The Episcopal Church needs to work out matters of "extended episcopal ministry" within its own provincial borders, and unhappy congregations should not expect "direct intervention" by anyone outside the Episcopal Church in the United States--including the archbishop of Canterbury, Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold has written in a December 5 letter to the Church's House of Bishops.
Griswold met with his Council of Advice, a team of bishops elected from each of the nine provinces of the Episcopal Church, in New York December 2-3. The council, which elected Louisiana Bishop Charles Jenkins as its new president, includes bishops Lloyd Allen (Honduras), Harry Bainbridge (Idaho), Richard Chang (Hawaii), Wendell Gibbs (Michigan), Robert Ihloff (Maryland), James Jelinek (Minnesota), Chilton Knudsen (Maine), Bruce MacPherson (Western Louisiana), and Jack McKelvey (Rochester).
"What they had to say confirmed much of what I have been hearing from you and others about the life we share in Christ and the complexities of the present moment," Griswold wrote.
Thanking the bishops for their "sacrificial expenditure of yourselves" in listening and serving as "ministers of interpretation and encouragement," Griswold alluded to his own struggles in the aftermath of General
Convention's decisions to ratify the ordination of a gay priest as New Hampshire's bishop coadjutor and acknowledge the practice of blessing same-gender relationships. "I have certainly had my burdens to bear as well, though in a somewhat different way, and have had to experience the deep sadness of relationships becoming impaired or broken," he wrote. "At the same time I find an unexpected confidence stirring within me, and look ahead with a hope not of my own making."
No direct intervention
He then outlined the process for discussion of the draft plan for Supplemental Episcopal Pastoral Care, which was circulated on October 31. The document is to be discussed at the provincial meetings of bishops.
Reactions to the draft and any implementation already underway will be taken up at the bishops¹ meeting in March 2004.
Griswold pointed out that the draft was also sent to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. "I have been in consultation with the Archbishop, and in a conversation earlier this week he made it clear that the responsibility for working out a form of extended episcopal ministry lies within our province," he said. "Indeed, the consultation envisaged in the statement of the primates following our October meeting is precisely that and does not involve some kind of direct intervention on his part." Calls for such direct intervention, either by Williams or the primates, have been made by various conservative groups within the Episcopal Church.
"The matter of Supplemental Episcopal Pastoral Care in the Episcopal Church is clearly the responsibility of our bishops--to whom is given the ministry of oversight--and we are obliged to treat it with full seriousness. It is my firm belief that by exercising generosity and pastoral sensitivity in a spirit of trust we can meet the needs of all of our congregations," Griswold went on. "I note here how important it is for all of us who hold
jurisdiction to be full partners in this work, regardless of our points of view. The various speculations about alternative structures and realignments are unhelpful and draw us away from the hard work we must do together in order to be faithful as chief pastors to all of our people, and to honor our call to be ministers of Christ¹s reconciling love."