Beliefnet
Frank GriswoldFor nearly two years, Frank Griswold, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, has been in the vortex of his denomination's controversy over its election of an openly gay bishop. Since then, those opposed to the church's liberal stance on homosexuality have been taking steps to circumvent the bishop's authority in order to "replace" the Episcopal Church with conservative leadership.

At a meeting last month in Ireland called by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (head of the Worldwide Anglican Communion), the communion's top bishops, called "primates," asked the Episcopal Church to withdraw its representatives from a prominent world Anglican meeting to show their displeasure with the American actions. During the Ireland meeting, American conservative activists were seen wining and dining African and Asian primates who oppose the Episcopal Church's stance on homosexuality. Liberals accuse conservatives of plotting a coup, using the African and Asian primates.

Last week, the American church's House of Bishops met at a retreat in Texas to discuss the Ireland meeting. They issued a statement saying they will not approve any newly elected bishop--gay or straight--until the denomination's General Convention meets next year. Griswold, meanwhile, told the bishops he believes the conservative tactics are "evil."

During a phone interview last week, Griswold explained his comments, and he also said he believes that the liberal, pro-gay rights cause will in the end win. Following is an edited transcript of the interview.

In some of the Episcopal Church-related blogs you were quoted last week as singling out six Americans for having "detrimentally influenced" church proceedings. What did you say?

What I said was that there were notices put on the tables in Ireland describing "acts of oppression" within the Episcopal church that were highly inaccurate and I got up and said, "This kind of information is untrue. It's taking facts and slanting things from a particular perspective. And I said, 'In scripture Jesus tells us the devil is the father of lies, and lying is his nature.'" Therefore this kind of material is really evil. And I said my sense is-and I didn't assign it to any particular people-I feel that there is evil pressing on this meeting. And I said that any one of us can be caught in patterns of evil. Any one of us can misrepresent things to our own advantage.

I repeated it last week in Texas to the House of Bishops when I described my participation in the primates meeting. And I said there were several Americans in the hotel in Newry, including [Pittsburgh Bishop Robert William] Duncan--but I made no connection between those people and the piece of paper I was describing, and the misrepresentations on it.

Last year you talked obliquely about right-wing foundations funding the conservative cause in the church. A year later, what effect has that money had on the dispute?

The effect has been to take an internal battle in the Episcopal Church and project it onto the entire Anglican Communion. And one thing a number of the primates said to me from the global south was that they profoundly disagree with what we've done in the Episcopal Church, but that it is not their primary concern. Their primary concern is about life and death. Their primary concerns are AIDS, safe drinking water, civil war, hunger and disease. They say to me, "These are our issues, but sexuality in your country has taken over everything."

And, of course, the reason in part is because of various groups related to the Episcopal church--well-funded to be sure--who have engaged the disapproval of the primates around homosexuality in order to portray the Episcopal Church as grossly unfaithful and unbiblical, and in every way reprehensible.

But if these primates know they're being used, why are they participating?

You would have to ask them, but they're not all of one mind. Some of them very quietly let you know that they're reluctant to break ranks with the other primates from their region, but they just want me to know that they're not quite as antagonistic as some of the more public voices.

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