Bishop’s Address of 1972


My Brethren of the Clergy and the Laity of the Diocese of Georgia: Grace be to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Speaking for the first time as your Diocesan Bishop, I feel mixed emotions. I miss Bishop Stuart, as do many of you.

Paul ReevesElsewhere I tried to express an appreciation of him, so here I say simply that I know I follow a great man and a great Bishop; it is inevitable that I follow such a one with fear and trembling; but also I follow with profound gratitude for the much he has done to make smoother the path of his successors in office. Briefly and necessarily inadequately let me try also to thank you for the encouragement and support you already have poured out on me. I ask that you continue that and above all, never cease to keep me in your prayers.

In the annual address required of him, the Bishop may follow one of two courses: he may concentrate on one subject, or he may address himself to a broader picture, touching, necessarily briefly, on a variety of subjects. At this convention I will follow the latter course, as an attempt at a personal expression of positions and hopes. This cannot pretend to be a profound analysis of our problems or our opportunities, nor yet a complete policy statement. Briefly I want to consider the areas of liturgy, social involvement, the ecumenical scene, what I call ‘spiritual movements’, and diocesan functioning.

Cartoonists often speak to the point. In a recent issue of PUNCH, the English inspiration and forerunner of THE NEW YORKER MAGAZINE there appeared a cartoon, a bishop (why are bishops always portrayed aspaunchy?) in a brand new cope and mitre, listening to his wife, who is saying, “Yes, that’s all very well, dear, but is that such a steady job these days?” You can believe me it is steady work, though not the same thing as it was a hundred years ago, or a thousand. It is no platitude to say that this is a difficult time to be a Bishop, for it is — precisly as it is a difficult time to be a Christian. Yet I dare to believe that the very difficulties that seem sometimes : almost to engulf us may yet work to the strengthening and purifying of the Church. Strength and purity come most often out of exercise and discipline and even suffering.


First, let us examine our worship. Revisions of forms of worship have gone on since the beginning of the Church, periodic revisions of Anglican Prayer Books have gone on since 1549; revisions are nothing new, and they are necessary. We happen fortunately or unfortunately to be living in a time of revision, and the only thing that is new about it is that for the first time in history the general membership of the Church has been asked to participate in the revision; heretofore revision has been done by experts and imposed by ecclesiastical authority.

Reactions to the trial rites have been varied all the way from dismay at any change and a plea for return to the 1928 Prayer Book, to demands for even more freedom and variation. Parenthetically, it may be of at least meagre comfort to note that our trauma is mild by comparison to that which our Roman Catholic brethren are enduring in the changes in their ways of worship.

We tend to be emotional about our worship, but occasionally, at least, we need try to be objective. Let me try, now. As a lover of the English language, I know well that our Prayer Book came out of that flood-tide of magnificent speech that bore alike the writings of William Shakespeare and the King James Bible. I, for one, love all three. But I must ask: How many people today read regularly the plays of Shakespeare,or even see the few available moving picture or stage presentations of them? Worse, how may Episcopalians read, regularly and with devotion, the King James Bible? How many people, excepting those who were brought up carefully in the Episcopal Church, really understand the language of the Prayer Book and are moved by it? I go a step further: The Book of Common Prayer still is the official book of worship of our Church; it has not been repealed.

We have needed to know it better and we still need to. Those who plead for a return to the Prayer Book may need to be reminded that it is not just beautiful words. For example, it specifies that all the Fridays of the year, with a few exceptions, are to be observed as fast days; and remember, this still is our official book. Again, it specifies that all the Sundays of the year, and about thirty other holy days, are “to be observed”, and that presumably not by the clergy alone. It clearly intends that the Holy Eucharist be the principal act of Sunday worship, and that Morning and Evening Prayer are to be daily acts of prayer. It indicates that private confession should be made available to anyone who desires this ministry. And remember, this still is the official worship book of the Church. When we say that we want it back as it was, what exactly do we mean? It is intended that any revision of the Prayer Book grow out of experience ; we were asked to make trial use “fair and adequate’ as possible for only so can we get past prejudice to objectivity. I truly believe that our Diocese has been outstanding in the extent of our participation in the trial uses and in response to them, and for this I am grateful.

