Thursday, April 09, 2009

Forrester Again

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.

43 Comments:

Blogger MadPriest said...

I am a social liberal because I am an orthodox believer. When I read the words of Jesus, meditate upon his sacrifice and accept these things as true, I can be no other.

4/10/2009 2:18 AM  
Blogger MarkBrunson said...

I've actually found myself more uneasy because of the responses from his supporters. I asked about the election and received answers that put me at ease. I know about Zen and the concept of "lay ordination" and what it really entails, so that was put to rest early, along with definite statements that he is not a Buddhist.

But the more I question about his theology and liturgical experimentation, the more the answers I get are ephemeral or tangential. I don't care if he's a great guy. Yes, only God can read hearts. None of that is what this is about. He's a bishop, and bishops do not have the flexibility of parish priests, nor are they allowed the luxury of personal theological reflection in a public environment - they have greater responsibility.

I'm also troubled by the argument that it's North Michigan's choice and none of our business - if that's the case, then why are we playing at being catholic at all, because playing is all it is. We're congregational if it's just "each diocese to its own." I'll catch hella heat for saying it, too, but we liberals have a deep, deep streak of hypocrisy. We parsed and strained every word in Lawrence's case - as we should have - but don't want the same done for Forrester, and the only reason I can get is "'cause he's one of us!"

That's not good enough. He's a bishop, and that's something we all are involved in. As I said, we allowed Iker, Duncan, et al because they played the rules and their dioceses thought them best, and we'll be paying for it for generations.

Either we're catholic or congregationalists - and if we're catholic, liturgical worship is a discipline that holds us together, not an option that we play with. I would not make windows into any souls, clergy or lay, but, like it or not, the episcopacy is about as big, open and visible a window as you get.

4/10/2009 4:06 AM  
Blogger Ann said...

I fine it problematic when you say "all" or "none" in regard to this election and the one in South Carolna. I was on our Standing Committee at the time of Lawrence's election and I can tell you that we spent a great deal of time with these very questions (all of us pretty liberal at that time) - we communicated with Lawrence - we prayed - Just because we did not put it out on the internet does not mean it was not happening. I am sure this is the same sort of thing that is going on in all Standing Committees this time around. 5 bishops - all liberal have written - the rest have not - that does not mean you know what they are thinking or have decided. I left the discussion at OCICBW - not because people disagreed with me (and I have a range of thoughts about Thew Forrester) but because there was the assumption that a few people were right and the rest of us were wrong with very little fact checking. I fear this is also becoming not a discussion of the the issues.

Here is what I would seek if I were still on the SC -
I have no problem with the zen practice
I have no problem with the election - it was overseen by several bishops and a theology professor.
I have no problem with his theology - it falls within our accepted boundaries.
The liturgical experimentation is the iffy place - but one does those things as a priest - trying to offer worship that speaks to a broad community of mostl non-episcopalians.
But the bottom line is Will he make his vow? Many here seem to think he will "lie" when he takes them or cross his fingers (a complaint about Lawrence - not mine). I refuse to judge him on that standard.

4/10/2009 8:27 AM  
Blogger MadPriest said...

there was the assumption that a few people were right and the rest of us were wrong

I'm sorry to say this, but that is completely untrue.

For months, because of the experience of friends in North Michigan, I have been pretty much on my own in the liberal neighbourhood in questioning Forrester's election. The last post I did on the matter was basically you and Dah-veed yelling at me.

I am assuming that my friends actually involved in this mess are right and the rest of you are wrong. But I am on my own in taking this position. I would suggest that most liberal bloggers are assuming, so forcefully, that Forrester is okay because he fits in with a certain, though not general, liberal mindset. They have not allowed themselves to be influenced by local truths out of loyalty to "the party."

The liberals from the diocese who first broke ranks over Forrester have gone to ground because of the pasting they got from "party members," (mostly along the lines of "You're just like the 'Stand Firm' crowd." They have not bullied anyone but the laissez faire crowd, if not exactly bullying have certainly tried to embarrass everyone into not questioning their man.

It is only a small percentage of my readers who are theological liberals and liturgically progressive. Most of them are social liberals who actually, like me, theologically and, definitely, liturgically conservative. What makes us different from the right wing is that we are all different. To be honest, I'm disgusted at the attacks made on some of those from our own community, and the emotional blackmail being deployed. I'm equally disgusted at the lack of realisation in some people that they are doing this.

