Bishop’s Address of 1931

given by the Rt. Rev. Frederick Focke Reese
at St. Andrew’s Church, Douglas on April 15, 1931

My Brethren of the Clergy and Laity:

We are again assembled by the good providence of God, in annual Convention, the one hundred and ninth since the organization of the Diocese, and the twenty-third since my consecration.

I must remind you again that we are meeting here as members of God’s Church and in His presence, to perform our duty as charged with the responsibility of the administration of this Diocese. But, this sense of responsibility, will be greatly increased if we remember that this Diocese is a part of a National Church, and this National Church, a part of the great congregation of faithful people in the Catholic and Apostolic Church of our Lord, Jesus Christ. What we think and what we do will be enhanced in importance by the reflection that it will in some measure advance the Kingdom of God and the world wide progress of the Gospel. The spirit in which we do our business must be large, though the details of our business may seem to be small. Every aspect of human life and duty derives significance from its associations. A broad minded vision and the largeness of duty and love dignifies and enriches the life of each one of us and all that we do. I appeal to you as members of the Catholic Church of our Lord. This is the Church with which He promised to be to the end of the world, and the Church of which He is the great Head, and of which His Holy Spirit is the inspiring and life giving Presence. Let us, therefore, think and speak and act in consciousness of His presence and in submission to His guidance.

I desire to commemorate those of our Bishops who have entered into Paradise since our last meeting.

The Rt. Rev. Sydney Catlin Partridge, D. D., Bishop of West Missouri, died June 22, 1930, in his seventy-third year. He was consecrated in 1900 as Missionary Bishop of Kyoto, Japan, and was translated to the Diocese of West Missouri on Tune 27, 1911.
The Rt. Rev. James Henry Darlington, D. D., Bishop of Harrisburg, died August 14, 1930, seventy-four years of age, and in the twenty-sixth year of his Episcopate.
The Rt. Rev. William Andrew Leonard, D. D., LL.D., Bishop of Ohio, died September 21, 1930, in the eighty-third year of his age and in the forty-first year of his Episcopate. Twice during his later years, he had been Presiding Bishop; as Senior Bishop in consecration, owing to the death of Bishop Murray and Bishop Anderson, the elected Presiding Bishops.
The Rt. Rev. Sheldon Munson Griswold, D. D., Bishop of Chicago, aged seventy years, and in the thirty-eighth year of his consecration, died November 28, 1930. He was consecrated as Missionary Bishop of Salina, Kansas, and in 1917 became Suffragan Bishop of Chicago, and upon the death of Bishop Anderson, was elected Bishop of that Diocese.
The Rt. Rev. Thomas James Garland, HD., LL.D., Bishop of Pennsylvania, died March 1, 1931, in his sixty-sixth year and in the twentieth year of his consecration.

There have been no losses by death among our own clergy during the year, for which we thank God.

But only lately, on March 29th, there passed to his reward Major William Wayne Williamson, one of our most devoted and faithful) laymen. There are doubtless other laymen and laywomen who have died during the year, of whose death I am not informed. But Major Williamson was so outstanding in his personal character and his service to the Church that I must make a special mention of his passing and of our loss. For many years a member of this Convention, and since its organization, of the Executive Council and Vice-Chairman of its Finance Department, as well as a vestryman of St. John’s Church, Savannah, he has left behind him a record of consecrated service, of unfailing loyalty, and of unselfish service to parish and diocese, that will not be forgotten as long as anybody survives who had the privilege of knowing him and of working with him. An earnest, godly minded, and devoted follower of his Lord, a good Christian man, who gave himself, his time, and his labor without stint and without grudging to his community and to his Church. God be praised for his life. He was one of those laymen upon whom as Bishop, I could always depend for counsel and assistance. We all admired and depended upon him and loved him. May God grant him increasing joy and blessedness in Paradise and continual growth in His love and service.

Let us pray.

I submit herewith my diary for the year, showing all my official acts, together with a summary of confirmations.

