My Book Shop:
Thursday, April 23, 2009
They took away my Vox and a few other channels I was hooked on and didn't replace them with anything, as far as I could tell. After we moved to Baltimore all we had was the XM, and I stumbled onto The Catholic Channel. I have come to like it a great deal. It's so nice to have Christian programming that doesn't involve mullets and silly repetitive music.
In particular Lino Ruli's Catholic guy show has deepened my faith and many days kept my head from blowing off. More later, I just thought I give a shout out to a fine organization.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Monday, April 20, 2009
THERE was once a man who wanted to escape from a certain prison: he tried to loosen the window-bars, he tried to work out the stones of the wall, he tried the chimney, and he tried the floor. Then suddenly a happy thought struck him. He opened the door and walked out.
I think the historian of the future will say: There was once a Church that wanted to escape from a great mess. Somehow or other this Church had failed to retain her hold upon her members: the people of the country had for centuries been drifting away from her; half the religious folk had formed themselves into other denominations; the great majority of the people somehow had given up going to church at all; those who remained faithful were, in spite of a great Revival, still in singular ignorance as to the principles of their own religion: as a consequence, many of these were so sluggish as to be a source of weakness rather than strength; others were zealous, but their zeal was a source of division rather than of the unity which maketh force. So her enemies raged against her; her own children rushed hither and thither and were not satisfied; while the nation, through its Parliamentary representatives, became insolent, and proposed to refurbish the rusty weapons of religious persecution for the disciplining of her clergy.
 This Church was, in fact, in a mess. She had tried so many ways of escape! She had tried Geneva; she had tried Rome; she had essayed a mixture of the two in varying proportions, which was called Moderate; she had tried laissez faire, by which each man did what he found easy and thought nice; she had even tried (heroic and marvellous as it may seem) to establish a Cathedral type of Service in every village church. The one thing that she had never tried to do was to carry out her own laws, and to apply her own principles.
Then one day she had a happy thought. She would be true to her own self, to her own laws. She opened the door, and walked out.
We do not realize the extent of our failure. With everything human in our favour--learning, position, wealth, lofty traditions, the possession of the church buildings, the schools, the universities--we have gradually let our people slip away from us. Goodly was our heritage: if we had but kept what our forefathers had won for us, the whole Anglo-Saxon race would to-day be united in one Church, devotedly attached to it, and most diligent in worship as our ancestors were 1,000 years ago, as they were 400 years ago, as, indeed, a great majority still were, in spite of many losses, 200 years ago.
Many of you have asked me about the election of the Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester as Bishop of Northern Michigan, and in particular about whether I gave consent for his consecration. I did not; nor did the Standing Committee, which had its own in-depth conversation on this important matter.
Several issues have been raised concerning Fr. Thew Forrester in the months since his election. First, he has undergone “lay ordination” in the Zen Buddhist tradition. Is this simply an acknowledgement that he engages in meditation practices with Buddhist roots? Or does it indicate a more dangerous mingling of Christian and Buddhist teaching, a hazardous syncretism? I do not have a clear answer to that question, though his articulation of the Christian faith seems to blend spiritual categories in a disquieting way. Second, the election process in the Diocese of Northern Michigan, while not uncanonical, gives the appearance of a closed system. The nominating committee presented only one candidate to the electing convention, and thus the election seems like the ratification of a decision already made. Third, the website of Fr. Thew Forrester’s parish – St. Paul’s, Marquette – indicates that he has written his own Eucharistic prayers and even made significant modifications to the baptismal liturgy. The Book of Common Prayer, on the other hand, is part of the constitution of the Church; its use is not optional, and clergy are not free to modify its texts. The Prayer Book is our doctrinal anchor, rooted in Scripture and summarizing the essential teachings of the Christian faith. Fourth, Fr. Thew Forrester’s sermons – also posted on the parish website – indicate a disturbing weakness in his understanding (and embrace) of basic Christian doctrines: the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the atoning work of Christ on the cross. As I’ve pondered Fr. Thew Forrester’s election, this is the most troubling dimension of all, and in the end it is what led me to withhold consent.
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. With all blessings I am
Yours in Christ,
I write to you regarding my decision not to consent to the election of the Rev. Kevin Thew Forester as Bishop-elect of Northern Michigan. Some of you have been eagerly awaiting this, and I am sorry for the delay. I wanted to allow time to discuss this with our Standing Committee, not to persuade but simply to make sure they heard the following directly from me, which they have. I also wanted to converse directly with Kevin Thew Forrester, which I have done, and I am most grateful to him for that offering.