4/10/2009 11:28 AM  
Blogger Christopher said...

Lisa,

Again, your generosity and curiosity and fidelity set a kind tone. I think that we need not become inquisitorial (i.e., use the methods of the Inquisition) or vicious (i.e., make ad hominem attacks) in order to raise concerns. As I said before, I don't doubt Fr. Thew Forrester is a nice man; I don't think God will send him to Hell; I don't know him personally at all in fact to make any judgment upon his faith or practice. But I have read his compositions, both in sermons and in liturgies, and I have read his explanations as asked for by thoughtful bishops like Bps. Breidenthal and Marshall. And what he sets forth as his understanding of Jesus Christ is inadequate to the "doctrine, discipline, and worship" of this Church as far as I can read. The far right might be paranoid and mean, but that doesn't mean their always wrong.

So, we can refrain from calls for the rack or attacks on his person, make room for his salvation, and still question his christology as being deficient and inadequate for one who serves in the office of bishop.

I have to disagree with Mthr. Fontaine on this, as from what I have read, and it's been quite a bit, his christology is not within the bounds of Nicene christology on precisely these points "for us and for our salvation he came down from heaven," "For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate," and "We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins." All of these have to do with Atonement, which cannot be unbound from the Incarnation even if we remain agnostic about any given theory of Atonement. It is through Jesus Christ in his Person and work that estrangement and alienation and distance (i.e., sin and death) are overcome and we find ourselves in communion with God. This striking statement by Fr. Thew Forrester in a sermon contradicts this at a fundamental level:

"I would ask us to explore that Jesus does not make us one with God. Jesus reveals, and this is incredible mystery, incredible good news—Jesus reveals to us, and it is why we say that he is the Messiah, he is an anointed one, he reveals to us that we are already at one with God - and why? Because God is always at one with us."

Moreover, the uniqueness of the Incarnation is weakened quite a bit by this in an Easter Vigil order from (March 22, 2008-Note that Bp. Kelsey died June 3, 2007):

Assembly: Here was a child,
like all your children,
woven into life by the Spirit.


I have to be frank that I'm not sure I could say these words because they skirt around this uniqueness.

Now, had something troubling shown up once in a sermon, I would be far less concerned, and indeed, were it my own preaching and someone raised a concern about my phrasing, I would take it in stride, indeed, be appalled that I might have said something not in accord with our faith. But this is a repeat situation not only in sermon, but in rite, and in explanation. And apparently willing so.

This also tells us again why our rites are authorized, meaning, having been composed by liturgical experts and theologians in committees, tested, and approved by General Convention for use in this Church. Even if the preaching doesn't concur, the rite itself would stand and profess the core.

Again, these questions, as you note, should have been raised during the election process. I do think this calls for some specific guidelines along these lines to be written into our canons.

I disagree also with Fr. Martin. Part of the process toward being made a bishop is the consents process. It is a confirmation of that election of a local church (the diocese) and has been a part of tradition since early on, wherein three bishops from other dioceses were called in to consecrate the newly elected. And it is not a foregone conclusion or rubber stamp. I think of James DeKoven whom we commemorate on March 22. He was twice denied consents due to controversies of the time over the eucharist and certain practices, which he rooted in a more Anglo-Catholic approach. As you note, becoming a bishop isn't a right, but a vocation, a calling, and part of discerning that calling is the consents process. Fr. Martin is correct to note that a bishop is not made for the Communion, but he is incorrect to suggest that a bishop is not made for this Church. On the contrary, a bishop is made for a diocese within the whole of this Church, the Episcopal Church, and is called to maintain the "doctrine, discipline, and worship" of this Church as affirmed and authorized in General Convention.

4/10/2009 11:35 AM  
Blogger IT said...

fascinating.

I don't have a dog in this fight, obviously, but have followed it as I have followed others, due to my addiction to the human game of politics. This kind of thing, which affects me not one whit, allows me to indulge in the game without a personal component driving up my bloodpressure which is probably soaring these days for other reasons.

Based on this, I have to say I agree with what MadPriest and Christopher have expressed in the comments just above this one, and with your concerns.

The episcopal structure of your church allows for a final approval (not quite a final search committee); you are not congregationalist. THerefore the vote (Consents) is not simply a rubber stamp.

Just because he has liberal tendencies doesn't make him an appropriate bishop. I think liberals and progressives weaken their side if it devolves into a simple litmus-test of suitability.

