Bishop’s Address of 1997


Brothers and Sisters,

We live in exciting times and in troubled times. God has not deserted us. His power is evident among us in many ways and in many localities. What has God done with us this last year?

He sent us a Korean congregation in Hinesville with a pastor who is preparing for ordination as a priest. We will recognize the Episcopal. Central Korean Church under the patronage of St. James, as an organized mission of our diocese at this convention, and introduce the Rev. Daniel Ki Chu1 Lee as their pastor.

The Rt. Rev. Henry I. Louttit, Jr.

St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Richmond Hill, whose new church was blessed less than two years ago, right after I was ordained bishop, has had to double its parish house this year in order to have Christian Education space for its forty young scholars. St. Thomas’, Isle of Hope, upon construction of a spacious new parish hall and parish office complex, remodeled its old parish hall into a Christian Education building that is enviable. It is a parish overflowing with people of all ages and it now has wonderful classroom space as well as a gracious fellowship hall.

All Saints’, Tybee, has broken ground for a building project which will double their parish house space, currently an adapted bungalow, and join it attractively to their church building.

We have ordained two new deacons, Wanda Lucas of St. Francis’, Wilmington Island, and Eddie Adkins of All Saints’, Tybee Island. That brings our diocese to a complement .of 24 vocational deacons, though at least two are being’called by God to new ministries as priests. We have admitted three new postulants preparing to be vocational deacons. I would hope we would eventually have a deacon for every fifty communicants throughout our diocese.

We have four new transitional deacons, or apprentice priests, serving in the diocese. We have accepted four postulants preparing to be priests this year.

We have committed ourselves and started a $140,000 renovation of St. Bartholomew’s, Burroughs, a congregation built by slaves for themselves on Wild Heron Plantation in 1832, and rebuilt after having been blown away in the hurricane of 1896. The current church is on the national register. Its parish hall was built by the Freemen’s Association of the Episcopal Church in the 1870s to teach former slaves to read and write. Descendants of the original converts to Christianity in south Chatham County have kept the faith in Burroughs until this day. We are very thankful for a gift of $14,000 from the people of St. John’s Parish in Savannah towards the preservation of this reminder of our history and the ongoing ministry of the Episcopal Church to African-Americans, started by SPG missionary Joseph Ottolen the in Savannah in 1750.

Its interesting to note that recent discoveries have supported John Wesley’s complaint that he was sent by the SPG to Georgia to preach the Gospel to Native Americans, but found the colonists without pastor and was compelled by the authorities of the colony to minister as rector of Christ Church, which left him no time for the ministry to which he had been commissioned by the Trustees of Georgia. It is important to note also that Bartholomew Zouberbulder, the great rector who planted deep roots for the Episcopal faith in our state, was commissioned by the SPG and the Trustees of Georgia as rector of Christ Church with instructions that he hold Prayer Book worship and preach in French and German, as well as English! The SPG, at Mr. Zouberbuhler’s request, sent Joseph Ottolenghe as a catechist and missionary to African slaves. Mr. Zouberbuhler, after his great ministry at Christ Church, left half of his estate in trust to educate and share the Gospel with the slaves in the Colony of Georgia. Our forefathers in the faith assumed we would be a multi-cultural church in the eighteenth century, and although we have missed a lot of opportunities, we are today a multi-cultured diocese.

We believe we will fund a screen enclosure over our swimming pool at Honey Creek, which will protect campers and staff from the biting black flies that plague the beautiful marsh. The Conference Center Commission still needs funding to repave the entrance road, replace several air Conditioning units, and provide some meeting rooms for small groups, as well as redoing several roofs. We are thankful for Charles and Dot Hay, who have managed Honey Creek these last seven years, and instigated our very successful Environmental Education Center that serves schools from throughout Georgia. This program generates income which helps us keep good staff and broadens the financial base from which we fund maintenance and operations. Under Dot and Charles, we also obtained a contract to host the Elder Hostel, sponsored by Georgia Southwestern University. Dot and Charles Hay have announced they will be retiring the end of this year, so we will be seeking a new conference center director during this coming year.

