Bishop’s Address of 1924

The Rt. Rev. Frederick Focke Reese
Fourth Bishop of Georgia

My Dear Brethren of the Clergy and Laity:

I greet you in the name of our Lord to this One Hundred and Second Convention of our Diocese. I pray that we may submit ourselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in all that we say and do. Let nothing be said or done in vain glory or in petulance, in doubt or in fear, but may brotherly love prevail and God’s glory and the spread of His Church be our only aim.

Since our last meeting, a larger number of our Bishops have died than usual in a similar period and among them were not only the aged, but some in the fullness of their matured powers.

The Rt. Rev. Granville Hudson Sherwood, D.D., Bishop of Springfield, died November 22, 1923, at the early age of 45 years, and in the seventh year of his Episcopate.

The Rt. Rev. Edward Arthur Temple, D.D., Missionary Bishop of North Texas, died January 10, 1924, in his 57th year and in the 15th year of his Episcopate.

The Rt. Rev. Edwin Gardner Weed, D.D., Bishop of Florida, passed away on January 18, 1924, 75 years of age and after an Episcopate of more than 87 years.

The Rt. Rev. Frederick William Keator, D.D., Bishop of Olympia, died January 30, 1924, aged 68 years, and in the 22nd year of his Episcopate.

The Rt. Rev. Alexander Charles Garrett, D.D., LL. D., Bishop of Dallas and Presiding Bishop of the Church, passed away on February 18, 1924, 91 years of age and having been a Bishop for more than 49 years.

The Rt. Rev. Charles Tyler Olmstead, D.D., LL.D., D.C.L., Bishop of Central New York, died on March 29, 1924, aged 82 years and in the 22nd year of his Episcopate.

Bishop Weed was not only a near neighbor to us, but was also a native of Savannah and served as his only parish the Church of the Good Shepherd, Augusta. We cannot, therefore, but look upon him as one of our family, a dear friend, a faithful Shepherd of the flock, a Bishop who in deligence and labor spared not himself, and one who by reason of his consecrated character and his wisdom, his loving spirit, and his long experience was not only esteemed and beloved by his own people, but by all who were privileged to enjoy his friendship and association with him in the many activities of the Church’s work to which lie gave his loyal and helpful service. During the vacancy existing in the Episcopate of this Diocese, after the death of Bishop Beckwith, Bishop Weed rendered valuable assistance to Georgia by confirming in many churches. It is a satisfaction to me to know that after these many years I have been able to make some slight return by rendering similar service to the Diocese of Florida.

Bishop Garrett was a very remarkable man, of thorough scholarship and of keen and brilliant intelligence and yet withal it most consecrated and laborious missionary Bishop. He was elected Missionary Bishop of Northern Texas and went there when that part of the State was sparsely populated. Distances were great, means of travel limited and slow, the people there wholly ignorant of and indifferent to the Episcopal Church. The incessant activity of the Bishop in the prime of his vigorous manhood and his wise leadership resulted in 1895 in the organization of the district as a Diocese and in 1910 the General Convention established out of a part of it the missionary district of North Texas, Bishop Garrett was one of those great pioneer Bishops of our Church, Whose courageous labors have done so much to plant the Church in the newer sections of our great West. They contribute largely to laying the foundations of a Christian civilization in a great and new country. As such we honor their memories and rejoice in the fruits of their labors.

In addition to these losses to the Church in our country we in Georgia are called upon to mourn the loss of brethren among our own clergy. In a clergy list as small as ours the loss of three priests in one year is a serious calamity, and more than that, a source of grief and distress to its all, who counted these brethren as our friends and fellow-laborers.

The Rev. William Taylor Dakin, B.D., Rector of St. John’s Church, Savannah, was called by his Lord on September 28, 1928, in the 50th year of his age. I: need not pass any eulogy on our friend, Dakin. All of you knew him and loved him. He suffered long and courageously, at the same time carrying on his work whenever his health made it possible for him to do so. He came to Georgia just before I was consecrated to become assistant to our lamented friend, the Rev. Dr. Strong, Rector of St. John’s Church, and on the death of the latter succeeded to the rectorship. The growth of that parish and its increasing activity in good works is it sufficient testimony to Mr. Dakin’s efficiency, to his ability in administration, to his fidelity as a pastor and his capacity for leadership. He wore himself out doing his duty. he was a staunch Churchman and yet by his genial manner and attractive personality won the friendship and affection of men of all faiths in the city. He was one of me most valued co-laborers, always capable and always ready to comply with my request for help in Diocesan matters. At the time of his death lie was a member of the Standing Committee, of the Executive Council, Vice-Chairman Of the Department of Religious Education, and a member of the Department of the Nation-Wide Campaign.

