Bishop’s Address of 1943

The Rt. Rev. Middleton Stuart Barnwell

By the grace of God we have come to the end of another year in the life of our diocese. I believe it has been a good year of normal growth. Considering the diocese as one small family of God, I think that we have come to know each other better and to love each other more. I do not know of any better test of our work than this. Because we have come to love each other more, we are happier. Because we are happier we do better work. Doing better work, we come to love each other more, and so on through an ascending spiral. My prayer is that we may daily increase in God’s Holy Spirit until we come at last to His kingdom. Not in every place, but almost every place, I can find signs of a deepening life and a rising hope. We shall never be a diocese of great numbers or great wealth. For my own part I have no ambition to see it such. I am content that in my lifetime we should be one of God’s small, and steadily growing families, but second to none in love and in loyalty to His expanding Kingdom. I would not object to seeing Georgia a larger diocese, but I think it far more important that we be a better and a more loving one. I am more interested in growth in Grace than growth in numbers. In this, I think that we are making progress.

We have many things for which we should be thankful. Our Church buildings for the most part are adequate, though there is some room for improvement. In most places our lay people are showing a deepened interest in larger Church attendance and in more generous support of all forms of Church enterprise. We are thankful for these things of course, but if I were called upon to name one phase of our work for which your bishop is particularly thankful, I would mention the clergy of the diocese. I seem to feel among the clergy a deepening appreciation of each other. As I move around the diocese, visiting with one priest after another, it is a very joyful thing to hear them speak so well of the character and work of their brethren in service. Without one single exception, so far as I know, each priest of this diocese is increasingly devoted to all the others, and what this means to the life of the diocese no one knows so well as the Bishop. There is a growing sense of inter-dependence; a deepening sense of brotherhood, and a down-right increase of just plain personal affection for each other which warms my heart as I move about. When I see the joy you men have in being together, manifested repeatedly by the almost unanimous way in which you come together in conference to enjoy each other’s fellowship and to talk and pray over your common work, I am deeply conscious of our relationship to each other as a family of God. It is not always so in every diocese. Clergymen are human, and are subject to the same temptations and littleness of spirit as anyone else, and often there are to be found criticism and misunderstanding and even jealousy among them. If any of these things exist now in Georgia, I am not conscious of them, and the unity we have achieved has made us all happy, and better soldiers of the Church. I have been watching the growth of this spirit now for three or four years, and thanking God for it. Credit for these things is due to all, but particularly so I think to the group of younger men who have come to us with new vision and the freshness of youthful enthusiasms. Under these men’s inspiration our Clergy conferences have taken on new spirit and new life.

Another thing which I like and admire about the Diocese of Georgia is the total lack of ecclesiastical controversy. Like any other group of intelligent human beings we have different ideas about many things. The pity is that so often men will allow their differences concerning minor matters destroy their unity of purpose in regard to the more important things. Among us, that unhappy condition definitely does not exist. There is unity in essentials, liberty in nonessentials and charity in all things. And this is as it should be.

There have been no startling developments in the diocese during the past year, and for this I am also thankful. I do not want any startling developments. Our Church does not grow that way. I sometimes hear expressions of discouragement—particularly from our zealous laymen—over the apparent lack of growth of our mission work in the smaller towns of the diocese. It is perfectly true that there are many towns and small cities where our communicant strength has been static for years. There are a few very small places Where our work has dried up. entirely. There are a good many reasons why this is so. In part it seems to me, that this condition is due to our own lack of interest in and generosity to missionary enterprise. In part it is due to conditions beyond our control.

Consider first wherein we ourselves are at fault. I can put it in a few words. We have been parochial minded. We have neglected rural work in by-gone years, and our weakness in small towns and cities is the result. I remember reading many years ago, long before I came to Georgia, of a survey which was made of this diocese by some Church group interested in rural missions, and the result of this survey showed that in the Diocese of Georgia the Episcopal Church did not list one single communicant who gave his means of livelihood as “agriculture.” That would not be entirely true today, and I doubt if it was entirely true when that survey was made—back in the twenties I think—but it was true that nowhere in Georgia was there a group of farming people who knew enough about, the Episcopal. Church to care whether they had it or not. And today it is true that we have but two strictly rural white missions and three small colored ones, and these are the result not of any concerted effort on our part as a diocese, but of the personal devotion of the Rev. James Lawrence in the white field near Americus, and of some faithful Colored people, descended from loyal Church families of the by-gone plantation days when planters and their wives and Bishop Elliott were reaching and training the slave population. The fartherest we have penetrated with any effective and persistent mission work has been the town and small city. But these we must remember are almost entirely built up by people who move in from the country. They did not know us in the country, and they did not know us when they came to town. Cities and city churches are continually being built up by migrations from rural areas, and Episcopalians do not come out of Rural areas because the Episcopal Church has never gone in. If we had the money and the men and the patience we could build the Church in the country, for there is nothing in our Church to which the countrymen as such are hostile, and much that—when exposed to it—they have learned to love. But it is perfectly useless to sigh for fields which have been lost, or to hope to begin now to make up for the failure of past days with the limited means at our disposal. We are necessarily limited to two things at the present; 1st, to try to hold such ground as we have gained in the towns and small cities where we are now at work, and 2nd, to strengthen and equip our work in those places so that we may at least do that work with more effectiveness.

Our chief growth and strength lies in the large urban centers. The city is the place where our particular brand of Christianity seems to take deepest root, and I sometimes wonder why we do not recognize that as a fact, and base our missionary strategy upon it. The most effective missionary work today—effective that is, measured in terms of converts to the Church—is being done in our largest parishes. I sometimes hear laments concerning the large number of Georgia counties where we have no work at all, and I sometimes wonder why we are not content to leave those people in the hands of the Christian bodies which are already at work there, because they have gone out and pioneered with the pioneers—and are perhaps in their habits of preaching and worship better qualified than we to exercise such a ministry. If we could reconcile ourselves to this, we could perhaps concentrate what we have to spend with more enthusiasm and effectiveness in those areas where long experience has shown our chance of growth is greatest. I find it stated in Holy Writ that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church of Christ, but nowhere do I find it even intimated that all the people of rural Georgia will some day be members of the Episcopal Church. Somewhere there is need for and opportunity for each division of Christians, to proclaim it’s own interpretation of the Gospel of Christ. There are differences of administration, but the same Lord. There is however more opportunity in the country than we have ever taken advantage of. At practically no cost to the Diocese the Rev. Mr. Lawrence has been doing pioneer mission work for many years in the farming country which lies around Americus. Last Sunday night I confirmed a class of seven in an abandoned Methodist Church which has been re-opened by Mr. Lawrence, and there seems to be a field for us there. While Mr. Belford was at Douglas he began a very interesting work among the tenant farmers of that neighborhood. The work ended when Mr. Belford left, for it of necessity required the services of a priest resident in Douglas. I believe there are such opportunities near to every established work we have in the smaller cities of the diocese. In one of these country missions about ten miles from Americus, services have been held for more than twenty years without a single Sunday being missed. Regularity and faithfulness of this kind with small groups does I believe lay foundations for times to come. There is just as much missionary pioneering to be done today as there ever was in the earlier days of the state. I believe that we might very well consider Rural Georgia as a topic for one of our future clergy conferences. We have good leadership for such a conference right here in our own diocese now.

In a small convention such as this, there seems to me to be little use to speak of world affairs, for our voice scarcely reaches beyond the walls of this church building. And yet we should remember that there are many such little voices and many such little groups of buildings, and that the sum total of all the small voices crying in the wilderness in the long run makes public opinion, and public opinion is always the determining fact of history. And so we come to a regard of the tragic days in which we live, conscious of our own insignificance as a group, and yet also conscious of the greatness of all our little groups when they speak with a united voice.

The war in which we find ourselves is a deplorable thing, and is the result of human sin. In that respect it is a Calvary, and we crucify the Son of God afresh. We can—and do—rightly lay a large part of the blame for this state of affairs on our enemies, but we would be blind to the truth if we did not take upon ourselves a share of the responsibility for what has occurred. Perhaps we have not done those things we ought not to have done, but we certainly have left undone many things which we ought to have done, and the sins of omission are at least half of the sins of the world. We need not now be particularly concerned with the sins of other men, except insofar as it is necessary to prevent those sins from destroying the world, but while we may not repent of the other man’s sins, we can and should be repentant for our own. They are many, but I believe that our greatest sin was committed twenty-five years ago when we were the Pontius Pilate of the world, and stood aside and washed our hands of all responsibility for building a co-operative world. I am sure the League of Nations had many faults, but it had one virtue which atoned for them all in my judgment. It was an effort on the part of broken and disillusioned world to work for those things which make for Peace. It failed, but of all people on the face of this earth, we have the least right to criticize it for that. We had proposed it, and when the war-wearied nations of the world had accepted it, we flung it back in their teeth! Like Cain we scornfully asked, “Am I my brother’s Keeper?” And like Cain we answered “No.” And so, like Cain, we have a guilty share in the death of our brethren all over the world today.

I do not of course know whether our being in the League of Nations would have prevented this present slaughter or not. That is beside the question, and it is a matter concerning which each one has a right to his own opinion. Whatever the result might have been the fact is that we did not try. We solemnly marched to the polls one November day and as a nation voted ourselves apart from the passion and the pain of the world! We voted for national security and national selfishness, and we thought we had found safety though the rest of the world should perish. The isolationists of that day were victorious, and yet today we are forced to admit that if all of their fears of foreign entanglements had been realized, the results would not have been as disastrous as the present. And even if we had had to fight again as we do now, we would at least be fighting with the realization that we had dared to believe in a better and a happier world, and had pledged to it our lives and our fortunes and our sacred honor. THESE THINGS WE DID NOT DO.

As a result our task today is more difficult than it would have been; for we now have to fight not only against our enemies but also against the very natural suspicion of our present friends. They cannot help but remember that we stood with them in battle once before and when the harder decisions of victory and peace confronted us, passed by on the other side! Having helped them win one war before, and having then turned our backs on a broken world struggling back to life, what reason has the world for believing that we will not do so again?

Some of us shake our heads when we hear a great Englishman say that he intends after peace to preserve the power of the British Empire intact. We shudder when Stalin says he will not leave one stone on another in Berlin. Some of our friends speak of marching through Germany with fire and sword as Sherman did when he visited us once here in Savannah years ago. I cannot help but think that if, in the day of victory—our allies think of and insist on a Peace of destruction and vengeance, it will be in part because they fear that then they shall have to stand alone again against a beaten but dangerous enemy. Fear is always the parent of cruelty. And cruelty is the parent of yet other wars.

Assuming that God gives us victory—and we have not yet proven that we deserve it—but assuming that God pardons our sins of past neglect and present dis-unity—and gives us victory, two things are demanded. First, on the ruins of a world destroyed by competitive nationalism,’ we must build a co-operative world in which the rights of small nations, and even of beaten enemies must be safeguarded. Secondly in order to do this, we must acknowledge our past sins of selfishness and separatism, and convince the world that we intend to do our part.

If this war drags into a stalemate the whole world will bog down into bankruptcy and ruin, but if it ends in an allied victory any time soon, before the resources of America are exhausted, we shall find ourselves a veritable giant among impoverished and disillusioned people. Under these circumstances we shall be confronted with the greatest opportunity for good that any nation in the world ever faced at any time. To go forward with the rest of the world in faith, will atone for the sins of the past. To step aside, and wash our hands of all further responsibility will be sin against the Holy Ghost.

A sin against God—and against ourselves. If we commit that sin again, then we shall pay the price of it. If we withdraw from the forth-coming effort at a more effective world fellowship, the shattered nations of the world of necessity will draw together for mutual help and comfort. Their very physical needs will demand the forgetting of former enmities and a closer co-operation with each other for the common good. America would stand apart and alone, the object of common suspicion, distrust, envy and hatred. We are a great nation, but neither in resources, numbers or brains are we greater-than all the rest of the world combined. By world-wide disaster God is forcing the nations of the world to learn their inter-dependence. This seems to be the only way in which we are willing to learn, and so God teaches us this way. We now have a chance to learn the inter-dependence of nations by the disaster which has overtaken the rest of the world. If we fail to learn it now, we shall learn it later I believe in our own destruction. God writes His will in history plain for all to see. It is the blind who stumble and fall. Once there was a man who said to himself, “I will pull down my barns and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink and be merry.” But God maid unto him, “Thou Fool! this night-thy soul shall be required of thee. Then whose shall those things be which thou host provided?” The rich fool was the first great isolationist.

As we did once before, we are sharing in the cost and sacrifice of war. But as we did not before we must share also in the cost of and responsibility for peace. This is good religion—and wise policy as well. As a matter of fact in the long run, good religion is always wise policy.

There is no part of our Church enterprise in the Diocese of Georgia which is untouched by the war. To some extent this is true of course in every diocese, but it is particularly so with us, as in our area there is an unusually heavy concentration of ship-building, training camps and other war works. Parishes and missions in war-work centers are responsible for the care of many strangers which lays an added burden on the shoulders of the priests in charge. Many of our missions are financially hurt by the absence of former members and contributors in distant parts. Business men are having a hard time everywhere on account of lack of help, rationing and high taxes. It is almost impossible to fill vacancies in the missionary field, as many hundreds of our most desirable clergymen are on duty with the armed forces. Due to gasoline and tire shortages the travel of our clergy is necessarily limited to matters of sheer necessity, and there is the difficulty of parishioners driving any distance to attend divine services. In the light of these problems, we face great uncertainty in the matter of attendance at summer schools at Camp Reese, and this problem is accentuated by our absorption in many forms of war work, and by the drafting of our teen age boys. All of these factors and many others combine to make our task more difficult, but they should not in any case be offered as an excuse for discouragement. Rather they constitute a challenge, and should be met as such by each one of us. Facing these new tasks with courage and confidence, we shall be the stronger when peace comes again.

In connection with the war there is one problem which is becoming acute, and I must speak of it because those most concerned will go to the wall before they do, and that is the salaries paid to our faithful clergymen. These salaries vary in amount, and yet through experience and the long passage of years they have been adjusted pretty largely in each individual case in regard to the standard of living which any particular clergyman in any particular field is expected to maintain, and also in regard to the cost of living in his field. I do not believe that any clergyman has a margin to fall back on in order to meet large added income taxes and the rising cost of living. Very definitely they do not share in war-time prosperity, and because of their public position they are often called on to bear more than their share of the load.

At the February meeting of .the Executive Council we made some small addition to the stipend of the missionary clergy, and rather than divide this small increase up among the twelve months of the year, we are mailing each month a single check for the full amount to one missionary covering this increase. Not all have received this increase yet, but all will, and it is my hope that we shall be able to make another increase before the year is ended. But the diocese pays only a part of the salary of these men, and I am now asking that the vestries and Bishop’s Committees of these missions canvass their own situation with a view to increasing the part they pay toward the missionaries salary. And I am asking all vestries of independent parishes to review the situation as it concerns their own rector. This has already been done in a number of cases, and should be done in all. We should try to increase these salaries by twenty percent at least. Considering taxes and increased costs such an increase would just about maintain present living standards. Every vestry should consider this matter seriously, and as soon as possible. What they are able to do will of course depend on local conditions, but the facing of this responsibility should not be evaded.

The mission field as a whole is being well cared for, but there are some weak spots. There is no resident priest in the Darien-Jesup field, though we manage to maintain services with visiting priests. Cordele is vacant, but is being held together by that over-worked Missionary, Dr. James Lawrence, as is Blakeley. Bainbridge is dependent on occasional services by near-by army chaplains. The filling of these vacancies will take some time. The rest of the field is adequately staffed. We have three young men in the seminaries, and one of these will graduate this fall and be available to us if he does not become a chaplain. Another young priest who belongs to Georgia and who has been taking a year’s special training since graduation last year, was due to come back to us, but is entering the Navy. There is nothing we can do under such circumstances but to wait and carry on as best we can. I have one postulant in New Guinea, who but for the war would be a Senior at the Seminary this year, and I have another postulant at present in transport service between this country and Africa. Here in Georgia for the last ten years we have been steadily producing more fine young clergymen than we need for ourselves, but other and stronger dioceses offer to many of them wider fields of service, and the war has made serious inroads. We take courage and thank God that in this way we are making our contribution to the work of the Church in the world.

I want to close with a word of encouragement and hope. I have seen growth since I came here eight years ago. One case in point is Moultrie. It was closed for years. On Easter Day there were 120 people at service. Dublin has a resident clergyman and Sandersville has been reopened. Atonement at Augusta is steadily growing, Tifton has a new parish house and resident clergyman. McRae has been reopened and a new church is needed there. The new St. Michael’s Savannah, splendidly located in a new part of town is rapdily developing, and so I could go on to many points which are stronger in many ways. There has not been any sensational growth, nor will there be, but we are maintaining the progress the Church has made in past years, and the future is bright. Our’s is a small diocese, but it’s heart is sound and-its work is solid and secure. God has blessed us in many ways. It is our task to be deserving of what He has given us, and to work and pray that with His help we may go on from strength to strength.

Let us stand.

In the death of Mr. Frank Aiken of Brunswick, for long time a member of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Georgia, and during his whole life-time a valiant soldier of the cross, the Diocese of Georgia has lost to a better world one of it’s bravest spirits. Humble in spirit; unselfish in service; wise in counsel; strong in faith and triumphant in character, and loyal to the end, he was an example of those of us who walk as yet by faith. May he rest in peace, and may perpetual light shine upon him.


Albany, St. Paul’s 18
Americus, Calvary 11
Augusta, Christ Church 10
Augusta, Good Shepherd 44
Augusta, St. Paul’s 34
Brunswick, St. Mark’s 8
Douglas, St. Andrew’s 5
Frederica, Christ Church 8
Pennington, St. James’ 2
Savannah, Christ Church 23
Savannah, St.- John’s 48
Savannah, St. Michael’s 15
Savannah, St. Paul’s 13
Thomasville, St. Thomas’ 2
Valdosta, Christ Church 5
Waycross, Grace Church 13

Albany, St. John’s 5
Augusta, St. Mary’s 6
Brunswick, St. Athanasius’ 2
Burroughs, St. Bartholomew’s 7
St. Marys, Our Saviour 3
Savannah, St Augustine’s 13
Savannah, St. Stephen’s 3
Waycross, St. Ambrose 2

Total 290