We come to the end of an era at this Convention as our faithful editor of The Church in Georgia, Father Bill Daniels, retires. Father Daniels has put out our diocesan paper for eighteen years, giving him the longest tenure in diocesan history, and making him the dean of Episcopal Church editors across the country. A newspaperman by training, he has not only edited our paper, but has tried to encourage each parish to use the local media in ways that would let our counties know that we are alive and well and serving Christ among them. We know Father Daniels will continue to serve the diocese and its people as long as God grants him strength. This bishop and Father Daniels did not always think alike, but I want to vouch for Father Daniels’ loyalty and professional integrity concerning this diocese and this bishop. Father Daniels is interested in encouraging local historians to write the histories of our congregations before the great stories of theft past are lost. Some few of our congregations have excellent histories, but I am praying that Bill can lead more of our congregations to work to preserve the stories of our ministry in those congregations.

In order for this bishop and diocese to function, we are dependent on funding from each of our congregations. In 1996, we had an excellent year, with minimal shrinkage, because parishes such as St. Andrew’s, Douglas, All Saints’, Thomasville, Good Shepherd, Pennick and St. Mary Magdalene’s, Louisville shared their good year by giving the diocese more than they had pledged, which balanced out a few congregations that found themselves in trouble. St. Patrick’s, Albany, for instance, found that an engineering error had been made when the building was built more than thirty years ago and the walls were moving apart so that the roof would fall. The necessary poured concrete pillars to reinforce the walls and roof were an unplanned $28,000 capital outlay. Such things beyond our planning do occur and luckily, in a family, other members of the diocese can pick up their share through the blessings they have received. I cannot say how much I appreciate the eleven churches – Calvary, Americus; St. Anne’s, Tifton; Trinity, Statesboro; Annunciation, Vidalia; St. Peter’s, Savannah; Holy Trinity, Blakely; St. Richard’s, Jekyll Island; Grace Church, Sandersville; All Saints’, Tybee Island; St. Jaynes’ Quitman; Holy Angels’ Pooler – who, not receiving any diocesan subsidy, have accepted theft full asking for this coming year. A number of others improved their percentage of giving this year, such as St. Alban’s, Augusta, Our Savior, Martinez, St. Mark’s, Brunswick, Christ Church, St. Mary’s, St. Andrew’s, Douglas, Christ Church, Dublin, St. Philip, Hinesville, Christ Church, Savannah, St. John’s, Savannah, St. Michael and All Angels, Savannah and Church of the King, Valdosta. Of course, some like St. Patrick’s, will not be able to meet the asking this year, and others chose other priorities.

But it is not just congregational pledges that enable our diocese to serve Christ. People are our prime gift. Perhaps the most exciting news m our diocese is the work of Deacon James M. Parker of Moultrie, who volunteered the time to work to organize a new congregation in fast-growing Lee County just north of Albany. The vestry and rector of St. Patrick’s had called my attention to the growth right beyond their doorstep on my first visit to their congregation. To my surprise, they said, “Bishop, you know how much we need more members, but there is no way we can incorporate and serve the number of new people moving into Lee County that should be served by the Episcopal Church. The diocese needs to help us do that. We do need to bring some of them into St. Patrick’s, but the diocese can reach many more.” The vestry and rector of St. Paul’s Parish here also affirmed the assessment of the leaders of St. Patrick’s, but the diocese – that’s you and me – has no flexible funds for such mission opportunities, and as a diocese, we have for a number of years, been frozen by the fear that if we started another congregation we would have another mission to subsidize. Into this scenario walked a friend and fellow worker, Deacon James M. Parker, who told me he thought he could start a church. After researching several possible counties, some of which could support a new Episcopal congregation, we agreed on Lee County as being the most advantageous. Deacon Parker said, “How do we start?” I remember that Father Carter had brought a program back from the Diocese of Idaho a number of years ago that involved a phone campaign to locate potential members. He presented it to a clergy conference during Bishop Shipps’ episcopate but there had been no interest. To make a long story short, in November on one weekend, Deacon Parker, with volunteers, made 1,800 phone calls and located 240 families interested in our church. Unfortunately, neither the bishop nor the deacon had thought about how to follow up on such a large number of interested families. Well, we now have between 35 and 40 committed families out of the 50 we want to have before we start Sunday worship on Palm Sunday. For the purpose of a vision for the diocese, I will return to this story later – but note, there are plenty of folk in most counties that are not currently active in a church who would consider following Christ in the Episcopal Church if we are willing to invite them and let them in. Pray for Deacon Parker and the Lee County folk who are working on our newest congregation to be. Note, we want it to start with enough people that they can continue to grow and serve, rather than struggle for survival.

