From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Episcopalians: Five years on, Griswold calls church to God's mission of reconciliation, love

Date Thu, 16 Jan 2003 17:22:21 -0500

January 16, 2003


Episcopalians: Five years on, Griswold calls church to God's 
mission of reconciliation, love

by Jan Nunley

(ENS) Marking his fifth anniversary as presiding bishop on 
January 12, Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold told the 
congregation at the Washington National Cathedral that "the work 
of repair, rebuilding, and renewing" the world is one to which 
every Christian is called at baptism. That work, said Griswold, 
calls for "adopting God's point of view" instead of the limited 
perspective of self or nation.

"If we are truly a nation 'under God,' as we say we are, then 
God's perspective rather than our own self-interest will animate 
both our national life and our being in the world," Griswold 
stated. "Otherwise we had better abandon that claim altogether 
and admit that our power is the source of our own divinity."

"What would happen if God's justice and peace were our heart's 
desire, and the dignity of every human being our deepest 
concern?" he asked. "There would be a revolution, which is 
precisely what God's work, God's mission, is all about."

Subversive love

Griswold said he came to a deeper understanding of that mission 
while standing in the dust and ashes filling St. Paul's Chapel 
in New York, three days after the September 11 terrorist 
attacks. "Behind the altar hung a small brass crucifix, its tiny 
arms extended in the direction of the site [Ground Zero] I had 
just visited," Griswold recounted. "In that moment, though numb 
from all I had witnessed, and caught in a sea of conflicting 
emotions, it became absolutely clear that the tiny brass arms of 
the figure on the cross could contain and enfold all the horror, 
rage, pain and grief that lay so close at hand in an 
uncompromising and enduring saving embrace of unwavering and 
death-defying love."

God's love is "radically subversive" of "structures of power and 
control, assertion, and self-interest," he said. "The good news 
is that God's loving desire for the full flourishing of all 
people and all things is the reality. All else is distortion."

Griswold added that American willingness to spend more on war in 
Iraq than on the AIDS pandemic in Africa is "a manifestation of 
evil" and a "form of sin from which we as a nation are called to 

Words are weapons

"I'd like to be able to go somewhere in the world and not have 
to apologize for being from the United States," Griswold said 
January 10 in an interview with Religion News Service. "Quite 
apart from the bombs we drop, words are weapons and we have used 
our language so unwisely, so intemperately, so thoughtlessly ... 
that I'm not surprised we are hated and loathed everywhere I 
go," he said. "We are loathed, and I think the world has every 
right to loathe us, because they see us as greedy, 
self-interested and almost totally unconcerned about poverty, 
disease and suffering," he said.

"My sense is that we have been so abundantly blessed as a nation 
that it's all the more incumbent upon us that we share those 
blessing with others," he said. "God's concern is for the world 
and not simply for a nation....Too often we narrow down faith to 
serve our own immediate concerns and national interests."

Griswold's sentiments about the threat of war were echoed by 
Pope John Paul II in a New Year's statement on January 13. War 
"is always a defeat for humanity. International law, honest 
dialogue, solidarity between states, the noble exercise of 
diplomacy: These are the methods worthy of individuals and 
nations in resolving their differences," the pope said, adding 
his criticism of leaders who "place their trust in nuclear 
weapons" and armed force. "War is never just another means that 
one can choose to employ for settling differences between 
nations," he said.


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

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