Project Canterbury

The Catholic Revival and the Kingdom of God
Addresses and Papers Delivered at the Sixth Catholic Congress of the Episcopal Church, Philadelphia, October 22 to 26, 1933

Milwaukee: Morehouse; London: A.R. Mowbray, 1933.

Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2011

The Revival of Missions
Bishop of Nevada

The ground of—

THE FAMILY is healthy and enduring only as it increases its membership, preserves its health, and extends its service. It is a picture and natural symbol of that greater fellowship into which the new birth in Baptism ushers us.

The new birth relates us in two directions: On the one hand to God as our Father, and on the other to all others created in His image. As well say that God is not our Father as that man is not our brother. To claim Fatherhood and deny brotherhood is blighting heresy. It is destructive to social health and ultimately to religious faith. It is on the family principle that the whole missionary imperative and privilege rest. I do not see how the Christian faith can extend itself or even ultimately survive except on the principle of brotherhood. And to this the Christian doctrine of Fatherhood and the non-missionary Christian becomes a contradiction.

Out of that period when Christians, believing in the possibility of a universal brotherhood, set about preaching a universal Gospel to bring it into existence, have come all the permanent institutions of Christian tradition—Creed, Scripture, the Lord's Day, Church Order, and the seed-bed of philanthropy. A missionary Church conceived and brought to birth the Religious orders, built schools, and fostered education. A non-missionary Church never produced anything that had the seed of permanency in it or that was [93/94] worth preserving. How could it? Public morality as well as spiritual tone have always been jeopardized—from the times of the Hebrew prophets to our own—whenever the Church has thought in terms of her own security. Christianity, to survive, must not only span the Church actual, but the Church possible. She must, as it were, pigeon-hole her achievements in order that she may project herself into her opportunities.

Since the new birth makes us members of the Church, which, in the language of St. Paul, is the Body of Christ, we become ipso facto charged with a missionary calling. There is no escape from it except at our own great loss. We are born to it. The Church as the Body of Christ is a striking figure. We who believe in the sacramental principle of life are, by our belief, tied up to a far-reaching issue. All life, yes, all creation, becomes sacred on that principle. Matter and spirit, house and occupant are, according to their purpose, alike holy. The Church itself is holy, must be holy, if for it the Saviour shed His precious Blood. We call it holy, not alone for what it is, but for what it is called to do.

The Church, like the Virgin Mother, is the bearer of the eternal Word, the Saviour of the world. As her body was once His home, so now the Church is His abiding place.

A body has three distinct uses. In the first place, it is like a house where one lives. So the Apostle could speak of God tabernacling in the flesh. In the second place it is like a vehicle in that it carries one about. We go where our body goes—and nowhere else. In the third place it is like a radio station in that it is an instrument of communication. It follows then, does it not, that if the Christian faith is to be carried to the circumference of human habitation the Church must go into all the world? It follows, does it not, that if the human family is to become a brotherhood the Church must make disciples of all the nations by baptizing them into the Christian fellowship? It follows, does it not, that if the [94/95] Gospel of Christ is to be the salt and leaven and light of life that the Church must establish itself in every hamlet and habitation? The Church as the body of Christ, the divine agency of salvation, must go, must do, must stay.

And as the human body is conveyed on its mission by duly appointed members, so the Body of Christ is dependent upon us, who are its feet and hands, for conveyance to where He would go. And the Church can go only where we take it. Whether Christ has "other feet than our feet to take Him on His way" is not our business; He does have ours, and unless they respond they are only impediments. As the body functions through its various and appropriate organs so the Church has its functioning ministers—its bishops, priests, and deacons. Without them it would be a deaf and dumb and helpless Church—a body with defective communication, an instrument without language—a plant without power.

The field of—

The field is the world. But no one, and certainly none in this group, would presume to say with John Wesley that "the world is my parish," except in a very figurative sense. We belong to an order and are responsible to authority. If to anyone, then surely to us, the Church has a right to look for full-powered cooperation with her plans and purposes. The world is the parish of the whole Church and we are associates in the enterprise of carrying out her mission. If the time ever was, certainly it is not now, that Catholic Christians could hesitate to trust the Church, or doubt the wisdom and duty of carrying the Gospel to the ends of the earth, or lag behind in their effort to accomplish that desire. The Macedonian call may be heard from every quarter of home and foreign lands. Large areas and teaming cities overseas are without the Gospel of hope and healing and health, while clergy, physicians, teachers, and nurses here [95/96] at home are unemployed, or just eking out an existence. In the homeland, both near and far, the Catholic religion is unknown to myriads of our own tongue and blood. Hundreds of counties and a multitude of towns and villages, not to speak of the great open country with its thousands of hamlets and tens of thousands of school districts, have not yet seen this Church at work, and many of that countless number have never heard of its existence. In the face of such a picture, no one here and no one we represent can be indifferent to its challenge.