Many of our congregations have studied and prayed about the possibility of mutual recognition between the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and the Episcopal Church, which might provide a witness to our oneness in Christ and strengthen our ministry as we agree to share resources in ministry and mission. We welcome Bishop Ronald Warren, the bishop of Lutherans in our area. I hope you’ll get to know this faithful Christian leader and friend.

And now I would like to move to thinking about the mission for the future of our diocese, which is basically 69 congregations and this bishop.

Last year, after completing my first visit to each of our congregations, I told you that, though many of our congregations are small, thirty or less people worshipping together on a normal Lord’s Day – that almost all of our congregations are doing some ministry in Christ’s name in their county that I would not be done by other Christian Churches in that county if we weren’t there. We have, as a communion, really learned a lot about serving others, particularly those people that are in need. My second series of visitations to your congregations has confirmed my positive impression about our imagination in the service of others. I told some of those stories last year; tonight, I will share with you just one. That’s the imagination of a small parish, St. Paul’s, Savannah. This parish has become partners in a project to restore an abandoned and partially bunt convent, once belonging to the Sisters of the Poor in their neighborhood, as housing for people with limited incomes. This is a 4-1/2 million dollar project, which will not only serve people who need decent housing, but also will bring new life into their neighborhood. They were prepared for this partnership venture by some previous attempts to serve in their neighborhood, in which they thought they had failed, but during which they both developed the know-how and the friends to be ready for this opportunity.

At my first Convention, I shared my concern with you about how to get stable pastors, that’s pastors who would stay awhile and love folk in our county-seat congregations and in our inner-city congregations. Last year, I continued to report that we need to use our imaginations to guarantee the continuation of ministry in our family-sized congregations, those congregations that average less than fifty people on a normal Sunday. Congregations that size have a financial base that will not support a full time pastor, and thus we need to find a way to continue ministry that does not require a full time pastor, or has some other way of not requiring a subsidy from people beyond the congregation. The problem became clearer when I asked myself this year, for the first time, how many salaries we have for ‘pastors for the 34 missions. The diocesan mission budget includes enough money to fund 4-1/2 priests at the minimum salary. Taking those funds and joining them with local pledges, we actually have 8 full time stipendary priests serving our 34 missions. The 35 parishes employ 45 full time priests for their ministries. In addition, we have 7 retired priests and 10 bi-vocational priests, those are priests who make a living some other way, covering 17 congregations. Eleven congregations are covered by the 8 full time stipendary priests. Two more missions are covered by rectors of nearby parishes in their spare time. Four are covered most of the time by supply priests. As we look into the future, aging and job changes loom, so the issue of how we can supply ordained ministry and pastoral ministry in these congregations continues to be a serious problem.

I hope this Convention will go on record that it is our intention to provide ways for each of our congregations to continue to minister in Christ’s name as long as we have local conununicants who wish the congregation to serve in Christ’s name.

Your bishop, with your Standing Committee, our Commission on Ministry, and our Diocesan Council, have been struggling to develop a diocesan mission strategy and policies to provide the leadership necessary, both lay and ordained, to continue and improve our ministry in each congregation into the new millennium. To do this, we need to strengthen our congregations and to grow.