Not that anyone gives a tinker's dam what I think, but FWIW.

4/10/2009 1:19 PM  
Blogger Priscilla said...

In trying to find God within this tempest I have spent long hours contemplating this discussion. I cannot and will not sit in judgement for I am not fit to do so. I see both sides of the argument and both sides make sense to me yet both instill pain in me on many levels.

Lisa has brought a quiet, reflective approach (to a very heated topic) where it was badly needed and for that we all owe her thanks.

It seems that one of the good things that may come out of this is a deeper understanding of our individuality, our personal beliefs, and our awareness that although we can unite on some issues with strength and conviction, on others we must agree to disagree.

The challenge seems to be this: can we continue to meet around the virtual table in love and fellowship now that we are in deeper understanding of each other?

It is my hope and prayer that we may. Feelings have been hurt and people have been alienated on both sides of this issue but we can rise out of this following Jesus into a new life together.

Blessings on this Good Friday to all my virtual Episcopal family.

4/10/2009 1:50 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I absolutely disagree with MP and Lisa on this, but that doesn't mean that they are not my friends and will continue to be my friends no matter where they are on the theo-political spectrum. That's not the reason I have friends. It goes to character and personality more than anything else.

I trust the process in Northern Michigan, just as I trusted the process in New Hampshire and South Carolina. I believe that Bishop-Elect Forrester will be a great addition to the HOB. If one were to judge me on my liturgical experimentation, I do believe I would be burning right alongside Forrester and many, many other priests.

Once he is elected bishop, Forrester will be bound by vows to keep and follow the rubrics and canons of the church. As my Ms. Conroy often says, she would never be ordained and give up that much power in the church.

She's right. As a lay person, she has lots more power than I have as clergy. Bishops have even less - except by virtue of their power of persuasion and their spirituality.

I also find nothing wrong with Forrester's Christology. I find him a deeply spiritual man, a fine pastor and a creative thinker. As I said, he'll make a fine addition to the HOB.

Y'all can disagree with me. That's just fine. You are right from where you sit and I am right from where I sit and God knows the truth of it all.

I'm writing this as I head over to the church for The Great Vigil of Easter. I will carry each of you in my hearts - but most especially the Bishop-Elect of N. Michigan, for whom I fear, the horror of Good Friday will linger for a while.

Lord, have mercy.

4/11/2009 5:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

I apologize for neglecting this discussion. I got hit hard with some sort of cold or respiratory demon on Friday, and have found it difficult to be online, much less organize any coherent thoughts. I’ve spent most of today asleep, and I hope my mind has cleared enough to offer some responses to you who have engaged this discussion so thoughtfully.

4/11/2009 10:50 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Ann said: I fin[d] it problematic when you say "all" or "none" in regard to this election and the one in South Carolna.
Ann, I certainly didn't think I was putting it that way. I've tried to express my reservations in a way that is open to other conclusions.
As I have said, I am glad that the whole church is deliberating on this, because I know I do not have a lock on truth.

Thanks, Ann, for talking about the process your SC used during the Lawrence consent process. I, too, hope that bishops and SCs are contacting Bishop-Elect Forrester to ask for clarification.

I, too, was dismayed at the tone of the discussions over at MP's. I have tried to maintain humility in the conversation here – not simply because I think that's the "polite" thing to do, but because I honestly do not know. I know you may be right and I may be wrong. I pray fervently that the church will reach the right discernment. ... When I started writing about Bishop-Elect Forrester, it was because I wasn't hearing any other "liberal/progressive" voice express concerns or misgivings, and I thought they should be aired for the sake of honesty.

I do hope we on this "side" can disagree without being hateful or dismissive. I don't know who is right and who is wrong. I trust the whole church will discern what is right, and I will support the Bishop of Northern Michigan.

Ann wrote: "I fear this is also becoming not a discussion of the issues." Me too, Ann. I'd like to keep it on that plane.

Ann, I think you have put your fingers on the crucial issues when you wrote: Here is what I would seek if I were still on the SC -
I have no problem with the zen practice
I have no problem with the election - it was overseen by several bishops and a theology professor.
I have no problem with his theology - it falls within our accepted boundaries.
The liturgical experimentation is the iffy place - but one does those things as a priest - trying to offer worship that speaks to a broad community of mostl non-episcopalians.
But the bottom line is Will he make his vow? Many here seem to think he will "lie" when he takes them or cross his fingers (a complaint about Lawrence - not mine). I refuse to judge him on that standard.


