Bishop’s Address of 1952

given by the Rt. Rev. Middleton Stuart Barnwell to
meeting at Christ Church, Frederica on April 23, 1952

My Dear Brethren:
I do not know how to thank you for the splendid response you made to our appeal last fall. Though one or two points fell behind, the rest of you more than made it up. The result is that we have to work on this year slightly more than we asked you for, and this is gratifying indeed. Of course this is not all clear gain, for we are in a period of inflation, and money does not buy what it did, and missionary appropriations have had to be raised to enable the men in the field to meet the rising cost of living. It is a deceiving thing to say that twenty years ago we had fifteen thousand dollars a year and now we have fifty-five thousand. Twenty years ago we were paying the National Church $3,500 and now we are paying them about $13,000.00. Their program has expanded, and costs of everything have gone up. Twenty years ago men were living in the Georgia mission field for as little as $1,500 a year. Today it takes twice that much, and at that, the living is very poor. I want you to realize that steelworkers, plasterers and brick-layers and carpenters; railroad engineers and firemen make more money than do our country clergy, and many of our city clergy, who have paid their way through four years of college and three years of post-graduate work in the seminary for a chance to devote their lives to the work of God for from $2,400.00 to three thousand dollars a year. This is not right. And if inflation spirals, it is not possible. The clergy do not have a Union, and by virtue of their jobs cannot DEMAND anything, but they do have the same rights as any other workmen to a living wage, and that is what some of them have not been getting.

So it may be that since money is getting cheaper, quotas will be increased for next year. At least that is something for which you may well be prepared. Church work must be paid for, and at a living wage, and it is as much involved in the problem of inflation as house-keeping or business. There is however one saving factor in this situation, and that is that the only thing which will make money increasingly cheaper is that it becomes more plentiful, and if It becomes more plentiful, larger quotas will be easier to raise.

During the past year the Church in Georgia has moved ahead. I will not bore you with statistics, but I find a new confidence on the part of our clergy and of our people as I move about the diocese. I find the people around the promising Mission field south of Augusta, known as Fleming, raising money for the salary of a clergyman, and also for a Church building. And the same thing holds true for Sylvania. A campaign is under way for a new building at Cochran. At that point we have suffered the tragic loss of Rev. Mr. Pace, but his place will be filled, and the work will progress. The Rev. Mark Waldo was ordained to the priesthood, and is in charge of the work at Douglas and Fitzgerald. The Rev. Osmond Brown of St. Mary’s Augusta was ordained to the priesthood last February, and his work is going well. All of the other mission stations are manned with the work progressing, and while there is nothing spectacular to report, I think that all is going as well as can he expected. A parish house is about ready to be begun at Bainbridge, and money is being raised for a Church at Cochran. The purchase of rectories is being considered at Waynesboro and Douglas, and with the splendid results of our canvass last Fall we are in a position to borrow the necessary money to aid all of these projects. In about two more years we shall have a diocese with adequate equipment, as far as the diocese goes. Of course there are many points into which we have not gone at all. But as I see it, this is a problem for the future. If I can turn the diocese over to my successor completely staffed with a lot of new young men, and with houses for them to live in and with parish houses for them to work in, for me, that will be enough.

So far as I know now, next year we shall have eight men in the seminaries; five at Virginia, two and Sewanee and one at Seabury-Western in Chicago. In this we have provision of clergy for the years immediately ahead of us. Barring depressions, inflation and war, I do not see any great problems ahead of us which will not be normally solved.

We are inclined to look back upon the past with affection because it is gone. We remember now the braveries and excitements of it as rather thrilling. We remember how we stood in line during the war and did not know where our next pack of cigarettes or our next pair of nylons was coming from, We look back upon two wars and one great depression as rather interesting periods through which we passed, and with the exception of a few of us who really suffered in the loss of loved ones we would gladly do it all again and make our small sacrifices and bear our small worries if we knew that we were coining out of it all as well as we have. And so we look back upon the past with some affection. We are no longer afraid of it. It threatened but did not destroy. Old tensions have relaxed, and we have been and are now enjoying unprecedented prosperity.