I intend to challenge each of our mission and parish vestries to pray about what God is calling them to do. In many, if not all places, we have got to learn that the parish ministry cannot be done by paid staff. We have to use the gifts of all our members, in both the nurturing and priestly ministry to the members of the congregation, and in the diaconal service of the congregation in Christ’s name to those in desperate need in our counties. One way to do this is to learn from the mutual ministry model. I do ask you to listen carefully to Bishop Ray at this Convention, and to ask him questions about the experiences of our brothers and sisters in the Diocese of Northern Michigan. Ms. Joy Fisher of our Standing Committee, Dr. Pasto of Trinity Church, Cochran, Father Tonge and Father Harris, have gone, on our behalf to visit Northern Michigan, and see their program of mutual ministry working in their congregations. Graduating senior seminarian, Judy Jones, has similarly, gone and worked in Nevada, to see the model they have developed. I .do hope that this Convention will commit us to developing a trained committee to work with congregations wishing to pursue the development of the ministry of all their members, called “mutual ministry”.

God has gotten my attention this year, but with an unexpected insight. We have congregations growing against demographic statistics which we thought made it impossible for the Episcopal Church to grow. When I was elected, I thought only 4 to 6 of the missions in our diocese were in situations in which growth was possible. But lots of our parishes were in good situations and they also showed no growth. And then several parishes and missions are growing against my expectations. Thinking about these and the Lee County phone campaign and the coming together of the people that are going to be the Lee County congregation has caused me to know tonight that. most of our congregations can grow – the techniques are available. They have been proved in Arkansas and in Tifton, Swainsboro, and Waycross. What is missing is not the ability to grow, but the desire. I am afraid that we are too comfortable as we are and that we have been brought up in a myth that nobody else would be comfortable being an Episcopalian.

Unfortunately, in many places, we are rapidly aging, so that we really have only two choices, new members or dying out. But much more important than the question of us dying, is that Christ has called us, he has blessed us, and he is sending people to us to be made members of this body. How can we turn them away?

I hope this Convention will support the development of a Commission on Church Development that will be available to provide assistance and training to any congregation that wants to grow. Fathers Tonge, Paradise, and Alford, are in the process of being trained by the Institutes of Congregational Development at Sewanee, Seabury-Western and General Seminary. Deacon James Parker of Moultrie and Father Veale and Father Bullion are planning to attend the Institutes this coming summer. Graduating seminarian Joan Kilian has worked with the leader in church planting in the Diocese of Arkansas during her senior year. We have a number of people who are interested in serving in this area
To provide the training necessary, and to provide informed and equipped ministries, lay and ordained, for the future, the Diocesan Council, under the leadership of Mrs. Wanda Elms of St. Paul’s, Albany, and Ms. Cathy Nicholson of St. John’s, Bainbridge, has developed a Discipleship Program, which we believe will start offering Saturday class opportunities in four areas of our diocese next fall. All courses will be open to anyone interested as people choose what they need for their ministry or their interest. These offering are meant to compliment and enrich EFM or some other basic survey of our faith. I hope this Convention will encourage our members to take advantage of this opportunity and to use their imaginations and interests to stimulate other course offerings in the future. I, with Wanda and Cathy, are aware that there are lots of courses and materials available, but we do not have time to appraise them or to put them in logical order for use in our diocese.

We need a person to organize the Discipleship Program, a Commission on Development of Mutual Ministry, and a Commission on Church Development. Thus, I hope this Convention will support my attempt to employ a part-time staff person as Ministry Development Officer, to be funded this year from outside the operating budget. This person would research resources and take over the administrative responsibilities in our thOcese for efforts in educating and empowering the ministry of our members, lay and ordained.

The Standing Committee, the Commission on Ministry, and the bishop, believe we need three kinds of people to be priests to pursue the opportunities we have before us in this diocese. We need congregational pastors. These are the people who have the gifts to work well with a congregation in maintaining its community-and ministry. The problem is we need 30 of those that are able to do this and make their living some other way (we call these bi-vocational priests). I ask you to start praying for these vocations.

