Bishop’s Address of 1920

Address of the Bishop
The Rt. Rev. Frederick Focke Reese
Given at Grace Episcopal Church, Waycross, Georgia
April 15, 1920

Dear Brethren of the Convention:

I greet you in the name of our Lord to the ninety-eighth meeting of the Convention of the Diocese of Georgia and I join with you in prayer that God may be with us to inspire and guide us as we deliberate concern­ing the things which pertain to His Kingdom. The things that so pertain are not of little account. They require the consecrated intelligence and loyal obedience of every one of us. The Church and her affairs may seem in comparison with the mighty interests of wordly affairs to be weak and insignificant. “But God,” as St. Paul told the Corinthians, “hath chosen the weak things of the world, to confound the things that are mighty.” And when in the world today we see the disastrous results which have followed the rule of those who count themselves “wise and strong,” we should pray that we may become wise with the wisdom of God, and realize that there is laid upon us as representatives of His Church a solemn and sacred duty to minister to a diseased and disorganized world the sav­ing truth of His Blessed Gospel of peace that cometh only through right­eousness and unselfishness.

Since our last Convention the Church has lost by death several of our Bishops whom we commemorate today with gratitude for their labors and for whose eternal rest and peace we reverently pray.

The Rt. Rev. David Hummell Greer, Doctor in Divinity, Doctor of Laws, seventh Bishop of New York, died May 19th, 1919, in the sixteenth year of his consecration.

The Rt. Rev. John Charles Sage, Doctor in Divinity, second Bishop of the Missionary District of Salina in Kansas; died October 2nd, 1919, in the second year of his consecration.

The Rt. Rev. William Crane Gray, Doctor in Divinity, the first Bishop of he Missionary District of Southern Florida, died November 14th, 1919, in the 84th year of his age. Bishop Gray resigned his jurisdiction in 1913 and retired, having been a Bishop for over 20 years. He was a man of simple and unquestioning faith, indefatigable in labor, most self-sacrificing and courageous in adventure for God.

The Rt. Rev. William Forbes Adams, Doctor in Divinity, the second Bishop of Boston, in Maryland, died March 5th, 1920, and in the 45th year of his consecration being eighty-seven years of age. Bishop Adams was consecrated in 1875 as Missionary Bishop of Arizona, but after two years was compelled to resign his jurisdiction, and having served as rector of a parish, was in 1887 elected as Bishop of Easton.


During the year 11919 the Diocese lost no one of its clergy, either by death or removal, and gained three by letter dimissory, all of whom were, however, in actual residence at the time of our last Convention. We have now thirty-two on our roll, three of whom are retired and one is serving elsewhere and one has been dimitted since January 1st. At this time there are twenty-eight in actual service, two less than last year at the Conven­tion. The only vacancies are the rectorship of St. Andrew’s Church, Da­rien, and of St. Stephen’s Church, Savannah. There are five postulants for orders and no candidates.


We shall welcome at this Convention into union with it as a parish, the Church of St. Michael and All Angels, at Savannah. Two years ago on the removal of St. Michael’s Chapel from its former location at the corner of Henry and Habersham Sts., to its present location on the corner of Anderson and Harmon Sts., in the eastern section of the city, there was established under the canon an Organized Mission, largely composed of the communicants of the Church, resident in the neighborhood. On August 1, 1918, the Rev. J. D. Miller was appointed Vicar of the new Mission. Under the faithful and. capable leadership of their minister, these loyal people have worked so diligently and built up the congregation so effectively in membership and in financial strength that their representatives are now present with my approval and with evidence of their ability to sustain themselves as a parish, to ask to be admitted as such. Unfortunately such incidents are lamentably rare in our diocese so that we greet with the more warmth and enthusiasm this evidence of the Church’s growth it our largest city.

I have approved the application of the members of St. James’s Church, Quitman, to be admitted into union with the Convention as an Organized Mission, under the provisions of Canon XXVI, and have authorized them accordingly to elect a delegate to represent the Mission at this Convention. I am sure that you will all with me welcome this new representative most cordially to all the rights and privileges to which he is entitled under the Constitution of the Diocese.

According to its declared purpose, the vestry and congregation of Christ Church, Savannah, made its pews free on January 1, 1920, so that now every church in the diocese is a free church in that respect.

