Bishop’s Address of 1896

Address of the Bishop.

The Rt. Rev. Cleland Kinloch Nelson

To the Clergy and Laity of the Seventy-fourth Annual Convention of the Diocese of Georgia:

Grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

I have to announce, to the great sorrow of us all, the decease of the Rev. William Eston Eppes, a well known and revered Priest of this Diocese.

The Rev. William Eston Eppes was born in Leon County, Florida, near Tallahassee, on the 5th of July, 1830. Having possessed the advantages of refinement and culture in his home, had a good classical education from his father, Mr. Francis Eppes, an accomplished scholar and man of letters, a grandson and pupil of Thomas Jefferson, he subsequently attended the school of Mr. William Bogart, who at that time taught in Tallahassee. At nineteen years he was sent to Ravenscroft College, Columbia, Tenn. He graduated at the University of Georgia, in the year 1852. He was admitted to Deacon’s Orders at S. Augustine, in 1854. He was ordained to the Priesthood by Bishop Rutledge, of Florida. Shortly thereafter he married Miss Emily Bancroft, whose children are three sons and three daughters. His first Parish was Monticello, Fla. For a few months he labored in Arkansas, near Camden, but returned to Monticello in 1861. Thence he removed to Clarksville, where he ministered at Grace Church for two and one-half years, to January, 1864, when he returned to Monticello, and for two or three years was the only missionary in the whole middle portion of Florida, from Monticello to Jacksonville. In 1867 he took charge, as Rector, of S. John’s, Jacksonville, with sixty communicants, and in two years’ time he left it with two hundred.

In 1869, Mr. Eppes removed to the Rectorship of S. James’, Marietta, which he kept for five years. From Marietta he went to Clarksville, and joined Gainesville to his other charges. Thence to Cave Spring in 1876. In 1878 he opened a Mission in Cedartown, where he ministered, and also at Dalton, Kingston and Cartersville.

In the fall of 1879 he took charge of S. Mary’s, Athens, and held therewith the Churches at Madison and Greensboro, up to 1881. Illness and death in his family caused his removal to Clarksville, but he still ministered to S. Mary’s, Athens, until 1883, when he confined his work to Clarksville, Mt. Airy and Toccoa, where he held the first Church service, and to Gainesville.

He was Rector of S. Paul’s Church, Albany, from December, 1887, to July, 1895, after that date returning to his home near Clarksville.

He accepted general Mission work in North Georgia in January, 1896. He took up temporary residence at West Point, and ministered there and at Newnan and LaGrange until April 5th, Easter Day, 1896, the Morning Service of which day was his last, when he removed to Clarksville, upon the suggestion of his physicians, his health being too much impaired to undertake any regular duty.

Mr. Eppes’ second wife was Miss Augusta J. Kollock, who survives him.

After a brief illness he passed to his rest in the house of his mother-in-law, Mrs. George Kollock, near Clarksville, on S. Mark’s Day, April 25, 1896. His burial occurred on Monday, April 27th, in the Chapel of the Holy Cross, near Clarksville, and the cemetery attached, Rev. R. M. W. Black assisting me in the Service. The congregation present bore ample testimony to the love and affection of this dear servant of God, who had so often and for so long a time ministered to them in things spiritual.

Let us pray.
Collect for All Saints.
First Burial Collect.

You are aware that we are assembled earlier this year than usual under our rules. The call so to do is made under the resolution of this body, upon my request, at the last Convention, in order to enable me to attend the Lambeth Conference. By a miscalculation I conceived it to fall this year instead of 1897. I did not feel that, under the circumstances, I was authorized to return to the old date for the holding of this Convention, it having been once determined to put it on the 6th of this month. As the date of the next Lambeth Conference is fixed, I have accepted the invitation of His Grace, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to attend, and ask that our next Annual Convention be held early in May, next year, also, for the purpose already mentioned.*

Reviewing the work of the Church in our Diocese for the past twelve months, I am free to say that I am in the main encouraged by the tangible results. We have not it is true, opened so many new missions or built so many churches as have been reported in previous years; but we have endeavored to strengthen the missions, to clear off debts from the churches, and to fill them with devout people, who appreciate the Church’s Apostolic order and reverent worship.

