Friday, June 26, 2009

Wake-Up Call for the Episcopal Church

I finally got around to reading through the "Episcopal Congregations Overview: Findings from the 2008 Faith Communities Today Survey" by C. Kirk Hadaway, Director of Research at the Episcopal Church Center. The report says that the overview "is based on responses from 783 Episcopal parishes and missions that completed the 2008 Faith Communities Today Survey (71% response rate)."

Here are a few of the findings that caught my attention:
  • A majority (62%) of Episcopal parishes and missions report that more than half of their members are age 50+.
  • Episcopalians tend to be older than the general population. Overall, 27% of Episcopal members are age 65+, as compared to only 13% of the U.S. population in 2008. The Episcopal Church has proportionately fewer children, youth and younger adults.
  • 90% of Episcopal congregations reported having conflicts or disagreements in the last five years (up from 86% in 2000, but down slightly from 93% in 2005). 64% of churches reported at least one area of serious conflict.
  • Of congregations that had serious conflict: + Some members left the church: 89%. + Some members withheld funds: 45%. + A staff member was dismissed or reassigned: 18%.
  • Nearly the same proportion of congregations describes the current financial health of their congregation as "excellent" as say they are "in serious difficulty" (7% and 8%, respectively).
  • About one third of parishes and missions reported that their finances are "excellent" or "good" in 2008. The proportion with excellent or good financial health declined from 56% to 32% between 2000 and 2005 and then remained essentially unchanged for 2008 (33%). the proportion in some or serious financial difficulty almost doubled from 2000 to 2005, increasing from 13% to 25% and then remained unchanged for 2008.
I also note that the survey says that the areas where clergy spend the least amount of time include "contacting inactive persons in the congregation (least overall); dealing with conflict; organizing and leading small groups; and evangelism and recruitment." So, on the whole, our clergy are spending most of their time doing things that don't address the root causes of stagnation and decline. Lacking the needed leadership, it's little surprise that the report also notes: "Relatively few Episcopal churches report that their members are heavily involved in recruiting new members. 21% say their members are involved 'quite a bit' or 'a lot.' The more typical involvement is 'a little' (32%) or 'some' (41%)."
Here's what it all boils down to:
Aging membership + conflict + declining financial health + little interest in or understanding of evangelism = no viable future.
Having heard the Presiding Bishop talk about the vitality of the Episcopal Church, one would never guess that we are in the state of crisis described by Hadaway.
One of my clergy colleagues sums it up well: "This is about life or death. Choose mission or die."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Dogma is the Drama

"The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man - and the dogma is the drama."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Living the Golden Rule

Today's daily Eucharistic lectionary reading from the Gospel according to Matthew included the "Golden Rule":
“Always treat others as you would like them to treat you” (Matthew 7:12, REB).
This teaching is so well known that perhaps we pass it over without really thinking through what it means. So I was pleased to discover that I find William Barclay's take on the "Golden Rule" insightful and worth pondering. See what you think.





When this rule is put in its negative form, when we are told that we must refrain from doing to others that which we would not wish them to do to us, it is not an essentially religious rule at all. It is simply a common-sense statement without which no social intercourse at all would be possible. …

Further, the negative form of the rule involves nothing more than not doing certain things; it means refraining from certain actions. It is never very difficult not to do things. That we must not do injury to other people is not a specially religious principles; it is rather a legal principle. It is the kind of principle that could well be kept by a man who has no belief and no interest in religion at all. A man might for ever refrain from doing any injury to any one else, and yet be a quite useless citizen to his fellow-men. A man could satisfy the negative form of the rule by simple inaction; if he consistently did nothing he would never break it. And a goodness which consists in doing nothing would be a contradiction of everything that Christian goodness means.

