Bishop’s Address of 1947

Bishop’s Address of 1947
The Rt. Rev. Middleton Stuart Barnwell

“In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.”

A writer whose name I forget, but which some of you may remember, once wrote, “Happy is that land which has no history.” History is largely a record of man’s struggles, sacrifices and pains, and according to this writer, the less there was to say about a country, the happier that country was apt to be. Something of this sort comes to my mind as I sit down to write about the Diocese of Georgia and its work during the year now ending. It has been a year of quiet and steady progress; a year of unwavering and increasing loyalty to the task of building God’s Kingdom; a year of very pleasant human relationships, and nothing startling or exciting to report. For all these things I am very thankful.

(Here the Bishop paused for a tribute to the late chancellor.)

We have had a few clerical changes.

The Rev. James B. Lawrence has retired as rector of Calvary Church, Americus, after a faithful service of forty-three years. So far as my knowledge of the record goes, this is the longest period of service rendered by any man in the history of the Diocese. During these years Dr. Lawrence has shed the light of his life not only in Americus, but also in a half dozen or more mission stations scattered over a vast area in western and south-western Georgia. How many children and grandchildren in the Lord he has I do not suppose he knows himself, but God does, and their names, which are many, are recorded to his credit in the heavenly archives. How long he served as Secretary of the diocese, I do not know, and few men in the whole Church have attended more General Conventions as a delegate than he. Dr. Lawrence is now living in a little home near Americus, through the kindness of one of the many friends he has made, and it is our hope and prayer that we may be granted the blessing of his continuing presence for many years to come. I would like to ask the Convention to rise and to join in glad doxology for such a life of service.

Dr. Lawrence is still a missionary, and comes to this convention with a request that we designate our offerings toward a new roof on the Church of the Prince of Peace at Vienna. This, with your consent, I am happy to do.

Dr. Lawrence has been succeeded at Calvary Americus by the Rev. William Baxter. Mr. Baxter has just finished two years of graduate work at Union Theological Seminary, and will I am sure bring added strength to our already fine clergy group.

Christ Church Frederica is vacant, the Rev. Lawrence Fenwick having returned to the army. We are now in correspondence with some good men, and hope to fill this growing parish very shortly.

The Rev. Theodore Patton has taken charge at St. Michael’s, Savannah, and already plans are under way and much money raised for a much needed enlargement of the Church plant.

The Rev. Saxton Wolfe has been ordained and is in charge of the work at Moultrie and Quitman, and temporarily in, charge of Bainbridge. He needs a car, and has the money with which to buy one, if some of you men in the automobile business or with friends in that business can help him out.

The Rev. Clifton White has been ordained and is in charge of the church at Valdosta. We have not yet started building there, waiting to see if costs of labor and materials are stabilized at present levels. The people there are now within easy reach of the twenty-five thousand dollars they set out to raise, and the success of their campaign can now be taken as assured. The beautiful lot on Patterson Avenue, just across from the Woman’s College has been entirely paid for, and is now being beautified by the women of the church with shrubbery and flowers.

The Rev. Robert Howe Daniell has retired after a long and faithful ministry. He is now in Savannah recovering his health, and we hope for his speedy recovery. His mission field has not yet been filled.

We need a missionary in this field, and also we need one very badly in the western part of the diocese as permanent priest in charge of Bainbridge and Blakely, and one or two other small places in that neighborhood. The difficulty is not altogether one of money, but principally one of men at the present time: that is men for the amount of money we are able to pay. It is not that clergymen are mercenary, but a married man with a family can scarcely exist on the salaries formerly current in the mission field. Some of our men are helping themselves by taking on extra work closely related to the work of the church, such as teaching or serving as chaplain at institutions, and I am glad to have them do these things as such work is the means of making many contacts which broaden their fields of service. But this is not possible in every case, and in the average mission field salaries continue too low for comfort. I do wish that the laymen of every church in the diocese, missions and parishes as well, would review the salaries they are paying to their clergy to see if they are in keeping with the rising costs of living. Steel workers and Auto workers and many others are organized, but the clergy are not. Someone is building a brick garage apartment across the lane from my house in Savannah, and yesterday I made inquiry as to the wages they were receiving. I found that they pay common labor six dollars a day, and brick layers twice as much. Our normal missionary salary has been about five dollars a day. This of course is no longer possible.