We need 3 persons a year who desire to do this ministry full time with a stipend. (The Episcopal Church will need, because of age, to replace 5,000 priests in the next fifteen years!) The shortage of priests who can relocate to fill stipendary jobs has already arrived in many dioceses.

We need at least 8 respite priests. These priests would be diocesan nonstipendary priests, available to fill in for priests in congregations with only one pastor, when that priest is representing the diocese in leading conferences, or at conferences on the weekend. They would also provide time for pastors when they are recreating with their families. Respite priests are necessary to keep our pastors healthy and energized. They would serve without honorarium, but congregations would cover travel costs. Thanks to Christ Church, Savannah and St. Mark’s, Brunswick, we have 4 priests who can be called on for respite care in their areas, and Father Carter serves on Sundays as a respite priest throughout the diocese.

And then, we need at least 4 “Church Starters”. The Evangelical Lutheran Church has done much research which shows that the gifts to start and call together a new congregation require very special gifts and training. Our Southern Baptist fellow Christians and sometime competitors laugh at us, because we think that they became big by growing little churches to be big churches, but they know that new churches reach new people much more easily than established congregations can incorporate new people. Somehow we Episcopalians are afraid that if we start a new church it might keep somebody from being available to be a member in our church. Whereas the facts indicate that people are much more likely to become interested in a congregation of a church where some growth is happening in Christ and in his service. It is the experience of those who have observed carefully, that a new start not only generates new people for that congregation but normally encourages some other people to join nearby congregations. The field is ripe. The Lord has placed us where there are lots of spiritually hungry people and he has even been sending them into our churches, but we often don’t see them much less receive them.

In order to start churches and enable some of our congregations that choose so to do, to organize in order to grow and have adequate and attractive facilities where they can be seen, requires money that is not in the current diocesan budget, so I would like this Convention to charge the bishop to name a committee to look at our opportunities in the areas in our diocese and come to the next Convention with a plan detailing ways for us to move and grow in educating leaders, lay and ordained, and to assist congregations in having the facilities they need to be poised for ministry in the next millennium, and to include the ways and means of raising the necessary capital to implement it.


Whereas the Right Reverend Henry I. Louttit in his address to this 175th Convention of the Diocese of Georgia has invited us to join him in a continually renewing vision for this diocese that requires courage, imagination and the support of ministry at all levels; and

Whereas the work of Father Bill Daniels and Charles and Dot Hay which has been offered to the diocese with loyalty and commitment and is a fitting example of those very attributes; and

Whereas the Bishop has called us to join him in continuing the ministries done in Christ’s name that are especially ours and which meet needs that would otherwise go unmet in our surrotmding communities; and

Whereas the Bishop has called us to pray for the growth of Mutual Ministry in utilizing the gifts and talents of all the baptized and to raise up a committee to develop and direct our mutual ministry throughout the diocese; and

Whereas the accomplishment of mutual ministry needs an educated and trained body of disciples; and

Whereas the growth of the body of Christ will require the development of new and improved models for congregations; and

Whereas this vision of mutual ministry, discipleship training, and new models for congregational life call for specific and targeted leadership; therefore

Be it resolved, that this 175th Convention of the Diocese of Georgia

— Affirm the creation of a part-time position for a diocesan Ministry Development officer,
— Affirm the Bishop’s desire to provide way for each congregation to continue their unique ministries,
— Endorse the establishment of a Commission on Church Development,
— Endorse the establishment of a Mutual Ministry Committee,
— Encourage all the baptized to educate themselves and support participation in the Discipleship Program; and

Be it further be it resolved, that Father Bill Daniels be thanked for his 18 years of service to the diocese through his work on The Church in Georgia and be named editor emeritus; and

That Charles and Dot Hay be thanked for their work in bringing the Camp and Conference Center forward into full use by the diocesan family and as a ministry shared with many from Georgia and beyond.

Submitted by the Committee on the Bishop ‘s Address