For the future, I ask two things: First, I remind the clergy – all of us – of the tremendous responsibility that is ours in the ordering of the worship of Almighty God. In this, we have at once to be loyal to our Church, to respect the sacredness of the personalities of our people, and to do all in our power to set forth the awesome majesty of God. We are given considerable scope for legitimate variation nx our services, but we are given no place for whim or eccentricity. We must take care to know the words of our worship, to articulate them well, and to interpret them with ceremonial that has meaning and dignity. We must take care that our church buildings and their furnishings be spotlessly clean and orderly, and as fine as we can make them, certainly of a quality comparable to that of the homes and office’s in which our people live and work. Trial use has brought many insights and new vitality; but at times and in places it has begotten casualness, even sloppiness.

Some liturgical experimentation has taken on a circus-like quality, which might on occasion be inspiring or enlivening, but which, as a steady diet, contains little nourishment. Ours, then is the responsibility for ordering worship that is as beautiful, as full of meaning, and as reverent, as we and our people can make it be.

Of the man and woman in the pew I make a different request. Continue steadfastly loyal to God and to His Church; but be open to change in non-essentials. Take pains to learn why we are doing what we are doing. Reserve your judgement until you have become really familiar with the new words and the new actions, and with what lies behind them.

What matters in the end is that our worship lead us closer to God, and that it unite us more readily one with another as the Household of God. Whatever rites and ceremonies do these things best are the ones we need and together we must seek out these ways.


If liturgical experimentation has made for unrest in the Church, so certainly has the social stance our General Conventions took, first at Seattle, then at South Bend.

Let us face this frankly. We live in a time of real revolution, and it is foolish, if not sinful, to think that the Church can be or should be aloof from or immune to the agony of our time. The pivotal doctrine of Christianity is the Incarnation, our sure faith that God so loved all His children that He Himself became Man and came into the world as it is, the world with all the glorious possibilities He created, the world with all the ugliness sin has brought about.

Historically, the Episcopal Church has been mainly an upper-middle-class Church. True, it did pioneer an outstanding work in the slums of New York and in the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia, and in parts of the West; but most of its ministry has been to the better-educated, the more affluent, the more privileged. With some gloriously notable exceptions, it is a fact that we have not been as concerned as we should have been with the poor, the uneducated, the outcast. At Seattle all of this changed, at least officially. A small but articulate group of the Church’s top leadership, along with many frustrated, sometimes visionary, leaders of minority groups, led the Church to more active involvement in social change. My considered judgment is that their motivation was the best, and that this concern was long overdue.

Martin Luther somewhere likened the human race to a drunkard on horseback; prop him up on one side, and he will fall off the other. So, in the process of going from what was in fact pretty complete lack of concern to real involvement, some mistakes were made both in word and deed. Often our national leadership seemed to be insensitive or indifferent to the feelings of many members of the Church; but in honesty, many of those same members long had been insensitive or indifferent to the anguished cries and the desperate needs of our brothers on our very doorsteps. So much of what we said in Church we denied in our homes and in our places of business, in our clubs and at the polls when we voted.

Many of us felt that at Houston the Church arrived at a better-considered position. To problems as complex as poverty, racism, and lack of education, there can be no quick or easy solutions, and to assume that there can be is to ask fox disappointment if not disaster. A cartoon in a recent Church paper (THE LIVING CHURCH, 23 Jan 72) said it tellingly.

The first frame showed a man declaiming90 a priest: `I don’t come to Church because the Church gets involved in social problems.” The second frame showed a woman berating the same priest: “I dan’t come to Church because the Church doesn’t get involved enough in pocial problems.” The third frame shows the priest looking out on a nearly-empty church. I think I need not interpret.

Of course the Church must be involved. We know, or should know, that no man can give freedom and dignity to another man; but we should know also that no one can himself know true freedom or true dignity who is not doing all he can to make freedom and dignity possible to his brother. Not to care is not to love, and not to love is to deny Christ.

Faced with huge problems, we often back off. Yet, huge problems, whether landing a man on the moon and getting him back to earth, or conquering tuberculosis, or making fertile farmlands of and deserts, huge problems yield to the small efforts of many people working togehter. Let our local congregations, then do more of what we should have been doing all along. By default we have forced absentee representatives to do our work, and we should be very slow to criticise them. We have the right and the obligation and the opportunity to minister realistically and generously to our neighbors. Let us then, on local levels, where we have the knowledge and the leverage, work as Christians, beyond our parish bounds. Christ’s ministry as we read the gospel, consistently was to those who were in one way or another helpless.