We have in Georgia I believe the finest lot of young clergy in any diocese of the Church, and I desperately want to keep them. They want to stay, but they have to live. They have a right to live in freedom from financial worry, so that they may give all of their thought and time to the work to which God has called them.

In regard to the two vacant mission fields mentioned above, we shall continue to serve them as we are doing with regular services by non-resident missionaries. This can be done, and the people so be held together. I have two splendid young men coming from the Virginia Seminary next year, and in this we may find the answer to this problem. We have enough money to fill these points with single men, if the cost of living does not go higher.

One reason that we are able to cover our entire mission field as well as we do is the splendid missionary spirit of our parish priests in Augusta Mr. West takes care of Waynesboro, and Mr. Claytor of Christ Church also has charge of Atonement. In Savannah, Father Brady takes care of the Isle of Hope and Pooler. In Waycross the Rev. Charles Wyatt-Brown goes to St. Mary’s and Woodbine. Mr. Shirley at Thomasville has for years been an unpaid missionary. He developed Moultrie from almost nothing to a point where they can pay a resident minister $1200 a year, and has tremendously increased the strength and spirit of Bainbridge, and is now turning his attention to Cairo. Father Madson at Albany also has charge of the Colored mission there, and Mr. Baxter expects to look after some of the mission work which Dr. Lawrence has been doing. But for such help as this, we could not cover the field. In nearly every instance mentioned above, the clergyman has needed a car for this scattered work, and I am as far as I can making some small payments to them, which helps with the monthly installments on the new cars they had to secure in order to travel safely over the highways. Some parishes have had the vision to see that a car is a part of a modern preacher’s necessary equipment and that he should not be expected to buy it out of present salaries.

St. John’s, Savannah, has given Mr. Risley a beautiful new Cadillac which of course is beyond anyone’s reasonable expectations, but smaller places can do as well with smaller cars. I know of another place in the diocese where a new car soon to come is hanging over a preacher’s unsuspecting head. I rejoice in such evidences of your love for and confidence in your preachers, and if your clergyman is driving an old wreck which endangers his life every time the ventures forth, I hope you will go into conference with him and see if between you and him you cannot solve this problem. I think there should be an item in every budget, setting aside so much a year for the minister’s necessary transportation. If he did not get around, you would have no church at all, and this expense ought not to be saddled on him, for in few cases will his income justify it. I marvel that so many missionary clergymen have managed to keep four wheels under them. Every commercial salesman either has a car provided or receives enough in mileage to buy his own. It seems to me that we are under compulsion to do at least as much for our clergy.

Still another clergy change has been the transfer of Mr. Mundy from Valdosta and Quitman to Tifton and Cordele. Father Crusoe, formerly there has retired and is living in Albany, but is most useful from time to time in supply work, he has recently finished such a task at Americus, where his ministrations were much appreciated. Anyone needing a supply is advised to get in touch with him.

A work at Statesboro has been begun by Father Epting. He is not canonically resident in this diocese, but his ministrations are most welcome. He may be paving the way for a church building some day, and a permanent piece of work.

I especially wish to commend the work being done by the Rev. Irwin Hulbert and the Rev. Archer Torrey. The former has greatly increased self support in his mission field, and under Mr. Torrey, Darien has become self-supporting. The Reverend Messrs. Hansen and Harris continue their work in their respective fields, and in all other places the work is going as well as we have any right to expect. Time is not sufficient to make mention of other men and places, but we have much for which to be thankful.

The status of the Negro field does not change much. Building at St. Matthews in Savannah is still being held up, again on account of present day excessive costs. In addition to our faithful Negro clergy, work is being carried on by Mr. Russell at St. Mary’s, and by the Rev. Mr. Wilkinson in Augusta. We have one Negro candidate graduating this summer, from the Bishop Payne Divinity school who will be a welcome addition to our strength.

Camp Reese. Again I call your attention to Camp Reese. In this camp we have an asset such as few dioceses enjoy, but we feel that our people are not making the best use of its facilities. The courses given are always worthwhile, and the family life and recreational facilities are always much enjoyed. Many of our faculty members are people of national importance. This summer we shall enjoy Dr. Adelaide Case, formerly of Columbia University and now a member of the faculty of our Theological Seminary in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Again our much-loved Mrs. Griffeth will be general camp manager, and of the various camps our clergy will be directors. Descriptive matter of the various camps may he had by writing Mrs. Griffeth or the bishop’s office.

