I came home tonight to find that many thoughtful comments have been left on my initial blog about Bishop-Elect Kevin Thew Forrester
. I intended this to be a comment under that post, but it has become so long that I’m posting it separately.
Since I went to bed last night, you all have asked some hard questions and offered many insightful observations. I’ll try to address some of them here.
Between this blog and MadPriest’s today
, there has been much more discussion – some calm and some pretty heated – about this matter. I tried to be irenic in my statement, and I hope we can all try to recognize Christ in one another, recognize Christ in Bishop-Elect Forrester, and continue this discussion in a spirit of peace and charity.
I recognize I am differing from some of my friends, and that grieves me. But I hope the friendships can continue. I believe we are all acting and speaking in good faith. I believe we are seeking the mind of Christ in this matter. I recognize we may come to different conclusions. I believe that “many heads are better than one,” so I welcome this discussion. I believe we can continue to be friends even when we disagree. We’ve all learned the MadPriest mantra: OCICBW. I am quite aware that Of Course I Could Be Wrong. No doubt about that!
Why did I post my essay Tuesday? It was two-fold. I believe the right-wing bloggers have it all wrong: Father Forrester isn’t what they like to call the “Buddhist Bishop,” nor do I believe the election process used in Northern Michigan was flawed, much less non-canonical. But I perceived that few liberal bloggers like myself were willing to engage the deeper issues of Father Forrester's theology and Christology. When I wrote, there was a great silence from liberal bloggers. A grand total of three bishops had expressed their misgivings about Bishop-Elect Forrester’s theology. I believed then – as I believe now – that it was important for some liberal lay people to express their questions, and I offered mine. It may be that I am wholly wrong. But we’ve never hesitated to share our thoughts, and so I shared mine.
While I hope to have the “mind of Christ” dwell more and more deeply and fully in me, I do not believe I have a direct line to God. Maybe Father Forrester is exactly what the church needs in a bishop at this time. Or maybe my misgivings are correct. I tried to express my thoughts humbly on this question in my earlier post
, but let me be clear in this one. I do not know! My intention was to give some space to liberals and progressives to air their concerns, as I have aired mine.
Now I’m going to address some of the comments that have been offered in my post and elsewhere.
Over at MadPriest’s, David Dah • veed said
that bloggers like me have “ruined someone's chances of a career as a bishop.” I don’t see the church as a hierarchy through which ones moves up from one ladder-rung to another. I see vocations as a calling, not steps up a corporate ladder. I believe some are called to the diaconate or priesthood, just as some are called to the ministry of the laity or to religious order. Some few are called to the episcopate. So I don’t much like the suggestion I’ve read in some parts of the blogosphere that we’re thwarting Father Forrester’s move up the ecclesial ladder. I think we’re engaging in some discernment. And I hope we are doing it prayerfully and care-fully.Priscilla
cuts to the chase when she asks: "If Fr. Forrester is unfit to be a bishop due to his unorthodox theology, why should he be allowed to remain in holy orders at all?" That is a difficult question, and one I cannot answer. I believe there may be priests in our church whose vocation is to push against the edges. I know and love some of them. I'm not always fond of their pushing the boundaries, but I am glad we have them in this church. ... But being a priest is one thing, and being a bishop is another.
I am much taken by the comment Terry Martin offered
at MadPriest’s site. Terry wrote:
The idea that the entire Church...or for that matter the entire Communion...will function as a second search committee is absurd, imo. If the diocese elected him, and the process was canonically correct, then consents should be given.
His comment gives me pause. In all humility, I do ask myself, “Who am I to second-guess the people of Northern Michigan?”
It may be that we are setting a very dangerous precedent here, in engaging all the people of TEC to consider the qualifications and “fitness” of a bishop-elect.
I recall that I and many others did exactly the same thing when the Diocese of South Carolina elected Mark Lawrence. I was one of many who questioned his ability to adhere to the discipline of this church. (I seem to recall that Father Jake asked similar questions at the time.) I did not like his “politics,” and I had many questions about the process the diocese used. It seemed designed to winnow-out most candidates. At the time, I did not believe his claim that he would conform to “the discipline of this church.” I thought he was hell-bent on leading his diocese into some other ecclesial body.
Many of us weighed-in with our opinions and our doubts. None of my liberal colleagues called for a halt to those questions then.
Mark Lawrence responded quite publicly, and finally put most of the doubts to rest. In the fullness of time, his election was confirmed and we made him a bishop in this church.
So far, my doubts have proven to be ill-founded. It appears I was dead wrong.
I deeply trust the mind of our church. I raise questions about Bishop-Elect Forrester, just as I did about (then) Bishop-Elect Lawrence.
Terry raises an important question: In an age where we can read and evaluate a person’s sermons, liturgies, etc., does it behoove us to behave like a “second search committee”? Exactly what is the role of those who must vote consents, when the larger church has access to all his/her writings?
I would agree with Father Terry’s implication that TEC needs to clarify the consent process. Maybe I am off-base. If the duty of the bishops and Standing Committees is simply to affirm that the canons were followed, then I've surely overstepped.
But what if the bishops and Standing Committees have a greater role? Then they should be asking the questions I am asking. And they should be questioning Bishop-Elect Forrester more closely.
As Father Terry suggested, perhaps we need to be more explicit about the role of the bishops and Standing Committees when consents are requested.
Mind you, if a new "rule" is adopted, it will apply to all episcopal elections -- whether to Bishop Robinson's, Bishop Lawrence's, or Bishop-Elect Forrester's.
I echo the comment Christopher offered
:I am troubled that it is a problem for bishops, as well as the entire Church, to raise doctrinal questions when an episcopal candidate is presented who does not seem to adequately articulate the faith once delivered. And indeed, articulates an understanding that seems at odds with our core to the point of willingly and willfully changing our central rites (Baptism and Eucharist). It is the responsibility of our bishops to raise these questions. And it is the responsibility of every Episcopalian, ordained and lay alike, to do the same.
I wonder why people in the Diocese of Northern Michigan didn’t raise the questions about his theology and his conformity to the BCP during the election process.
Earlier, I raised the point that the diocese has been without episcopal oversight since Jim Kelsey’s tragic death. Since that time, there has been no bishop to approve Father Forrester’s liturgies nor to guide and counsel him. Yes, I know the canons state that the Standing Committee acts as the ecclesiastical authority in the absence of the bishop. But has the Standing Committee seen the liturgies Father Forrester celebrated? Have they felt qualified to give their assent or say “no”? Did they approve them? I do not know.
I did not note the dates when Father Forrester’s materials were written and when they were taken offline. So I don’t know whether he exercised more independence since Bishop Kelsey’s death.
I am grateful for Christopher’s comment: “Simply because Lisa or I or others may be considered on the left with regard to same-sex unions or the ordination of women, does not necessarily make us so on Creed or Prayer Book.”
It seems that many people want us all to support Bishop-Elect Forrester’s consent simply because we are on the same side of the aisle. I can’t do that without more evidence that Fr. Forrester adheres to the same basic, foundational creeds that TEC does.
Of course, it’s not my opinion that matters. It’s the bishops and Standing Committees. And I do hope they are talking with him. I hope they are asking him the same sort of questions that Mark Harris suggested
back on March 4:
Will he support the expectations of the BCP and the Constitution and Canons that limit the variations in the services of the church to those allowed by the BCP itself, or by act of General Convention, or by special permission of the bishop?
What were the circumstances, if any, under which he as a priest used eucharistic prayers not included in the above?
What would he do as bishop if one of the clergy of the diocese were to use orders of service that omitted, or provided alternate versions of the creeds? If one of the clergy used an unauthorized eucharistic prayer at the Sunday Eucharist?
Does his use of alternative eucharistic prayers or creedal statements in any way arise from reservations about the legitimacy of the words of the BCP? If so, can he indicate why he ought to be entrusted with the care for the common worship of the people of an Episcopal Church diocese?
I hope and trust that our process of discernment will lead to a right judgment. I thank God that I am not one of the bishops or Standing Committee members who has to cast this vote, for I don’t have a sufficient level of certainty.