REVEREND AND DEAR BRETHREN OF THE CLERGY AND LAITY:
WE bid you welcome to this, our Nineteenth Diocesan Council, in the Name of the Lord.
United together in Christ, we assemble together to offer, in behalf of the Diocese, the great Eucharistic Sacrifice; to hear from the Bishop words of counsel, warning, and encouragement; to receive the reports of our Diocesan officers; to make our Parish returns; to legislate for the improvement of our Diocesan organization; to note the signs of Church progress, and to plan for its development. We assemble to look one another in the face; to take each other by the hand; to cheer each other by our presence and sympathy; to receive as well as give suggestion and counsel. We join together in friendly debate, meet in social intercourse; are united in religious services, that, growing in mutual trust and charity, we may become more solidified in our Diocesan life and have a common plan of action for our Diocesan development.
The remembrance of the struggles and faith of those who, with much heroic and noble labor, laid the foundations of this Diocese, come freshly home to us at each annual meeting, to enkindle and develop our Diocesan interest. Loving the Church as the Divine instrumentality for the elevation of humanity, we must love that Diocesan unity of it wherein God has placed us, to unitedly labor for its extension. May He, the Master-sign of Whose Presence is the charity that believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things, and Who makes men to be of one mind in an house, guard and guide our deliberations, and intensify our union as Churchmen, as members of this Diocese and of a common Household of Faith. No other of our Diocesan Clergy have been granted their release; but of those of my own order, it has pleased God to summon hence the Rt. Rev. W. J. Kip, Bishop of California, the Rt. Rev. Phillips Brooks, Bishop of Massachusetts, and the Rt. Rev. W. H. Bissell, Bishop of Vermont. One of these was nearer to me than the others, because we were Presbyters for years in the same town, ministering in adjoining Parishes, and meeting in friendly intercourse, and our elevation to the Episcopate fell somewhat near together. Most attractive of all the preachers in our communion, Phillips Brooks drew men, not by great gifts of scholarship or theological learning, but by the nobility of his nature and broad sympathy for humanity. His torrent-laden sentences were filled with inspirations of hope, which made despondent and sin-weakened hearts revive. It was especially given to him to teach afresh that primary truth of revelation, that all mankind are by creation God's children, and that He is the common Father of us all. His prevailing theme was the ennobling tie that binds the creature to the Creator, and makes us, as St. Paul declares, God's offspring. He saw this paternal love of God for all mankind illuminating the life of Christ, and his own life became illuminated by it. At a time when New England, indeed a large part of the country, was passing through a transition period, and the dark age of Puritan bigotry was passing away; when a revolt had begun against the narrowness of Calvin's cruel logic, and the mist of the Unitarian uncertainty was found to be unsatisfactory, God raised up one to prepare for a return to the Church's deeper, better balanced wisdom and higher sanctity. He did this by teaching the elementary truths of God's immanence in nature, our filial relation as creatures, to Him, and His paternal, pathetic, invigorating love to every one of us. There is no tie, not of father and child, husband and wife, deeper, dearer, or truer than that of Creator and creature--save one. The closer tie and nearer relation is that which binds the Christian to the God-Man, Christ Jesus. Out of this union rises the spiritual organism of the Church. Of it and its theology Dr. Brooks had only an imperfect conception. He little understood the saying of St. Cyprian, "that the Episcopate is one," and only as any individual Bishop voiced the mind of the solidarity are his theological utterances of value. He rightly loved character more than doctrine, but his ideal of Christian character was not that of the Saints. His work was preparatory, a St. John Baptist work, and it was blessed. It has laid the foundation for an advance in theological education of our countrymen to the deeper truth, that what God is to the creation, that the God-Man, Christ Jesus, is to the new creation which is his Church, and which is, through a conquering struggle with sin and death, being evolved out of it. Grasp once the truth of the immanence of God in creation, and that He is everywhere present in it by His power, and it is easy to realize that Jesus Christ is the Midst of the new creation; that He is everywhere present in it, and manifests Himself in the sacraments of His grace.
May all these dear Right Reverend brethren, each in their appointed place, serving faithfully the Master, find, in their blissful state of advancement, increasing rest and peace and joy in Him.
I have also had a number of cases involving questions relating to divorce, and the right of parties to approach the Sacrament, referred to me for decision, under the Canon which provides for appeal to the Bishop. I cannot state too strongly the obligation resting upon all Church people, Clergy and Laity, to maintain the indissolubility of marriage, according to the teaching of our Lord. Every Church member should be clearly instructed in the doctrine and practice of the Church, as set forth in her Canons. Much misery and suffering would be prevented if the law of the Church, and the reasons of it, were generally understood. The Canons of the Church do not allow of a divorce which frees baptized persons who have been married according to God's ordinance, and as His Word doth allow, from the bond of matrimony, and permit them to re-marry, save in one excepted case. It would tend to deepen the sense of the responsibility of the parties, if marriages were solemnized, as I believe is the universal custom with us, only in Church. It would tend to its permanence, if the baptized were instructed that their marriage is to be a witness and symbol of the union of Christ and His Church.
Let me urge upon you all, dear brethren of the Clergy and Laity, the duty, yet not so much the duty (great as it is), as the transcendent privilege which is ours in this stage of existence, of making sacrifices for the cause of Christ. Whatever you give to the Lord you save for eternity. Every Parish ought to have a rectory and a Parish House, and a small endowment for the support of the Clergy and Church services. In this way each Parish and Mission would be put on a good financial basis, and the services of the Church would be secured in times of temporary distress, the salaries of our Clergy would be increased to the standard of other Dioceses, and the services of valuable men would not be lost to the Diocese. Give while you live; but if you cannot give something in the way of an endowment during your life, remember your Parish in your will. Indeed, though it may be a small sum, give at least something for its future support. It is not an ungracious charity to take out a life policy, the benefit of which shall accrue, on our departure, to the Church. And I would make the suggestion, that the best way of securing an endowment for any Parish is to make the donation to the Trustees of the Diocese for the benefit of the Parish specified.
In these days when women are being led into so many spheres of philanthropic endeavor, why should there not be more, and those found in our own Diocese, found to devote themselves to the Master's service in the consecrated Religious life? The Church has placed her seal of approval upon it, and in the last Pastoral of the House of Bishops, parents were urged not to hold back their children from the service of the Lord, but to give to Him of their best. God can do no higher honor to any parent than to call his son to the position of the Priesthood, or a daughter to be a consecrated Sister. Parent and child alike take part in the offering; and, specially ministering to Him here on earth, shall have a special place of nearness to Him hereafter.
It is a matter of no small encouragement to be able to state that our Cathedral is one of the increasing number of Cathedrals and Churches where the offering of the Sacrifice is daily made. It may seem impossible that such a custom should be followed in all Parish Churches, but the success attending the daily offering in five or six of our Parishes during Lent shows how much more can be done in this way than we suppose. Let us make more ventures of like faith. The Church's two most efficient weapons are the spirit of self-sacrifice and the spirit of prayer. It is to the perpetual pleading of the great Sacrifice in Heaven and the constant pleading of It here on the earthly Altar, that the conquest of the world is given. Brethren, let us go out to that conquest in our own respective spheres of labor, with renewed zeal and with hearts burning with the love of God. Let us year by year grow more in union with Him, that He may more effectively work through us. Let all things which tend to distrust, to narrowness, want of sympathy, be put away from us. We are children of a common Father; sinners redeemed by a common Saviour; brothers in arms struggling for a common faith; Churchmen whose bond is our Apostolically derived orders and our Book of Common Prayer.
We are misunderstood by other Christians, and thought to be illiberal. Let us try and remove the prejudice by showing that the Church acknowledges them to be what they claim to be, Preachers and Christians, and only denies them to be what they repudiate, Priests and offerers of the Sacrifice.
We are misunderstood also, by others, in respect to our relation to Rome. We differ from Rome in five particulars: In Church government, in our rule of faith, in doctrine, in Church discipline and worship. We hold in respect to Church government that the Apostles and their successors, the Bishops, are possessed of equal authority; and while acknowledging the primacy given by Canon law of the Church to the See of Rome, along with the Eastern Church, we repudiate its claim to a supremacy and to be the sole source of jurisdiction, and that communion with it is the test of orthodoxy. We believe in the Holy Catholic Apostolic Church as the appointed guardian and teacher of the Faith once delivered, verified as it is by Holy Scripture, safeguarded by the Creeds, set forth in the Sacraments; but deny that the Pope's dogmatic utterances, apart from any Council and by virtue of his supposed infallibility, are to be received and believed under peril of damnation. We accept all the doctrines, believe in all the means of grace, the Church in her (Ecumenical Councils has ever declared or borne witness to by her common consent; but we do not accept those modern dogmas which were not put forth by (Ecumenical authority and cannot be proved by the Scriptures and Fathers, viz. the infallibility of the Pope, or the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. In our Church discipline we follow that of the ancient Church in this, that we allow the marriage of the Clergy, and do not make confession of sin to a Priest obligatory before Communion. In our worship we continue the Apostolic order of having the service in a tongue understood by the people and, according to the command of the Lord and the practise of the undivided and ancient Church, give the Blessed Sacrament to the Laity in both kinds. Admitting our defects, we have inherited the ancient order of Church government, and the Catholic faith, Sacraments and worship; and believe that the strongest bulwark against foreign ecclesiasticism is to be found in their maintenance. And we thank God that in the maintenance of this worship and faith in our Communion, the Laity, by virtue of their share in the Priesthood, as well as the Clergy, have their duty to perform, and can be depended upon to do it.
In times of unsettlement like our own, it behooves us Churchmen, by our mutual charity, to show that our union is the work of the Holy Spirit, Who unites us to Christ and makes us to be of one mind in His house. It behooves us so to live as to raise the standard of personal holiness, so that all may come to know that Christ is in us and we in Him; and be drawn themselves to seek the shelter, the peace, the holiness, that the Church Catholic can give. Go forth, dear brethren, to make known that faith, to extend Christ's life, to kindle afresh in other souls a burning love for Jesus Christ our Lord.