BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: For more than a year now, we've been reporting on the deep divisions over homosexuality in the worldwide Anglican Communion and its American branch, the Episcopal Church USA. At the center of the crisis is Frank Griswold, presiding bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church. The presiding bishop can't make or repeal Church positions. But he holds great moral authority in implementing policies approved at the Church's General Convention -- even policies that threaten to tear the church apart. Kim Lawton talked with Bishop Griswold.
KIM LAWTON: As presiding bishop, Frank Griswold is lead pastor and chief administrator of the 2.3 million-member Episcopal Church USA. It's a prestigious job, and these days, he admits, a challenging one.
Bishop FRANK GRISWOLD (Presiding Bishop, Episcopal Church USA): It has not been easy to be the presiding bishop in this season.
LAWTON: Griswold is at the center of what many believe is the biggest crisis the Episcopal Church has faced in its more than 200-year history -- a crisis that threatens the future not only of the U.S. Church, but also of the entire worldwide Anglican Communion. It was under Griswold's watch that the U.S. Church approved the consecration of its first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, and permitted the blessing of same-sex unions.
Those actions ignited spiraling controversy, not just over homosexuality, but also about the interpretation of Scripture, the nature of church authority, and the organization of the Anglican Communion. In the midst of it all, Griswold says his responsibility is to push for unity and reconciliation.
Bishop GRISWOLD: My basic task is to keep as many people at the table as possible, and to remind everyone that though they have their own particular point of view, there are others who have another point of view, and they are equally members of the church, loved by God, members of Christ's risen body, and therefore must be taken with full seriousness. And it's in the tension, often, that the truth, whatever it may be, gets more fully revealed.
LAWTON: But statements like that have earned Griswold sharp criticism from conservatives who believe the U.S. Church has violated the Bible's condemnations of homosexuality and violated traditional church teachings.
Canon DAVID ANDERSON (American Anglican Council): The Church starts with truth and finds its unity grounded on that truth, and in the Episcopal Church, according to the presiding bishop, there are pluriform truths: your truth, my truth, his truth. And that is no basis for trying to find unity.
LAWTON: Griswold presided over the consecration of Bishop Robinson and has been open about his own view that there can be differing interpretations of the Scripture. But he says he tries to minister to all, even those who disagree with him.
Bishop GRISWOLD: Certainly as the presiding bishop I see myself as belonging to everyone even though I have my own points of view. I care as much for people who are distressed as people who think the actions are inspired by the Spirit.
LAWTON: But Canon David Anderson, president of the conservative American Anglican Council, says Bishop Griswold has lost the trust of many in his flock.
Canon ANDERSON: We do acknowledge his leadership, but we acknowledge it to have been a fairly disastrous leadership so far, and we are hoping that there might be some changes in the course of direction of the Episcopal Church. We'd love for him to step down and recognize the damage he's done.