The Rev. Philip M. Prowell-Carrington, Vicar of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Thomasville, died November 7, 1923, after a long and painful illness. This good brother came to the Diocese as a deacon in 1918 and was ordained to the priesthood in the following year. For 10 years he labored diligently and enthusiastically at the Good Shepherd, church and school, and under great difficulties and in the face of the usual antagonism to the Church from those that are without, he held his own and promoted the growth of his mission. He was always of good repute among the people of his own race and of the white people of the community.

The Rev. George Sherwood Whitney, Rector of St. Paul’s Church, Augusta, fell asleep, suddenly, and most unexpectedly to its who knew him, on March 1, 1924, in the 58th year of his age. He came to Georgia front the Diocese of Chicago in 1897, as Rector of St. Thomas’ Church, Thomasville, and in 1907 become the Rector of St. Paul’s Church, Augusta, thus serving the Church in the Diocese for 26 years. May I quote what I said of him in The Church in Georgia? ‘During these 26 years he won his way into the esteem and affection of both clergy and laity and his Bishop. . . . He was rightly honored by election of his brethren and by appointment by the Bishop to practically every position of honor and service in the Diocese. In both parishes which he served he received the confidence and love of his parishioners to an extraordinary degree. He was an efficient and devoted parish priest. I have known no man who was more so. He was kindly and gracious in his manner, gentle and sympathetic in his personal ministrations to all alike, most self-forgetting and self-sacrificing fit his life, and brave and undaunted in carrying out the responsibilities which his duty called upon him to meet, and yet withal, most modest and unassuming. He was not merely it parish priest, but it citizen of the communities in which he lived. . . . He was respected and beloved by people of all classes and communions; a loyal Churchman, but it friend of all men and sympathetic to all good causes; an attractive and lovable man, a sincere and earnest Christian, a devoted and self-sacrificing priest, but one who loved his Lord and gave his life in His service.

He was a deputy to the General Conventions from Georgia from 1907 to 1922. Secretary of its Committee on Canons, 1910-1922, and it member of the Commission on the Ministry of the National Department of Religious Education. In the Diocese he was President of the Standing Committee, and of the Board of Examining Chaplains and a member of the Departments of the Nation-Wide Campaign and Publicity, and first Editor of The Church is Georgia.’”

May God grant to all of these brethren eternal rest and peace and may they grow continually in His love and favor. Amen.


The report of the Executive Council will give the Convention much information about the work which heretofore I have given in the address, and I need not repent what is there presented.

During the year 1923 two of our clergy died and two were dimitted to other dioceses, while two were ordained and three were received. On January 1, 1924, we had one more priest than on the previous January 1, or 34 clergy in all. Since that date, however, we have lost One by death and two by transfer and received two, so that we now have 33 on the roll, the same number as in 1923. Of these one was removed but has not been dimitted and six are non-parochial, so that our working force is only 26. This is a very small number.

Two groups of missions and one parish are vacant. Three parishes vacant last year have been filled by election, Christ Church, Savannah; St. Mark’s, Brunswick, and St. Athanasius’, Brunswick. It is becoming, it seems to me, more and more difficult to find good men to supply our churches. We are probably suffering from the shortage caused by the practical emptying of our seminaries during the war. Probably we are not able to offer to missionaries salaries sufficient to justify them in coining into the Diocese.

I have three candidates and five postulants for Holy Orders, four white and four colored. This is great improvement over conditions in the past. And it is gratifying to note that all but one of these young men are natives or residents of the Diocese. May their tribe increase. Unfortunately no one of them is ready for ordination so as to be used for filling existing vacancies.

Confirmations in 1923 as compared with 1922 fell off from 333 to 268, or about 20%. They were less than in any year except in one since 1916. This is it matter for serious and prayerful consideration of the clergy and of all the members of our congregations. I say, you notice, “all of the members of the congregations.” The chief responsibility in this matter rests, naturally, upon the clergy. But no parish priest is securing the support he should have from his people unless they are helping by their prayers and personal influence to bring children and others to Holy Communion. Especially is this true of God-parents. One of the chief fruits of our labors must be seen in our Confirmation classes and when the number falls off so noticeably as it does this year it is time for as to take serious note of the situation. I beg of you, my brethren of the clergy and of the laity, to give this matter your attention. Are you as diligent as you might be in seeking out children and adults whom you could bring to Confirmation? Are you as earnest and careful in your schools and in your preaching to emphasize the duty of an open confession of Christ and of the blessing of the sacramental rite. In other words, is your whole Ministry focused upon the effort to bring men and women to conversion and to make the children see that that is the next step in their life after their baptism to which the influence of the worship of the Church and the instruction given them in our church schools is intended to lead them.