During the year, one priest was received by letter dismissory, and one deacon was ordained. One priest was dimitted, to another diocese. On January 1, 1931, there were thirty-four clergy canonically attached to the Diocese, one more than last year. Of these, three were retired under the Pension Fund, and three were non-parochial, leaving twenty-eight in active service, to which should be added one priest officiating under license. Since January 1st, three have been ordained to the diaconate and two to the priesthood. The three deacons are still pursuing their studies at theological seminaries. There are now two candidates for holy orders, but no postulants. I hope that this fact will stimulate the clergy and laity to look out in their parishes for young men of good repute whom we may induce to consecrate themselves to the service of God in the holy ministry of His Church. There never was a time when there was a greater need for young men of intelligence, well educated, and trained, and consecrated in character, to witness in the ministry for Christ, and to be leaders and guides of men in the truth and life of spiritual things, amid all this confusion and.doubt, the uncertainties and negations which are now so seriously impairing the convictions of men as to the eternal verities of human life. There is no work which requires more vigorous manliness and more courageous confidence than that of the ministry of the Church. The great adventure of life needs, now as always, competent, consecrated leadership at the altar and in the pulpit and in the shepherding of human souls. It is a man’s job and a big job for men who want to serve their God and their fellowmen. “Look ye out therefore, Brethren, . . . . men of good report, fall of the spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.”

I confirmed during the year two hundred eighty-two persons, a few less than the previous year. I made one hundred eight visits to forty-nine parishes and missions, held forty-five confirmations, celebrated the Holy Communion fifty times, took part in one hundred fourteen services; and delivered one hundred four sermons and addresses, attended seventy-eight meetings of various kinds, and traveled twenty-one thousand miles on duty within and without the Diocese.

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In spite of the financial distress prevailing throughout the Diocese, it is encouraging to note that the congregation of Calvary Church, Americus,have made the final payment on the debt of $10,000 contracted to build their new church; St. John’s Church, Bainbridge, has been repainted, friends of the congregation, not members, having given their generous assistance; St. Andrew’s Church, Darien, has been covered with a new and expensive roof, and the good women of the parish have worked unceasingly to pay for it, a very large task for a small group of devoted women; and St. Andrew’s Church, Douglas, has been repainted and the chancel refurnished and a pipe organ installed.

Deaconess Alexander at Pennick in Glynn County, has patiently persisted in her efforts to complete a new chapel for the Mission of the Good Shepherd, until it is now under roof and much of the material on hand for the finishing of the interior, with only a very small debt still unpaid.

The report of the Executive Council will give you a brief summary of the work under its administration. Fortunately, we ended the year with all bills and our pledge to the National Council paid in full. I wish to say how much I appreciate the generous loyalty of the clergy and laity in furnishing the money for our Diocesan missionary and other work. The pledges were paid less only a small fraction, which were not met. It is, of course, true that the pledges were insufficient to meet our budget, and serious cuts were necessary, both in the Diocesan work and in our pledge to the National Council.

The same unfortunate necessity to reduce our budget and our pledge has been necessary this year. A more serious feature of the situation, however, is that in 1930, in order to meet our obligations it was necessary to use $1,200.00 of the balance we had carried over from 1929. It is almost certain that the same necessity will exist this year, as in spite of our reduced budget, the pledges are not sufficient to meet it. This means that at the end of this year. we shall have a very small balance, if any, so that for 1932 if our pledges are not larger and sufficient to meet our necessary expenses, we shall he in a really serious situation and the reduction of our budget will be so drastic as to make it impossible to carry on our even limited missionary and other operations.

We have been notified by the treasurer of the National Council that our quota will be very considerably increased for 1932, which will of course add to our financial responsibilities, I have had some correspondence with Mr. Franklin to ascertain from him the reason for the large increase in our quota, but have not yet received from him the information desired.

At any rate, I think the situation is such as to require the attention of the Convention, and I hope that the Finance Committee will be able to make a report which will enable you to devise ways and means by which the future possibilities may be met successfully. With that in view, the program of the Convention which you will be asked to adopt, provides for a conference on this subject, by which the whole question can be faced and I hope solved by the thoughtful contributions of the members of the Convention.

I am sorry that I must present another question involving money. At the Convention a year ago, I spoke of the Advance Work Program, which the National Council in conformity with the action of the General Convention, presented to the Church to provide neeeseary buildings and equipment for our missionary Bishops. There were assigned to this Diocese two objects, for each of which $2,500.00 was needed, a Church at Caliente, Nevada, and a rectory at Christiansted, Virgin Islands. The matter was presented to the Convention by the Executive Council, which had voted to accept these askings, and to approve the effort to raise the $5,000.00 necessary.

