Bishop’s Address of 1965

The Bishop’s Convention Address
The Rt. Rev. Albert Rhett Stuart

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

I greet you at this 143rd annual Convention of the Diocese of Georgia in the 11th year of this Episcopate with words from the Book of the Revelation of St John the Divine: “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. ” We are here in Glynn County where the Church has been active since the days of General Oglethorpe. We have met in Convention in this area many times, with the hospitality of either St Mark’s Church, Brunswick or Christ Church, Frederica, or both.

In 1958, the last time we were here, both parishes entertained the Convention. This meeting of the Convention finds us for the first time in Jekyll Island, but still as guests of St Mark’s, Brunswick; Christ Church, Frederica; and St Athanasius Mission, Brunswick. We are grateful to these congregations for making the unusual and very splendid arrangements for this Convention. The vitality of these congregations is indicated by the imme- diate prospect of two new missions in this area. St Mark’s, Brunswick has already provided land for one of these missions, and a Priest is expected to begin this pioneer work in the next month. The other mission is on St Simons’ Island, and is seeking recognition at this Convention. These developments, together with the strengthening of the work at St Andrew’s, Darien, under the Rev Alfred P Chambliss; the continuance of the work in Douglas and Hazlehurst, under the direction of the Rev John R Wooley; the new and firm resolve of the Rev T P Martin to lead St Athanasius’ Mission into parish status — all give us cause for rejoicing in the progress of the Church in this Convention.

Looking back on the year, we can be grateful for much that God has done through His Church in the Diocese. The Conference Center, under the leadership of the Rev William L Worrell and Sgt Herman Revis, has shown more than ever before what a vital factor it can be in the utterly necessary work of Christian education. The Center is available to all people of the Diocese — clergy, men, women, young people, and children. We should increase the facility to include a Recreation Building and a Staff House. The Good Shepherd School in Augusta has for more than twenty years been a valuable agency of Christian education in that city. This year the school gave its most effective witness to Our Lord in accepting any student who qualified for admission.

In April God gave us five Priests in an impressive ordination at Christ Church, Savannah. In June, by ordination, we received four Deacons — making the largest number of ordinations in one year in this Episcopate. In addition to these men, God sent us nine Priests by Letter Dimissory to give leadership for important and strategic fields of opportunity in the Diocese.

In the past year, God has enabled the congregation of St Paul’s, Jesup to complete its remarkably effective and beautiful Church and Parish House. He enabled St Thomas’ Parish, Isle of Hope to begin construction on a long needed Parish Church. He has made possible a new Rectory for Christ Church, Valdosta; a new Vicarage for Trinity, Harlem; and the consecration of All Saints’ Church, Savannah Beach. He has enabled St Patrick’s, Albany to begin construction of a church for that mission congregation; St John’s, Albany to build a Vicarage and begin construction of a new church; and StThomas’, Thomasville to undertake a large and much needed building program. We have been blessed by the ministry of the Archdeacon, under whose leadership the missions of the diocese have been greatly strengthened, insurance programs improved, the administrative and stewardship life of the diocese made more effective.

God has guided and strengthened the Vicars in the difficult mission fields. He has supported the parish clergy and college chaplains in the complexities of the pastoral ministry today. Of our clergy, six Priests have served in the diocese 20 years or more; the Rev Ernest Risley, the Rev Allen B Clarkson, the Rev Thaddeus P Martin, the Rev F Bland Tucker, the Rev Talbert Morgan, and the Rev Gustave H Caution. For this maturity of service to the Church in this Diocese, we are thankful to God.

We cannot look back over the year in the diocese and not be thankful for what God has done through the Sisters at the Convent in Augusta. They have gone on Missions and Quiet Days and Schools of Prayer in most of the Dioceses of this Province; and there are only four of them. Above all, they have offered unceasing prayer and intercession for us all clergy and people that God’s holy will and purpose may be accomplished in Georgia and in the world. It is impossible to overestimate the spiritual power and influence of the Convent in Georgia.

The Sisters must have their own facilities for their work not only for the demands made upon them — but as a witness to our gratitude for the work of the Holy Spirit through them. One of our laymen has provided the land for the needed facility in order that a Convent, Guest House, Chapel, and a care-taker’s home may be built. Another one of our laymen is the architect for these buildings. Several of our lay women have consented to give leadership to the securing of funds for construction.

