Frank Tracy Griswold III

The 25th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

Pastoral Letter

April 14, 1998
Frank T. Griswold

Canterbury Cathedral
My brothers and sisters in Christ:

As your Presiding Bishop and Chief Pastor I write you as the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops has just concluded in Canterbury, England.

On one of the final days of the conference, I called together our House of Bishops for a time of prayer. Our chaplain, the Rev. Martin Smith, Superior of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, observed that it is as if the bishops have each taken mental photographs of the conference that have yet to be placed in the developing solution. Our negatives must be processed. During these next days of quiet I will I begin to put in perspective and process in prayer the gathering of bishops. I will have more to say in the autumn, and also look forward to sharing impressions with other bishops after they too have had time for reflection.

However, I write now with a pastoral word, knowing that many in our church are concerned about the vote of the conference on sexuality. I want to assure you all of my continuing concern for and commitment to all members of the Episcopal Church who recognize themselves as gay and lesbian.

For me, homosexuality is not primarily a cause or an issue: it is a matter of men and women I know, respect and love, and whose lives bear ample witness to the fruits of the Spirit as enumerated in Galatians 5:22. It is about people with whom I have shared ministry and friendship, whose many gifts have enriched my life and continue to bless and upbuild the Church.

Though the Lambeth Conference is not a legislative body, each of the four subject "sections" brought forth "resolutions" which were debated and voted in plenary. A resolution on sexuality was brought forward by the section working on this topic.

Their resolution was based on the careful report they had crafted over more than two weeks of intense conversations. This group of persons of widely diverse opinions opened themselves to show one another the deep sense of the action of God in their lives and particular circumstances, and offered to the conference the fruits of their efforts. Their resolution was amended during the plenary discussions.

I chose to abstain during the vote. I did so because I found parts of the resolution positive both in tone and content, particularly when considered in relationship to the nuances of the report on which it is based. At the same time, I took exception to other parts and believe that we must explore more fully the whole question of what is compatible and "incompatible with Scripture." It must be noted that faithful persons in our church, who see themselves as under the authority of Scripture, do not all interpret the Bible in the same way.

It is my hope and prayer that the Lambeth resolution commitment "to listen to the experience of homosexual persons" will lead to a broader conversation which will more fully reveal God's lived word of grace at work in the lives of gay and lesbian Anglican Christians.

In the days ahead, I will do everything I can to foster a climate of frank and respectful conversation which will allow different points of view to address and hear one another, not only within our own Episcopal Church, but more widely in the Anglican Communion.

With the prayer that the Spirit of Truth will guide us, and with gratitude for the life we share as members of Christ's risen body, I am

Yours in Christ,

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