It has more than once been intimated that we are building more churches than we can take care of. I deny the allegation, and declare that there have been no longer vacancies in any of our missions than in several of our self-governing and self-supporting parishes; and, had all of our parishes come up to the full measure of their obligations and promises with promptness, even the temporary halt in our advance would not have occurred. By altering the appointments of some of the clergy, and by a new grouping of missions, as well as by short lapses in the incumbency, we have gone through the year, paying our missionaries with reasonable promptness, and the report of the Treasurer of Missions will, I believe, gratify the most exacting.

It will be admitted, I apprehend, that our country is passing through one of the worst financial periods of its history, and from year to year since I have been laboring among you the condition has grown worse and not better. If, under these circumstances, our work has prospered, as the reports will show, I leave you to imagine what progress the Diocese of Georgia would make in times of any ordinary prosperity. If I, who have not only the oversight, but the chief responsibility, to the missions and to the clergy in charge of them, feel encouraged to continue, and do not faint or weary, it will not, I imagine, be adjudged an undue expectation that the clergy in the self-supporting parishes, and the laity who love the Church, should sustain my hands.

In this connection I must repeat a statement, made more than once, and the truth of which is obvious, that our base of supplies is the large Church centers. These, as we all know, are taxed with the care of local missions and interests ; and part of the general missionary work of the Diocese is in some of our cities. Now, it must be apparent, that unless our strong Church centers supply more means than are necessary to carry on work begun in their locality, or if the Mission Board of the Diocese is to bear the expense of local missions, then the general missionary work of the Diocese reaps absolutely no profit from those churches upon which, in the natural order of things, we are forced to depend. I invite your examination of the receipts and expenditures of the Treasurer of Missions to illustrate this statement, and to afford a reason for the Convention making an urgent request and recommendation in the line of my remarks.

Beginning with our See City it ought to be a cause of lawful pride and undisguised delight that Church work under the Cathedral system in Atlanta has been a pronounced success. Under the truly admirable administration of the Dean, the Cathedral has, for the first time in years, extinguished a considerable part of the principal of its bonded debt, and provided for the interest on the rest, beside paying for the last three years regularly its various Diocesan assessments, and sustaining its credit, restored with much labor and judgment. To those who know the history of this Parish, such results, in so short a time, will appear marvelous.

S. Luke’s Church, under its efficient Rector is not only winning souls in numbers, but encourages our expectation of a better financial status from this time on.

The people of West End, not content with being a missionary attachment, have zealously and successfully forged ahead. They began at the right end by securing a godly and active Priest, whose stipend they have met promptly, and they have built one of the prettiest churches in the Diocese on a most eligible lot, incurring an indebtedness of only $2,000, which they expect to liquidate in a few years. I had the very great satisfaction of opening this house for divine worship on the eve of SS. Philip and James Day, in the presence of Rev. Wiley J. Page, Priest in charge, and Rev. Allard Barnwell of the Cathedral and an enthusiastic congregation. I then and there confirmed fourteen people as the first fruits of the Church in this stage of its development.

At Hapeville, a suburb of Atlanta, Christ Church is paid for and consecrated.

At East Point, another very pretty church is nearly completed, and most of the money secured.

The church at Newnan is paid for and ready for consecration, and several others will soon be relieved of small obligations which they now carry.

A city Missionary has been employed the past year, and his stipend chiefly paid out of funds provided by the Churches in Atlanta; and, for the first time in the history of the city, we have had sufficient provision made for the Church people, who now number one-fifth of our whole constituency in the Diocese.

In addition to these material advances we have succeeded in establishing what we conceive to be an effectual starting-point of all spiritual work. The distinguishing characteristic of the Church is a body whose members believe in prayer. Acting upon the theory that we have no right to expect God’s blessing upon our efforts unless we worship Him and pray to Him; and that a prayerless Bishop and prayerless Diocese deserve to fail, we have established and sustained, through the cordial co-operation of the four local clergy of Atlanta and the Archdeacon, a daily Eucharist with Morning and Evening Prayer in the Cathedral. Men may think as they will of the advisability of these frequent opportunities; we, on our part, are convinced of the importance of them, not so much from the results—although they have not been small—as from the Divine promises, which are sure to be fulfilled in their season.

