Project Canterbury

The Bishop and the
Church's Mission


Rt. Rev. Arthur Selden Lloyd, D. D.


An Address delivered at
The College of Preachers
Washington, D. C.

Printed at the suggestion of some of those
present at a conference of Bishops
held on December 2, 1931.

Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, 2010

FOR the sake of clearness, let us understand that when we speak of the Church's Mission we are referring to our Lord's injunction that His Apostles should go everywhere, telling men what they had seen and heard. And that when we speak of a Bishop in the Church of God, we mean the man whom the Church has chosen and sent to be the guardian and minister of the office which, in God's providence, is the living witness of the Revelation which was intrusted to the Church.

The fact of the Incarnation and what it reveals is to be brought to the knowledge of every living man, and this message is to be supported by living witness of the Resurrection. On this basis the presence of the Bishop is essential for the furtherance of the Mission because he bears that office which certifies the fact that our Lord rose again from the dead. Let us see where we shall arrive working out from this as a starting point.

The Incarnation is the event which marks the beginning of an era--a new departure in what men call the process of evolution. Time was when God had touched his creature, impressing upon that creature God's image. We call it the creation of man. Up to that point all created had lived according to the law which has been aptly described as the law of the jungle. By the same law all animate creatures except man are controlled to this day. By the act of the Creator man was separated from all creatures, and the story of the Old Testament tells us how by His own guiding God himself taught man how to become accustomed to his new environment, gradually leading mankind up to the place where men might be able to meet their new obligation--that of being the master and protector of all created things. Thus God taught man to become his co-worker in bringing blessing to God's created universe.

It was a slow process, for the man was ever striving to get back to conditions which were congenial. The conditions of the jungle satisfied the demands of his body because he was accustomed to the jungle, and yet he found he could no longer be content there, since the jungle could make no provision for that new thing of which he was consciously possessed after God had named him Man.

In time one race showed by their attitude towards life that what God taught had become a fixed characteristic. In the story of this race it becomes increasingly clear how men came to realize the oneness of the life they lived with God's life. They became further removed from the jungle. More and more they longed for that which we call spiritual.

At last God showed Himself to this race in the One born of a Virgin--the Second Adam. That One revealed how perfected human [3/4] nature meets and uses its physical environment. He showed the natural relation between men and their Father in Heaven. He demonstrated the power of a man when the man consciously works with God. He declared that all He Himself did and spoke was to reveal to man human prerogative. He proclaimed that he would make men able to live as they saw Him live because He had redeemed mankind. That means, (does it not?) that He had corrected in human nature all that could hinder normal development. He would add what up to that time human nature lacked. He had made man one with God. He set human nature free. He declared that men should have power to do God's works. Henceforth a man might if he wanted it attain that which he longed for. He bestowed on men the same Spirit Who inspired Himself. He assured men that when they failed, or fell in climbing, He would stand for them. He would forgive the sins they might commit. Nothing should stand between a man and his destiny, if the man wanted it so. Thus the Christ established on earth the Kingdom of God. He made men able to become the sons of God if they wanted it. If just now they looked back to the jungle because their physical impulses found that congenial; now if they desired that which is perfect they might live by the law of God's life. He confirmed His revelation with tokens, which we call Sacraments.

Is not this the sum of the evangel which He commanded His disciples to proclaim everywhere? And is not the need for proclaiming this evangel the reason for the creation and sending of His Church? I can see no reason why in the nature of the case there need have been any Church if all those He redeemed could have been told about the Revelation in one generation.

But men must use methods conforming to men's environment. As time lapsed that which had been witnessed to by those who knew our Lord in the flesh must be attested by indubitable proofs. Our Lord had given His disciples signs that would ever declare that He had bestowed on men the life that came down from Heaven, that nothing should be able to separate between Him and those who are His. These signs must be preserved beyond question. How could mortals do this? My answer is the Bishop's Office, which once the days of experiment were passed became the accepted essential in the order of the Church's administration, the token at once of the body's unity and holiness and truth and love. And for vindication of my statement I would quote St. Paul's declaration, "I magnify my office." And I would account for the divine trust's being committed to mortals by that other word of the same Apostle. "We have this treasure in earthen vessels." What more exact distinction could be found between his office and the man made Bishop? This theory does not contradict the Church's tradition, while it gives reasonable basis for expecting to find essentially necessary relation between the Bishop and the Church's Mission.

