Bishop’s Address of 1951

St. Paul’s Church, Albany
April 4, 1951

On the 30th of last December, I finished twenty-five years service in the Episcopate. In thankfulness to God for His goodness to me, I celebrated the Holy Communion at that time in Christ Church, Savannah, and the people of the diocese gave a reception for Mrs. Barnwell and me in the parish house at St. John’s, at which time my beloved friend the Chancellor had a few kind things to say, and gave to me a substantial check, made up by many givers unknown to me. This check has gone into the little fund I am trying to save against the day of retirement, which like death, eventually comes to us all, and I am very grateful to those who made the gift possible, not because it was “substantial” but because, (and I hope that I am right) it was a sign that I have not wholly failed to win your confidence, and perhaps in some degree your affection. These are very precious to me. They are the most precious of “intangibles” upon which neither the state or nation can levy a tax, and they constitute the bulk of the estate which any bishop or priest in the Church can create. And I do not have to read the financial page to see how these intangibles are doing. Their value increases each day I live.

As a matter of fact, the rewards and results of any minister’s life are for the most part invisible. I believe that this is the real sacrifice we make when we take up and live the life of a priest. There is no particular physical sacrifice that we are called on to make. We eat as much as is good for us—sometimes more—and we have a roof over our heads, and in these days far more of us have automobiles than our fore-fathers did horses and buggies. While it is true that business men and professional men other than Christian ministers influence the lives of many of their character and example, it is also possible for them in some degree to measure the success of their work by things which they can see and touch and handle. They can see a business which they have created or a factory which they have built, which they can leave to their children, and from which they draw, and are abundantly justified in drawing a lot of satisfaction and wholesome pride as from things which they have created! We spend our time counseling boys and girls, helping people solve their personal and spiritual problems; visiting the sick, marrying the young people, burying the dead, training confirmation classes, being civic leaders, engaging in social service work, holding services, preparing and preaching sermons, presiding at parish meetings, or merely being present to lend encouragement; these and a thousand other things I have no time to mention, but you cannot put the results of this kind of labor in the bank and watch your estate grow, or your business increase and look with pride on the things you have created. You may have changed the direction of many lives, and started them on the road which leads to happiness or success, but if you do you never know it. At the end of forty-three years in the ministry you look back, see almost nothing. Here I think is the real price we in the ministry pay for serving God. If we have done our job at all well, we are like Isaiah, who wrote: “The Lord hath called me; He hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of His hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft in His quiver; and said unto me, Thou art my servant in whom I will be glorified; Then I said, “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for naught; yet surely my judgment is with the Lord and my work with my God.” … But even this situation has one advantage. If we cannot see how well we have succeeded, at least we cannot see how badly we have failed. And this has a disadvantage for it leaves us in doubt as to whether or not our lives have been worthwhile. There is nothing we can do about it but go on to the end and leave results to God, in sure knowledge that He will judge us in the light of our human weakness and of His divine love.

While I look back over the years I have spent with you, and can see very little that I have done, I can see a great deal that you have done. In the first place confirmations have steadily risen. Going back to the years before I came to Georgia, in 1932 we had 272 confirmations, in 1933, 352; in 1934, 319. Taking the last three years, they run some two hundred more. In 48, 358; in 49, 457; in 50, 539. This does not mean that I have done anything, except to get about the diocese and confirm them. It means what you clergy are doing in rounding up and training your respective confirmation classes. It does not necessarily mean more work for me, for it requires no more travel to Albany, for instance, to confirm seventeen candidates than it does to go there and confirm one. My only contribution to this advance is in the matter of travel, and the average travelling salesman of let us say, Tom’s Salted Peanuts does much more. This work of recruiting confirmation classes is done by the clergy in residence. I only come in when they have finished their work. It is through their effort that the Church grows. My presence is something extra which is added because the law and the order of the Church requires it. All that I can say for myself is that never in the twenty-five years of my episcopate, in Idaho and in Georgia has any candidate gone unconfirmed because the bishop could not be present. Once in Idaho it meant driving more than one thousand miles to confirm one candidate. Here in Georgia it has often meant traveling 500 or more to confirm one. I have often thought that the clergy could spare me some of the labor and expense it takes to drive hundreds of miles if they would concentrate their year’s classes into me. Many times I have driven across the state to fill an engagement and found that I had no one to confirm at all; only to preach. And our clergymen can do that as well or better than I. As I grow older you clergymen can save me work, and the diocese money of travel if you will concentrate your year’s confirmation classes into one wherever it is possible without serious loss.

