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For the Primates of the Anglican Communion from Bishop Griswold

Posted on: October 24, 2003 5:08 PM

by the Most Revd Frank T. Griswold

[ACNS source: Episcopal News Service]

My dear brothers in Christ,

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I returned home from our meeting at Lambeth grateful for the spirit of candor in which we shared our thoughts and feelings. I thank God for the opportunity to come together in Christ's name and for the strong bonds and mutual affection that exist between us. I pray that our common commitment to mission and God's ongoing work of reconciliation will continue to bind us together in Christ in the days and years ahead. I remind myself that the church is not our possession but the risen body of Christ of which each one of us is a limb and member in virtue of our baptism.

As I tried to make plain in the course of our meeting, we in the Episcopal Church have been dealing openly with the place of homosexual persons in the life of our church for at least thirty years. Though the question still remains unresolved, the presence among us of deeply faithful men and women whose lives reveal the fruit of the Spirit, and whose primary affections are ordered to persons of the same sex, has brought us to this difficult, and very public, moment. I recognize that while many in our church give thanks for where we have come, many others are deeply pained and distressed. I further recognize how our decisions have also affected you and I hope you know how profoundly I regret the pain our Province's action has caused many of you.

One of you once said in the context of our Bible study: "The Holy Spirit can be up to different things in different places." As hard as it might be for sisters and brothers in Christ in other contexts to understand and accept, please know that broadly across the Episcopal Church the New Hampshire election is thought to be the work of the Spirit. This does not mean everyone in our church is of that mind. There are also those who honor the decision of New Hampshire but are not sure it is of the Spirit. As well, I am keenly aware that there are faithful Episcopalians who are deeply unsettled and believe what we have done is contrary to God's will. However, for the greatest part, these persons are committed to remaining within the Episcopal Church and, in a spirit that is truly Anglican, believe that those with divergent points of view can live and pray together within the same household of faith.

As I promised you, upon my return to the United States I spoke with Canon Robinson and shared with him the deep concern that so many of you expressed and the gravity of what may lie ahead. In my conversation with him, and in public comments, he has expressed both his anguish and his continuing sense that he is called to go forward.

I must tell you that at this point there is every reason to believe the consecration will take place on November 2 as scheduled. I appreciate that when the consecration takes place, as we said in our statement: "We will have reached a crucial and critical point in the life of the Anglican Communion." As much as this is true, the prediction made in the statement that the Communion's future "will be put in jeopardy" will not, I pray, come to pass. I believe it is for us to live into this unknown future in faith knowing that, as we declared in our statement, "What we hold in common is much greater than that which divides us." It is my hope and my prayer that the Spirit of truth, who makes known to us the mind of Christ, will be our guide as each of us in our own context seeks to embody and proclaim the gospel of the One who is our Truth.

I much valued Archbishop Rowan's comments about the nature of communion. I agree that communion is not primarily about structures. Communion is a gift from God manifested in the various webs of relationship among and between us. Our communion strengthens us so that we can carry out God's mission on earth. Though we affirm our allegiance to the Scriptures and the Creeds, our unity in the body of Christ does not mean we have only one way of reading the Bible, nor do we need to be in agreement about all of the contemporary issues with which we are called to struggle. Concerns of sexuality present themselves differently in our various contexts. I believe that as we continue to struggle deeply and honestly with matters of sexuality we will have much to learn from one another and we will become more mutually responsible and interdependent in the Body of Christ. Being in communion, however, does not in any way mean that you as Primate or your Province necessarily agree with the actions taken by the Diocese of New Hampshire or the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

Please be assured of my prayers for each one of you. Please pray for me as I try to oversee the life and witness of this Province and as I seek in these difficult days to advance God's ministry of reconciliation.

Yours ever in Christ's love,

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