Bishops’ Addresses of 1970


Albert Rhett StuartI greet you in the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and welcome you to this 148th annual gathering of the leadership of the Church in the Diocese of Georgia. We are grateful to the Dean and Clergy of the Brunswick Convocation and those who have made the arrangements for this Convention on Jekyll Island, one of the famous Golden Isles of Georgia. Some of us recall the great service when we met here in 1965 and initiated the Bishops’ Crusade. What a long time ago that seems now, so fast and furious has been the developments and changes in us and in the world! I pray that our deliberations here now may have as beneficial and creative an effect for the glory of God as did our gathering here five years ago.

What an amazing year we have passed through in 1969 – in fact there has never been anything to match the decade of the sixties quantitavely or qualitatively – no other ten-year period in the history of mankind has been as phenomenal. The rate of change can’t be measured by adding up happenings – the rate of change has been geometric in progression. We have moved out to the moon and on earth the human problems have well nigh overhelmed us. Mankind has indeed taken a giant stride in space but we know, as never before, what tiny steps man has been taking to find answers to the problems on this planet. This past decade has been one in which man has been keenly sensitized to the facts of life that have separated and alienated man from man, perpetuated injustice, conflicts, and wars. It has been an age of unrest, agitation, and revolution in the midst of the greatest affluence any people have ever known. As with any revolutionary experience, there has been great loss along with great gain. We have experienced frightful tragedy on one hand and incredible accomplishment on the other.

Among all these stupendous developments and changes the Church continues, not unaffected by the impact of all that surrounds her, but convinced of her mission to celebrate the mystery, wonder, and opportunities of this awesome time for the glory of God and the salvation of man, The Christian Church is no stranger to wonder and awe – she was born out of the most awesome fact of man’s history at Bethlehem when God and man were joined as one (the unpropititious and excited remark of the President of the United States notwithstanding) and has proclaimed to every generation since the wonder of God’s break through into history to save and redeem a hopeless mankind.

The Church is familiar also with the fact that man’s necessity is God’s opportunity. Man’s history is chapter after chapter of God working His purpose out. The Church sees in the changing customs and cultures the opportunity to bring man greater dignity, greater freedom and greater understanding of his eternal destiny.

This is not to say that we of the Church are without problems the impact of the times is evident as we saw at the Special General Convention of the church last September in South Bend. Within the life of the Church today there is dissent, discontent, disillusionment, and even disengagement from mission. The Church like other institutions today, is the object of much examination and criticism. Some of this criticism is justified and helpful – but some of it is destructive and leads only to chaos and confusion. The Church is a divinely founded fellowship – a living organism, which is more than a human organization yet it has human institutional expressions. These human institutional aspects of Christianity do age and decay and become obolescent, so the Church needs continuous renewal and such a time as this forces review, forces question and forces evaluation. We should welcome this as a life – giving process instead of going into paralysis of fear and resentment. The truth that our Lord teaches, the principles of His Kingdom and the Faith of His Church are eternal and unchanging but their expression in institutional forms, or in liturgical and doctrinal patterns are subject to change with changing generations and cultures. This has been going on for 20 centuries and no need for panic! We tend to resist this process of renewal because of our selfishness, our laziness, or our cultivated talent for escaping personal responsibility. We cannot be true to our Lord and retreat from responsibility. We are being called to a deeper commitment to our task as Christians by the times in which we live. The problems we face in the world point up the urgency of the need for the gospel and the relevancy of the Church’s mission. I believe that the of the 1970’s will be characterized in the Church by a much greater emphasis on Christian education, personal religion, and the development of the interior spiritual life of the individual. This way will come renewal of the life and power of Christianity to serve and save humanity in a Space Age. That such a development is past due we can see clearly. The decline of the Church School on the local scene and throughout the Church, and the inadequacy or non – existence of Christian educational programs generally is a great part of our problem today. We are raising up more and more churchmen who are less and less informed about the Christian faith and practice. This religious and spiritual illiteracy accounts for much of the clergy – laity gap and the confusion as to the Church’s mission today. I know that social action is considered a practical form of Christian education but it is no substitute for basic training in the Church’s Faith -teaching the mighty acts of God and the great faith tradition and practice of God’s people. An informed committed Christian is all the more concerned with the world because his mind and heart are illumined by the light of Jesus Christ and his witness and action are the more effective as he draws on the experience and resources of the Catholic Church. In the days ahead we are going to have to be educated, trained, and schooled in the fundamentals of the Christian faith. If we are to make crucial decisions that witness to Christian thinking and attitudes, we must be taught thoroughly Christian thought. The Church is a fellowship committed to Jesus Christ but to claim commitment without knowledge is absolutely farcical. To claim identity with a spirit – filled community and to have no experience or practice of prayer is fruitless. The ways of God are not the ways of the world and it is high time we gave more attention and effort to understanding the ways of God.

