Bishop’s Address of 1930

Address of the Bishop 

My Brethren of the Clergy and Laity:

I am thankful that I am permitted to greet you once more as Bishop at this One Hundred and Eighth Annual Convention of the Diocese.

The imperativeness of duty to God and our fellowmen and the high privi­lege of service in His Church brings us together. I trust that we shall feel and realize the sacred presence of the Holy Spirit and have our minds and hearts open to His influence, so that our motives and thoughts and words may be only such as may please God and promote His Kingdom among ourselves and all men. Do nothing in pride or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind and in brotherly love seek to do only that which will help and bless men, soften the hardness of life, give hope and courage to the discouraged and weak, and illuminate the darkness in which so many of our fellowmen struggle through life. Let not our material business quench the Spirit.

The Church has been singularly unfortunate, as we conceive it, this past year in the death of so many of our Bishops.

The Rt. Rev. John Gardner Murray, D.D., seventh Bishop of Maryland, and Presiding Bishop of the Church, (died suddenly October 3, 1929, in the Chancel of St. James’ Church, Atlantic City, N. J., while presiding over a session of the House of Bishops. He was in his seventy-third year and the twenty-first year of his Episcopate.

The Rt. Rev. Lucien Lee Kinsolving, S.T.D., LL.D., first Missionary Bishop of Southern Brazil, retired, died on December 18, 1929, sixty-seven years of age, and in the thirty-first year of his consecration.

The Rt. Rev. Davis Sessums, D.D., fourth Bishop of Louisiana, died December 24, 1929, aged seventy-one years, in the thirty-ninth year of his Episcopate.

The Rt. Rev. Theodore Nevins Morrison, D.D., LL.D., third Bishop of Iowa, was injured by an automobile and died December 27, 1929, in the eightieth year of his age and the thirty-first year of his Episcopate.

The Rt. Rev. Beverly Dandridge Tucker, D.D., LL.D., the second Bishop of Southern Virginia, died January 17, 1930, eighty-three years of age, and in the twenty-fourth year of his consecration.

The Rt. Rev. Charles Palmeston Anderson, D.D., LL.D., fourth Bishop of Chicago, and Presiding Bishop of the Church, died January 30, 1930, sixty-six years of age, and had been consecrated for nearly thirty years, and had been Presiding Bishop since only November 13, 1929.

The Rt. Rev. Arthur Crawshay Hall, D.D., LL.D., fourth Bishop of Ver­mont, died February 26, 1930, in his eighty-third year and the thirty-seventh year of his Episcopate.

The Rt. Rev. Charles Lewis Slattery, D.D., eighth Bishop of Massachu­setts, died suddenly on March 12, 1930, sixty-two years of age, and in the eighth year of his consecration.

The Rt. Rev. Herbert Shipman, D.D., Suffragan Bishop of New York, died March 3, 1930, sixty years of age, and in the ninth year of his conse­cration.

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Some of these Bishops were my warm and valued personal friends, of many years standing, and some were men of distinguished ability and standing in the Church and the country, distinguished, too, by their great service to the Church and to mankind. It is difficult to refrain from more specific commemoration of their characters and services. But time does not permit, and I content myself with asking you to preserve a moment of silence in prayer. Let us pray.

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There has been no break by death in the ranks of our clergy canonically resident during the year. The Rev. Robert J. Stilwell, who officiated most acceptably under license for a number of years at Douglas and Fitzgerald retired during the year, and soon thereafter passed away at his home in Ontario, Canada. He was canonically connected with the Diocese of Marquette.

One priest was received during 1929, and one since January 1st, and five clergymen have been dimitted to other dioceses. Two of these, the Rev. Harold Spencer Percival and the Rev. Harry A. Cresser, both of whom had disappeared and their whereabouts unknown, were transferred to the Presiding Bishop under Canon 39, Section II. Two deacons were ordained to the priesthood in 1929, and one since January 1st. All the changes in the cases of the clergy are contained in the appendix to my diary. On January 1st, there were thirty-three clergy on the roll and one added since makes at this time thirty-four, three of whom are retired and four non-parochial, so that there are twenty-seven clergy in active service, two less than last year.