The Church, as Christ’s Body on earth today, has still the same ministry. Our material resources are an infinitesimal fraction of those of the Federal government, but our knowledge should be more accurate and our compassion more personal. I would add a footnote about the pernicious principle of witholding financial support as a protest, a way that is short-sighted, to use the kindest description. Last year, of each dollar given to the churches of this diocese, eighty-five cents stayed in the local congregation. Fifteen cents came to the Diocese, and of this, only three cents when to New York. The largest proportion of the twelve cents that stayed in the diocese went to the support of our own missions. If an individual cuts his giving, he hurts most his own congregation, and next most his Diocese. Further, please never say that diocesan conventions or General Conventions are not representative. We are a highly democratic church. We elect our representatives. Let us elect to our Mission Councils, to our Vestries, to our Diocesan and General Conventions the very best people we can find to represent us fairly, and then let us get on with our proper work as Christians.


In His High Priestly Prayer, in John 17, our Lord prayed that His Church might be one. The divisions of Christendom have been and are a scandal. They are a genuine obstacle alike to the conversion of non-Christians and to the proper functioning of Christ’s Body, the Church. They weaken our effectiveness, and they are a contradiction to the Will of God.

We rejoice that in our time there has been a moving together. Much of it has come out of the yearnings of simple Christian people. A surprising amount came from the life of one man, Pope John XXIII. Immediately, the Episcopal Church is involved in two specific areas of ecumenical venture. One is called COCU, the Consultation on Church Unity, or the Churches of Christ Uniting, a group of protestant denominations with whom we are consulting; the other is called ARC, world-wide Anglican-Roman Catholic Consultation. Reactions to these two consultations vary. I hope it is not a rash judgment on my part when I say that COCU negotiations seem to be working, where at all, at the top level of church leadership, and that the average person in the several denominations knows little and cares less about it. Things look more vital with our Roman brethren, certainly on the local level, and often amongst our top theologians.

However this may be, I hope that all our people will seize every available opportunity to learn what is going on in these two areas. Our active participation will insure that our voice is heard, and that when the time comes to make decisions we will know the facts. Let us never cease to hope and to pray and to work practically for the reunion of Christendom.


Under the head of what I call ‘spiritual movements’, I take note of a number of evidences of new emphasis on personal religion. There is the Jesus Movement, so-called, and such dramatic productions as ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar’ and `Godspell’; there is Faith Alive and the Anglican Fellowship of Prayer; there are prayer groups and charismatic groups. And there are many more. Sometimes these phenomena operate inside the Church, sometimes outside. Some appear to be little more than fads, some are in fact divisive, some are full of power and hope. Others such as astrology and witchcraft and satanism hardly come into the context of this address.

Christianity contains elements of institutional religion and elements of personal religion. Rightly understood, these two are not in conflict, but are complements one to another. The Holy Spirit has an explosive quality, and we need structure, not to prevent explosions, but to turn them into productive channels. In our time, the established churches, our own among them, have tended to emphasize institutional religion at the expense of personal religion. In a sense this is a safer course, and makes fewer demands on the individual. In many ways it is easier to be loyal to an institution than to a person. Too often the Church without intending to has become a substitute for God. Too many `good Church people’ have been active in Church work to the frantic point that their activities have made them deaf to the voice of Living God. Simone Well put it this way; “The danger is not lest the soul should doubt whether there is any bread, but lest,by a lie, it should persuade itself that it is not hungry.”

I believe that the several phenomena I noted–and there are very many more–are expressions of hunger for the personal element in religion which the Church has in the main failed to provide. Our Church has all these elements, and in abundance, and does or should have the wisdom how to use them. Will we, then permit the void in the lives of people to be filled with sentimentality or sensationalism, with part-truth or even heresy, or will we open the bountiful treasure-house of the one holy, catholic and apostolic Church? To do this latter requires more of work and study and prayer, from both clergy and lay leaders, and often demands new ways of acting. We have at hand the opportunity and the means for giving solid food to hungry people; let us not fail to do this, and let us not give them fluff.

As a footnote: the social revolution I mentioned and this spiritual revolution are not unrelated. God’s truth could yet unite these two revolutions in a creative fashion that not only would avoid destructiveness but also would give wholeness and meaning to the lives of people in our communities.


