A foolproof template for primatial correspondence

Christopher Johnson of Midwest Conservative Journal had great fun last week in exposing the boilerplate style in two letters by Frank Griswold, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. Many paragraphs that first appeared in a letter Griswold wrote to his fellow primates of the Anglican Communion (Aug. 19, 2003) found a new life in his letter to Alexey II, patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church (Dec. 19, 2003). It took a blogger to notice this, and so far mainstream coverage amounts to chirping crickets.

In a spirit of servanthood, GetReligion offers the following template to the presiding bishop, which should assure a sufficient pluriformity of dialogical voices. Each relevant paragraph includes three equally true and heartfelt choices: 1. For evangelicals and those Anglican primates with minds formed by evangelical missionaries. 2. For progressives. 3. For career-minded moderates.

Date Choose the most appropriate day from Lesser Feasts & Fasts, but these have proven especially effective: 1. C.S. Lewis. 2. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. 3. All Faithful Departed.

Salutation Dear 1. Brother/Sister in the Lord, 2. [First Name only! Any other greeting will be oppressive], 3. [Include all relevant honorifics, e.g., Archdeacon, Bishop, Canon, Dr.] [Last Name],

Setting the stage I write to you with 1. Hearty Alleluias and Praise the Lords. 2. Burning hope for the unfolding realm of the Divine. 3. Solemn assurances that nothing much has changed lately.

Acknowledging (but neither endorsing nor condemning) the elephant in the nave I know that General Convention's decisions to confirm Gene Robinson and to celebrate the ineffable mysteries of same-sex unions leave you feeling 1. Fearful and enraged. 2. Ecstatic. 3. Ambivalent.

Dealing with the Bible There is, as all faithful Christians agree, no such thing as a neutral reading of Scripture. I recognize that your understanding of Scripture is 1. Important to you. 2. A fascinating example of the hermeneutic of suspicion. 3. Under committee discussion.

Words of pastoral care Therefore, I pledge to you my 1. Tireless prayers for your growth in the things of the Spirit. 2. Hope that the Spirit will send its new revelation when this fragile earth, our island home, is ready to receive it. 3. Efforts to translate any actions of General Convention into language that your oldest and wealthiest parishioners will find comforting.

Deep Thoughts It is my firm conviction that in the open space of God's mercy the present moment may yield 1. a blessing. 2. a liberation. 3. a resolution (ideally, a General Convention resolution from a cognate committee).

The godly admonition I would propose that we 1. Continue the dialogue about your openness to the new revelations of God. 2. Be patient. 3. Change the subject.

The clincher St. Paul once wrote, 1. "If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing" (1 Cor. 13:3). 2. "As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!" (Gal. 5:12) 3. "To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some" (1 Cor. 9:22).

Closing Your 1. Fellow wayfaring stranger, 2. Moses, 3. CEO,

The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold Presiding Bishop and Primate The Episcopal Church, USA

Please respect our Commenting Policy