DATE June 28, 2006 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold of US Episcopal Church
talks about his tenure and recent controversies in his church
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
My guest is the presiding bishop of the US Episcopal Church, Frank Griswold.
His nine-year tenure ends in November. At the church's triannual meeting last
week, Katharine Jefferts Schori was elected to succeed him. Electing a woman
was controversial, but not nearly as divisive as the ordination in 2003 of an
openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson. The worldwide Anglican Church, which the US
Episcopal Church is part of, could split apart over this issue. My guest,
Bishop Griswold, who supported Robinson's ordination, offered a compromise
resolution that was passed last week, saying that the church will not consent
to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life
presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on
Yesterday the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams released a letter
suggesting that the church explore the possibility of dividing into a
two-tiered system in which churches which disagree with the shared covenant
would lose decision-making power. I asked Bishop Griswold his reaction to the
Bishop FRANK GRISWOLD: I think the archbishop, in his reflections, is taking
the long view. He's inviting all of us, regardless of our own particular
perspectives, to answer the question, what does it mean to be Anglicans in a
multicultural world where communication is instantaneous, where what goes on
here becomes a reality in a living room in Nigeria by virtue of television
seconds later. And in answering that question, I think he hopes that we will
come to a new sense of a common mind, common mission for the sake of the
GROSS: But what does he propose?
Bishop GRISWOLD: Well, he proposes a long process involving the problems of
the Anglican communion, and he talks about a balance between fidelity of the
Bible, our sacramental tradition and a habit of cultural and intellectual
flexibility that doesn't seek to close down unexpected questions too quickly.
And those are the classic strands of Anglicanism he holds out.
GROSS: The archbishop is suggesting the possibility of a two-tiered system
that would be constituent churches that would retain full status within the
church, and there would be churches in association that would not have
decision-making status. Would it be fair to assume that the churches that
maintain full power would be those that oppose the ordination of gay bishops
and the churches that did not have decision-making status would be those that
supported ordination of gay bishops?
Bishop GRISWOLD: I think the archbishop is not suggesting that as a solution.
He's saying that could be a possible outcome of a long and careful process of
building a sense of communion together, and I think it's wrong to focus on the
end point rather than on the process to which he calls us.
GROSS: What is the process?
Bishop GRISWOLD: I think the process is a question of: What is our Anglican
identity given our tradition of Biblical fidelity, sacramental life and our
ability to live difficult questions in an open and honest way?
GROSS: Do you think that more conservative leaders within the church are
reading this letter the same way that you do?
Bishop GRISWOLD: I think the letter is quite extensive and requires very
careful reading. The archbishop is a very subtle theologian, and I think it's
quite easy for people to take out of it whatever they want for their own
purposes, and therefore it's very important to read it as a whole.
GROSS: One of the things that he says is there is no way in which the
Anglican Communion can remain unchanged by what is happening at the moment.
How do you interpret that?
Bishop GRISWOLD: I think the church is always evolving and growing. It's a
living and dynamic thing, and therefore I would be very unhappy if the
Anglican Communion were unchanging. It would suggest to me that it was being
unfaithful to Christ.
GROSS: In The New York Times today, it says that many provinces in the church
have already tried to break with the church. Twenty-two of 38 provinces have
already declared their ties with the American church to be broken or impaired.
As the head bishop of the Episcopal Church in the US, have churches declared
that to you? What does that mean?
Bishop GRISWOLD: A number of archbishops have in fact declared our
relationships strained or broken in one way of another, and others have
expressed deep concern about the decisions we've made in the Episcopal Church
with the hope that we can remain in communion together for the sake of
mission. So the responses are various in intensity and various in meaning.
GROSS: Is there anything you see in the archbishop's letter that you
interpret as an endorsement of gay rights within the church?
Bishop GRISWOLD: I think the archbishop was very careful to talk about the
dignity of human beings and the need to treat gay and lesbian people with
dignity, and I think for some people in the Anglican Communion to be able to
do that is a major step, given some of the negative rhetoric and dehumanizing
rhetoric about gay and lesbian people that has come from various parts of the
world. So I think the archbishop's letter is a challenge to all of us to find
a higher way together for the sake of mission.
GROSS: The archbishop's letter was released, you know, just a few days after
the American Episcopal Church's meeting. The meeting was last week. Do you
see his letter as in any way a rebuke to the meeting or to your resolution at
the meeting which we'll discuss in a moment?
