Friday, June 5, 2009

Forrester’s Election Fails to Receive Consent

The Bible Belt Blogger reports that Kevin Thew Forrester, the bishop-elect of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan, has failed to receive the number of consents required for his consecration:

Fifty-six standing committees have now decided to withhold consent, while 29 have given consent, according to a survey by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock. Roughly 16 committees, including seven based outside the United States, are still in the discernment process. Another 10 or so committees have voted, but are currently declining to reveal their vote.

Barring last-minute vote-switching by dioceses across the country, Thew Forrester will not be seated by the House of Bishops. He would be the first bishop-elect to be vetoed by a majority of the Episcopal Church’s 111 standing committees since at least the 1930s.

I certainly hope this holds without undue intervention "from above."

The Bible Belt Blogger also summarizes the controversy surrounding Forrester:

Thew Forrester, the rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Marquette, Mich., was overwhelmingly elected bishop by representatives of the Diocese of Northern Michigan on Feb. 21. Since then, he has been heavily criticized on theological and liturgical grounds. Critics said Thew Forrester altered the denomination’s baptismal covenant to make it more closely reflect his own personal theological views. He likewise rewrote the church’s Easter Vigil and reworked the Apostles' Creed. Critics said the changes removed or obscured key Christian teachings about the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross, the problem of sin, the will of God and the identity of Jesus as the eternally divine and only-begotten Son of God. Thew Forrester said the changes were needed to keep the church relevant in the 21st century and that they reflected popular Christian beliefs that predated the Middle Ages.

I have repeatedly taken a stand against Forrester’s theological and liturgical innovations, but I take no pleasure in what must certainly be a difficult time for him and for his family and friends. They need and deserve our prayers.

My hope is that the pain this most surely causes will not be in vain, but rather that, by God’s grace, it will bear fruit for the Episcopal Church. Commenting about all of this over at Episcopal Café’s “The Lead,” Bill Carroll says it about as well as anyone could:

In this case, I think history will remember this as the point when the Episcopal Church began to show some backbone about basic Christian doctrine. For too long, we have allowed our respect for difference to mean anything goes. There are boundaries. We might be wrong about whether Fr. Forrester has crossed the line (I find his defense to be unconvincing), but we are not wrong that the Creeds and the liturgy give us some standards (based ultimately in Scripture) that one has to live up to. I would think this would hold for any baptized member of the Church. It is particularly important for bishops, who are charged with guarding the faith. … The danger for us has not been witch hunts. It has been an amorphous Christianity that does not adhere to the standards it sets for itself.

Many have noted the way in which this case has united Episcopalians across the theological spectrum. Given the depths of division on so many other issues, I consider that a hopeful sign that there remains a background of agreement behind our disagreements. I pray that we will continue to find ways to build on that background of agreement, and not just in cases like this in which we are united in what we oppose.

But I'm not naïve enough to think that everything is hunky-dory. For the agendas espoused by the far-left and the far-right on the theological spectrum continue to advocate for departures from the generous orthodoxy espoused by the mainstream of the Anglican tradition. The Forrester case is, indeed, a wake-up call that the Episcopal Church has been infiltrated by both bad and heretical theology. It may not be as pervasive as the more stringent doomsayers cry, but it's there and, left unchecked, will spread and come to seem more and more "normal." It's up to the "diverse center" of the Episcopal Church to remain vigilant and to have the courage to say "no" to those agendas.

In the end, if all of this wakes the Episcopal Church up to the necessity of “show[ing] some backbone about basic Christian doctrine” and adhering to the norms laid out in Scripture, the Creeds, and the liturgies of the Prayer Book, then the Forrester case will have served an important purpose.


Joe Rawls said...

I appreciate your irenic stance towards KTF and his family, as well as Bill Carroll's observations about the meaninglessness of an Anglicanism without boundaries. General Convention will still be vastly entertaining, no doubt.

ruauper2 said...

Your reading that KGTF's election was an "overwhelming" one is off the mark. First off, KGTF and his disciples packed the convention with delegates of their choice. Secondly, there were people who refused to attend that farcical event because they knew the result was already pre-ordained.

The Diocese of Northern Michigan has lost better than half of its membership because of the distructive path KGTF and his two predecessors, Bishops Ray and Kelsey have led them down. I don't doubt he and that cabal he leads will try some kind of end-run to either present him again or try to slip one of his underlings into the role.

If they try an end-run the number who have left the church will increase again leaving only KGTF and his supporters to oversee the bankruptcy and demise of what was once a small, tight knit group of self supporting parishes and missions. They worked together and supported one another through both good and bad times and only if you've lived in that vast landscape of rocks, trees and 300" of snow each winter can you truly appreciate what that all means.

Bryan Owen said...


In response to this posting you wrote: "Your reading of KGTF's election as an 'overwhelming' one is off the mark."

I note that the word "overwhelming" is quoted in my piece and that it comes from Frank Lockwood, the religion editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and blogger at Bible Belt Blogger. I suspect that both Mr. Lockwood and I are sympathetic with your concerns.