GENERAL CONVENTION 2003
From the Presiding Bishop and
Primate of the Episcopal Church, USA
August 6(ENS) — We find ourselves in a moment when the selection of a priest by the Diocese of New Hampshire as their next bishop has been assented to by the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church and then by the bishops with jurisdiction. This clears the way for the Rev. Canon Gene Robinson to be ordained bishop. We are carrying out our process. We are doing the best we can as a church in a situation where we do not all agree. The particular attention given to this assent is because Canon Robinson is in a committed relationship with a person of the same sex, and because he has been honest with the community in acknowledging the reality of his own personhood as a gay man and the fact of his relationship.
Though this is a particular
event and a decisive moment, it is only one moment of a lengthy process, and
that is the process of discerning God’s will for us, of learning from one
another, and of growing up in Christ: into the fullness of Christ’s calling
to the whole people of God. The assent to his consecration by bishops and deputies
of the Episcopal Church will be interpreted in many ways over these next days,
both because those within our household of faith are not of a common mind on
issues of sexuality, and because these issues call forth a great deal of emotion.
For some this is a moment of great joy and represents an affirmation of the
place of gay and lesbian persons in this church. For others, the decision signals
a crisis and reflects a departure from biblical teachings and traditional church
practice. I hope that the inevitable passionate expressions of opinion from
those with strongly held views do not drown out the quieter voices of those
many persons who have not come to clarity about their own sense of what this
means in the life of our church. As the overseer of this community, I would
like to offer my own perspective.
I will begin by quoting
from remarks I made to the bishops and deputies at the outset of General Convention.
It is my own conviction that different points of view can be held in tension
within the church without issues around sexuality becoming church dividing.
Others may disagree but this is my firmly held opinion. This was also the view
of the House of Bishops Theology Committee and of the International Anglican
Conversation on Human Sexuality that I convened following the Lambeth Conference
of 1998 at the request of the Archbishop of Canterbury. This international group
included twelve bishops and primates who represented a broad range of views
and met over a three-year period. Their conclusion was that if matters of homosexuality
were to divide the Communion, it would be, to quote from the report, “the
ultimate sexualization of the Church, making sexuality more powerful, or more
claiming of our attention, than God.”
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
The confirmation of Canon
Robinson honors the choice of the people of the Diocese of New Hampshire. They
followed a careful and prayerful process and then elected someone who had served
among them for 28 years because they believe he has the gifts and abilities
necessary to offer leadership to them in the carrying out of their mission.
I note here that the Episcopal Church has a long history of honoring the choices
of the dioceses. I cast my own ballot in the affirmative because I see no impediment
to assenting to the overwhelming choice of the people of
This decision 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.
This is not a time for
either triumph or desolation. And, our community has the particular task of
reaching out to those who are unsettled by this decision. Here I would mention
particularly the provinces of the Anglican Communion and my brother primates
with whom I will be in conversation in the days ahead.
It is my hope and prayer that this conflict can be a gift from God, redeemed by God, and an invitation to reconciliation.
Rev. Frank T. Griswold
August 5, 2003
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