In many other places there are tokens of successful progress. At Albany the new S. Paul’s Church is an ornament, and a delight to the many zealous Churchmen of that city.

At Athens a handsome stone church is built nearly to the wall-plate, and there are means in hand to put on the roof.

S. Peter’s Church, Rome, which for more than a year looked like a ruin, is now under roof. The great pleasure in contemplating its completion is only exceeded by the gratifying circumstance that, in the final effort to enclose the church, the townspeople of all denominations in that city were united and gave valuable service.

At Toccoa a church building is begun, and at Washington, in place of the building destroyed by fire last Spring, a new and attractive church is completed upon a far more eligible lot.

Most of the means are in hand for the building of a church at Fitzgerald, the new Georgia town. A House of Prayer for our colored people, on the Little Ogeechee River, will soon be erected out of funds supplied in answer to a brief printed appeal through the Church papers.

I might mention many other encouraging features of structural work, but these will suffice to show that not even the stringency of the times, so often quoted, can prevent the expression of that loyalty which is more lasting than fair words and polished phrases.

In the near future we expect to build at Dublin, Sparta, Cordele and Fort Valley. Four churches have been built the past year; four more are in process, and five projected. In the past four years and a-half we have built twenty churches and chapels, in every one of which the testimony of the Church is heard at stated intervals, and opportunity is given to become familiarized with our incomparable liturgy and reverent worship.

We esteem this no small result of perseverance, as well as, in many instances, sincere desire for the exclusive benefits supplied by the Church. It is distinctly a cause of honorable pride that most of this work has been paid for by the citizens of the several towns, and that the additional missionary enterprise has been accomplished with almost no increase of cost to the Diocese at large.


In most of our Parishes and Missions there is a laudable desire to preserve the Church property, and improve it with as much interest as personal property. The sacred structures, in the greater number of instances, are kept in a constant state of repair. Many of them, like this in which we worship to-day, have undergone important alterations and adornment; and I am happy to say that the obligations incurred in so doing have been, in almost every instance, promptly and satisfactorily met. I take it for granted that the question of fire insurance is settled in the minds of most, for all our Parishes and Churches are well insured, and so are most of the Mission Chapels. There are, however, about fifteen of the latter which are without any insurance policies whatever, the aggregate value of which would not fall short of $9,000. I have, as far as practicable, paid the insurance on many of these buildings, out of a fund in my hands known as the Church Extension Fund; but the demand is greater than I am able to supply, and, in several instances, the people themselves can ill afford to bear the cost. I shall be glad of advice from the Convention on this point, or suggestion as to how this need were best provided.


It is a real obstacle to the progress of the work, and greatly adds to my labors and responsibilities, as well as anxieties, that the various Executive Boards of this Convention so seldom meet together for the transaction of business. It has almost come to be a rule that these bodies assemble but once a year for a hurried meeting in time to prepare their reports for the Diocesan Convention. I understand perfectly the conditions which make these meetings so difficult, but I cannot resist the expression that, while it is to be regretted that anyone who is capable of the duties should not be eligible, the question of attendance should be very seriously considered in filling your Executive Committees. I cannot name one committee in this Diocese which, as a whole, has fulfilled its duties properly during my Episcopate.