When this rule is put positively, when we are told that we must actively do to others what we would have them do to us, a new principle enters into life, and a new attitude to our fellow-men. It is one thing to say, “I must not injure people; I must not do to them what I would object to their doing to me.” That, the law can compel us to do. It is quite another thing to say, “I must go out of my way to help other people and to be kind to them, as I would wish them to help and to be kind to me.” That, only love can compel us to do. The attitude which says, “I must do no harm to people,” is quite different from the attitude which says, “I must do my best to help people.” …

It is perfectly possible for a man of the world to observe the negative form of the golden rule. He could without very serious difficulty so discipline his life that he would not do to others what he did not wish them to do to him; but the only man who can even begin to satisfy the positive form of the rule is the man who has the love of Christ within his heart. He will try to forgive as he would wish to be forgiven, to help as he would wish to be helped, to praise as he would wish to be praised, to understand as he would wish to be understood. He will never seek to avoid doing things; he will always look for things to do. Clearly this will make life much more complicated; clearly he will have much less time to spend on his own desires and his own activities, for time and time again he will have to stop what he is doing to help someone else. It will be a principle which will dominate his life at home, in the factory, in the bus, in the office, in the street, in the train, at his games, everywhere. He can never do it until self withers and dies within his heart. To obey this commandment a man must become a new man with a new centre to his life; and if the world was composed of people who sought to obey this rule, it would be a new world.


William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, Volume I, Revised Edition
(The Westminster Press, 1975), pp. 275, 276, 277.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Only the Love of Christ

Sermon for the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost

RCL Year B, Proper 7: Job 38:1-11; Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32;
2 Corinthians 6:1-13; Mark 4:35-41


Listen to the sermon here.

Many of you know that I had the privilege this past October of traveling to the Holy Land. In the company of 20 other priests and pastors, I spent one week in Galilee and one week in Jerusalem. It was an amazing experience. Being in the places where Jesus walked and taught, healed the sick, fed the hungry, and proclaimed the Good News of the Kingdom of God – even 8 months later I’m still processing what it all means.

I’ll never forget the first night in Israel. We had flown from Atlanta to Frankfurt, Germany where we caught a connecting flight to Tel Aviv. And then, after so many bone-wearying hours of travel, we got on a bus for the two hour drive to our hotel in Tiberias. The sun was sinking fast as we made our way, and in between times of nodding off from jet lag, I remember feeling disappointed that I would have to wait until the next morning to see the Sea of Galilee.

After a couple of hours, as we began winding our way down into the sprawling city of Tiberias, I just happened to look out the window on the other side of the bus. And there it was. Illumined by a full moon, I could see the water of the Sea of Galilee off in the distance, lit up and sparkling like diamonds. From that moment until a week later when we left for Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee was my spiritual touchstone. I found my eyes drawn again and again to its tranquil presence. Every day at dusk, I looked over the water, watching birds flying across the horizon as the sunlight shifted to soft hues of red and gold and then faded into darkness And as I gazed at this beautiful body of water, it brought to my mind the Gospel stories of how Jesus’ ministry began on these very shores. Memories of looking at and walking beside the Sea of Galilee and sailing in a boat on a Sunday morning over its calm surface still speak to me of the peace of God which passes all understanding.

But appearances can be deceiving. While it didn’t happen when we were there, the beauty and tranquility of the Sea of Galilee can suddenly transform into tumultuous upheaval. One source describes it like this: “Winds funnel through the east-west aligned Galilee hill country and stir up the waters quickly. More violent are the winds that come off the hills of the Golan Heights to the east. Trapped in the basin, the winds can be deadly to fishermen. A storm in March 1992 sent waves 10 feet high crashing into downtown Tiberias and causing significant damage.”

“Waves 10 feet high …” Perhaps that gives us an inkling of what it might have been like to be on that boat with Jesus that we hear about in today’s Gospel reading. One minute, it’s business as usual on the calm waters. Then, without warning, all hell breaks loose. Gentle breezes turn into gale force winds causing waves to come crashing into the boat, filling it with water and threatening to sink it. Little wonder that the terror-stricken disciples wake Jesus up, saying: “Don’t you care about what’s happening to us, Lord? Help!” And in an act that fills the disciples with awe and reveals him as more than merely human, Jesus rebukes the storm with a few words and it subsides into “a dead calm” (Mk 4:39 NRSV).

