Wednesday, February 25, 2009

In Response to Northern Michigan...

This is just for the folks in the Diocese of Southern Ohio. A few of us are going to encourage the Bishop and Standing Committee to vote no in response to the confirmation of Rev’d Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester as the next Bishop of Northern Michigan. This is not meant to be snarky or mean spirited but an honest attempt to live in a community that is called to accountability one to another. If you agree with the contents of the letter and wish to be a signatory, please do so under the comments link at the bottom of this post.

February 24, 2009

To the Bishop Ordinary and Standing Committee of the Diocese of Southern Ohio

Rt. Reverend Sir, ladies and gentlemen of the Standing Committee,

We hope you will prayerful consider voting no to the confirmation of the Rev’d Kevin Thew Forrester as the next bishop of Northern Michigan. Our reasons for asking you to vote against this confirmation are rooted in two concerns; the process used in selecting candidates by the Diocese of Northern Michigan and the suitability of the candidate himself.

In regard to the process by which nominations were made, the committee charged with this task presented one candidate for election. On the surface, presenting a single candidate raises immediate issues about the transparency of this process. Why was a single candidate presented? Was no one else seen as qualified to stand for election? And of course the perception of this makes one wonder whether there is a small group of people trying to control the process.

Is there any precedent for requiring more than one candidate? Had the Diocese asked the House of Bishops to elect a bishop for them in lieu of holding a diocesan election, which is provided for in Canon III, paragraph 11, section 1b, the House of Bishops would have been required by national canon to present a minimum of three persons to stand for election. This begs the question, “if it is appropriate for the House of Bishops, why is it not appropriate for the Diocese of Northern Michigan?”

Regarding Rev’d. Forrester’s suitability, he is on record as being both a practicing Zen Buddhist who received lay Buddhist ordination and a Christian. Whereas these two faith traditions may not be mutually exclusive to one another in the life of a lay person, the vows required of a Bishop in Christ’s one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church exclude a person from being beholden to any other faith tradition save Christianity—no matter how complementary to Christianity other traditions might seem.

In the liturgy for the ordination of a Bishop, the candidate is first required to state their belief that the scriptures of the Old and New Testament contain all things necessary to salvation, and that they will conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church. If one takes this question seriously, does a person holding dual religious allegiances forswear themselves upon making this declaration? Later in the service, the candidate is required to affirm, “Christ’s sovereignty as Lord of lords and King of kings.” Again, is this possible if one holds to two faith traditions simultaneously? Finally, the candidate is asked if they will the guard the faith, unity and discipline of the Church. Can this be done with integrity when one qualifies their response to the affirmation by claiming to also follow another religious tradition?

We hope you keep this information in mind as you prayerfully consider voting no to the confirmation of the next bishop of Northern Michigan.

Your fellow servants,

Rev'd. Jeff Queen, Rector of All Saints', Portsmouth
Rev'd. Dave Halt, Rector of St. James, Westwood
Rev'd. Dr. David Bailey, Rector of St. Stephen's, Cincinnati

David Kern, Christ Church, Glendale
Lee Daily, All Saints', Portsmouth
Vicki Daily, All Saints', Portsmouth
Adelaide Leitzel, Christ Church Glendale
Shannon Walker, St. George, Dayton


Dave Halt said...


As we have spoken, please add me as a signator.

The Rev. David J. A. Halt
St. James Episcopal Church
Cincinnati, Ohio

David B. Bailey said...

I wish to be listed as well.

The Rev'd. Dr. David B. Bailey
St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
Cincinnati, OH 45231

John Brandenburg said...

I do not wish to be added to the list at this time. I believe that the Diocese of Northern Michigan is being true to its 20+ year commitment to and experience with Baptismal/Total/Common Ministry in raising up from its midst a person to be Bishop of their unique Diocese. As Bishop, he will be, for them, the Principle Missioner of the Diocesan Community, and will be charged to continue to call others forth into ministry in the congregations of the Diocese. Northern Michigan has been in the forefront of Baptismal Ministry, and their participation in "Living Stones" gatherings each year and their sharing of their experience has contributed much to the development of Common Ministry in many other Dioceses, including our own. Now they are ready to model for the rest of the Church the expansion of Common Ministry principles to the Episcopate, and it is exciting to witness.
As for the other matter, I can only trust that if he makes the statements required at his ordination as a Bishop in the Church, he will do so with honesty and integrity and we should respect the decision of those who know him best - the people of Northern Michigan.
The Rev. John P. Brandenburg
Area Missioner
East Central Ohio Area Ministry (ECO)
Bridgeport, OH.

Vicki Daily said...

Fr. Jeff:

Please add Lee & Vicki Daily as signators.

Thanks Vicki

Anonymous said...

Please add me to the list:

David G. Kern (I don't know where I'm on the rolls, they really should copy you when you request a transfer so you know it's gone through. It's either Christ Church, Glendale, Christ Church Cathedral, or Redeemer, Hyde Park).

David |Dah • veed| said...