Bishop GRISWOLD: No. I think that obviously the letter in some way was
provoked by the general convention, but I can assure you the archbishop has
been thinking along these lines well before the general convention, and he
acknowledges the extremely hard work that went into the resolution with which
the convention ended.
GROSS: Would you describe that resolution?
Bishop GRISWOLD: The resolution has to do with calling upon bishops and
standing committees of dioceses to exercise restraint in the election and
consent to candidates for the Episcopal office whose manner of life could be
problematic in the life of the communion. That's essentially what the
resolution says. And its purpose is to foster conversation, to make it
possible for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to be part of the global
conversation that has been called for by the archbishop which, in his letter,
he admits hasn't proceeded very far.
GROSS: So when you're calling for exercising restraint, is that different
from asking for a moratorium on the ordination of gay bishops?
Bishop GRISWOLD: I think it's a fact it's essentially the same. It's asking
that we not do something in order that something else can take place, namely
we can participate in the global conversation that is causing such difficulty
in other parts of the world and bring our experience into that conversation,
GROSS: What is the importance of conversation for you? You're stressing the
importance of conversation.
Bishop GRISWOLD: Conversation often leads to conversion. If you approach the
other with an undefended heart, you will be changed by that encounter. It
doesn't mean your point of view is going to change, but your relationship may
well change, and the person you see as threat, you can then see as brother or
sister, and you can actually discern the presence of Christ in their
Otherness. And that is the gift of communion. That's what communion is all
about, and that's the challenge before the Anglican Communion at the present
GROSS: If opposition to gay bishops remained really strong, do you think at
some point, you and other people who agree with you within the Episcopal and
Anglican Church would have to basically decide which was more--which was the
more important principle to them--holding the church together or giving full
support to gay people within the church and to their right to be equal within
Bishop GRISWOLD: I think there could come a moment when one would have to
make a very costly decision, but until that moment comes, I am fully committed
to the process outlined by the archbishop of Canterbury and the development of
a covenant that delineates more clearly for the 21st century what our identity
as Anglican Christians is for the sake of mission.
GROSS: Where does the issue of homosexual marriage stand now, the blessing of
same-sex unions? Where does that stand now within the Episcopal Church?
Bishop GRISWOLD: Well, the Episcopal Church has not endorsed the development
of rights for the blessing of same-sex union, so the question really resides
mostly in the realm of pastoral practice at the local level.
GROSS: And what has that practice been? What's the diversity of that
Bishop GRISWOLD: Oh, the diversity...
GROSS: Are there some who do and some who don't?
Bishop GRISWOLD: I think that's essentially it, yes.
GROSS: In other words, there's no official position now.
Bishop GRISWOLD: At this point, there is no endorsement of same-sex
GROSS: Can I just read you a sentence from the archbishop's letter and if you
could tell me how you would interpret this? He writes (reading), "It is
possible, indeed, it is imperative to give the strongest support to the
defense of homosexual people against violence, bigotry and legal disadvantage,
to appreciate the role played in the life of the church by people of
homosexual orientation and still to believe that this doesn't settle the
question of whether the Christian church has the freedom, on the basis of the
Bible and its historic teachings, to bless homosexual partnerships as a clear
expression of God's will. That is disputed among Christians and as a bare
matter of fact, only a small minority would answer yes to the question."
Bishop GRISWOLD: My sense is that the archbishop is, first of all,
recognizing the place and dignity and value of gay and lesbian people,
homosexual persons in the life of the church, but he's also saying that the
formal blessing of their relationships is a question yet unsettled, and at
this moment in time, the majority of Anglican Christians would say that the
Bible does not allow such blessing. I think that's what he's saying.
GROSS: Do you know what his personal stand on the issue is?
Bishop GRISWOLD: I have some idea, and I think historically he has taken a
very accommodating view toward the reality of homosexual relationships,
committed relationships. I think he is also very aware of being the
archbishop of Canterbury, the symbolic head of an international community of
churches, and that role precludes his acting out of his own personal views.
GROSS: My guest is the presiding bishop of the US Episcopal Church, Frank
We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is the outgoing presiding bishop
of the US Episcopal Church, Frank Griswold. His nine-year term ends in
November. His successor was just elected.
Your successor, who was just elected, is a woman, and this will be the first
time that a woman is in that position of the presiding bishop of the US
Episcopal Church. How controversial is that within the American church?
