Bishop’s Address of 1946

The Rt. Rev. Middleton Stuart Barnwell
St. Paul’s Church, Savannah
May 7, 1946

Making his address before the 124th annual convention of the Diocese of Georgia at the opening service in St. Paul’s Church, Savannah on Tuesday night, May 7, the Rt. Rev. Middleton S. Barnwell. D. D., bishop of the diocese, began by picturing the post-war world, its hatreds, with hunger and political unrest stalking the earth. From that he drew the results in racial, economic and political fields, concluded that the Christian Church ought to do something to correct these conditions, and then dwelt on what might be done in the Diocese of Georgia, particularly in the matter of giving the Negro his just recognition in Church affairs.

The bishop declared his belief the Negro would make a good citizen and said, “Beyond a doubt the most dangerous element in the present situation are those political demagogues who are trying to ride to office on the platform of racial supremacy or race hatred.”

In asking that the diocese give the Negro voting rights on the convention floor, the bishop pointed out that of 103 dioceses and missionary districts in the entire American church, the Diocese of Georga, the two South Carolina dioceses and the Diocese of Arkansas were the only four left in which the Negro did not have these rights.

The bishop gave the latest figures on the Reconstruction and Advance Fund in the diocese, told of the plans for Valdosta and the Tifton-Cordele field and then touched on the rapid growth in recent years of the Roman Catholic Church in Georgia. Stating that the Roman bishop had been aptly called “The Builder,” the bishop declared, “your bishop could he a builder, too, if he had anything to build with.” He said if every communicant in the diocese would only give the bishop five dollars a year for new work, in ten tears there would be an entirely different kind of church in this diocese. He concluded that he had never been more hopeful for the future.

For the benefit of the thousands of Churchmen throughout the Diocese of Georgia interested in having a full account of Bishop Barnwell’s remarks we herewith give his address in full:

After four years of war-time Conventions, we have come together with the great war ended. Two of our white Clergy and one of our Colored went as Chaplains, and two have returned. The Colored Chaplain, Fr. Edden of Brunswick, according to my last information is still in Europe. Chaplain Fenwick is now the rector of Christ Church, Frederica, and Chaplain Belford plans to do some studying before he returns to the active ministry. Most of our men and women are back. Some will never come. Let us pause to remember before God those who will not return to us in this life, and to thank Him for His mercies in bringing so many home In safety.” Here the bishop offered a prayer, and continued as follows:

The war has ended but peace has not come. To catalogue the suffering nations is to call the roll of all which had any part in the war, and many which did not. Hunger and political unrest stalk the earth. This is not surprising because for six years the best brains of the world have been concentrated on destruction and death. As a result, people are suffering. And this is not surprising. People suffer when they break God’s Commandments—and Christ’s commandment that we love one another …Will men never learn anything? Yes. Men are learning the slow way and the hard way. We may despair, but God does not. We despair because we have but one lifetime here, but God has all the time there is.

Lord, thou hast been our refuge from one generation to another. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever the earth and the world were made, thou art God from Everlasting and world without end. THOU TURNEST MAN TO DESTRUCTION; again Thou sayest, Come again ye children of men! For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday, seeing that is past as a watch in the night. Thou hast set our misdeeds before thee and our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance. For when Thou art angry all our days are gone. We bring our years to an end as it were a tale that is told. O teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

War is human hatreds raised to their highest earthly power.. There just isn’t any life in hatred. We need not look for it, it simply is not there. Follow a path of hatred and death always ensues, whether victor or vanquished. This has always been true and it always will be true. We continue to flout God’s Law’s, and inevitably God mows us down! He will continue to do so until we get some intelligent religion—and some consecrated common-sense.

I feel very sorry for the suffering people of the world, and I think we should do all that we can to help them, but taking us as a whole, ourselves and the rest of the world we are complaining and we are suffering, but we asked for it—and we got it. And so it will ever be until we open our eyes to the wonderful face of Jesus, and our hearts to His constraining love.

I read where some parish has given up parish suppers in order to feed the hungry in Europe. The President tells me I should eat one less biscuit for breakfast. These things do not help Europe. What you and I and our servants do not eat goes into the American garbage can. Many Europeans would love our garbage cans, but they cannot get at them. These local decisions are no more than generous gestures. As Mr. LaGuardia so rightly says, “Ticker tape is not spaghetti.”

I can think of only two things we can do. One is to pray for the starving people of the world. This we can do as individuals. As a corporate body we can wire our President to put us back on rationing, so that the hungry of the world may be fed. I believe in his honesty, and think he would like to do it, but it would take considerable political courage, and that we can help to develop by some concerted and corporate action.

It is too big a problem for any parish or diocese to handle alone. It must he done on a national basis—or not at all. I am appointing a Committee to consider this, and other matters brought up in this Bishop’s address.

We are living in a perfectly amazing era. That sounds like the most bromidic remark ever made—until you stop to think about it. How long men have been on the earth, God only knows. Physically, he probably evolved from lower forms of life. Essentially he began in the Mind of God. How far back that is I do not know. There comes a point at which Time ceases to mean anything. But all at once man has blossomed out.

He discovered that he could boil water and make steam, and made engines to harness this power. With this power he dug holes in the earth, and found something called oil, and out of this he made many things —among them something called gasoline. He found in this new substance something which had enormous possibilities so he designed an engine to use this, and the automobile and the airplane were born. Through all of these processes he was conscious of some great underlying power upon which he could not quite lay his hand. He called it Atomic Power—and now he has harnessed that—so far only for purposes of destruction. The amazing thing is that man has drifted along for a million years or more with nothing but his bones and his muscles available to do his will—and in our one lifetime he has harnessed to his will what almost looks like the Creative Power of God. With the enormous past behind us, all of this has happened in the span of one long human life!

Through all the years of this leaden-footed past we were evolving not only physically, but socially, economically and politically as well, and we had developed a way of life which met our needs, not perfectly, but fairly well, and now in our lifetime the whole picture has changed. The different races of the world, formerly living in their own areas, segregated by distance and geographical barriers, have suddenly become One World. Red, black, yellow, brown, and white. Whether we like it or not is beside the question. God likes it, or it would not have happened. Our old separatist attitudes have suddenly become as obsolete as the Covered Wagon, and to all of these world-wide problems of race there must be a whole new way of approach.

With our own eyes we have seen the folly and the sin of the gospel of any one race’s supremacy. At long last we have discovered something which is two thousand years old. “They which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them. But so shall it not be among you. Whosoever shall be your minister, and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be the servant of all.” In a world grown one, there just is not any way to approach this whole issue of race except on the basis of our ONENESS—in Christ.