I am greatly encouraged by the number of young men who in the last few years have been offering themselves for the work of the ministry, in spite of the fact that its rewards as I have said, are largely of the intangible kind. All of our seminaries are crowded, and the present problem is not to get men for the seminaries, but to find a place for those who wish to go. One of the problems I have struggled with ever since I have been a bishop was to find men for the vacant places in Idaho and Georgia, but I think that this particular problem is going to disappear. By next September, we shall have eight young men from this diocese in the seminaries, some first, some second and some third year students, and as they graduate we shall find ways of filling the empty places in Georgia, IF YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS FOR MISSIONARY WORK INCREASE CORRESPONDINGLY. Unless missionary giving increases some of these fine young man will have to find work in other dioceses whose missionary giving has kept pace with the needs of the hour. Our finest young men are coming to see that a Godless materialism does not pay, and that we have got to fight it not only in Russia, but in the United States. This point of view has been developing rather rapidly. Three years ago a young man entered the Virginia Seminary from St. John’s, Savannah, A year later he was followed by two fine young men from Christ Church, and then by another from St. John’s. Now two more have offered from Christ Church and one from St. John’s, and one from St. Paul’s, Augusta, and one from St. Mark’s, Brunswick, and I have three more ready to enter, two from St. Paul’s, Savannah and one from Blackshear, where we have no mission at all.

Most of these boys are either able to pay their own way through the seminaries, or are being helped by the G. I. bills, but some of them who have finished their college work through the sacrifice of poor mothers and fathers are partially dependent on the Church in order to do their Seminary work. I have a fund of $15,000, the Waldburg Fund, invested at Sewanee which produces about $600.00 a year. This fund has accumulated some surplus, and the $600.00 a year income goes on. With this money I can arrange to see two boys through three years of seminary work which is needed before they can be ordained. But I am hard put to it in the matter of helping to educate some others of these men who are going to Virginia. We ought to have an item in our budget for Theological Education, and I hope that the Department of Finance will consider this, for the future not only of our work in Georgia, but in the rest of the world depends on the men we have who offer themselves, and their offering of themselves is of no avail unless we provide, or help them to provide if necessary the funds needed for their training. I have seen many of our church people spend more on a party or on a trip somewhere than it would take to put a young man through the seminary. In these days when taxes are higher and money is tightening, we ought to think on these things.

And this brings up the question of supporting our Theological Seminaries themselves. Most church people never think of a theological seminary, but if it were not for these seminaries you would have no ministers. You have taken them for granted because generous churchmen of a past generation, seeing the need for clergymen, endowed them. But you know what has happened to endowments! They produce less, and that which they produce, buys less. Our seminary professors cannot live on their former salaries, and their former salaries are less even in terms of dollars, because endowments are producing less. The need to help our Theological Seminaries is a Christian Imperative. Without the Ministry there is no Church. And the Ministry depends on the Seminaries where the ministers are trained. And these have been supported in the past by the legacies of the dead, but this can no longer happen. From now on these Seminaries for the training of your priests must be supported by the legacies of the dead—and BY YOU. And this is a responsibility which we cannot evade. It is one which few of us have ever faced. We have thought to pay our priests a salary, and ended there. But where our priests came from to that we have never given a thought, beyond that we called them from another parish, or the bishop sent us one. But unless they started somewhere they would not be there either for you to call or for me to send. They originate in Theological Seminaries, and very few of you laymen have ever seen one of these. If you have been to Sewanee you have probably seen one, but you would never find the ones in Virginia, at Philadelphia, New York, Cambridge, Gambier, Evanston, New Haven and Berkeley unless you went seeking them. The maintenance of these schools is a vital part of our church work.

