Bishop’s Address of 1895

Given by the Rt. Rev. C.K. Nelson
May 15, 1895
St. Philp’s Pro-Cathedral, Atlanta, Georgia


The Convention is requested to stand and hear the necrology of the year past. The Rt. Rev. William Bell White Howe, D.D., LL.D., Bishop of South Carolina; the Rt. Rev. David Buel Knickerbacker, D. D., Bishop of Indiana; the Rt. Rev. Elisha Smith Thomas, D. D., Bishop of Kansas ; the Rev. William H. Hunt, Retired Missionary of the Diocese of Georgia

Let us pray.


Brethren of the Clergy and Laity, my co-workers in the Gospel, assembled in the Seventy-third Annual Convention of the Diocese of Georgia, I extend you a cordial greeting, and beseech of you an active and prayful share in our deliberations and actions.

Unless all indications are deceitful, I have the comfort, in which you will rejoice with me, of believing that within the past year our influence for good has increased, and the power of the Church has strengthened through our efforts to present to the people of this State the tokens of a living organism and of a divine institution dealing effectively with great spiritual realities.

If I mistake not, the fealty which was plighted to me in the beginning of my labors among you has been exchanged for an affectionate loyalty of the priests and the people, whom I bear continually in my heart, and whose welfare it is my constant effort to promote.

The harmony of the Diocese in the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Church is well-nigh complete, with a reasonable elasticity, such as is proper in the purest Catholicity. The radical differences which have sundered brethren in other parts of our land are here unknown.

There is nothing in any of our Parishes or Missions, thank God, which falls under the implied censure of that most admirable and timely Pastoral Letter issued last October. That it was needed there can be no question in the mind of one who, as I have, has come in contact with Churchmen of other Dioceses, and learned with sorrow that priests under vows of the most sacred character to believe and to hold all that this Church believes and teaches, so far misconstrue the blessed liberty of our Communion as to occupy their time with theoretical discussions. Instead of feeding and tending the flock, some of them are disporting with scientific research and the higher criticism, and are guilty of the heinous crime of destructive exposition in an effort to reconstruct religion So as to make it tally with modern thought. And this they call the freedom of the Church. To us it is license, and we are strikingly reminded, when we see or hear of these injuries or the Faith, of the sensation of a debased mind which would lightly throw off its lawful limitations and indulge itself in an hallucination of delight, intellectual or sensual.

“The first result of a broken law is ever an ecstatic sense of freedom.”

There may be a charm in speculative thought, but it is not unlike the fascination of speculation of another sort in margins and futures.

There is in both cases a victim, and the chief sufferer is usually not the speculator, but the man whose credulity, ignorance or vanity are utilized to promote the other’s scheme.

Our clergy, I am proud to believe, have a nobler ambition, and demonstrate by lives of self-sacrifice and unremitting attention to their vocation that they feel the call to win souls, to reform lives, to alleviate the sorrow which sin produces, to be examples of patience, truth and righteousness.

I could wish that they all felt not so much the obligation as the importance of giving to their people the full provision which the Church has set out for her children in the Book of Common Prayer.

Suppose it be not absolutely imperative, as I sincerely believe it to be, that the priest of a Parish should celebrate the Holy Communion on all days for which Collect, Epistle and Gospel are appointed. The position assumed is : there is no demand for these frequent celebrations. To which my answer is : first, that the words of St. Paul and of the Master Himself, admit of frequent use of this blessed institution, and the grace is guaranteed as oft as it is properly done; secondly, if the people are not prepared or instructed, it is probably the priest’s fault ; thirdly, this Sacrament like private devotions, scriptural study and meditation does not grow common or despised by use, but in the experience of those who have tested it, becomes more and more a spiritual help; fourthly, even though a large number may not on all occasions avail themselves of the opportunity to receive, yet are not the few the dependence of our Parishes, and are they not entitled to this consideration ; but further, do they who object reflect what an opportunity exists in the frequent Eucharists for the most prevailing; intercession for themselves, for the Parish, for the Church of God? And lastly, I call attention to a page of my experience among the Parishes in Georgia. If on Thursdays in Lent, and the days of Holy Week there be present from twenty to seventh-five commuuicants at any time of the morning, is it not a fact that they welcome more frequent occasions? While if the clergy would wake these occasions the text of their exhortations in private, even more than in public, we should approach the solution of that problem, forced upon us by appalling losses, how to reclaim and bind closer to the Church that tenth or larger proportion of the confirmed who are annually reported as lapsed or dropped.

In this connection I must-bewail an exhibit in our Diocesan statistics, to which I some time since called attention (Church in Georgia, Vol. III., No. 5), and express the conviction that there is a fault without palliation or excuse.
The number of communicants accredited to this Diocese when I was consecrated was five thousand five hundred and fifty-one. I have confirmed more than one-third as many more, (2050) and under the usual rules of ebb and flow, there are in the Diocese at the present time, not less than seven thousand five hundred communicants, yet last year’s table of statistics shows six thousand one hundred and thirty, a net gain of but five hundred and seventy-nine communicants that is, for every one actually added confirmation nearly three have fallen off.

I shall give but, three illustrations out of the many. One Parish of about two hundred communicants shows a loss of forty-three (nearly one-eighth) in four years. A second, of about the same size, has lost one hundred and forty-three in the same time. A third, of about three hundred, reports a falling off of two hundred and twenty-one, and a reduction to the smaller number of one hundred and nineteen. These people have not all died or removed or excommunicated themselves. They are Christ’s sheep, whom we are bound to go after until we find them. Is it possible that a financier will be particular to locate a penny out of his balance sheet and a priest be indifferent to the status of a soul, or be guilty of inaccuracy or injustice in those whom he gathers about the Lord’s table?

I commend this whole subject for careful thought and resolution to the Committee on the State of the Church. If this is to be the continual outcome of our work we would better dispense with Episcopal visitations for a time and invite the Bishop to go about with his crook and visit the homes and boarding-houses of our parishes, although the Church has appointed others to this very thing.

We surely cannot have forgotton those solemn words of the Ordinal describing the duty or a priest, “to teach, to premonish, to feed and provide for the Lord’s family ; to seek for Christ’s sheep that are dispersed abroad, and for his children who are in the midst of this naughty world, that they may be saved through Christ forever. * * * And if it shall happen that the same Church, or any member thereof, do take any hurt or hindrance by reason of your negligence, ye know the greatness of the fault, and also the horrible punishment that will ensue.” (The Ordering of Priests, Bishop’s Exhortation.)

While my pen was yet web, I lighted upon Bishop Beckwith’s complaint on the same subject; and read his expression of mortification that some outside of the Diocese, reading the statistics had remarked that the Church in Georgia was losing ground. Note his words.

“Number of communicants in May, 1883, four thousand seven hundred and sixty-eight; confirmed from May 1883 to May 1884, three hundred and twenty-nine ; number of communicants May 1884, four thousand five hundred and sixty-nine. * * * We lost a number equal to all who were confirmed, (329) and one hundred and ninety-nine in addition.”

Our present case is only not quite so evil, our net gains having been one hundred and forty-four per annum, when they should have been about five hundred. My suggestion is a very simple and direct one that the clergy will go over and over their books, and locate every communicant entered therein, by themselves or their predecessors, and go again and again after the individuals until they find out positively and definitely whether they are dead, have removed to some other parish, are living in disregard of their duty and excommunicate or are really communicants de facto.
I have been through and through no less than six parish registers, two of them of two of our largest parishes. The negligence exhibited in them is simply appalling; twenty names or more duplicated ; conmmnicants receiving five times a year or oftener for twenty years, whose names could not be found on any book or list in the Rector’s possession ; hundreds marked by the fatal word dropped, as though the scratch of a pen could doom a soul to perdition, cutting it off from the communion of the Catholic Church ; others marked Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, etc., as though a temporary lapse relieved the Pastor of his duty to the straying sheep, who very likely (I speak by the book) strayed because no one looked after them and no man cared for their souls.

I cannot describe to you the shocking carelessness where no plea could be made of destruction by fire or water, in the records which, not to keep accurately, is tinder our Canons a cause for trial. I could write on a sheet of foolscap the complete data of twenty parishes and missions of this Diocese, all other acts having perished as dust before the wind, and alas ! in many cases the people themselves winnowed out until nothing but a remnant is left and the Church stands empty and forsaken.

But our address shall not all be one long wail of woe.