I have said again and again that I have no problem with his Zen meditation or the election process.
Unlike you, I do have some questions about his theology. I also recognize I’m not a trained theologian, so I’m sure my readings are more simplistic than yours.

Your comments remind me of the questions Mark Harris so clearly outlined back in early March:
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?


Those really are the sufficient questions, it seems to me.

I think you cut to the chase when you ask, “Will he make his vow?” I was out of bounds when I suggested earlier that I would not trust him. I apologize to you, to JCF, and to Father Forrester. Instead, I hope he will examine his heart, talk with other priests and bishops, and then – if he says he can make the consecration vows – I must and will believe him.

4/11/2009 11:15 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

MadPriest, I hope you know I adore you and respect your work. But I am troubled by your comments here.

You may have received confidential or anonymous comments. And those people may be rightly afraid of retribution. But unless they are willing to air their concerns in the light of day, I just cannot take them seriously. I think we all have seen the ill effects of "whispering campaigns." Sometimes, they can do dastardly evil against good Christians. Other times, they can shed light on cockroaches. As long as they remain hidden, I just cannot judge what's going on.

On a lighter note ...

MP, you have spoken bravely about what's happening in your diocese. I like to think I have been fairly brave on those occasions when I have been at cross-purposes with my bishop.

One speaks up, or one shuts up. Or so it seems to me.

I just can't give any credence to confidential whispers about Bishop-Elect Forrester.

4/11/2009 11:29 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thanks for your comments, Christopher.

Indeed, I don't want to bring down some sort of inquisition on Father Forrester. I simply want to be assured that his beliefs lie within our "doctrine, discipline, and worship."

You're much more theologically astute than I, Christopher. I appreciate your fuller thoughts on this matter.

I don't think this settles it. But I believe it helps to raise the questions.

Thank you --
Lisa

4/11/2009 11:35 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thanks, IT. It's amazing (and most welcome) to hear your perspective on all this.

4/11/2009 11:37 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Priscilla. And thanks for your kind words about how I have tried to conduct this discussion.

But, alas! our bishops and Standing Committees will indeed have to make judgments. I pray for their discernment in this process. I thank God it is not my decision to make. I simply intend to offer reflections.

I, too, can see both sides of the situation. I give thanks that others are going to pray over this matter.

After you talked about items on which we may disagree, you asked: “Can we continue to meet around the virtual table in love and fellowship now that we are in deeper understanding of each other?” No doubt in my mind! Nothing that’s been said here diminishes my fondness for my friends in Christ!

BTW, I'm happy to see you've established a blog. But be careful, my sister! It can become a dangerous addiction. ;-)

4/11/2009 11:47 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Elizabeth, I’m glad to hear this. Of course I may be wrong … and I’m glad to know our friendship can survive this difference.

We disagree sometimes on theo-political matters, or liturgical matters … but that doesn’t change my fondness and respect for you.

You raise a good point about Father Forrester: that – once consecrated, he will be bound by vows to keep and follow the rubrics and canons of the church. Then it will be for the bishops to ascertain if he goes too far afield. But I was confirmed by Bishop Bennison (in his first episcopal act), so we all know how things may go once one is consecrated to the episcopate. ;-)

Good on Ms. Conroy! From time to time, I think I may be called to holy orders. Fortunately, I have a friend here who asks most vehemently: “Why would you give up that much power??” So her point and yours is well taken.

It will be what it will be with Father Forrester. He will gain the consents or he will not. At this point, I have offered it up to prayer, trusting that God’s will will be done. I do pray the right discernment will be done.

4/12/2009 12:02 AM  
Blogger MadPriest said...

What can I say, Lisa? I'm a priest. Confidentiality and speaking out for people who are afraid to speak are part of my job.

These people are not anonymous to me. They signed their emails and one of them is well known to me.

I'm sorry to do this because it stinks. But imagine we were talking "gay" here and not religion. Would you then give credence to those who preferred to speak through an honest advocate because of fear of reprisals?

4/12/2009 2:03 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

I respect that as part of your vocation, MP. And I love you for being one so trustworthy.

Lucky (and sometimes not so lucky) for me, I've generally been one of those loudmouths who spoke up ... sometimes to my own detriment -- both about church stuff and about being gay.

