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On July 27, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori notified the standing committee that the necessary consents to the ordination and consecration of the Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester as bishop of the diocese were not received within the prescribed time period and therefore his election was "null and void."
The committee's statement said, "We invite the wider church to reflect with us on what this experience can teach us about the episcopal search and consent process. Among the issues ripe for discussion are how bishops and standing committees can best be made aware of the particular needs of individual dioceses, and how new communications technologies affect the consent process. We hope that out of our disappointment can come a deeper understanding of the ways in which we can all be accountable to one another as members of the body of Christ."
Read it all.
The rejection of Thew Forrester comes just a day after Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, criticized the Episcopal Church for departing from church tradition by lifting a de facto ban on gay bishops and allowing blessings for same-sex unions. The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion.
"This could be taken as a strong shout from two different places about the importance of doing theological work on our foundations," said the Rev. Kendall Harmon, canon theologian for the Diocese of South Carolina, which voted against Thew Forrester.
Thew Forrester, rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Marquette, Mich., said in a statement that "I have been extraordinarily blessed and honored to walk with my friends from the Diocese of Northern Michigan over these past months as their bishop-elect."
"As we live and move and have our being in Christ, there is truly a Holy Wisdom in all that is unfolding, and as St. John of the Cross affirms, a face in `all that happens,"' Thew Forrester said.
Read it all.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on July 27 notified the standing committee of the Diocese of Northern Michigan that the necessary consents to the ordination and consecration of the Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester as bishop were not received within the prescribed time period and therefore his election was "null and void."
Read it all.
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But others decried the largely Internet-driven campaign to challenge Thew Forrester's fitness, warning that future bishop-elects will face the kind of scrutiny previously reserved for Supreme Court nominees.
Retired Bishop of Eastern Oregon Rustin Kimsey, in an April interview, said today's Episcopal Church is more alarmed by theological innovation than it was decades ago.
"At least some bishops are feeling that their primary call is to protect the faith from error. I think that's always a dangerous place to be," Kimsey said.
Read it all.
The Standing Committee of the Diocese of California voted recently to withhold consent to the Rev. Kevin G. Thew Forrester as bishop of Northern Michigan. The vote was close, according to diocesan spokesman Sean McConnell.
California is the 57th standing committee to withhold consent from Thew Forrester. Twenty-nine have given consent and 25 either haven’t voted or haven’t revealed their votes, according to a survey by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
The Diocese, one of 110 scattered across the U.S., Caribbean, Latin America, Asia and Europe, includes San Francisco and much of the Bay Area.
Read it all.
The issue that posed the largest concern for the most of us was the ability of the candidate to articulate the Christian faith and to uphold the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church. It is clear to us Thew-Forrester is a deeply spiritual man who is passionate and articulate about his approach to faith. However, it is apparent from his writing, preaching and the liturgies he has written that he has difficulty with the most basic teachings of the Christian faith about the person and work of Jesus Christ, the nature of the Trinity, the nature of sin and the atonement.
Read it all.
Christian leaders outside the Episcopal Church said the church's handling of Thew Forrester has implications beyond the denomination.
"If a so-called bishop does not agree with the central elements of the Christian faith, then he should not call himself a Christian, let alone a bishop—nor should a church ordain him. He is an apostate from the Faith; and a church that ordains such a one is also apostate," said George O. Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler agrees.
"The difference between orthodoxy and heresy is of vital importance to every evangelical believer," he said. "We should feel grief and pain whenever we see a church that is involved in this kind of basic theological turmoil and where we hear the truth of the gospel denied, because it compromises the gospel witness of Christians around the world."
Read it all.
Facing criticism for withholding information from its 2.3 million members, the Episcopal Church has quietly removed from its new IAmEpiscopalian.org website assurances that the church is committed to openness and transparency in government.
For months, the site had proclaimed on its home page: “Our controversies and conversations have been public. Our governance is tranparent. You are free to see our imperfections…”
Read it all and follow the links.
On Friday (June 5), the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, which has kept an unofficial running tally of the voting, reported that 56 standing committees—a majority—have voted to withhold their “consents.”
The official tally will not be known until at least late July, when all of the ballots are due.
Linda Piper, president of the Diocese of Northern Michigan’s standing committee, which keeps the official tally, would not confirm the report. But, she said, “Do I think this is probably the way it’s going to go? Unfortunately, I would not be surprised.”
Piper acknowledged it would be an “uphill climb,” for Thew Forrester to get the consents he needs.
Read it all.
The Rev. Canon Charles Robertson, canon to the Presiding Bishop, told ENS that the consent process for a bishop-elect lasts the full 120 days as prescribed by the canons of the church, unless that person receives the required majority of consents before the period is over, at which time an announcement can be made. Until the required number of consents is received, or the 120 day period ends, bishops and standing committees are able to change their vote, he said....
Thew Forrester told ENS that his theology is "steeped in the orthodox tradition and deeply rooted particularly in the desert wisdom of Christianity and in the fathers and mothers of the early church as well as the medieval mystics" and is "thoroughly grounded in the tradition." He added that the diocese's experiments with liturgies are a "recovery of some of our earliest Christian roots" while upholding the tradition of the Book of Common Prayer and "recognizing that it is a dynamic and evolving tradition, which is why it continues to thrive."
"We uphold the prayer book and continue to explore, and we've done so -- and I've done so -- as openly and responsibly as possible out of love for the tradition and out of commitment to the tradition and wanting to be in dialogue with the tradition and wanting to engage in dialogue with the 21st century," he said.
Thew Forrester acknowledged that people may hear "echoes of other traditions whether it be Buddhism or another faith tradition, but those are only echoes," but he said that the source has been the traditions of the early Christian church.
I note there is no mention of the only diocese (of which I am aware) which spoke directly to the Northern Michigan situation at a Diocesan Convention, South Carolina. In any event, read it all--KSH.
Read it all and note the date--and who do we know is the author?.
Frank Lockwood has the goods
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I have great respect for Kevin, and great regard for the Diocese of Northern Michigan. It saddens me greatly, therefore, to tell you that I am unable to consent to this election. As I have said, many issues have been raised; I will name only one: Kevin’s revision of our liturgy of Holy Baptism.
It is of course true that ours is a living tradition, and that as the Church’s context changes, its liturgy will also change. The Church must have zones of innovation for the responsible exploration of such change. But these must be established within canonically acceptable boundaries, and they must be conducted in a way which is accountable to the whole church. I have concluded that the changes Kevin made, and the manner in which he made them, however much designed and intended to be responsible and accountable, quite simply exceeded the authority of any bishop and diocese, let alone rector and parish. It is not that the liturgy of Baptism cannot be changed, and indeed might not one day be changed; my concern is that this liturgy is so very essential to our identity and to our understanding of our mission that any revision can only be undertaken after very careful consideration by all of us, authorized only by the whole of our church through legitimate processes. Not only has that not been done in this instance; I am not confident that, for all his very immense talents and deep commitment to serve this church, Kevin will refrain from future unauthorized experimentation. In my judgment, that lack of assurance is critical.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Northern Michigan * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry
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Read it all.
I’ve been doing some number crunching on these votes compared with past votes (i.e. consents ...[re:Gene Robinson] and Mark Lawrence and some other votes from General Convention 2003).
Theoretically, the vote totals could still be close. We’ve heard from more of the “conservative” (expected NO voting) bishops and dioceses - about 60% of each, as compared with only about 38% of the “liberal” (expected YES voting) bishops and dioceses.
So… don’t be surprised if the YES totals climb quite a bit while the NO totals stay fairly stable for awhile.
There are at least 35 liberal bishops yet to be heard from. Theoretically, if they all voted Yes (very doubtful at this point) Forrester could have a total 49 Yes votes among bishops if past voting patterns held. However, the liberal bishops would now have to ALL vote YES for that to happen. So far only about 62% of the “liberal” bishops who have voted have voted YES. Among the “conservative bishops” 97% have voted NO as expected.
