Frank Tracy Griswold III

The 25th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold’s June 21 message to a Joint Session of the 75th General Convention’s House of Bishops and the House of Deputies

June 21, 2006
Frank T. Griswold

When I became your Presiding Bishop eight and a half years ago, I called the church to the costly discipline of conversation.  At that time I pointed out that the word conversation and the word conversion come from the same Latin root.  I said that to enter into conversation deeply, and with an undefended heart, opened the way to conversion.  By conversion I did not mean one point of view capitulating to another but rather a new way of seeing one another and recognizing Christ in one another.  The conversion of which I spoke had less to do with a change of mind and more to do with a change of heart. 

As part of our response to the Windsor Report, we have passed Resolution A159 which reaffirms “the abiding commitment of the Episcopal Church to the fellowship of churches that constitute the Anglican Communion and to seek to live into the highest degree of communion possible.” We have also passed Resolution A166 supporting the process of developing an Anglican Covenant for the purpose of strengthening our Communion.  We have thus indicated our desire for continuing conversation.  

However, unless there is a clear perception on the part of our Anglican brothers and sisters that they have been taken seriously in their concerns it will be impossible to have any genuine conversation. Therefore there will be no conversion and the bonds of affection which undergird communion will be further strained.  We will be less able to recognize Christ in one another and the mission we are called to share together for the sake of the world will be further diminished and undermined.

For our voices to be heard there needs to be a clear sense that we are not ignoring the sensibilities of those who are genuinely unable to understand what we have done. Yes, there is anger, but to a greater degree, there is confusion.

And conversation works.  I have already experienced some of its potential fruits in the course of primates’ meetings, as difficult as they sometimes have been.  There have been times when, with great difficulty, I have had to receive before I was able to give.  Such moments have not been easy but they have been necessary. 

Humility is not an easy virtue but it is very much required in this season.  Humility requires at times a stance of restraint in order that something larger can happen.  There are times when what may appear to be a step backward may be called for in order to go forward.

Let me say here: we need to be mindful of the dynamics that have brought us to where we are.  Some among us feel that expressions of restraint with regard to the office of bishop demean the dignity of those among us who are gay and lesbian.  Others among us may be opposed to expressions of restraint, which would make it more difficult for them to justify their apparent need to establish a separate ecclesial body.  Nothing would better serve such purposes than to be able to say that we, because of our action or inaction, have chosen to walk apart from the rest of the Communion.  In a strange way, those with very different views are able to vote on the same side of the question. 

However, resolutions passed thus far indicate a desire on the part of the majority to find a way forward that may require relinquishments on all sides.  The majority of us, whom I describe as the diverse center – made up of divergent opinions but unified by a common sense of being church together for the sake of mission, do not want to take a step that precludes further steps and genuine conversation.  

I have said that conversation works and that I have seen the fruits of difficult conversations as hearts and minds have been opened.  I want our 26th Presiding Bishop and our members of the Anglican Consultative Council to have an opportunity to be at the table, to engage in those conversations. 

This is the final day of General Convention.  What I believe we actually yearn for has not been adequately reflected through the workings of our legislative processes.  Our conversations in both Houses reveal a much greater complexity.  We must now act with generosity and imagination so that our actions are a clearer reflection of the willingness of the majority of us to relinquish something in order to serve a larger purpose.

As your Presiding Bishop and chief pastor, I now ask both houses to consider the following resolution.  I do so knowing that consideration in the House of Deputies may require special action.

Resolution B003, “On the Election of Bishops”
Resolved, [the House of Deputies concurring,] that the 75th General Convention receive and embrace the Windsor Report’s invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation; and be it further

Resolved, that this Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.

I will close this session with a prayer and ask the bishops to return promptly to their House to reconvene in order to consider this resolution.