In spite of the high cost of living, there were more mink coats around last winter than at any time in our history. There is more money in savings banks now than there has ever been before. Every steam-ship to Europe this summer is already booked to capacity, and new homes are going up all over the land. And yet, if you could look deep down into the hearts of people in most of them you would find FE R. We fear many things, but it all boils down to this. Most of us fear that our present way of life will not last. Wherever prosperous’ people are gathered together the burden of their conversation is that “Our country is straight on the road to ruin.” In spite of inflation, we ‘are dressing as well as we ever did. We still eat more than is good for us. We pay old first class rates for passage in the steerage, and fabulous prices for first class accommodations. We are bearing up well under present inflation, but we are sure it is going to spiral and ruin us. We can stand the present high taxation, if it does not get any worse. We can even endure the present state of politics if it does not deteriorate any further. Most of us would he well satisfied with the materialities of life if they continue as they are. We are afraid that they will not, and we are trying to bulwark security so that we may be sure of it tomorrow.

We are afraid to put our money into bonds because inflation may come. We are afraid of common stocks because there may come another depression. We cannot put it into gold, for that is against the law, and it is all buried in Kentucky, anyway. With all our wealth we think we are walking on the thin edge of disaster. What of the future? What will I have when I am old? What will my children have: And every country hates its own rulers because they do not assure the people of a comfortable tomorrow. “My heart is sore pained within me and the terrors of death are fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me, And I said O that I had wings like a dove: For then would I fly away and be at rest.'” So sang King David as he sat on the top of his world. And so sing we in the richest country in the world at the richest moment of its history.

King David felt insecurity and we feel insecurity and men have. felt it at every moment between King David’s time and ours. And tell you that men will always feel it so long as “security” means for them to endlessness of material blessings and comforts.

For when we ask for this, we ask for something that this world cannot give. And never has given. And never will. The so-called Golden Past of which you dream and to which you would like to return, never had in it the things you now think it had. You remember its safeties and have forgotten its worries and dangers. Every day that has ever come to man since he walked this earth has brought him the same two things: the gift of his daily bread and the complete lack of assurance that he would have any bread tomorrow. There is a very simple reason for this. This is not a dead world but a living one. The patterns of its life are in a constant state of flux and change. We know yesterday and are satisfied with it. We do not know tomorrow, therefore we are afraid.

What we need is a safe anchorage. That is what we are always trying to find. The trouble is that we have sought for safe anchorage in the shifting sands of ever-changing times, and such anchorages are simply not there. We desparately want something on which we can rest our souls with complete confidence, and we have got to go outside this world to find it.

If we were with King David in his weakness, we may also be with him in his strength. He did not remain in a state of fear crying for the wings of a dove, but he found an anchorage where he could rest his soul in quiet confidence. “In thee, O Lord do I put my trust—Be Thou my strong habitation whereunto I may continually resort. THOU HAST GIVEN COMMANDMENT TO SAVE ME For thou art my rock and my fortress.”

In every generation most men have been fearful, but always there have been some who walked through life unafraid. They were those whose- hopes were not centered on things of this earth, but on God. “Which hope,” says the writer to the Hebrews, “we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil.” There is no cure for the anxieties of this world except sure confidence in another, and that is exactly what the Christian religion gives to us. This is the faith which overcomes the world. Whatever this world’s worst is it can do it to me for only a few short years. I can laugh at it. I can even ignore it, for I live forever. My hope should not rest on the changing things of this fleeting present, but on the changeless things of eternity. We SHOULD have the wings of a dove; and we CAN have them and fly away, and rest on the changelessness of God.

Every age has its particular fear, and the fear of this one seems to be Communism. We used to say that “prosperity was just around the corner,” but now we expect to find a Communist there. Surrendering ourselves to the fear of communism, we find that it breeds a whole family of secondary fears. Taxation and inflation are two of them, but especially there is the fear of a third world war accompanied and followed by unspeakable disaster. When mention is made of communists, we think of ten million massed and ignorant criminals marching across Europe to the Atlantic Ocean, and we see with our mind’s eye clouds of air-planes with atomic bombs winging their way across the North Pole, destroying all of our industries and about fifty million people. It is very definitely possible that such things should happen, but they will happen here and in reverse on the other side of the Atlantic only if Russia and America continue their present insane course of building up hatred and misunderstanding of each other. Every possible means of propaganda in this country is being used to make us hate the Russians, and the same thing is being done in Russia to make the Russian people hate us. This sounding of the tocsins breeds fear on both sides, and when we become sufficiently afraid, we shall fight. The good of peace will not come out of the evil of this victorious propaganda. “Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree, bringeth forth evil fruit.” “A good tree CANNOT bring forth evil fruit; neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” Those are the words of Jesus Christ who knew what He was talking about. And St. John writes that “Fear hath torment.”