There's just something weird that (as far as I know) not one person from within North Michigan is publicly opposed to this election. I don't know what to make of that.

4/12/2009 2:24 AM  
Blogger MadPriest said...

Larry (Renz) is.

He was savaged and is laying low for a while.

4/12/2009 2:32 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Here's a piece of information for Larry (Renz) and all the other anonymous folks who wrote to you and, apparently, to Kevin Martin, a priest in the Diocese of Dallas:

On page 102 of Canons 2006 (which are appended below), the Canons of our church (III.11.9) clearly state that, within 10 days after the election of a Bishop (Diocesan, Coadjutor or Suffragan), by a Diocesan Convention, delegates constituting no less than 10 % of the number of delegates casting votes on the final ballot may file with the Secretary of Convention written objections to the election process, setting forth in detail all alleged irregularities.

That's 10% of of the number of delegates casting votes - not five random calls to a priest in another diocese, or emails written to a priest across the pond with a wide readership so as to get maximum exposure - and, during a time-certain: "within 10 days after the election" of said bishop. Further, the objection must be in writing, setting forth "in detail all alleged irregularities" - not speculation, innuendo and disagreements expressed in private emails, listservs, and blogs.

It breaks my heart that two of my good friends have participated in the attempted electronic lynching of this man, but I am comforted by the fact that when I have broken your hearts, you still remained loyal friends.

Here's my last point: We are what we profess to believe: "one, holy, catholic and apostolic church."

So, what happens in N. Michigan does have an impact on what happens in Northern England.

That being said, the process in N. Michigan was carried out according to canon. Their process was overseen by two bishops and a lay theologian.

If there is room in the HOB for the likes of Jack Iker, Bob Duncan, Keith Ackerman, and David Lawrence there is room in the HOB for the likes of Jack Spong, Gene Robinson, Katharine Jefferts Schori and Geralyn Wolfe - each of whom has been vilified for their particular theo-political stands by folks on both sides of the aisle.

The Episcopal Church is, as that old TV Commercial used to claim: "Stronger than dirt." So are our canonical processes.

4/12/2009 7:33 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Here you go - copied right out of the online version of Canons 2006

Canon III.11. 9.
(a) Within ten days after the election of a Bishop Diocesan, a Bishop Coadjutor, or a Bishop Suffragan by a Diocesan Convention, delegates constituting no less than ten percent of the number of delegates casting votes on the final ballot may file with the Secretary of the Convention
written objections to the election process, setting forth in detail all
alleged irregularities.

4/12/2009 7:34 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Oh, and a few last thing as people are banging on my office door with questions about the last minute details about the Big Easter Celebration:

A confession - when people in authority don't listen to my point of view, I have been known to dismiss them as "control freaks". That doesn't mean they are.

If Bishop-Elect Forrester becomes bishop and is proven to be guilty of heresy and not guarding the faith of his flock, he will be deposed, just like Duncan, et. al.

And . . . most importantly . . . Happy Easter.

4/12/2009 7:45 AM  
Blogger MadPriest said...

As I said before, Lisbeth. If this was happening in your back yard, as my nearest friend to the situation I would believe you above all others, even if you were obviously lying through your teeth. It's something us English people call loyalty. It goes back to when we lived in tribes and had to stick together for protection.

4/12/2009 8:25 AM  
Blogger MadPriest said...

And we could try a little visualisation exercise. Imagine somebody of higher rank arriving at Lisbeth's church and telling her that the way she did everything (including baptisms - Lisbeth's favourite) was completely wrong because her understanding of God was completely wrong and always had been. And that from now on the services, including all the words, would be changed to reflect this person's understanding of God and Lisbeth would have to put up with it or get out.

A priest is more obliged than a bishop to uphold the creeds and practices of the Church because they have no individual authority to change them.

4/12/2009 8:38 AM  
Blogger Ann said...

Dear MP -- we have a canonical way of dealing with that sort of thing. KTF is a priest (although a bishop elect now). I assume you are referring to a priest doing this sort of thing. I would ignore him or her and see what they would do next. I doubt it would go any further as what could they do? If I were a layperson I would go to the bishop and Standing Committee and ask them to deal with her or him. If there was no response I would go to the the Province and on and on. As a priest I have vows - it would not be the first time I have followed those rather than a "higher up." A bishop in TEC vows to guard the faith, unity and discipline of the church--- you are incorrect to say bishops have less reason than priests - bishops cannot change the Constitution and Canons of our church on their own (which includes the prayer book).