It is a pain and mortification to me to see how very little is done in the Diocese of Georgia for the general mission work of the Church. In a few instances large gifts are reported, but these are almost all from a few individuals of means, and the gifts are by no means widespread, either among Parishes or individuals. It has been my constant endeavor not to pauperize the Diocese of Georgia by application to the General Board for assistance in our work, much as we need it and well as it might be applied. Notwithstanding that fact we are to-day the recipients from the Board of not less than $5,000 per annum. Our offerings to that Board fall short of that sum $1,600; so that, instead of being contributors, we are, in fact, beneficiaries of the General Board of Missions. An easy remedy will be found if each Parish and Mission will, every year, regularly take at least one Sunday’s offerings for the General Mission Board, and supplement this by individual pledges and contributions, so that the gifts from each place will be in the proportion of at least one-tenth of the amount which is contributed for Diocesan purposes. This is in line with the resolution, which was passed with great unanimity in the Board of Missions at the General Convention of 1895, and which has been acted upon with the best possible results in some of our weaker Dioceses. At the same time it would not be in the least inappropriate that these pledges be made in open Convention by the clergy and delegates of the several Parishes and Missions, and that a resolution go forth from this body to all those not represented here, urging this matter upon their attention.


However baffled by imperfect successes in the past, I cannot agree to keep silent upon the importance of Christian education in its bearing upon the future of this Diocese. As I have had neither promises nor assistance in this direction for local institutions, I emphasize once more the exceeding great value to us of the University of the South, at Sewanee, Tenn. Brethren, we do not act justly by this institution. As a memorial of Otey, Elliott and Polk, if for no other reason, this University should appeal to the hearts of all Southern Churchmen, and should find a responsive echo in all of us who are heirs of the sacrifices and labors of those and other noble men. But Sewanee can assert her claims upon grounds which more readily reach the sympathies of this practical age. She is to-day doing work nowhere else fulfilled in the South—in her theological training; in her academic department; in her grammar school. She asks for your patronage, that she may verify the assertion of her ability to fit your sons for any vocation in life; and she asks for a share of your benefactions, not so much to enlarge her buildings and extend her plant, as to provide for the many worthy but impecunious applicants, who, in honoring their alma mater, would glorify the sires of our south country. The clergy of this Diocese should feel it their peculiar privilege to keep constantly before their people the work and the needs of this school, from which we, of this Diocese, have already derived great benefit. It is true here, as elsewhere, that much of the means which should go to the extension of Church institutions is diverted to those whose policy is not only different from but contrary to our own. It is a peculiar sort of Churchmanship which will allow men and women to subsidize and endow institutions of other sorts, while our own are in great need of necessary funds. The University of the South challenges comparison and test by results. I urge upon the Churchmen of this Diocese to make themselves familiar with the character of the education there given, and if worthy—as it will be found to be—then to give their hearty and generous support.

I am pleased to report that our little school, named for Bishop Elliott, has been more successful the past year than before, and is gradually winning favor and sympathy. I believe that no better application can be made of the income from our small invested funds than is done in this school in the form of scholarships, the preference only to be given to those who are children of Churchmen.


