Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A Retrospective: Presiding Bishop Griswold

Looking back over some of PB Griswold's public statements around homosexuality, communion, GC2003, etc I am impressed at his firm grasp of Anglican theology as articluated by Westerhoff, Holmes, Griffiss, et al, pace the caricature of his views on the Anglican right. Again and again, he makes points that are dead-on, without effect despite the fact that they remain unanswered. It is as if he is our Cassandra, seeing truth and danger but going unheeded to our detriment. When you read these, ask yourself what Bishops Duncan or Iker or Howe have said, or even would say, on similar topics; I think you will quickly come to appreciate Griswold's understanding.

From Transcript: Presiding Bishop supports listening process, writes to primates (2006):
...the thing that strikes me most in this present situation is that common creeds, common recognition of the Lordship of Christ, his full humanity, his full divinity, the Sacraments and the rest that we see as the shared tradition of the church; the fact that all of this is subordinate to the question of views on human sexuality. I find it very unsettling that views on human sexuality trump classical theology and people can find no common ground beyond do we agree or disagree on issues of sexuality, when in fact there is this profound shared tradition of belief and practice that we call Anglicanism. So I would hope that we could at least balance the preoccupation with sexuality against the fact that those that disagree share Jesus as Lord and Savior, a common belief in our being reconciled to God through the cross, a common belief in the fact that baptism draws us into intimate union with Christ and one another and the Eucharist renews that reality week by week. So some of this I think needs to be reclaimed as our true unity.

From Agreement Not Necessary (2005):
Reconciliation involves the purification of our desires. What do we truly desire? Do we genuinely wish to encounter Christ in the one who seems so distant from us, so utterly “other,” and who may even threaten our sense of order and rightness?
True reconciliation has very little to do with whether we agree or disagree. It has everything to do with whether we truly wish to discern the presence of Christ in one another below or beyond our divisions and varying opinions.

From A word to the Episcopal Church(2004):
One of the distinctive characteristics of Anglicanism across the centuries has been its ability to make room for difference within a context of common prayer. In worship our various perspectives and understandings of the gospel are brought together. Our differences are reconciled not by our cleverness or ability to compromise but through our common adherence to the risen Christ who meets us in word and sacrament. It is for this reason that common prayer is particularly important in our Anglican tradition.

The diverse center can live with difference, knowing that not one of us has the fullness of truth, and that we each perceive different aspects of truth. This is so because, for the Christian, truth ultimately resides in the One who is the truth, namely the risen Christ.

From A Word to the Church (2004):
My first reading shows the Report as having in mind the containment of differences in the service of reconciliation. However, unless we go beyond containment and move to some deeper place of acknowledging and making room for the differences that will doubtless continue to be present in our Communion, we will do disservice to our mission. A life of communion is not for the benefit of the church but for the sake of the world. All of us, regardless of our several points of view, must accept the invitation to consider more deeply what it means to live a life of communion, grounded in the knowledge that "in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself."

I am obliged to affirm the presence and positive contribution of gay and lesbian persons to every aspect of the life of our church and in all orders of ministry. Other Provinces are also blessed by the lives and ministry of homosexual persons. I regret that there are places within our Communion where it is unsafe for them to speak out of the truth of who they are.

From A statement from the Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church, USA (2003):
We have heard people on both sides of a number of contentious questions say that their particular view is in accordance with Scripture, whereas the opposing view is not. There is no such thing as a neutral reading of Scripture. While we all accept the authority of Scripture, we interpret various passages in different ways. It is extremely dishonoring of the faith of another to dismiss them as not taking the Bible seriously. Let us be clear that we can all agree that, in the words of the ordination oath, “we believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God and to contain all things necessary to salvation.”

This decision [the elevation of VG Robinson to the episcopate] does not, in my view, resolve the issues about homosexuality in the life of the church. What it does do is place squarely before us the question of how a community can live in the tension of disagreement. So, it is now our challenge to take up the difficult and holy work of living with difference. We must live with the consequences of addressing conflict and facing squarely difficult decisions. The fact that we are willing to do this work in a public way that is honoring of one another says a great deal about who we are as a community of faith.

From For the Primates of the Anglican Communion(2003):
This election, though profoundly disturbing to a number of Episcopalians, is not surprising given that increasingly in our part of the world there is an acknowledgment that some men and women find that their deepest affections are ordered to members of the same sex. Our church has a number of lay persons and clergy for whom this is true. Some have chosen the path of celibacy and others live within the context of a sustained relationship. In this latter case we are not talking primarily about sexual behavior which – in both its heterosexual and homosexual manifestations – can be profoundly sinful and little more than the compulsive pattern of lust so soundly condemned by St. Paul. What we are talking about is the core of the personal identity of men and women who share with us in the risen life of Christ.