And we not only have these seminaries, as a general responsibility of the whole church, but here in the South we have Sewanee, and the University of the South, of which St. Luke’s Divinity School is a part, as our particular responsibility. Here in the Military Academy, and college of liberal arts and in the theological department we have some five hundred young men, being educated by and under the daily influence of the Church. What this means to future church leadership is beyond estimation. Whatever your other obligations may be, there should be something in your parish or mission budget for Sewanee. It need not be large; only in proportion as God has prospered you. But large or small it ought to be there. We are giving on the diocesan level, but we should be giving on the parish level as well.

I never thought I would say that anything was more important than giving to missions, but it seems to me now that this is, for without a constant stream of clergymen coming into the Church the day will come when we have no missions or parishes either.

Missions and religious education; these two great causes go hand in hand. Sometimes people wonder why we do not grow as rapidly as other churches of comparable wealth and influence seem to do. I think the answer is to be found in fact that their lay-people seem far more aware than ours are, of the importance of these two phases of Church extension. The very heart of religion is that we should send forth trained men to preach the gospel. What you call parish support is merely keeping one of these preachers alive and having a building in which he can preach to you. Such a program is of course inadequate, and where tried long enough results in stagnation and death.

Missions and Religious Education: I commend these two great causes to your prayers and generosity. A fact which all of you know, but which strange to say some of our people do not yet know is of course that far the greater part of money given to “missions” is used in our own diocese to strengthen and develop our own work. This is—or ought to be a transition stage of our work, and we should dream of—what none of us will ever live to see—a diocese of strong self-supporting parishes, with all of their energies bent toward building Christ into the life of the still unChristian world. For it is the world beyond Georgia, filled with men in whose hearts the love of God has no place, which troubles us exceedingly. When we give to strengthen ourselves in Georgia we are not doing it merely that we might be strong, but that becoming strong, we shall have more to give to make the world Christian, and so fulfil Christ’s last command to His Church.

Here is a startling thing, but I believe it to be true; if in the next twenty-five years the Christian world would spend the money and the sacrifice, and the men it took to fight the last war, to make the world sane and Christian, another war need never be fought. It is not impossible for brethren to dwell together in unity. We need only to learn that we are really brethren, and we need only to learn that unity means to consider the other man’s point of view as well as our own. I do not think that we really need to teach every man in the world to say the Nicene Creed. They could say it as millions have already done, whose life laughed through and spat upon it. We are recruiting some four million soldiers and arming them with fabulous weapons at fabulous cost, all for a possible war. If we sent one million Christian men and women to live—and perhaps to die—in a million towns and villages of this world, and maintained them there for one generation, I think that we could change the life of the world. But of course we are not going to do that, and whether it is true or not, we in our generation will perhaps never know, So we have to face this world as it is with what we have got, and to me armament seems necessary—tragic and pitiful as it is—if we are to defend for a moment of time the liberty with which Christ hath made us free. But let us never again win a war and think that we have won a victory. When we have won the next war—if there be one—we will have won a chance to win a victory, and that victory will be won only by sending messengers of Christ to the remotest corners of the world and show to men and women and especially to children, that there is a better way of life than any they have ever known. This is so perfectly obvious that is amazing to me that men everywhere do not see it. And if World War Three comes, it will be the only way to avoid world war four—and annihilation.

I am not a pacifist, in the sense that I would bow my neck and let evil trample over me. If I were a young man and the call came from my country to fight for it I am sure that I would go. But I would go with a sinking spirit, as I am sure many of our young men are going, wondering if war is the way out of it all. I rode on the trains with young men in World War I and I ride on the trains with them now as they go to prepare for World War III. There is a different spirit. Then they sang and cheered. Now they sit quietly and look out of the car windows and wonder! They think that there ought to be a better way out, and they are gloriously right. There ought to be, and there is. The Christian Church has been proclaiming it for two thousand years, and men who have had the courage to die have not had the courage to receive it. And so we old ones continue to send our young ones to their death because while they are brave enough to die we are not brave enough to bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