The Examination within "The Ordination of a Bishop" in our Book of Common Prayer reads as follows:
"My brother, the people have chosen you and have affirmed
their trust in you by acclaiming your election. A bishop in
God's holy Church is 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.
You are called to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the
Church; to celebrate and to provide for the administration of
the sacraments of the New Covenant; to ordain priests and
deacons and to join in ordaining bishops; and to be in all
things a faithful pastor and wholesome example for the
entire flock of Christ.
With your fellow bishops you will share in the leadership of
the Church throughout the world. Your heritage is the faith
of patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and those of
every generation who have looked to God in hope. Your joy
will be to follow him who came, not to be served, but to
serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.
Are you persuaded that God has called you to the office of
Answer: I am so persuaded.
Bishop: Will you accept this call and fulfill this trust in
obedience to Christ?
Answer: I will obey Christ, and will serve in his name.
Bishop: Will you be faithful in prayer, and in the study of
Holy Scripture, that you may have the mind of
Answer: I will, for he is my help.
Bishop: Will you boldly proclaim and interpret the Gospel of
Christ, enlightening the minds and stirring up the
conscience of your people?
Answer: I will, in the power of the Spirit.
Bishop: As a chief priest and pastor, will you encourage and
support all baptized people in their gifts and
ministries, nourish them from the riches of God's
grace, pray for them without ceasing, and celebrate
with them the sacraments of our redemption?
Answer: I will, in the name of Christ, the Shepherd and
Bishop of our souls.
Bishop: Will you guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the
Church of God?
Answer: I will, for the love of God.
Bishop: Will you share with your fellow bishops in the
government of the whole Church; will you sustain
your fellow presbyters and take counsel with them;
will you guide and strengthen the deacons and all
others who minister in the Church?
Answer: I will, by the grace given me.
Bishop: Will you be merciful to all, show compassion to the
poor and strangers, and defend those who have no
Answer: I will, for the sake of Christ Jesus."
Often when called upon in this vocation to make difficult decisions, I reread these words. On the day of my own examination, these words fell heavy upon me, and with very good reason.
One of the duties of bishops in the Episcopal Church is to consent to diocesan elections taking place within the greater church, and to the results of those elections. This consent process is part of the checks and balances within the church, and, perhaps more importantly, a very real part of the discernment of the Body of Christ-the whole Church.
It has been said that the role of the bishop is to be a bridge, interpreting the universal to the local and the local to the universal. This particular role is often very difficult; however, our history and polity are clear: we do not operate in a vacuum, alone, in our local situations and contexts. We work within a larger context-the Anglican Communion and the rest of the global community-with many more to consider than just those who we see within our midst.
The process in Northern Michigan has many complexities and issues; which issue is most important and serious varies from person to person. Below are the major issues I have considered. After I present each as I understand them, I will address each one from my perspective. The issues are:
1. The election in Northern Michigan included only one candidate: the Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester. Standing committees and bishops were asked to consent to an "election." Although the gathered convention of Northern Michigan did in fact vote on this one candidate, some have questioned whether an election took place in this case, since an election typically includes at least one other candidate and some process of voting.
2. Thew Forrester's practice of Buddhism and especially his "lay ordination" in that belief system (My Christian Faith & the Practice of Zen Buddhist Meditation, Kevin Thew Forrester, 26 February 2009and Letter to the House of Bishops, Kevin Thew Forrester, March 11, 2009).
3. Thew Forrester's rewriting of the approved liturgies from the Book of Common Prayer, including the Baptismal Liturgy. (Baptismal Liturgy, Season after Pentecost, St. Paul's Church, Marquette, Mich. and Letter on Liturgy of Baptism, Kevin Thew Forrester, March 27, 2009)
I want to be clear that my decision is in no way a criticism of Total Common Ministry (TCM) or the work the Diocese of Northern Michigan has done in this area. Just over a year ago, I had the great fortune to sit with a group of people from the Diocese of Northern Michigan at the Living Stones Conference in Des Moines, Iowa. I have always been deeply intrigued and inspired by the work of this diocese since the time of Bishop Tom Ray and continued under the inspiring leadership of the late Bishop Jim Kelsey. Their exploration and advocacy of ministry, rooted in our baptismal vows, has been a tremendous gift to the Body of Christ. Kevin Thew Forrester has been an integral part of that work, which I recognize.