St. John’s Church, Savannah, has just completed an effort to secure funds with which to enlarge its chancel and purchase a new organ; and there will be placed in the sanctuary a new and handsome altar, in memory of our still dear and lamented friend, the Rev. Dr. Chas. H. Strong, for so many years the devoted and beloved Rector of the Parish. I am sure that all of us rejoice in this successful enterprise and pray for the Rector and people of this old parish God’s abundant blessing upon its labor for His Kingdom.

St. Andrew’s parish in Darien has suffered much from removals due to the city’s loss of railroad facilities and other causes, and is unable any longer to support a Rector. The long and honorable history of this parish entitles it to our sympathy in its weakness and the action of the Board of Missions in granting it assistance to maintain the services of the Church will, I am sure, be approved by the Convention. A chapel-of-ease attached to the parish and known as St. Andrew’s on-the-Ridge, a few miles distant from Darien, being no longer in use or needed, has been sold with the consent of the Standing Committee and I have in accordance with the Canon formally removed the sentence of Consecration upon it.

The Church of the Good Shepherd in Augusta which I reported last year as having adopted as a parochial institution, the Home for Boys, previously carried on in that city, has been unable to carry out its purpose and the Home has been unfortunately closed.

In Americus, good progress is being made in the erection of a new church building. It is now under roof and the Rector and vestry are making the financial arrangements necessary to complete it at an early date. I cannot forbear commenting most earnestly and affectionately upon the courageous faith of the Rector, the Rev. Jas. B. Lawrence, in this enterprise, by which he has gained the support and cooperation of his whole congregation until now his determination is to be soon rewarded by success. Since writing this paragraph I have learned that the Easter offering at Calvary Church, Americus, amounted to $5,000.00.

In Moultrie, the extravagant cost of labor and building material has delayed the erection of the church building of which I spoke last year and for which generous gifts were made by many of the parishes here represented and by individuals. But it is hoped that building operations may soon be begun and the church completed during the current year.

The Diocese, I am thankful to say, paid for the year 1919 its appor­tionment for General Missions, more than in full by $320.00. For this result I thank God and also thank both clergy and laity by whose interest and generosity it was accomplished. This was due to the fact that a number of parishes overpaid their quotas, for unhappily several parishes were badly deficient. Thirty-four parishes and missions met or exceeded their quotas. I am sort I cannot say the same of our apportionments for Diocesan Missions. But in this case there was a deficiency of several hundred dollars, a little of which has been paid since January 1st. The treasurer’s statement will report the matter in detail.

I regret to report that Mr. Robert L. Mercer, who served the Diocese so faithfully and efficiently as Treasurer of the Church Pension Fund from its inauguration has been for personal reasons compelled to resign and on March 1st. I appointed as his successor Mr. Robert Y. Marlow at that time a member of St. Paul’s Parish, Savannah, but who has since become a member of Christ Church, Cordele. It will be necessary for the Convention under the Canon to elect a Treasurer for this Fund.

As a part of the machinery for the prosecution of the Nation-Wide Campaign, there was a diocesan publicity agency working in connection with the Publicity Bureau of the National Committee. The work of this agency was so effective, that I determined to continue it as a permanent feature of our diocesan machinery. The lack of legitimate publicity for the Church has been a very serious defect in its administration. Some years ago the General Convention authorized the appointment of a Joint Com­mittee of the two Houses on Publicity which under, the capable leadership of the Bishop of Kansas did as much effective service as the means at its disposal made possible. The only money it had was what it secured through voluntary subscriptions. When at the last Convention, the Pre­siding Bishop and Council was constituted, the Canon constituting it pro­vided that there should be established by it a Department of Publicity. This is now about organized and ready to operate with a paid Executive Secretary and staff. This action of the General Convention as well as the publicity feature of the Nation-Wide Campaign indicate that the Church realizes the necessity and value of publicity—of advertising—of propa­ganda—both among her own members and among the public at large. She must tell people what her plans and purposes are, what she has and is accomplishing and why she does it. It attracts attention, encourages those who are doing the work by bringing them into touch with what others are doing, stimulates effort and is carrying out the injunction of our Lord—to let our light so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven. Not, however, you will observe, that men may glorify us, but that they may glorify God. Every good cause, it seems to me, should in a modest way proclaim itself to men, as every evil cause is only too subtly but industriously doing. The thing, it is true, May be overdone or badly done, or done in a spirit of self-congratulation and pride. But we must run this risk as we must run other risks. If, we are, as we should be, deeply conscious of our sacred responsibility for our work, of its tremendous significance and importance to the world, of our own imperfection and insufficiency, and of the fact that we live and work constantly under the judgment of Almighty God, we, I feel sure, can employ such agencies of publicity wisely and profitably for the cause of God’s Kingdom.

