Bishops’ Addresses of 1970

The address below was immediately preceeded by Bishop A.R. Stuart’s finall address as Diocesan Bishop.
Below is 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


My first duty is to acknowledge with deep gratitude and a sincere sense of unworthiness the series of events that places me before you today. Not to be wholly facetious, I would paraphase the poet A.E. Housman, and say that I condemn your choice and deplore your judgment! But I must temper that levity by saying that after the first shock of my election had subsided, and after I had prayed and thought and taken counsel, I came to feel that I had no choice but to believe that this was the will of God for me, the act of the Holy Ghost. Far from thinking of this as a compliment to myself; I see it increasingly as a profound mystery. To stand in the succession of the Apostles, however one conceives this, is a shattering and a humbling thing. I can never hope to be worthy of the honor – and the burden – you and the Holy Ghost have laid on me; I only can pray that I may be found faithful.

Paul ReevesNext, I must try to express my deep gratitude to Bishop Stuart. The lot of many Bishops Coadjutor has not been happy; he has made mine warmly so, by his limitless consideration, thoughtfulness and humility. I could have found no better teacher nor a better example. I will never be able to take his place. I hope to learn from him, work loyally with him, and build on the broad, firm foundations he has laid.

It will be impossible for me to thank adequately the many people who have made my coming to Georgia so happy an experience, and who gave me a service of Consecration which I can never forget. I will not try to name all of the people involved, but would like to single out two. One unsung hero was Mr. Josiah Hatch, who gave generously of his time and talent and patience to supervise the refurbishing of our residence. The other is the Reverend Warren Haynes, to whom, under the Holy Spirit, was due much of the credit for the serenity and the holy splendor of the Consecration.

And to so many of you, my brethren of the clergy and the Laity, I give my thanks for your having made Adele and me feel so much at home and so wanted. Leaving the diocese that had been our happy home for twenty years was not easy, and I felt a little as Abraham must have when he went out of Haran, even tho I have not quite achieved his age. Already I find on my lips the words of the Psalmist: “The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.”

It was difficult to decide what should be the theme of this, my first address to the Diocesan family. I have little to report in the way of official activities, and the statistics concerning them appear elsewhere. A new pair of eyes sometimes may see things that familiarity overlooks, but it would be presumptuous for me to analyze the state of the Church in Georgia and to prescribe for its health.

I would like to try simply to give you some of my impressions of the position in which the Church finds itself today, and to seek to explore, however tentatively, some ways in which we might try best to serve God in our generation, surely a time alike of difficulty and of opportunity.

Writing in 1926, Evelyn Underhill, one of the greatest spirits the Anglican Communion has produced, said: “A shallow religiousness, the tendency to be content with a bright ethical piety wrongly called practical Christianity, a nice brightly-varnished this-world faith, seems to me to be one of the ruling defects of institutional religion at the present time. We are drifting towards a religion which consciously or unconsciously keeps its eye on humanity rather than on Deity -which lays all the stress on service, and hardly any of the stress on awe: and that is a type of religion which in practice does not wear well.” (CONCERNING THE INNER LIFE, p. 4)

How terribly prophetic! – it is not wearing well. More and more the orientation of the Church has seemed to be in the direction of sociology or psychology; these sciences (if sciences they be) may be good servants of the Church, but they will be found to be very bad masters. One of the most acute observers of the scene recently wrote, “The closer I get to the structure, the more I understand a number of things, and it’s rather disillusioning. People are spiritually hungry and are finding less and less to sustain them.”

It is my belief, which I hope is not simply wishful thinking, that the pendulum has begun to swing, and not as any sort of “backlash”.

There has been some negative reaction to the actions of the last two General Conventions in giving financial aid to suffering humans; some of this reaction undoubtedly has been the product of racism or of suspicion. More of it has been disagreement with details of administration and with individual grants. I myself take issue with certain details, but I have no doubt that the intent of the General Convention was one of genuine concern for human lives.

We are called on constantly to examine the means we use to achieve our ends, even – or perhaps especially – when we believe those ends are the will of God. I may be out of fashion when I say this , but I think we sometimes forget which is the First and Great Commandment, and pass too lightly over it, saying that the best way to obey it is to obey the Second.

