Bishop’s Address of 1985

BISHOP’S ADDRESS TO THE 163rd ANNUAL CONVENTION
The Rt. Rev. Harry Woolston Shipps

My brothers and sisters in Christ, Clergy and Laity

I stand before you and with you as the eighth bishop of this historic Diocese of Georgia.

I am grateful for this episcopal ministry and I pray that it will always be exercised to the greater glory of God and the upbuilding of His Holy Church, the Body of Christ.

Harry Woolston ShippsI want always to distinguish between the high dignity with which I hold this office on the one hand and the very human individual who occupies it on the other hand. I feel confident I will have help from many of you in doing this!

The Seventh Bishop of Georgia, Paul, is a man of God I hold in great esteem. I am privileged to have served under him during his entire episcopacy. We owe much to his constancy in the faith and his wisdom. It is my fervent hope and desire that he will have not only a fruitful ministry in his retirement, but will make himself very available to the Eighth Bishop of Georgia in a ministry of sacramental assistance and counsel.

The Sixth Bishop of Georgia, Albert Rhett Stuart, is why I am in Georgia! I was one of his first seminarians after my naval service was concluded. The tumultuous decade of the 60s brought out his holy and heroic qualities and, outside of my own father, Bishop Stuart was the singular most influential man in my life.

The Fifth Bishop of Georgia, Middleton Stuart Barnwell, was a humble and self-effacing man. He administered the rite of Confirmation to my wife, Louise, at St. Paul’s Church, Savannah, on Maundy Thursday 1954. Many, many things have happened to us in the 31 years that have followed. The world and the Church have changed in so many ways.

The proceeding bishops, Frederick Reese, Cleland Nelson, John Beckwith and Stephen Elliott, are known to me only by name and in history books. I believe they are beholding the events of this convention as members of the Communion of Saints. I trust they are not too bewildered at the proceedings!

Finally, I note the happy coincidence that today is the annual occasion on which the Church honors the Rev’d Thomas Bray, missionary to these parts 290 years ago. This is a happy coincidence, and I will have more to say about missions in a moment.

Let me here mention a few personal notes about myself. Many of you know them already.

My style of decision making is collegial, with the expectation of our then acting resolutely. I commend authentic collegiality to you.

I know that, in diocesan life, we will not all agree on all things. That is all right. But I am impatient with too-frequent reinventions of the wheel and with the practice of trying to fix something which isn’t broken.

With reference to faith and practice in the life of a Christian in the Episcopal Church, I am able to live with some ambiguity and paradox. Indeed, I believe we all must.

Recognizing some admissible ambiguity and paradox in the Church enables us to live a little more relaxed life with one another. I, for one, want to enjoy my Christianity and my episcopal ministry. I want you to, also.

As I begin my ministry as Ordinary of this diocese, I receive from my predecessor, Bishop Reeves, a healthy diocese, a diocese of good faith, a diocese poised, I believe, for yet further growth in the Lord. I am proud of the Diocese of Georgia!

*****

Many of you have asked about my episcopate and whether I dream dreams or see visions. I must answer, “Yes”, for I do have visions and dreams for our diocese. They come from you and from my perception of needs as a result of being a priest within this diocese for 26 years.

First, there are a great many gifts, of charisms, for ministry amongst the 17,000 of us. We, together, must enable their mobiliztion and utilization in a coordinated ministry that goes beyond ourselves (we who are so fortunate) to a society and a world so desperately in need, not only for the Gospel, but in need of a caring ministry that we, as Christians, are impelled to render. Let us find the imagination and the support for such ministries.

Second, if further study and consultation dictates, I would like to begin a process of seeking and selecting a qualified priest who would assist me in an extended ministry to the clergy of the diocese, to their wives and to their children. I believe the leadership of this diocese, human as are all people, want, need and deserve this professional and personalized care.

Pastoral areas I have in mind include:

  • Pastoral counselling for the priest, his wife and his children;
  • A confidante for spiritual guidance, growth and nourishment;
  • Vocation counselling and referral;
  • An advocate in areas of need, such as finance, education and even recreation.

In short, I am proposing a clergy and clergy family support system: a pastor for a parish of well over 200 persons. This in no way substitutes for the Bishop’s ministry, but augments it in many important ways.

A line item in the budget has been requested. I encourage your support and, if given, will seek study, counsel and advice from the Commission on Ministry in the pursuit of this effort to care for our ordained leadership.

Third. Missions. I seek to initiate in 1986, with diocesan-wide planning beginning next fall, a program of intensive mission and evangelism. A “Year of Mission”. A year that will set our feet on a clear and considered pathway of mission program and strategy for at least a decade.

