Though the term did not subsequently appear in the formal record of proceedings, numbers of friends concurred with me that the Archbishop of Canterbury (then George Carey) had thanked me, on the occasion of my maiden speech in the General Synod – an attack on the Porvoo Agreement – for its ‘graciousness’.
To be deemed ‘gracious’ by one known as ‘Your Grace’ seemed to me, in my innocence, to be the zenith of synodical achievement. But, of course, the term as applied to me, remained as yet doubtful in its meaning. ‘Gracious’, in those far off days of 1994, was still at the bottom of the trajectory of meaning which it has traversed in Anglican parlance. ‘Gracious’ has subsequently been revalued by having become the stock in trade of Frank Griswold and his conies.
You will, of course, by now have rushed to the OED.
None of the uses described there exactly fits the Griswoldian application. They run as follows (I will not bother you with the historical citations):
Enjoying grace or favour; in good odour; favourable, popular.
Of a character likely to find favour; having pleasing qualities (with a subsection relating to good looks and physical beauty).
Characterized by or exhibiting kindness or courtesy; kindly, benevolent.
Condescendingly kind and beneficent to others of a lower status.
Of the Deity, Christ or the Virgin Mary: to dispose, how or dispense Grace;
merciful, compassionate and benignant.
None of these is what Frank means. What the Presiding Bishop and his friends mean by ‘gracious’ is something altogether more technical. They are referring to the way in which individuals are prepared to jettison long-held general principles in response to declared and heartfelt hurt.
A person is gracious when, although a devout Catholic, she meets her friend out of the abortion clinic. A person is ‘gracious’ when, though opposed to women’s ordination, she receives Holy Communion from a divorced female bishop. A person is ‘gracious’ when, though convinced that homosexual practice is contrary to Holy Scripture, she welcomes the consecration of Gene Robinson.
To be ‘gracious’, in Frank’s use of the term, is to be prepared to sacrifice every principle of dogma on the sacred altar of sentiment – and above all, of course, to agree with Frank.