There are now enrolled six candidates for holy orders, one of whom is colored. There are no postulants, which promises badly for the future.

I have confirmed 299 persons in the diocese, a few more than last year, and one outside the diocese. I made 114 visits to 51 parishes and missions, and held 40 confirmations; took part in .185 services, and made 112 ad­dresses and sermons, celebrated the Holy Communion 52 times, and officiated at several baptisms, marriages, and burials, and took part in the consecration of the Rev. Dr. Schmuck, to become Missionary Bishop of Wyoming. I travelled 24,400 miles on Diocesan and other official duties.

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The report of the Executive Council will present to you a brief statement of the work of the Diocese in its several departments and also in its financial administration. It was a great regret that the Council found it necessary to cut its budget for the year, owing to the reduction in the amounts pledged by the parishes and missions, and also reduce its pledge to the National Council from a quota of $12,200.00 to $10,500.00. With every consideration of the financial situation, as it is so often spoken of, and with all sympathy for the people of the diocese, I still do not believe that this reduction was necessary. So far as many persons are concerned, it seems to me that they are impoverishing themselves by spending more money than they can afford on their personal indulgences, especially on buying and operating automobiles. And this opinion of mine is confirmed by a number of merchants, who tell me they find it difficult and sometimes impossible to collect their bills for the necessities of life, while the patrons sometimes frankly say that the reason for this is that they are paying for a new automobile. I fear that many of its are living at a high pressure of extravagance for luxuries, and that consequently some cannot pay their just debts, and that they feel justified in refusing to pledge for the work of God, or in reducing their gifts.

And again, in spite of all the efforts we make, I fear that in some places the canvass is not conducted properly or thoroughly, so that the results do not really represent the ability and willingness of the people to support the diocese and the missionary enterprise of the Church. I ask again for the intelligent and earnest co-operation of all the clergy and vestries, in the exercise of their responsibility of leadership to make our canvass so complete that we may be able to meet our budget and to resume the hon­orable position we formerly had of being it diocese that can and will pay its full quota to the National Church.

It is most necessary that all of us, Bishop, priests and vestries, should make an extra effort this year in the preparation for the canvass and in the canvass itself. From 1922 to 1929, the pledges did not vary greatly from year to year. In 1927 and 1928, the receipts, however, fell off con­siderably, and in 1929, the pledges dropped from the pledges for 1928 by $4,000.00 and the receipts by $2,000.00. And for this year, the pledges are over $5,000.00 less than in 1928 and about $1,200.00 less than in 1929. There has been evidently a decreasing interest on the part of some of the parishes and their people in the missionary work of the diocese and the general Church.

We certainly must not acquiesce in this situation. It must challenge us to more intelligent and earnest effort to prevent this decline from con­tinuing. We must not only stir ourselves to prevent that, but also to quicken the interest and generosity of our people to their former standard. Brethren, I appeal to you to do this for Christ’s sake.

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I beg to report to you that in accordance with your action at the last Convention, we have completed the arrangement for our diocesan affilia­tion with the Diocese of Atlanta in the management of the Fort Valley High and Industrial School, and that some of your elected representatives and myself attended the annual meeting of its Trustees last May. We have put into the budget an item of $500.00 for the School, which, however, we were compelled to reduce to $300.00. The Woman’s Auxiliary of the diocese have very generously contributed through me $100.00, and I have also received several hundred dollars from friends for the School. We hope, therefore, that with these additional contributions we shall be able to pay more than the limited amount in our budget.

I also desire to mention two items of information which are encouraging and indicative of earnest and devoted service on the part of some of our people.

The small congregation of St. Paul’s Church, Jesup, have with great devotion and self-sacrifice given money for the enlargement and improve­ment of their Church building. The work is now completed at a cost of about $1,500.00, of which the congregation gave $1,000.00 and the American Church Building Fund Commission $500.00. There are no people in the Diocese who manifest greater loyalty and zeal to the Church and our Lord than the members of St. Paul’s, Jesup. At no time during my Episcopate has the Mission ever caused me one moment of anxiety or discouragement.