Bishop GRISWOLD: I think the American Episcopal Church, by and large, I mean
the overwhelming majority, happily accept the ministry of women. I think it's
been a process of discovery. I think it remained for a long time an
abstraction but as it was embodied in women who ministered gracefully in all
sorts of situations, people have more and more seen that the charism for
ministry can certainly be born by women, and I think it's that reality,
experienced over time, that has led the bishops to elect with a quite strong
majority a woman to be my successor.
GROSS: How many churches within the US Episcopal Church don't accept the
ordination of women?
Bishop GRISWOLD: I don't know how many churches. I can say that there are, I
believe, three dioceses out of 100 in the United States that do not recognize
the ordination of women.
GROSS: Now when you were ordained in--was it 1963?
Bishop GRISWOLD: 1963.
GROSS: There were no women bishops in your church then.
Bishop GRISWOLD: No, I remember in about 1965 conducting a discussion group
for a group of Bryn Mawr College students, and one of them asked me, `Can
women be ordained?' and at that point, I simply laughed and said, `Of course
not,' because it was unthinkable, but by 1976, I was at a General Convention
and voting in favor of the ordination of women. So things can change rather
quickly, and one's own views can be expanded rather quickly as well.
GROSS: Did the church ever come close to splitting over the issue of the
ordination of women?
Bishop GRISWOLD: There were some churches, congregations, that broke away
when we accepted the ordination of women to the priesthood and to the
episcopate, but there weren't many. Some also left over the revision to the
prayerbook, and some certainly have left over the questions of human sexuality
as well. But those numbers are not large, though I will say as the overseer
of the whole church, I'm saddened when anyone feels that they must walk apart
because of something that the church has done or a place where the church, at
least the majority, seem to stand.
GROSS: What do you think the odds are that the Episcopal Church will split in
Bishop GRISWOLD: I usually avoid hypothetical questions. My sense is, again,
that the overwhelming majority is a diverse center of different points of view
committed to being the church together, and that's true across the Anglican
world. There are some very fierce rhetoric coming from various places, and
yet, in those same places, there are many lay people--especially women--who
have gathered internationally and said, `Enough of this nonsense that these
men are carrying out. We're together for the sake of our families and the
well-being of our children.' But there are also a number of bishops who
quietly will say, `The last thing we want is some kind of separation because
we need to work together for the sake of the world.' And I trust that that
larger sense of working together for the sake of the world will be where we
ultimately find ourselves.
GROSS: How has the controversy over gay bishops affected your relationship
with other bishops? I understand some bishops decline to take communion with
you, for example?
Bishop GRISWOLD: I would say that--yeah, some bishops probably see me as the
incarnation of evil. Few, but I think some probably do. And others have seen
me, at least until the General Convention, as a sort of a hero. And I
think--I pray--that I'm neither. I hope in some way that I am faithful to the
complexities of trying to be a faithful person and a leader in a world in
which there are so many divergences and diversities and contrary points of
view, sorting and sifting all that, and trying to find what is God's larger
purpose is certainly where I've put my best energies over these years.
GROSS: You said some people saw you as a hero until the convention. Did they
see you as a sellout afterwards because you offered a compromise resolution?
Bishop GRISWOLD: I think for some people, yes, the fact that I said, it's
important for us to draw back in order to take part in a larger conversation
that will allow the experience of gay and lesbian people to be taken
seriously. I think for some that was seen as a pulling back.
GROSS: When Bishop Robinson was ordained and became the first openly gay
Episcopal bishop, to the ordination ceremony, you wore a flak jacket, as I
believe did he. Did you say to yourself what is this world coming to that I
have to wear a flak jacket to be part of the ceremony?
Bishop GRISWOLD: Well, quite frankly I was more amused than scared by that.
I went along with it because that's what I was asked to do, and I also thought
that if indeed something did occur, which I felt was completely unlikely, it
would have been foolish for me not to have taken that step to protect myself.
GROSS: In the nearly nine years that you've been the presiding bishop of the
US Episcopal Church, what do you consider one of your greatest or one of the
church's greatest accomplishments. You know, we've talked about divisions
within the church, but what's something that you think the church united and
stood up for and really accomplished something.
