Bishop’s Address of 1944

The Rt. Rev. Middleton Stuart Barnwell

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

A political philosopher, or a philosophic politician, having looked out upon the world, and having made the discovery that history has been largely a matter of battle, murder and sudden death, once made the remark, “Happy is that people without a history.” If that is a time remark, then this has been a happy year in the Diocese of Georgia. There have been no marked disturbances, no particular cause for discouragement; no failures nor any great successes beyond what we had a reasonable right to expect. Our Church in this diocese has gone quietly on its way, saying its prayers, baptizing its babies, confirming and marrying its young people and burying its dead. There have been enough favorable developments to encourage us, but not enough to lead us to a deadly condition of satisfaction. God has blessed our efforts and He has also shown us plenty left to do even in our own lifetime. It is my intention at this time to point out some of the ways in which God has dealt with us, and some of the ways along which we may go to further achievement.

We have had about the average number of clerical changes. The vacancy at Christ Church and the Church of the Atonement has been filled by the Rev. Edward Claytor, assisted by Miss Lucille Moore who has already been associated with the work for some years with Deaconess Byllesby. The retirement of the Deaconess was a matter of deep personal regret to all of us. The Diocese of Georgia never had a more faithful nor a more useful servant. In her retirement from active duty her thoughts and her prayers are still with us I know, and in her retirement we wish for her many added years of well deserved happiness. Mr. Claytor and his family have gone into residence in the rectory adjoining the church, and the people have already responded to his coming with every evidence of love and enthusiasm. We look forward with confidence to a growing work in that important field. Mr. Claytor’s place at Waycross has been filled, by the coming of the Rev. Charles Wyatt-Brown, a son of the former bishop of Harrisburg. The bishop and I have been friends since our early manhood, and I know a personal as well as an official happiness in welcoming his son to Georgia. Mr. Wyatt-Brown comes from the Diocese of Florida.

After many years of faithful service at St. Paul’s, Albany, Mr. Cobey resigned last fall to accept work in the Diocese of North Carolina. His place has now been filled by the Rev. W. R. F. Thomas who comes to us from the Diocese of Springfield. Father Edden, of St. Athanasius, Brunswick, left last year to serve as chaplain in the Navy. His place has now been filled by the Rev. Thaddeus Martin from North Carolina. We lost the Rev. Mr. Belford to the Navy, and have again had the pleasure of a visit from Mr. Northey Jones who has been filling the place at St. Mark’s this winter. He and Mrs. Jones are returning North in May. We wish they would stay with us longer. The Rev. Charles Snowden accepted a call to the Diocese of Lexington last fall. His place has not yet been filled. Thanks to the generosity of one of the communicants of St. John’s Church, Savannah, we have been able to place a resident minister in the Douglas Fitzgerald field. The Rev. Alex Hansen of Corsicana, Texas, has accepted our call, and will be with us after the first of May. Father Crusoe will now be able to do what we have for a long time desired, and that is to re-open the church at Cordele. Bainbridge is still vacant, and Blakeley is looked after by Mr. Lawrence who covers more territory than one man should. I wish we could put a man at Bainbridge and Blakeley. The rectory we have in that field is hardly usable, and the field itself is undeveloped and therefore can pay but little toward its own minister’s salary. Bainbridge is a beautiful little city, and we have some faithful people as a nucleus who have a genuine love of the Church. We should have a combination parish house and rectory there, as we now have in Tifton. These units, such as we have in Tifton cost about six thousand dollars. They are admirably adapted to our work in the smaller cities, and I hope we may have more of them as time goes by. We also need a Negro priest and a Tifton unit at St. Mary’s, Augusta.

At present we have no vacant parish in the diocese, and no vacant mission fields, except Bainbridge and St. Mary’s, Augusta, and these are vacant because of lack of funds. From time to time we have been subject to criticism for balancing our budget by leaving mission fields vacant. The bishop and the Executive Council regret this as much as anyone else, but the only hope we see of filling these vacant places is a continued growth in missionary giving. Our money would go farther if we spread it more thinly, but this would be to reduce the standard of living among the men already in the field. As a matter of fact we have found it necessary to increase the salaries of all missionaries with families, and this we have, I am glad to say, been able to do.