In spite of Jesus’ rebuke for their lack of faith, it’s easy to feel sympathy for the disciples. After all, the waves could have tipped the boat over. It could have been sunk into the depths. They could have all drowned. Staring in the face of imminent death, who in their right minds wouldn’t be afraid?

Perhaps we can also feel sympathy for the disciples because this story connects with the all-too-common experience of the changes and chances of this life, especially times when life suddenly turns difficult or even tragic. Consider a few examples.

A man is nearing retirement age and looking forward to traveling with his wife and spending time with his grandchildren. But then, in an economic downturn, he loses his retirement savings.

Miscalculating the depth, a woman dives into shallow water, breaking her neck and then spending the rest of her life paralyzed.

After just one year of marriage, a young couple without children find themselves responsible for the care of a family member who’s in his 50s but whose mental age is about 4 years old.

Walking into his house one mid-morning, a man discovers that his 29-year-old son is still in bed because he died during the night in his sleep.

In each of these and in many other examples that I’m sure come to your mind, life is going along great, the daily routine is in full, predictable swing, and then, all of a sudden, completely out of the blue and in the twinkling of an eye, everything changes.

I accent this not to preach gloom and doom, but to acknowledge that the faith we share in Jesus Christ is not pie-in-the-sky escapism. Biblical faith is rooted in reality. And a sad, tragic part of reality is that sometimes, like the wind whipping up the waters of the Sea of Galilee, life can throw things at us and take us in directions we never dreamed of and certainly never asked for. It can sometimes feel overwhelming, like we’re going under, like we might not make it. What do we have to hang on to that can help us weather the storm without sinking or getting thrown overboard?

There are no easy answers to this question. For nothing in this life is unchanging, absolutely certain, and utterly trustworthy. There are no guarantees. We only have this moment of this day. We don’t know what this afternoon, much less tomorrow, will bring.

There’s much wisdom and truth in looking at things that way. But in reality, that’s not the whole story. For if the Good News the Church has proclaimed for almost 2,000 years is true – if Jesus Christ has really been raised from the dead, rising victorious over the forces of evil and death as the first fruit of God’s intention to make all things new – then there is, in fact, one thing in this life that is unchanging, absolutely certain, and utterly trustworthy. And it’s that one thing that makes all the difference.

I like the way Brennan Manning, author of the book Ruthless Trust, puts it:

If someone were to ask you, “What is the one thing in life that is certain?” you would have to answer, “The love of Christ.” Not parents, not family, not friends. Not art or science or philosophy or any of the products of human wisdom. Only the love of Christ.

“Only the love of Christ.” That’s what we have to hang on to.

The love of Christ is a costly love. Indeed, it cost our Lord his very life. And in our Lord’s willingness to suffer and die so that we may live, we have proof of the authenticity of his love for us. It’s not a show. It’s the real deal. We can trust the love of Christ and count on it always.

The love of Christ is also gentle and kind. “Come to me, all who are weary and whose load is heavy,” Jesus invites us, and “I will give you rest … for I am gentle and humble-hearted; and you will find rest for your souls” (Mt 11:28, 29 REV). The love of Christ is our refuge, a safe and nurturing place, the calm center in the midst of life’s frenzy and uncertainty.

And in a throwaway, consumer culture, the love of Christ runs against the grain by being unconditional and eternal. “Anyone who comes to me,” Jesus reassures us, “I will never drive away” (Jn 6:37 NRSV). The love that binds us to Christ in our baptisms will never be broken. No matter how faithful or faithless we are – and no matter what happens to us – God in Christ remains faithful to us.

Everything else in our lives can and will change. But the love of Christ remains steadfast and sure. It’s an anchor that keeps the boat from getting blown away or sucked under by the storm. And it’s the safe harbor towards which our life journeys find their fulfillment.

So even though we will have trouble and suffering in this world, we who are so deeply loved by God that He sent His only Son to suffer and die as one of us have reason to take heart. For the costly, kind, unconditional and eternal love of Christ has overcome the world. And my friends, even now, in whatever it is we’re going through or facing, we share in that victory.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Collect for Father's Day

Here's a Collect I wrote for use on this occasion.