At our last annual meeting this convention voted favorably for the first time on a constitutional change providing full representation in this convention to our, Negro parishes and missions. I would like to call the attention of the Committee on Unfinished Business to this matter, as it is due to come up at this convention for final decision. Last year on its first passage our action was unanimous on the part of those who voted, but some members of the convention did not vote, and have since been critical of our action. I am sorry this happened, and I hope it will not happen again. Discussions on this floor are free and open as they should be between Christian brethren, and if there are objections to this proposal now is the time—and perhaps the last time—to voice them. If there are two sides to this question, we all wish to hear them both. I have nothing more to say now except that I am personally in favor of completing this action favorably, and I call your attention to the simple fact that full rights in convention are granted the Negro in every diocese in the church except Georgia and South Carolina, and South Carolina has passed the necessary constitutional change for its first time.


At the present moment the entire church is working on a special project of raising one million dollars a year for three years for the Presiding Bishop to use in helping Church people throughout the world. Perhaps you have wondered why we are not at work on this in Georgia. The reason is that we included our annual share of this fund in our missionary budget last Winter, and you have subscribed it, and you are now engaged in paying It week by week along with your regular missionary giving, and I am sure it is proving practically painless. Your clergy adopted this method at their Fall conference last September, and the result has abundantly justified their wisdom.


There is, however, another fund being raised very quietly throughout the Church in which we should have a part. I refer to the establishment of a great national Church Center at Greenwich, Connecticut, where the Presiding Bishop will have his home, and where small conferences of a national character may be held. This program was indorsed with enthusiasm by the last General Convention, and the Presiding Bishop has been receiving voluntary gifts for this cause. The cost of the property already purchased was one hundred thousand dollars, and the cost of putting it in shape for Church use will probably be about another hundred thousand. Our mathematical share of two hundred thousand dollars is about one thousand. I would like to see the diocese take its place in this program at once, and I suggest the method of taking at once an offering in every church, for this purpose. Any parish which does not care to make the offering could make an appropriation of suitable amount. I believe that we should take these steps at the earliest possible moment, provided we take a little time in advance to prepare our people for a generous gift. This will be something in which we can forever take pride.

In addition to the above I would also call your attention to two other financial campaigns now under way. There is the five million dollar campaign for the University of the South, Sewanee, and a six hundred thousand dollar campaign for the Theological Seminary in Virginia. These both, however, are campaigns of longer range than the one for the Church Center, and will perhaps make their strongest appeal to men and women of larger means. I do, however, at this time commend them both to your interest and generosity. We are not a rich diocese compared with others in this church, and this I know full well, though there is some wealth here, but I am not willing that we should take second place to any diocese when it comes to loyalty to the work of our Church in its larger relationships, and I crave for Georgia her own proper place in every movement which looks toward the extension of the Kingdom of God. That is our ultimate objective and the reason for our BEING.


I suspect that very many of you never heard of this organization. Nevertheless it is one of power and deep significance. It is composed of practically all of the non-Roman Churches. Of the larger non-Roman bodies only the Southern Baptists have failed to join. Our own Church was among the last to enter into full relationship. For a long time we stayed on the side-lines—“Observing”. We went into it fully only about seven years ago, and have already furnished to it two presidents, one our late Presiding Bishop, the revered and loved Rt. Rev. Henry St. George Tucker, and now Mr. Charles Taft, son of a late President of the United States, and brother of the present senator front Ohio. Mr. Charles Taft is a most ardent Episcopalian.

In recent months there has been some criticism of the Federal Council because of some pronouncements by one of its very many committees; the one dealing with industry. This one Committee after a meeting in Pittsburgh last winter reported that in its opinion the Christian Industrialist’s motive should be one of service Primarily, rather than profit, and that Free Enterprise should be regulated for the common good, and this is held to be a trend toward Communism on the part of the Federal Council. Well, I would not call the Rotary Club Communistic, and in all of their literature and slogans they very definitely put service ahead of profits, nor would I have called the Elder Roosevelt, Theodore, a Communist, and no man ever bore down on Big Business more than he in those days. It was not called the New Deal, but the Square Deal, and the present anti-trust laws of the nation were considered quite communistic by the Old Guard of the Republican Party. Most of you are too young to remember those days. I remember when the Interstate Commerce Commission was considered a dangerous interference with private free enterprise on the part of the Federal Government; when the Federal Reserve was considered dangerous banking practice, and many similar examples. In Acts 17:21 the Athenians were condemned for spending their time in hearing or telling some new thing. It has always been so, and probably always will, for life moves on.