There is one way in which it may be possible to fill the remaining vacancies in our mission field, and that is by encouraging our mission stations to take on a larger measure of self-support. It very often happens that the self-supporting parishes are making more sacrifices for missionary work, than some of the mission points which are the beneficiaries of such sacrifice. For ten years as a Missionary Bishop in Idaho, and for nine year in Georgia, I have studied a great many mission fields where the salary of the priest was largely paid from mission funds, and I have observed in many cases a disposition on the part of an aided mission to be satisfied, and to accept aid from a mission fund as a steady and continuing income, and to accept it as a matter of right. There is a wide discrepancy in this matter of self-support among the missions themselves, and I believe that before any grant is made for the support of a missionary in any field, there should be a determined effort made by both priest and people to enlarge their own giving toward self-support, and to decrease the amount required from our missionary funds. I feel quite sure that if this were done in every mission field, the money we now have available would suffice to fill all vacant places. If we are compelled to spend too much money to maintain services in Mission A, this may mean that Mission B is left vacant. This is not an imaginary situation. It already exists in this diocese, and if every mission point would make sufficient effort and sacrifice in maintaining ITS OWN SERVICES, the money we now have available would be sufficient to cover the whole diocese.

In planning my own work for next Fall, I am going to try to get into every mission, field and help organize strong every member canvasses looking toward this end. I wish that every clergyman serving aided mission stations would explain this to his people, and I hope that every layman and laywoman present at this convention from mission fields would help to carry this message back home. Clergymen’s salaries are fixed on the minimum living basis, paid partly from the field they serve, and partly from the missionary funds handled by the Executive Council. If the field pays less, we have to pay more, and therefore we have fewer clergymen. If the field pays more, we pay less, and therefore we can add to our staff and fill vacancies. What you do in your own home town affects the life of the Church in places two hundred and fifty miles away. Whether you realize it or not, it is literally true that you are your brother’s keeper.

Camp Reese has enjoyed another successful summer, and we are now preparing for the season of 1944. The camp will open with a Laymen’s Conference, notice of which will be given at the proper time, and the presentation of the Camp program by the various directors will be the order of the-day at 3:30 tomorrow. The Episcopal Home for Girls in Savannah is in better shape, I believe, than ever before in its history. But here of course there is still room for improvement. I would call your attention to the fact that by resolution of this Convention the Thanksgiving Offering every year is devoted to this Home. There are great discrepancies in the amounts received for this purpose from the various parishes, which we cannot account for, except by the possibility of difference in Interest. I am sure that if all of you will visit the Home tomorrow at the close of our business session, such interest will be developed, and I hope that you will accept the invitation to be extended to you.

There has been some increase in missionary giving during the past year, but as I have indicated there is yet room for improvement. We are now giving more to the National Church for its world-wide work than we have given since 1931. Next year the Church is asking us for $7,500, an increase over this year of $500, which is still, believe it or not, $17,000 less than we gave twenty-four years ago. Of course we shall meet this request.

When Mr. Belford entered the Navy, we lost our editor of the Church in Georgia. Without much hope that he would be able to add this work to a life already overflowing, we turned to Mr. Kenneth Palmer, a loyal layman of large newspaper experience. To our great joy he gladly undertook the handling of this paper, and has after so short a time made a great success of it. To Mr. Palmer we are very grateful indeed, and also to Mr. Malcolm Russell who attends to the big job of addressing and mailing some two thousand copies each issue, and to Mr. Arthur Turner, our news editor.


The Diocesan Committee on Forward in Service has continued to do effective work. Not only have they arranged for the laymen’s conference at Camp Reese this coming June, but they have also carried through two successful clergy conferences during the past fall and winter. At these conferences many phases of Church life have been stressed, and while it is hard to measure results of such work as this, many of us feel that the slow and steady strengthening life of the Church is partly at least the result of the work of the Committee in charge. The National Committee has arranged for a conference of representatives from the whole Province to be held in Birmingham, May 28th, at which time almost the entire staff of National Church Headquarters in New York, will meet with us, and we are asked to send a delegation from this Diocese consisting of all diocesan officers and department heads. We are to pay the travel expense of this delegation, and Bishop Carpenter will entertain us while there. The cost will probably be two hundred dollars, and I think it might be well for the diocese to know what is planned and to approve of this expense, before the Executive Council is asked to make such an appropriation for travel outside the diocese. My own belief is, that leaving out of account the information and inspiration of such gatherings, the gain in terms of dollars and cents in increased giving as a result, more than offsets any necessary expense. Investments in Missionary Education pay cah dividends. Nothing is more true than this, and it is a truth which runs through parish life as well as diocesan.

One thing from which we are suffering in this diocese is lack of adequate equipment. If we expect to grow, it is not enough to pay a man’s salary and put him down in a small town with a little frame church in rather bad repair, and nothing else. He must have a place to live, and a place for guild meetings, Boy and Girl Scouts, Men’s Clubs, parish dinners, parties for soldiers and ninny other activities of a semi-religious and social character which attract strangers and mean so much in the life of a modern parish. I am satisfied that one reason for our slow growth in the little towns of South Georgia is that we have contented ourselves with morning and evening prayer and Holy Communion for dyed in the wool Episcopalians. This sort of program narrows our contacts to those who are already Churchmen. The few children which most Episcopalians have grow up and move away, the old people grow older, and when they die the mission dies with them. I can name you several places in this diocese which have passed through this entire cycle, and there are several more places which are on the same road. We are not going to grow in rural Georgia unless we adopt a more aggressive policy. In years past we have expected our faithful missionary clergy to make bricks without straw.

After some years of experimentation, we have worked out a plan for what I call the “Tifton Plant” because the first—and at present the only one—has been built in Tifton. It is a combination parish house and small rectory, and it has been a delightful surprise to all who have seen it. The cost of this unit in normal times is about six thousand dollars, and that is not much for the diocese of Georgia. We give more than that each year to the National Church and no one misses it. We ought to be willing to make that much extra effort for ourselves. At this moment we need one of these practical buildings in Jesup and St. Mary’s Augusta. Before long we shall need one in Moultrie and one in Bainbridge. We need a small parish house in Douglas, and we need a larger one at Christ Church, Augusta. We have the lot for and the money for a new parish house at St. Athanasius in Brunswick, and plans are now under way for the merger of the two Negro congregations in Savannah, and the building of a new Church and parish house for the united congregation. These buildings can be erected at no cost to the diocese, but I am hopeful that the diocese will finance the purchase of a suitable lot properly located and sufficiently large to take care of the church and parish house, and ultimately for a new rectory. No. 1 priority is Christ Church, Augusta.

All of these items are needed now, or will be needed in the very near future, and it seems to me that the time has come to take a very definite forward step. Money is more available now than it has ever been, more so than it will probably be again in our lifetime, and while building at the present moment is impossible, it will not only be possible, but very desirable after the war, when new employments will have to be found for returning service men. Now is the time to strike, IF the people of the diocese are sufficiently interested in the growth of the Church in this area. As to this I cannot speak with certainty, but I believe they would be ready to follow and respond if this Convention, at this critical moment in the world’s history registered conviction and gave leadership. We have six thousand communicants, and with proper organization, and general enthusiasm, it would be a very simple matter to set up local committees in each parish and mission to inform our people of the need and opportunity. I realize of course that most of our parishes have advance programs of their own at the present time to which they would like to give precedence, but it must be clear to all of you here that if we are going to think in terms of “precedence” the proper order is:

First. The Kingdom of God throughout the world.
Second. The National Church, through which we touch that task
Third. The Diocese, through which we share the life of the Church.
Fourth. The Parish, and our own people, whose lives, through the Church, are made effective in these four fields.

Because this is the Christian order, it is also the most practical; and the only order which will insure the healthy life of parish, and diocese and National Church and Kingdom of God throughout the world. It is perfectly obvious to anyone who has studied the life of the Church, and over many years watched the growth and decline of parish life in many places, that the parishes which think of their own needs first, steadily decline in power and life, while those parishes which have been taught to think in the order we have indicated “go on from strength to strength in lives of perfect service.” While this is true, it is not strange, for it is the law of life in the Kingdom of God that he who would save his life must lose it. That the last shall be first, and the first last. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

But after all, we rank these fields in their proper “order” only for convenience in planning. As a matter of fact, the lesser are included always in the greater, and they are all ONE. WE SHOULD MAKE ONE PLAN FOR GOING FORWARD IN SERVICE IN THE MASTER’S KINGDOM. We should send our sons to the ends of the earth; we should give to our Mother Church in answer to her every need; we should develop our Diocese, through which, and ONLY THROUGH WHICH, we share in the Church’s life, and we should strengthen our parish so that through these channels, we may do God’s work more effectively. We should make ONE PLAN and have ONE PURPOSE and pray ONE PRAYER for the growth of God’s Kingdom EVERYWHERE ON EARTH. “This ought ye to have done and not to leave the other undone.” Those were the words of Jesus Christ to those who would have chosen which of their duties to God’s Church and Kingdom they would do first. There is no first and second and third and fourth. It is all one. Again Jesus said, “The Field is the World.”

The Field is the World, and it is such a little world. A small fragment of steel flies through the air in Burma, and our hearts in Georgia bleed. We have drawn imaginary lines to divide nation from nation, but God has not. God does not look down and say, “There is St. John’s. I must buy them a new rectory. There is St. Judes; I must get them a parish house. There is St. James, and I must help them fix their leaking roof!” No, God looks down on His anguished world, and His spirit is grieved, and He says, “There I must build my Kingdom.” I have been trying recently to find a map of the world, with no dividing lines drawn on it. When I find it, I want one for every church building in the diocese. Where the diocese of Georgia is I want to place a golden sun, and from that sun golden rays going forth across the world to every land where God’s people, in the darkness, wait. That will be a true picture of what God wants your church to be, a light shining through the darkness of this world; a City set upon a Hill, which cannot be hid.

This world is passing through the Golgotha of today because of these arbitrary lines of national and racial division. Those whom God hath joined together by placing them to live upon this tiny, shrinking world; those whom God hath joined together by the Incarnation; by the Person and the life and death of His Son, we have put asunder. When we refuse to live together as brethren, we are denying God’s universal Fatherhood, and when we refuse to love as brethren, we deny Christ’s universal Saviourhood. This is God’s world, and we are governed by God’s laws. When we set those laws at naught, we suffer. Men do not break God’s laws. Men transgress them, and are broken by them. In a world which God rules, this is inevitable. If we are going to live happily in God’s world we must live according to the laws of God, and this is going to require certain changes in many of those attitudes toward life which we have inherited, and which we have come through long usage to regard as permanent, and Divinely ordained, but which are not. Our outlook on life is largely a matter of tradition, and these traditions which we have inherited, were once startling innovations. Now they are encrusted with the barnacles of age, as were those attitudes toward life which they supplanted many centuries ago. But life goes on, and they in turn must give way to attitudes which seem startling at first, but which in the long future will themselves be discarded by something more startling still. That is the way life has progressed through past centuries and that is the way it will progress through the centuries yet to come. It is foolish to quarrel with this, for this is the way life is. The radicals of yesterday are the conservatives of today and the reactionaries of tomorrow. BUT LIFE GOES ON.

The most immediate and distressing sin of today is the regarding of those national dividing lines which I mentioned a moment ago, as permanent factors in life as it must be lived in this complex world. For the present, that may be so, but it should be remembered that we create their character. A boundary line may be a bond of union as it is between Georgia and Alabama, or it may be a barrier separating God’s children from each other, as it is between Germany and France. What a boundary line is depends upon us and not on God. We can make of it a bond or a barrier. What we make of it depends on the kind of a mind we have. If we have a co-operative mind, it becomes the tie that binds. If we have competitive minds, it divides. BUT NEVER FORGET THAT OUR STATE OF MIND IS THE DETERMINING FACTOR.

I do not have to dwell on the blessings which follow when neighboring groups of men work together in a co-operative fellowship. The forty-eight states of this Union illustrate the point. Nor do I need to dwell upon the disaster which comes when we allow arbitrary man-made lines of division to separate us from our brethren. The storms of present day passion, the torrents of out-poured blood bear witness to this. From every land the cry goes up: “How long, O Lord, How long?”

Well, there is no use of crying to God about it. He does not like this present world any more than we do, but He is not going to step in and change it for us. He has told us how to live for many thousands of years, and two thousand years ago He came here and actually showed us how. More than that God will not, and without destroying our moral freedom, more than that God CANNOT do. It is up to us, and the impossible and world-shaking thing we have got to do is—TO CHANGE OUR MINDS. We look at men on the other side of our dividing lines and minimize their decencies and magnify their sins, and they do the same thing to us until we seem to each other to be great packs of jungle beasts tearing at each other’s throats, and soon that is what we actually become, but ALL OF THIS IS AN UTTERLY ABNORMAL STATE OF LIFE, in which neither God nor man finds any happiness. God, speaking through His prophet Ezekiel showed us the way two thousand six hundred years ago. “Cast away from you all your transgressions, and MAKE YOU A NEW HEART AND A NEW SPIRIT: FOR WHY WILL YE DIE? I HAVE NO PLEASURE IN THE DEATH OF HIM THAT DIETH, WHEREFORE TURN YOURSELVES AND LIVE!” The great religious problems of the days which lie ahead are going to be concerned with bringing God into life’s group relationships as we have already brought Him into our personal relationships.

I thought in former years that it would be quite right for me to knock you on the head and steal your valuables, but I do not think so any more, for God has taught me better. There were plenty of men in those days who said it was “against nature” to live as an honest man: but we have not found it so. We have found it practical and a better way of life. The first anti-social man cried, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and GOD ANSWERED “YES.” And anti-social Nations stained with blood as Cain voice the same cry, and God gives the same answer!

The certainty of a better way of life lies in the fact that all through the past men have from time to time made for themselves new hearts and new spirits, and that life being what it is, a Pilgrimage Godward, they will do so again. All that we have to do is to get rid of certain prejudices which have been with us so long that they have become ingrained, and which we foolishly regard as we did other outgrown prejudices in days gone by, as permanent factors in life. They seem permanent to us, but they are not, and because they are poisonous, they must be cast out.

The first is that wars are inevitable because man is by nature no more than a fighting animal. This is not true. Man is by nature a Child of God, and he would rather have friends than enemies. That is a prejudice which faith in God will destroy. He made us for Himself, and our souls are restless until they rest in Him.

The next fetish which must go is what we call National Sovereignty. This means of course that a strong nation is FREE to knock a weaker nation on the head and take away its rightful possessions. There was a time when we believed in Individual Sovereignty, but that was the very first thing we gave up when we began to believe in God and to live co-operatively. National Sovereignty as we practice it today can only mean International Anarchy, and that is exactly what we now have. No nation is OF RIGHT free to do what it wishes in its relation to other nations. Nations are people, and are bound by the same laws of life and death which God ordained for all. The law is that we must do to others as we would have them do unto us. That we must bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ!

The next fetish which must go is that of Race prejudice; a belief in the inherent superiority of the people of MY race over the people of another. This is the thing which has made the Germans and the Japanese what they are. And we are not free from it. We discriminate against the black man who has come further in less time than any race I know of, and against the Jew who has given to us leaders in every field of endeavor, and also our God and our Saviour. There is a prayer in our Prayer Book which covers this ground, “O God who hast made of one blood all men to dwell on the face of the whole earth, and didst send thy Son to preach Peace to them that are far off as well as to them that are nigh.”

These are the three things which are chiefly wrong with the world today, and they have nothing to do with the outward forms of life, but entirely with our inner attitudes. The world cannot be altered for the better by changing markets, boundaries or- masters, but only by changing hearts, and I know of nothing which can do this except the renewing Gospel and the constraining love of Christ, and a living faith in the REALITY OF GOD, who is the Father of us all.

If these things are true, how can we ever again think of Religion as one of the minor ornaments of a respectable life? Religion is the surgeon’s knife to cut these cancers from the body of the world. It is the Power and Love of God brought to bear upon our selfishness and our misery and our sin. It has saved us from ourselves in the past, and it will do so now. We may be nearer to the Kingdom of God than we think, for all men everywhere are coming to see the failure of outmoded prejudice and hate. It is darkest just before dawn, and it may well be that tomorrow the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in His wings. It is up to us. The timeless words of Jesus ring in my ears: “O Woman, great is THY FAITH. Be it unto you even AS THOU WILT.”