"Rude" Ruth asks: Would Bishop Griswold do it again?

grh consecration3Someone in the company of Frank Griswold, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, apparently has not grasped a basic principle of sensible media relations: Do not berate a reporter who’s trying to do her job.

Let’s go to the account by Ruth Gledhill of the London Times, writing in The Church of England Newspaper:

He was standing in front of me, looking me in the eye and smiling. In England at least, this is normally taken by journalists as an invitation to proceed.

“Bishop, would you do it again?”

He is not an Archbishop, so the fault was not in the style of address. But clearly I had done something very wrong. In an instant, his minder had translocated from her place by his side to stand right in front of him, glare up at me and state: “You are so rude.”

The “it” in Gledhill’s sentence referred to consecrating Gene Robinson — the first bishop of the Episcopal Church who openly discussed his homosexuality before his election. It seems like a reasonable question, and it’s a fair bet Gledhill anticipated an answer in the affirmative (albeit heavily nuanced).

One reason not to berate a reporter is that you may prompt her to draw her own conclusions, based on her observation of your actions:

But surely even Frank Griswold could see it might not be the best idea in the world to shun a national newspaper journalist in that way. Then again, a primate who is capable of overriding the opinions of large parts of the Global South, not to mention parts of his own province, is clearly not going to give a toss about The Times. We will never know. He was frogmarched from the room before any more questions could be asked.

Now if an Anglican prelate cannot tell his own, diminutive female minder that on this occasion, it might not be a bad idea to answer a question — and we all know that Grizzy has no problem thinking up appropriately slippery answers to even the most direct of interrogations — however is he going to be able to exert any authority he does have to ensure his bishops abide by the moratorium asked for in the Windsor report? My guess, judging from this encounter and from his statements in the preceding debate with Josiah Fearon, is that he is not even going to try.

. . . It is up to you, archbishops, to ask Frank Griswold whether he or his church intend any more consecrations of the kind that the Windor Report has asked for a moratorium on. He may not tell you the answer either. But as you already know, if you don’t ask him, he certainly won’t tell. You at least will not be ticked off, simply for asking the question.

And I have one final word for Frank. If I was rude to you today Frank, which I don’t think I was, I do regret it very much. But I won’t apologise. Is there a difference? Maybe you don’t think there is.

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  • http://onlinefaith.blogspot.com C. Wingate

    I note in reading the full article that Ms. Gledhill has fallen into what is turning out to be the typical conservative misapprehension of affairs. Reading the report as if the committee were a jury is a mistake; in particular it’s clear to me that they don’t mean to place ECUSA and the AMiA in some sort of balance against each other. They depict the latter as exacerbating the troubles of the former, but as far as blame is concerned, “ECUSA started it” and ECUSA has to play by the rules no matter what.

    I say this because, even if you think that the report is good and sufficient, it isn’t going to work. It’s all there in the unanswered question: it’s pretty clear that the answer is “yes”. The report says, “this needs to be done”, and the conservatives say, “that’s not enough”, and then Griswold seems to be saying (one must always use “seems” with “Grizzy”), “we aren’t doing it.”

    At this point the conservatives ought to be thinking about their options in the face of the communion’s failure, and not worry about who was criticized the most.

  • http://www.wildfaith.com Darrell Grizzle

    I certainly don’t see anything rude or inappropriate in Ruth’s question. Bishop Gene Robinson himself has been asked this question and has responded with honesty and grace. It’s very disappointing that our Presiding Bishop won’t do the same.

  • Daniel Stoddart

    “Reading the report as if the committee were a jury is a mistake.”

    Except for the fact that nothing in Gledhill’s piece suggests that she did that.

    The comment by Wingate is basically a paraphrase of Bishop Wright’s remarks the other day, in other words, it isn’t a particularly original thought, either. Especially that bit about who’s to blame.

    “ECUSA has to play by the rules no matter what.”

    What rules were they?

  • http://onlinefaith.blogspot.com C. Wingate

    It’s this passage (not found in the GR excerpt) and what follows it a bit later: “The chastisement of those bishops who have breached provincial boundaries seems more than unfair, and they certainly do not deserve to go in the same dock as those who prompted their actions.” I don’t read the report as saying that, but as presenting them as two distinct problematic responses in the crisis. And with all due respect to Bishop Wright, I’d formed this opinion before I came upon the interview with him. So had a lot of others (see Leonidas Harding’s summary, for example). I’d like to think that this commonality of interpretation arises out of a report which is straightforward to interpret.

    What I’m seeing in watching the reactions bounce around the internet is that a lot of people feel that they must proclaim where they stand on the moral issue, and that they think that those proclamations themselves are necessary moral acts. Now, I personally don’t agree with that anyway, but it’s also blatantly obvious that on the internet this almost always turns into a combination pep rally and self-justification party. And it carries the subtext that being effective isn’t as important as posturing.

    For example, I found a SBC publication more or less denouncing us for not acting like, well, Southern Baptists, and for even arguing over sexuality at all when everyone knows that the SBC has the right answers on homosexuality. I read that and thought, “well, yeah, but why should any Anglican care?”

    It is a constant complaint among the media-watching media in the USA that the big media are practically in bondage to the depiction of the election as a horse race, thus burying the actual issues. Ms. Gledhill’s article isn’t *that* bad, but the “who was chastized worse” bit tends in this direction. In the end this simply isn’t going to matter; it’s the refusal of the Robinson party to give more than lip service to the least demand of the report that is going to be the determining response.


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