The Convention voted to endorse the action of the Executive Council and the members of the Convention in the resolution pledged themselves to aid and assist in every way in their power to accomplish the object and to secure the money. There were no negative votes on the resolution, so that it is fairly assumed that all the clergy and lay members present pledged themselves to do this. After the adjournment of the Convention, I asked four gentlemen of Savannah to be a committee to assist me in carrying out the purpose of the Convention and a meeting was held at which it was decided to ask the clergy of the Diocese to send in the names of laymen who might be solicited to make contributions to the fund.Christ Church, Savannah, provided a list, and a very few names were supplied from a few other parishes. But there was no general response, and few acknowledgments of the letters were received.

In the meantime, the Woman’s Auxiliary has paid its pledge of $500.00 and the colored Woman’s Auxiliary has paid a portion of its pledge of $100.00. The Rector, with the assistance of the Woman’s Auxiliary of St. John’s Church, Savannah, has been active in raising a fund from individual gifts, which now amounts to about $550.00. There is therefore in hand or in sight about $1,400.00. This leaves $3,000.00 to be raised to complete the fund of $5,000.00. No effort has yet been made to solicit contributions throughout the Diocese. It has been intended to send to selected individuals a letter and accompanied by literature provided by the National Council. But the effort has been postponed first to enable the parishes to complete their annual canvass, and then to enable them to promote their Easter offerings. It is now necessary to make further effort to ask for gifts in order that the full amount may be secured by the time the General Convention meets in September.

As the members of the last Convention pledged themselves to assist in accomplishing this, I am now putting it up to this Convention to do so. There seems to be frequently a cheerful readiness to pass resolutions of this nature, but to leave the carrying out of them to the Bishop. I do not object to assuming the responsibility of leadership attached to my office, but I do object to being expected to assume all the responsibility. I am therefore asking this Convention and its members to give serious consideration to this matter and to do what they can to assist. For that purpose, the program of the Convention will suggest a conference during its session, when I hope all of those present will contribute in some way to the accomplishment of this object.

The Canons of the General Convention and of the Diocese require that all accounts having to do with the receipts and expenditures or investments of all Church organizations shall be audited at the close of each year by a certified public accountant, but if the amount of income for the year shall be less than $3,000.00 (Diocesan Canon $1,500.00) or if a certified public accountant is not available, the audit may be made by an accountant bookkeeper in no way connected with the subject matter of the account. In the opinion of the Chancellor of the Diocese given at my request, a warden or vestryman or the clergyman is not competent under the Canon, to act as auditor for the parish treasurer’s accounts. This provision of the Canons has been very frequently disregarded. An examination of the parochial reports made this year revealed this omission in a number of instances. I therefore found it necessary to write to a number of parishes calling attention to the failure to report an audit of their treasurer’s accounts and to ask them to have it made and a certificate thereof sent to me.

The parochial report blanks also call for statements of the amounts of money raised by the Church Schools and other parochial organizations, indicating in a space provided, the amount of such contributions paid to the treasurer of the parish and included in his report. The blanks alsocall for reports of the value of land and buildings a nd other property owned by the parishes as indicated, and the amount of insurance carried upon each building. They also require a report of indebtedness, both floating and funded, and of endowments owned. These inquiries are very frequently ignored, and no reports of these items made. I have therefore been compelled to include in my letters requests for information not supplied. This has involved a considerable amount of correspondence and of labor, which would not be necessary if the clergy and others would give intelligent attention to the blanks and provide in the first instance the information required.

The report blanks also specify the items which should be included in the current expenses of the parish. As these amounts of current expenses are used by theNational Council as the basis for assigning quotas to the Dioceses, it can be readily perceived that it is important that they should be accurately reported. Otherwise, the quota assigned to this Diocese may be inaccurate, and not fairly comparable with those assigned to other Dioceses. We may be penalized as a result of the inaccuracy of our parochial reports. In General Convention years, it is especially important that care should be taken to insure accuracy, as the statistics of the whole Church are compiled from the Diocesan reports printed in the Journals.

I am calling attention to these matters in order that in future years parochial authorities may give more careful attention to their reports and insure their accuracy and completeness. A little intelligent care and patience is not an unreasonable expectation, and I must affectionately insist that these requirements of the Canons be complied with by the clergy’ and parochial authorities.

