Give rest, O Christ, to thy servant with thy saints, where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting.
Dear Beloved Community in the Diocese of California – The sad news of the death of former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold came as a surprise for me, and I’m sure many in our diocese. In addition to sharing Presiding Bishop Curry’s prayer and the Griswold family’s obituary for Bishop Frank, I’d like to also share a few of my memories with you.
Bishop Frank Griswold was the chief consecrator when I was ordained as a bishop on February 7, 2002. Before that time, he was a remote figure for me, but one of great interest and curiosity. I first heard Frank’s name when he emerged as a candidate for Presiding Bishop. At the time I was a priest in the Diocese of Virginia and had been formed at Virginia Seminary; in other words, a person raised up in a Low Church environment, which I naively took to be normative across the Episcopal Church. I said, upon hearing about Frank’s candidacy, “He can’t be elected, can he?” But with time, I learned much about the beauty and depth of high church liturgy and worship from Bishop Frank.
More meaningfully, I also heard about a House of Bishops’ gathering at the Kanuga Camp and Conference Center in North Carolina in the early years of Frank’s tenure as Presiding Bishop, at which Bishop Griswold invited all the bishops to dance together in a dance of the Trinity, of the Trinity’s energies of dispossession and possession, of giving and receiving. Prior to hearing a wisp of this story of a spiritual dance or practice, the very idea of the House of Bishops was at best vague to me. My imagination was activated about the House of Bishops, and Frank as the Presiding Bishop – the House of Bishops and its head now began to appear as spiritual leaders, followers of Jesus Christ, in addition to their undoubtedly important roles in administration.
The above being true, at that time I had not even an inkling of thought about being called to the ministry of a bishop. Then, with my election and consecration in early 2002, Frank became much more prominent in my life. He was not only the Presiding Bishop under whom I initially served, he was a kind, wise and generous mentor. I hope I assimilated his lessons to me, both those that he intentionally imparted and those I gleaned by observation.
As the whole Church, and within it the House of Bishops struggled over the recognition of the full rights of LGBTQ people, Frank led us with both great, steady courage and equipoise. Bishop Frank drew on the depth of his formation in Ignatian spirituality to help the House of Bishops discern its way forward, a path that led us to become more just, more in conformance with the dream of God, as Verna Dozier would have put it.
A last memory to share comes from a Diocese of California clergy retreat shortly before COVID, when I invited Bishop Frank to lead our clergy in a time of spiritual reflection. Bishop Frank’s teachings came from his life of deep prayer, which fueled his attention to the world. My time with him then was a gift. We talked on the long drive from San Francisco to Healdsburg and back, and during breaks at the clergy retreat, and while our time was marked by fun, it was also a time when Bishop Frank was attentive to our friendship and my ministry as a bishop.
Sheila and I are praying for Frank’s wife, Phoebe and their daughters. I will miss Frank Griswold, and always feel gratitude for his leadership of our Church through crucial times of change, and for the kindness and support he always offered to me and our family.