Time does not permit me to detail the needs of our own great western country with its churchless towns and country-sides, its beaten-down ideals, its crumbling homes, its uninstructed numbers of children, its neglected scattered people, its forgotten needs, its unarticulated longings, its dying hopes. They are there and they are very real. Not a missionary bishop but whose heart is rung by the opportunities for service and his inability to lend a listening and responsive ear. And these are the people and the offspring of the people who braved the perils and dangers of an untrodden and untamed virgin land. By these were forests penetrated, turbulent streams forded, desert trails blazed, wild animals subdued, hostile natives appeased, homes builded, towns and governments organized, virgin soil cultivated, civilization extended. By these were the United States of America throbbing with life and aspiration, and covering a whole continent today, made possible. And where was the Church? Disowned, disorganized, scattered, weak, and poor, you reply. Not that alone. She was looking backward. Only a missionary Church is forward-looking. It was possible, then, to be a mission Church and yet not be missionary. It is possible today.

But confronted by this imperious claim to our service, where is the Church today? Neither disowned, disorganized, nor poor, and yet something delays the wheels. May it not be that we clergy are poor teachers of the faith and we [96/97] professing Catholics oftener still poor exponents? The unused resources of the Church constitute a disastrous offense. It is her great sin of omission. Why should not the bishops as a body make drafts upon her unused manhood and money for the only task for which the dear Lord brought her into being? The hearts of your leaders yearn for your cooperation, your prayers, your money, and some of your choicest young priests, without all of which the west will ever be a dependent missionary area. The civilization we have extended is febrile and faint for the want of a power to make it steady and hopeful. The Catholic faith alone will answer that need.

If anywhere in this broad land multitudes are looking for a stable faith, a reasonable religion, a practical ethic, an ordered devotion, the beauty of holiness, that "anywhere" is the region from which I come. Men are looking for God, and, if they do not find Him through His Church, they will find Him not at all. They are looking for a religion that does not contradict the instincts of humanity. They crave a religion free from pettiness and vulgarity; one warm with the pulse of the good life. Sensationalism has run its course and been found wanting.

The west will have the destiny of the United States in its hands. The Pacific is the ocean of tomorrow. The problems of our children and their children will center on the western shore. It is ours today to make them ready for that day of the Lord.

The difficulties of—

The difficulties that deter our progress through the whole mission field may not be many, but they are not minor. While the soil in pagan lands may require longer and deeper cultivation the task is compensated by the character of its working force—"rethinking missions" notwithstanding.

In the domestic field the selective process is allowed to [97/98] take place on the field of service—a costly process. For overseas work selection precedes appointment—a signal improvement. The paramount difficulty in all missionary enterprise is the discovering of suitable workers and their distribution. Too much reliance is placed on individual initiative. The Church has forfeited its power to call and direct by sacrificing its leadership to an impractical democratic principle. Men, too often, just drift into the domestic field. Not having found their niche in one place they have pursued an illusive frontier, and, for years, such men have wandered from place to place till their record covers the whole field. And, sad to relate, there are priests today who, like Noah's dove, can find no place to rest there. Placement of clergy! What more arresting problem has this Church today?

It is a sad observation to make that of all religious bodies ours is the only one that has not encouraged and provided for the training of a native western ministry. It would be difficult to calculate their loss to the west were all the clergy who have been trained in Canada and Great Britain withdrawn from the field. Their number is large and their contribution of far-reaching value.

How can we make Catholic Christians without Catholic-minded clergy who are native to their environment? And how can we occupy an extensive country of far distances and a scattered population with a clergy whose domestic responsibilities tie them to a single base? The need in many parts of the west is, as it has always been, and for a long time to come will be, for a mobile force, a flying column as it were, free to live and move with their books and baggage. The west is rural, and for the most part will remain so. The task requires versatile men, practical as well as idealistic, mechanical as well as masters of theology, men who can patch and change a tire at zero weather and who know enough of physics to get out of a mud hole in the rain. But plus all these qualities we need men who know what they [98/99] believe and are persuaded that nothing shall separate them from the truth of the Gospel, which alone can save men from their sins, and anchor them to a faith that shall support them in their avowed intent to be pilgrims.