Bishop GRISWOLD: I would say there are several things. First of all, I think
the church is much clearer about being a body committed to mission, a work of
reconciliation that has a global component, and I'm very, very pleased that
our General Convention voted overwhelmingly to include in our budget in a very
generous way support of the United Nations millennium development goals which
are focused on hunger, education and alleviation of disease and things that
really do affect us in life and death, ways and affect brother and sister
Anglicans and others across the world. So I see that focus on mission as
something that's been very important.
The other thing I would say is I've stressed throughout the last nine years,
conversation as a discipline. Conversation and conversion come from the same
Latin root, and if you open yourself deeply in conversation to the Other, you
may in fact be converted in some way, changed in your perceptions by what you
hear. That may not mean a change in point of view but it may mean a change at
the level of the heart. You may see the Other not as enemy and threat but the
Other as brother or sister even though they have a different point of view and
out of that can emerge a capacity to be together in common action. And so
I've stressed, in the midst of all this division and polarization, the
discipline of conversation, speaking with the Other in the hope of everyone
learning and a mutuality evolving that allows us then to work together for the
sake of the world.
GROSS: Do you feel that that's happened to you, that through conversation
you've had a fundamental change of heart?
Bishop GRISWOLD: Absolutely. I mean, I've traveled the world and entered
into very different cultural experiences where fellow Anglicans try to embody
the gospel in very different circumstances, and I'm very respectful. I
understand some of the difficulties of what we've done being interpreted in
other parts of the world as something positive. If you live, for example, in
northern Nigeria, which is very much a very militant, Islamic part of Nigeria,
you can't afford the kind of theological latitude that we can enjoy here in
the United States. You have to be just as absolute and certain in your
presentation of the Christian faith as your Muslim interlocutors are about
their faith. So when people here say, `Oh, they're so rigid,' I say, `Wait a
minute. We can afford a kind of openness that our brothers and sisters can't
have where they live.' So I've been changed profoundly by my own experiences
of other cultures and other modes of Christian faithfulness.
GROSS: Frank Griswold is the presiding bishop of the US Episcopal Church.
We'll talk more in the second half of the show. I'm Terry Gross, and this is
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with Bishop Frank Griswold,
the presiding bishop of the US Episcopal Church. His nine-year tenure ends in
November. He's presided over a divisive period within the church. It may
split apart over the issue of the ordination of gay bishops. Bishop Griswold
was ordained as a priest in 1963.
Being a bishop, do people assume that you have a special connection to God and
that being a bishop just inherently brings you closer to God or as a sign that
you already were closer to God?
Bishop GRISWOLD: The wonderful paradox of being a bishop, at least in the
Anglican tradition, is the more elaborate your title becomes and the more
magnificent the vestry you put on, the more you are stripped inwardly and the
more you have to confront your own interior poverty. And in the midst of that
discovery, you discover your companionship with Christ in a whole new and much
deeper way. So I would say, my own faith as a Christian has deepened
tremendously because I'm shot at from a number of directions, and all sorts of
projections are thrust upon me. `You must do this. You must do that.' Or `A
good bishop does this, and if you want to be a good bishop you must do this.'
Those sorts of things. And so you ultimately have to sort of find your
grounding beyond the externals of the institution and beyond the perceived
grandiosity of your own office. If you take yourself too seriously, I think
you are in great danger. Fortunately, I've been given--what would I
say?--insight into the divine sense of humor and can apply it to myself.
GROSS: It seems to me from the outside that being a bishop would probably
immerse you in the power politics and administrative work of religion, and
that can sometimes not be the most spiritual place to be--power politics and
administration. So are there things you have to be wary of when you're a
Bishop GRISWOLD: I think you have to be wary of taking yourself too
seriously. I think you have to stay rooted and grounded in an active and
authentic faith life that is beyond the institution. One thing I do every
year, I go off for a 10-day retreat with a wonderful Jesuit who, though blind,
can see better than any sighted person I know, and he can see right into Frank
Griswold and isn't interested in Frank Griswold as bishop, and that is very,
very helpful to me. And my daily patterns of prayer and spiritual direction
occasionally with a wise counselor keep me from becoming--what would I
say?--the victim of the institution.
GROSS: Now you mentioned the vestments. What are your vestments as a bishop?
Bishop GRISWOLD: Well, there's a hat, a pointed hat, called a miter, and then
you carry a staff, which is called a crosier, or since I'm the presiding
bishop and primate, it's a primatial cross, but it's the same idea. And, you
know, there are various overgarments called copes and chasuble that you put
on, so you can stand in front of a mirror fully dressed and feel quite
self-important if you forget that underneath it you are simply a human being
trying as best you can to respond to the motions of the Spirit and trying to
be faithful to what God has placed before you.
