Bishop’s Address of 1958

Given by the Rt. Rev. Albert Rhett Stuart
at St. Mark’s Church, Brunswick, Georgia on May 13, 1958

I greet the members of the 136th Annual Convention of the Diocese and the 66th Annual Meeting of the Woman’s Auxiliary in the name of the most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. This year marks historic anniversaries for our host parishes, Christ Church, Frederica and St. Mark’s, Brunswick.

In February, 1736, James Oglethorpe established Fort Frederica. His chaplain was the Rev. Charles Wesley. There has been a congregation of Anglicans on the Island continuously since that date. Christ Church, Frederica, was named for Christ Church, Savannah, which parish supplied clergymen to serve the congregation from time to time. The Rev. John Wesley and the Rev. George Whitfield are perhaps the most historically famous. The parish bounds were established in 1758, but the parish was incorporated in 1808. We assemble for this convention therefore on the 200th anniversary of establishment of the parish bounds and 150th of the incorporation of Christ Church, Frederica.

In 1831 for the first time the Convention of the Diocese met in Christ Church, Frederica. The second time the Convention met at Christ Church was in 1837 when the parish had 13 communicants from 14 white families of approximately 100 people.

As far back as 1843, the diocesan records indicate the interest and concern of Christ Church for missionary work beyond the parish boundaries. In that year a handful of people raised for home and foreign missions $60.00. Under the leadership of the Rev. Anson G. P. Dodge, one of the most amazing priests in the history of Georgia, the parish was a center for work among Negroes and assisted in the establishment of 2/3 of all mission churches in the Diocese. The Board of Officers of the Corporation of the Diocese today administers the trust funds bequeathed to the Diocese by Mr. Dodge for missionary work. This is known as the Georgia Missions’ Fund and is of inestimable assistance in the work of the Department of Missions. Under the able leadership of its present Rector, Christ Church is continuing a distinguished record of missionary concern and giving. In 1957 once more the parish oversubscribed its Missionary Quota and has led the Diocese in gifts for the building of All Saints’ Chapel at Sewanee.

St. Mark’s Church was organized as a congregation one hundred years ago and was admitted a new parish of the Diocese at the Convention of 1858, under the Rt. Rev. Stephen Elliott, the Rev. E. T. Brown, Rector of Christ Church, Frederica, supplying services. In marking this centennial of St. Mark’s, we note that 19 priests have served the parish, the longest service being that of the Rev. Henry Eubank Lucas who served with such distinction and devotion from 1877 to 1900, 23 years during which in 1895 the frightful epidemic of yellow fever occurred. The present, beautiful Church was built in 1915, the Rev. R. E. Boykin being Rector and was accomplished with the assistance of friends on Jekyll Island, especially those from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Forty years ago, in 1918, the Rt. Rev. Frederick Reese formally instituted at St. Mark’s a Parish Branch of the Woman’s Auxiliary to the National Council, with Mrs. C. D. Parker as first president. Since that significant date the records bear witness to the remarkable devotion of the women and their activity in the parish and diocesan program. In the last 50 years, St. Mark’s Church has had only 5 Senior Wardens—Columbia Downing, Frank A. Aiken, Potter F. Gould, Ralph M. Smith and Dr. Bert Malone. In these days of rapid changes and transient population this is an unusual record and a reminder that the parish has had stable and exceptional lay leadership.

Under the consecrated leadership of the present Rector St. Mark’s Church is rendering a significant pastoral service to this city, continuing a vital role in the life of the Diocese in the support of the missionary program and in providing diocesan leadership. The Rector is one of our Archdeacons and a member of the Executive Council. The recent President of the Young People of the Diocese is a member of this parish, as are also one of our Sewanee Trustees and one of the members of the Board of Officers of the Corporation of the Diocese. We are happy to be here in the centennial year of the parish and we give thanks to God for the clergy and people of St. Mark’s Church.

I submit herewith for recording in the Journal of the Diocese the record of all official acts of the Bishop for 1957 and an audited statement of the accounts for which the Bishop is solely responsible.

Our confirmations and receptions for 1957 reached a total of 619, the smallest number since I became your bishop. I made 71 official visitations and confirmation candidates were presented in every parish; however, 10 mission congregations presented no one. The largest classes were naturally presented in urban areas where a larger population produces more prospects and where a transient population makes more possible establishment of new church loyalties. A class of two or three in one of our small towns is a far greater achievement than a class of ten times that number in a city or suburban parish. A great many people are favorably disposed toward the Church in our small towns by the hard work of our mission priests and congregations but it is not until they move to the city that they are free to follow their inclination and appear in a Confirmation class. Of those confirmed in 1957, there were 250 or 41% who came to us from other religious backgrounds than the Episcopal Church. I want to pay tribute to the hard evangelistic work of our clergy and laity in small places. My concern is not so much with numbers but with the shepherding and teaching of the numbers we already have. How are we preparing those whom we present for Confirmation? And what has happened to those who were confirmed two, three, or four years ago? It would be interesting and perhaps disconcerting if the clergy at the time of the Bishop’s Visitation would undertake to check their records and account for all those who have been confirmed in their congregations by this Bishop in the past four years or even in the last year. I would like to see such an accounting made.

One of our chief concerns is the small number of vocations to the priesthood. We are already short of an adequate number of clergy and with the few postulants and candidates now in the Diocese we will he even more handicapped in the future. So far only two men are asking for Seminary training this fall, and one of those is coming from another ministry. When a Diocese of 10,000 communicants produces one man a year for the ministry, something is wrong. Have you ever thought of your son serving God in the priesthood? Have you ever checked to see how many men from your congregation have gone into the ministry? It is past time for us to ask ourselves such questions and to pray regularly for the increase of the ministry.

One of the most encouraging developments this past year was the gift by a devoted church woman of a small sum of money to establish a trust fund for theological education—the first time we’ve ever had such an action taken. The fund is known as the Episcopal Educational Trust and you will find it listed in the Report of the Board of Officers of the Corporation. Since the initial gift one legacy and several other gifts have been added to the Fund.

In time and with further benefactions it will at last provide the Diocese with some means of assisting men in theological study necessary in response to a Vocation.

The physical properties of the Church have been increased by the building of a handsome parish house for the Mission of the Holy Apostles, acquisition of a new rectory for St. Thomas, Thomasville, renovation of church building at Christ Church, Augusta, a parish house built for Grace Church, Cairo; a parish house built on land given St. Andrew’s, Darien; two lots given for All Saints Mission, Savannah Beach; renovation of a parish house and school building for St. Cyprian’s, Darien. The renovation of facilities for Diocesan House have made available attractive and very greatly needed office, storage, and conference room space. We have received a very wonderful gift to the Diocese of one hundred forty acres on Honey Creek in Camden County for a Diocesan Camp and Conference Center. I have appointed a Board of Managers for this property for which I ask the Convention to give approval and to assume responsibility in the future for electing in rotation members of this Board. You are to have presented to you at this Convention the plans of the Board for the proposed development of our Camp and Conference property. For five years we have been without a conference center for the Diocese and we have been deeply conscious of the handicap this has presented to our work, especially the young people. A large task confronts us in building this center. I trust that we will not waver, but plan wisely and set our hands and hearts to the task for the next several years.

This brings us to consider the vital matter of diocesan finance. When the Treasurer’s books closed in 1957, we found that 17 churches out of 55 had failed to meet their missionary quotas or approximately 1/3 of our congregations. This meant that we operated in 1957 in round figures on a $90,000 Missionary budget instead of the $100,000 adopted by the Convention. The Finance Department of the Diocese received suggestions that the method of arriving at missionary quotas needed re-thinking. They had already given the matter some study, but the Executive Council requested the Bishop to appoint a special committee to study the matter in greater detail. This has been done and the committee is conscientiously at work. Perhaps a more equitable manner of arriving at quotas may be determined, but this is not the heart of the problem. It lies in our failure in stewardship. The congregations which have participated in the Thomas White Associates program have shown beyond question the ability and willingness of our people to fulfill their responsibility to God in giving. Furthermore we are still third from the bottom of the list of the diocese in this Province in the amount we give to God and His Church. Our trouble lies in token giving instead of real stewardship. It is not a problem of quotas. It is a problem of reaching all of our people and not just the faithful few with the privilege and responsibility of membership in God’s Church.

For several years we have been asking our congregations to remember that we are owners of the University of the South and to share in the responsibility by placing Sewanee in their annual budgets. We have suggested a goal of $1.00 per communicant but we have not pressed the achievement of this goal. The record shows that 24 or less than 1/2 of our 55 congregations made a contribution to Sewanee last year. Our diocesan average for 1957 is 37 cents per communicant. Three congregations averaged $1.00 per communicant: St. Matthew’s, Fitzgerald; St. Thomas, Isle of Hope; Grace, Sandersville.

I am glad to report that the objective for the diocesan gift of $17,200 for the construction of All Saints Chapel at Sewanee has been reached by the help of the generous gift of an individual. Responses for this purpose have come from all but 10 of our congregations. The work on the Chapel is moving forward, but it is going to exceed the estimated cost on which our share was determined. We do not expect to ask for further gifts to meet this additional cost. We do ask those congregations who have not met their objective or who have given nothing to send in their share before the end of the year.

We have two special offerings in the Diocese required by Canon each year—the Bishop’s Visitation offering and the Thanksgiving Day Offering for the Episcopal Home for Girls. The first of these is carefully observed by all our congregations and is the chief source of financial assistance to our men studying for the ministry. The offering for the Episcopal Home for Girls is not so carefully observed. Twenty-five of our congregations sent in no offering for this purpose. This not only deprives this valuable institution of much needed support, it raises a question as to how the clergy and vestries of these congregations regard the Canon law of the Diocese, or more important, how we regard our Lord’s command to care for His children. The Home is the responsibility of the Family of Christ here in Georgia. It must not be allowed to drift away from the life of the family or the family to drift away from it. We have a responsibility as a Christian family to these children. In the face of these inadequacies in our stewardship and the challenge of the new conference center, there stands before us the increasing opportunity in the missionary work of the Diocese and the world. We are on the verge of a tremendous population growth in the United States and especially here in the South. We must he prepared to meet this opportunity in the name of Christ.

We are to begin this fall the Diocesan Survey the Convention last year authorized. This will undoubtedly reveal to us many areas and opportunities in the Diocese into which we must move with courage and determination. Word comes from the National Council that the General Convention in October this year will undoubtedly initiate a major drive for special funds for capital needs and advance work in missionary fields at home and abroad. We will probably be asked to join the rest of the Church in the largest financial undertaking the Episcopal Church has ever attempted.

All this means that the Bishop, clergy, and people of this Diocese are facing the most tremendous challenge to our discipleship in our time. I don’t consider this an accidental development. I see this as God’s way of calling us to account for our faith. The people of this Diocese have the means to meet this challenge. Do they have the faith? If we do not have the faith, we cannot fulfill God’s purpose in an atomic age and judgment begins at the House of God. I believe we have the faith. The task before us calls for courageous, able leadership both clerical and lay—such leadership as only members of a household of faith in Jesus Christ can give.