In the last few weeks, dissident members of the church--those opposed to the church's liberal stance on homosexuality--are increasingly threatening to circumvent the bishop's authority in order to "replace" the Episcopal Church with conservative leadership. This week Griswold sat down to talk with Beliefnet. During an interview in his New York office, Griswold said he receives frequent private letters of support from bishops around the country and the world--including those who--publicly--strongly oppose the church's actions. He said "secrecy is the devil's playground," suggesting that those who want to accommodate homosexuality behind the scenes while publicly condemning it are the ones encouraging "sexual aberrance." He disputed the claim by conservatives that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams supports their actions and suggested that conservatives are fighting Griswold's proposal--to be discussed by the denomination's bishops at a March meeting--to accommodate their needs because, paradoxically, it is workable. He believes conservatives want to keep the fight going.
Griswold also admitted he believes the church will experience some sort of schism. Yet he sleeps well and stays spiritually grounded by reading the Psalms twice a day and celebrating the Eucharist. The following is an edited transcript of a 90-minute conversation.
How are you maintaining balance these days?
I'm reading psalms. The psalms often describe people in difficult places and yet they say, "nevertheless God is at hand."
Which one helps you most?
Psalm 139, which says, essentially, "There is nowhere I can go from your presence. I go down to the depths of hell and you're there, and I go to the highest mountain and you're there." It gives me a larger perspective. I feel I am part of a faith community that spans the centuries and has dealt with difficult circumstances before.
Also, [at the Episcopal Church headquarters] we have a daily celebration of Eucharist, and so if I'm here, at 12:10 p.m. I'm in the chapel. It reminds me that I'm not alone. The dynamic of the gospel is death and resurrection. The sense of losing security or wondering what's going to happen to me is part of the pattern of faithfulness, as far as I can tell. In a very real way I'm sharing Christ's pattern.
So these things give me a sense of confidence, not that I always know what I'm going to do or say next but just a sense that it's all OK. I sleep well.
It's got to be difficult, though. Your members are fighting with each other. And you've got people laying plans to take over the church-people who say they want to become the Episcopal Church.
I've known this for a very long time, well before Gene Robinson was elected, of the dynamics and aspirations that these people have. Ultimately people are going to do what they feel they've got to do, but meanwhile it's up to me to try to create a climate in which most people feel they have a place.
I look at the history of Anglicanism--in the 16th century you had, on the one hand, radical continental reform, and you had also English conservatism that wanted to maintain the Catholic tradition. These two very different ways of understanding what it means to be church were brought together in a tension, but the tension was then offset by the fact that they situated their life in worshipping with the Book of Common Prayer. We've been a community of divergent interests held together by common prayer. We deal with shades of gray.
But those who disagree with Gene Robinson's ordination say that Scripture clearly prohibits homosexuality.
I don't think the Scripture writers had any notion of homosexuality. My sense is their understanding was that everyone was heterosexual, and so you "behaved" in a homosexual fashion. In other words, it's a free decision you would make. So you're dealing with a reality that isn't reflected in Scripture. Is this possibly an instance where we've learned something that takes us beyond the world of the Bible and therefore the texts used don't really apply?
Anglicans in this part of the world have always accepted the fact that there are different interpretations.