Bishop’s Address of 1986

The Rt. Rev. Harry Woolston Shipps
Given at St. Paul’s Episcopl Church, Albany, Georgia
February 6, 1986

Harry Woolston ShippsIt is a special pleasure to greet this 164th Diocesan Convention in Albany, Georgia, the city in which I began my ministry 28 years ago. Especially it is an honor to do so in this venerable parish, scene of many happy memories for me. and the parish home for many dear friends. In 1960 while Vicar of St. Mark’s here, I attended, in St. John’s Moultrie, the ordination of the present Rector of this parish, the esteemed and now senior active priest of our diocese. Fr. John L. Jenkins.

Twenty-eight years is but the twinkling of an eye to God, but for us it is a significant portion of our lives. People are born: are schooled, marry and have children in that time. Others die. In many ways the world and the Church were quite different in 1958. In other ways they remain much the same. Our ministry continues with the same basic focus – to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people in south Georgia. To do so. the basic tool is still our commitment to the faith as this Church has received the same; the faith once delivered to the saints. One priest in Georgia has written:

“There is a wonderful vitality about New Testament Christianity. In spite of human faults and failures, the New Testament sings with enthusiasm, initiative, drive and creativeness. What is the reason for this vitality? Many would agree that the early church lived with a strong sense of certainty.” [Fr. Charles Hay]

“Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again”; “This is eternal life; that they know you the only True God, and Jesus Christ whom ‘you have sent”. They lived constantly in the light of this one great certainty. Can we Episcopalians in south Georgia,few in number, go out to those who know him not with this same sense of certainty and knowing? We can! We can make the year 1986 a real year for Mission, Evangelism and Renewal.

For Missions: To develop a clear strategy for the development of our mission congregations, those present and those to come.. We are in large measure a missionary diocese.. Decision about when and where to begin new missions and how to assist the missions we have, is a major part of my episcopal ministry. I have charged the Mission Development Commission to provide guidelines and counsel to me. In “sun belt” Georgia we are blessed with a lovely land and a growing population. Our mission opportunities are ever before us. An estimated 40% of the population is unchurched. The Christianity we offer through Anglicanism is, we believe; a wonderful alternative to splinter sects and fundamentalism and guilt trips. Furthermore; and more importantly: we believe it is a part of that God-giveness we call Catholic and Apostolic. We are, indeed, earthen vessels. It is the treasure we carry that gives our mission its authenticity. Indeed., we have a goodly heritage to share.

Evangelism: To be an evangel, bearer of the Good News is according to the catechism, the ministry of every baptized Christian. Most clergy need to develop further skills in the gospel outreach. Most laity must overcome self-consciousness and timidity in speaking of the faith that animates them.. I have asked our Evangelism Commission to create imaginative new programs, seminars, and other occasions of teaching for the ministry of witness and evangelism for clergy and laity. They are to utilize opportunities provided by the Province and national Church as well as originating programs locally. And all this to be developed in a way thoroughly consistent with our Anglican Tradition.

Renewal: I received encouragement from the 1985 Diocesan Convention to proceed on an exciting four-day enterprise known as “The Bishops’ Crusade”, after that which took place in 1965 under Bishop Albert R. Stuart. I have invited 12 bishops from Maine to Florida, literally, to lead, in 12 communities of our diocese next October, a three-day teaching mission. The Right Reverend John M. Allin, the newly retired Presiding Bishop, will commission the twelve in a diocesan inaugural service on 13 October. Then it is my hope that this crusade will result in a number of new strengths and dimensions for the mission of the diocese – demonstrating to these 12 communities our interest in spreading the Gospel, making it clear that the Episcopal Church is, in fact, a viable option in communities, to people that scarcely know that we exist. Furthermore, our own confidence and knowledge of the faith should be enhanced along with a deeper personal commitment.

Our Renewal Commission is charged with the responsibility for putting this program in place but they cannot do it without your participation. I ask each of you to make yourself available to the local committee for service. A number of committees in each of the twelve communities, from transportation, to promotion, to follow-up are essential for the fulfillment of the crusade goals.

So much of our missionary and nurturing efforts in the diocese are dependent upon our corporate good Christian stewardship. We have frequently, at several diocesan levels, adopted the tithe as the norm for Christian giving. Individually, we need now to implement the tithe, or to begin now an active five year program that will culminate in each person tithing. Armed with a strong faith commitment we can do it. I witness to you my own tithe. It is, ironically, my easiest discipline. Our discipleship cannot be partial or conditional. Belief leads to faith. Faith leads to obedience.

We begin 1986 with our new Presiding Bishop and Primate. Bishop Browning, in time, will make his pastoral visit to the Diocese of Georgia. I look forward to that occasion as well as working with him for the balance of my episcopal ministry. He has a strong vision of ministry and mission for the Episcopal Church worldwide. He has called us to a ministry of compassion, well proclaimed in his inaugural sermon last month.

In accordance with the canons of the Episcopal Church, I am to lay before you annually a statistical record of my ministry for the preceeding year. I do this in the form of the reports that have been or will be printed in the Church In Georgia and in the forthcoming 1986 Diocesan Journal.

Finally, I appreciate your goodness! I hope you perceive my style of episcopacy as that of being the lead-servant of our Lord in this diocese to enable your servant ministry. Outside Georgia I seek to take you with me (or rather, I seek to “be Georgia”) as I participate in the episcopal role at the provincial and national levels. I endeavor always to listen to counsel offered to me from any quarter. I seek to serve the Lord God and his people in south Georgia as I see the Light. To better enable me to do this, I ask your continued prayers and support.

— AMEN —



Our bishop in his address reminds us that the basic focus of our ministry is “to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people in south Georgia”.

In accordance with this focus he has called us to a year of Mission, Evangelism and Renewal. The appropriate diocesan committees are charged with the planning and implementation of these three themes. He also reminds us that they cannot implement his vision unless we, the clergy and lay of this diocese, are willing to commit our time, talent and treasure.

We rejoice in his vision and call to commitment and we thank him for his leadership as our lead-servant to enable us in our servant ministry.

We do urge him, as he goes forth to represent us at the provincial and national levels, to be just who he is. Coming from the sovereign state of Chatham, if he tries to be the Diocese of Georgia in all of our diversity, we would surely fear for his sanity.

We ask God’s blessing on Robert and Evelyn Hunt and thank them for their ministry to us at Honey Creek. We ask this diocese for their prayers as the Conference Center Commission searches for a replacement.

Finally, we thank God that he has called Harry W. Shipps to be our bishop and we pledge to him our commitment as servants of Jesus Christ in 1986.

George M. Maxwell +