For anyone who witnesses the operation of hard and stern rules, which keep the little ones out of the Kingdom of Heaven, contrary to the Saviour’s command, it is impossible to conceal the conviction that one of our most important duties in this Diocese is to the young. The command, “Feed my lambs,” is equally imperative with that of “Feed my sheep,” and issued from the same Divine lips. Under the conditions surrounding us it is not sufficient that we should simply baptize the children who are brought to us for the purpose; the clergy should realize that it is a part of their duty and their privilege to bring the little ones into the fold of Christ. To omit the exhortation to parents, provided in the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer is well nigh criminal. Should we not esteem it a delight to look out children to be baptized in our Parishes, and by our kindness and tenderness make them partakers of the blessings promised in that holy Sacrament? Speaking for myself I could not excuse myself from a duty laid upon us by the direct demand of the Master, upon the plea that the child and its parents are not connected with the Church. To whom will they look for light if we, who are the light-bearers, will insist upon keeping our illumination within our own narrow chambers? I take the words, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not,” as a commission to every Priest, to imply that he could do no more pious and charitable work than to admit these little ones, who are most suitable candidates, into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Upon the subject of the Holy Communion, to which I made reference in my last Convention Address, I have something yet to say. Referring to the report of the Committee on the State of the Church, I do insist that whether or not the clergy realize the obligation of celebrating the Holy Communion on every day for which a Collect, Epistle and Gospel are provided, is not the question at issue. My own conviction on this point is clear and emphatic, that with many hundreds of years of usage in favor of it as against a hundred cited by the committee, this is the Church’s clear intention. There have been times within a hundred years when the Holy Communion has been celebrated only once a quarter, and that in a great many places. Shall we imitate this example? There have been times in the history of the Church in America, when male communicants were exceedingly scarce, and it was almost a second wonder to see a man at the Holy Communion at Christmas time. Shall we encourage this laxity, or do we wish to continue such practices in this day of grace and Church-growth, and increased spirituality? There was a time in the history of the Church of England, namely, the Georgian era, when men seemed to have adopted as their motto, “Let the Church hear the State,” and it was a time of great barrenness of religion, and lasted long enough to leave behind it a scar from which the Church has never recovered. Precedents may be found for every species of carelessness in worship and viciousness in morals, but a precedent to be followed by earnest and intelligent Churchmen should be such as not only has age upon it, but also has produced the best possible fruits, and is most strictly in accordance with Apostolic and primitive usage. I will not further argue the duty of frequent celebrations from the theoretical standpoint, nor do I care to place the obligation merely upon the fact that provision is made therefore; but it is perfectly obvious to me that in many Parishes of the Diocese there is a real demand for more frequent celebrations, and the people are not fed as often as they should be with the Sacrament which the Lord Himself has provided for this purpose. Sermons and addresses, and special services, and occasions are made to do duty for that which is by the Master Himself specifically given for constant use and benefit of His children. I say it deliberately and with knowledge that in every Parish in this Diocese, where the so-called custom of monthly Communion is observed, there are people suffering with spiritual hunger; and while I do not for a moment urge Communions beyond the desire and appreciation of the people, we must remember that no man can say that the people do not want more frequent celebrations, until he has distinctly, with earnestness and for a reasonable length of time, set the opportunity before them. It seems to me most natural and reasonable that in all these things the Priest should lead, not follow; that he should raise the standard of desire, of love and of devotion; and most of all, the Priest should know the inestimable value accruing to himself, his Parish and the Diocese from the frequent use of that act of worship and of prayer, which the blessed Master Himself instituted and to which such precious promises are attached.

I cannot conclude these remarks without registering my conviction that by persistence in a custom totally out of accord with the usage of the Church in her very best days, we receive as a part of our punishment slow growth and no advance in many quarters where we have a right to expect progress, and so long as we will prefer our ways to those which the Church, in her combined wisdom has marked out, we shall have failure for our pains.


Next to the particular means by Christ Himself provided in His Word and Sacraments, the most valuable agency for the propagation of the Gospel is indoctrination by word of mouth, line upon line, precept upon precept.

It is this method, rather than fine literary productions, which through all ages has proven most lastingly effective; the examples of apostolic and sub-apostolic men are abundant to show how they taught; the catechetical form is most prevalent among them; indoctrination in a simple way inheres in the commission of our blessed Lord to His Apostles—“make disciples of all nations”—and teaching is explicitly commanded. His own practice in His “sermons “ illustrates and enforces simple, illustrative and pointed teaching.

I would there were more dogmatic teaching instead of the attempted presentation of original views. Let the doctrine and practice be interwoven and you need not fear that the people will regard your preaching as dull because it is dogmatic.

Dogma may be viewed as the skeleton of life. It need not always appear in the exact language of creeds and articles, but we must be sure, and the people must be sure, that the frame work of life does exist, and that every bone and joint and sinew is in place and exercising its proper function.

It is an error to imagine that men do not want doctrinal teaching. Nowhere more than in a country divided among innumerable contending sects is clear, definite, positive Church teaching a desideratum. We need it in the Sunday Schools; it is an essential part of the preparation for Confirmation, and of the weekly routine of the Parish Priest. And here I would urge upon the clergy the utility and advantage of Communicant Classes, meeting weekly or monthly for definite instruction in reference to the Sacrament of the Holy Communion and kindred subjects. Among the Presbyterians and Methodists the weekly class is a power for great good. I doubt if anything so helps to sustain their respective systems as these agencies. They are no novelty in the Church. They are as old as Augustine, Cyprian and Chrysostom. We shall be wise if we restore their use.