GROSS: What do you think of as being the purpose of those vestments and do
you feel transformed in any way that is useful when you put them on?
Bishop GRISWOLD: Well, I think liturgy is a form of--and I use this term
advisedly--`sacred play.' Liturgy is nonutilitarian in one way but its symbols
convey larger meanings and in many ways connect people with a more profound
sense of mystery beyond the immediate moment, and certainly part of liturgy is
the costuming that accompanies liturgy. So I would see it all as part
of--what would I say?--witness to the transcendent in the midst of the every
day and now. It speaks of a different dimension.
GROSS: Does putting on those vestments give you the sense of either
spirituality or theater that you feel you need or that is helpful in
conducting a service?
Bishop GRISWOLD: I think in the midst of conducting a service, I feel very
much that I am an instrument of God. That also means that I'm aware of myself
as myself, and I'm also aware that the gestures and movements, all are a form
of punctuation and underscoring the larger purpose of what I'm doing. So I
take seriously what you might call the theatrical dimension of it as well.
GROSS: I love theater, and I don't mean that in a negative way.
Bishop GRISWOLD: No, no. I know--I know you don't. I know you don't. But
for some people to say that there's `theater' associated with this would sound
demeaning, but how you move liturgically, you know, how you go down an aisle,
all that sort of thing, is part of how you serve the larger mystery.
GROSS: What were the big controversies in your church when you were ordained
Bishop GRISWOLD: When I was first ordained, the division within the church
was something called `high church' and `low church.' And it had very much to
do, put in simple terms, with those who were more focused on the Protestant
reformation and those who were more focused on the continuing Catholic
elements of the Anglican tradition. And you could go into two Episcopal
churches and not recognize them as the same church at all.
GROSS: What would some of the differences have been?
Bishop GRISWOLD: Well, one would be very bare with a minimum of decoration,
and the other would be filled with candles, statues, lace overcloths and all
the things that would suggest a Roman Catholic worship. And I remember
Episcopalians who were brought up in one tradition walking into a church of
the other tradition and being shocked at how different it was and feeling that
these were really two churches. And some of the battles between high and low
church were very ugly indeed. So controversy changes from time to time, the
issues change, and I say to people who say, `Oh, when will this be over, this
whole controversy over sexuality, then we can be at peace?' I say, `Wait a
minute. Something else will arise.'
GROSS: Well, how was the high/low church controversy and split settled?
Bishop GRISWOLD: I think it was settled largely by the revision of the
prayerbook which brought together in large measure those two factions, and so
high and low church is no longer really an operative dimension within the
Episcopal Church, although I think it's fair to say some are more
Bible-centered and some are more liturgically sacramentally centered.
GROSS: Which tradition did you come from: the high or the low church?
Bishop GRISWOLD: I came from a high church tradition, though when I was first
ordained, I served in what would have been called a low-church parish, which
taught me how to be flexible and look beyond the externals and see that there
was actually a continuity of faith even though that faith was somewhat
differently articulated. I think that has served me well throughout the
years. I look for the common ground in the midst of things that seem so
GROSS: How did your parents practice religion when you were growing up? What
was the style of religion that you were brought up with?
Bishop GRISWOLD: I was brought up in what I would call cultural
Episcopalianism. I was baptized on the 1st of January 1938, which would have
been my grandfather's 100th birthday. That was the reason for the day being
chosen, though it also turned out to be a holy day, but that was incidental,
and I never went near a church except for an occasional Christmas pageant when
my mother felt guilty around Christmastime until I was sent away in the eighth
grade to an Episcopal boarding school in New Hampshire. And there I was in
the choir and fascinated by the liturgy and the complexity of the rites of the
church, and there were seven priests on the faculty who took an interest in
me, and so I, in a very organic way, simply evolved into a person of faith.
And by the end of my time at that school, it was clear to me that I wanted to
be ordained, and this was supported by several of the clergy.
GROSS: What about your parents? What was their reaction? Were they
Bishop GRISWOLD: My mother was pleased with that. My father was appalled and
uncomprehending. It was very threatening to him.
Bishop GRISWOLD: I think he'd had a very difficult experience of the
church...(technical difficulties)...sort of a punishment, and so his sense of
the church was a punishing sense, whereas my mother had a much more positive
experience with the church as a young girl.