At a place in Glynn County, fourteen miles from Brunswick, called Pennick, where formerly was a turpentine still, known as Sapp’s Still, Bishop Nelson started a mission for the colored people. Since its beginning there has been at work there a colored deaconess, named Anna E. B. Alexander. She has been school teacher, friend, and helper of the poor and ignorant, and a witness to the whole neighborhood, of the truth and love of God, as she has learned of Him through the Church. The building used for school purposes and for worship is plain, small, and inadequate, filled with desks and uncomfortable for adult worshippers. Deaconess Alexander conceived the idea of building a new chapel exclusively for worship, and for two or three years, possibly longer, has been praying and working for that new chapel. I laid the cornerstone a year ago. Now the walls are up and the roof on, and there is on hand much of the material for its completion. There has been secured by her more than $1,100.00. Labor and money has been given by the poor country negroes, and help has come from sundry other sources, all due to the faith and courage and persistency of this good woman. I think that it is proper and just that I should make this notice, because this woman is entitled to it, and because her example is a good and encouraging one to all of us, Pennick always overpays its quota for mis­sions and if they have hard times, as they almost certainly do, probably as a chronic condition, they never plead it as an excuse for failure to do their duty.

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I hope that all of you read every issue of the Church in Georgia. If you have done so, you noticed in the March and April numbers two articles on “The Advance Work Program.” I do not wish to repeat entirely what has already been printed. But I feel it necessary to refer now again to the subject, for I must ask you of the Convention and of the Woman’s Auxiliary to give serious consideration to this matter. The diocese has had assigned to it two projects in the Advance Work Program, calling for $2,500.00 each. From information which has lately come to me, these two items would make a strong appeal of our sympathies, the repairing of a rectory at Christiansted, in the Virgin Islands, and the building of a chapel at Caliente, Nevada.

The amount of money asked is in my judgment well within our ability to give. The Executive Council at its last meeting, voted to accept these assignments for the diocese. The matter will come before you, and I trust that you will confirm the action of the Council. After conference with the Finance Department, I have asked a small number of laymen to accept the responsibility of devising methods and endeavoring to raise the money by personal appeals to individuals in the diocese. When the committee is formed and gets into action, I appeal to you and through you to your people who may be approached, a sympathetic response to this effort.

The whole Church in the country is asked to take part in this campaign. It is a common responsibility. Many dioceses have accepted their assign­ments and are at work trying to raise the amounts they have accepted. We cannot afford to withhold our co-operation. We are a part of the Church and enjoy the benefits of our fellowship, and we must bear our part in its common obligations. When in 1925, the whole Church raised a million and a half dollars to pay the accumulated debts of the National Council, this diocese did not share in that effort. We gave practically nothing. There were reasons which we felt at that time excused, if they did not justify us in withholding our assistance. But we cannot repeat that eccentricity and be fair and loyal to our Church. We must undertake and carry this thing through.

The Church cannot, in justice to its missionary bishops or in loyalty to our Lord, withhold support from its growing missionary enterprise. We cannot go on merely paying for the maintenance of our existing work. We must provide for growth. Things which do not grow are beginning to die. The Advance Work Program is to make provision for growth, to provide enlarged facilities for growth which has already taken place, or for opportunities pressing for acceptance. We cannot say to these Bishops and other missionaries, “Slow down, relax your efforts, be satisfied to hold on to what you have.” What vigorous, consecrated man would be willing to become a missionary Bishop, if he would be held in bondage by such restric­tions? It would be cruel and unjust to them to refuse support to them for their devoted and successful effort for Christ and His Kingdom.

I should like the Convention to pass some resolution, not of a merely formal nature, approving the action of the Executive Council, but one which will express your loyal endorsement of its action and giving your encouragement and the assurance of your faith that we can do this thing and your confidence that it ought to and will be done.