Finally, what of our Diocese? We are well-staffed in parishes and missions, with only a few vacancies: these vacancies should be filled. We see considerable building, notably at St. Augustine’s, here in Augusta, where an impressive church building is nearing completion; at Garden City, where All Souls’ Church has built and paid for an attractive multi-purpose building; and at Brunswick, where St. David’s Church has begun a new structure to house its flourishing worship and other activities. St. Paul’s, Augusta, has acquired a tract of land adjoining their property. There has been considerable remodeling and refurbishing, notably in the Chapel at St. Mark’s and St. Athanasius, both in Brunswick, in Christ Church, Dublin, and in the office spaces of St. John’s, Savannah. By the time of our next Convention, Christ Church, Savannah, will have one of the outstanding pipe organs in the state.

Perhaps the brighest part of the picture is the remarkable surge of stewardship in many parishes and rnissons. The fruits of two years of stewardship education, guided by a professional consultant have begun to pour in, and a rich harvest it is.

Where congregations followed the detailed plan of stewardship education, pledges in some instances doubled, and more, and in most instances increased from twenty-five to fifty per cent. In each of these situations the people concerned are saying: “The financial increase is wonderful, but the renewed spirit is even greater.” Many of our congregations are in a position for the first time in their history to operate on adequate budgets; and for this we give thanks.

But because we are an episcopal church and not a congregational one, we must look also to the Diocese, and here the picture is not so bright, yet. It is true that many of the congregations in which giving has increased have just begun to meet their real needs. This year, we will present to you a balanced budget. It has been balanced only by cutting some vital work, by ignoring or postponing other work that should be begun, and generally by operating at a marginal level. In good conscience we cannot let this continue much longer.

Our average congregational giving to the Diocese is, as I have said, about 15%. When we adopted the present system of voluntary giving about eight years ago, that average was about 24%; so, I must wonder, as many of us do, if the old quota system may not have been the better way. However that may be, I urge the clergy and lay leaders of each parish to aim at reaching a proportion of giving to the Diocese of 20% within the next two years; and I urge each mission to move nearer each year to self-support.

But while this is taking place, there remain some pressing needs. I would list as the most critical need a systematic and realistic program for continuing education of the clergy. With few exceptions our clergy do not have the financial means to take advantage of the increasing number of opportunities available to maintain and replenish their intellectual and professional and spirtual intake; few congregations can help with this, and few congregations can afford to pay supply priests while their clergy are away. The Diocese itself is not in a position to import the many spendid speakers who could come to us to talk with our clergy. I believe it is essential that we provide a systematic program of continuing education if we would keep the morale and the professional competence of our clergy at high levels.

At the same time, there is another crying need. Much of our mission property, and the quarter-million-dollar complex of the Conference Center is deteriorating simply from lack of adequate maintenance. This is indeed bad stewardship; but we simply fo not have funds to meet these needs.

The 149th Convention created a Development Committee to study the matter of developing capital funds. This Committee, in consultation with the Board of Officers of the Corporation, has drafted and will present to this Convention a resolution calling for the initiation of a capital fund to meet these large needs and a few others. Please consider it carefully. I believe that the time to go ahead with this is now. We begin, our 150th year as a diocese. Our Sesquicentennial Committee has felt that the events of yesterday and today would mark the opening of the year adequately, and that the 151st Convention next year would sum up the remembrance.

In the months between, we plan to take proper note of our history as a springboard for the future. Further, I believe that the best sesquicentennial observances can take place in each congregation, where each, according to its needs, its opportunities, and its resources, can and should face some searching quesions. What, really, is the Church? Why are we in our several communities? What are we doing as the local manifestation of Christ? What can and should we be doing better genuinely to be the Body of Christ in Augusta and Blakely, in Woodbine, in Albany, in Quitman, and Savannah?

I salute you, brethren, with the words Saint Paul sent to the Christians in Ephesus: “Finally then, find your strength in the Lord, in His mighty power. Put on all the armour which God provides, so that you may be able to stand firm against the devices of the devil. For our fight is not against human foes, but against cosmic powers, against the authorities and potentates of this dark world, against the superhuman forces of evil in the heavens. Therefore, take up God’s armour: then you will be able to stand your ground when things are at their worst, to complete every task, and, still to stand. Stand firm, I say.” (Ephesians 6:10-13, NEB)