GROSS: Why was he--what was he being punished for and--I can't say I've ever
heard of that as a punishment for a boy before.
Bishop GRISWOLD: Well, apparently, he had struck another little boy and my
grandmother was so appalled that she sent him off to live with a--this priest
for a while to learn gentler ways.
GROSS: I guess he didn't. I mean...
Bishop GRISWOLD: No.
GROSS: ...that's not exactly the lesson he took away from that.
Bishop GRISWOLD: No, no, it isn't at all.
GROSS: So did he ever come around to thinking that you had really found your
place in the world by becoming part of the church?
Bishop GRISWOLD: He died shortly after I was ordained a priest, so he wasn't
around to see my evolution, and my sense is that he's probably watching from
afar and now is in a much better frame with respect to what I'm up to, and I
hope that I have his blessing.
GROSS: Did you feel called to be a priest, and if so, would you describe what
that means to you?
Bishop GRISWOLD: My call happened in a very funny way. My roommate at the
boarding school I mentioned came back one Sunday afternoon from a visit to one
of the clergy, fell on his bed, roaring with laughter and pointed to me and
said, `Father Jones says you should be a priest.' And the idea was so shocking
and yet fascinating that it sort of stayed with me and developed over time,
and I think sometimes a sense of vocation overtakes you in a way that
surprises you, and my sense of vocation has changed tremendously over the
years. I mean, I saw myself as this sort of perfect priest when I was still
in school and college, and certainly the vicissitudes of actually living the
life of a priest in several congregations and then life as a bishop has
stretched and changed my sense of vocation, but I feel very much that it's a
right thing for me to have undertaken, and I feel very much at peace with it.
GROSS: My guest is the presiding bishop of the US Episcopal Church, Frank
We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Bishop Frank Griswold. He is
the presiding bishop of the US Episcopal Church and his tenure--his nine-year
tenure--will end in November.
Let's get to another controversy that you've been involved in, and that is,
you've spoken out against the war in Iraq and against, you know, you said,
`The unilateral military action undermines the United States' efforts to
create a more secure and stable world.' In February of 2003 you 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.' You said, `I'd like to be able to go somewhere in the
world and not have to apologize for being from the US.' What kind of reactions
have you gotten from inside and outside your church to those comments?
Bishop GRISWOLD: I've gotten obviously mixed reactions. There are those who
said, `Thank you for saying it,' and others who've said, `Why don't you simply
move to Iraq?' And I think one of the reasons that I said what I said was the
experience in Africa of an archbishop who had 55 AIDS orphans in his house and
asked me why the United States at that point had sided with pharmaceutical
companies against making anti-retrovirals available essentially at cost, and I
was hard-pressed, obviously, to give an answer.
And I think one thing I've seen, in various parts of the world, is the fear of
American domination, both in terms of culture, and it's amazing what we export
culturally that is really debased, to say the least, and the way in which we
undermine local economies and social structures by having, you know, sneakers
made somewhere or other, and we see ourselves as benefiting the local
community, when in fact, we inadvertently destroy the structure of the rural
communities. So we're seen in other parts of the world not always as
beneficent, which is, of course, the way we'd like to see ourselves. I think
we are as a people very generous, but I think we need to be more self-critical
in how we deport ourselves and relate ourselves to other parts of the world.
GROSS: Your successor as presiding bishop of the US Episcopal Church is a
woman. You've traveled around the world, and you've been to parts of the
church in parts of the world that don't accept women as equals, that don't
think women should be ordained, let alone be bishops. What are some of the
things that you think she will be up against in her role in terms of people,
you know, in the church accepting her.
Bishop GRISWOLD: I've noticed that women bishops have been treated very
respectfully by bishops from other parts of the Anglican community where women
are not ordained, and I have every sense that Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori
will be treated respectfully as well. And I need to say, too, that after her
election there was a flood of e-mails from various parts of Africa--women in
various parts of Africa--saying, `Hurray. Congratulations. We're praying for
you.' So if you see the Anglican world not simply as male, but as male and
female, and you listen to the voices of women equally as you listen to the
voices of men, you can see that the election of a presiding bishop in this
country who is a woman is perceived in many, many parts of the world that
don't ordain women as something very positive and hopeful for women
GROSS: You know, in some ways I'm wondering if you think that the power
structure within your church, and other churches as well, doesn't really
reflect the larger feeling that you want from the church. The largest feeling
that you want from the church, you've said, is diversity, conversation with
people whose views are very different than your own to help you test the
truths that you believe in, to help you keep your mind open. But the power
structure of most churches, yours included, is largely male, heterosexual--I'd
say white except that there's a lot of churches around the world, like in
Bishop GRISWOLD: Right. Exactly.
