Frank Griswold Begins a Long Conversation
Part two of a two-part article.
Remarks made by Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold at the College of Preachers, Washington, D.C., on January 9, 1998. The passages below were taken jointly from a transcript made by Greenbelt Interfaith News and a transcript made by the Episcopal News Service.
I should tell you that as my first my first act as presiding bishop, I fled to a monastery in upstate New York for five days of retreat because I thought it was very important that, as it were, I regained my center and approached this new ministry out of a grounded place of prayer and reflection. It was wonderful to be with a Benedictine community there [that] I've known for 34 years and [I] really had a sense of being surrounded by people who knew me well, knew me when I was a 26-year-old curate from Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and have followed me through every turning in my life, and just to have this community of people surrounding me with their friendship and affection was a wonderful way to go through the final piece of transition. I told them, You're going to be very important to me in the months and years to come, because by virtue of the office of presiding bishop, I'm going to become a center of controversy, like it or not. And probably, in some people's mind, I'm not even going to be a human being. I'm simply going to be a living issue of some sort. And it's very important, therefore, that some people have a sense of who Frank Griswold really is, who have nothing to do with the Episcopal Church and its ecclesial systems, but simply know him as a person of prayer, a devotee of St. Benedict, and a long-time friend.
On commitment to mission involvement:
Mission is of the very nature of the gospel, so a church that isn't pursuing mission isn't being faithful as I see it. For a variety of reasons, we as the Episcopal Church in the United States have been so preoccupied with certain highly emotional issues that are not unimportant, to say the least, but on the other hand have become so all-encompassing that we have, I think, failed to respond to that foreign mission, which certainly includes the proclamation of the Gospel and supporting the proclamation of the Gospel throughout the world in a variety of ways. I'm hoping in the next few years that we can balance our perspectives a bit more. One of the difficulties of highly emotional issues is that they tend to fill the whole canvas and occlude one's ability to see the larger frame of reference. I'm hoping that while certain conversations need to go on, we can also say that nevertheless here are some things we need to attend to and be busy about as faithful witnesses to the Gospel.
On a United Voice article suggesting that conservatives speak in propositional truth and liberals speak in personal experience:
Well, there are different modes of truth, and propositional truth is one mode of truth. As I look at truth as one discovers it in the Gospels, truth is presented to us relationally. Jesus says, "I am the truth," and the only way to know the truth in Jesus is through relationship: I in you and you in me – the mutual indwelling, which certainly is supported by the whole sacramental system of the church. It's all a question of relationship. So it would seem to me that part of the task is to help people who take their stand on Scripture to realize that Scripture itself is an account of people's experience of God, and that the Lord of Scripture, i.e. the risen Christ, presents truth relationally and experientially. And one can go beyond that to the Acts of the Apostles, where it was the experience of the Spirit showing up in unlikely and seemingly suspect places that made the early church aware of the fact that the Gentiles could be included in the community. Experiential truth is biblical truth, in large measure, and propositional truth, though an important part of tradition, isn't as biblical as experiential truth. And therefore I would hope to help the community to become more biblical, in that sense, as it looks at the question of what's truth.
On why Bishop Griswold finds it important to lead clergy conferences:
I find that doing retreats and clergy conferences on matters related to spirituality help me to stay connected to the very things I'm saying. I relearn and reappropriate. When I talk about prayers, it regrounds me in my own need for prayer. And so publicly sharing some of the things that have been important to me in terms of spirituality and growth in the Gospel allows me to hear myself and remind myself, lest I become an ecclesiastical functionary, that at heart I always remain a praying Christian, dependent absolutely on the grace and mercy of God.
Frank Griswold Begins a Long Conversation: The Episcopal Church's New Presiding Bishop Explores the Meaning of Leadership. By Heather Elizabeth Peterson.