Though we may not spend much time consciously thinking about that war, I have no doubt that it has found its way into the America psyche. How could it not but foster a deep seated anxiety. It so easily gives rise to xenophobia. It probably plays into our irrational response to immigrants across our borders, and it contributes to an irrational fear of Islam.
Nothing could symbolize that irrational fear more than the choreographed uproar that was generated around the proposed Islamic Center at Park 51. I found it fascinating that among the most outspoken critics, few were actually New Yorkers. Though we New Yorkers are rarely of one mind on anything, the view is pretty widely held that it is the pluralism of New York that make it the great state and city that it is. It was in that spirit that I was asked to represent the Diocese of New York, and indeed the Episcopal Church, as a part of an interfaith consultation that met in Washington, D.C., in early September.
In that spirit of dialogue and inquiry I have asked Imam Mohamad Bashar Arafat to address us later in the day in order to help us understand more clearly some of the insights and values that Islam and Christianity hold in common.
All in all this has been an eventful year. One important but unanticipated outcome of the financial crisis has struck especially close to home. The General Theological Seminary, one of the most venerable Episcopal Church institutions in this Diocese, an institution of broad importance to the entire Episcopal Church, has come perilously close to bankruptcy. A new interim President and an interim Dean have been recruited to address crucially important and nearly over-whelming financial challenges. As a part of that general turn-around effort I was asked to serve as Chairman of the Board. Though that is not something I ever anticipated, never-the-less I felt I could not ignore such a request at a pivotal moment in the life of seminary to which I personally, and so many others, owe so very much.