If you approve, I plan to ask the Commission on Mission Development to lead this effort with the support and guidance of other qualified and gifted persons, both within and without the diocese. Perhaps the Commission on Evangelism can play an important role. Possibly a Bishop’s Crusade, as held in 1966, could begin the program dramatically and with fervor.

A clear strategy and methodology of begining new missions; the wisdom or lack thereof of continuing certain old ones; the subsidy and growth goals of missions; and the priests appointed to serve them – these are the cogent areas I identify as needing to be addressed. I present this consideration now with the plan to enlarge upon it at the 1986 convention. Much of the motivation for this comes to me from many of you who have seen the need and have asked that I address it. People ask why are there so many sizable towns in our diocese without an Episcopal presence. It’s far more than a matter of money, although that is part of it. And we, as a diocese, need to focus on mission development, for it is a Gospel imperative!

*****

In accordance with Title III, Canon 18, Section 4 of the Episcopal Church, I an to lay before you annually at convention a statistical record of my ministry for the proceeding year. This I do in the form of the reports that will be or have been printed in the diocesan newspaper and the next diocesan Journal.

*****

There is an area I feel compelled to address. One that is obvious to any observer. A need that will require no funds, no committee; only goodwill.

It is simply the need for all of us to get along better with one another in our parishes and missions. Priests with priests, laity with laity, and more especially, laity with clergy. We become disenchanted with each other so easily. Far too much of our energy and time is then expended on repairing animosities, estrangements and simple hurt feelings.

We are all too human. We all err. We expect far too much from each other; but can we not bear with one another with a great deal more tolerance, understanding and Christian goodwill? St. Paul has much to say about this in several of his epistles, and his guidance is just as applicable to Georgians as it was to the Corinthians and Ephesians. Our unity is indeed fragile, but, oh, so precious.

You are the leadership of this diocese, clergy and lay. I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, go back to your parishes and missions and take the lead in setting an example of parish harmony. Pass the word! Let us put aside feelings that separate. Why? So we can go about the business of building up the Body of Christ. Let a spirit of brotherhood always infect our Vestries and Mission Councils. I appeal to you, my brethren! For Christ’s sake. For the well-being of His Church. So that in reality observers will say, “See those Christians, how they love one another!”

*****

These then are my thoughts and goals as I address you at my first convention as your Diocesan.

I feel confident that we can rise to meet every need. I am among you as one who serves. I invite you to serve with me.

** SHALOM **

 

REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON THE BISHOP’S ADDRESS

The Committee on the Bishop’s Address has as its members, Chris Edenfield (St. Michael’s, Waynesboro), Clayton Penhallegon (St. John’s, Bainbridge), and Robert Carter (Vicar, St. Barnabas’, Valdosta). We wish to record our gratitude for the high honor of reviewing for the convention the 8th Bishop of Georgia’s first address to convention.

Our report has seven points:

  1. We share Bishop Shipps’ esteem for Bishop Reeves and ask that a record of this expression be spread upon the minutes of this convention.
  2. We applaud Bishop Shipps’ definition of a collegial management style, for it will make mutual cooperation and expectations possible. We assume that disagreement, though not encouraged, is also not condemned.
  3. We commend to convention our bishop’s vision of a coordinated ministry to our society and world, and we challenge our commissions and agencies to develop plans for the mobilization of such a ministry.
  4. We commend the clergy and clergy family support system our bishop spoke of and support the calling of a clergy pastor as coordinator of such a system.
  5. We share the bishop’s distress over the animosities and estrangements between priests and priests, laity and laity, and laity and clergy.
  6. We rejoice to hear of the bishop’s dream of a decade of mission development and we move the convention to endorse and encourage our bishop’s program of mission for the diocese. I do make that in the form of a motion, Mr. Chairman.
  7. A final note. SWEEP is an acronym used in the Church today to remind us of the duties and obligations of our baptismal covenant , i.e. to engage in Service,Worship, Education, Evangelism and Pastoral Care.

We find in Bishop Shipps’ address emphasis on service to our society and world, evangelism in a program of mission development and pastoral care as we embrace tolerance, understanding and goodwill toward each other.

In his convention addresses, Bishop Reeves often called us to renewed concerns about worship and education.

We give thanks for the Apostolic Faith held forth in all its fullness by these much—loved apostles, one among us for fifteen years of faithful service, the other taking the helm of this ship in God’s salvation fleet.

In conclusion, we hear our captain sounding the call for all of us to Than our battle stations. The birth of his new ministry should be a true occasion for joy.

Expectations are high!

Respectfully submitted,
Robert Carter +
Chairman

*********************