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It has become a mere commonplace to comment upon the spirit of lawlessness and disregard of authority which is so manifest in these days in so many ways. There can be no corporate organized social life without authority being lodged in and exercised by some bodies or persons, and without some respect being paid to it. The extremes of individualism which are manifested so largely, must ultimately mean anarchy—the destruction of any society, civil or ecclesiastical. Democracy and representative government are now seriously questioned, and in some quarters flouted as impracticable and ineffective. The alternative is, of Course, anarchy, or some form of autocracy. The latter is the more likely result as we see it already operative in some portions of the world. It is not possible to deny that both democracy and representative government are seriously on trial, and there are grave reasons to question their efficiency to produce a settled and orderly social life, and at the same time to preserve the personalliberty for which man has been struggling and fighting for so many centuries.

The world of human society is still in the experimental stage. But the abuses of liberty are as disastrous as the abuses of authority. I fancy that there must always be in human affairs some degree of exaggeration to disturb perfect equilibrium. As long as man lacks wisdom and self-control, this is probably inevitable and necessary. The pendulum will never, however, swing so far in one direction that it will not return in the opposite direction. There is therefore no reason for despair or pessimism. But, in the meantime, the world suffers from the conflict of antagonistic forces and the disturbance which such conflict produces. But it is not necessary to acquiesce in conditions which seem to be productive of disaster. Some must fight as earnestly for the constructive elements of human life as others do for what we regard as destructive elements. Some must re-assert and struggle for the rightful place of authority in State and Church without ignoring individual liberty, and some must insist upon liberty without denying the functions of authority. In theory, our institutions are based upon the necessity of liberty under law, which means authority. To preserve in fact the working of the theory in actual conditions is the problem which the world faces today.

Our Church in America in its constitution is based upon the same theory. It recognizes the authority of God as providing the foundation of its existence. The law of God underlies all sane, wise, and righteous life. We believe that the knowledge of God’s character, which is the source of His law for the universe and for men, has come to us in His self revelation through our Lord Jesus Christ. And our Lord constituted His Church as the agency for the propagation and maintenance of the Will of God in human life. He did not do this in detail, but He planted the seed and established the principles, leaving it to the Church to nurture the one and apply the latter to the specific and varying needs of his children.

In this Country, our fathers organized the Church on the principles Which experience had shown to be best adapted to our needs. We have a constitutional Church, but we endeavor to preserve at the same time the Catholic principles inherited from the past. For the perpetuation of the Church and its mission to the world, we have constituted certain agencies to enact its law and to administer its business. In accordance with the laws thus constitutionally enacted, we have clothed its officials with authority. As we have preserved the Episcopate with its historic functions to be exercised in accordance with the constitutional provisions of the canons and the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer, we have placed in the hands of our Bishops certain responsibilities and given them certain definite authority.

I am sure that theoretically, all recognize this to be true. But, I am not sure that in practice it is generally recognized to be necessary to defer to this authority. The Spirit of individualism asserts itself even in the Church. In the last revision of the Prayer Book, much greater liberty to the clergy and greater flexibility was provided for in the conduct of the services. This is as it should be. The hard and fast requirements of conformity have been greatly and wisely relaxed. But the principle of “jus liturgicum” as residing in the Episcopate has not been annulled. Some of these liberties are still “subject to the direction of the Ordinary” and are only permitted “when expressly authorized by the Ordinary.” I do not wish to go into great detail about these matters. But may I direct your attention to the directions concerning the service of the Church on page Six of the Prayer Book. It is there stated that the Order for Holy Communion, for Morning and Evening Prayer, and the Litany “are the regular Services appointed for Public Worship in the Church.” But it is provided that the minister “in his discretion, subject to the direction of the Ordinary, may use other devotions taken from this book or set forth by the lawful authority within this Church or from Holy Scripture.” It also is possible “in Mission Churches and chapels subject to the direction of the Ordinary,” and also “that in Cathedrals or Parish Churches and other places, other devotions as aforesaid under certain conditions may be used in place of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, “when expressly authorized by the Ordinary.” In other words, the regular services of the Church as specified must be conducted by parish clergymen in accordance with the rubrics contained therein, and that any deviation from that order is not permissible except “under the direction of the Ordinary” or when expressly authorized by him. I am happy to say that so far as I know in this Diocese the more serious kinds of disregard of this order of the Church are not practiced. In some parishes in the Church, I am informed, the Order for Holy Communion is changed by omissions and additions which are distinctly contrary to the use of this Church and to the rubrical directions of the Prayer Book.