I cannot change the course of this vicious propaganda by speaking against it here, but I might succeed in getting some new and better ideas into the minds and hearts of the Episcopalians of Georgia, and if every other bishop in our church would do the same thing, we might get the whole Church to see the evils toward which we are drifting, and the Church could speak its mind through the National Council of Churches, and the Christian people of the nation could perhaps do something to stop this appalling drift. It might be that even Mr. Stalin will one day hear what I say, for the Russian Intelligence Service is efficient, and relays every printed word, and many a spoken one to headquarters. They have even reported that millions of American children are in revolt, and are followers of General Hop-a-long Cassidy.

Our first need, it seems to me, is to understand Communism, and to treat it fairly. I do not believe that anyone on earth is as bad as we have painted the Russians, and I am sure that no one on earth is as bad as they have painted us.

The first thing we have to admit is that Communism is meeting a real need in those countries where it has taken root. I remember so well when it all started; the Russian revolution back in 1917. I was having dinner in a Birmingham Hotel and looking over the evening paper announcing the Revolution. And I laughed and said, “It will not last six months.” It has lasted thirty-five years, and today controls the lives of more people than any other political or religious system in the world. It has spread far more rapidly than Christianity has at any period of its history. It does no good for as to shut our eyes and to beat blindly against the wall. It has got something that millions of people want and which the old ways of life did not give. It is not Russian Imperialism which is sweeping through Asia, for no one has ever conquered China, and foreign rule has ever been distasteful to the Asiatic, (as witness the recent freedom of India from foreign rule) but it is the offer of a better way of life, which appeals to the landless peasant and the educated Asiatic as well. To the former, Communism is presented in simple and practical form. “We are going to free you from the Landlord and the Money-lender, and give you the land on which you live.” And the top strata say, this is going to make a prosperous China, which is what we have always hoped for.” This has been the appeal of Communism wherever it has gone, and there is a certain amount of truth in its claims. It has taken hold in exact relationship to the poverty of the people of any country.

Now let me make this statement as clearly as I can. “As Christians, we have no quarrel with Communism in its political and economic aspects.” And the reason for this is that “As Christians we have nothing to do with economics or politics. We have to do with religion. We should, as Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and to God the things which are God’s. It is perfectly possible for me to be a Christian; to believe that God was incarnate in Christ; that Christ was born of the Virgin Mary; that He lived to teach me how to live and died on the Cross to save me from my sins; it is perfectly possible for me to believe all of this, and at the same time think that the wealth of any country should be equally divided among the inhabitants thereof. I do no say that I DO think this, but whether I think it or not has nothing to do with my CHRISTIANITY. I can be a Christian Whig or a Christian Tory. A Christian Liberal or a Christian Conservative. A Christian Socialist or a Christian Communist. A Christian Democrat or a Christian Republican. I can belong to any kind of a Political outfit and still be a good Christian if I, as the Confirmation service says, “accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour.” This is the position which the Greek Church, with which we are in inter-communion, has taken in Russia. It rightly leaves the economics and the politics of Russia to Molotov and Stalin, and in a Communist community is teaching the religion of Christ. Let me quote from a missionary who has spent his whole life in China:

“There is so much good in Communism. It is doing so many things in China of which any Christian ought to approve. From an economic point of view Communism is in many ways nearer to the Christian ideal than Capitalism, as it has been worked out there. It makes men willing to sacrifice themselves for a great cause. It calls on all people to make sacrifices and to work harder, not for private profit but for the public good. It stresses that education, medical services, culture shall be for the whole community and not for a favored few. We cannot dismiss Communism as merely a materialistic creed. It has spiritual values as well, and it often seems that it is the West, with its emphasis on technology and on the importance of possessions, which has become materialistic.”

Where then, as Christians, do we part company with the Communists of this year of our Lord 1952? Not on their economic program nor on the level of their “social planning.” It is what they do to man himself. Not that they take away his money, but that they take away his mind. They tell him what he MUST think and believe, or they liquidate him. In doing this they destroy his personal integrity, which is the last ultimate foundation on which a free life in Christ can be builded.

