The Ministry of Making Connections
One of the privileges I have serving as your Presiding Bishop and Primate is to be a minister of connection. I see my role as bringing together different pieces of our common life, and seeking to speak in a variety of contexts in order to encourage a growth in a common vision of communion, and in a shared sense of what it means to be the risen body of Christ.
Recently, I began the week by flying to England where I spent some time with the Archbishop of Canterbury reflecting upon the recent ordinations in Singapore, and looking ahead to the Primates' meeting this March in Portugal. At the end of our fruitful time together we agreed how important it is for us not simply to communicate via fax and email, but actually to sit down together and to take counsel together for the good of the Anglican Communion and of our own Episcopal Church, which holds a very special place in the Archbishop's mind and heart.
Upon my return I made my way to Baltimore to take part in a conference on evangelism sponsored by our national Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Maryland. The focus of this event was the evangelization of young people. Approximately four hundred people from all areas of our church gathered to participate in workshops and lively worship, and to learn from the presenters and one another. One of the points I made is that the younger generation has little time for hypocrisy. Young people are often perplexed at the issues that seem to divide a church, given that their own sense of reality includes diverse perspectives in a way that people of my generation find difficult. I told the group that a young priest had once said to me, "I hope people of your generation don't wreck the church before we become leaders."
From Baltimore, I returned to New York to address a group of Episcopal scholars who gathered together under the aegis of the Episcopal Church Foundation. Often scholarship is pursued in isolation, and it is very important for the scholarly community of the Episcopal Church to be in conversation with one another. Indeed, we have tended to under-value our scholarly community. Too often theology is used as a weapon to defend one's point of view rather than as a way to deepen our grasp of God's wisdom. So, to spend the evening with scholars and to encourage them to be a more significant voice in the life of our church, and the various debates that are part of our life, was a way for me, once again, to serve as a minister of connection, connecting the scholarly community to the ongoing mission and ministry of our church.
From there, I traveled south again, this time to the National Cathedral in Washington to preside at the ordination of the new Bishop Suffragan for the Armed Services, Prison Ministries and Health Care. This rather inclusive episcopal role is in and of itself another instance of connection, bringing together the various chaplaincies that are carried out by Episcopal clergy within the context of the Armed Services, prisons and hospitals. Again, there is often a sense of disconnection as they pursue their ministries. How important it is that we care for the caregivers who pursue these important ministries on our behalf.
At the end of the week I traveled Philadelphia, and the diocese in which I was ordained. At the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas I had the privilege of celebrating the Feast of Absalom Jones, its first rector, and the first African American priest of the Episcopal Church. The rector of the parish, Jesse Anderson, Jr., is an old friend of mine and, in fact, read the gospel at my ordination to the priesthood at the Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr in 1963. So, this was another kind of connection for me, and a wonderful opportunity for us to be reunited in common prayer in the context of the celebration of Absalom Jones. His feast day reminds us that the sin of racism and the disconnection that it causes within the community - the walls of division, obvious and subtle, that still exist as the fruit of racism - need to be faced and fought against by the Episcopal Church as we are faithful to the gospel.
At the beginning of this week I was asked by a reporter how I was doing in the wake of the events in Singapore, and my response was simply to tell him what was planned for the week. I pointed out that my primary attention is on the ongoing life and mission of the church, and that one has to be very careful not to become distracted by untoward occurrences that sometimes erupt. And though the Singapore events are not to be ignored, they must not divert us from our ongoing life as a community of faith. Through us, the limbs and members of Christ's risen body, Christ is carrying out the ongoing work of gathering and binding up and making whole. Through us, the message of the gospel is being shared and lived. Knowing this then, may we live in hope, and in joy. May God bless us in our mission which is the mission of Christ himself "to reconcile to himself all things."
The Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold
XXV Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church, USA