From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Episcopalians: Griswold bonds with Gen-Xers at Indianapolis conference

Date Fri, 28 Jun 2002 12:52:30 -0400

June 28, 2002


Episcopalians: Griswold bonds with Gen-Xers at Indianapolis 

by Jan Nunley

(ENS) Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold is not a member of 
Generation X--in fact, he's officially a card-carrying member of 
the Silent Generation (born 1925-1942). But his emphasis on 
prayer, his familiarity with Christian mysticism and the 
contemplative tradition, and his openness to new points of view 
clearly resonate with the generation born 1961-1981.

"Our presiding bishop is soooo cool!  Now I know why he's the 
presiding bishop," remarked Lori Johnson of San Diego to 
"someone who asked me at work" about the GTNG gathering in 
Indianapolis June 20-22. "He was great, I was impressed, 
pleasantly surprised, and overwhelmed by his comments. 

The group's core values are "my passions," said Griswold, who 
recalled the group's initial 1998 meeting as one from which he 
came away "increased in terms of my understanding of the mystery 
of the church." 

"My sense was that you have your own passionately held points 
of view but in order to hold them you don't want to 
disenfranchise someone else," Griswold said. "You are able to 
deal with what I call 'multiple realities' in a way that people 
of my generation were not shaped." 

In an hour-long session restricted to clergy, he fielded 
questions on college chaplaincy (he saw "a reawakening" of its 
importance), the possibility of "alternative episcopal 
oversight" (real, but "not a large issue" across the whole 
church), and a shift in sacramental emphasis from baptism to 
eucharistic community. Then Griswold, his wife Phoebe, and 
communications aide Barbara Braver attended break-out sessions 
for more detailed discussions. 

The next day, addressing both clergy and laity, Griswold 
joked about his own early days in ministry, when he saw himself 
as a liturgical "revolutionary, a rebel" looking at the church's 
hierarchy from its edges. He warned of "a kind of institutional 
idolatry--and it could be an idolatry not only of the past but 
of some exciting future." 

"All of us have our fundamentalisms, and you don't know it 
until finally your fundamentalism has been pushed too far and 
you say 'wait a minute--I can put up with this, this, and this, 
but this is just too far!' " he said, to knowing laughter.

He also lamented the "cynicism and despair" Gen-X clergy had 
reported to him among older clergy to whom they looked for 
mentors. "How often clergy proffer the Eucharist to others and 
never receive it themselves in any sort of deliberate way," 
Griswold noted. That stemmed from having "no deep place" in 
Christ. He urged Gen-Xers to stay "rooted and grounded" in 
prayer--not "anxious, desperate pleas to God, but prayer as a 
way of finding an interior freedom and a kind of perspective 
that allows you to appreciate but also to sit loose to some of 
the realities of the institution."

"You pray. You pray deeply," he observed. "The capacity to 
make room for difference and otherness has to do with your own 
groundedness. You don't depend on the institution as the source 
of all meaning; you know there's a larger frame of reference we 
call 'life in Christ.'"

Calling the next generation "an incredible gift," Griswold 
urged them to guide their elders in the practice of a "graced 
pluralism." Some of the culture wars that are going on in the 
church "are not life-producing," he said. "Some of the clashes 
of absolutes, and the incapacity to see that there might be 
virtue and value and authenticity in someone who disagrees with 
you is not a difficulty you haveand so you could help us to 
engage in that enlargement of consciousness that I deeply 
believe is of the Spirit."


--The Rev. Jan Nunley is deputy director of Episcopal News 

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