GROSS: ...where the power structure is not white.
Bishop GRISWOLD: Anglicanism is no longer white...
GROSS: Yes. Exactly. Exactly. But anyways, do you think that the power
structure, the hierarchy of the church has a lot of catching up to do before
it reaches what your ambition of the church is, which is diversity.
Bishop GRISWOLD: I think there is a profound transformation going on, and
obviously it takes time because it has to be lived out historically, it can't
just simply be dropped from on high, and somehow I think we're seeing some of
that now. I mean, the Church of England which hasn't ordained women to the
episcopate is now seriously considering that possibility, and increasingly in
provinces in Africa, women are being ordained. So I see things shifting and
changing and ultimately what we're about is gender equity in the
decision-making life of the church. There need to be women at the table
alongside men so that there can be a true balance, and the totality of what
the Spirit is trying to do can be represented by men and women together.
GROSS: Is there anything that you really hoped to accomplish in your tenure
as presiding bishop of the US Episcopal Church that you feel like you wish you
had but you're not going to be able to do it?
Bishop GRISWOLD: What I've hoped to do, and only time will tell, is keep
people with differing points of view together in one larger conversation to
the point where they can recognize Christ in one another and, having done so,
ask the question, `How can we be about mission together? How can we serve
this broken, bleeding world?'
GROSS: Thank you very much for talking with us.
Bishop GRISWOLD: Thank you very much. I've very much enjoyed this.
GROSS: Bishop Frank Griswold. His nine-year tenure as presiding bishop of
the US Episcopal Church ends in November.
Coming up, David Edelstein reviews "Superman Returns."
This is FRESH AIR.
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Review: Film critic David Edelstein reviews "Superman Returns"
TERRY GROSS, host:
Superman returns today although he's never really been away. There have been
two popular TV series devoted to his exploits, "Lois & Clark" and
"Smallville," and the Superman comics are still around, but his last
big-screen adventure was 20 years ago. The new feature is directed by Bryan
Singer, who made "The Usual Suspects" and "X-Men," and it features newcomer
Brandon Routh as Superman and Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor.
Mr. DAVID EDELSTEIN: Every since Tim Burton's "Batman," filmmakers have
moved beyond the clean-cut, all-American aspects of comic-book superheroes to
explore their freaky alienation, asking, `What is it about these outlandish
characters that connects with our ordinary fears and longings?' If nothing
else, this trend allows directors like Burton, Christopher Nolan and even Ang
Lee to make movies for the teenage male demographic without losing their
In the first two "X-Men" movies, Bryan Singer made genetic mutancy a thinly
veiled metaphor for homosexuality. And he must have seen the perfect choice
to give Superman a new depth and urgency, but in "Superman Returns," he goes
so far in the direction of seriousness that he loses the material's pop pulse.
Before the credits, we learn that Superman has been absent from Earth for five
years in a vain search for survivors from his exploded home planet, Krypton.
Then Marlon Brandon appears as Superman's father Jor-El in footage from the
1978 original, reminding us of the grotesque waste of talent in the actor's
final 25 years. The John Williams theme and the familiar flying credits
signal the series won't be starting over, so no matter how good the new guy
is, we'll feel the loss of Christopher Reeves. As it turns out, the new guy,
Brandon Routh, isn't very good at all, and when he is, it's because he's
channeling Reeve's dithering as Clark Kent and sheepish little grin at his own
prowess as the man of steel.
In the first scene, an elderly woman expires after leaving her fortune to
arch-villain Lex Luthor, and she's played by Noel Neill, the marvelous Lois
Lane from the '50s TV show. Is this a comeback or a funeral?
In "Superman Returns," Lois Lane, played by Kate Bosworth, has just won a
Pulitzer for an editorial called "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman," an
obvious expression of rage at her own abandonment. I had a brief hope the
movie would turn into a sort of comedy of remarriage, Superman and Lois in
"His Girl Friday." But there's no chance with Bosworth. She isn't a bad
actress, but she's motorless, with guileless little eyes, and the hot-shot
investigative reporter Lois is now an overprotective single mom with a frail
boy and an earnest fiance. Listen to the painfully sincere dialogue in her
first meeting alone with Superman on the roof of the Daily Planet.
