanding of God.

We affirm and encourage our bishop’s concerns for evangelism and stewardship, his joy about the conference center and the Church of the King. However, we believe at this point in the life of our diocese the Diocesan Convention needs most to have th opportunity to affirm his call to holiness and unity in Christ. Thus, we offer for your consideration the following resolution:

BE IT RESOLVED, that the 168th Annual Convention of the Diocese of Georgia affirms our bishop’s call to holiness and unity in our Lord Jesus Christ; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this Convention asks that the bishop prepare a pastoral letter to be mailed to every household of the Diocese of Georgia which includes his call to holiness and his call to unity in Jesus Christ that among us God’s peace might be visible to the eyes of the world.

Henry L Louttit, Jr. +, Chairperson