Of course the trouble is that Christians are a minority in this world. There are 180 million Russians who have repudiated Christ and all that He stood for and stands for, and there are 400 million Chinese who never heard of Him. And there are 80 million Japanese sitting on the side-lines waiting to see which way to jump. And there are 150 million black men in Africa being urged to rebellion against the status quo, against which I think there ought to be some sort of resistance. And there are 380 millions in India to whom Christ is but a name, and a 100 other millions in Burma, Malaya and the Islands to the East. And in so-called Christian lands like the United States, less than one half even profess any Christian loyalty. Is this a discouraging picture? Far from it, it is the most challenging thing which life could possibly present. For we are still Pioneers! And will be perhaps for many generations to come. For every age is a pioneering age, and no age ever realizes that it is. We look back at the men and women who crossed the plains in ’49. And say they were glorious Pioneers! But they did not think of themselves as that. They were merely desperate people, braving the perils of the wilderness, hoping to find some escape from the decadent East of 1849: That is what pioneers always are; people fleeing from the realities of the present toward the glorious things which are to come. It was so when the Assyrians came to Palestine. It was so when the Tarters over-ran western Europe. It was so when the Europeans came to America. It was so when the people of the Atlantic Coast migrated Westward in 1849. It was so when we went to the Orient. For some strange reason the movement has been always westward. It continues so. The world’s attention is fixed today on China, where this movement began untold centuries ago.

These pioneerings were all on the level of worldly conquest, and, the world has been encircled. The time has come, for a new sort of pioneering; carrying Christ around the world as the men of former days carried the banner of worldly empire. Christian pioneers: leaving behind us the ugly realities of this age and turning toward the glorious things which are to come. We are tempted to think of Christianity as old and faded, but actually it is brand new. For two hundred thousand years, the only law men knew was the law of tooth and claw, and only two thousand years ago the revolutionary concept of a life based on love was given us. It is as if a man had lived in blackest sin for ninety-nine years and we expected him to be thoroughly converted to Christ at one hundred. There is a phrase in Revelation; St. John speaks of “the kingdom and patience of Christ”. We are in too big a hurry. God has all the time there is. As we think of the countless centuries which lie ahead of us we might well think of ourselves as “early Christians” still not very far removed from those who worshipped in the catacombs or died in the Roman arena. It is not a matter of how far we have gone in nineteen centuries, but of the direction in which we are travelling. If we only keep our courage and our faces turned toward the coming kingdom of Christ, we may well leave time in the hands of God. After all God has no such time concept as we have, for He is Eternal.

The state of the Church in the diocese, so far as I can see, continues to improve. We have opened up a new missionfield with a resident priest in Waynesboro and Sandersville. I visited both places last Sunday and confirmed classes. These are the second classes I have confirmed in these places since Mr. Caley came to us last Fall. Mr. Caley has also gathered together a small group in Sylvania, most enthusiastic, where they have organized themselves into a mission of the diocese. Since his coming to us we have a new and lovely small parish house which I dedicated last Sunday evening. Under his fine leadership this whole area is taking on new life.

In the Dublin deanery, Mr. Pace has re-opened the missions at Cochran and Hawkinsville. There is more promise here than I have seen since I came to Georgia. I have on hand some $5500.00 for a rectory in that mission field, and in another year or two, when our men begin to come from the seminaries, I hope to put a new man in the Hawkinsville-Cochran field. We no longer have a resident minister in Cordele, Mr. Peeples having been transferred to Jesup, but the work there is being well taken care of by Mr. Baxter, who drives over from Americus. Mr. Waller’s work in Bainbridge continues to be more and more encouraging. He has opened a mission at Cairo, and we shall start building there this summer or early Fall. We own some beautiful lots, and have quite a start toward a building fund. Mr. Mark Waldo comes out of Virginia Seminary this June and will go to Douglas and Fitzgerald. Christ Church, Augusta is applying for admission as a parish of the diocese, and I recommend such admission. Since Mr. Claytor’s leaving us for South Carolina, Mr. Schilling has done a fine work in advising this group, and it is the result of his fine leadership that such application is being made. It is quite possible that we shall soon have a resident priest at St. Mary’s, in charge of the Camden County missions. Plans for this are now under consideration. In Jesup Mr. Peeples has carried on the work at Jesup with increasing interest. He has also taken over the task of reviving and rejuvenating the Church in Georgia with success. For this difficult task our heartfelt thanks go out to him. Other mission points are going forward quite normally, and we are being helped by many missionary minded rectors, whose services in this respect are invaluable. With this slow, but steady growth in the mission fields and with the increase in confirmations mentioned earlier, I feel that we have every reason to be encouraged, but no reason whatever to be satisfied. In most of the small towns of the diocese we have some scattered churchmen; nuclei upon which we may build in the future. We are trying to keep in touch with these people and draw them into the fellowship and worship or neighboring points. They hold promise for the future.

