Frank Tracy Griswold III

The 25th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

A Letter to President George Bush, Senior

January 30, 2003
Frank T. Griswold

The Hon. George H.W. Bush
P.O. Box 79798
Houston, TX 77279

Dear President Bush:

Today I made a statement following the President’s State of the Union Address which articulates my sense of encouragement in his bold proposal to combat HIV/AIDS, my prayers for him and our armed forces in these anxious days, and my very strong hope that actions toward Iraq be made only in concert with the United Nations Security Council. I will not repeat those thoughts here.

As I said in my private correspondence to you today, this letter is intended to serve as a public response to your comments in a recent televised interview.

My comments were taken out of a larger context and had to do with my international travels as Presiding Bishop and my opportunities to meet with bishops and archbishops in other part of our worldwide Anglican Communion – many in countries overwhelmed by poverty and disease. Sadly, they look upon the United States, and on me as sign and symbol of the Episcopal Church in the United States, with deep hostility. It is only when I apologize for or explain what they perceive as our unilateralist and self-serving ways which ignore the needs and suffering of their nations that we are able to enter into a relationship of mutual care and understanding.

It is difficult for a bishop in Kenya who has taken in 20 children who have been orphaned when their parents died of AIDS to understand the U.S. position with respect to pharmaceutical companies and the desperate need for low cost generic drugs. I note here that the proposal of 15 billion dollars to be spent on HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean (I am writing to you from Santo Domingo) is a wonderful and positive sign that we are indeed the deeply caring and generous nation I have always believed us to be.

It is my experience that we in the United States have open and generous hearts, and are ready to respond to suffering in other parts of the world. Our national policies need to be grounded in that generous spirit. Our leaders need to appeal to our better natures, and not simply to our fears about our own welfare.

“To whom much has been given, much will be required,” Jesus tells us. And we, as a nation, have been given much indeed. Therefore, we must be led by more than our perceptions of our national interests and pay close attention to the concerns of our global community.

Be assured of my constant prayers for our nation and its leaders, particularly your son.

Yours sincerely,

The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church, USA