I am not speaking to defend the Federal Council in these matters. I know very little about so-called non-profit motives, for we get our profit out of life in so many different ways. All of the Church secretaries I know of who denounce the profit-motive work for wages, and all of the industrialists I know of are trying to serve the community. It is a great pity to see right thinking people quarrel over words and definitions, or even methods, for we are all brethren if our common pursuit is the good of mankind, and I think that is the goal of nearly all of us.

There are some tremendous values in the Federal Council of Churches, and it becomes increasingly necessary in this country and in the world for the Protestant or non-Roman world to speak with a united voice, and to act in concert if it is to combat effectively the world-wide political pressures which spread from the Vatican. This latter I consider to be the single greatest threat to world peace, and is responsible for much of the hatred of Russia which has sprung in this country among people who know nothing whatever about the subject, and the Roman Church hates England because of Ireland and our own Established Church. The Church of Rome loves totalitarian states, and is the staunch backer of Franco in Spain and of many anti-democratic movements in Latin-America. These statements can be documented, but I have no time to do it now, nor perhaps is this the place. I only mean to say now that the Federal Council of Churches in America deserves in my judgment the loyal support of free Christian people. It is composed of human beings, and consequently may err in practice from time to time. If this happens, we shall be able to correct such errors from within better than from without. It is foolish to burn down the house to get rid of a few mice.

And moreover I grow impatient with name-calling. In this country it seems as if we were getting ready to engage in witch-hunting —looking for Communists. I go to the dictionary to see what Communist means, and I find that it is a “scheme for equalizing the social conditions of life; specifically a scheme which contemplates the abolition of inequalities in the possession of property, as by distributing all wealth equally, or by holding all wealth in common for the equal use and advantage of all,” You will remember that the early Christians tried this, and it did not work very well because in the Christian community there were some cheats and liars—Ananias and Sapphira. It was abandoned not because it was not good enough for people, but because people were not good enough for it. The only communists I know of in the world today are in certain small religious orders of monks and nuns, who seek to have all things in common, and even there human nature is at work, and while all are equal, some are more equal than others.

In the light of the above definition which came from Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, I am NOT a Communist. It is a beautiful vision, but I think unworkable in this present imperfect world. But I have a right to be a Communist if I want to be one, just as much as I have a right to be a Democrat or a Republican or a member of the United States Chamber of Commerce, or a Union Labor leader. Every poor man who seeks an advance in wages, or tries to make a little more money for himself is seeking the abolition of inequalities in the possession of property so far as he himself is concerned. To this extent he is a Communist, and in all probability a loyal citizen of the United States of America.

If you hate the Russians, say so. I hate Totalitarianism; and secret police and thought control and political purges and the exploitation of the peasant class and ruthless dealing with conquered and dependent countries, and of all these things Russia has been guilty. But these things are not Communism. They are Power Politics, stark and unashamed. The present day Power Politician is as far from being a Communist as Joe Stalin is from the twelve Apostles. That he calls himself one makes not the slightest difference.

So do not hate people because they are accused of being or admit to being communists. They may be Russian or even American villains of deepest dye, or they may be simple minded Christian perfectionists, seeking the Kingdom of God in an imperfect world. If the Federal Council of Christian Churches is Communistic, it is so in this latter way. I might even join with you in criticizing it for being impractical, and for advocating the principles of a stage of life to which we have not yet come. Jesus was not practical either. He said “If you have two coats, give your brother one.” And that was the abolition of inequality.

We look out on the troubled world and see these and other problems, and are perplexed, but we need not be unless we wish to be, for we know the answer. And this answer is not to be found in ANY outward form or shape or pattern of life. Communism would be a wonderful way of life if all men were Christians, and a Capitalistic Democracy would be a hell of a life if there were no Christians. Any plan will work if men’s hearts are right, and their loyalties strong toward Him who is God and Father of us all. In this, the Church of God, we have the way of life for which the world is waiting, and without which the world will surely perish. Out there in the darkness of self-seeking night, the world is waiting for the sunrise. We have Christ; in Him is life and that life is the light of men. The light shineth in the darkness, and in God’s good time the darkness WILL comprehend.