Griswold will preside at Florida consecration, despite controversy over location

October 3, 2003

On October 1 the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine withdrew its invitation for the Episcopal Diocese of Florida to use one of its churches for the consecration of its new bishop, citing comments that Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold made recently on sexuality issues facing the church.

According to Kathleden Bagg-Morgan, a spokesperson for the diocese, Bishop Victor Galeone felt "a good number of his people would be offended to learn that an Episcopalian bishop, that holds a position that is radically opposed to what both the church and Scripture teach about homosexuality, is using one of our facilities."

The Episcopal diocese planned to use St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church for the November 1 consecration of the Rev. Samuel Howard. Stephen Jecko said in a statement October 2 that he had been in conversation with Bishop Galeone. "It is my understanding that the invitation will be reinstated should Presiding Bishop Griswold choose not to be a participant in the consecration."

Jecko said that he and Galeone "have continued to nurture the excellent relationship between our dioceses." Yet the public statements of Griswold in an interview with the Associated Press "were a catalyst for the decision."

In a letter to Jecko, Griswold said that "it has become clear to me after thought and prayer" that he should preside at the consecration. "My ministry as presiding bishop calls me to do all I can through my office and personal presence to help us all realize that, in spite of deep disagreements, we are one in the Body of Christ. I have been called to serve the whole church as presiding bishop, not only those who hold one view or another."

He told Jecko that "those few quotes were extrapolated from an hour-long interview which was far more nuanced and sensitive to the diversity of opinions among us than the article would suggest. During that interview I reflected upon our historic Anglican capacity to make room for difference within the context of common prayer, and to hold divergent points of view in tension with one another with the grace supplied by the Holy Spirit who makes us one in the body of Christ."

Griswold said that he looked forward to meeting with the clergy of the diocese "at this time when feelings are running high on all sides." He added, "Incarnation is a far better way of communicating with one another than in print."

Traditionally, the consecration of bishops for the church is one of the most important responsibilities of the office of the presiding bishop. Therefore he tries to preside as often as his schedule permits, especially at consecrations of diocesan and coadjutor bishops. The canons, however, allow him to designate someone else to preside in his place, often a bishop who is serving as president of the province in which the consecration is taking place. Most consecrations are on his schedule well before the elections.

Text of Griswold's letter to Jecko:

When last we spoke I said I wanted to think about the advisability of serving as chief consecrator at the ordination of John Howard. It has become clear to me after thought and prayer that I must do so. My ministry as Presiding Bishop calls me to do all I can through my office and personal presence to help us all realize that, in spite of deep disagreements, we are one in the Body of Christ. I have been called to serve the whole church as Presiding Bishop, not only those who hold one view or another. You well know that during these years I have been consistent in my teaching that our baptism binds us together as limbs and members of one body and "into solidarities not of our own choosing," as Rowan Williams reminds us.

I have just learned that the ordination cannot be held at the Roman Catholic church because of their dismay at quotes from me included in a newspaper report. I want you to know that those few quotes were extrapolated from an hour-long interview which was far more nuanced and sensitive to the diversity of opinions among us than the article would suggest. During that interview I reflected upon our historic Anglican capacity to make room for difference within the context of common prayer, and to hold divergent points of view in tension with one another with the grace supplied by the Holy Spirit who makes us one in the body of Christ.

I remember my time with the clergy shortly after I became Presiding Bishop and how important it was to make myself available for deep conversation in the service of reconciliation and unity. Therefore, I am glad, particularly at this time when feelings are running high on all sides, that I will have an opportunity to meet with the clergy. Please let them know that I look forward to this time with them. Incarnation is a far better way of communicating with one another than in print.

I am sending a copy of this letter to John and to the Dean of your Cathedral, as I understand he is involved in the details of the consecration.

This comes as always with my prayers and good wishes.

Yours in Christ,

Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop and Primate