Bishop’s Address of 1939

The Rt. Rev. Middleton Stuart Barnwell

Bishop M.S. BarnwellWe live in a troubled world and it is our own fault. When God had made it, He looked upon it and “saw that it was good,” It is still good. There is enough wealth within it and upon it to satisfy every human need. It produces more food than man can eat. Its seasons are perfectly adapted to human life and happiness. In spite of these things, most of us are poor, many of us are hungry, and all of us are fearful of what tomorrow may bring in the way of temporal disaster. Since God has put everything here that we need to make life secure, and since we daily advance toward a more precarious living, the fault must be our own.

And the difficulties in which we find ourselves are not due to our ignorance. If they were, they would be excusable. There was a time when men were poor and hungry because they did not know how to use the natural wealth of the world; did not know how to convert it to their own use. But that time is past. The mines of the earth are our treasure houses and the waterfalls are servants to do our bidding; and we are on the trail of the vast stores of wealth and energy that lie mysteriously buried in the atom and the electron. We, who once walked wearily through the dust of the earth from place to place, now circle the world on wings, and our words, quietly spoken into a little metal device echo throughout the world.

The trouble with the world is that we have grown smart too rapidly, or else that we have not grown good rapidly enough. At any rate we have grown smart more rapidly than we have grown good. Invention has made us neighbors before Religion has made us brothers. There is only one phase of life in which that has failed, and that, is human relationships. The mal-adjustment of these human relationships lies at the bottom of all social, economic, political, and international problems; and these are almost all of the problems that we know. If once in these fields, Life could be properly adjusted, then life on earth would be as good as the world itself, and that would be perfect, for the world is as good as God knew how to make it. Now human relationships depend on human attitudes. If I am a lone wolf living for myself and plundering where and whom I may, I shall inevitably create human relationships which make for unhappiness; the unhappiness of others first of all—and ultimately my own. If, finding that I am not strong enough to obtain my desires when I stand alone, I team up with other lone wolves to make alone wolf group, the result is the same, but on a larger scale. At first, I make other groups unhappy, until they in turn unite against me. If, finding that the group is not strong enough to stand alone, we team up with enough other lone wolf groups to form a nation, the same thing is repeated. It is this lone wolf attitude which makes happy human relationships impossible, and until we have happy human relationships, we are going to have an unhappy world.

I grow weary of hearing about human crises. There is a crisis in labor and a crisis in business; a crisis in Spain and in Europe and in the Orient. I find it increasingly difficult to become interested in these constantly recurring crises, because there is no crisis anywhere except the one, ages old, in man’s heart. Here, love and lust; here good and evil; here righteousness and sin are locked in deadly combat, and the result of that struggle means life or death for the world. The outward miseries and struggles of men; the marching armies, massed artillery, wings of death, brawling demagogues, weary people, and pitiful refugees like dust before the wind—these things are the sacraments of hell; the outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual disgrace!

If human relationships are bad, it is because human attitudes are evil. If human attitudes are evil, it is because human hearts are sick. Find a cure for these sick hearts, and you have found the cure for the troubles of the world. Men are seeking for peace through outward adjustments, and despairing of reaching such adjustments as will ensure peace. They do well to despair. Peace, by such means is not difficult. It is impossible. “Keep thine heart with all diligence for but of it are the issues of life.” “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

What then shall we do for these trouble making hearts of men? Well, I will tell you two very simple and practical things you can do. First of all, you can exalt Christ in your own life. That is no theological abstraction. It simply means so to live that men may look on you and know that you have been with Jesus. To exalt Christ in your life? Perhaps it would be better to say to “exalt your life in Christ.” Easier to understand, though the result will be the same. And secondly, you can do all that lies within your power to bring Christ to bear on the lives of other men who have not yet found Him.

These then are the two things of practical value which you can do. First, to exalt your own life in Christ. This is personal Christian living, Prayer and Faith and all those other splendid things about which you clergymen preach every Sunday, and which you laymen are accustomed to think of as Religion. They are a part of religion —but only a part. The other part is to do what you can to make those prayers and that Faith effective in transforming this world into the Kingdom of God. And this means work and sacrifice and stewardship—and these things are the other part of religion. The first half of religion, the world knew before Christ came. The Pharisees were models of personal holiness—but that is ALL THEY WERE, and that is just why Christ held them up to scorn. It is not Christian just to be good. You are not Christian until you try to help other people to be good also. If Christ had been nothing more than GOOD, He could have stayed in Heaven and been that. But that did not satisfy Him BECAUSE HE WAS CHRIST! Here was a world full of people in desperate need. The way of the wolf was the only way they knew. They were destroying each other and themselves. What was the use of Christ’s being good in Heaven while selfishness and sin were tearing at the heart of the world? So Christ left Heaven and came to us, and gave us that revelation of God’s redeeming love, which for the past two thousand years has been battering at the door of wayward hearts; battering at the doors of those hearts, and breaking a way in; and when Christ had entered in, hate was dead and love was born and life was new.

Christ came and lived and loved and died to show us how it was done. He did not do it all. He left the task to us. But He showed us how, and left us to finish what He had begun. Before He went HOME He gathered His disciples around Him and said—As My Father hath sent Me, so now I send you. Go ye into all the world and tell them the Good Tidings. And, lo, I am with you always—I came to you—and now you go to the world.

That was Christ’s final message. There are the Christian’s marching orders. Christianity is not singing hymns and reading prayers out of a book. It is not Apostolic Succession, nor the quiet ordered ways of the Episcopal Church. These have their place and their uses, but they are not the Christian Religion. The Christian Religion is bringing Christ to the world, and bringing the world to Christ. It is making Jesus regnant in the hearts of men. When this is done, then Christ will shape our social institutions, and He will make the world’s business the Father’s Business. He will beat swords into plough-shares and spears into pruning-hooks.
Neighborhood will walk with Brotherhood on earth! This is what Christ came to earth for. It is what He saw as He walked the ways of earth; it is what He visioned as He hung upon the cross. You can damn it as visionary and impractical, and say it sounds well, but after all we have got to deal with the world as it is and do the best we can with what we’ve got. And you are wrong if you say this. I do not deal with the world as it is. I deal with it as God wants it to be. And I do not have to do the best I can with what I’ve got. I do the best I can with WHAT GOD’S GOT. And God has got what it takes to make this world HIS. If He has not, then He is not God at all. The Devil is God and the world is his.

Here it seems to me we have reached a point where we must make a decision. Whose world is this anyway, and whose followers are we? When Christians look out upon this troubled world and disclaim any responsibility for it, I cannot help thinking of one other who asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” It was Cain, the murderer. Christianity then is not a “taking in.” It is essentially a “giving out.” It is not like an oyster tightly closed clutching the pearl of truth to its own heart, but it is an unfolding flower giving fragrance and beauty to the world. And the method we use is that which Christ Himself used; the very method God used when He sent His Son to us; we send messengers into the darkness to proclaim Him who did not call Himself the Light of Heaven, but the Light of this world.

Now, men and brethren, I say unto you that we here in Georgia are doing this job which God has committed to us very imperfectly. You are at work in your own localities, while I am continually moving around this Diocese, and I am continually being urged by the officers of the National Church to guide more of your strength into the channels of the Church’s life which flow out into the world. I see needs every day which are going unanswered. Tell me, what can I do that I have not done to make this people an unfolding flower in the Garden of the Lord? I want to see the beauty of your love for God shining in the dark places of Georgia and the world. I want men and women everywhere to be blessed because you have lived and loved. I want my people to see the need and hear the call of the world for Christ; to see and hear and answer! I want more missionaries for the rural areas of Georgia. I want to open the doors of certain of our churches now closed for years. I want to increase the salaries of some of our workers who are on the edge of physical want. I want a church and a rectory in Statesboro where I went the first Sunday of this month and celebrated the Holy Communion in a small room in the College Dispensary which smelled of carbolic acid and iodoform, and where a splendid young Clergyman and his wife are trying to make bricks without straw. Our work among the Negroes is going backward. We need two or three additional workers even to maintain the work already under way. We need a white missionary in Camden County and one in Bainbridge and one in Moultrie and one in Dublin, and these people forever ask me what I am going to do for them, and what can I do? They are sheep without a shepherd. They look up but are not fed. “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me? Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee.” “Feed my sheep,” answered Christ “Feed my lambs! Feed my sheep!”

My brethren, we have got to do something about these things. And we are going to. These things and more can be done. We have not had sufficient faith. We have not been willing to dare the impossible for God. We have said we are too weak, when we have the Power of God to call upon. We have said we are too poor, when we have not tapped the unsearchable riches of Christ. And all of this boils down to the fact that our people have not believed in missions and have never been taught to give for missions adequately. I think it is because they have not learned to see the world as the field, nor to sense the world’s unutterable need which only Christ can answer. And so we are going to do something about it. We are going to begin now. In fact we have already begun.
What we are going to do is to make our people see beyond the boundaries of their own little parishes and missions. These things are not ends in themselves. They are means to an end The Parish is not a field to work in, but a force to work with. The field is not the parish. The field is the world. Our people have got to be made to see that, and that is primarily the job of you clergy. You were not ordained as rector of St. Timothy’s Parish or St. Agnes’ Parish, but as Priests in the Church of God. And the Church of God is a big thing, and reaches around the world. The WORLD is your Parish, and you have not seen your job until you see that. And you have not done your job until you make your people see it. Now that is going to require work. It will mean sermons everlastingly on the need of the world for Christ. It will mean study classes and conferences. It will mean taking advantage of every parish gathering of any kind to get this message across. Everlasting hammering will wear down the resistance of the most obdurant group. We clergy have only one job, and that is to win the world for Christ. Every little parish interest sinks into nothing by the side of that great objective. Every parish activity should contribute toward that end. This means that we should not be merely ministers or priests. We should be fanatics. Fanatics for Christ and His Mission to the world. Nothing less than that will suffice. If we cannot get ourselves into that state of mind, I, personally, think that we should go into some other business in which we can get seriously interested. I knew a man once who was a fanatic about a patented oil can from which it was impossible to pour oil to a point where the lamp overflowed. I honored and respected him. He believed in what he was selling. And do you know that often when I have dealt with mild, quiet, and satisfied clergymen, I have thought of that man. He was on fire about kerosene, and we are mild and contented because we have the light of the world, while most of the world is dark. My brethren of the clergy, you and I have got to be fanatics. We have got to think and dream and plan for nothing else. If personal and local interests come first, then God’s Kingdom throughout the world comes nowhere. It comes first or not at all. If the world for Christ is not you primary objective, then it is not your objective at all. THEREFORE, you must believe this first, and secondly, pour your life and all of your work into making your people believe it. That is your job—and mine as well.

So far as the laymen are concerned, most of them have got into a rut in their giving, and it is going to take some special effort to get them out of it. In the Diocese of Atlanta they have adopted the plan of calling in a high priced professional to take charge of their every member canvass throughout the diocese next Fall. For eight weeks they are going to pay him four thousand eight hundred dollars. I think they are going to get results and set a new standard of giving for themselves. But we can do it without the high priced executive if you are willing to follow me. This professional over in Atlanta knows no secrets of giving that the Church has not discovered long ago, and the Church through its National Field Department has worked out parish programs—which if taken and followed—will produce entirely new standards of giving. I worked with the National Field Department for twelve years, two as full time field secretary and ten as a Missionary Bishop, and I have put in the little book which I have placed in your hands all that we have discovered during the twenty years which have elapsed since the Nation Wide Campaign for Church Support was started. We are failing in our giving for two reasons: We have an uneducated people, and we have used imperfect methods. In this little book you will find a program of education laid down and a plan of campaign which I guarantee will get results if faithfully tried.

We are going to begin our campaign for next Fall right now. There are some things which I ask this Convention to do: to instruct the Department of Missions to meet at once and work out a program of work covering the Diocese, not as we think it CAN be covered, but as we KNOW IT OUGHT TO BE COVERED, and report back to this Convention this afternoon. Then I want you to instruct the Department of Finance to meet within the next week or ten days, and work out this budget of work in terms of new quotas to be assigned to the parishes and missions. And then I want you to instruct the Field Department to begin immediately its plan for a campaign of missionary education in regard to the needs of the Diocese of Georgia and the rest of the world, and to formulate a plan of campaign for next Fall which will carry enthusiasm and effective canvassing methods into every parish and mission of this Diocese.

There is one thing of which I am perfectly certain. We do not face a financial problem. If our communicants averaged a dime a week for the spread of the Kingdom of God, we would have all the money we need. An average of ten cents a week is not a financial problem at all. It is rather one of organization and method. Our problem is primarily to get a new vision of God’s Kingdom and our responsibility for it. These problems can be solved by intelligent and enthusiastic leadership. Our Lord called His people Sheep. He knew what He was doing. They are like Sheep in that they will follow if they are led by Shepherds who know where they are going! We, gathered here today, men and women, are the leaders of this Diocese. This Diocese will do exactly what we ask them to do and what we lead them in to. The delegations and the clergy here can go back to their parishes and missions, if they will, and call the people to finer things. And if you call with conviction and lead with wisdom and love, they will follow.

I want to make one thing more perfectly clear. In laying before you the plans contained in this little book, I know exactly what I am doing, and what it will do. When I went to the Advent in Birmingham its giving was forty-five hundred dollars a year. After twelve years of this plan, its giving had gone to about thirty thousand dollars a year. Though Birmingham has been hard hit by the years of depression, its giving is still I think about twenty-five thousand dollars per year. When we began this plan in the Advent its giving for missions was exactly nothing. After ten years, it was giving ten thousand a year for missions. As a Field secretary I carried this plan into parishes and missions on the west coast which I had never seen before, and I saw incomes doubled and trebled in a single effort. I do not hesitate to commend the plan for it is not mine. The methods suggested have come from all over the country and gradually crystallized into a sort of system for which no man is responsible.

I do not want you vestrymen to take this booklet out with you and throw it away. There is more common sense in it about parish finance than you will ever discover for-yourself. I want you to read it and re-read it, and think upon it until you are determined that your parish is going to have a willing and confident leadership, an adequate budget and a missionary quota to meet the need; until you are determined that a plan for educating the people shall be adopted; until you are convinced of the value of definite askings of the people in the light of your knowledge of the parish resources and the need; read it until you are determined to have a canvass which reaches the last outlying member of your group. You do these things and Georgia is headed for the sunlight.

Once more I lay before you your responsibility for the University of the South. I shall not dwell on it at length for you are at least as familiar with it as I am. Maybe you cannot do much in the way of giving money, but one thing you can do and it is what the University needs most. You can be an Agent and Representative of the school in your community. You can familiarize yourself with the new set-up under Dr. Alex Guerry and be prepared to and glad to commend the school to parents of boys looking for the exceptional in the realm of higher education. It is an exceptional school, and is going to be more so, as Dr. Guerry’s plans are worked out. It has placed and will ever place chief emphasis on those intangibles of life which after all are the things that really count. I hope that the clergy especially will call on the parents of High School Seniors in regard to this matter as soon as possible.

If you are instrumental in placing one of your boys at Sewanee, you will have done the boy, his family and your Church and community a service. Dr. Guerry has hazarded his whole career on the success of this school. He deserves our fullest loyalty.