We have been greatly blessed by the Lord in this Diocese in the past year as He healed the wound in our diocesan family by leading St. John’s Church, Savannah back into the Diocese last Whitsuntide, and in that same wonderful week guided us to the Reverend Paul Reeves as our Bishop. What a great manifestation of the mighty working of the Holy Spirit we have experienced in these two developments alone. It is no wonder that our joy and thanksgiving knew no bounds and poured forth in a magnificent way in the glorious service at Christ Church, Savannah in which Bishop Reeves was consecrated and the Diocese was rededicated to its mission of our Lord in the world and here in Georgia. Healed and strengthened by the Lord, we are ready to move to the task before the Church in this new decade. We are responding to the need of our clergy for more adequate financial support. We are pledging more to the work of the Church than ever before in our history. We have initiated new patterns of ministry through the Counseling Centers in Augusta, and are experimenting with the teacher – priest ministry in Swainsboro and Camilla. We have high hopes for the progress of the Church in mission here in Georgia, but we are confused as to our world wide mission. The Diocesan Council accordingly set forth in leaflet form a diocesan program this past summer. There is only ONE Mission and that is world – wide. The Diocese is only a part of it. The parishes and missions responded to this by pledging more for the program than ever before and yet the financial support is inadequate as seen in the 1970 budget of the Council. This fact coupled with our problems in the past and the idea we had accepted of a Sesquicentennial Offering led us to propose a plan of Stewardship suggested to the Convocations and recommended to this Convention. Your bishops have been thinking and praying about this and we believe we have been guided to more basic considerations for the Church here in the Diocese at this time. To that end. I called a Special Meeting of the Diocesan Council last night (February 5th) to reconsider our recommendation to this Convention.

In the year 1972 – 73 the Diocese of Georgia will celebrate its Sesquicentennial 150 years of life and work by the grace of God. We have known that this was an historic milestone which should not pass unnoticed. We had planned certain goals to be achieved by that time and offered to God in thanksgiving. Some of these goals have been achieved and for what we are all grateful, but we now see a great spiritual opportunity here which is more than a big celebration and a blowing of trumpets for the achievements of the past. Given the need of this generation which has been referred to, given the state of the Church in this Diocese which has also been referred to, what does God want us to do and to be? What is the Spirit saying to us? Here is where we start in preparing ourselves to enter another period in the life of the church in Georgia. In 1967 when the Sesquicentennial was first mentioned, the Bishop’s address suggested 15 objectives which we might endeavor to deal with in moving toward the anniversary. One of these objectives has been given little attention. I now recommend that we focus on it and strongly urge that we consider how to devote ourselves to the implementation of it. It was stated in 1967 in this way. “A program of devotional and spiritual endeavor leading to the deepening and enriching of the lives of our people.” The only way this end can be reached is by the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit. I am not here suggesting that we attempt to manipulate the Lord God. He works in His own way in His own time. I am, however, suggesting that we lose no time in taking steps to listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Church in this diocese. We must devise a plan by which we can listen to each other and to the Lord, a plan by which we can be renewed in our understanding of the Faith and its relevance to the 70’s, a plan by which we can learn to pray in a way that fits our modern pattern of life, a plan through which the Holy Spirit can reach in a fresh way into our hearts and lives. A diocese is intended to be fellowship of the Holy Spirit a part of the Body of Christ. We must become what we are called to be. When we make ourselves available to the Lord as a family in love and prayer, the Holy Spirit breaks out and takes over. This was shown to us in at least two ways last year. This is the way we celebrate a significant anniversary in our diocesan life. We cannot be true to our past or prepared for the future except that by the indwelling of the holy Spirit, we are enlightened for service to the Lord our God.

The times tell us the most important thing we will ever hear is the voice of God. Where are we?

The address above was immediately followed by Bishop Paul Reeves first address
to an annual convention as Bishop Coadjutor.
The full text of Bishop Stuart’s address is online here: Bishop Stuart’s Address of 1970.