4/12/2009 8:51 AM  
Blogger MadPriest said...

bishops cannot change the Constitution and Canons of our church on their own (which includes the prayer book)

But the point is that Forrester already has as a priest, under authority to bishop and canons. So should he become a bishop with such a record?

And I would never disobey my bishop on liturgy, church practice or doctrine even if I thought him completely wrong. I would vocally oppose him or leave his jurisdiction. But if priests go around claiming a higher authority than their bishop you end up with the schisms and hateful practices that we spend so much time and energy fighting.

Or are progressives allowed to do what they want and the reactionaries not.

It seems to me that citing church law to uphold Forrester's election is nothing worth when you are not prepared to censure him under church law for what he has already done, when he was in a position where he had even less authority to do so.

4/12/2009 9:11 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kaeton said...

MP, darling, I am not loyal to Kevin Forrester or to the 'progressive' position. Indeed, I don't even know what 'progressive' means anymore, except that it suddenly becomes important in discussions like these.

I am loyal to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the canons and rubrics of TEC - but I am not a slave to them.

I have experimented with liturgy, too, with and w/o the bishop's permission.

Shoot me.

I used to work for +Jack Spong whose standard answer to me or any of his staff was, "If you don't want my answer, don't ask your question."

Because, you see, as a bishop, he would have to respond, and he would have to toe the line.

I understand, Maddy darling. You believe those who have come to you first. Well, quite frankly, given our canons and the canonical process set out which I have already quoted, I just want to raise the the question in your mind as to why folks would do this . . .why would someone write to you, across the pond, knowing that you have the wide readership that you do . . .instead of following the process set out in our own canons. . . ??????

I don't think this discussion is at all healthy or helpful, even though it is framed in the posture of "thinking out loud." Despite all the protestations to the contrary, the questions are slanted and framed in such a way as to reveal the true heart of the author.

It makes my heart very sad.

4/12/2009 5:47 PM  
Blogger MadPriest said...

Well, in the case of Renz, the non-anonymous correspondent. Forrester came into his church and changed the liturgy and theology that he loved and was comfortable with to such an extent that he had to leave his church and is now churchless. So, I expect he is using this as a chance to get his voice heard against a powerful man and to get his own back for the hurt caused to him.

And I'm very happy to knowingly let him and the others do that through my blog.

I can say what I like because I don't break the laws. If I broke the laws how could I speak out against those who break laws and in doing so, hurt our people. Your "shoot me" attitude is no different to Bishop Duncan's "so, make me a martyr attitude." "So shoot me if you don't like what I'm doing," is arrogant, just like Spong.

4/12/2009 6:03 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, if that's the basis of Renz's complaint against Forrester, he'll have to take a ticket and stand in line for all the people who hate all clergy who make changes in the liturgy.

I had one woman leave my congregation because I didn't have 'Ivy League' credentials like my predecessors. Another two left because my service runs about 10 minutes over 60 minutes. So, just call me a low class control freak.

That hardly disqualifies Forrester from being bishop, don't you think? And, allowing your blog to be a vehicle for this sort of defamation of character certainly doesn't reflect well on you, my friend.

And, I wasn't being arrogant, Maddy. Flippant, frustrated, annoyed, but hardly arrogant. It has been my experience, however, that when personal attacks like this begin, it's always an indication that the original argument has been exposed as weak.

4/12/2009 7:56 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

The comments here most recently have involved three of my dearest friends: Ann, Elizabeth, and MadPriest. And we differ upon this matter of Bishop-Elect Forrester. (Though I am perhaps the least certain of us.) I love you all. I believe you love each other. And I have no doubt that we can live happily together within Anglicanism. I beseech you all to remember where your affections lie. As several have said, we can disagree charitably. Or at least we should be able to do so.

If we can't, then I'm going to invite Father Christian Troll to come in here do some Mighty Smiting upon us all. ;-)

Please ... let us remember charity above all.

4/13/2009 12:01 AM  
Blogger MadPriest said...

There is a huge difference between the president waffling and adding ten minutes to the service and the president changing the words of the liturgy and the theology behind the liturgy.

But the worse crime is when a priest imposes their ideas upon a congregation in stead of working with the ideas of the congregation.

And stop it with the psychological stuff, Elizabeth. We are both experts at it so it really is a waste of time.