The Order of St Helena has recognized the work being done by the Sisters and the reception given in Georgia by establishing the Augusta Convent as a Branch House of the Order. Friends of the Order throughout the Church of this country have provided gifts and pledges up to nearly half the $250,000 needed for this construction. It is now our responsibility and privilege to pray and give for the building of the Convent. I urge every parish and mission between now and Caster to gather funds for a thank offering to be given to the Order of St Helena for the building of the Augusta House of the Order.

Again, looking back on 1964, we thank God that He has raised up a blessed company of faithful people who are saying their prayers, worshipping God faithfully and serving Him with a glad heart. They have moved through the shouting and tumult of political, ecclesiastical, and social controversy with a calm assurance of God in Christ and with a splendid witness to their trust in His Church. These men, women, and young people have not only been steadfast in the Faith amidst the strident voices of alarm and criticism both within and without the Church, but are seeking to grow in their Christian witness and stewardship for the simple reason that they know the main thing about Christianity — the love of God in Christ Jesus.

This simple incident illustrates the importance of this fact: a motorist drove up to a very up-to-date and efficient filling station and a flock of alert attendants raced out to give him the usual super service. They feverishly washed and wiped the windshield, the windows, checked the oil, the water, the battery, the tires, and vacuumed the car. The motorist drove off; a few minutes later he came walking back with a very serious look on his face and said: “Did any of you boys put gas in my car?”

They had done everything but that and, of course, that was the Main Thing. This happens too often in our parishes and missions. There are so many feverish concerns that tend to obscure the main thing: the love of God in Christ Jesus.

If there is hatred, bigotry, and bitter contention in a congregation; if there is no forgiveness, trust, sympathy, understanding, sacrifice, or humility — the ceremonial may be exciting, the music movingly sentimental, the vestments quite proper, the congregation socially acceptable, the investments sound, the Rector unique — but the Main Thing is missing. Because of this Main Thing, we have planned and are on the threshold of the Bishops’ Crusade by which the love of God in Christ Jesus is to be proclaimed I to us and through us to the people of South Georgia. On bill-boards and in publicity over the Diocese is the explanation of the Bishops’ Crusade and the main thing about the Church expressed in the words of one of our laymen – “Because He loves you”.

We are grateful to God for leading us to this plan and for this opportunity fo fulfill the necessity laid upon us to preach the Gospel. We are grateful to Him for His guidance in all the plans and preparations for this Crusade. We are grateful to Him for sending us the Archbishop and the Bishops who are with us as His Messengers and Teachers. We will show forth our thankfulness to Him by offering ourselves to Him in the Holy Eucharist, by praying and working that others may hear and understand the love of God in Christ Jesus.

We will give our money through the missionary society that founded the Church in Georgia that the message of the Georgia Crusade may be heard overseas in another part of the world. We will scrutinize our parishes and missions after the Crusade to be certain that all our plans and activities are concerned with the Main Thing. The Bishops’ Crusade is our first move into a deeper understanding of and participation in the basic purpose and function of the Church described in Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ.

This descriptive phrase, by which the Anglican Congress in Toronto has challenged the entire Anglican Communion, is derived from a statement of the Metropolitans, Archbishops, Primates and leaders of the Church in the summer of 1963. It is summed up in a paraphrase by the Archbishop of Canterbury of Romans 14:7 “The Church that lives to itself will die to itself.”

The General Convention of the Church meeting in St Louis last October was a disturbing Convention. We were disturbed as God can disturb us by the recognition of the need for a sweeping renewal and reorganization of the life and work of the entire Church. We saw that we were preoccupied with things that matter very little to either God or man. We accepted the message of “Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ” as a declaration of God’s judgment upon our insularity, conplacency, and defective obedience to Mission.

We saw that renewal must begin with ourselves, our individual lives and our individual congregation and Dioceses. The Bishops’ Crusade is God calling us here in Georgia to take the first step in Mutual Responsibility by personal renewal of Christian Committment and dedication to Mission in our individual lives. The main thing is the love of God in Christ Jesus, and mission is our response to that in our personal lives. The recent General Convention has committed us as individual Churchmen and as members of congregations and dioceses to a response to the call of God expressed in Mutual Repsonsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ. It is a challenge to the Diocese of Georgia to take seriosuly the command of our Lord to bear one another’s burdens. I hope this Convention will accept the challenge by re-affirming this principle by which we deal with one another and will authorize such organization as may guide us in the implementation of the principle in our parochial and diocesan life.