It is a similar story among Standing Committees. We still have yet to hear from 60% of the “liberal” dioceses. Theoretically, if they all voted YES, Forrester could get 53 YES votes and 58 NO votes. Consent would be denied. I don’t see how Forrester can pull off consent among the Standing Committees unless some current NO votes are switched. Forrester has lost the votes of 12 “liberal” dioceses whom we would have expected to vote YES. i.e. only 54% of the liberal dioceses are voting YES, while 97% of the conservative dioceses are voting NO.
For those who are curious, the “Swing” vote on the conservative side in both the bishop and the standing committee column is San Joaquin. So, it is not even really a “swing” since all the past voting record is for the Anglican Diocese under Bishop Schofield, now part of ACNA, whereas the YES votes are by +Lamb and the new Standing Committee. There have been no other “defections” among conservative bishops or dioceses.
Hope this data is of interest, if people want more details, let me know, though I’ll likely now be offline until Sunday.
The vast majority of Episcopal Church standing committees in the United States are releasing the results of their votes on the consent process for the diocese of Northern Michigan — or say they’ll release them when their voting is complete.
With 21 more standing committees weighing in, here’s my count:
Committees voting for consent: 15
Committees voting against consent: 37
Read it all.
I find it in-credible when I read that some of the bishops withholding consent around the issue of not adhering strictly to the BCP are, as I know personally, adapting Enriching Our Worship because he does not like the Eucharistic liturgies contained therein. He has exacting standards and, in fact, his revisions are very good. So why deny another gifted and talented priest from exercising his gifts of leadership as a bishop when he is exercising great care and love for the liturgy of the church?
I’m also curious about Anglo-Catholic parishes that still use the 1928 Prayer Book and the 1951 American Missal and wonder whether bishops must insist that such parishes adhere to the 1979 BCP? Again one of Forrester’s strongest detractors allows such diversity in his diocese. And what about parishes that feel strongly about inviting all, even the unbaptized, to the Eucharistic table? This happens all over the country and, shy of instituting a Liturgy Patrol, my guess is it will (and should) continue.
I have heard it said that the model of ministry being practiced and lived out in the Diocese of Northern Michigan is also a cause for some concern. This truly is disturbing. Our church is struggling to find new ways of being the church. What I find amazing is that one small diocese, completely faithful to TEC and having never considered leaving it, is being judged so harshly for its choice of bishop. Here is a man who loves TEC, loves his diocese and is proud of his Anglican heritage and is now facing the possibility of not being able to live out the vision of his diocese which has been the model for dioceses in Scotland, Canada and other parts of TEC.
Read it all.
Read the letter from the Bishop.
Dear Fr Thew Forrester:
I most earnestly beg you to stop talking about Saint Anselm. You simply do not know what you are talking about, and your apologia is not helped by your insistence on perpetuating pseudo-historical claptrap about this great theologian.
In Approaching the Heart of Faith, you quote a passage from Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire in which the authors say that "Anselm's doctrine of the atonement gave support for holy war" and that his "theology and piety crystallized the religious foundations of the Crusades." "Christians," the authors say, "were exhorted to imitate Christ's self-offering in the cause of God's justice." Exhorted by whom? Certainly not by Anselm, who would have rejected any such notion as fundamentally incompatible with his key conclusions in Cur Deus Homo: the sufficiency of the God-man's self-offering and the inability of fallen human beings to do anything on their own to effect a reconciliation between themselves and God. Indeed, the idea that Anselm's soteriology could provide theological underpinnings for the Crusades is not merely a gross libel against Anselm but rather obvious nonsense.
The authors seek to paper over this nonsense by sleight of hand, invoking "Peace by the blood of the Cross." I take it we're to think that the notion of the bloody Cross as an instrument of peace leads naturally to the Crusades. But for Anselm, the peace that is made by the blood of the Cross is peace between God and humanity -- a peace that is entirely of God's own making, that he initiates and sustains because he loves us and created us for himself -- and the blood of the Cross can only be the blood of the God-man, offered once for all as a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and (yes) satisfaction. How any reasonable or fair-minded person can think that this soteriology supports wars of conquest and religious imperialism is beyond me.
Read it all.
… ‘the way’ that John speaks of is not about believing doctrines about Jesus. Rather, ‘the way’ is what we see incarnate in Jesus: the path of death and resurrection as the way to rebirth in God. According to John, this is the only way – . . . it is ‘the way’ spoken of by all the major religions of the world. Dying and rising is the way. Thus Jesus is ‘the Way’ – the way become flesh. Rather than being the unique revelation of a way known only in him, his life and death are the incarnation of a universal way known in all of the enduring religions.
Read it carefully and read it all.
...the bishop of Spokane, the Right Rev. James E. Waggoner, told me today (5/5/09) he has consented to the election of the Rev. Kevin G. Thew Forrester as bishop of Northern Michigan.
The word that Waggoner used most (about a half-dozen times) to describe Thew Forrester is “integrity.” Bishop Waggoner said he knows Thew Forrester, he’s worked with Thew Forrester, he’s read the bishop-elect’s writings and he’s observed the bishop-elect’s leadership.
“He’s a person of integrity in his proclamation of the Gospel, in his preaching, in his teaching. I think it [Thew Forrester's message] certainly is orthodox and has integrity to it,” Waggoner said.
Read it all.
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When the Episcopal Ministry Support Team was affirmed and Kevin Thew Forrester was elected bishop of our diocese at the Special Convention in February, it seemed to many to be the end of the process, the culmination of many months of hard work by the Episcopal Ministry Discernment Team, and the joyful beginning of the next phase of life in our diocese. In reality it was only the beginning of a process in the Episcopal Church that surrounds the election of a bishop. Following the election, when all the documentation certifying the election was sent to the national church, along with the reports from the required physical and psychological examinations of the bishop-elect, the “consent” process began. Before the ordination of a bishop-elect can occur, a majority of the bishops with jurisdiction over dioceses and a majority of the Standing Committees of the dioceses of the Episcopal Church must give their consent to the ordination. In past years this was a relatively easy process whose positive outcome was assumed, but not so in recent years. Once the proper documents have been received in the Presiding Bishop’s office the requests for consents are sent out. For the bishops these consents are requested by the Presiding Bishop, and her office receives the responses. For the Standing Committees these requests are sent out by the Standing Committee of the electing diocese, and responses are returned there. Each group, the bishops and the Standing Committees, has 120 days to return the forms, indicating that they give consent to the ordination or that they refuse to give consent.
Read it all.
What other religious leaders are saying about the teachings of the Rev. Kevin G. Thew Forrester, the bishop-elect of Northern Michigan: “I don’t really see what there is left to say - the unique incarnation, saving death, bodily resurrection and universal lordship of Jesus are basic to Christian faith and to question that means you are disqualified from being an upholder of that faith in any official capacity in the church. That such a man should be considered even a possibility for a bishop is quite simply extraordinary.” - The right Rev. N.T. Wright, lord bishop of Durham, England “I think [Thew Forrester is] solidly a Christian believer, a disciple of Jesus Christ and will be a faithful bishop. ... I don’t think he’s outside the tent of acceptable theological thinking and understanding.” - The right Rev. Tom Ely, bishop of Vermont “This gentleman, apparently, doesn’t believe the creeds. ... The doctrine of redemption through the incarnation and atoning work and resurrection and heavenly reign at present and future return of the second person of the Godhead: That is Christianity. Take that away and you have destroyed the Christian religion. Period. That’s what Christianity is about.” - Regent College Professor of Theology J.I. Packer
Read it all.
27 April, 2009
The Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina is unable to consent to the election of the Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester as Bishop of Northern Michigan for the following reasons:
1. Writings and sermons of Fr. Thew Forrester and liturgies composed by him call into serious question his understanding of and commitment to Nicene orthodoxy regarding the nature of the Trinity , the unique revelation of God in Christ , the nature and necessity of the Atonement, and the Virgin Birth.