4/13/2009 2:29 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Even if Forrester had done that, it is no worse than my coming to St. Paul's, which had been snake-belly low and had never done an Easter Vigil, much less bless the creche at Christmas. Several people left because of that, too. When a new priest comes into a new community, there are all sorts of happy people, and there are always a handful of very unhappy people. Sometimes it's about liturgy, other times it's about theology, and sometimes it just about style. I'm sad when people leave, but that is simply an unavoidable part of what happens.

I'm sure, despite all my efforts, that those who left would tell you that I "imposed" my beliefs on the congregation. That's not true - at least from my perspective - but, at the end of the day, if someone doesn't want to go where I am called to lead them, I suppose they are at least correct from their perspective.

You can call it anything you like, darling, but when you begin to attack the person instead of staying on the points of the argument, it is fairly evident that you're not as solid in your position as you might hope to be.

Lisa, if you mean what you say, that you are "least certain" of this position on Forrester, then I am really disappointed that you have allowed your blog to be used as a vehicle in this way. I am quite certain about Forrester and you may note that I have tried not to contribute to the innuendo and grumbling. Because of this, perhaps mid-week, once I've taken some long walks and cleared my head of all the details of managing Holy Week, I'll post something.

This just breaks my heart.

4/13/2009 8:03 AM  
Blogger MadPriest said...

Well, I'm neither called or a leader. So I do tend to side with the people. Especially as it's their church and they pay my wages.

4/13/2009 9:55 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I have blogged on this, if either of you cares to read it:

http://telling-secrets.blogspot.com/2009/04/inky-dinky-diocese.html

4/13/2009 6:35 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Elizabeth my “least certain” comment was regarding the positions you, MP, and Ann have offered. Of the three of you, I think I’m the least certain, for I do not know whether Bishop-Elect Forrester’s election should be ratified.

Elizabeth wrote: Lisa, if you mean what you say, that you are "least certain" of this position on Forrester, then I am really disappointed that you have allowed your blog to be used as a vehicle in this way.
I could not disagree more strongly, Elizabeth. Look at who has commented on this thread. It’s our progressive/liberal friends. It’s people who respect each other and who agree on the Gospel of Christ.

I posted about Bishop-Elect Forrester’s consecration because I mostly heard a vast silence among the liberal/progressive bloggers. I believed (and still believe) that there are valid questions to be asked about his theology and liturgical practice. Surely you can read in my posts that I did not seek to sabotage his consecration. But we “liberals” are not a monolithic group, and I think it’s worth acknowledging that.

This has surprised me a bit, to my relief: When I began posting about Bishop-Elect Forrester, I feared that the right-wingnuts might hold this one up for target practice. Interestingly, they have not. (What a relief!) Maybe they are afraid of the honest dialogue we’re having here; perhaps this dialogue doesn’t advance their purposes. If so, I am grateful. As you know, they love to paint all us “revisionists” with a broad, dark (even Satanic) brush. But I think it’s healthy for us to be able to disagree, and yet maintain respect and strong bonds of friendship. Isn’t this kind of disagreement and charity that we think should characterize TEC, the Anglican Communion, and the broader church? I think it is.

Elizabeth wrote: I am quite certain about Forrester and you may note that I have tried not to contribute to the innuendo and grumbling.
Go back and look at what I have written, Elizabeth. Some people may be relying on innuendo or grumbling, but that has never been my issue. I disregard all that. My questions come only out of his words written.

But let me again say what I’ve said before. My misgivings about Bishop-Elect Forrester’s orthodoxy are strictly about his ability to obey the doctrine, discipline, and worship of this church. That is all. But I do not have a firm conclusion to my questions. I subscribe to the “OCICBW…” mantra with humility.

I believe it’s a good thing that our church allows 120 days for bishops and standing committees to cast their votes. As I’ve said before, I hope they are engaging him in discussion. And I pray that the Holy Spirit will move in this process so that the right outcome will be achieved. Let me be clear: I do not know what is the “right” outcome! I will rest in whatever decision is reached.

I hope this helps, Elizabeth.

4/13/2009 8:44 PM  
Blogger Davis said...

The intricacies of this particular election are far to complex for me, a simple layman, but I want to say one thing.

Until our bishops - all of them - will uphold the creeds as authoritative and binding on them and us, we will continue to have the deep troubles and divisions that beset us as a Church.