Our chief duty and privilege, the extension of the Church, is a source of some pride to us. Despite the strain which has been felt the past year with as, as everywhere else, our total receipts have enabled the Board of Missions to meet its obligations to the missionaries more regularly and promptly than in the past year, and if the pledges, individual and local, made at the last Convention be transmuted into cash, we can return the loan which was forced upon its last year. I would politely suggest that no more hasty pledges be made, as they only serve to deceive and disappoint its who have to pay for bread with money. In the missionary field and work, promises are not negotiable. Unpaid pledges in the past ten years have amounted to $8,898.69, beside interest, more than the appropriation for a whole year. The real explanation of the repealed deficit lies in the slowness of most parishes to adopt the plan of a monthly or quarterly offering in small amounts, and the habit of putting off the evil day until just before the Convention.

I will not enter into the discussion of what the Diocese can do or ought to do. Three things I can predicate with certainty. First, that we reap large fruits according to the outlay ; second, that several parishes can do better and will do better if they are energetically worked by men, clergy and laymen, with real missionary zeal ; third, that there is need of greater unity of action. If there is any limit in the modus, repeal the Canon and give something better, or change the personnel of the Board, as you please. In my judgment neither course is needed, as we have actually raised, in spite of deficit, $700.00 more than in any previous year of the Diocese. The Missions which have built churches and almost completed payment on them will, in the near future, contribute to the support of the missionaries and become a help instead of a burden.

A second encouraging feature is the improvement in the Diocesan treasury. The receipts of the Treasurer in 1894 amounted to but $508.50 on April 1st, one month before the Convention. This year on the same date his receipts were $1,162.02, more than double. Two suggestions are here in order, that the business of the Convention demands that the Treasurer’s report occupy the first place in the order of business, and that it will be easier, as well as fairer, that the parishes negotiate loans to pay the running expenses until the collections are returned rather than impose this duty upon the Treasurer and this draft upon the Diocesan funds, as each year these funds are lessened by six or nine month’s interest.


Examination of my detailed acts and the parochial reports will, I believe, show improvement in all essential particulars. The restoration of harmony among the Churches in Atlanta is a most hopeful sign of future prosperity, further borne out by the provision for the support of one missionary in this city and almost enough for another.
I reported last year S. Mark’s, Dalton, as remitted to the position of an organized mission. I have to report this year S. Luke’s, Hawkinsville, as similarly treated under Canon XIII., Section 2. This course will from time to time become necessary on account of the flow of population to the large centres, a matter of common observation in educational and social as well as ecclesiatical discussions.

In the case of both these parishes I have complied with the requirement of our Canon Section 3, to provide for the-care and tenure of the Church property.

There are a few missions which have shown but faint signs of reviving, yet I have labored with them at light cost, hoping for a better day to come.

The task is shown not hopeless when you know that in one place five confirmations have been the fruit after an interval of ten years; in another, four after fifteen years, and in another, six after a lapse of fifty years, and in other ways patience is being rewarded. Clarkesville, Gainesville, Greensboro are all improving in spiritual and temporal results.

A peculiar case is the Church of the Atonement, Augusta, which, in a spirit of true generosity, offers its Rectory to the city Missionary, free of cost, upon the very simple condition that the Parish be credited with $200.00 by the Treasurer of Missions upon the order of the Convention. I apprehend the Convention will not be slow to take such action.


The districting of the Diocese into Archdeaconries is not the simple matter it appears to many. To satisfy our critics, I am quite willing to pass my privilege over to the Convention, with the remark that it is useless and worse to include any Mission in one geographical section when its affiliations, its trend, and its pronounced preferences are in another. This applies specially to the bounds of the Atlanta and Augusta, the Albany and Savannah Archdeaconries. I have done the best I knew. I welcome light or aid.


This Diocese has enjoyed substantial benefits in loans and gifts from the American Church Building Fund Commission. It would be a grateful act on our part to make an offering in our Parishes for this most useful institution. The offerings from Georgia in the year 1894, amounted to eighty-five cents.

The Church Commission for colored people has ever been and still is the chief support of our feeble efforts among the 900,000 negroes of Georgia. We have our option of two views of the demands upon its in these citizens of the State; the one aggressive, the other protective.