During that meeting in Des Moines, this very process of Northern Michigan's selection of a bishop was the topic of our case study. While inspired by their approach and discernment, I and some of the other bishops present, cautioned that the newness and innovation in their approach would most likely require much more education and explanation to the whole church if it were to go forward. The process itself is not nearly the concern for me that it is for many, and in and of itself would not necessarily be a reason to withhold consent. Some have read my decision as proof that I do not support TCM. I emphatically disagree. I believe and have often stated that TCM is part of the emerging church, and one I want to engage, support, grow and learn from. In fact, I continue to urge the planning group of the House of Bishops to bring into our midst representatives of the emerging church and Living Stones. I strongly believe in TCM and at the same time, no emerging system exists outside the collective discernment and the shared authority and oversight which our tradition has always upheld. It is built into our system that the local does not decide such matters alone.
2. Thew Forrester's adherence or learning of meditation practices through the Buddhist belief system does not, in and of itself, trouble me. In my first parish, I invited and participated in a Buddhist-Christian dialogue, which was deeply enriching to me. However, what we discovered in our time together was the fact that though many of our meditation practices were quite similar, what we were attempting and to whom we were connecting in the meditation was quite different. In one document (My Christian Faith and the Practice of Zen Buddhist Meditation, February 26, 2009), Thew Forrester states that his lay ordination in the Zen Buddhist tradition included a welcoming ceremony that included "a resolve to use the practice of meditation as a path to awakening to the truth of the reality of human suffering." In the same document he states, "It embodies a pragmatic philosophy and a focus on human suffering rather than a unique theology of God." This to me is quite different from our resolve in Christianity: that at the heart of our faith and our baptismal covenant are the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In this same document, he states that his ceremony "included no oaths" although in a letter dated March 11, 2009 and distributed to the House of Bishops he provides more details including the "one vow I took and the precepts I affirmed." While he quite succinctly interprets what he intended to do with these vows and affirmations in relation to his Christian faith, to take the step of any type of ordination and "naming" within another belief system seems to me to be a deeper step and one I would take very seriously in relation to the vows taken in our Christian ordination. To this end, the lay ordination does cause me pause.
3. 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.
I am faced with a situation where any one of these alone might be something that could be worked through; however, the panoply of these made me very uncomfortable and unready to move forward with consent.
This is one of the most, if not the most, difficult decisions I have had to make in my time as bishop. I want very much to honor those in Northern Michigan who have discerned this person and this outcome, but at this time, with the information I have, I cannot. I know and I have heard from many who do not agree with me and are greatly disappointed in my decision. I hold your opinions and feelings with great care and know them to be equally heartfelt. I hold in my prayers Kevin Thew Forrester, the Diocese of Northern Michigan, our diocese and this Church. I pray for the Holy Spirit to continue to enlighten us and I trust what should happen will, regardless of my role. This is my burden to carry. I do it on your behalf and I do not do it lightly, even when we disagree.
The Rt. Rev. Gregory Rickel
Bishop of Olympia
(Italics added by your humble host as a matter of emphasis)
While I do not completely agree with Father Haller as to some of the details, a few of which could be considered questions open to conjecture, this is still be best rational as to why certain norms should be adopted or restored. It also could or should serve as a call for other practices to be more fully developed theologically as to their rational.
I would also add that it is a dearly held belief of mine that one of the places the Church as a whole has gone wrong is the assumption that "sloppy" is equatable with "authentic" as one priest friend of mine put it.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Thursday, April 09, 2009
Omnipotens Pater, cuius dilectus Filius, in nocte ante passionem, Sacramentum sui Corporis et Sanguinis instituit: Concede propitius ut idem grate accipiamus in memoriam eius qui in his sacrosanctis mysteriis pignus aeterne vitae nobis donat; per eundem Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
If you prevail and Kevin’s election is not agreed to, what is the next litmus test to
be? And perhaps the telling question is: if you prevail and Kevin’s election is not
agreed to, what word do you have for the people of Northern Michigan? I would
suggest you cut us all some slack and withdraw your opposition to Kevin’s
election. In so doing you would add a moment of grace to a Communion that, I
believe, is in search of openness and transparency, not inquisitional standards
employed through the consent process.