But I have been informed and have observed that in other services, distinct disregard of the rubrics and the order of these services is sometimes practiced. I must earnestly but affectionately enter my protest against such individual eccentricities in the conduct of the services. The Church spent much labor and time during four General Conventions in amending and revising the Prayer Book in accordance with the provisions of the constitution governing this process. The result has been a greatly improved book of worship. It has, made the services much more flexible and given greater liberty in their use. It seems to me that under these circumstances, our duty is to obey the orders of the constituted authority of the Church, and to govern our conduct of the services as thus prescribed. The parish clergy have now liberty, but there is a limit to it. There is still some responsibility and authority committed to the Bishops, I must confess that I cannot understand the attitude of one who fancies that he can improve upon the services of the Church and exercise his individual judgment in contravention thereto. This sort of individualism is just that same attitude which leads in the State to utter disregard of the law and brings into disrepute the ideal of a self-governing people and upon representative government.

Altering the course of the services according to our individual notions is also disconcerting to the worshippers and disturbs their devotions. There are already enough alternatives possible to require time and explanations to adjust their minds to the new Prayer Book. We ought patiently to explain the changes to them and assist them in finding themselves in the midst of changes. But we certainly have no right to and should not increase the confusion of their minds and the uncertainty as to the course of the service by our individual ideas of what we may think is an improvement in the Prayer Book Services. We have always believed that the public worship of the Church was common worship, in which the people were privileged to take part, free from the eccentricities of the individual clergyman. We should not do anything to destroy that ideal and weaken their confidence.

I know that this question of rubrical direction is not always easy to conform to. There are matters which have been determined by long custom. There is such a thing as the rubric of common sense. But there are distinct and definite rubrics and these we must endeavor to obey. I therefore appeal to you of the clergy to be loyal to the Church and conform your practice in the services to her definite directions.

My brethren, we are living and working under difficult conditions, not merely financial but intellectual and spiritual. We sometimes feel the pressure of compulsion in the Lord’s work. We do not always enjoy the sense of freedom and the joy of inspiration. We may be tempted to doubt and discouragement. We are depressed by the conventionalism of religion and the contented complacency of things as they are. We seem to lack vision and hope and our feet drag heavily.

But there is no reason that this should be so. Real religion has never had an easy road to travel. “Narrow is the gate and straightened is theway that leadeth into life,” said our Lord. His life was full of discouragements and trials, and it seemed to end in an ignominious death. But we must not forget the resurrection—the victory of life by way of the Cross. The burden of the Apostolic preaching was “Jesus and the Resurrection.” They were born again into life and power and conviction and joy by the outpouring of the Spirit. The world in their day was a more stubborn and intractable world than it is today—a cynical, demoralized, skeptical world. “What is truth?” said Pilate, the depth of moral and intellectual despair.

But these men conquered first themselves and then the world—not completely Indeed. It is not yet completely conquered. But they made the Crucified Jew, the recognized Lord and Saviour to multitudes. They sowed a seed which is still growing and propagating itself In the world, in the missions of the Church.What we need now is confidence in the presence of God’s Spirit with us, and in His Church. He is just as present now as ever. His power is just as great. The Gospel is just as true as it ever was. The need for it is just as great. We are just as truly His instruments for the salvation of men as were the Apostles and early Christians, and we can be sure that He can give us power and courage and faith and joy, if we will look, behind the things that are seen and live in the things that are not seen and eternal. “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith, and who is He that overcometh the world but be that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?”

Now let its face this year and the coming years with their responsibilities and their difficulties without fear and without doubt. The things that seem so impossible to accomplish are not impossible with God. Let us look up, have hope, and vision and courage. Let us be willing to make the sacrifice necessary to fulfill our duty. They will not be hard because the love of Christ will constrain us and the power of the Holy Spirit will give as power and joy. We will then not shirk our duty, but we will give ourselves and thus gain others to our Lord, and the money, oh the money, which presses so hard and insistently, will come because Christ will stir up the wills of his people and they will plenteously bring forth the fruit of good works.

God be with you. Amen.