Bishop’s Address of 1961

given by the Rt. Rev. Albert Rhett Stuart
at St. John’s Church, Savannah on May 9, 1961

We are met together as the family of God in Georgia in Rogationtide. There could be no more appropriate prayer in our hearts for this annual convention than that which the Church offers to God in this season—“Grant to us thy humble servants that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that are good; and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same.”

St. John’s Church was established by Christ Church in 1840. The first bishop of Georgia, The Rt. Rev. Stephen Elliott, was consecrated in February, 1841, and served Christ Church and St. John’s on alternate Sundays. In addition to his episcopal duties, he continued to serve as Rector of St. John’s until 1845. In 1853, as Bishop of the Diocese, he consecrated the present church which had been erected at a cost of $35,000 including fixtures. The beautiful windows, the enlarged chancel, and the magnificent reredos were added in later years. In the year the church was consecrated, members of the parish were instrumental in founding the Orphan’s Home of the Protestant Episcopal Church which is now known as The Episcopal Home for Girls of the Diocese of Georgia.

Women’s work on a diocesan scale had its beginning in this parish in 1889 under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Charles Hall Strong, who served as Rector of the parish for 36 years. About this same time the parish was instrumental in organizing a Mission which in 1892 became St. Paul’s Parish of this city.

Out of this parish also came the movement, initiated by the Rev. Aimison Jonnard, rector of St. John’s from 1924 to 1929, which resulted in the establishment of Camp Reese and diocesan Youth Work.

St. John’s has even many of her sons to the priesthood and her ninth Rector is now the Bishop of Alabama. The present Rector is in his 25th year of service to the parish, a record exceeded in history only by that of Dr. Strong. He is the Senior priest of the Diocese in active service. In 1936 when Mr. Risley became the 10th Rector of the parish, St. John’s reported 849 communicants, 1,130 baptized persons, and a total giving of $33,287.73. In 1961, St. John’s reports 1,396 communicants, 1,859 baptized persons, and a total giving of $143,237.22. In these years the physical properties of the parish have been greatly enlarged and beautifully enhanced to the impressive extent which you see around you today.

The last time the Convention met at St. John’s Church was in 1949. In that year the following statistics were reported:
Baptized Members 11,377
Confirmations 358
Resident Clergy 36
Communicants 7,457

Reported to this 1961 Convention, 12 years later, the figures are as follows:
Baptized Members 14,936
Confirmations 770
Resident Clergy 50
Communicants 10,418

This is approximately a 30% increase in the 12 years, and 100% increase in Confirmations 1960 over 1949.

At the 135th Convention of the Diocese in 1957, a resolution was adopted asking for a Diocesan Survey by the Unit of Research of the National Council. The Study was undertaken in May, 1959 and completed in June, 1960. The results of the Study were presented to the Clergy and Lay Leaders last Fall to be transmitted to the convocational and parochial levels.

Facts revealed by the Survey are very interesting, in some cases gratifying, in others startling, and in all cases deserving of careful study as the following random summary indicates: Of the 78 counties of the Diocese, we are working in 35. Of the 43 counties in which we are not working, only 4 of them increased in population in the last decade, the other 39 decreased in population. The Church has grown at a greater rate than the general population in the Diocese and yet Episcopalians are only 1.06% of the total population, which is below the national average of 1.8% of the population. The largest percentage of the population which is Episcopalian is found in Glynn, McIntosh, and Chatham counties. The Convocation of Thomasville is more completely covered by the Church than any other convocation, while the Convocation of Savannah shows work in fewer counties than any other Convocation. The greatest percentage of growth is shown by the Convocations of Dublin, Thomasville, and Albany.

The study points out that the Church has a peculiarly strong attraction when it is known and understood, as the bulk of the growth of the Church in Georgia has come from adults who have been unchurched or unhappy in their religious affiliations. To develop this strong potential, care must be given to present the Church without misrepresentation of her position, as attractively as possible with emphasis upon her Biblical teaching, and with every effort to identify with the community served.

On the diocesan level we are attempting to incorporate many of the recommendations of the Survey, and in two cases convocational planning committees have been formed as a result of the Survey which should be helpful in coordinating and unifying present work and in the development of future work. We stress the recommendation that a study committee, parish council, or parish workshop be formed in every parish and mission to study the report of the Survey, the work of the congregation, and the opportunities in the community in which it exists that the Witness of the local church may be strengthened and a more carefully planned spiritual impact made upon the community.

I spare you further figures and herewith submit to the Secretary of the Convention for publication in the Journal of the Convention the canonical and statistical reports of the Bishop’s office, including the diary and audited account of funds.

We are grateful for the completion of the following building programs during the year: a parish house at Christ Church Mission, Cordele; a parish house at St. George’s Mission, Savannah; addition to the parish house at St. Alban’s, Augusta; a rebuilt parish house at St. Paul’s, Savannah; a church at St. Mark’s Mission, Radium Springs, Albany. In addition to this new construction, acquisitions of property have been accomplished at St. Michael’s Church, Savannah; Trinity Mission, Statesboro; Trinity Mission, Harlem; St. Mary’s Mission, Augusta; Grace Church, Waycross; and St. John’s, Savannah; a vicarage for St. George’s Mission, Savannah; and property for a vicarage at Trinity Mission, Cochran.

Of happy significance to the Diocese has been the decision last summer of the Order of The Holy Cross to permit the establishment of a house of the Order of St. Helena on property in Augusta given to the Order for this purpose. We anticipate the arrival of the Sisters in the Fall to take up residence in temporary quarters until they can build a Convent. While we have no ecclesiastical relationship to the Order, their presence and their work of prayer and teaching in this and surrounding dioceses will be a great blessing to us. I am sure that you and our people in the Diocese will give a most cordial welcome to the Sisters and stand ready to help them in their work with our prayers and gifts.

I am pleased to report also a fine increase in the number of men offering themselves for the Sacred Ministry. While we are very short on the number of men looking toward ordination this year and in 1962, we have a larger number of Postulants than at any other time in my episcopate.

The number of Confirmations in 1960 was slightly down from the record of the year before. There has been, however, an encouraging use of preaching and teaching missions and inquirer’s classes, and adult study courses. There was a very favorable response to the first retreat for laymen to be held in the Diocese. These evangelistic efforts should continue and will undoubtedly bear fruit.

During the year, under the leadership of the Diocese of Atlanta, a history of the Episcopal Church in the State has been published. The Episcopal Church in Georgia by Dr. Henry T. Malone is an attractive volume, interesting and readable, which should be in every parish library, public library, and home of the Diocese. We have numbers of copies of this history which have not been sold. I urge you to see that this book is distributed not only because of its intrinsic and educational value, but also because we are responsible for paying our bill for them to the publisher.

Another volume has appeared in the last several months which deserves the study of all of us. I refer to the first installment of the New English Bible, the New Testament portion of which has appeared after 14 years of study. The new version cannot be expected to replace the familiar and beloved Authorized Version of the Bible, but it will be a valuable instrument in clarifying the message of the Holy Scriptures. It removes a great many unnecessary difficulties in understanding the Bible which have arised by reason of linguistic changes over the years. We recommend the use of the new translation in personal daily Bible-reading for clearer understanding of the Bible Message. The new translation will be of great help to preachers in expository preaching and in leading people through the pulpit to a deeper understanding of the Bible. The question is bound to be raised as to whether the new translation ought to be used in the liturgy and public worship of the Church. Unless the Prayer Book is revised to allow it, the new translation is not permitted for the Epistles and Gospels of the Church Year. General Convention may revise Canon 20 to permit the use of the translation at Morning or Evening Prayer. Until such time as these actions are taken, the use of the new translation is not permitted in the public services of the Church in this Diocese.

One of the most significant developments in the Diocese in 1960 was the Camp and Conference program. After a lapse of several years, following the closing of Camp Reese on St. Simons Island, we were able to resume last summer a full program of camps and conferences for various age groups in the Diocese. This was possible by the opening of the beautiful Georgia Camp and Conference Center on Honey Creek. The Department of Christian Education of the Diocese planned a program which was participated in by 622 men, women, boys and girls. It was an invaluable experience in Christian living and Christian education. That this first year of use of the new Center proved to be such a smooth operation with such fine results was due to the careful planning of the Division of Camps and Conferences of the Department of Christian education, the hard work of the teaching staffs and permanent staff, and above all to the devotion of Mr. and Mrs. Sherman Hammatt, our resident Custodians, who seemed unshaken by any problem however new or unforeseen it may have been. We are looking forward to our second season at the Conference Center this summer. There is no finer facility in the Church than our Center nor is there a greater teaching and evangelistic opportunity open to us, but it must be used. Each conference should be filled to capacity. This does not automatically happen. It requires promotion by the clergy and leaders of every congregation in the diocese. Be sure that your congregation and your community is represented there this summer.

A very gratifying report is made to this Convention by the Treasurer of the Diocese as to the indebtedness on the Conference Center. The parishes and missions of the Diocese without exception have sent in their assessments for the liquidation of this indebtedness and it is being retired on schedule. I am sure you join me in thankfulness that we are able to point to this one satisfactory financial picture!

The other diocesan financial picture is not so encouraging. In 1959 we fell short in payments of pledges for Missions. In 1960 we failed to pledge the amount of the Convention voted for Missions and two parishes by extraordinary effort enabled us to pay our National Church quota. Then 12 congregations failed to pay their Missionary pledges and we ended the year with all reserves exhausted and $3,942.55 deficit in the Missionary pledge. Pledges for this year’s Missionary budget were $20,236.30 short. The Executive Council in January reduced the budget and informed the parishes and missions of this serious situation and asked them to make an effort by April 1st to pledge $6,000 for the National Church quota. We had a response of $4,439.80 from 19 congregations with no word from 40 parishes and missions. The National Church quota will be paid but a further cut has been made in our diocesan budget of $2,770.00. Perhaps these are just figures to you, but it means we must not fill vacancies in our missionary field or start any new work. It means some of our missionary priests have had reductions in salary, which they can ill afford to have. Perhaps this is just an unfortunate administrative problem to you unless you happen to be in one of those Mission fields. I wonder if that is all it means? It means that our per capita giving for others is $18.00 per year, which is $5.00 below that of the national average of the Episcopal Church and that average is hardly a matter of pride to begin with. It means that of the Dioceses in this Province, we are at the bottom of the list in our giving. It means more than that. It is symptomatic of a sickness of soul. I began my ministry 30 years ago in the days of the economic depression, which some of you are old enough to remember. There was no money. There were bread lines and soup kitchens. I was in charge of three Missions. They never failed to meet their missionary quotas and at the same time fed and clothed some of the people of their own congregations. One of the missions had no church. They built one and became a parish in those lean years. I remember this and look at the picture of the clergy and congregations of this Diocese of this favored land in these fat years when we have unprecedented means and our inability to meet a missionary budget which we ourselves have cautiously and fearfully set at a minimum. We blame it on a system of computation of quotas, on churchmanship, on the race problem, on the National Council of Churches, on any scape-goat that we think can save our face. It is none of these things. It is not a matter of money—it is a matter of attitudes. In proportion as we realize our basic responsibility—in proportion as we see that the Church is the beginning and not the end of the process—in proportion as we come to realize that we are sent by the Lord Christ to speak and act for Him in this world—to that proportion we solve our problems of budgets and all the rest of it.

It is the Church’s principal business to keep reminding the world and reminding ourselves of the real implication of what we profess. If our Heavenly Father is the Creator of all things in heaven and earth, then we had better learn how to deal with His creation with a good deal more thoughtfulness and reverence than we sometimes show. He did not create it to be exploited. He created it to be used for the happiness and well being of all His children. Woe unto that man or nation who abuses the trust of money and things that God has given him. Long ago the Psalmist warned God’s people of this condition when he wrote: “He gave them their desire, and sent leanness withall into their soul.”

We have appointed a Stewardship Committee of the Diocese and have been encouraged by the unanimous participation of the laymen in facing the large educational task before us in Christian stewardship. The Committee will be helpful but the weight of the task lies with our diocesan clergy as the leaders and teachers of God’s people. The mission of the Church and the Stewardship of a congregation are the inescapable responsibility of the clergyman as the leader of the people. When a congregation fails to meet its minimum responsibility for Missions, the clergyman must examine his own practice of stewardship, his teaching, his preaching, and his leadership in that congregation. No amount of rationalization can relieve us clergy from our solemn responsibility under God to lead and teach His people.

The Church is entrusted with the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ which can satisfy the hunger of man for authority, for righteousness, for love. No material possession nor materialistic philosophy can do this for man does not live by bread alone. Woe to the Church, as the Apostle knew that it was woe to himself, if that Gospel is not preached and proclaimed with power. The world is crying out for the word of authority which demands man’s obedience; for the word of righteousness which demands man’s moral effort; for the world of love which inspires man’s service. These three things—authority, righteousness and love are marks of the Lord Christ. The Church must proclaim this Christ with far greater confidence and urgency than is common today among Christians.
We are prone to point to a bishop today who speaks freely of his personal opinions and we decry the injury to the authority of the faith. The Bishop stands under the judgment of God but so do we. We forget the kind of witness we give to the world about the authority of the faith when, with our hands and lives full of possessions, we cannot give enough to operate the Church in the county next to us while the Lord says “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel.”

We tend to become hysterical about the unrighteousness of Communism and form societies to be against it and even suspect the committees we appoint to investigate it. The infiltration of this evil is due to the vacuum in our own lives, the leanness of our souls, our lack of moral effort. No human society, committee or missile can defend us from this danger. It is a spiritual danger which only the Lord of Righteousness can overcome. Moral effort is basic to discipleship to the Lord of Righteousness. The superficiality of our religion and the complacency of our lives delivers us to this evil. The spread of Communism and its threat to our existence is in direct proportion to our lack of moral effort as Christians and our failure to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

We are faced in the world with great social, political, and economic crisis—and the South, with its racial problem, is one of the focal points of this crisis. We can be encouraged that the political leaders of the State of Georgia have taken a sensible and realistic step in facing the racial problem so far as it affects public education. Further steps in the resolution of the problem will take patience and reasoned judgment. We church people have not been conspicuous as Christians in our leadership in this problem. Indeed we have faltered in our witness in uncertainty and fear, and have lagged behind secular and political leaders. It is difficult to deal with society in the complexities of this problem, but we would expect within the family of Christ that love and the service of one another would dominate all of us. For nineteen hundred years in this family we have been saying “My duty towards my neighbor is to love him as myself and to do unto all men as I would they should do unto me.” Surely this means a responsibility of loving concern and service.

Christians know all too well that “now is the time.” We hear and read that this sixth decade of the 20th century is the day of crisis, the hour of decision, the moment of truth as individuals, and communities battle against time in capturing the minds and allegiances of men and nations. For those of us who are directly and intimately and responsibly concerned with the life and work of the Church, we see that God has brought us today to the threshold of greatness, to the point where we can render great service to Him and His people of this land in a manner and to a degree never before possible. We are at the threshold of greatness by God’s grace, yet we may stumble to littleness by man’s weakness. By failure of nerve, littleness of spirit, smallness of mind, pettiness of action we can falter and fail and miss the opportunities of these critical days, opportunities which may never come again. But with God-given vision, obedience, sacrifice: effort, and love we can cross this threshold into greatness, into a greatness that is of God.