The head of the Episcopal Church is defending the denomination's decision to confirm its first openly gay bishop in a letter to U.S. clergy and his fellow Anglican leaders around the world. Presiding bishop Frank Griswold told the 37 leaders, called primates, that a "blessing" can come from the controversy over the Reverend V. Gene Robinson, bishop-elect of New Hampshire. Robinson has lived openly with his male partner for more than 13 years.
"I must say in the strongest possible terms that if I believed in any part of my being that the consent to this election was unfaithful to an authentic way of reading Scripture and contrary to the leading of the Holy Spirit, I could no longer serve as the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church," Griswold wrote in the letter released Monday.
The Episcopal Church, with 2.3 million members, is the U.S. branch of the 77 million-member Anglican Communion. Several Anglican leaders overseas threatened to cut ties with the American church after Robinson was confirmed on August 5 at the Episcopal General Convention. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, head of the communion, has summoned Anglican leaders to an October 15-16 meeting in London to discuss the fallout.
Griswold, in his letter, noted that some conservative Episcopalians who lobbied against Robinson plan to seek authorization for a separate North American Anglican province. Griswold committed himself to "helping our church to find a way forward that both preserves the unity of the church and honors the deeply divergent points of view among us."