2. An unauthorized Baptismal rite composed and used by Fr. Thew Forrester calls into serious question his sacramental understanding and judgment. Within the rite itself, the lack of the renunciations – in any remotely recognizable Christian form- represent a cutting loose from the historic moorings of Anglicanism in the catholic Tradition of the Church. We see this as a grave error.
3. The Episcopal office is the teaching office of the Church, therefore the consecration of a bishop is, in effect, a public teaching on behalf of the whole church. Consenting to Fr. Thew Forrester’s election would then be an endorsement of heterodox views with regard to core elements of the Faith, causing confusion and scandal among the flock, and also exacerbating rather than healing divisions within and between the Anglican Communion and the wider Body of Christ.
We recognize the Fr. Thew Forrester is the choice of the people of the Diocese of Northern Michigan and appreciate the esteem in which he is held. His election is a testimony to this esteem and his character. Further, this Diocese is keenly aware of the pain and difficulty, to say nothing of the expense, incurred by a Diocese when a Bishop–elect is denied consent. As a Standing Committee we pledge to hold Fr. Thew Forrester and Diocese of Northern Michigan in our prayers.
Unanimously Resolved – April 21, 2009
1 Trinity Sunday Sermon – 5/18/08-
2 “ Dar es Salaam - Already One in God” Episcopal Life: The Church in Hiawathaland Vol. 18, No. 7, September 2007
4 Easter Vigil Liturgy, p. 17 “The fire of your Spirit kindled a love between Mary and Joseph; a fire that became the roaring flame of eternal compassion – the heart of Jesus.”
5 Easter Day Baptismal Liturgy, pgs. 3-4 Note, in particular, the changes in the language of the “Presentation and Examination of the Candidates” and “The Baptismal Covenant.” Cf. 1979 The Book of Common Prayer, pgs. 301-305. Compare the Renunciation and Confessions sections of Fr. Forrester’s liturgy with the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus (215 A.D.) Chpt. 21:9 “When the elder takes hold of each of them who are to receive baptism, he shall tell each of them to renounce, saying, "I renounce you Satan, all your servicea, and all your works."
I voted against consent to his election. Hesitations have been expressed in many quarters on a number of grounds. Decisive for me has been the fact that the Rev’d Thew Forrester has used liturgies not authorized for use in the Episcopal Church, on a regular and ongoing basis. The permission of one’s bishop is beside the point. No bishop of the Episcopal Church is able to authorize liturgies for use in our Church, as alternatives to the regularly appointed services, that have not been approved by the General Convention as supplements to our Prayer Book liturgies. Certainly no individual priest or vestry is able to do so. The clergy of the Episcopal Church are not free to use in church other Anglican liturgical formularies, including those authorized in other provinces of the Communion, or liturgical resources from other traditions, except within the limits set forth in our own Prayer Book. These limits have not been observed by Thew Forrester.
This discipline of the Church may be thought too narrow or unsuitable to our own age. Yet it is the order we have. The theologically inadequate baptismal rite used at St Paul’s Church, Marquette, under the aegis of Thew Forrester, is a reminder of why individuals are not allowed to write their own liturgies.
Read it all.
[Thew] Forrester's writings and sermons are sufficiently distressing to call into question his fitness, not only to be a bishop, but to even be a priest. Add to that the fact that Forrester adds stuff to the liturgy like a reading from the Qur'an in place of the appointed lesson from the apostle Paul, while also taking away from the liturgy the renunciations, and also so thoroughly revising the theological grounding of the act of adherence that it bears little resemblance to anything specifically Christian.
Given what we know from his sermons and liturgical experimentation/revision, I think there is little basis for believing that Mr. Forrester, if consecrated as a bishop, will heed the call "to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church" (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 517). It's much more reasonable to expect that he would continue doing what he's already been doing: departing from the core tenets of the Christian faith and revising the liturgical practices of the Episcopal Church accordingly.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Northern Michigan * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship * Theology Sacramental Theology Baptism
Check it out and please send in any corrections or additions which can be substantiated--KSH.
From an email to the diocese:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I write to share with you my decision to withhold consent to the ordination and consecration of the Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester as bishop of the Diocese of Northern Michigan. This decision comes after carefully weighing the matter, considerable prayer, reflection with others including our Standing Committee, and a conversation with the bishop-elect. It is not taken lightly and is with considerable discomfort. Indeed, this is the first time that I have withheld consent in my Episcopate.
Because this is a matter of public conversation, some helpful and some unnecessarily uncharitable, I felt it appropriate to share with you the contours of my decision. The objections that have been raised are:
* That the nominating process and election, which only presented one candidate to the convention was not appropriate
* That the bishop-elect is a practicing Buddhist. Indeed, he has been labeled the "Buddhist Bishop"
* That the bishop-elect has inappropriately altered the baptismal liturgy services conducted in the congregation that he serves
* That he has displayed a less than adequate presentation of sin and redemption through Jesus Christ
As far as the process is concerned, I am convinced that while anomalous, it is in conformity to our canons. However, our processes for electing bishops have normally included an opportunity for the electing convention to consider candidates with a degree of perspective achieved by viewing each candidate's strengths and weaknesses, and theological perspectives in contrast to others. Because a diocese elects a bishop to serve the wider church, this becomes a healthy process of discernment for the whole body. In and of itself, I would not find this a reason to withhold consent. But in light of other issues, it remains a factor.
I do believe that faithful Christians, including bishops, can find spiritual help in examining and exploring practices of other faiths. But Fr. Thew Forrester is an acknowledged "lay ordained" Zen Buddhist who has also accepted and used a name bestowed upon him in ceremony. While I am persuaded that he has not set aside his baptismal identity or ordination vows in this act, I believe that he has sufficiently confused the matter and his identity to make it highly problematic to accept the mantle of bishop.
The crucial issue for me is my understanding of what the bishop vows to do and what the bishop fundamentally represents both to the Church and to the world. In the ordination and consecration service the bishop is called "to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church." Furthermore, the bishop promises as the chief priest and pastor to "encourage and support all baptized people in their gifts..." Through the Book of Commo n Prayer, we have articulated a common understanding of the faith once delivered and what it means to be a baptized Christian. At the heart of our faith and our baptismal covenant are the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I have come to a disquieting conclusion that Fr. Thew Forrester's presentation of the faith is an offering devoid of our traditional understanding of the redemptive work of Christ on the cross.
With this said, I want to affirm the wide breadth of theological discourse that is permitted and celebrated in the Episcopal Church. However, our theological inquiry occurs within clear boundaries of creedal faith. Again, returning to the ordinal for a bishop, this is why the bishop leads the people after the examination and before the consecration.
I do not presume to know how the consent process for the bishop-elect will turn out. I know that this is a difficult season for the Diocese of Northern Michigan and for Fr. Thew Forrester. They need our prayers. Nevertheless, the ordination and consecration of a bishop is about more than the diocese. In this time, it is most important that the church have clarity about Jesus Christ, the Cross and the Resurrection.
--(The Rt. Rev.) James R. Mathes is Bishop of San Diego
The headline grabber is that Thew Forrester is both an Episcopal priest and an ordained — whatever that means — teacher of Zen Buddhism. However, it is also interesting that, when he was elected, Thew Forrester was the only nominee. In an attempt to derail the election, conservatives are asking, “Who anointed him in this manner and why?”
The bishop-elect has avoided mainstream coverage, in part, by declining interviews from publications such as the respected Anglican periodical The Living Church. The lack of info has allowed his supporters to simply say he is being attacked by people who have no interest in understand the complex nature of his approach to these faiths.
However, Frank “Bible Belt Blogger” Lockwood of The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has marched into the gap, landing an interview that may be just as hot as his famous — on the record, nicely recorded — interview with former President Carter in which he called the George W. Bush administration the “worst in history.”
You’ll need to check it out. But here is the top of the story, which is a rare mainstream news report that asks basic doctrinal questions and then prints the answers. Note that Lockwood assumes that this controversy actually centers on religious doctrines and liturgical issues, not simply politics. What a concept.