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My dear Brethren, in two weeks from this date, I shall have completed twenty-two years of service as your Bishop. There is nothing particularly significant in a twenty-second anniversary. I am not thinking of myself in that connection. But after so many years, my mind reverts to our past accomplishments and our future prospects. I am concerned about the growth of the Church, and that not exclusively as to its increasing num­bers for our own satisfaction, ministering to our ecclesiastical pride. But I think of its mission in our part of that world which our Blessed Lord said was “the field” ; of its influence here in spreading the Gospel and in building up God’s Kingdom. We are sent to minister the Word and Sacra­ments of our Lord’s love to His people, to do our part in grafting “in their hearts a love of the truth,” in “increasing in them true religion,” that they may gain eternal life and be saved in His Everlasting Kingdom. I ask the question—what have we accomplished in that service through the twenty-two years, during which I have been your Bishop and leader?

I am not going to bore you with statistics. My experience is that Church statistics are very unreliable in detail. In the large, over considerable  periods, they do afford some information which may justify some modest conclusions. There are some indications of growth in the period with which I am concerned. There has been no increase in the number of clergy in active service. But there are more parishes, missions and mission stations. Two missions have become parishes, and been admitted into union with the Convention: St. Michael and All Angels’, Savannah, and St. Athanasius’, Brunswick. Contributions have increased considerably, especially for diocesan and general missions. And we have organized our diocese with an Executive Council, which has been a great improvement in effi­ciency of administration. From the reports printed in the Journal of 1928 and those in the Journal of 1929, it appears that there has been an increase of 1688 communicants, about 38 per cent, and there has been an increase in the number of Church School teachers and pupils from 2319 in 1928 to 3929 in 1929. For all of this, we thank God and take courage. But evi­dently, whatever growth there has been, has been slow and not at all re­markable or startling. The history of most of our organized missions has been a record of ups and downs, due to the migratory habits of the people, who come and go incessantly.

I do not want you to think that I am pessimistic or depressed. But I feel that the experience of these twenty-two years calls for thoughtful consideration. I ask, why does not the Church make greater progress? I am of the opinion that the same question presents itself to other com­munions. But that is no comfort to us. The question is up to us—WHY?

Well, of course, we know that the Episcopal Church does not make a popular appeal, especially in the smaller cities and rural sections. The question of religion and churches in the rural sections is one of the press­ing and serious questions faced by all bodies of Christians in this country. What I am immediately concerned with is the fact that our Church is not popular (though I think there are reasons to believe that that is not quite as true as it used to be), and the reason for that attitude toward it by so many people is doubtless partly due to the fact that vast numbers of people know little or nothing about it. And superficial familiarity with its serv­ices discloses the fact to them that it is strange and different. It is a common prejudice that things which are different are inferior. That is the way many Americans think about European peoples and customs and they probably reciprocate the feeling about us. The Church has a different conception of religion and its attitude towards life and its methods of spiritual discipline. We do not go in for political methods, as some of them do. We do not practice the revival system, and we emphasize the sacramental life. We have a liturgical form of worship. We are not protestant in the same sense as other protestant churches are, for we believe in the historic Catholic Church, and we hold to an Episcopally ordained ministry after the practice of all the centuries. I am not criticizing our Christian brethren. I am merely trying to show the difference. We believe our way to be the better way, but we do not object to their holding a like opinion about theirs. At any rate, there is a great deal of ignorance about and a great deal of prejudice against the Episcopal Church. It requires in some places a good deal of courage for men and women to break with their church antecedents and family feeling, and unite with it.

We must not, however, allow ourselves to account for what we may call our partial effectiveness by referring it to causes outside of the Church. There are other reasons which are probably more important. These reasons we must look for in ourselves, though not in the Church as a divine insti­tution. Let us think humbly and prayerfully about this. I speak to you, my brethren of the clergy and laity, in the full consciousness of my own failings. I have troubles of my own within myself. I sympathize with you in yours.