If a Bishop is a man whom people have chosen to administer their business, even though that business be carried on in the Name of our Lord, then I cannot see why the Bishop is necessary; or if men think the [4/5] office desirable, why the Bishop is not free to use his judgment as to what is most profitable for the best interest of his work. But if the Bishop is the one who has been chosen by the Church to safeguard that office which is the living witness of the truth the Church declares; then the Bishop becomes the personification of that which is the inspiration of and the living force which insures the Mission's fruition. And this regardless of the fact that it is not unusual to see the Mission go forward in spite of the Bishop--even where there is no Bishop. As a matter of fact the actual progress of the work seems to be in exact proportion to the character of the individual doing it. When the messenger is himself identified with his Lord, it does not seem to matter what he calls himself; men gladly heed the evangel and give themselves to the high endeavor to walk with God. On the other hand where the messenger proclaims the wisdom of men, men follow their own devices for insuring themselves against the consequences of their self-pleasing. It would thus appear that neither the Bishop nor his Office has anything to do with it.

Yet men must ever go back to those who heard and companied with the Word of God Incarnate for proof of the message they proclaim. How amidst the multitude of voices which have spoken through the ages could men pick out and be sure of that voice which proclaims the faith once delivered, were it not for that office which since the time that it became clearly defined has been accepted as the witness to the unity and faith of the Church?

Let us agree that the only thing the Church on earth has to do with the Office of a Bishop is that upon the Church rests the responsibility of choosing the man who is to fill that office. Any miscarriage only demonstrates that God has intrusted the care of real values to mortals, and if the man chosen fails this only reminds us the vessel is earthen. The work God has wrought will be completed. So we may ignore in this discussion accidents and all miscarriage, being sure that the Head of the Church takes these into account. The Mission of the Church must be accomplished. It has tarried too long. On the message proclaimed depends men's knowing they are not bound to the earth; that they are redeemed. On that message depends men's enlightenment, their growth, their liberty, their mastery of things. On that message's being received waits what we are pleased to call civilization.

And yet in the nature of the case this consummation must be attained by men using methods that answer to the limitations of men's environment. It must be accomplished through organization, and this planned to meet all the new demands that will arise as men become conscious of their power. For better or worse the Bishop is head of this organization and responsible for its successful performance. The office intrusted to him is the witness of the truth that is proclaimed, the inspiration of those sharing in the work. The Bishop is the one set for the purpose of smoothing the way for the man who is strong; for heartening the one who is [5/6] afraid; for safeguarding the Church against the one who, would prey upon our Lord's weak ones; for seeing to it that no man substitutes another Gospel for that which our Lord declared.

One is almost afraid to say it, but it seems to be true that the advance made by the Church at any particular time or in any particular place has but reflected the understanding of the Bishop. If he has thought of his office as something by which he might magnify himself, all the devotion of the faithful ones seems to have been discounted. As he has thought of himself as one set to magnify the office intrusted to his keeping, God has seemed to use the weak things to confound the mighty. The most casual review of the life of the Church would seem to bear this out in a most emphasized way. And indeed we have only to observe the life of the Church in America to find evidence that this is true, without presuming to consider, least of all to criticize, the life of the several groups of Christian people who for cause have discarded the Bishop's Office, or have substituted religion for the Faith. Oftentimes these by their works have put the Church to shame.

Nor need we consider the life of the Church in the generation preceding our own. That might induce invidious comparisons. Let us rather consider the work which this generation must build on. I think this will be enough to show that there is no place where the Bishop was one who regarded himself as set to magnify his office, but today the faith is a life-giving power. In parts where men do not know what they believe, where the strength of the Church is measured by that which can be seen and measured, it is not impossible that what they build on was the creation of a man who fancied that his office magnified him.