Pray accept my advice that in this or some other way you, my reverend brethren, will take the pains persistently to instruct your people to observe the fasts as well as the feasts of the Church, and do not attempt to relax the rules which the Church has given us.

I have observed, with great apprehension of their influence upon our worship, the prevalence of two very bad habits—the neglect of the Church’s explicit order to kneel in prayer, and the departure from the Church by a hasty retreat of those who having received the Holy Communion, utterly disregard the ordinary proprieties of this Holy Feast by leaving the Priest and a few communicants to finish the service.

I do not believe there are two men or women in any of your congregations who would be guilty of this rudeness at a family dinner. Can it be that what is gross impoliteness out of the Church, or en famille, can be construed into a permission in the House of God where all have banqueted at His Table? I appeal to you, who are the ministers of the sanctuary to insist upon the decencies in this matter.

Do not, I beg you, permit the Church’s plain requirements to fall into desuetude because there are few or many who love to have it so, but by private admonition, as well as public exhortation, restore the reverence which is becoming in the assembly of the faithful for the worship of our own Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier.


In addition to the customary routine you will have an opportunity to rejoice over the final adjudication upon a question which has caused great vexation to the Diocese, and to approve the settlement of the issue of many years standing between the Bishop and the Rector, Wardens and Vestrymen of S. Philip’s Church, now the Cathedral of the Diocese.

The position of the Trustee has been completely affirmed and sustained, the Parish has gracefully acquiesced and the bondholders, who have not been paid, are satisfied with their interest and the good faith of the Vestry to meet the principal.

After my consecration I found pending in the Superior Court of Fulton County a suit in equity, instituted by S. Philip’s Parish against my predecessor, involving the legality of certain bonds purporting to be secured by mortgage on S. Philip’s Church, in which cause, after review by the Supreme Court of the State of Georgia, injunction was ordered to issue upon the ground that they were illegal, not having been created with the consent of the Trustee holding the title for the benefit of the Diocese and of the Parish. (See Journal, 1883, page 31.)

On the 16th day of May, 1893, (Journal, page 26) the sanction and consent of the Convention was given to the erection of a Cathedral on the lot of land, in the city of Atlanta, described in the deed, dated February 13, 1847, of Samuel Mitchell to Stephen Elliott, Bishop of Georgia. Subsequently I was appointed, March 9, 1895, as substituted Trustee in the case heretofore mentioned pending in the Superior Court of Fulton County, and subsequently another cause was instituted in that Court by the Parish, for the purpose of having construed the said deed and its rights thereunder determined, in which a decree was rendered adjudicating finally, and forever, that the entire control of this property, vest in me, as Trustee, by virtue of my office and successor of the original grantee at the execution of the deed. And it is now my pleasure to state that all litigation of every sort, kind and description, appertaining to this property, is finally adjudicated and ended, and the property now stands free to be used in conformity to the terms of the deed and the consent given by the Convention, May 16, 1893. I ask leave to submit a copy of the decree to be printed, with this report, in the Journal.

The Committee of Revision will offer you its report which has been prepared at much expense of time and labour. It is worthy of your careful and minute attention. While criticism and debate will be in order, I trust both will be used with judgment. We may not expect to complete the work at this time, but knowing how difficult it is to reconcile and to apply our present body of Canons which have fallen together in the lapse of years, it is greatly to be desired that we adopt the re-arrangement and the more important modifications.

It is apprehended that you will discover very few radical changes, and will be gratified by the simplification and method which the committee has had constantly in view.

And now, beloved of the clergy and laity, I commend you in your deliberations to the guidance of the Eternal Spirit of Truth and Love, praying that you will bear constantly in mind whose business this is in which we are about to engage, and in your words and acts be sober, temperate, charitable and just, as beseems those whose duty and privilege it is to set forward the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church in a manner which no man can rebuke, and by which many may be attracted and held because of an unbroken attachment with the past, our unfeigned love in the present, and our zeal for the future of humanity.

Bishop of Georgia.

*The first Wednesday in May, 1897, will fall on the 5th of the month.