Read it all.
In a story published Friday, the Democrat-Gazette interviews the Buddhist abbot who helped Thew Forrester take his Buddhist vows. The story also contains interviews with bishops supporting and opposing Thew Forrester and an interview with the bishop-elect.
Among other things, Thew Forrester said he believes in evil, but not a literal Satan. He also rejects the idea that Jesus came to earth to die for the sins of the world:
“God did not send Jesus here to be killed or be crucified by the Romans, which is a brutal murder. But Jesus has become incarnate to reveal to us who God is. He’s a God of love and forgiveness and mercy. … Jesus’ death itself was not the will of God. God did not desire Jesus to be killed,” Thew Forrester said.
Read it all.
A majority of bishops and elected standing committees in the denomination's 110 dioceses must approve, or give "consent," to Thew Forrester's election or it is tossed out.
But the controversy has done more than jeopardize Thew Forrester's promotion and stoke already-high tensions in the 2.2 million-member Episcopal Church. It also heralds a new era in church politics that mirrors mainstream culture, when online research and partisan tactics can combine to make or break a career, observers say.
"Thirty years ago, if a person was elected as bishop, it would be almost impossible for the church, broadly speaking, to see his sermons," said Bishop Edward Little of Northern Indiana. "I'm not sure if that's good or bad, but that's the way it is."
Read it all.
Finally, what troubles me the most about this situation is Thew Forrester’s revision of liturgical texts, most especially the Baptismal Liturgy, the very core vow and liturgy of our faith. In a document circulated for the House of Bishops from Thew Forrester, he states that he and his congregation have “explored” the Baptismal liturgy, removing the reference to “Satan” and “accepting [Christ] as the way of Life and Hope.” This action was to “complement the BCP ”( Liturgy and Community, The Diocese of Northern Michigan , Kevin Thew Forrester, Lent 2009). In the same document, he states that he uses the Book of Common Prayer as a “primary resource.” This brought me full circle. The very basis of Total Common Ministry and our very call to life as a Christian—the baptismal vow and liturgy—was being revised, and this is a concern.
Read it all.
The Rev. Larry Benfield, the Episcopal Bishop of Little Rock, has voted against the confirmation of Kevin Genpo Thew Forrester as bishop of Northern Michigan.
In an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Benfield said he was concerned that Thew Forrester had altered the denomination’s rite of baptism without the approval of the broader church. The rite is included in the Book of Common Prayer.
Instead, Thew Forrester has used and promoted a “Trial Baptismal Liturgy” which removes any mention of Satan and adds New-Age style language.
Read it all.
In the Christian Church, bishops are not “private citizens”. They are called “to be one with the apostles in proclaiming Christ’s resurrection and interpreting the Gospel, and to testify to Christ’s sovereignty as Lord of lords and King of kings . . . [and] to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church” (BCP, p. 517). These are solemn obligations, and inherent to the ministry of bishop in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. St. Paul himself lays this charge upon his successor, Timothy: “Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us” (2 Timothy 1:13-14).
A bishop’s teaching ministry must never be idiosyncratic. We have no message other than the one that has been given to us. The task of bishops is to pass on that message as faithfully as we can; to proclaim Jesus Christ – crucified, risen, coming again; clearly and winsomely to present his person and his work; and to offer the world a Gospel that challenges, heals, and restores us to a relationship with the Father. With the information I have at hand, I am not convinced that Fr. Thew Forrester would be able to discharge this essential obligation of episcopal office.
I cast my No vote without joy; indeed, with sorrow in my heart. If the Church denies consent for Fr. Thew Forrester to be consecrated as Bishop of Northern Michigan, it will be a tragic development for the diocese, and for Fr. Thew Forrester himself. He is, from all reports, a beloved and respected priest, passionate about ministry and committed to his people. Please join me in praying for him, and for the diocese, that in the midst of a most difficult time Jesus will be experienced more and more deeply, and ultimately his kingdom extended and his people with encouraged.
Read it all.
In the case of the bishop-elect of Northern Michigan, perhaps we can get our ducks in the correct rows. His Buddhist practices are sensational but not the point. In sermons and other writings (including eucharistic prayers which I fear were used outside Rite III settings, giving us a question of discipline as well as doctrine), the bishop-elect makes it clear that the doctrine of the Trinity as confessed in the Creed and explained in the Catechism is not what he holds.
He will use base-three theological language, but never in service to the proposition that in Jesus of Nazareth God became fully human. Similarly, his understanding of the atonement is not conformable with the liturgy or catechism, but appears to be something like gnostic enlightenment. His writings represent a very shaky understanding of the Second Person of the Trinity, God incarnate, severely weakening his gospel.
Read it all.
The Rev. Forrester is also primary author and a signatory of A Response from the Diocese of Northern Michigan’s Standing Committee to the “Dar es Salaam Communiqué,” in which there is the following:
“Baptism confirms this most basic truth which is at once, the Good News: all is of God, without condition and without restriction.”
This is incongruous with each of the Eucharistic Prayers and the Rite of Baptism, particularly the renunciations.
“Because each and every one of us is an only begotten child of God; because we, as the church, are invited by God to see all of creation as having life only insofar as it is in God; because everything, without exception, is the living presence, or incarnation, of God”
Claiming “each and every one of us is an only begotten child of God” and that “everything, without exception, is the living presence, or incarnation of God” is a pantheism incompatible what we say (and pray) we believe about Jesus Christ as the Incarnation of God. It also contradicts the language we use in every rite of the Book of Common Prayer, not to mention the Catechism.
I know these are serious charges. I do not make them lightly. I am not given to finding false teaching under every rock. And it is no small thing to reject a candidate put forward by a diocese to be its bishop. But I also believe, with Charles Gore, that ours is a tradition that is “conspicuously orthodox on the great fundamentals of the Trinity and the Incarnation” (Roman Catholic Claims, p. 173). If we believe the rule of our praying is the rule of our believing, then the prayers of our common worship must guide what we teach and preach. One whose stated beliefs are as at odds with that common worship as are the Rev. Forrester’s can hardly “guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church” (BCP p. 517).
Read it all.
Read it all.
So, presented with an eviscerated version of Christianity on the one hand, and a sincere expression of Buddhism and Islam on the other hand--in the midst of a pluralistically, multiculturally-oriented church where merely being a “spiritual person” is enough to become a priest, and you have what we are seeing in Kevin Thew Forrester and Ann Holmes Redding.
But the ultimate responsibility for these two examples (and, to repeat myself, countless others like them that aren’t in the spotlight) lies with the parishes that raised them up, the clergy who mentored them, the discernment process that sent them toward ordination, the seminaries that trained them, and the Bishops who ordained them. You cannot raise up true leaders in a faith that you yourselves do not possess. And that is the real tragedy of this whole affair.
Read it all.
Why is Thew Forrester's teaching troubling to me? Because it flies in the face of what I take to be the conviction at the heart of our faith tradition, namely, that we are in bondage to sin and cannot get free without the rescue God has offered us in Jesus, who shouldered our sins on the cross. Our tradition certainly declares God's closeness to us and God's love for us, but insists that this is solely due to God's gracious initiative, made known to us in Jesus. In other words, Jesus in his singular closeness to God is as much a reminder of our alienation from God and from God's ways as he is God's word to us that we are loved despite our collective wrongdoings.
I would not worry about this so much if Thew Forrester were merely speculating about alternative ways of understanding the Christian faith. I would not even worry so much if it were simply a matter of the content of a number of sermons (although I think we should expect to be accountable for what we preach). But, as his revision of the Baptismal rite makes clear, he appears to be settled in his conviction that our relation to Christ is not about salvation from a condition of objective alienation from God, but about a more realized union with God.
What is encouraging here is not only does the Bishop vote the right way, but he does so for the right reasons. This is about a lot of things, but primarily it is about Christology, the Trinity, salvation and atonement. Read it all--KSH.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Northern Michigan * Theology Atonement Christology Theology: Salvation (Soteriology)
Read it carefully and read it all.
Repeatedly I am asked, Al, as Rector of St. Michael’s Church, what is going to happen to us in all these debates and splits in the Episcopal Church? Is St. Michael’s leaving the Episcopal Church? Is the Diocese of South Carolina leaving? What are the options? Why do we care? Can’t we just keep our heads down here in South Carolina, after all, we seem to be doing fine!
The short answer is, we follow the lead of our Bishop as he guides this diocese through icebergs. The reality is that the Episcopal Church continues to make decisions and take actions that are making it look more and more Unitarian than anything Christian. Because of that, over the past 24 months, there has been a veritable exodus out of the Episcopal Church by many individuals, churches and dioceses. So, what about the Diocese of South Carolina? Let me reflect on the above by telling you about the recent convention of the Diocese of South Carolina. I also urge you to read the accompanying article by our Junior Warden, Ann Hester Willis.
As you may know, each year, clergy and lay leaders from all over the Diocese of South Carolina join our Bishop for an annual convention to elect new leadership, address the state of the church and strategize about Kingdom ministry. This took place at Christ Church, Mount Pleasant on March 12-13. I urge you to look at the resolutions that were passed (which can be found on the diocesan website). Let me pause here and say how much I enjoy convention. We have amazing clergy leadership in this diocese and because of our crazy schedules, I find this is one of the only times annually I see all my fellow colleagues!
However, back to the above questions. There were specifically two events that shape my thoughts, the first being the resolution regarding the confirmation of the Bishop of Northern Michigan.
In the Episcopal Church, every diocese elects its own Bishop. However, that election must be confirmed by every other diocese in the United States. In other words, the Diocese of South Carolina has the right to vote against the election of another Bishop for reasons of theology, doctrine or any other concern.
The announcement of the election of the Bishop of Northern Michigan sparked controversy because he (the Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester) is also a practicing Buddhist, had received Buddhist “lay ordination” and is “walking the path of Christianity and Zen Buddhism together.” This craziness should not surprise any of us. He simply is the poster child for the continuing Unitarian drift in the Episcopal Church, a commonplace universalism that says among other things, all religions are the same. In fact, in a recorded sermon delivered on Trinity Sunday posted on the St. Paul’s Church, Marquette MI website, the Rev. Kevin Thew Forester preached the following: “One of the amazing insights I have found…is that, no matter what you name that source, from which all life comes—you can name that source God, Abba; you may name that source Yahweh; you may name that source Allah; you may name that source “the great emptiness;” you can name that source many things… everything that is comes from the source. And you can name the source what you want to name the source. And our response to that is with hearts of gratitude and thanksgiving, to return everything back to that source, and there’s a spirit who enables that return…and you can be a Buddhist, you can be a Muslim, you can be a Jew, and that makes sense.”
While this sounds so palatable and comfortably cultural, it is not Christianity! John 14, in a passage that in many ways defines love, we hear these challenging words of Jesus: “I am the way the Truth and the Life, and no one comes to the Father but by me.” Yet Scripture has predicted these days we find ourselves in. In Paul’s second letter to Timothy chapter 3. Paul writes: In the last days, there will come times of stress. For men will hold the form of religion but deny the power of it. We find a similar word in Titus 1:16…they profess to know God, but they deny him by their deeds…And so it is in our denomination today. We have all the great vestments and pageantry, but more and more, emptiness with no solid theology.
By the way, the resolution passed which urged the standing committee to vote against the confirmation of this bishop.
The other event I wish to highlight is the Bishop’s Address. Again, you can read this on the website. Bishop Lawrence made an analogy that the Diocese of South Carolina could be compared to a motorcycle. The front wheel being Scripture and our Gospel Ministry. The back wheel is the mission of the diocese. However, as a diocese, we have a sidecar, an appendage and that sidecar is the Episcopal Church. Our denominational affiliation has been sidelined in this diocese because of the Unitarian/non Biblical direction of the Episcopal Church. What does this mean? After all, surely things will get even worse at the General Convention of the United States this summer in Anaheim, California. The answer is that for now, as a church within the Diocese of South Carolina, and as a diocese within the larger denomination, we continue to be part of the Episcopal Church USA, but with a bigger desire to remain part of the world wide Anglican Communion.
The reality is that unlike ever before, our Bishop now has options he will be weighing to guide us as a diocese. Options that include other provinces and partnerships connected with the worldwide Anglican Communion. So, it is back to what I stated earlier…the short and long answer to the first questions is that we follow the lead of our faithful Bishop who believes Jesus is who He says He is. Please keep Bishop Lawrence, his wife Allison and their family in your prayers.
--The Rev. Al Zadig is rector of Saint Michael's, Charleston, South Carolina
I returned home from the spring House of Bishops’ Meeting this past Thursday (March 19th). It was held at Kanuga Conference Center in North Carolina. I am very appreciative to all of you who were holding me and the other bishops up in your prayers. Besides for getting stuck in Atlanta and thinking I was never going to get out, all the travel plans went well. Compared to the previous two House of Bishops’ Meetings, this meeting was much less contentious. Fortunately we were not faced with the deposition of any more bishops. Based on the comments of several of the bishops, I missed the best part of the meeting which occurred on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning before I arrived. Guest speakers Bill Bishop and Walter Brueggemann, gave a presentation entitled “A New Era of Engagement: Gospel Alternatives to Polarization.” Apparently it was very well done and thought provoking. While I am sorry I missed the presentation, I was not going to miss seeing my daughter Catie’s Friday evening performance in the school musical, “Cinderella.” (Catie and all the other kids did an outstanding job.)
Besides for the daily Bible Study and worship services, most of each day was spent in meetings dealing with a variety of topics. One of the main events that occurred was the election of the Bishop of Ecuador Central. Due to some internal diocesan difficulties, the Diocese of Ecuador Central asked the House of Bishops to elect their new bishop. Three nominees chosen by the Diocese were presented. The Rev. Luis Fernando Ruiz, a priest from the Diocese of Columbia, and rector of the Cathedral de San Pablo in Bogota, was elected on the first ballot, receiving 102 of the 117 ballots cast.
The most controversial discussion during the HOB meeting centered on the election of the Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester, Bishop-Elect of Northern Michigan. A number of bishops spoke both for and against the consent of Bishop-Elect Forrester. Concern was expressed over the election process itself which resulted in Rev. Forrester being the only nominee; the controversy surrounding his connection with Zen Buddhism; several of his liturgical practices to include his rewriting the Baptismal Covenant and Eucharistic prayers; and his teachings on the Trinity. Bishops with jurisdiction and all Standing Committees of The Episcopal Church will be asked to vote for or against the consent of his election. It is too early to know what the final outcome will be. The consent process can last up to 120 days. I voted NO to his consent.
The Mission Funding Initiative was another topic that generated a great deal of debate and expressed concern by several bishops. The stated intent of the MFI is to provide supplemented support of TEC’s mission efforts which have traditionally been funded by assessment income. Large and substantial gifts will be solicited reportedly to support the following five Funds: The Fund for Congregational Development; Leadership in Ministry; Communications; Spiritual Enrichment; and Global Ministry. An additional use of the funds, not formally listed among the five Funds of the Mission Funding Initiative identified above, but verbally mentioned by one of the presenters was the establishment of a legal fund to support future legal actions taken by TEC. I expressed my grave concern to the House of Bishops over all the ongoing law suits dealing with property disputes within The Episcopal Church. I am very much aware of all the arguments and rationale for the law suits, however, I firmly believe that regardless of who wins in court, ultimately everyone loses. There has to be a better, more pastoral and Christ-like way of dealing with these issues than the current actions being taken. The Lord calls the Church to rise above the ways of the world in dealing with disputes. We need to conduct ourselves in such a way that the love and Good News of Jesus Christ shines forth, building up the Kingdom of God, not tearing it down.
Other topics covered at the House of Bishops’ included a briefing on General Convention structure and orientation as well as some of the items that will be addressed at General Convention. Included in that was a discussion on the proposal to enter into full communion with the Moravian Church; a brief discussion on some of the proposed changes to Title IV dealing with issues of clergy discipline; and a presentation on the proposed mandatory Denominational Health Plan (something I have serious questions about).
One of the final acts of the House of Bishops at its spring meeting was the issuance of A Pastoral Letter from the Bishops of the Episcopal Church. A copy of the letter will follow in a separate email. As always, it is good to be back home in the Diocese of Albany.
GRACE EPISCOPAL CHURCH
405 Glenmar Avenue
Monroe, Louisiana 71201
March 7, 2009
To the Bishop Ordinary and Standing Committee of the Diocese of Western Louisiana
Rt. Reverend Sir, ladies and gentlemen of the Standing Committee:
Following prayerful consideration we write to urge that you vote no, and that you withhold consent, to the confirmation of the Rev’d Kevin Thew Forrester as the next bishop of the Diocese of Northern Michigan. We cite two concerns: the process used in selecting candidates by the Diocese of Northern Michigan and the suitability of the candidate himself.
In regard to the process by which nominations were made, the committee charged with this task presented one candidate for election. On the surface, presenting a single candidate raises immediate issues about the transparency of this process. Why was a single candidate presented? Was no one else seen as qualified to stand for election? Should we be concerned there was a small group of people trying to control the process?
Though we are mindful that search committees for rectors do sometimes distill the result of their search process to a single preferred candidate, we are nonetheless mindful of the fact that had the Diocese of Northern Michigan asked the House of Bishops to elect a bishop for them in lieu of holding a diocesan election, which is provided for in Canon III, paragraph 11, section 1b, the House of Bishops would have been required by national canon to present a minimum of three persons to stand for election. This begs the question, “if it is appropriate for the House of Bishops, why is it not appropriate for the Diocese of Northern Michigan?”
Regarding the Rev’d. Forrester’s suitability, he is on record as being both a practicing Zen Buddhist who received lay Buddhist ordination and a Christian. Whereas these two faith traditions may not be mutually exclusive to one another in the life of a lay person, the vows required of a Bishop in Christ’s one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church exclude a person from being beholden to any other faith tradition save Christianity—no matter how complementary to Christianity other traditions might seem.
In the liturgy for the ordination of a Bishop, the candidate is first required to state their belief that the scriptures of the Old and New Testament contain all things necessary to salvation, and that they will conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church. If one takes this question seriously, does a person holding dual religious allegiances forswear himself or herself upon making this declaration? Later in the service, the candidate is required to affirm, “Christ’s sovereignty as Lord of lords and King of kings.” Again, is this possible if one holds to two faith traditions simultaneously? Finally, the candidate is asked if they will the guard the faith, unity and discipline of the Church. Can this be done with integrity when one qualifies their response to the affirmation by claiming to also follow another religious tradition?
We hope and pray that you will keep these concerns in mind as you prayerfully consider voting on the question of granting or denying consent to the confirmation of the next bishop of Northern Michigan. We most strongly urge you to decline to give your consent.
Your Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Gregg L. Riley, Rector C. Joseph Roberts, III, Sr. Warden
David Waller, Jr. Warden Jodi Lyle, Treasurer
Cindy Fisher, Secretary Max Cox, Vestry Member
Gerry Emerel, Vestry Member Tom Mason, Vestry Member
Amanda Reeves, Vestry Member Bryan Caldwell, Vestry Member
Jesus saves, the Episcopal Church teaches, but a growing number of its clergy and leaders believe other faiths may lead to salvation as well. Long divided and distracted by questions of sexual ethics, the Episcopal Church (along with most mainline Protestant communities) are facing a cultural and theological shift towards religious pluralism—the belief that there are diverse paths to God.
The debate is not just academic. In two current cases, Episcopal clergy are under scrutiny for practicing and promoting other religions. On February 12 a devotee of Zen Buddhism was elected bishop of the Episcopal Church's Northern Michigan diocese. Meanwhile, a Seattle-area priest has been given until March 30 to decide whether she is a Muslim or a Christian as her bishop will not permit her to profess both faiths.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Northern Michigan * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Christology
The Rt. Rev. Greg Rickel, Episcopal bishop for Western Washington, has said no.
"Each diocesan bishop will vote on consent and each Standing Committee will also be asked for consent," Rickel said in an e-mail. "Our Standing Committee has not voted on this yet.
"I did vote at the recent House of Bishops and I voted not to consent. I intend to share some of my reasoning in a letter and I promise to send that to you as well so you can see it."
Forrester would become bishop of the Diocese of Northern Michigan, one of the smallest in the church. Statistics released by the national Episcopal Church show that its membership has declined by 31.7 percent in the past 10 years.
Also known by his Buddhist name, "Genpo," or "Way of Universal Wisdom," Forrester was only candidate on the ballot when diocesan convention delegates voted last month.
Read it all.
Take the time to read through it all.
Kevin Forrester’s election needs to be confirmed by a majority of standing committees and bishops in the TEC before he can be consecrated. It will be an interesting test for the TEC. Will they stand for the uniqueness of Christ? Will they recognise that Buddhism and biblical Christianity are mutually exclusive?
Read it all.
On March 13, the annual convention of the Diocese of South Carolina urged Dr Forrester’s election be rejected arguing it was not “confident that this is someone who will preach and uphold the apostolic Trinitarian Faith.”
South Carolina urged the “Bishops and Standing Committees of all other Episcopal Dioceses,” a majority of whom must affirm the Northern Michigan election, “carefully and thoroughly to study especially those writings, statements, and sermons of the Reverend Kevin Thew Forester pertaining to the Doctrine of the Trinity and the nature of God.”
The Executive Board of the Diocese of Dallas on March 10 questioned the legality of the election, saying no valid election had been held.
In planning the election Northern Michigan said its new bishop would not be given the authority of a traditional bishop, but would be part of a 12-person Episcopal Ministry Support Team (EMST). “While the Bishop will carry out the roles designated by the Constitution and Canons such as ordination, confirmation, and attendance at the House of Bishops, other “episcopal/ apostolic/ oversight” roles will be fulfilled by members of the [EMST],” the discernment committee said.
Read it all.
This resolution just passed by majority vote--KSH.
Subject: A Resolution Requesting Withholding of Consent from the Episcopal Election in Northern Michigan
Offered by: the Very Rev. Craige Borrett, the Rev. Dr. Kendall Harmon, Christ Saint Paul’s, Yonges Island
That this Diocesan Convention believes significant questions have been raised regarding the Rev. Kevin Thew Forester's faithfulness to the Doctrine of the Trinity as this Church has received it and as it is defined and articulated in the Nicene Creed; and
That on the basis of these questions Convention recommends that the Bishop and Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina withhold its consent to the consecration of the Reverend Kevin Thew Forrester to the office of Bishop in the Episcopal Church; and
That this Convention strongly encourage the Bishops and Standing Committees of all other Episcopal Dioceses carefully and thoroughly to study especially those writings, statements, and sermons of the Reverend Kevin Thew Forester pertaining to the Doctrine of the Trinity and the nature of God.
The Rev. Kevin Thew Forester has been nominated and elected to serve in the office of bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan.
We are well to be reminded that a bishop in the Church of God is “to be a guardian of the Church's faith, to lead us in confessing that faith...”(BCP pp. 519 from “The Consecration of a Bishop”)
However, in a recorded sermon delivered on Trinity Sunday posted on the St. Paul's Church, Marquette MI website, the Rev. Kevin Thew Forester preached the following:
...One of the amazing insights I have found in the interfaith dialogue is that, no matter what you name that source, from which all life comes—you can name that source God, Abba; you may name that source Yahweh; you may name that source Allah; you may name that source “the great emptiness;” you can name that source many things, but what all the faiths in their wisdom have acknowledged in the interfaith dialogue is that, you and I, we’re not the source. We receive from the source, and what we are asked to do is give back to the source. In other words, what the interfaith dialogue has recognized is that there is a Trinitarian structure to life. That’s what I’m driving at this morning. We make the Trinity much too complex. The Trinitarian structure of life is this: is that everything that is comes from the source. And you can name the source what you want to name the source. And our response to that is with hearts of gratitude and thanksgiving, to return everything back to that source, and there’s a spirit who enables that return. Everything comes from God. We give it back to God. And the spirit gives us the heart of gratitude. That is the Trinitarian nature of life. And you can be a Buddhist, you can be a Muslim, you can be a Jew, and that makes sense. And we all develop more elaborate theologies, but the truth is we live and have our being in a God who asks only one thing of us: to grow into people who give thanks that God is our center, God is our life, that we are one with God. And as we grow into realization, that we are one with this God who lives in us, and the only thing God asks us is to give back everything in thanksgiving, we live. It’s what the Syrians said, “we will know what redemption truly is, we will come alive, we will be made to live,” because we will know—not because someone told us—because we know that God gives us life. And all God asks of us is “give it back to Me in return.”
There are simply too many theological questions raised here to be confident that this is someone who will preach and uphold the apostolic Trinitarian Faith.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Northern Michigan TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils * South Carolina * Theology Christology
The only candidate on the ballot [in Northern Michigan], Thew Forrester, 51, has practiced Zen meditation for a decade and received lay ordination from a Buddhist community.
Conservatives are outraged at the election of this "openly Buddhist bishop," as they call him, charging Thew Forrester with syncretism -- blending two faiths, and dishonoring both.
The bishop-elect and the Lake Superior Zendo that ordained him say the angst is misplaced. The ordination simply honors his commitment to Zen meditation, they say. He took no Buddhist vows and professed no beliefs that contradict Christianity....
The Rev. Kendall Harmon, an Episcopal theologian from South Carolina, argues that Thew Forrester is a greater threat to his church than the openly gay bishop whose 2003 election has led four dioceses to secede.
"It's the leadership of this church giving up the unique claims of Christianity," Harmon said. "They act like it's Baskin-Robbins. You just choose a different flavor and everyone gets in the store."
Read it all.
10 March 2009
The Executive Council of the Diocese of Dallas wishes to express its grave concern at the election of the Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester as the bishop of the Diocese of Northern Michigan and encourage the Standing Committee of this Diocese to withhold consent to his election to the episcopate for the following reasons:
1. The process by which Fr Forrester was elected raises significant concerns. There was no election in that diocese as Fr Forrester was the only candidate put forward. This Diocese consented to an election in the Diocese of Northern Michigan, not the appointment of the bishop by a small committee. In addition, Fr Forrester was a member of the search committee which selected him as the only candidate to lead an episcopal ministry team.
2. Fr Forrester has, by his own admission, received “lay ordination” within Zen Buddhism and has stated publically that he has “walk[ed] the path of Christianity and Zen Buddhism.” While Fr Forest has stated that “there is one faith and it is Christianity,” this connection raises grave concerns as to whether Fr Forrester would be able, as bishop, to guard and protect the Catholic Faith as this church has received it.
3. Resolution B033 of General Convention 2006 (The Election of Bishops) calls upon bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees “to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.” We understand “manner of life” to entail the public theological witness of a Christian bishop that hinders the proclamation and articulation of the Christian Gospel. It is clear that consent to Fr Forrester’s election would present a challenge to the wider church – both within the Anglican Communion and with our ecumenical partners – and also increase the strains on the communion.
[The Rev. Rayford] Ray told ENS that while Thew Forrester has served the diocese since 2001, names of potential candidates for bishop were received from "throughout the Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion." A diocesan report said that names of 28 people had been received, 11 of those people completed the paperwork, and one person eventually dropped out.
He said there is "precedent" for putting forth only one name as candidate. In the most recent instance, in 2007, Mark Lawrence was the only candidate to be bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina. Lawrence was first elected from among several candidates on September 16, 2006, but Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori later declared that election "null and void" because of defects in six of the needed 56 affirmative responses from diocesan standing committees. Required to hold a second election, the diocese nominated only Lawrence.
Ray noted that it is standard operating procedure in congregations looking for a rector, where a call committee typically discerns a number of candidates and, in the end, submits one name for the vestry's final approval.
Oh please. The parallels with the South Carolina process are almost nil. Mark Lawrence was originally elected out of a slate of a number of finalists, as everyone knows. He was then rejected by the Standing Committees for the first time in a huge amount of time in the history of the Episcopal Church. It was only because of that rejection that South Carolina met again in Convention and voted on one nominee. There was no original process in Northern Michigan with several nominees, and there was no rejection of the election subsequently. If in the first South Carolina election on the bishop to succeed Edward Salmon there has been only one nominee, there would have been a hue and cry down here, and there should have been had that been the case.
In any event, read it all--KSH.
If the dual roles put too much stress on Forrester, he has a good way to relieve it. He has been instructed in Zen Buddhist meditation and incorporates what he's learned into his duties.
"It's not a matter of holding two faiths. There's one faith and it's Christianity," Forrester said. "The gift is that that faith is deepened by my meditative practice and I'm eternally grateful to Zen Buddhism for teaching me that practice and receiving me as an Episcopal priest."
Not everyone sees it that way. Jeff Walton, a member of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute on Religion and Democracy, said Forrester's Zen Buddhist theology conflicts with traditional Anglican belief.
"Buddhist theology emphasizes the accumulation of experiential knowledge. Adherents work to gain awareness of the universe, by which they attain a synthesis with nirvana," he said. "Christianity emphasizes the importance of grace, that which God gives freely but is neither earned nor deserved. You cannot with integrity resolve a system in which salvation is earned, and one in which it is freely given."
Read it all.
A eucharistic prayer that the bishop-elect wrote for Easter season 2008 says this: “In the ancient days, at the dawn of time, You leaned over creation[,] scooped it to your breast and breathed the moist breath of life. ... The fire of your Spirit kindled a love between Mary and Joseph; a fire that became the roaring flame of eternal compassion—the heart of Jesus.”
The lectionary texts are notable for their exclusion of male pronouns, even when the subject of the sentence is a man. A reading from Genesis 2 refers to Adam as “the earth creature” and “it.” Readings from the gospels of John and Mark refer to Jesus as “the Chosen One,” “the Only Begotten One,” “my Beloved, my Own” and “this One.”
The Rev. Canon Ralph McMichael, canon for ministry formation in the Diocese of Missouri, expressed concern about the texts.
“We are stewards of the church’s liturgy,” he said. “Liturgy does not exist for our self-expression, whatever form it might take.”
Read it all.
The most interesting answer they gave to a question, though, was this:
12. How was it decided to present one name for Bishop/Ministry Developer?
In the traditional search process anyone can throw his or her hat into the ring. Someone decides that they want to be a bishop. It is self-selection. We chose to use the discernment process that has served us well in the local congregations for the past twenty plus years. At the congregational level there is often more than one person discerned for the same ministry. The team after much discussion and struggle came to the conclusion that we would try to focus or stay true to what the congregational conversations had revealed. Because there is only one bishop/ministry developer we would try and discern one person that best fit the criteria outlined by the people of this diocese, the person who would most fully encompass these gifts. This person would be able to function as part of a team and truly be able to share the Episcopal leadership in this diocese.
In a traditional election model three or four names are presented for the vote. Usually one person will stand out as a better fit and the others would be “ok.” People don’t know the candidates well when they come to convention. Our intention is to present one name based on prayerful consideration that is the very best fit for the ministry in this unique diocese. It is our hope that because of the careful, prayerful discernment of the team, one person will become the obvious choice. This one person will be presented to the diocese as the team’s best recommendation.
It is in this one answer that we see all of the "new age" elements of the process beginning to coalesce. It begins with a small circle of those "in the know", who bring in trusted colleagues from the "outside" to lend a sheen of objectivity, and to help bring others into the middle of the circle. By meeting together in confidence twice a month for six months, the circle gains both unanimity and a conviction that it is on the right path. What the circle loses, however, is any sense of accountability to those outside of it....
Anyone who has troubled to read this far should appreciate the magnitude of the uphill battle that lies ahead. It should be obvious from all the connections spelled out earlier that a number of bishops, beginning with the Presiding Bishop, will want to see this election confirmed---not for the benefit, necessarily, of the parishioners in Northern Michigan, but for its precedential value as a method to control the selection of bishops in other dioceses.
Take a look around the Church. The movement for "Mutual Ministry" is already flourishing in many other dioceses (albeit the more sparsely populated ones)---Eastern Tennessee, for example, parts of New England, and even the Church of England. As finances become critical with declining membership, the model of the "Bishop/Ministry Developer" pioneered in Northern Michigan will become attractive to more dioceses. Because Mutual Ministry is virtually content-free (it has to be in order to be all-inclusive), it combines well with any other set of spiritual beliefs, not the least of which is Buddhism.
This is where the changes of 1979 have brought us. The future of our Church lies before us as we watch what is happening in the Diocese of Northern Michigan.
Read it carefully and read it all.
Read it carefully and read it all.
Even with this information, I hesitated about speak up further. I still believed that any change would need the local people to voice what was happening. Finally, realizing that I was now something of a voice for the voiceless, I shared what I had learned with the [Episcopal Church House of Bishop and Deputies] Listserv. I was quickly accused of “Triangling.” I pointed out that I was merely being an advocate for those who because of pressure might not have a voice. Having had my say, having found no interest, having not heard from the Presiding Bishop in response to my letter, I said the serenity prayer and let it go.
So, a flawed process, run by a small group of people, has resulted in a questionable candidate elected to the Episcopate. This will result in some conservatives focusing on the person and his non-orthodox views which will result in an immediate endorsement by the progressive members of our church who will close rank to defend one of their own. The whole affair will be reduced to a conservative/liberal argument. The result will be one more Unitarian in our House of Bishops This is not what will trouble me the most.What will trouble me is three-fold. First, the dissenters in Northern Michigan have informed me that their only real alternative is to just leave the Church. Second, the Church will be pushed further by its most extreme members in silencing any true moderate voices. Lastly, it is one more sign to me that the Church, made up of a thoughtful middle of caring and gracious centrist folks who honor our rules and procedures as a way of honoring a truly embracive and inclusive community, has sadly become something else. What we have most seen in the Episcopal Church in the past 10 years is the end of reasoned faith.
Read it all.
Delegates to a special convention of the Diocese of Northern Michigan held February 21 at St. Stephen's Church, Escanaba, elected a new bishop and created a support team that will share in episcopal oversight, something unique in the Episcopal Church.
The Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester, who was announced in January as the single candidate for bishop, was elected on the first ballot. In Northern Michigan voting is not carried out by lay and clergy orders, but rather by individual delegate votes and a congregational vote that represents the combined majority vote of a congregation's delegates. Thew Forrester received 67 of 76 total delegate votes cast. Of the 23 congregations represented, 21 voted for Thew Forrester.
Read it all.
The Anglican Communion’s first Anglican-Buddhist Bishop was elected this week at a special convention of the Diocese of Northern Michigan. The sole candidate on the ballot, the Rev Kevin Thew Forrester received the support of 88 per cent of the delegates and 91 per cent of congregations, according to a diocesan news release.
The nomination of Fr Forrester sparked controversy last month, when the diocese announced that he was the sole candidate for election. Critics charged it was unseemly that a single candidate was chosen by the search committee --- which included Fr Forrester among its members --- to stand for election. Concerns were also raised about the suitability of a professed Buddhist who said he had received Buddhist “lay ordination” and was “walking the path of Christianity and Zen Buddhism together” being consecrated a bishop.
Known also by his Buddhist name, “Genpo” which means “Way of Universal Wisdom”, Fr Forrester holds progressive views on a number of traditional Christian doctrines. Writing in the diocese’s news letter he stated: “Sin has little, if anything, to do with being bad. It has everything to do, as far as I can tell, with being blind to our own goodness.”
Read it all.
The Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester, rector of St. Paul’s, Marquette, and St. John’s, Negaunee, was put forward by the diocesan search team to stand for election as bishop/ministry developer under the “mutual ministry model” used by the small, rural diocese on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. A priest of the diocese since 2001, Fr. Forrester also serves as ministry development coordinator and newspaper editor for Northern Michigan.
In recent years, he also was a practicing Buddhist, according to the former Bishop of Northern Michigan, the late Rt. Rev. James Kelsey.
In his Oct 15, 2004 address to the diocese’s annual convention, Bishop Kelsey took note of some of the milestones among the lives of members of the diocese. After recognizing recent university graduations, the bishop said Fr. Forrester “received Buddhist ‘lay ordination’,” and was “walking the path of Christianity and Zen Buddhism together.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Northern Michigan TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Buddhism * Theology
The following is an excerpt of the lead article in the Diocese of Northern Michigan's September 2007 newspaper, entitled "Dar es Salaam, Already One in God." The intro to the article states "On the 19th of February, 2007, the Primates of the Anglican Communion, meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, released a Communiqué. We, as the Diocese of Northern Michigan, offer our response." It is not clear who exactly within the diocese drafted this response. Please read it all carefully. It is noteworthy not so much for what it says specifically in response to the Primates' demands, but its articulation of the theological convictions accepted within the diocese. This is where TEC's Baptismal Ecclesiology can lead individuals or an entire diocese.
We invite all to God’s table. What we expect, in turn, is that those who come to the table likewise recognize the right, by being children of God, of everyone else to be at the table.
We proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ that everyone and everything belongs. We are continually being created in the image of God, in whom we live and move and have our being. Baptism confirms this most basic truth which is at once, the Good News: all is of God, without condition and without restriction.
We seek and serve Christ in all persons because all persons are the living Christ. Each and every human being, as a human being, is knit together in God’s Spirit, and thus an anointed one – Christ. Jesus of Nazareth reveals this as the basic truth of the human condition:
God is more in me
than if the whole sea
could in a little sponge
wholly contained be.
We strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being, because each person embodies the living God. Life is inherently and thoroughly sacramental, which is why we love one another without condition.
We stand with Meister Eckhart who, when he gazed deep within himself, as well as all about him, saw that “the entire created order is sacred” as it is grounded
in God. We do harmful and evil things to ourselves and one another, not because we are bad, but because we are blind to the beauty of creation and ourselves. In other words, we are ignorant of who we truly are: “there is no Greek or Hebrew; no Jew or Gentile; no barbarian or Scythian; no slave or citizen. There is only Christ, who is all in all.” (Colossians 3:11).
Everyone is the sacred word of God, in whom Christ lives. This baptismal vision of a thoroughly blessed creation leads us to understand the reason for the incarnation in a new way:
People think God has only become a human being there – in his historical incarnation – but that is not so; for God is here – in this very place – just as much incarnate as in a human being long ago. And this is why he has become a human being: that he might give birth to you as his only begotten Son, and as no less. ~Meister Eckhart
Because each and every one of us is an only begotten child of God; because we, as the church, are invited by God to see all of creation as having life only insofar as it is in God; because everything, without exception, is the living presence, or incarnation, of God; as the Diocese of Northern Michigan,
We affirm Christ present in every human being and reject any attempt to restructure The Episcopal Church’s polity in a manner contrary to the principles of the baptismal covenant;
We affirm the full dignity and autonomy and interdependence of every Church in the Anglican Communion and reject any attempt of the Primates to assume an authority they do not have nor have ever possessed;
We affirm the sacramental gift of all persons, their Christ-ness, especially those who are gay and lesbian, and reject any moratorium on the blessing of samesex unions and consents of gay bishops, as it would compromise their basic dignity.
The full article is here (pp. 1-2)
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Primary Source -- Statements & Letters: Organizations Anglican Primates Primates Mtg Dar es Salaam, Feb 2007 Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Northern Michigan TEC Polity & Canons Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Theology Christology Sacramental Theology Baptism
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