The early Christians tried Communism in the days of the New Testament. It broke down, not because it was a bad idea, but because the Christians were not good enough for it. Ananias and Sapphira cheated and God liquidated them. The even distribution of all wealth, being a counsel of perfection, and human beings being imperfect, the plan will never work, unless you liquidate all dissenters. And that is just what the Russians are doing, with their slave labor camps and secret police. The Communist way of life, instead of abolishing fear, has increased it. To the ordinary fears of life, have been added fear of the police, of officials, of being denounced to the state by members of one’s own family, or even by other comrades within the party.

So the Revolution which begins in the fight for social justice and economic freedom for people who were badly in need of it, and, who welcomed it, ends in tyranny, in the suppression of the individual. In stark terror which stalks among the Chinese people today, and among all other people who have come under Communist control. The tragedy is that they do not see that they have surrendered Freedom! Tor the false promise of security until it is too late. The slave camp gates are swinging wide, and the police are ever on the watch. A great number of intelligentsia of China welcomed communism because they aid not see where it was leading, and there have been many—I do not think there are so many of them now—but there have been idealistic communists in both America and Britain—Pinks we called them–who honestly believed that our ways of life had failed, and who thought they saw in Communism the dawn of a better day.

To the ardent ones who have been trained within the Party, Communism has become a religion. Karl Marx’ writings are their Bible, Lenin is the founder of their Church and Stalin is at present their Pope. They have their missionary groups at work in every land constantly promising to the poor and unhappy a pot of gold at rainbow’s end. What can we do to keep the world from following them? Well, the first thing we can do is to surpass them in Missionary zeal. If our way of life is a better way than they have to offer, let us redouble our efforts to take Christ to those parts of the world which are still open to us. With the exception of eastern Europe and the northern part of Asia, the world’s doors are still open, but to Japan, Southern and southeastern Asia; in the Near East and Africa and in South America and hers at home, we have got to show to the world a more vital faith than we have so far shown, and by clearing out old abuses in our relationships with other people we have got to show that our religion is relevant to life. There are Race problems remaining here at home, though much progress has been and is being made. There is one in South Africa which is literally threatening the life of that country. In spite of high wages here, there is yet needed more recognition of the importance of the worker in industry. Man does not live by bread alone, nor does he work entirely for a weekly wage.

Even with high wages there is a sense of personal frustration in a man who stands at an assembly line and screws twenty-four nuts on the head of car engines which flow past him- all day long. We must find a way to dignify man’s personality in politics and industry as well as in religion. This is one thing the communist promises, though in the long run he can’t deliver. We CAN deliver, if we carry our Christian doctrine of the dignity of man into those parts of our life which we have kept segregated from our religion. Can Christians help to create an industrial democracy which will give full play and satisfaction to the individual worker? Make him feel he has an important part to play, and is not merely the tool of either employers or bureaucrats? It is a problem which neither Capitalism nor Nationalism of industry has solved, and it is one of the strongest appeals which the Communists make to the factory worker.

And what about the Church? Is it really the Church of the people? Can it satisfy that need for Comradeship, and for a worthwhile task which is so often found in Communism? Or is it so steeped in tradition and convention as to repel strangers? An out-sider looking at us, and studying our respectable congregations, and seeing the money we spend on so many non-essentials of the religious life, might well regard us as a prop of the Established Order, which in many instances we really are, And to be accounted the defender of the established order in a changing world, is a very dangerous thing.

“What shall we do to be saved?” It is an old question. Professor Toynbee answers, “In politics, establish a constitutional co-operative system of world government. In economics, find working compromises between free enterprise and socialism. In the life of the spirit, put the secular super-structure of the Church back on religious foundations.” Here is a task calling for all of our powers, all of our faith and all of our willingness to serve.

In the International Review of Missions, Leonard Constantine closes an article on Communism with the following paragraph. Communism is a gospel of liberation and it is being preached with persuasive and compelling force among the peoples of Asia who long to be free from their economic, social and political chains. But what a mockery liberation has become for the millions who have found that it has broken some chains only to shackle them with stronger ones. True liberation is found where Christ comes to a man, liberates him from the fears and sins in his own heart, and sends him forth to liberate society. That is the Gospel which we preach: liberation in Christ. “If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed!’

This is for us the deepest revolution of all, It means a change in our hearts and in our sense of values. The New Testament is a revolutionary book, far more dangerous than any of the communist Gospels. We have not yet lived it. If we did, through us, Christ would overcome the world.