Danger attends the measuring of a man's work. We are bidden not to judge any man; but there is one man who may without the least risk be used as illustration of the truth of what has been said. The Bishop of South Dakota has joy in administering the most unusual work in America. There a tribe of Indians set their white brothers example in their fidelity to our Lord. It was Bishop Hare who interpreted to them the Revelation. He it was who showed them how to follow their Lord. If anyone here had the privilege of knowing that man, he will see at once what I have been trying to say. Bishop Hare came as near as any man I ever saw to having all that can make a man's life beautiful. But to be with him made one realize how the beautifulness of the man was the result of his knowing that he had been exalted by his Lord to safeguard a divine trust. All his splendid gifts were manifestly valuable to him because these could be used to magnify that office. It is not surprising that when I went on the Bishop's behalf to the Secretary of the Interior, I was met by the declaration that the Government should be quick to do anything that might be for Bishop Hare's relief, since the Bishop had done that for the nation, which the whole army of the United States had been unable to accomplish. Or to use an incident of our own day to justify the reasonableness of what has been said: When the war ended, the Board of [6/7] Missions was at its wits' end. For three years its deficits had accumulated because the Board was unwilling even to seem to try to divert the mind of the Church from what was then the people's first concern. The Board found itself practically bankrupt. Its records showed that the offerings of the Church did not meet the obligations the Board had been ordered to assume. In the past every means had been tested, from spasmodic appeal to taxing, and there had been insufficient response.

Meantime the Church had demonstrated its openhandedness by the generous way in which, in response to the challenge of the Bishop of Massachusetts, those controlling wealth had made provision for the old age of those men who had given themselves to the service of the Church in its ministry. The Board could not follow Bishop Lawrence because the Church’s business is the care of the whole body and not of a group of its children. But Dr. Patton in a series of experiments in all sorts of conditions had demonstrated that the Church would support the work laid upon it by its Head if the people knew about the work. The Board determined to rest its case on this. The General Convention approved. The response the Church made, you remember. That year the accumulated debts of the Board were wiped out and abundant provision was made for the work then in hand. But the point I would emphasize: Of course the response was not uniform, but that response seemed to indicate which Bishops regarded themselves as the guardians of an office which was to be magnified. And this not because the Bishop happened to be this or that, but because of what his diocese regarded to be the purpose of its being. "Like priest, like people," and I suppose till our Lord comes, the priests in any diocese will reflect the emphasis their Bishop lays on that which he stands for, and when the exception occurs this will be but proving the rule.

There can be no doubt. As I have said the Bishop, whether he will or not, is leader and inspirer and support of those who in the economy of the Church are chosen and set apart to perform the work which Our Lord committed to His Body.

And this will be found to permeate the whole task intrusted to the Church. For it must be kept clear that though the propagation of the Gospel is the ultimate factor in the Church's Mission, this by no means describes the whole task of the Church. Just because it is true that our Lord is God manifest in the flesh, it must follow that there is nothing included in what concerns the growth of a man that does not have its roots in what He showed or spoke. Out of that Revelation has sprung all that has made for human development as men think it today.

We have not time to heed the clamor made by the learned ones in denial of this. It is a matter of historical record that everything which makes the age we live in great beyond comparison has been inspired by the Revelation proclaimed by the Church, and has been developed first among the peoples who have through that Revelation been inspired by the Spirit Whom He gave at Pentecost and have been set free from fear. Yet this is not the particular point to be pressed now. What [7/8] I would emphasize is that as men have come to know the Revelation showed in the Incarnate Son of God, the desire has become mandatory to develop the power that is in them. The highest expression of this is intellectual power, but this development has carried with it the insistent demand that a man's body shall be treated with reverence and the conditions he lives in made fit. So that it follows that the most important work attending the knowledge of the Gospel is to provide means for the development of man's natural gifts. Education (and the term is ever becoming more inclusive) is therefore the first mark of an emancipated race. The loss men have suffered in the disassociation of these two--the proclaiming of the Gospel and the intellectual training of those redeemed--cannot be measured. You know this dividing began when to the inestimable loss of the human race, the Church because it was afraid cast out those who were driven by the Spirit of God to search out the truth revealed in the physical universe. The greatest obstacle that men ever opposed to the growth of God's Kingdom on earth was set up in the day which marked the distinction between theology and that learning which men call secular. The Bishop in his relation to the Church's Mission is set for a witness against this. His office is irrefutable witness that in the world redeemed there is nothing secular, least of all the learning that insures the liberty of those who have been made free. And the crying need for this testimony is demonstrated in nothing more surely than this, that in our great institutions of learning the meaning of the word culture seems to have been lost sight of; and these, apparently without shame, are content to educate men for the declared purpose of enabling them to use their training for personal profit, as though this were the chief end of man. Surely that approaches sacrilege, nor could it survive among enlightened men had not the source of their enlightenment been obscured.

This too will pass, for men will at last learn that God has touched His creature; but how could men be sure after the lapse of ages that what men cheaply call religion is not the creature of diseased imagination, if it were not for the living witness who saw and heard the only begotten Son of God declare in terms of mortal experience the very truth concerning human life and its relations? The Bishop being mortal cannot know all the things that learning can unfold, but the office he bears is present to save learning from being used to destroy those to whom it is given.

All this is equally true concerning what we call social service. All that makes for the betterment of men's living conditions has been separated from what men are pleased to call religion to the grave loss of human society. Where the Christ dwells in men, men must grow sensitive to humans living in conditions which give the lie to the dignity of man. Perhaps there is no sign that men do not realize that the Christ dwells in men, so condemning as the housing conditions that are allowed among people calling themselves Christian.. There is no token that men in spite of their redemption still regard the law of the jungle as the law governing human life, so disturbing as the economic conditions now prevalent [8/9] throughout the world. And this the more striking because the economic system devised by civilized men seems to be so sane. Yet the methods used by common consent seem to indicate that men consider it to be natural for strong men to prey on the weak, and that personal profit is the only sound motive for conduct. The result is the condition confronting the world:--Men crushed by want in a world abundantly supplied with all that mankind can need. These things could not be if men had not forgotten the source of their inspiration. Men actually believe that by their own power and genius they have done it all, and that they can solve all their problems by their own ingenuity. Can this be because the Church has forgotten its Mission, and yielding to the blandishments of the present, has thought to order the business of its Head according to the law of the jungle? However this may be we know that the Bishop in his relation to the Church's Mission is challenged as never before to magnify the office intrusted to him, since that office is the living witness of the Revelation, which set in motion all the forces by means of which mankind has risen to its present state. To meet that challenge with courage is the Bishop's high privilege, just because his office is the tangible reminder of the source of that power given to human nature, to bring back to men's consciousness the truth that only that One Who has created all this, can show men how to use it.

Has enough been said to suggest what might be involved in the words "the Bishop and the Church's Mission?" If so we may begin to understand why our Lord reiterated His promise that He would bestow upon those sent the power of the Holy Ghost. We may begin to guess why the Apostle though fully inspired by the Spirit of God, yet could cry out in anguish, "Who is sufficient for these things?" If we have gotten so far we have made a good beginning, we have drawn near to the condition which our Lord declared was the essential in this service: We begin to realize how in the nature of things separated from Him we can do nothing. And I am persuaded that if all of us named Bishop could get even a glimmering that this is the practical and only practical truth, the Mission of the Church would no longer be regarded as negligible (if not a negation) by the multitude of those who are doing the world's work. In their hearts men know they cannot meet the situation; as witness, the revolt against materialism and mechanism. Yet men ignore the Church because it seems to have no positive message to deliver.

We all know that we too have sinned. What is to be done about it? There is but one thing we can do. We may stir up the gift that is in us by the laying on of hands. And we have this to hearten us--even while men fear we know that the only thing that will surely remain until that which our Lord revealed is accomplished, is the Church of the Living God. There is nothing therefore that need make us afraid except our own unworthiness, and yet that very unworthiness is a factor in our usefulness. He deliberately committed the building up of His Kingdom in the earth to the keeping of mortals--but mortals deliberately set on living the life that is hid with Christ in God. Mortals who while they strive [9/10] will be continually sinning; ever fighting against their sins because they know that sinning blurs the witness which was intrusted to them. Our Lord's sole requirement is that those who serve Him shall make no compromise with that which contradicts the love of God, or will hurt one of the least of those for whom Christ died.

As far as I know this Church's Office for the Consecration of a Bishop is in line with the tradition of the Church. If this is true, then it is true that the Church has always realized that what it is committing to the man is the treasure of the Church's Head, which He is pleased to hide in an earthen vessel. According to that office, the Church, guided by the Holy Ghost, has used all possible means to make certain that the man called to that Office has first given himself to his Master; that he will depend on the inspiration of the Holy Ghost for courage and wisdom; that he desires only one thing, that men may see and know Jesus the Christ, Who died and was buried and rose again, that He might lift men up to God.

If presently we can go through that Office together I think we shall observe that in it the Church takes for granted that the man called, is to be a keeper of that Office which provides the answer to all the questions concerning life and its use, just because that Office is the living witness of the Revelation showed in the Incarnation; then goes on to test the man, not to prove him to be possessed of this or that gift which passes, but to find out whether this man knows in himself that the only truth men can attain concerning human life and its relations is showed us of the Christ and that the only power that can make a man able to live this or make it known is in the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.

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