Bishop’s Address of 1942

The Rt. Rev. Middleton Stuart Barnwell


In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Let us stand.

On February 20th, 1942, the Rt. Rev. Henry Judah Mikell, the Bishop of Atlanta, entered Paradise. It has never been my custom in Council addresses to recount the deaths of Bishops of the Church, but in the death of Bishop Mikell, we have for a little while lost one who was very close to us all. His loss is of particular interest to us at this Convention as he was to have been with us—as our guest. Ordained to the priesthood in 1899, the Rev. Mr. Mikell became rector of the Church of the Holy Communion in Charleston, which parish he served nineteen years. In 1908 he became rector of Christ Church in Nashville, where he remained until 1917 in which year he was elected Bishop of Atlanta. He became Chancellor of the University of the South in 1938, serving until his death. I have known Bishop Mikell in many relationships during the last thirty years, and in the midst of many trying situations, he never failed to show those qualities which endeared him to us all. He was a scholar and a gentleman and a Christian. His strong but gentle influence will be missed in the councils of the whole Church. May he rest in peace.

There have been some clerical changes in the Diocese during the past year. The Rev. Robert Lee Gordon, Vicar of St. Mary’s, Augusta, removed from the Diocese; the Rev. Francis Wilson retired as Vicar of Christ Church, Cordele; the Rev. John Bentley, Vicar of St. Anne’s, Tifton, was transferred to the Diocese of Texas; the Rev. William D. Turner, resigned as rector of St. Stephen’s, Savannah, and was transferred to the Diocese of Southern Virginia; the Rev. Sullivan Bond, Jr., resigned as Vicar of Christ Church, Frederica, and removed from the Diocese. We have received into the- Diocese the Rev. Edward Claytor as Rector of Grace Church, Waycross; and the Rev. John E. Rowell, Priest in charge at Darien and Jesup; and the Rev. Henry T. Egger, Priest in charge at Tifton and Fitzgerald. The vacancies caused by the removal of the Rev. Mr. Turner and the Rev. Sullivan Bond have not been filled.

There have been some encouraging developments in the mission field. The most interesting development has been at Moultrie, where this little congregation has taken on new life after a long dormant period. New people have come in, the Church has been entirely redecorated, a new heating plant installed, an organ secured, and a new roof put on the Church building; and there is real opportunity for Church growth in this prosperous city. There should be a resident Priest in Moultrie, but our missionary income does not permit this at the present time. This work is being looked after now by the Rev. George Shirley, who drives over from Thomasville. Mr. Shirley is giving freely of his time in this additional field, and deserves the gratitude of the Diocese. The work at Tifton continues to prosper. Mr. Bentley’s place was filled almost immediately by the coming of Mr. Egger, who was ordained to the Priesthood in St. Paul’s, Albany, on Palm Sunday last. Mr. Egger will carry on the fine work begun by Mr. Bentley, and the prospect there is for continued growth. A new missionary, the Rev. Mr. Harris, formerly Rector of the Church of the Atonement, Augusta, is being transferred to the Dublin, Sandersville field, which will give this field a resident minister for the first time. A new rectory is now being built at Dublin on property we have owned for a long time. I do not expect this rectory to cost us any great amount of money, as we have enough money for a down payment, and small monthly payments will be made under the Federal Housing plan by rental received from other property. This arrangement will re-open Grace Church, Sandersville, after a long period of inactivity. The mission field at Valdosta and Quitman under the Rev. Thomas Mundy shows continued growth and has taken over another one hundred dollars of the missionary’s salary as a local expense.

We need at least two more missionaries for a minimum coverage of the field. At present Mr. Egger is looking after Fitzgerald and Tifton; and Douglas is being cared for by Mr. Claytor out of Waycross. We should restore a full time worker to the Douglas-Fitzgerald field, leaving Mr. Claytor free to develop other mission points near Waycross, and permitting Mr. Egger to give up Fitzgerald and take over Cordele. At present no services are being held in Cordele except such as can be arranged from time to time. A general missionary is needed in the neighborhood of Savannah to look after Statesboro, Pooler, and the Isle of Hope, and other points as opportunity may develop.

The new St. Michael’s Church and Parish House, Savannah, have been completed, and a service of dedication was held March 8th. These are beautiful buildings of fire proof construction, and this new enterprise reflects credit upon the Rev. Mr.. Mueller and his faithful people. This new Church is located in a very rapidly growing part of Savannah and seems to have a bright future ahead of it. With all buildings completed, their debt is very small.

Another interesting move in the past year has been the calling of the Rev. Lee Belford to be rector of St. Mark’s, Brunswick. At one time St. Mark’s had been reduced to the status of a diocesan mission due to non-payment of diocesan assessments. These assessments have now been paid up and St. Mark’s takes its place again in the ranks of parishes, with a bright future ahead of it. The Atonement, Augusta, and St. Andrew’s at Darien, being below the new standard requirements of a parish, set up at the Convention last year, have been entered as diocesan missions. The Rev. Mr. Tucker continues in the Army service as Chaplain; and the Rev. Lawrence Fenwick has volunteered as a Chaplain, but has not yet been called.

This last paragraph opens up the whole question of our responsibility to the Church and State in time of war, and I have been asked by practically all of our younger clergy for advice in this regard. Of course, every man is going to make this decision on his knees and give his life to service in that field where he feels that God has called him. It should, however, be remembered that in this war more than in any other war we have ever known, the front is at home as well as abroad. We know that our soldiers will stand in peril on battle fields in distant lands. It is also quite probable that some of us who stay at home will at times stand in equal peril, and it is certain that death will touch us all who have loved ones far away. The maintenance of morale among our own home people, and the conservation of those spiritual values for which we fight are as important as anything we have to consider in the world today. The dine was when war was fought by expeditionary forces, but the American Army now is the American people; and the rector of a parish is just as much a chaplain of the forces as the man who wears his Country’s uniform.

There is a whole world of new responsibility laid upon the Church by this present struggle. This is not a political war, and as far as England and America are concerned, it is not a war of conquest nor a war of seeking new territories. It is essentially a struggle to defend those things in life which we believe have spiritual value; and locked in death grips are two concepts of human personality; two concepts of the dignity of human beings, which are in opposition to each other. Implicit in the Christian faith is a sense of the infinite worth of each individual and the dignity of human personality made forever sure by the Incarnation. The only means of struggle left to us is the struggle in battle, and that is our present day misfortune. We did not seek this form of struggle but that we should struggle for these things we have mentioned is the simplest duty of Christian people.

We have always needed God and our need of God in the future will be not greater than our need of Him in the past, but in these days of crisis there dawns upon us a new realization of that need more keen perhaps than we have known before. The one prayer that we have adopted as a war time prayer in this diocese is that one in the Prayer Book for the Family of Nations, in which we ask God to guide the Nations of the world into the way of justice and truth, and to establish among them that peace which is the fruit of righteousness. We believe that our way is the way of justice and truth and we hope that when the war is ended, we shall have a peace which is the fruit of righteousness. But we must recognize that our enemies too, to some extent, feel the same way about their cause, and that there are earnest people on both sides of this conflict fighting for the truth as they see it. We believe we are in the right, but we are not sure—only God is sure—and only God can give the final answer, and I think we have every reason to expect that out of this struggle in which so many men are laying down their lives for their own particular concept, a peace of righteousness and of justice will come. What that will mean to us will depend entirely upon how nearly we walk in God’s ways. Our prayers should never be that God should be on our side, but that we should be on God’s side. Above the struggle of battle, whatever the issue, we must believe that God reigns, and that through human tragedy, He is working His purpose out. We believe and hope that this will mean first of all a victory in arms to the men of our own Country; but if God rules the world, it will not mean this unless what we believe to be God’s Will is in fact God’s Will. So we must be prepared, as we give ourselves to this struggle, to accept in good spirit and faith whatever the outcome may be; and what this will be no one knows at the present moment but God. If, as we believe and hope, our cause is triumphant, we shall need God to help us to build a better world than we have known before.

In the old world that we knew, planted through our own indifference and selfishness and sin, there have been seeds of evil which have issue in the present conflict. We have been a smug people and a self-satisfied people, a people who left God out of account very largely in dealing with the other peoples of the earth. To this extent we have sinned, and in proportion to our sin, we must pay a price. This of course is true of all men everywhere, and we must resolve as we fight, that when the smoke of battle is cleared away, we shall build a world in which God has His proper place. This is the only way to Peace.

If, on the other hand, disaster comes to us, we probably will have nothing left except faith in God, the kind of faith that sustained the people of our southern country in the dark days of reconstruction. I have been reading some sermons by Bishop Elliott preached at the close of the War Between the States, and from these, it is very evident how completely the people of this part of the country in their hopelessness and poverty were compelled to rely upon God as their Father and Friend. We do not anticipate any such event as this in the present struggle, but we must be prepared for it, as it is within the realm of possibility. And should this dark night come to us again, we shall need God as we have never needed Him in our lifetime.

For these reasons, it seems to me the work of the Church is more vital today than it has ever been before. This means far more than send and equipping Chaplains for the armed forces. It means that those of us afield as Chaplains, and those of us afield as Pastors of the flock shall give ourselves with more wholehearted devotion to the task of building God into human life, and of building human life on God. We are looking forward to and talking about a new world that is to come when the present darkness is past. But if the new world is founded upon the same old hatreds and jealousies, it will be the same kind of a tragic world that we have today. “Except the Lord build the house, their labor shall be lost that build it; except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”

For us Christians, there is nothing to argue about. We have the answer to life. We have had it for two thousand years, but we have not done much with it. We have not made it live in the hearts of the nations which are at war today. We have been talking about, carrying the Gospel to Japan, but in Ninety years we have spent on carrying the Gospel to Japan one seventh of the cost of one battleship, and Japan sank a battleship in Pearl Harbor in thirty minutes.

This is the sort of thing of which we have been guilty. And all Christians everywhere have been equally as guilty. They were guilty in Germany, and suffered their country to be taken over by smoothely speaking degenerates. The ones there, who were really worth while are detained in concentration camps—which probably means that they are dead.

The time has come for Christ—through Christians—to assert Himself. There is no other way in which life can be lived on earth than in Christ’s way: To love thy neighbor as thyself, and to do unto all men as you would that they would do unto you. This is the answer. And it was given unto us two thousand years ago. We have had the truth but we would not live it; we would not give it, and today is the answer.

And days like today will continue to come until the world is truly Christian. Until the world is Christian. Note, I say the world. And that means more than you and I, and a few scores of millions of white people who say their prayers on Sunday. It means all men. It even means the Japanese soldier who plunges his bayonet into a bound and helpless captive. It may be too late to make a Christian of him. Not necessarily so. St. Paul was equally savage and cruel when he stood by and approved of the stoning to death of Stephen. With Christ all things are possible. But there are the children of Japan—and the children of all the world, white, yellow, red, brown and black. These children can be won. Win them, and Christ has the men and women of tomorrow. Lose, them, and hell rides through the world again and again and again.

We are going to send five million men abroad to fight and perchance to die. Twenty-five years ago we sent two million. Now it is five. Twenty-five years from now, if there is any world left, it will be ten million. Is there some inexorable law which compels us to commit suicide? In a world where God has made all things bright and fair? All is bright and fair except the human heart into which Christ has not yet come. “Have I any pleasure in the death of him that dieth,” saith the Lord. “Wherefore turn ye and LIVE. For WHY will ye die O house of Israel?”

How a man can be a Christian and not burn over this thing we call “Missions” I cannot understand. Christ is the Hope of the world. The only hope of the world—here as well as hereafter. Are the clergy preaching this Gospel with the burning passion of men who have in their keeping the world’s salvation? Do you laymen frown when your clergyman preaches on “Missions” because there is so much to do at home? And you do not want to see money go out of the parish? Are there leaders in the diocese who think the bishop is mad because he wants to send so much money to “New York?” Our biggest job men and brethren is out there on the far flung frontiers of Christ’s Kingdom which we have scarcely touched. And you pay huge income taxes and send your sons and daughters to far and dangerous places, and poison the clear air of God’s world with threatenings and hatred and slaughter and ration your sugar and do without rubber tires—and a million other things worse, because Hatred is the law of life today, and the Gospel of Jesus is buried in the earth along with it’s message of healing and redeeming love. Why do you not get mad about it? I sometimes think that if you do not, God will. And where would we be, if even God turned against us?

And Elijah came unto all the people and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him. But if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word. Must it always be so?

Ah you say, “Christ cannot change the world. That is true—only if Christ cannot change you. If Christ can lilt us above selfishness, and set before our eyes the vision of a world He is waiting to save THROUGH US; If Christ can do that with us, He can do it with everyone else in the world. And we have not allowed Him to do it with us as yet. If we have not seen Him, how can we show Him to others? “Can the blind lead the blind?” Maybe that is what is the matter with the world. We have fallen into the ditch—together!

Think this thing through. You ask “Why does the Church not grow in Georgia? Maybe this is the answer. Personally I think it is. You show me a man who lives for himself. He does not help his parish, and in the end his own soul dies. Show me a parish which
lives for itself. It does not help the diocese, and in the end the parish soul dies. Show me a diocese which does not help the whole Church, and in the end the soul of the diocese dies. Show me a church which does not live for the world, and it fades into insignificance. For the individual, for the parish, for the diocese and for the Church, one unchanging law runs straight through. “If you would save your life, you must lose it.” “A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he posseseth.” “What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

In paying your income tax, and in making whatever other dreadful sacrifices you must make in order to win the war, you are but paying the price of our common neglect in days gone by. We could have made, and we would have made a Christian world of this world during the past two thousand years, if we had REALLY KNOWN HIM IN WHOM WE HAVE BELIEVED.

It is not too late. Let us learn to know Him now. It may take some time to save the world, for we have to undo the mistakes and failures of the past. It may take some time to change the world, but we can change ourselves this very moment if we have the will to do so.

We are going into the summer, and our Church interests will lag. And when Fall comes around again, we shall begin to think—with dread—of the everymember canvass which inevitably awaits. By that time this Annual Convention will be a thing far in the past; remote, as news crowds in on us from Europe and the Far East. “Who is being bombed today? How many ships were sunk? Is there any chance of hanging Hitler, or have the remembered Pearl Harbor, or have we slapped the laps!”

These things are necessary for the moment because of our past sins, and probably we shall have to do some of them. And men will die and homes will be wrecked and hearts will be broken. But still there hangs that lonely figure on a cross on Calvary saying—”Come unto Me.”

When the Fall comes and the cares of parish life press in on us again, let us remember that in the sight of GOD the value of our parish depends on how we give ourselves to make Christ’s dying dream of a ransomed world come true.