This Catholic Movement could do much toward supplying the Church with such a working force. Given a steady stream of younger priests whom we could feed into our working staffs, enough of them would discover a permanent missionary vocation and thus insure stability to our work. To those who, after a prescribed period of service, should find it undesirable to burn their bridges, a definite assurance should be given of their obtaining cures on their return. It is not so today. And men who would be quite willing and ready to go west for a set term of years hesitate because of the well-known uncertainty of finding hospitality on their return to their home dioceses. But far more strategic than sending us eastern men for western tasks would be to help us discover and train our own sons for our own enterprise. Nothing that I can conceive of would have greater ultimate value than the establishment of a training center in the west, soundly established on Catholic principles, strongly manned and amply equipped, such as our brethren in England have built at Mirfield and Kelham. Or it might be possible and practical for this Congress Movement to put its resources into some incipient institution already established and which greatly needs reinforcement.

The great intermountain country, an empire in itself, needs clergy trained in the environment where they are to work. We are not unlike the Church in the New England colonies which depended on the mother country for its supply. Though distance may have been obliterated, a difference remains. The west is not the east, and saying otherwise does not alter the fact. The personal equation weighs heavily and the sine qua non of a successful mission is the adaptable and adequately equipped priest.

[100] It would be ungracious of me on such an occasion as this were I to fail to bear my testimony to the impartiality of those who have the direction of our missionary enterprise. No less to me than to my neighboring episcopal brother who may lead his forces along a different line is their generous and impartial support given. If ever it were otherwise, that day, thank God, is past. We are one. The Church is united. And the battle for God and righteousness goes on. Shall it triumph is for you to say.

There is another obstacle and it is a very real one. Vigorous propaganda is affecting the minds of many of our laity respecting the expenditure of money for missionary work in small places. The community church idea is prevalent and formidable. What have we to say? And there is much to be said in its favor if one takes the economic aspect of the problem only. I have studied the problem carefully and long under observation. I inherited such institutions. And, without ruling out every instance as unworkable and impossible, I have a definite opinion as to its value and ultimate issue. Where the faith must be diluted to suit all and sundry, or where restrictions are made that limit our freedom of action, it is an unworkable scheme for us. And as a solution for healing a divided Christendom on ever so small a scale it is impossible. We have a faith to proclaim to all alike—and how definitely are we "straitened till it be accomplished"!

But being restricted by the terms of our stewardship does not and ought not to restrict us in our friendship and concern for all the people of our cures. The missionary bishop ought indeed, so far as lieth in him and his environment, to live peaceably and be friendly with all alike. Being such does not signify, as some on both sides sometimes imagine, any obligation to throw open our altars to any and all who believe in a Supreme Being, and profess to be followers of Jesus. The bishop, and every missionary of course, should be the very acme of friendship and courtesy to all people [100/101] of good will, and particularly to those who seek to be disciples of our Lord. If Church unity ever comes it will be, under the Holy Spirit, by pressure from the mission field. In this matter it is friendship, which, above all other virtues, the missionary must cultivate. Mutual contact and mutual understanding are far more efficacious than compromise for the vindication of the faith. More prayer, more study, more patience, deeper love for people, fuller understanding, and always fidelity to the truth, are the desiderata for commending Catholic faith and order to the multitudes of people who are now, like a neglected flock, scattered abroad without a shepherd to lead them.

There are many small towns and communities in our west still without any church of whatever sort, and until they are occupied our present duty is clear. Our laity may feel quite assured that all the money they give for missionary work is being conscientiously used in proclaiming a redemptive Gospel to people who are in need of it.

To you, my brethren, I say: Stir them up, quicken their consciences, strengthen their wills to give more nearly as they are able and as the task requires, and we whom the Church has called to leadership will strive to be good stewards of their bounty. And may the Holy Spirit make you faithful ministers to our need!

