The Bishop of Tennessee Explains his No Vote on Northern Michigan

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC BishopsTEC ConflictsTEC Conflicts: Northern Michigan* Christian Life / Church LifeLiturgy, Music, Worship

Posted April 29, 2009 at 10:17 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. dwstroudmd+ wrote:

And could be considered a reminder of why Provinces are not free to change doctrine on their own, too, for those who have ears to hear!

April 29, 10:42 am | [comment link]
2. Pb wrote:

Makes no difference what you believe so long as your liturgy is from the prayer book. I guess there is no other ground with the present state of the House of Bishops.

April 29, 11:26 am | [comment link]
3. Larry Morse wrote:

Will someone take “ongoing” and shoot it until it stops twitching. L

April 29, 11:41 am | [comment link]
4. Stuart Smith wrote:

I am a bit surprised that this bishop- who I understand is no slouch theologically- has only LITURGICAL concerns (albeit with the usual Anglican reminder that “lex orandi/lex credendi”), and was apparently not bothered by the overt Zen Buddhism problem with this candidate for the episcopacy.  This may, however, be this bishop’s attempt to not bash or provoke other members of the HOB in the process of voting “no”.

April 29, 11:41 am | [comment link]
5. nwlayman wrote:

Unauthorized usage!  A rubrics rap.  OK, did the Genereal Convention approve the “Creator, redeemer, sanctifier” deity that keeps getting invoked all over ECUSA in place of the Trinity?  I doubt it, but if it did then there is no need to argue about anything else since it isn’t a Christian thing anyway.  More thought goes into combing their hair than goes into their theology.  How many ECUSA clergy *don’t* mess with their services?  It means nothing to say you can’t be a bishop when no one anywhere minds a bit what you do as a priest.  See Bishop Robinson.

April 29, 12:13 pm | [comment link]
6. C. Wingate wrote:

re 4: It may well be a case of saying “you can claim we don’t have a fixed theology, but you can’t claim we don’t have a fixed liturgy, because it’s written right there in the BCP (which we say you have to use).”

April 29, 12:14 pm | [comment link]
7. Jeremy Bonner wrote:

Amen Larry (#3).

April 29, 12:28 pm | [comment link]
8. RichardKew wrote:

Bishop Bauerschmidt wrote in his concluding paragraph, “Priests are called to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Church, and bishops in particular promise to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church. Liturgy is a crucial articulation of this nexus of Christian faith and Christian community.”

If that is not a statement of theological intent in relation to the presenting issue of liturgy that our bishop chooses to highlight, then I don’t know what is. He uses the liturgical indiscipline of the candidate for the episcopate as the focal point for all that individual’s shortcomings when it comes to this office in the church.

April 29, 12:28 pm | [comment link]
9. magnolia wrote:

“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.”
well that’s easy enough to fix, just change the liturgies ‘officially’ and then it will be ok to vote yea. shouldn’t be that difficult with the current folks running TEC.

April 29, 12:49 pm | [comment link]
10. Stuart Smith wrote:

#8:  No doubt, Bp. B. well articulates the “nexus” between Christian faith and Christian Community.  My point is that, as we have seen to be abudantly clear in TEC, having a BCP does not constrain bishops/priests/deacons/laity from going their own way spiritually and theologically, while still using the “good ol’ BCP” on Sunday morning.  My question of Bp. B. would be:  “Apart from the BCP, do you have a problem with this man’s FAITH?”  Bp. Spong used to say that he either sang the Creed, or kept his fingers crossed during the parts he didn’t believe while saying the Creed.  Bishops can do more than advise “Follow the BCP rubrics!”  They can say, with St. Peter:  “There is no other Name under heaven by which we must be saved!”  The true scandal of Thew Forrester is his inability to defend St. Peter’s Faith!

April 29, 1:21 pm | [comment link]
11. Fr. Dale wrote:

This sounds good.

But those who are supposed to hold others accountable must have a creditable history of being accountable themselves.

but this worries me.

This discipline of the Church may be thought too narrow or unsuitable to our own age

Who does Bishop B. have in mind with this statement? Who would he include? Is he implying that TEC will have to live with it until it can be changed?

April 29, 3:00 pm | [comment link]
12. Sidney wrote:

As always, the reasons given for a decision are not always the actual reasons.

April 29, 3:30 pm | [comment link]
13. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

I have to agree with many of the commenters above (#2, 4, 6, 10, etc.).  While I’m not surprised that +Bauerschmidt voted NO on Forrester, I admit that I’m disappointed in his explanation of why he did so.  He puts all the emphasis on the Buddhist bishop-elect’s failure to conform to the authorized BCP liturgy, instead of on the underlying and even greater problem of the utterly heretical views Forrester holds and that he promotes so openly that he writes his own liturgies to express them.

I normally agree with Richard Kew (#8), but I can’t here.  And that’s because +TN’s letter fails to diagnosis the problem properly, leaving a huge loophole that our foes can and often do exploit. 

Namely, I think the essence of the problem with TEC is that two rival gospels and their associated worldviews are competing for supremacy within TEC, only one of which can be considered orthodox and authentic.  That is, of course, the traditional, biblical gospel, as opposed to the modern relativist, antinomian, and gnostic “gospel” that the “progressive” wing of TEC has been deceived into believing.  That is an intolerable state of affairs (see Paul’s fiery outburst in Gal. 1:6-8),  Or as the Master said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

But my point is that it’s perfectly possible for people, ordained and lay alike, to faithfully keep using the WORDS of the BCP in worship, while evacuating them of their historic and biblical content and substituting their own heretical meaning for them in the process.  In other words, I think Dr. Philip Turner hit the nail on the head in his famous article in First Things a few uears agp about the complete dichotomy and intolerable contradiction between the official theology of TEC found in its approved liturgy and the Creeds used in worship, and the more important “working theology” that shows what people really believe and teach.  That “working theology” is reflected in such things as priests’ sermons, parish newsletters, adult Sunday forum discussions, how people are counseled, and in countless decisions and actions at the parish, diocesan, and national levels that reveal what our true beliefs and values are.

What I’m saying is that our big problem is that we’ve wrongly tolerated for much too long a completely unacceptable “working theology” in TEC, and allowed that false gospel to take root.  That alien ideology is totally at odds with our official theology enshrined implicitly in the BCP and the “Historic Documents” contained within it.  And like a cancer, that unbiblical, heretical working theology is killing TEC.

Simply insisting on outward, formal compliance with using the WORDS of the BCP in worship doesn’t cut it, when the proper meaning of those words is so often blithely ignored and even deliberately twisted in the service of a false gospel that cannot save.  Bishops, and other leaders, lay and ordained, must INSIST that the working theology of TEC actually conform in practice to the official theology we claim to uphold.

That’s why I find the good bishop’s letter so disappointing.  He cast the right vote, but failed to give good enough reasons for it.

David Handy+

April 29, 5:26 pm | [comment link]
14. tjmcmahon wrote:

I think the good bishop, and his colleagues who are posting letters to the church on their reasons for denying consent deserve a break.  I have probably been as active as anyone in criticizing the bishop elect and the diocese.  In total, my analysis, blog comments on SF, T19 and other places, and personal letters to bishops, standing committees and anyone who asked run to several hundred pages. 
Bishop Bauerschmitt and other bishops do not have the time to completely explain all that is wrong with Rev. Forrester’s theology, liturgical practice, training, “election”, position on the Creeds and Baptism, or the rather unusual 12 person office of bishop that is being proposed for N. Michigan.  As a rule, in their letters they highlight the one or two things about the bishop elect and/or the process that they find most disturbing, or that are of greatest concern to members of their diocese.
That each bishop or standing committee takes this route instead of a substantial dissertation to rebut the entirety of Rev. Forrester’s, and the diocese’s, errors in no way bothers me.  In fact, I think it makes it more easily accessible to the average layman.  You look at 6 different bishops and see 6 reasons to reject the election. 
These bishops deserve our thanks and support because in this case, they have done what the church has called on them to do- they have studied the information available on the candidate, and chosen to defend the faith rather than cave to progressive pressure to give Rev. Forrester a pass.  I suspect that many of them really prayed over this, instead of glancing at the resume and rubber stamping the consent.  After this, maybe they will be more careful about consents in the future. Maybe, if we make a point of demonstrating that they will have our support when they stand for the Faith, they will be more likely to do so in the future.  So, may the Lord bless them, and continue to show them the path in the future.

April 29, 6:17 pm | [comment link]
15. julia wrote:

Is there a list anywhere of who has and hasn’t approved of this election?

A tally is being kept at Stand Firm

April 29, 9:11 pm | [comment link]
16. Fr. Dale wrote:

#15. Julia,
The list is available at the following web address:
I would take the list with a grain of salt since KJS has “encouraged” folks not to share their votes publicly and probably many “yes” votes remain secret. The Faux DSJ Standing committee voted unamimously in favor of KTF but there is no vote showing for the Faux Bishop which probably means a “yes” for example.

April 29, 9:30 pm | [comment link]
17. Tired of Hypocrisy wrote:

Yes, the words “ongoing” as well as “going forward,” (not to mention “deep” and “context”) have gotten old for me, too. But, I think the bishop is saying that not only did this stuff happen in the past, it’s still going on with no sign of abatement. It might be different if the candidate said, “I made a mistake and I won’t do it anymore.” I like the bishop’s clear language, and the way he’s found something that it’s hard for anyone on any side of the current “impasse”—as Bishop Bauerschmidt has called it—to argue with coherently. It’s hard to yammer on and on about our “common life” if we hold nothing in common that can’t be changed by fiat. There are very few things left that we hold in common other than the Book of Common Prayer. Like it or not. And I like the fact that he says a priest can’t hide behind a bishop’s approval for this. Those who don’t find an appeal to the BOCP goes far enough, I wonder what alternative—when talking about an Episcopal candidate for bishop—would be more appropriate and immediately understood?  And what could be more damning of those who are already bishops and cavalierly do whatever seems hot today?  Furthermore, the bishop does indeed call Thew’s practice both liturgically AND theologically inadequate.

April 29, 11:22 pm | [comment link]
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