4/18/2009 1:37 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Davis, I know there's an oft-repeated accusation that many of TEC's bishops don't say the Creeds ... or don't believe them. That propaganda has been used successfully with some Global South leaders, and was used with some success by the former bishops of Fort Worth and San Joaquin, who barred most news and publications from TEC.

But who are these Creed-denying bishops? I don't know any of them. (Perhaps it's true of +Spong, but I can't think of others.)

4/19/2009 1:32 PM  
Blogger Davis said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/19/2009 2:08 PM  
Blogger Grandmère Mimi said...

Lisa, I thank you for your courage in taking on this discussion.

Two thoughts: A priest is a servant to her/his people. A bishop, since the position is higher, is even more so a servant to her/his priests and people.

4/19/2009 3:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Yes, Davis, I know that Bishop Spong is the favorite whipping boy. You say, "There are others." I ask you to tell me what others. Name names.

Here is what I believe, Davis: I believe that some people are trying to raise adiaphoro to the level of creedal belief, and then they try to paint bishops with a very thin brush of heresy.

That certainly is what has been done to our Presiding Bishop. There is not one jot or iota of the Creed that she has denied or even waffled on. But the Scriptural Fundamentalists object to a part of her interpretation of Scripture, and -- because they disagree with that interpretive difference -- they scream that she is a heretic. But she is no thing. In fact, her understanding of Jesus as Truth and Light and a Way is consistent with teaching of the ancient fathers. It's only the modern literalists that have a beef with her.

So my question again: Please name bishops you believe don't subscribe to the creeds, and tell me why/how. I want to put this rumor to rest.

And I want -- in the best sense of the Anglican way -- to leave room for a generous orthodoxy in how we interpret those creeds.

4/19/2009 4:53 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thank you, Mimi. I don't pretend to have any special insight on this topic. I think it is very thorny. And I regret that my opinion sets me apart from some of my liberal/progressive friends.

Hear this clearly: I don't know whether I am right or wrong in my assessment of Bishop-Elect Forrester's theology and liturgy. But I pray that the Spirit will lead the bishops and standing committees to a right decision. And I trust that my friends will remain my friends, even if we have a different "take" on this issue.

And most of all, I pray that God will provide a good bishop for the people of Northern Michigan.

4/19/2009 5:00 PM  
Blogger Grandmère Mimi said...

Lisa, my prayer is the same as yours, and I will accept the outcome, whatever it is.

I was on a discernment committee for a young candidate for the priesthood. I was doubtful in the beginning as to his suitability for the priesthood, but he began to win me over when he was asked why he wanted to be a priest, and he answered, "I want to serve the people of God." I have never forgotten those words from a 24 year old young man. He has been a priest for several years now, and he has justified my faith in him. Thanks be to God.

4/19/2009 5:24 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

What a great story, Mimi.
I recently served on a discernment committee, too. Those are such weighty responsibilities.
How wonderful when you can see such good come out of that process.

4/19/2009 8:55 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

as a member of the diocese of Northern Michigan I find it comforting to know that others are wrestling seriously with the issues surrounding KTF election as Bishop, as I have seen very little evidence that the diocese, as a whole, has seriously thought through this election. There is, sadly, an overwhelming sense of "we have to accept Kevin as there is no one else, we can afford no one else and we have been without a bishop for too long." Most of us assumed that KTF would be the bishop elect when Bishop Kelsey died, it seemed a foregone conclusion as an unfortunate side effect of Mutual Ministry (which does have many good qualities) in this particular diocese has been the belief that "we have everything we need right here among ourselves." Translation: we don't need any outsiders coming in and messing up our little clique." Personally I had hoped the diocese would accept an interm bishop from elsewhere to help us through the grieving process etc...but that did not happen.
I, too, have serious concerns regarding KTF Christology...but who in their right mind is going to take seriously someone with my background?- unchurched as a youth, Methodist via baptism and by choice at 17, earned a bachelor's degree in religion from the Nazarenes and a MTS from Jesuits at Spring Hill...I don't even take myself seriously with that hodge podge of a pedigree!
on a serious note..thank you, all of you, for sharing your divergent positions and for caring, in your unique ways, about this little tiny diocese. your prayers and support are surely needed at this time.
(oh, don't bother checking out my blog.haven't updated it in ages and anyway it is about adoption and foster care. I'd be happy to talk via email with anyone tho!)

5/15/2009 6:05 PM  

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