From the bishop-elect -

I now feel free, as the bishop-elect, to state my faith and zen meditation
practice in my own words. Please read below. I need you to know that I am deeply honored to have been trained in Zen practice and that it is integral to my spirituality. I state this below.

I also state clearly that I am a christian and not a buddhist priest. I find it rather tragic, however, that folks might try to put me/us on the defensive for the gift of interfaith practice and dialogue.

There is nothing to defend here, only a gift.

peace, kevin

My Christian Faith & the Practice of Zen Buddhist Meditation
Kevin Thew Forrester
25 February 2009

As a Christian, I am deeply aware that I live and move and have my being in Christ – as does all creation. I am honored to be the bishop-elect of the Diocese of Northern Michigan with the opportunity to serve and work with the Episcopal Ministry Support Team as well as the people of the diocese for the next 10 to 15 years, committed as we are to the ministry of all the baptized.

Each of us is formed in the image and likeness of God. As a Christian, I owe my life to our Trinitarian faith. Over the years my faith and spiritual practice have been largely shaped and profoundly imprinted by the mystics and the contemplative spiritual tradition.

I have grown in my awareness that the grace of God, which is God’s very Presence, cannot be circumscribed. Because of my faith in the gracious goodness of the Godhead, I am open to receive the wisdom from, and be in dialogue with, other faith traditions; not to mention the sciences and the arts.

I am quite honored, as an Episcopal priest, to have been trained in the art and practice of Zen meditation. I am not an ordained Buddhist priest. I am an Episcopal priest eternally grateful for the truth, beauty and goodness, experienced in meditation.

I am thankful for the pioneering work of Thomas Merton in the Buddhist-Christian dialogue. I am also thankful for the current elders in our Christian tradition, such as Thomas Keating and David Steindl-Rast, whose practice of meditation (like that of Merton) deepened their own contemplative life and led them to explore the sacramental common ground we share through the grace of God. As a Christian I can be receptive to divine truth, beauty and goodness, because I know that “All things come of Thee, O Lord; and of thine own have we given thee.”

I have been blessed to practice Zen meditation for almost a decade. About five years ago a Buddhist community welcomed me as an Episcopal priest in my commitment to a meditation practice—a process known by some Buddhists as "lay ordination."

Literally thousands of Christians have been drawn to Zen Buddhism in particular because, distinct from western religions, it embodies a pragmatic philosophy and a focus on human suffering rather than a unique theology of God. “Lay ordination” has a different meaning in Buddhist practice than in the Christian tradition.

The essence of this welcoming ceremony, which included no oaths, was my resolve to use the practice of meditation as a path to awakening to the truth of the reality of human suffering. Meditation deepens my dwelling in Christ.

My experience continues to be that through the grace of meditation I am drawn ever deeper into the Trinitarian contemplative Christian tradition. I have been able to bring the practice of meditation/contemplation to the wider diocese through the gifts discovery process and through the founding of the Healing Arts Center at St. Paul’s in Marquette.

The Center is devoted to assisting people in their own spiritual journey, which includes the practice of meditation within the sanctuary and the exploration of Christian contemplatives and mystics.
Kevin G. Thew Forrester
Ministry Developer
Diocese of Northern Michigan
906-360-1915 (cell)
906-226-2912 (office)

Anonymous said...

This man cannot serve two masters.
Please add my name
Thomas Sanders
St. David of Wales, Denton Texas

Milton said...

As an interested observer outside thediocese, I notice in Mr. Forrester's defense of his "election" a complete lack of reference to or rationale for his removal of the Creeds and any acknowledgement of Substitutionary Atonement for salvation from any services he has led, as well as omitting any mention of the universalist theology he teaches that flows naturally from the 2 points mentioned.

St. Paul, like Mr. Forrester, exhorts us to "Examine yourselves", which Forrester seems to equivocate with Paul's exhortation. But Zen meditation has us examine ourselves to find that "tat tvam asi", "I am that", which is to identify ourselves as one with all being and creation, with no God in the picture, except perhaps ourselves. St. Paul says "Examine yourselves, to see whether you be in the faith, which he describes unequivocally as faith in Jesus as the only Saviour for our sins, of whom we are all in mortal need.

Two different paths.
Two different, mutually exclusive, irreconcilable faiths.
Abandonment of communion, not consecration as a Christian bishop.

Anonymous said...

Please add my name as well.
Adelaide Leitzel, Christ Church Glendale

David Bailey+ said...

Glad the Episcopal Life Online article spelled all of the clergy names right, but was sad to see that the laity were excluded!


Anonymous said...

I would like to add for those among you who do really care. Would you like to know where kevin thew forrester practices his "meditation". In the chancel of St.Pauls church! I would like to point out also, while ordained he wears no collar, in the services he has presided at there is no creed and rarely is the prayer book used. Please vote no in confirming his election. If for no other reason there must be some theological conformity in the Episcopal church, and he has none.

Frair John said...

I've made my own opinion perfectly clear to the Standing committee here in Maryland.

Shannon said...

Please add me as a signator to this letter.
Shannon L. Walker
St. George Dayton