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By David G. Duggan ©
Special to Virtueonline
March 8, 2023

I was living and working in New York City when Frank Tracy Griswold was elected bishop of Chicago in 1985. That was the season that the Bears won the Super Bowl and by the time I returned to the diocese of my upbringing later that year (attending the Bears' January 1986 playoff victories over the NY Giants and the LA Rams), he had been consecrated co-adjutor. The following year, after Bishop James Winchester Montgomery had retired, he became the top guy of a diocese with more than 130 parishes. Diocesan for nearly 20 years, Montgomery was a tough act to follow. Griswold wasn't equal to the task so in true Anglican form, he was kicked upstairs to be the Presiding Bishop in 1998. Our paths didn't cross until he returned to memorialize the suffragan who was jammed down his throat.

There are three hallmarks of his tenure in Chicago: 1) parish and clergy tension over Griswold's imperious style; 2) a continuation of the wink-and-nod homosexual infiltration of the diocese begun by Montgomery; and 3) an almost "benign neglect" of the task of building up the numbers of the faithful. Shortly after he moved here, he expressed dissatisfaction with the provincials in the Second City, and I suspect that the provincials grew tired of his act as well. Socially a cold fish, Griswold could be protected only so long by the St. Grottlesex mafia which has controlled the Episcopal Church for the last century-and-a-half. (That's St. Paul's-or Mark's, Groton, and Middlesex, high-end prep schools in NH and MA).

Toward the end of his tenure, Montgomery didn't enjoy the full support of his clergy. Twenty years in the job will do that to you and he was running out of tricks to keep the diocese afloat with funds from Miriam Hoover--the Brooke Astor of Chicago. Griswold, a scion of Mainline Philadelphia, St. Paul's in Concord NH, Harvard, General Theological Seminary and Oxford, was perceived as a breath of fresh air. Be careful what you wish for. Within five years of Griswold's arrival, parishes were rebelling against the 14% tax on "assigned parish income," and without a suffragan to visit the outlying parishes in the diocese which stretches to the Mississippi River, he was stretched rather thin. The suburban and rural parishes--always too provincial for the urbane Griswold--practically demanded that the diocese call a suffragan (it hadn't had one since the Rt. Rev. Quintin E. Primo, Jr. had retired in the early 1980s).

Enter J. Clark Grew. Namesake of the US ambassador to Japan on December 7, 1941, and another graduate of the St. Grottlesex-Harvard pipeline, Grew was the rector of Holy Spirit, Lake Forest, then perhaps the wealthiest parish in the Diocese. He told Griswold that the other "cardinal" parishes of the diocese had his back and would pony up any shortfall if it adopted "voluntary apportionment." And call a suffragan: one old enough not to challenge your authority. Enter William Wiedrich, an evangelical from Madison WI. Six years Griswold's senior, Wiedrich couldn't wait to retire when he turned 65, six months before Griswold was elected presiding bishop.

Wiedrich died in 2014 and Griswold returned to perform the memorial at St. James Cathedral. So fraught was their relationship (Griswold objected to Wiedrich's wearing a purple shirt) that unlike other retired bishops who take on interim rector gigs or visiting academic posts, Wiedrich had nothing to do with the Episcopal Church in his nearly 20-year retirement. Grew was rewarded by being elected Bishop of Northeast Ohio and in "old boy's network" style played a role in having Griswold elected PB.

Begun under Montgomery, the "gayification" of the clergy continued under Griswold. The dean of the cathedral was of that persuasion, and Bonnie Perry came to the diocese with her domestic partner. Bonnie quickly ingratiated herself with Griswold who appointed her to all sorts of committees and congratulated himself by calling her the "energizer bunny," while he was the "bishop of systems."

Meanwhile the "bonds of affection" uniting the suburban parishes to the downtown morass were strained to the breaking point. A highly successful parish in West Chicago had outgrown its building and was using space on Wheaton College's campus. This of course invaded the local parish's exclusive territory, and the rector of Trinity Wheaton objected. That led to the first departure of an Episcopal clergyman to the AMIA breakaway group. Did I mention that this was an evangelical parish, rooted in the Hispanic community yearning for the Word of God? Other instances of tone-deafness to local parishes' needs abound. And did I mention that one of the gay clergy was shunted from parish to parish while Griswold's canon pastor Chilton Knudsen failed in her duty to protect an underage victim? Thirty years later this came back to haunt the diocese which paid out $750,000 to settle the claim.

I don't begrudge Griswold's tenure as the 10th bishop of Chicago. In a sense he was good to me: it was under his watch that the Anglican Advance, the award-winning newspaper circulated throughout the diocese, began running my devotional essays, winning further awards for their content. Its editor even ran the essays with my picture. At a service of installation of a new rector, I said hello to the bishop. He didn't know who I was.

Frank Tracy Griswold, RIP. You will be judged by an authority greater than history and greater than those who are lamenting your passage. May the Lord have mercy on your soul.

David Duggan is a retired attorney living in Chicago

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