I know well the dangers of personal pietism or a `purely spiritual religion’, so-called, and that they can be retreats from reality, and justifications for neglect of real duties. But I always am suspicious when I hear people mutter that the Church ought to stick to its own business. The Church is the Body of Christ, and Christ’s business was, and is, with men’s bodies as well as with their souls, with the administration of government as well as with its professed ideals, with the integrity alike of management and of labor, with your daily work, and with my recreation. There can be no area of life with which Christ is not concerned, hence no area with which the Church, Christ’s Body, is not concerned. If there is an area of life-personal, domestic, parochial, community, national – that cannot be brought to the altar and offered, then we may suspect that there is something wrong in that area.

I believe that most of the real disagreement within the church is not about the ends we are seeking but over the means we use. At the risk of oversimplifying, two courses seem open. One is for the Church to act as a group, a social, political or economic force in competition with some groups and in cooperation with others. The other way is to produce people who are so full of the Holy Spirit, so indwelt by the Risen Christ, that they do Christ’s work where they are, leavening the lump, as Christian mechanics and Christian bankers, as Christian doctors, and Christian business men, as Christian lawyers and Christian teachers, as Christian senior citizens and Christian students, as Christian wives, husbands, children, citizens.

This latter way carries the dangers of lack of force and of loneliness. The other runs the different risk, powerfully characterized in the words T.S. Eliot puts in the month of his St. Thomas Becket.

“For those who serve the greater cause
may make the cause serve them
Still doing right: and striving with
political men
May make that cause political, not by what
they do
But by what they are.”

Most emphatically I am not advocating any drawing back from concern and involvement with any area of life where injustice, oppression, unfair discrimination, indifference, exploitation, twist and degrade the lives of any of God’s children. The Church must speak out, as her Lord did, and she must act, as her Lord did. She cannot withdraw into the warm and lovely comfort of a soothing liturgy and a respectable mediocrity.

But rightly to do God’s will, the church that speaks and acts has to be a praying church, an informed church, and a loving church. And this is not always so.

Can we call ours a praying Church when fewer than half our people are in church on any given Sunday? How he prays outside the church cannot be known, but the unwillingness of the average Christian to speak about his relation to God must give us pause and concern.

As to our being an informed Church, my reluctant but considered judgement is that we simply are not. Too many of our people ‘do not know what the Church teaches and believes. To some extent, this is the fault of the clergy in not providing continuous and systematic teaching. The average shortness of clergy tenure, and the mobility of populations compound this problem. To some extent it is the fault of the laity, in not taking advantage of the opportunities offered them, in not encouraging their clergy to teach more and better and in not making sincere efforts to learn on their own.

And it must be asked in penitence and in holy fear if we really are a loving Church. Our Lord said: “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another as I have loved you.” That is, at the heart of His kingdom there is a law without obedience to which there can be no kingdom, and this is the law of love, which the christian understands as deep, self – giving compassion.

This entire subject of Christian love is difficult, partly because of our English use of the one word to mean so many different things – `I love God’, `I love my child’, `I love my country’, ‘I love Beethoven’, ‘I love apple pie’ in each case I use the same word, but in each case mean quite a different thing. C.S. Lewis has a helpful passage, in which he wrote: “Love, in the Christian sense, does not mean an emotion. It is a state not of the feelings, but of the will; that state of the will which we have naturally about ourselves, and must learn to have about other people (Our) love for ourselves does not mean that we like ourselves. It means that we wish our own good, Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. Whenever we do good to another self, just because it is a self, made (like us) by God, and desiring its own happiness as we desire ours, we shall have learned to love it a little more.” (MERE CHRISTIANITY Ch. 9)

In this light I ask, are we a loving Church? This is not a rhetorical question, but the question that God is asking us. Do our clergy care for one another, support one another, pray for one another? – or do they sometimes see themselves as competitors? Within your congregation, do people care for one another as for blood-brother – for remember that at the altar we share Christ’s Body and Blood. This genuine caring apparently was one of the striking marks of the early Church; it made such an impression on the pagan world that it said in awed admiration and wonder, “See how they love one another.”