At any rate, I determined to try it, and accordingly appointed, with her consent, as Publicity Agent for the Diocese, Miss Edith. D. Johnston, of Savannah, who had already rendered valuable service in that capacity during the Nation-Wide Campaign. And Miss Johnston’s active interest and diligence in her work, as well as the results she has secured are most gratifying and seem to justify the experiment, if it may be so called. I submit her report to the Convention and shall be glad to have some appro­priate action taken to give her position your sanction and endorsement. I think it is proper to say that Miss Johnston is rendering this service entirely as a labor of love for the Church.


At the last Convention, you authorized the appointment of a committee as the representative of the Diocese to cooperate in furthering the plans of the then Board of Missions for a Nation-Wide Campaign for the Church’s work in Missions, Christian Education and Christian Social Service. This great enterprise was conceived in the conviction that the people of the Church were not as a whole conscious of their responsibility as members of God’s Church, were not informed as to its opportunities, and duties, were not sensible of the unity of the Church and were not giving either in money or personal service according to their ability or duty. There were large areas of capacity uncultivated and unproductive, and the tremendous issues of the world’s need in a period of profound change, required more power, more concentrated effort, more generous devotion. The men and women, who constitute her membership, outside of the limited number who were doing the Church’s work in service and giving, had to he aroused, united and mobilized. The movement also was conceived in faith in God and in the presence of His Spirit and faith too that men would respond to the call when they once heard it. Those who conceived it and who were called to inaugurate and operate, it were not possibly the most distinguished of the Church’s clergy and laity. They were not great in dignities nor official position. They may have been in the language of a critic “mere babes” in the wisdom and strength of the world. But they had faith in God and their fellow Churchmen and the vision of a larger life for the Church and they trusted Him. And faith, we are assured by our Master, can and does remove mountains. In the beginning of the Church’s history, in Apostolic days, and many times since, it has pleased God that “not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble be called” to do His work, whether “mighty” in the world’s measurements or in ecclesiastical dignities. He has done His work through men and instruments that were esteemed “foolish” and “weak” and “despised.” And if some so desire it, let it go at that.

At any rate, the Campaign has been carried out as you all know what measure of success in terms of money we may count on, it may be impossible for reasons which I cannot go into now accurately, to estimate. But from what I have seen for myself and from what sonic of you and others know of yourselves and have told me, I am sure that we may thank God for the Campaign, and for the results which have been attuned. Except in backwater dioceses and parishes and missions where from lack of faith, from selfishness, from indolence or ignorance too dense to be illuminated even by every effort made, some clergy and laity slept while the Church waked up, the results have been encouraging and wonderful, both in arousing the indifferent, in strengthening those who were carrying burdens without enthusiasm, in responses to personal service and in-gifts of money, both for parochial purposes and for the Church’s Mission. We thank God and take courage. The Chairman of our Committee, Mr. Williamson, will in his report show what the financial results have been in the diocese. But I cannot forbear mentioning that our quota, including our diocesan budget, amounted to $50,000.00 per annum, and of that amount at this writing our people have pledged $16,113.06. You will forgive me for saying that I regret that we did not go over the top. I am deeply thankful for what has been done, to both clergy and laity, but it is better to reach the goal than to stop short even a little. Can we not in our parishes and missions, especially in those which fell short, still continue our efforts and put this thing over completely, without excuses and without the necessity of expla­nations? Before December 31, 1920, brethren of the clergy and laity, let us gain the crest.