(Soundbite from "Superman Returns")
Ms. KATE BOSWORTH: (As Lois Lane) Let's start with the big question:
Where'd you go?
Mr. BRANDON ROUTH: (As Superman) Krypton.
Ms. BOSWORTH: (As Lois) But you told me it was destroyed ages ago.
Mr. ROUTH: (As Superman) It was. Astronomers thought they'd found it. I
had to see for myself.
Ms. BOSWORTH: (As Lois) So you're back, and everyone seems to be pretty
happy about it.
Mr. ROUTH: (As Superman) Not everyone. I read the article, Lois.
Ms. BOSWORTH: (As Lois) Yeah, so did a lot of people. Tomorrow night
they're giving me the Pulitzer.
Mr. ROUTH: (As Superman) Why did you write it?
Ms. BOSWORTH: (As Lois) How could you leave us like that? I moved on. So
did the rest of us. That's why I wrote it. The world doesn't need a saviour.
And neither do I.
(End of soundbite)
Mr. EDELSTEIN: There are exciting scenes in "Superman Returns," like the man
of steel running faster, as the catch phrase goes, "than a speeding bullet."
And there's a sequence in which he rescues a plane that should be every bit as
thrilling as the one in "Spider-Man 2," where Spidey stops a speeding subway
car. But even the movie's superheroics have a pall over them. They're like
stop-gap measures in a world slipping grimly into the abyss. Instead of
accelerating, the film gets heavier. Kevin Spacey's Lex Luthor mutilates
Superman with sadistic relish. The sequence is so brutal and ugly that
Luthor's jokey comeuppance feels monstrously inadequate, but by then the
audience has moved ahead of Singer. Scenes that a director with some
comic-book snap would have compressed into 15 seconds drag on for minutes, and
the lugubrious martyrdom climax would make Wagner check his watch. It's not
that the movie is two and a half hours. It's that it feels like two and a
"Superman Returns" does have grace notes. The special effects are often
gorgeous. And I love the moment when Clark uses his x-ray vision to watch
Lois lift lyrically off in an elevator. As Luthor's mole, Parker Posey has a
few tart lines, and there's a great scene where Lois and her son overcome a
thug with the aid of a grand piano. But even here Singer lingers too long.
The director carries over his "X-Men" motif, the melancholy of the terminal
outsider in a way that feels bizarrely wrong for Superman. "Superman Returns"
isn't terrible, but it sinks under the weight of its seriousness. It's the
first Superman movie that makes being able to fly seem like a curse.
GROSS: David Edelstein is the film critic for New York Magazine.
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Profile: Red Cross clarifies decision not to accept Dixie Chicks'
TERRY GROSS, host:
Earlier this month I spoke with the Dixie Chicks. As you probably know, there
was a great deal of controversy surrounding the group following a critical
comment about President Bush made by lead singer Natalie Mains just before the
invasion of Iraq. Much of their country music audience was furious with them,
and a lot of country stations stopped playing their records. The band members
even had to protect themselves against death threats. When I asked them about
the boycotts and other repercussions of the controversy, one of the Dixie
Chicks mentioned they had offered to donate $1 million to the Red Cross, but
the Red Cross turned them down with a "thanks-but-no-thanks" reply. The Red
Cross has asked us for the opportunity to clarify why they declined the offer
of $1 million from the Dixie Chicks. The Red Cross prepared the following
(Reading) "In 2003, following the controversy that erupted on a London stage,
the Dixie Chicks approached the American Red Cross proposing a promotional
partnership for their forthcoming summer tour. There was no offer of an
unrestricted gift to support the lifesaving mission of the Red Cross as is
customary with most donors. The proposed relationship would have called for
the Red Cross to publicly embrace a talented group of entertainers during a
widely publicized, politically motivated controversy. Since the American Red
Cross, like other national Red Cross organizations around the world must
operate within the bounds of its founding principles of impartiality and
neutrality, the controversy made it impermissible for the Red Cross to
associate itself with the band. Should the Dixie Chicks decide to make an
unconditional financial donation to the American Red Cross, we would gladly
accept it and put it to work for our lifesaving mission."
That's a statement from the American Red Cross.
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GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.