Can this be said of us? And what of the Church in the community? Brethren, we are the body of Christ! Do we speak and act as Christ in our several communities? Is the Church listened to? I hope it is not pride that makes me believe that the Episcopal Church has the fulness of the Faith as few other parts of Christendom have. Thus I look with apprehension on any reunion scheme that would dilute or take from this fulness; but I look with equal apprehension and sorrow when I see how far we fall short of using and enjoying to the full our treasures, and of seeking to share them with a starving and miserable world,

Showing of love cannot be legislated and it cannot be self-produced. It is the gift of Clod, poured out on us, not because we deserve it or desire it, but because God loves us. Our part is simply the humble, penitent, yet joyful receiving of the gift, forgiving as we know we have been forgiven, loving as we know we are being loved.

What of the Church in Georgia? Are we a loving Church, an informed Church, a praying Church? To a great extent, each of us must answer for himself, answer to God, in the deepest honesty of which he is capable.

It seems that we here in Georgia are being allowed an opportunity that apparently is lost to many of our brethren elsewhere. Some of the best-informed opinions tell us that we are several years behind in the development of violence and irreversible polarization. If this is so, let us sieze it as a God-given opportunity to be the Church in its full sense. Let each of us make as his own the brief prayer, “Revive Thy Church, beginning with me.”

We are seriously hampered in doing God’s work in our diocese by a shortage of money. It the true that we are a relatively small diocese, and that we have nearly twice as many missions as parishes. What is more significant is that the general level of giving, in parishes and missions alike, is woefully low. Our people have the capacity to support the work of the Church so that we could work with effectiveness and dignity where we now operate of so marginal a budget that long-range planning and apostolic outreach are impossible.

Time does not permit me to catalogue our lost opportunities and our areas of ineffectiveness but as samples let me mention two specifics, one rather tiny, the other tremendous. For the coming General Convention, we have budgeted an expense allowance of $300 per delegate. Realistically, the expense can be expected to be at least $100 more than that allowance. A small thing, but just not right.

I wish I could speak – and it would be with anguish – about clergy salaries. Parenthetically I note that we generally use the word `stipend’, which I suppose seems more genteel or ‘spiritual’; unhappily, the Latin root from which this word comes means ‘a gift donation given in small coin’!

But the other specific I mention, where we are hurting the work of the Church; is in the area of the education of clergy. We cannot support our seminarians as we should, but what is possibly more serious, we need to enable our clergy to have refresher courses, and to take advantage of the many opportunities they have, and which they need so desperately to replace in their minds and souls the resources they are called to give out so constantly and generously. Parishes sometimes can enable their clergy to do this, but missions simply cannot. Diocesan funds need to be available for this purpose, and that they are not means that our clergy are being denied aid they genuinely need.

Examples of real needs could be multiplied. It is my hope that stewardship can be made a matter of high priority, and a program to further this will be proposed to this convention. To this end I believe we need professional advice. To reject this in favor of a do – it yourself plan is to reject the standards we apply elsewhere, namely, the employment of t lie best qualified people to do specialized jobs.

At the same time, let us have no illusions. No plan to inculcate the principles of Christian stewardship will succeed unless it comes from people who are seeking a deeper commitment to God. I believe we have an opportunity which is, if not unique, at least unusual, and it may be an eleventh – hour opportunity. If the Church is not in a position to act aggressively and with real faith now, we run the risk of becoming an increasingly small and ineffective ghetto that soon will lose its chance to lead and to inspire. We still have an opportunity. To meet the opportunity we must examine our attitudes and our programs alike. We must examine our attitudes and our programs alike. We must be open to change and to growth, but we must adhere to eternal things and not fall into the trap of assuming that all change is for the better.

God is still the Ruler and Judge of the universe, and He still is your Savior and mine. Still, he calls us to cooperate with Him – a wonderful and a humbling thing -and still He gives us the terrifying choice between obedience and disobedience. He never said that we had to succeed. He did say that we must be loyal.

Lift up your hearts!