And on the nature of communion:
Communion involves not only our relationships to one another on earth but our being drawn by the Holy Spirit into the eternal life of communion which belongs to the Holy Trinity. Communion on this earth is always in some way impaired, both because of our limited understanding of God’s ways and our own human sinfulness. Because we have been baptized into one body through the death and resurrection of Christ, we cannot say to one another “I have no need of you.”(1 Corinthians 12:21) This means that maintaining communion is a sacred obligation. It is not easy and involves patience with one another, ongoing conversion, and a genuine desire to understand the different ways in which we seek to be faithful to the gospel. Declarations of being “in” or “out” of communion with one another may assuage our anger or our fear, but they can do little to show our broken and divided world that at the heart of the gospel is to be found a reconciling love that can embrace our passionately held opinions and transcend them all.

And on the Anglican Communion:
Over these last five years I have continually reminded our church that we are part of a larger reality called the Anglican Communion, and that what we do locally has ramifications both positive and negative in other parts of the world. At the same time I am mindful that each of us has to interpret the gospel in our own context and within the particular reality of our own Province; there is no such thing as a neutral reading of Scripture. While we all accept the authority of Scripture, we interpret various passages in different ways.

From Encountering Christ: (2003)
There are provinces within the Anglican Communion in which being the church is understood largely in terms of fidelity to a direct reading of Scripture. For other provinces, sacraments are the ground of self understanding: baptism, which unites singularities in one body, and the eucharist, in which our differences are reconciled by sharing the one bread. It is the interplay of the sacrament of Scripture and the sacraments as enacted Scripture that produce something of the creative tension we describe as the Anglican Way.

From Toward General Convention: (2003)
In this increasingly polarized world and nation it is so essential that the church, the community of the named, transcend these polarities and speak a word of authentic and integrated truth. We can only do so if we are willing to seek the highest good: that which most respects the compassion and reconciling love of the shepherd, who having been lifted high on the cross, seeks to draw all to himself.
Fear, suspicion and mistrust, that host of destroying angels, are constantly at work in the life of the church. And Satan, as Paul tells us, delights in masquerading as an angel of light. Knowing this, we are called to conscious examination of our actions and defensive postures born out of fear or suspicion or mistrust. These destroyers make it impossible to receive truth that may be present in another, particularly when we have marked them with some dismissive label.

From For the Primates of the Anglican Communion: (2000)
I have been profoundly disturbed by the caricature that has been presented of the Episcopal Church in the United States as being disregarding of scripture and the classical doctrines of the church. To be sure there are divergent views on the question of human sexuality which are supported by different readings and interpretations of the biblical texts, but in no way is the biblical record treated as other than the word of God "containing all things necessary to salvation."
And also:
Let us not be deflected from the larger concerns of genocide, crushing poverty side by side with inordinate affluence, and the dangerous fundamentalism - both within Islam and our own Christian community - which threatens to turn our God of compassion into a idol of wrath.

From Human Rights for Homosexual Persons: (1999)
I have read with alarm and deep concern accounts of statements by the presidents of Kenya, Uganda, and Zimbabwe which have become a provocation for the harassment and persecution of homosexual persons. Here I am put in mind of the Lambeth resolution which reminds us that homosexual persons are "loved by God and that all baptized, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ."
Within the Anglican Communion we are seeking to discern a common mind on the issue of homosexuality in the life of the church. However, regardless of one's views on the matter, there should be no debate among us about human rights for all people - which are enshrined in the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

From A Statement from the Presiding Bishop on the Death of Matthew Shepard: (1998)
The fact that Matthew was an Episcopalian makes our grief no more sharp, but it does give us a particular responsibility to stand with gays and lesbians, to decry all forms of violence against them - from verbal to physical, and to encourage the dialogue that can, with God's help, lead to new appreciation for their presence in the life of our church, and the broader community.
I pray that this unnecessary tragedy will make plain why we cannot be silent in the face of intolerance, or quietly accept the climate of hate and fear of "the other" that makes such a crime possible. May we accept anew our responsibility to be agents of the healing love of the risen Christ.


At 10:38 AM, Blogger Fr Andrew Petiprin said...

This is a very helpful post. It is useful to see these statements in succession. Griswold is, to steal an expression from the "orthodox" gang, a "classical Anglican".

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