Bishop Simoes of Brazil clarified the matter of General Convention when he said: “As a Bishop of one of the younger Churches, so called, I do not want to feel that I am a foreigner. We all know there are political boundaries between countries. However, in the Church of God there are no boundaries. We are members of the one Body of Christ, despite belonging to different races and nations. I was asked, ” the Bishop said, “What can the Church here in America do to keep your Church there in Brazil? “And I said, ‘May I put the question in other words: Namely, What can our Church do to extend its work in Brazil and in the United States and in the world?’ It is not a question of our Church here and your Church there, but our Lord’s Church everywhere. ”

As we look at the need within the diocese for Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence, we can say: “The parish of St John’s, Savannah, needs education and experience first hand of Mission and Missions. The Mission of St Andrew’s, Douglas, needs capital and support and companionship. ” Everyone would agree to that. Now reverse those statements and they are equally true. The parish of St John’s, Savannah, needs capital and support and companionship. The mission of St Andrew’s, Douglas, needs education and experience first hand of Mission and Missions. All of us need basically the same things. Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence opens our eyes to all needs for education, experience in the meaning of Mission, capital funds, moral support, and companionship.

Every last one of us must know and understand in depth what the word of God is and what it means to be a member of the Holy Catholic Church in these perilous times. We must set up Schools of Prayer, Schools of Religion, Bible Study, establish methods of commun- ication between congregations where practically none exists now. We must pray daily and with intelligence for each other and to this end develop as a better instrument the Diocesan cycle of prayer.

The Conference Center, the Convocation Organization, and the Diocesan Paper can be put to greater and more imaginative use in meeting our needs for education and mutual support and companionship. In our diocesan life we need to deal with difficulties between the races in achieving greater understanding and acceptance. These are not legal or canonical difficulties. They are rather thought -patterns from the past which still exist because of the lack of opportunities for communications.

There is a constitutional limitation of a major proportion existing in our diocesan life with which we should deal; it is Article III, Section 2 which permits membership in this Convention to male members of the Body of Christ. It seems that the time has come to recognize this pecularity in our life in the Church and to recognize that responsibility for leadership in the Church lies with both men and women. In our stewardship of money, we have grown to recognize our responsibility by voluntary percentage gifts for the Mission of the Church, but we are a long way from reaching the expected norm for Christian giving of a dollar to others for every dollar we spend on ourselves.

Some of our congregations give as little as 5% for the work of the Church beyong themselves, and the average in the diocese is about 24%. As a diocese we plan this year to give 30% of all that is received from parishes and missions for our quota to the National Church and our gift to emergency needs overseas in the Mutual Responsibility program. By dealing with these matters in our own life with God’s help, we will be in a better position to share our discipleship with others: our love, our faith, our concern, our prayers, our money, our manpower.

In preparation for this we must study the needs and assets of others so that we can receive as well as give to our brethren in other parts of theworld. A tool for this education of ourselves is available in the Church’s official magazine The Episcopalian, offered most reasonably on an every-family basis to all of our congregations. Vestries and mission councils should move to take advantage of this asset for our people. In our prayers, every member of the Church in the diocese should have the booklet published by the Forward Movement Publications entitled Far and Near which is a most attractive and helpful cycle of prayer for the Anglican Communion.

Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ means personal commitment in response to the love of God in Christ Jesus. It means education in the Faith of the Church and in Mission. It means giving money and manpower. It means receiving support and companionship from our brethren. A young man walked into the Priest’s office. He had no money. He was injured in Korea and couldn’t work eight hours a day, so he had no job. He owed his rent. His mother wouldn’t help him any more. His wife had left him. Drink was a problem. So at the end of his rope he turned to the Priest. The Priest listened and said: “What do you think I can do for you?” The answer came and unexpectedly: “I think what I need most is just somebody to be a friend. ”

So speaks the African, the Indian, the Japanese, the Latin American, the Phillipino, the Georgia Negro, the college student, the teen-ager, the Rector of a city parish, the warden of a Georgia mission. We are all mutually responsible to communicate to each other the love of God in Christ Jesus. We have a Friend – “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving, and honor and power and might be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen”