From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Griswold challenges the stumbling stones to unity

From John Rollins <>
Date 26 Oct 1998 20:28:19

Griswold challenges the stumbling stones to unity

by Jerry Hames
(Episcopal Life) In his first major address on ecumenical
affairs since his investiture last January, Presiding Bishop Frank
T. Griswold warned that many denominational traditions, some of
them no longer meaningful in today's world, stand as formidable
impediments to Christian unity.

"One of the great fruits of our ecumenical dialogues has
been the self-examination and self-scrutiny which we, as
Anglicans, have been obliged to undergo, thanks to the hard
questions that have been asked of us by our ecumenical partners,"
he said.

"In particular, I think of our Roman Catholic partners' call
for clarity and consistency in our theological discourse, and our
Lutheran partners' insistence upon transparency of the gospel in
the ordering of our ecclesial life."

Griswold preached at Grace Episcopal Church Sept. 30 at a
service celebrating the centennial of the Lambeth Quadrilateral,
an 1888 statement of faith that many believe set the Episcopal
Church on an ecumenical course with other churches. The service
was in memory of William Reed Huntington, a theologian of strong
ecumenical vision, who was sixth rector of the historic church.
Griswold said human sin had often distorted the message
revealed by Christ. "How tragic it is that the one who sought to
draw the whole world to himself by being lifted high upon the
cross has become, for many, a totem justifying hatred, murder and
violence, both psychic and physical.

"Judgment and condemnation, rather than mercy and
compassion, appear to be the animating energies of much that
presents itself these days as true faith and right religion,"
Griswold said. And he posed what he described as the "hard
question" that must be asked: "How much does our own lack of
communion and [lack of] willingness to embrace one another in the
full reality of our baptismal brother- and sisterhood contribute
to the atmosphere of division and trust?"

He said the churches have no right to travel on their
separate paths, giving only lip service to "One Lord, one faith,
one baptism, one God and Father of all," when they daily give
witness to division and contradictions. In one of the church's own
eucharistic prayers, Griswold said, worshipers ask God, in
reference to the church, to "reveal its unity." By doing so,
Christians acknowledge that unity is not theirs to create-it
already exists in the mystery of God's fullness, Griswold said.
However, he said, they have a role, and that is to strip away
everything that impedes this unity.

"[This] process of stripping bumps us up against all the ...
specificity of our particular faith traditions which have enabled
us to appropriate the gospel, and asks us to discern in them what
is authentic and enduring and what may have once been essential,
but now is in danger of becoming an idol of denominational

He described an experience in Jerusalem years ago when he
went with friends to Hebron to pray at the Tomb of the Patriarchs.
"As I stood before the cenotaph of Abraham, I became aware of a
group of Muslims engaged in Koran study on my left and a gathering
of Jewish women praying on my right. Suddenly, it occurred to me
that here we were, the three siblings of Abraham, bound together
in prayer, and yet so far from one another in the realm of
conscious thought. For all three of us, God is `he Compassionate
One.' "How long will it take us to live out the full force of this
binding truth?" he asked.

Because ecumenism is much larger than ecclesiastical
concerns, the church must always listen to the world where God is
at work, shaping and reforming and conforming all to Christ,
Griswold said.

--Jerry Hames is editor of Episcopal Life.

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