The preaching of the Word of God and the witnessing to God and His love and righteousness in our life and conversation every day is our highest privilege and greatest duty. In every community are men and women who need God in their lives; probably many feel the need and are seeking Him, though in a poor half conscious way. Without it mere proselyting activity, seeking to draw people away from their religious affiliations, we can and we ought to search for and bring these shepherdless sheep into the fold of God’s Church and to its sacramental blessings. A passionate love for the souls of men for whom Christ died is an essential element of every Christian’s thought and life, priest or layman. We must love men and women as Christ did. When he saw it great multitude he had compassion on them. We must feel towards our fellowmen in the some way. And if we do, our hearts will he stirred, our consciences aroused and our energy of love and desire for their salvation be quickened.

Let me say this, too. It is a source of great satisfaction to priest and people when a class largely or wholly composed of adults stands before the Bishop. The Apostolic rite of Holy Confirmation as the pledge and method of life gift of the Holy Spirit has been discarded almost entirely by our brethren of other communions. The vast body of our fellow Christians know nothing of it. For that reason it is necessary to lead adult men and women to appreciate and receive it. But that is not the Church’s primary method of spiritual nurture. Her purpose is to make Confirmation it step in the training of the soul of the child and therefore a confirmation class without children in it is not altogether a matter of congratulations. I desire to impress upon my brethren of the clergy especially, and upon the Church School teachers, God-Parents and fathers and mothers the sacred duty of gathering the children together for instruction for Confirmation find of bringing to bear upon their youthful hearts the influence of our Blessed Lord’s love and care for them, so that they may early in life give themselves to Him find receive His blessing in Holy Confirmation. They should, in my judgment, and, I think, in the judgment of the Church, be confirmed in the first years of the adolescent period, when their hearts are tender and more easily influenced for the right. As soon as they are capable of learning and having some conception of the meaning of the Church’s catechism explained to them in simple terms such as their experience will enable them to understand, they should be Confirmed.

There should be no duty more interesting, more inspiring and more important to it pastor than the preparation of his Confirmation candidates. I appeal to all of you, my brethren, to realize your grave responsibility in this matter and to exercise your utmost en re and thought and diligence to fulfill it. And I repeat what I have already said that you are entitled to the earnest prayers and co-operation of fill persons in your congregations, who have in any way the duty find opportunity of influencing and training the children.

I am not trying to fault anybody for the falling off in Confirmations this last year. I do not pretend to be able to analyze the reasons for it. But it is a fact—a fact that challenges us to greater effort.


There are a number of organizations in this country and in Europe the object of whose activity is to create a public sentiment which shall be so powerful as to lead ultimately to the abolishment of war. The desire is to create a world in which war shall be impossible. With some the motive is found in their belief in the wickedness of all wars, their utter inconsistency with the principles of the Christian religion. With some the motive is in the conviction of the stupidity and futility of war as a means of deciding international issues, the economic ruin caused by it, the horror of the devilish passions excited by it and the frightful suffering and waste of human life.

But whatever be the motive, the main object of these groups is most commendable and must receive the sympathetic endorsement of all humane people and so much the more of all sincere Christian people.

The unspeakable horrors of the last war and the possibility of another war, even more destructive and horrible, are more than sufficient to arouse every man and woman to the utmost determination to exert every ounce of his power by word and influence to make future wars impossible.

The obligations rests with peculiar seriousness upon the Christian Church, and its every part. War is in its fundamental spirit unchristian. In its practice it breeds hate instead of love, cruelty instead of kindness, deception instead of truthfulness, tears and woe and suffering instead of smiles and happiness and health, the destruction of human life instead of the saving of human life. No words can picture its horrors and its utter stupidity. The last war shook civilization in great portions of the world to its foundations. Another similar war would probably destroy it and bring back centuries of barbarism. Whenever the war should be waged, no portion of the world would escape its ruinous consequences. If we are not utterly blind to facts or stupid with the stupidity of National egotism and selfishness, we know that to be a probability. We may utmost say, we know it to be a fact. And believing all this to be true, we must hate war. We must be determined to commit ourselves to the utmost limit to the cause of abolishing it everywhere and of keeping our country from becoming involved in another war.

Nevertheless it is impossible for me to accede to all time principles and methods of some of those who are most earnestly and sincerely endeavoring to bring about that most desirable end. Some of these suggestions are not only impracticable but unwise, possibly dangerous. Their effort to produce a new generation of extreme pacifists; a generation of conscientious objectors.

Some time ago I was asked whether I could endorse the following statement: “Let the churches of America say to their own government and to the people of the earth: We feel so certain that war is now unchristian, futile and suicidal that we renounce completely the whole war system. We will never again sanction or participate in any war. We will not allow our pulpits and class rooms to he used as recalling stations. We will not again give our financial or moral support to now war. We will seek security and justice in other ways.”

Another statement set forth for general acceptance is as follows: “believing that all war is wrong, and that the arming of the nations, whether by land or sea or air, is treason to the spiritual unity and intelligence of mankind, I declare it to be my intention never to take part in war, offensive or defensive, international or civil, whether it be by bearing arms, making or handling munitions, voluntarily subscribing to war loans or using my labor for the purpose of setting others free for war service.”

One hesitates to turn down any statement which expresses the hostility to war mid the desire to promote universal peace. But it certainly cannot be the duty of any good citizen to obligate himself in advance to disloyalty under any circumstances under which his country in ay find itself, in some unforseen emergency, forced into a war of defense. War considered as a comas of deciding issues is certainly unchristian, and certainly stupid and futile. So is any sort of violence. But is it not absurd to say that an possible circumstances can arise when it would not be necessary and just for it Christian man to resort to violence to protect others, if not himself? The same is true, I take it, of it Christian nation.

It is our duty, however, and the duty of the Christian Church to utter its voice and to exert its influence publicly and most emphatically to denounce the whole idea of war as a means of settling disputes between nations, to promote such a public sentiment as will make aggressive war criminal and to cultivate in its own members and to assist in bringing all others to the conviction that wars are unnecessary—that they are practically always the result of course materialism and greed, and of national pride and selfishness, and that international justice is the solemn duty before God of governments and nations—that morality and righteousness are just as much obligatory upon groups of men as they are of individuals, and finally, limit universal peace is the object for which all men and nations should strive. But peace must be and can only be “the by-product of international justice.” We must seek pence and ensue it, bill first we must seek justice and do it.

I have said all this because as the Bishop of this Diocese and as occupying therefore a modest position of leadership in the Church, I feel it my duty to express my conviction and I hope I express yours. Believing that as I do, I desire that this Convention shall adopt some earnest and forceful expression of its conviction as the subject. I hope that a resolution which will tell the world, so far as it will hear us, that this Church is committed to the cause of promoting peace in all the world and of outlawing war and that the resolution will be deliberately and unanimously adopted.


For some time past there has been much disturbance in the minds of many persons, touching the faith of the Church as expressed in its two historic Creeds. There has been much controversy and much sensational news in the public press. There has been, also, I regret to say, some bandying of epithets and some evidence of unkind feeling.

There are some of the clergy and laity who call themselves “Modernists” or “liberals.” These insist that the statements of the Creed must be reinterpreted in accordance with what they regard as the established results of modern science and of literary criticism. They claim the privilege and insist upon their right to interpret in a symbolic sense clauses of the Creeds heretofore regarded as being statements of historic fact. The controversy concerns at this time especially the statements as to the virgin birth or our Lord and His bodily resurrection.

On the other hand, those whom I hope I may, without unfairness or exaggeration, describe as the majority of the clergy and laity, believe with deep and conscientious conviction that the assured results of physical science and of literary criticism do not conflict with the statements of the Creed on these two controverted points. They still hold with tenacity and with a rational conviction that these statements express actual and historic facts in time life of our Lord; that they represent now as always the historic faith of the Church. They believe that a symbolic interpretation of them tends inevitably to a disintegration of the substance of the faith. This disintegration refers not merely to the faith as an intellectual interpretation of the truth of the Christian religion, not simply to its theology; but refers to it also as the truth of God revealed for human redemption. The power of the Gospel to redeem and save the world is dependent upon belief in the objective truth of these two articles of the faith. The experience of the Church seems to justify the conclusion that the denial or the symbolic interpretation of the virgin birth and the bodily resurrection of our Lord, which it is difficult to distinguish from denial, will, as it has done in past ages, gradually but certainly lower and finally destroy the faith of men in His Eternal Godhead and the truth of His Incarnation. It may be quite possible for an individual man or small group of men to continue to believe in the Incarnation of the Eternal Son of God in the human nature of Jesus Christ. But that the whole body of Christians should come to believe Him to have been the son of Joseph and Mary born as all other men are born and therefore a human person, will make it increasingly difficult and finally impossible to accept the truth of the Incarnation as the Church has historically accepted it. It will result in some lower and different conception of the Incarnation and of the person of our Lord which will be inconsistent with the Eternal pre-existence of our Lord as the Eternal Son of God. Finally we shall have, after all, only a human Saviour, however perfect and holy and filled with the divine Spirit He may have been. The long spiritual experience of the Church in the lives of Christian people as well as their patient and earnest thought through the ages lifts demonstrated that such a conception of Christ destroys the Christian religion as a revelation of God and as the power of God unto salvation.

The question at issue, therefore, is not merely a matter of interpretation of certain words. It is no new or merely modern issue. The teachings of modern science did not originate it. They merely raise it again. Now as always the issue is vital. The question really is the reality in the accepted Christian faith of the supernatural and miraculous elements in our Lord’s person and life. This statement would probably not be accepted by some of our “modernist” friends. But it is true of some of their leaders in England and America, that they do avowedly repudiate the authenticity of the supernatural and miraculous elements in the life of Jesus Christ. The tendency of their minds is inevitably in that direction. The logic of their position will certainly land them in that conclusion.

This issue is as old as Christianity—nay, much older. It is the continuous conflict which goes on in man’s mind between his critical, sensuous intelligence and his rational and moral spirit, between his knowledge of outward phenomena and his faith in his own spiritual nature and in the spiritual nature of the universe.
This is it very profound question and in the brief space allowed me it is impossible to pursue it further. It concerns the question as to what constitutes knowledge and what are its sources and by what means it is acquired. It affects our conception of the universe and of our own nature. On the one hand is the outward physical world of appearances, of phenomena, of movement and change, of what we call matter and force. On the other hand there is the inner world of consciousness, of thought and feeling, of faith and aspiration. There is the physical and that which is beyond the physical. Science’s realm is in the world of physical things, of phenomena. Philosophy deals with the world of thought and feeling, of the ultimate nature of being. Religion is a matter of spirit. These worlds interpenetrate but are not coextensive. Physical science does not and cannot know anything but phenomena. All that science discovers does not exhaust the range of being. And even all that it has already discovered in its own field is extremely limited compared to the vast range and mystery of the material universe. We are like people living in a patch of cleared ground in the midst of a vast and impenetrable forest. We are amazed at the wonderful discoveries which have been and are being daily made. We honor the patience and devotion, the intellectual integrity and the fine and noble spirit of truth which scientific men exhibit. No sane man has any quarrel with science or scientific men who pursue their investigations so nobly; nor do we or can we deny the truth of its demonstrated discoveries. But not all is true that passes day by day for scientific truth. There is a general direction of investigation and experiment toward truth. But as in all other departments of human endeavor there are many errors and mistakes in detail and notch necessary correction of supposed conclusions. Evolution, for instance, as the statement of a process by which things Ito ye and no are coming to be, is undoubtedly true. Certain results of literary and biblical criticism are true. But all the details of the process are not known, and all the conclusions of the critic are not established. The scholar and the student has had to back water many times, as in fact we all have to do.

While, therefore, the Church has an open mind to accept what seems to be indisputable scientific results, she is not prepared to sacrifice at the bidding of ardent modernists the truth of her faith in the Incarnate God, the Saviour and Redeemer of the World. Science has not yet and never will discover God, or spirit, nor can she speak authoritatively upon the nature and possibilities of His operations, either in the physical world or certainly not in the spiritual world.

The Church is not so much concerned about her theology as she is about the vital content of her redeeming faith. Even then, however, in spite of the unpopular and the sometimes ignorant and contemptuous comment upon the value of theology, theology is still the queen of the sciences. As long as men remain rational they must or ought to think things out. Thinking things out in religion means theology and doctrine. Christian men must endeavor to answer the question of our Lord, “What think ye of Christ? Whose Son is He?” and they have tried to answer it as they find the evidence to His person, His life and His teaching in the Holy Gospels. The conclusion of the Church is expressed in the historic and catholic creed. This creed was not, however, formulated solely to satisfy men’s minds, but to protect from diminution, disintegration and destruction the truth of that faith which the Holy Spirit through their spiritual experience had revealed to them.

In conclusion, my brethren, I beg you to stand steadfast in the faith, without wavering and without fear. Let us be patient and let this storm spend itself as it will and as similar storms have spent themselves in the past. We must be, however, reasonable, without violent dogmatism and, above all, without uncharitable feelings or language towards those whom we reverently believe to be in error. Let nothing be said or done in strife or vain glory, but let all be courteous and remember that “the greatest of these is love.” Judge not that we not be judged. Negations and denials prove nothing. The world is not won by them. The earnest, humble spirit, expressing its convictions with positiveness but without anger, and in a life of loving fidelity to truth and of a manifest growth in holiness will ultimately prevail. For God is able to maintain His truth through us and in us without our frantic and passionate warfare of words.