As I observe the condition of organized religion about us and reflect upon it, I do not think it is unfair to say that it is today not measuring up to its responsibility and privilege as the Witness of Jesus Christ to the world. It is not in its organized activities, and in the life and conduct of its people, manifesting, as it should, the Spirit of Jesus. I say this with all humility. But I do not think we can deny it. We Christians, in our contacts with men in the various relationships of life, do not give the impression of our complete devotion in the spirit of love, to the ideals and standards of life as our Lord manifested them. I do not believe that all the criticisms of the Church are justified. Many of them are captious and some due to ignorance of the real spiritual life which many devout souls exhibit in quiet, modest fashion in their lives. But, unquestionably, some of them are justified. And whatever criticisms organized Christianity is justly liable to, are likewise true of us. Resentment against those who make them will not improve us or convince them. We must frankly face our Lord, and subject ourselves to His judgment as we can see it in His life and teaching.

We do not feel to any deep extent, for example, the desire to make sacri­fices of ourselves for the redemption of the world and the saving of our fellowmen. Confirmation candidates, as they stand at the altar, are asked the question, “Do you promise to follow Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour?” That is a searching question to all of us. How can we answer it after all the years that we have been communicants of the Church? Are we making any real sacrifice of ourselves, our happiness and pros­perity, or in the temper of our souls, and in our motives and ambitions, so that men can see in us the evident manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit?

If the Church is weak in its influence, it is the result of the weakness of our faith, of our love, of our loyalty to our Lord. We are not diligent in His service, or fervent in spirit, as we should be. We hear much nowadays about the need for personal Evangelism. That means that every Christian should be an evangelist, should be concerned and earnest in his prayers, his thoughts, and his personal activities in making Christians of those who may come under his personal influence as opportunity offers. That does not mean that every man should be a preacher, but it does mean that every man should be willing and glad to testify to his faith in God and his love for Christ whenever the opportunity can be found or made. And that means in our Church that the confirmation class presented to the Bishop should be the result of the activity and prayers of every communicant in the parish, and not of the minister alone. Of course, that can be effective only as it proceeds from a life lived with God. We cannot influence any­body to a way of life, unless we are ourselves pursuing that way. Behind all of our activities must lie the influence of our personality. There is no greater power in the world than the power of an honest, sincere, and fine personality. Christian personality, manifesting earnest conviction, high moral ideals, and passionate love for Christ and our brethren, expressing itself in daily life, is itself a most effective evangelism. But, do we show it? I am not expecting perfection, though no man can show it whose soul is not aiming at perfection. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect.” That is the ideal and the goal. But even faulty as we are, our sincerity and our humility will demonstrate the manifest aim and spirit of our lives.

What the Church needs on our part is more faith, a stronger grip on the eternal verities of God, as contrasted with the plausible expediencies of worldly wisdom. We must ask God for more courage, more consecrated energy, and industry, more generous and Christlike impulses, broader in­tellectual vision, and broader hearted sympathy. I am speaking of ourselves, brethren of the clergy, as well as of the laity. We are too easily discouraged, too prone to let down in, our efforts, in our ideals. We need greater industry, more hard work, more aggressive confidence as though we were sure of God and confident in the conquering power of the Lord, Jesus. He said, “And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.” Do we lift Him up? Do we not sometimes hide Him beneath our selfish re­serve, our compromising attitude toward the world?

There is no denying the fact that many of us are compromising our Christianity; we are trying to make the best of two worlds. Worldliness, which means contentment and satisfaction with the outward fabric of visible sensuous things, as contrasted with the inner reality of spiritual life, is too manifestly characteristic of the Church to enable us to convince others of the sincerity of our lives. It has too great an influence over our own lives. Under it, can they be refined and beautified? Can they be illuminated with the light of God? The Saviour said, “Let your light shine,” and St. John says, “Walk in the light.”

This year is the Nineteen Hundredth Anniversary of Pentecost—the giving to that little body of believers, bereft of the visible presence of their Friend and Lord, the gift of the Holy Spirit. However we may interpret the symbolism of that event, there is one thing certain. Something hap­pened to those people. That something made them the heroes of the faith, enabling them to face contumely danger, persecution, weariness, and death, and to accomplish the apparently impossible of bringing a cynical, sensual, unbelieving world to faith in the Father in Heaven and to accept a Cruci­fied Jew as His Son and as the Saviour of the world. I sometimes wonder whether we still believe in the Holy Ghost, in the living presence of God in the Church and in ourselves. Might it not revivify our lives if we did, and give us those characteristics of faith, confidence, and courage, and sureness of victory, of which we are so much in need? One of the titles of our Lord was “Emmanuel, God with us!” He is still with us by His Spirit, if we would only believe it. And if He is not with us, we may as well close our Churches and abandon our efforts. What the Church and all of its children need today is the conscious knowledge in our hearts of the presence of God through His Holy Spirit. Let us pray for it as we go to the altar, “draw near to God, that He may draw near to us.”

I am sorry that I must tax your patience a little longer. There is another phase of the question which I must speak of. It is an experience of my Episcopate which is more discouraging and more depressing to me than any experience which has come to me.

I have been speaking to you of faith in God, of love for Jesus, our Lord, and of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, as necessary to make us Christians. St. John writes, “He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, cannot love God whom he hath not seen.” Manifestly, the love which we show in our lives to our brethren, is the acid test of the reality of our religion. Without it, all the rest is hypocrisy and humbug. I am not passing judgment. I am stating the eternal truth. Each one of us can ex­amine himself and pass judgment upon himself. The thing that depresses one is the frequency with which congregations are disturbed and divided by dissension among their members. Sometimes it is a question between the clergyman and the people, and sometimes between different groups in the congregation. If we are looking for causes to explain why the Church does not have greater influence in impressing a community, or in bringing men and women to Christ, there is probably no greater cause than this. The enemies without are not so disastrous as the enemies within. How can a Church be Christian when its members do not love one another?

These divisions and factions are not usually created by any difference as to the essential faith of the Church. They are not usually about ques­tions of doctrine or ritual or ecclesiastical order, in which case there might be some matter about which people have deep convictions. Years ago such contentions did exist, and while the spectacle was not pleasant, still there were some serious convictions felt to be at issue, however narrow men’s minds were and however unlovely their conduct. There is, however, today a more tolerant spirit in this respect, partly due to a larger measure of wisdom, and partly to indifference about these matters. But in these quar­rels nowadays the cause of dissension is usually some very insignificant matter—a matter frequently of personal like or dislike. They are aggra­vated by pride, selfish egotism, and animated by personal feelings of hostility or bitterness. There is a lack of the spirit of forbearance and for­giveness, of kindly and just judgment of one another. The desire to pre­serve the peace of the Church by personal sacrifice of opinion and desire is forgotten. One wonders sometimes whether some of our people ever read their Bibles, the Gospels and the Epistles of the Holy Apostles. Do they ever pray—not merely say prayers—whether they ever confess their sins and ask God to forgive them and give them His Grace and wisdom to live Christian lives? What is the idea which some have of what it is to be a Christian?

I am not saying this because it is pleasant to say. I hope you do not think I am exaggerating—nor that I am uncharitable or exercising bad judgment and poor taste in doing so. It is surely not a cheerful matter to speak about. I have been in the ministry over fifty years. I am therefore what is called an old man. Probably when men get old, they lose some of their aggressiveness. They are somewhat withdrawn from life’s sharper conflicts. The Gospel becomes a simpler thing. Their minds dwell more on certain simple fundamentals of the Gospel, not intellectual fundamen­talism, but spiritual fundamentalism. Our Lord said, as you know, that the two great commandments are to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. That is the root of the matter. When we are trying to learn that lesson by living it, we are growing in grace. When we are not trying to live it, all else is hollow and sham. The amazing thing is not that the religion of our Lord has been tried and has failed, as it hasn’t, but that it continues to exist when one reflects upon the tragic history of man’s failure even in trying to live it. And it is true today to a certain extent, that it persists, in spite of many of the men and women who profess it. When the Apostle, St. John, tradition tells us, was aged and infirm, he would have himself carried into the Christian assembly, and with out­stretched arms, he would bless them with the simple words, “Little children, love one another.” He reflected the words of his Lord and ours, when He said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one toward another.” And what a dreadful thing it is for us by our tem­pers and lives to misrepresent Jesus Christ!

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God bless and keep you, my friends and brethren, in His holy keeping, unto everlasting life; and may He make us true witnesses of His love and righteousness to the men and women in the world, whom He loves. Amen.