The last obstacle I would mention is the general absence of moral standards by which men may gauge their conduct. This is particularly true in the west where religious sanctions are often not known. By the time migration reached the last frontier much of the spiritual fibre with which it started had been wrung limp or dried up by the hard experiences of the journey. Here where the Church should have been a companion of the trail she was more often than otherwise waiting for a stage line to open or a railway to be built. No wonder, then, that the outlines of morality grew dim. And to accelerate that tendency the first approach of [101/102] religion was by a preaching sensational, emotional, and un-sacramental.

The spiritual hunger that followed gave birth to various new sects with a flamboyant frontier flavor; which, wherever they have spread, have made the need of the Catholic faith greater but our task of planting it harder.

Perhaps at no point have the popular religions of the west manifested the incapacity of sectarianism to maintain Christian standards than in respect to marriage and family life. They have failed utterly to uphold the time-honored, Christian-sanctioned doctrine of monogamy. It is as easy in most places to get married the fifth time by a minister of religion as it is the first time. Had I to take my choice between the polygamy of the Mormon and the kind I have described I should not hesitate to choose the Mormon. There were both generosity and honor to the Mormon. There is chiefly alimony to the other.

I have not listed many difficulties but I assure you they are all grave ones. They constitute our challenge. They render our task the more formidable, and put our faith in the Christian gospel to remedy them to an acid test. Only priests who know what the Catholic faith is and why they believe it to be an effective remedy for life's ills will measure up to the desired standard of workmanship.

The duty of—

This is a great day in which to live, and the air is filled with inspiration for adventurous action. Surveying the past century, what have we to fear, except that of being Laodicean or faithless stewards?

"Is this the time, O Church of Christ! to sound retreat? To cut down wages? Curtail work? Turn faithful men to idleness? Is this the time to halt, with harvests ripening, reapers waiting sickle-handed, and Christ commanding, 'Son, go work today'? No! Rather strengthen stakes and lengthen cords."

[103] I crave for the American Church the sincerity and grit of our English brothers who, under the inspiration of the Oxford Movement, moved down into the slums and out into forgotten places of the earth to prove that the revival was no mere aesthetic renaissance but a genuine reaffirmation of the Catholic character of the English Church. If we may be allowed to criticize ourselves, honesty requires a confession that we have in too many places been more millinery than militant. Too often the tawdry trappings have lulled a slumbering conscience. Too often we have leaned upon the spectacular to accomplish humble tasks. Too often we have looked for God to raise up modern Elijahs or Pauls or Puseys or Kebles to do that which He expects of ordinary Christians. To quote Harnack, "The cause of the marvelous growth of the early Church lay not in her apostles, apologists, martyrs, but in the daily life of ordinary people." So may it be today.

My friends, every Catholic Christian is essentially a missionary, simply because he is a brother. To quote Scott Holland: "By and through our Personality we belong to others." Unless I can see in my poor unwashed, sniffling, spirit-broken, exploited Indian of the desert a brother beloved of God and so to be beloved by me I cannot rightly lay claim to the name of Catholic. For to be a Catholic requires something more than adherence to a continuity of apostolic doctrine and order. It requires a Christian succession of obedience: "Ye are My disciples if ye do the things that I command you." The great conviction that motivated the original Oxford leaders was that "no one is incapable of sanctity, and that the Church which is not calling every man and woman to enter this, their true inheritance, is a Church which is betraying one of its most sacred tasks."

It is a grave responsibility to have talents or possessions, humbling or ruining to have both. And one wonders how some who call themselves Christians will finally pass muster [103/104] in the light of the vital needs they have declined to succor out of their abundance. "Inasmuch as ye did it not . . . ye did it not to Me."

This centennial occasion affords us not only reasons for praising famous men and thanksgiving for those who have been the choice vessels of God's grace during the progress of the movement, but for an appraisal of our waiting task, a stock-taking of our resources and a fresh consecration of ourselves as stewards of a sacred trust. To modernize the command of the Shunammite woman it is ours to "hitch up, drive, and go forward." And to paraphrase the Archbishop of Canterbury: "If this centenary is to have any lasting and practical value, it must be a call to battle, a battle for America and for all that is sweetest in her life, because it is a battle for God and His Church."

"The dead have been awakened—shall I sleep?
The world's at war with tyrants—shall I crouch?
The harvest's ripe, and shall I pause to reap?
I slumber not, the thorn is in my couch:
Each day a trumpet soundeth in my ear,
Its echo in my heart."

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