But this year’s effort is intended to be only the beginning of a new era. The Nation-Wide Campaign is, to be an institution. The pledges already mode are for three years, lot every year there must be-in every congregation an every-member canvass, carefully prepared for and thor­oughly carried out. Every three years there will be a new standard set and a new start. The Presiding Bishop and Council have already estab­lished a permanent Publicity Department of the Nation-Wide Campaign with its Executive Secretary and its office and field staff, and plans will soon be matured for its continued operation. Brethren, we have pulled up a peg or two; we have got a new conception of our duty and our ability, we have made a good start. Let us not drop back, go to sleep again or stop to congratulate ourselves. There is much to do yet. It would be fatal to feel that we had completed the job. Everybody’s mind must be set with a forward look. We, cannot afford to grow weary and rest. The standard is high and we have not attained it. “Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” says our Saviour. We can rest when we can get to Paradise. While we are here, we must work, “while it is called today, for the night cometh when no man can work.” “Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,” says the hymn. Next year, we must do better, the next’ better still, and so on towards an ever ascending scale of duty and attainment and more prayer, more personal service, more generous unselfishness in gifts.

The Nation-Wide Campaign has cone to stay. The Church is moving on. None but the dead and the faint-hearted and cowardly will fail to give their hearts and souls to her and move with her.


Just a few words about the University of the South and its campaign for a million dollars. The campaign was completed in Georgia a year ago, but it has been progressing in other dioceses ever since that time. It was hampered and delayed by the coincidence of the Nation-Wide Campaign and has therefore lasted much longer than originally intended to last. It is progressing now in a number of dioceses, but is to close finally by May 1st. I am not advised as to the result up to this date, but there is now a prospect that the million may be secured. This, however, is contingent upon an effort to be made in those dioceses, which have completed their canvasses but not secured their full quotas, to secure in them additional subscriptions. Our diocese has raised up to this time $20,784.50 out of an original quota of $50,000.00. For reasons which I will not take your time to explain, however, our quota has been reduced so that if we can raise $5,800.00 more we shall have done all that we are now asked to do. I am going to make an effort to get this money from individuals and I hope that those whom I may ask will receive my request sympathetically and in a kindly spirit and with generous response. I will not argue or plead about this matter. I hope you will forgive me if I say that I am a little weary of doing that, of trying to persuade those who as Churchmen should be willing to follow, of trying to overcome indifference or what seems to me to be a lack of largeness of mind and of generous Church loyalty about this great question of Christian Education, to correct misconceptions and think sometimes misinterpretations and criticism, not just or kind, of Se­wanee and its administration. But I am encouraged by the results of our campaign to know that the institution has many friends among our people, who have and who will continue to stand by it in spite of the failures and faults which some find in it and some of which doubtless exist, because it is the Church’s institution and because it does do the Church service and does carry out her duty to our country in providing opportunity to meet its supreme need of Christian Education.


The General Convention which met in Detroit in October was one of the most notable conventions in many years and I desire to comment upon a few of its more notable acts.

Among these was the continuation of the work of Prayer Book Re­vision. Final action was taken confirming certain changes in Morning and Evening Prayer, in Prayers and Thanksgivings and in the use of the Psalter. These changes now become constitutionally a part of the Prayer Book, and though new editions of the book embodying these changes will not be published at present, they are now lawful for use in our Services. I do not intend to specify these in detail at this time. They have been published in convenient form and I trust that the clergy will all supply themselves with a copy and familiarize themselves with them so as to make use of them as may appear advantageous in their work. The changes adopted are not radical but are intended to give greater liberty in short­ening and varying the Services of Morning and Evening Prayer and are evidently desired and in my judgment are desirable. There are certain prayers added, most of which will commend themselves, I am sure, to our people. The one for use on “Memorial Day” involves prayer for the de­parted. This will doubtless be objected to by some. Its use, however, is not obligatory and those who object are at liberty not to use it. It un­doubtedly, however, does meet a very deep need felt in many devout souls. While prayer for departed souls may be a departure from the practice of the Church for several centuries, it cannot be considered a departure from primitive and Catholic usage. The abuse of such prayers and the perver­sion of the Church’s teaching concerning departed souls did doubtless justify their exclusion for a time from public worship. But it would he impossible to prove that they are unscriptural and they do undoubtedly express what devout persons have always felt and desired to utter and what many of whom have uttered in their private devotions for their dear ones who are not dead but only hidden behind the veil. The truth of the Com­munion of Saints and the oneness of the Church militant and the Church expectant, as well as the profound impulse of affection and devotion do justify inclusion within the range of our prayers of those who having de­parted this life in faith, do now rest in Paradise.

I mention also as one of the important acts of the Convention, the adop­tion of a New Hymnal. The change in the hymnology of the Church is un­doubtedly disturbing to many. Some of us have lived through several such changes. The loss of familiar hymns and the necessity of learning to know and love new ones is naturally a regret to those whose tastes and affections have become more or less fixed. But this is one of the inevitable consequences of living. The world cannot and will not stand still, and for­tunately it does not do so. Change is not always, it is true, an improve­ment. But without being especially qualified to express a judgment upon hymnology; I think I may say truthfully that every change in the Church’s hymnal has been in the main an improvement. I hope that our congrega­tions will as quickly as possible put the new book into use and also make use of the edition with music. It will tend to induce the people to sing the hymns at least and reduce the autocratic despotism of the choir masters and soloists in the choir. Rubrical directions in the Prayer Book, which indicate that certain portions of the Service are to be said or sung by priest or people, have sometimes been repealed by some authority not recognized by the Constitution and Canons and choirs have relieved the priest and people of their privileges. Self-expression by singing—not by listen­ing to other people sing—is a most helpful method of exciting religious emotion. Worship without emotion is a very cold and uninspiring exer­cise, and we have too much of it. I am sure the worship of the Apostolic Church was no such unemotional exercise. St. Paul speaks of the instruc­tive and encouraging power of “singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” A congregation, pouring out its faith and love in a united outburst of song is probably more effective in reaching the heart than a good many sermons are.

It is probably known to all of you that the Convention made a very radical change in the machinery of its administration by constituting a cen­tral body known as the Presiding Bishop and Council. This body consists of the Presiding Bishop and sixteen members elected by the General Convention and one elected by each Provincial Synod, twenty-four in addition to the Presiding Bishop. “It is to have executive charge of the affairs of the Church during the intervals between General Conventions.” The Boards of Missions and Religious Education, and the Social Service Commission were abolished and their functions are now performed by corresponding depart­ments of the Presiding Bishop and Council. In addition to these, Depart­ments of Finance and Publicity were ordered to be established and author­ity given to organize other Departments as need might arise. There has accordingly been established a department to carry on as a permanent feature of the Church administration the work of the Nation-Wide Campaign.       

The Church now has an executive head, in the elective Presiding Bishop and his Council, who are charged with the duty of administering the busi­ness of the Church, both in its normal activities and to meet emergencies of responsibility as they may arise. Under the canon constituting them, the Presiding Bishop and Council have authority to represent the Church and to do anything which the Church ought to do in an administrative way in order to enable it to fulfill its duty to its Master and to the world. It is hoped that this will make the Church as a whole a living Church at all times, a united Church and a Church organized and equipped for a. united service. It has a leader and a Board of strategy. It is also hoped that this will make each diocese feel its incorporated participation in the life of the greater whole and in time bring every parish to the same sense of relationship and at last enlarge the vision of our people and enable them to perceive that they are not only members of a parish but of a diocese and finally of a national Church. Serving and giving therefore to the parish means serving and giving to the Church and serving and giving to the Church, means serving and giving to the parish. The Episcopal Church in other words will not be as it is to many an abstraction while the Parish is a concrete reality; not an aggregation of units, but a great unit itself with many members and parts. The larger loyalty involves, the lesser, but the lesser loyalty frequently ignores the larger.

It is too soon to measure the practical efficiency of this new order of things. Many readjustments are required and experience must be gained both by the Church at large and by those who are charged with the duty of readjustment and administration. We must learn the very important practical lesson of promoting organized efficiency and at the same time of pre­serving liberty. The Church expects every diocese, every parish and every man to do his duty, and to make every legitimate sacrifice of liberty necessary to make the experiment successful and to make the Church effective for its common task of service for God and His Kingdom. The Presiding Bishop and Council asks for the prayers of the whole Church and will welcome every sympathetic and constructive criticism.

One other matter in connection with the General Convention deserves our consideration.

