Monday, October 30, 2006

PB's Swan Song Sermon

Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold presided and preached at St. John's Anglican Church in Notting Hill, London, on October 29, the last Sunday of his nine-year tenure as Presiding Bishop.


I am very grateful to your vicar, Father Taylor, for the invitation to preside at this morning's Eucharist and to break the bread of God's word. I do so with a mixture of emotions on this, the last Sunday of my time as Presiding Bishop, chief pastor and Primate of the Episcopal Church. Next Saturday my successor, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, will be formally proclaimed Presiding Bishop during a liturgy at the Washington Cathedral.

My reason for being here in London has been to introduce Bishop Katharine to his Grace, the Archbishop of Canterbury. While I have known Archbishop Rowan for many years – our friendship dating back to his days as a professor at Oxford – my successor had yet to meet him. It was an immensely positive and fruitful exchange. During our meeting we were able to share mutual concerns and hopes for the future of our Communion and its ministry of service to our broken and needy world.

The Anglican Communion, through its international consultative council, has committed itself to gender equity in all of its representative and consultative bodies. The election of Bishop Katharine to serve as 26th Presiding Bishop, and therefore Primate, is a first step toward bringing gender balance to what until now has been an all male preserve.

There are those who have indicated that they will not sit at the same table with her. I do hope that once they meet her as a person, rather than as a fabrication of the Internet, they will be able to sense the depth and authenticity of her faith, and to recognize her as a sister in Christ and a fellow bishop.

It is ironic that though women represent the majority of the Anglican Communion, their voices and their reconciling views are woefully underrepresented. In so many situations of conflict and division throughout the world it is women who, because of their passion for life and the wellbeing of the family, are the peacemakers. It is women who courageously refuse to play the largely male power games of who is in and who is out, who is strong, who is weak. These invidious games afflict not only nations but the church as well.

Today's gospel reading presents us with blind Bartimaeus who encounters Jesus making his way through the town of Jericho. If today you visit Jericho you will be shown an ancient tree in the center of town, and told – confidently – that it is the very tree under which blind Bartimaeus sat on that fateful day.

There is, however, another way to approach today's gospel. While it is clearly an account of Jesus healing a blind man, it can also serve as an invitation to explore blindness as a spiritual condition in which we see but do not see. Here I am put in mind of John Cosin's paraphrase of Veni Creator, the hymn sung at ordinations in which we pray to God the Holy Spirit "enable with perpetual light, the dullness of our blinded sight."

How easy it is for us – personally, ecclesially and nationally – to live with blinded sight. Unquestioningly and uncritically we accept prevailing attitudes, opinions and biases as self-evident, as true. The dullness of the familiar can so easily keep us from seeing the inequities, the untruths, the injustices that surround us.

Read it all here

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