There has been considerable discussion going on around the diocese as to the need of a co-adjutor bishop, to reside in the western part of the Diocese until the time of my retirement. This question was brought up at the last convention and was decisively defeated. Since then I have had a request to consider this matter further, from a group of laymen representing, I believe, the Waycross deanery. This consideration I have given, and not trusting my own judgment entirely, I have conferred with many of our leading laymen, and some of our neighboring bishops who know the problems in Georgia very well, and these with whom I have conferred are unanimous in their opinion that the time has not come for the election of a co-adjutor; that the diocese can ill afford the expense of a co-adjutor, that the diocese is not large enough to justify a co-adjutor, and that we are getting along as well as other dioceses in our general area. The Diocese of Georgia is a small and a weak diocese, as dioceses go. It is a one man diocese, and there does not seem to be work enough for two bishops. I think that the need, if its exists at all is largely psychological and with this I am fully persuaded that our loyal churchmen in the western part of the state are capable of dealing. I have investigated this matter of diocesan psychology, and find that a similar condition exists in nearly all dioceses. The country parishes of Maryland feel that Baltimore steals the show. The people of South Carolina feel the same way about Charleston. And I could go on naming dioceses where this sort of feeling exists. There are many reasons why, to some extent, the diocese of Georgia centers in Savannah. First of all it is the largest center of strength. Secondly, a large part of the investments of the diocese center there. Thirdly it is the first settlement of Georgia, and has a sort of tradition of church responsibility. In none of these other dioceses where similar conditions exist has any effort been made to solve the problem by placing co-adjutors on the frontiers, nor do I think that it would solve our problem here. First of all it would cost some eight to ten thousand dollars a year, and I do not know where it is to come from. Secondly, to have a bishop of the East and a Bishop of the West might do more to divide us than to unite us. And lastly, when the time came for the western bishop to move to the East, the feeling might well be that “there is Savannah taking OUR bishop away from us,” and the last state of the diocese would be worse than the first.

I am free to confess that I have had some uncertanity in my mind concerning this matter since it was first brought up a year ago, and I may have caused some of you to believe that, if you desired it, I would be willing to go along. But I have about made up my mind that a weak diocese like this does not need two bishops, and cannot afford two bishops, and that when the time, comes that I can no longer do the work, I shall resign and permit you to elect a successor. Just when this will be I will not say at this time. My health continues to be excellent. Recently I put in a day complicated by wrecks and train schedules and visitations and conferences in Thomasville and Bainbridge which lasted from 5 o’clock Sunday morning until 2 o’clock Monday morning between two nights on the train, and last Sunday, visiting Sandersville and Waynesboro, Sunday lasted from 6:30 in the morning until 12:30 Monday morning. Usually my week-ends are a ride on Saturday, varying in length all the way from Savannah to Bainbridge or Blakely, a full Sunday and a ride home. I use the train when I can, and this schedule does not tax my strength unduly, as I spend most mornings in between at the office and most afternoons at home. So there is nothing required now in the way of physical exertion of which I am not fully capable. When the time comes that I cannot do the work, I shall quit. And in any event I must do this in three more years, but it is my hope that I may be able to do so sooner than this. At any rate I would like to be your bishop through one more General Convention. We meet for this in the city of Boston, 1952. If you are as happy with me as I am with you, the day of my resignation will be very sad.

In some ways however I shall not be sorry. I have carried the responsibility of the churches now for more than twenty-five years. It is not the work; it is the unsolved and sometimes the insoluble problems which get one down. As the Chancellor said in his address on the occasion of my 25th anniversary, “it is the making of bricks without straw” which tries one’s soul.

I commend you to the care and love of God and pray for your happiness, and for your usefulness and for your Peace.

Middleton S. Barnwell.