If one Saviour for us all, and His command to teach, to baptize, to save, without distinction of race, color or language be not sufficiently urgent, there is a pressure which we resist at our peril. “We must build them up, or they will drag us down.” A minute study of the situation causes me to express the deliberate conviction that the Church is the only Christian body in the South which is in any perceptible degree elevating the moral condition of these people. The futile attempt of other bodies to inculcate sound ethics in these children, for such in reality most of them are, is strikingly but pathetically set forth in the confession of one of their native preachers, “in dis matter de prevailin’ opinion is agin us.” In our Churches and Missions among these people, we cannot find any more reprehensible morals than in similar associations of white people. This remark has but one exception. The time is here when we should do two things, recognize this department of our mission work, and begin to shoulder our own burden, which, as yet, we have not touched with one of our fingers.

The least we can do is every year to make a specific gift for the evangelization of those people, who form one-tenth of our communion at the present time. It surely cannot be regarded as fair to the Church or just in our dealings to manifest no interest and contribute no help to a people who are being educated faster than they are christianized.


I feel constrained by a sense of duty to them and of legitimate delight, as the authorized advisor of the clergy, that the counsel which I gave in my first Convention with reference to evening celebrations of the Holy Communion has prevailed except in very few Parishes, that at great cost to their sentiments and cherished local traditions, loyalty and obedience have triumphal, and that the voice of the Church expressed in indisputable history, and in the arrangement of her liturgy is more effective in regulating our practice than individual interpretations of what we may do, based with all sincerity but none the less truly upon private judgment which has never been and never can be admitted as a factor in the settlement of usages and customs.

As in the order for the administration of the Holy Communion and in the five distinct offices of which it forms a part, our Prayer Book clearly contemplates a morning service, it is a clear violation, not of a command, but of a liturgical principle and of the Church’s obvious intention, to have the Holy Communion in the evening, except in the emergency of the visitation of a sick person, and nothing short of conciliar action would be sufficient to allow a practice for which the Prayer Book makes no provision. It is inconceivable that if a change in the custom of the Church were to be made in the interest of Wesleyanism, some intimation of that liberty had not been given in the successive revisions of the Prayer Book. I congratulate the Diocese, therefore, upon the class of minds with which we have to deal.

I would take this occasion to add this counsel to what I have already said on the subject. Take care not to abuse the liberty granted in the last Revision. Do not mistake may for must or ought. A. reasonable elasticity according with special or local demands was the object had in view by the revisers, and not a dismemberment or desuetude of the optional portions of the Book.

I am not prepared to affirm the advisability of the proposed Canon requiring the daily recitation of Morning and Evening Prayer, but I am convinced that, except on very rare occasions, the Morning Prayer, Litany, Holy Communion and Evening Prayer form the duty of every Parish priest on Sunday, and that the option should be sparsely enjoyed of cutting out important features of the Holy Communion, of Morning and Evening Prayer and the omission of the Litany, to which, most properly, Churchmen are devotedly attached as a most expressive act of devotion. And I distinctly withhold my approval from the Three Hours Service, an admission to a Brotherhood or a Sisterhood in the Church unless the appointed services of the Prayer Book be duly used on the same day. Nothing which Bishop, Priest or Deacon can make up out of his own head, or receive by dictation from another, must be allowed to supersede the Church’s own order.


The establishment of educational institutions has not judging by results, been recognized in Georgia as a part of the mission of the Church. Every denomination has completely out-stripped us, and every Diocese old or new has displayed more active interest in the maintenance of Church schools than has Georgia. My feeble attempt to initiate a movement of this sort has met with neither support nor encouragement. It is not on that account to be abandoned as a failure. Under those circumstances I am the more proud to observe that there is a priest among us possessed of such resolution, energy and patience, as not to be appalled at the difficulty of the task, and congratulate you that he has elected to begin his undertaking under our patronage in part.

The Benedict Memorial Institute for the literary and industrial development of youth is a plan, happily conceived by one of the sons of a priest whom this Diocese has every reason to revere, and whose memory we should delight to cherish as it soldier of the cross, a defender of the faith, a hearty and zealous, advocate of truth and righteousness—the late Samuel J. Benedict, D. D.

I shall be most gratified, if the Convention will of its own motion overcome the modesty of my brother, the Rev. George E. Benedict, to hear from his own lips something of his project, its difficulties and successes, my object being to commend him and his Christian task to the favor and generosity of the Diocese at large.