Interestingly enough, my two major concerns had to do with his liturgical practice in which he feels that he has the right to modify the text of the Book of Common Prayer according to his own theological beliefs and assumptions. Secondly, I am deeply concerned by the theological content of some sermons he has posted on the internet. I am grieved to have to take this stance because I know of the suffering that the Diocese of Northern Michigan has endured as the result of Jim Kelsey's tragic automobile accident. I was somewhat embarrassed that during my conversation with the House my voice broke as I admitted that I had awakened very late at night to re-read the materials submitted to see if I could not find such an opening.
My own self-perception is that I am on many matters a social liberal but on doctrinal matters my conservative evangelical Catholicism causes me to pause. It is for that reason and on doctrinal grounds that I am unable to consent to the election in the Diocese of [Northern] Michigan.
Thank you for voicing your concerns, faithfully,
The Rt. Rev. Edwin F. Gulick, Jr., D.D.
Bishop of Kentucky
Monday, April 06, 2009
Saturday, April 04, 2009
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I am writing to inform you of my decision not to consent to the consecration of Kevin Thew Forrester as Bishop of Northern Michigan. I did not want to make a public statement before I shared my concerns with the Standing Committee. I was able to do this at their meeting last Friday, March 27.
Two subjects have arisen as matters of concern in the wider discussion of consent for this Bishop-elect. I want to be clear that these matters have not contributed to my refusal of consent.
First, the internal process which led to Bishop-elect Thew Forrester's election. In my view, it violated no canons, and, although I have questions about it, these have not entered into my decision to withhold consent. Second, some have voiced concern that Bishop-elect Thew Forrester has been recognized by the Zen Buddhist community as one who practices Zen Buddhist meditation in an exemplary fashion and accepts the basic ethical principles of Buddhism. I have no problem with this. Many Christians have deepened their own faith through Buddhist prayer practices, and in my view the moral framework of Buddhism is largely consonant with that of Judaism and Christianity.
But obviously I do have concerns. These concerns lie closer to home. My own reading of Bishop-elect Thew Forrester's sermons over the last year (these sermons were available on the website of his parish church, St. Paul's, Marquette, Michigan, as of March 16, but are no longer posted) reveals an understanding of the Christian narrative that is troubling to me. I have spoken about this with the Bishop-elect on the phone, and he has followed up with e-mails, but I remain troubled.
According to Thew Forrester, Jesus revealed in his own person the way that any of us can be at one with God, if only we can overcome the blindness that prevents us from recognizing our essential unity with God. The problem here is that the death of Jesus as an atonement for our sins is completely absent, and purposely so. As I read Thew Forrester, nothing stands between us and God but our own ignorance of our closeness to God. When our eyes are opened, atonement (not for our sins, but understood as a realization of our essential unity with God) is achieved. Thew Forrester's rejection of salvation understood as an atonement for sins we cannot procure for ourselves is not an idea he is merely exploring. In a very consistent manner, he is developing this idea. In materials he submitted to the House of Bishops earlier this month, he has shared with us his own revision of the Prayer Book rite for Holy Baptism, in which references to salvation are replaced with references to union with God.
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.
Some may say, "So what?" Should the Episcopal Church not allow as much latitude as possible when it comes to theological reflection on the meaning of Jesus in our lives? Yes, of course. We are a church that values a broad range of opinion on practically every subject. Yet our (unrevised) Baptismal liturgy (Book of Common Prayer, beginning at p. 299) is extremely clear about what it means to be a follower of Jesus: we are to turn to him - the same Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified and rose again and continues to invite us into a personal relationship with him - and accept him as Savior. Whatever else we have to say about Jesus follows from that (even though different people may end up saying quite different things).
I cannot emphasize enough that clarity about our relationship to Jesus through our baptism is especially important as we move on from the Lambeth Conference, where the bishops of the Episcopal Church pointed repeatedly to our Baptismal rite as evidence of our commitment to Jesus as Lord.
I write this with a heavy heart. Kevin Thew Forrester served as an assistant in the parish where some years earlier I was ordained a priest and served as an assistant. He has been raised up by a sister diocese in our own Province V, and I know how highly he is regarded there and what a blow it would be to the people of Northern Michigan if he were not to receive the requisite consents to be consecrated. But I also know that the Episcopal Church needs at this crucial juncture in the life of the Anglican Communion to be clear that all our hope is founded in the cross.
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio