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Divisions Made Evident at Closed-door meeting with the Presiding Bishop: TLC 9.22.2003 September 22, 2003

Posted by geoconger in 73rd General Convention, Living Church, The Episcopal Church.
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First printed in the Living Church magazine.

The Episcopal Church is in crisis, according to 10 bishops representing the moderate elements from both the liberal and conservative wings of the Church. Beyond that assessment, accounts differ somewhat as to the substance of the conversation at a closed-door meeting with Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, Sept. 10-11 at the Episcopal Church Center.

Attempts at forging a joint statement expressing reconciliation or optimism collapsed as the two sides could only agree to a four-line statement confirming that they had met, that their “dialogue was candid, honest and respectful.”

In a separate letter written on Sept. 12 to the bishops of the Episcopal Church following the private meeting, Bishop Griswold acknowledged the “polarization” within the Church, bewailing “our having to make an either/or decision with no possibility of any other mode of response.”

The meeting occurred approximately one month before Bishop Griswold meets with the primates of the Anglican Communion at a special gathering called by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams.

The 10 bishops included five who voted for the Rev. Canon V. Gene Robinson’s affirmation as Bishop of New Hampshire: the Rt. Rev. Robert Ilhoff of Maryland, the Rt. Rev. Mark Sisk of New York, the Rt. Rev. Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island, the Rt. Rev. Stacy Sauls of Lexington, and the Rt. Rev. Edwin Gulick of Kentucky; and five conservatives who opposed the election: the Rt. Rev. Keith Ackerman of Quincy, the Rt. Rev. Don Johnson of West Tennessee, the Rt. Rev. John W. Howe of Central Florida, the Rt. Rev. John Lipscomb of Southwest Florida and the Rt. Rev. Edward Little of Northern Indiana.

The liberal bishops were “shocked” by the fall-out following the Robinson election, said one conservative bishop. “Several said they could ‘not fathom’ why [Canon Robinson’s election was] the ‘deal breaking issue’.” He added, “I told them it was irrelevant whether they could understand it, or whether or not they wished it so — it is the ‘deal breaker’ and we have to cope with that.”

Bishop Griswold’s characterization of the meeting was much more upbeat. In his letter he stated that he “left the meeting extremely grateful for the candor and grace of the participants, their deep care and affection for one another, and their commitment to the well-being of their dioceses, and our church.”

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