The Convention is invited to inspect the Diocesan office and to see what use has been made of the appropriation of $300.00. A safe of the best pattern guards our archives from fire, our deeds to property are all carefully filed and preserved, the Bishop Beckwith Library has been arranged and added to by several hundred volumes, current journals are placed accessibly to those who have any business with them, and a neat, bright and comfortable room is provided for those who desire to consult authorities and for meetings of committees.

The utility, rather necessity of a clerk for the Bishop, you will concede to be justified, by the opening de novo of the following books essential to an intelligent grasp of the business of the Diocese.

1. A ledger of forty-five accounts of moneys placed in my hands with its five accessory books.
2. A current record of official acts.
3. A Diocesan register of Parishes, Missions, Clergy, forming a permanent and continuous history and status of each.
4. A Diocesan ledger which contains a complete list of securities of all the invested funds of the Diocese, with entries of quarterly reports of Treasurers, and three accounts of each. Parish.
5. A deed book.

In the view of some, this banking, insurance and real estate. business is not one of the duties of the primitive or any other episcopate. I give you my assurance that it has been assumed out of no love for bookkeeping, in which I am not an adept, but out of the pressing need of them, that I might know thoroughly the temporal as well as spiritual condition of every Parish and, Mission, and the hopeless ignorance into which I was plunged when I came to Georgia, and had not ten lines to show me anything whatever, except by groping through the labyrinth of Convention Journals, which did not contain one-tenth of the information necessary to the proper administration of the Lord’s business.

I have been unable to find a man who would undertake the work of the Episcopal counting house without reward, to which he would justly be entitled ; and as in the present condition of our Diocese, which is ninety per cent missionary, I am compelled constantly to refer to these books, no better plan can be devised than to continue the provision of a Bishop’s clerk. His services in my correspondence involving two thousand and five hundred letters were invaluable as long as I felt that I could retain them.

I have to thank the clergy for their readiness to aid me in securing accurate information of their Parishes, and the facility afforded me to examine their books as required by the General Canons, of which I have personally inspected forty in the past year.


I submit to you for action the following propositions :
1. The presentation of one complete set of our Diocesan Journals to the Registrar of the General Convention, in compliance with his request under date of November 10th, 1894.
2. The receiving as in formation of the notice of the proposed amendment to the 5th Article of the Constitution General.
3. The ratification of the Statutes of the General Chapter of the Cathedral.
4. The authorization of prompt payment of the note of the Diocese for $500.00 with interest to the Atlanta National Bank, long past due.
5. The continuation of the loan from the Corporation of $1,200.00 to the Board of Missions upon condition of payment of interest thereupon from the time of making the loan.
6. I present herewith the following accounts for audit : 1, Harrison Fund; 2, School Fund ; 3, Disabled Clergy Find; 4, The Bishop’s Advance Guard ; 5, The Church Extension Fund; 6, The Diocesan Ledger.
7. I commend to your notice the increasing size of our Journal and the cost of printing and distributing which might be more wisely expended, and suggest the consideration of decrease in the number printed, the excision of some matter, and the entering of several financial reports, notably my own, in gross and not in detail.
8. The Permanent Episcopal Fund and the Disabled Clergy Fund are still open to the criticism passed upon them at our last Convention. It has been suggested by the wisdom of one, who, has noticed the small increase in each, that some of the laity might be willing to add materially to the future endowment of these funds by means of insurance policies in favor of one or the other of them. A few premiums of $25.00 or $50.00 each, or larger, would accomplish more than years of petitioning, and the small offerings of Parishes.


Atlanta, deed for Church lot on Peachtree Street ; Covington, bond for title (former bond proved worthless) ; West End, Atlanta, bond for title ; East Point, deed for lot ; McRae, large lot secured by deed.
Lots are promised at Dublin, Montezuma and Sandersville.


Waynesboro, S. Michael’s Church, beautifully located, is completed and payments well on ; Pineora, Holy Trinity, building completed, paid for, consecrated and insured; Hapeville, Christ Church, nearly completed and most of the cost paid ; Atlanta, Church of the Redeemer, restored and reopened for worship.

And, now brethren, I commend you in your deliberations, in your prayers and in your aims to God and to the Word of His grace, which is able to edify you and to give you an inheritance among the Saints.

Bishop of Georgia.