Resolutions were adopted stating the willingness of the Church to con­tinue negotiations with certain persons of the Congregational Church, who had signed with certain members of our own church, a joint paper desig­nated as a “concordat,” and the Convention appointed a Joint Commission to carry on the negotiations under specified conditions stated in the reso­lutions. The first step was taken to amend the Constitution in order to make possible the ordination of ministers without requiring of them the constitutional declaration of allegiance to the Protestant Episcopal Church. The Convention did not obligate itself to any definite action in the future. It merely expressed a willingness to consider the matter further in con­nection with the report of the Joint Commission when presented three years hence.

The purpose of these negotiations is to consider whether an agreement can be reached between the Church and some constituted authorities among Congregationalists, which would permit under certain conditions the ordi­nation to the priesthood by our Bishops of persons to minister in Congre­gational churches and who would-be recognized as priests of the Church and subject to, the authority of our Bishops, without, however, being ad­mitted to complete jurisdiction as such in our own communion. There are some things for us to remember in this connection. This is an effort on the part of our own church and certain distinguished and godly members of Congregational churches to find an approach toward Christian Unity. As such it merits our sympathetic, reverent and prayerful consideration. If the Church has been sincere, and honest in its efforts to promote such unity, if we meant what we said in the Chicago-Lambeth Declaration, we cannot reject or repudiate this effort without stultifying ourselves in the sight of God and of all honest men. If we say we are willing to confer with our Christian brethren on the basis bf our declaration, but really mean to say that we intend to stand pat and require all men to repudiate their own past, humbly to offer themselves to us on our own terms alone and to become Protestant Episcopalians in every jot and tittle, we may be in our judgment most unimpeachable Catholic churchmen, but we shall be mighty lonely in the world and deservedly so. Our attitude will be understood only at the Vatican for it is precisely similar to its attitude. But the Vatican will not be drawn to us nevertheless, for it has its own opinion of what it calls our pretensions. It understands, the stand pat attitude but it reserves to itself the privilege of maintaining it as a basis of unity. In the meantime Christian Unity so far as we are concerned will be an irredescent dream.

There are indeed, principles of Catholic faith and order for which we are responsible and which it would be disloyalty not only to our historic heritage but to the Christian world to impair or surrender. But let us be sure that what we so denominate are really such principles. Nothing in the past has so promoted division as an obstinate temper, and a narrow misconception of what constitute principles. Unreasonable and narrow conscientiousness is one of the most fatal characteristics of mankind. Ecclesiastical self-complacency and hauteur is not an attractive but a re­pellant force. There can be no unity or approach to unity without sweet reasonableness and without mutual friendliness and respect and without the spirit of reasonable-and brotherly compromise. “In essentials, unity, in non-essentials, liberty, in all things, charity.”

The attitude of these Congregational brethren is most admirable and courteous and Christian. They came to us with an olive branch. They have forgotten much of an unlovely past on the Church’s part as well as on the part of their own ecclesiastical ancestors. They are prepared to make sacrifices, and to them, great ones. They are not prepared to repudiate their past and no self-respecting man would respect them if they did. They love God and there are evidences enough that God loves them and has blessed their labors. They can contribute to us and to a united Catholic Church great stores of spiritual truth and life. They show by their words and acts that they deplore the divisions of Christiandom and earnestly hope and pray for a restored unity. If we meet them in the same spirit, with an equal desire for unity and equal spirit of sincerity and of sacrifice, so far as we honorably can, we can trust God to bring out of our conferences some results which will show the way we both desire to go without, dang­erous compromise and without loss to any principle of faith and order which we and they mutually recognize to be essential to genuine Catholic duty. For myself, I most earnestly pray God that the results of the con­tinued negotiations between our Joint Commission and our Congregational brethren may be of such a nature as to make it possible for us to carry out in the main the essential elements of the Concordat—to give to those who may desire it our order of priesthood, with proper safeguards as to all essential features of the Church’s faith and order, and thus to take the first practical step toward Christian unity with our separated brethren, which has presented itself to us.

I Brethren, I commend you to God and to His Christ, and may He rule our minds and hearts unto obedience to Him and unto love and fellow­ship with one another and all those who worship and love Him in sincerity and truth.