O Lord our God, creator of heaven and earth, through your Son Jesus Christ you have revealed yourself as a heavenly Father to all of your children. Bless, we pray, all earthly fathers. Strengthen them to nurture, protect, and guide the children entrusted to their care. Instill within them the virtues of love and patience. May they be slow to anger and quick to forgive. And through the ministrations of your Holy Spirit, may all fathers be strong and steadfast examples of faithfulness, responsibility, and loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Doctrinal Diversity in the Episcopal Church

In a piece on opposition to the possibility of Kevin Thew Forrester's consecration as bishop-elect of the Diocese of Northern Michigan, E. E. Evans draws on the journalistic work of Frank Lockwood (religion editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and the Bible Belt Blogger) to point out that there are currently at least six different doctrinal groups within the Episcopal Church:

Doctrinally speaking, the denomination is by no means monolithic. It includes at least this many subsets.
  1. Doctrinal conservatives (though a shrinking number) who disapprove of gay ordination and often women’s ordination.
  2. Doctrinal conservatives who are OK with ordaining women but find ordaining gay’s a bridge too far.
  3. Some who consider themselves orthodox according to the creeds (and this one is probably hardest for conservatives to fathom) who approve of ordaining gays and allowing the blessing of same sex relationships.
  4. Liberals (which certainly includes some bishops) who think a little ferment is good for the church and don’t mind losing a few phrases of the Nicene Creed.
  5. Liberals who would like to rewrite the Creeds (which apparently includes Forrester).
  6. Then there is a group who are hard to pin down on creedal orthodoxy but can’t stand bad ecclesiastical process (Forrester was the only candidate on the ballot).

And I know I’ve left some people out.


Read it all.

As I suggested in my previous posting, the response to the Forrester case shows that thinking of the Episcopal Church in the exclusively binary terms of Left vs. Right is, at best, a caricature that whitewashes the complexities of reality. The diversity represented by these six doctrinal groups is a reminder of that complexity.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Lack of Consent for Forrester Exposes the Myth of a Unified Left

Over at the "Anglican Centrist," Fr. Greg Jones has posted a brief but insightful reflection on the rift exposed among Episcopalians on the Left end of the theological spectrum by the case of Kevin Thew Forrester, the so-called "Buddhist" bishop-elect of Northern Michigan.

In addition to exposing the myth of a unified Left, I think the Forrester case suggests that the charge sometimes leveled by conservatives against Episcopalians who see themselves as primarily in the Center or Left - that they cannot and do not have an orthodox concern for the dogmatic core of the Christian faith - is often false.

And finally, the Forrester case also suggests that the political and theological labels we so often use to define (and too often dismiss) one another often do not adequately describe far richer and more complex realities.




Generation Gap

by Fr. Greg Jones

Several of the leading members of what I will call the 'establishment Left' are quite upset with the lack of consents in the election of Thew Forrester. They are beginning to cry, 'witch hunt,' and 'theological oppression.' Others are beginning to cry, 'but he's actually orthodox.' Still others, 'this is the beginning of the end of true intellectualism in the Church.' Still others seem to have begun a process of shaming those 'fellow liberals' who voted against Thew Forrester.

What we are seeing is the Gap between parties in the Episcopal Church who have not historically been seen to be different. The party of theological 'free thinkers' who have eschewed since the 1960s any appreciation for theological and liturgical coherence are awakening to see that there are also Episcopalians who favor the ample and generous orthodoxy of the Prayer Book and Hymnal, and are looking for a more inclusive church, but who are not looking to tweak, revise, redact or avoid the core elements of the faith, or make revision and innovation the constant modus operandi of the church either.

The party of folks who want to keep things loose, open, and 'challenging' -- are finding new resistance from those who want to keep things theologically and liturgically coherent, in and of themselves and in line with centuries of faith and practice, as well as with the global Anglican Communion.

The past number of years has perhaps seen folks from both parties operating together - because both agree with the affirmation of women and glbt people. But, perhaps now, we are beginning to see that once the equality issues are more widely agreed upon internally in TEC, other areas are much less agreed upon.

As I have begun to see on this blog, as well as on Episcopal Cafe, there is an impressive cadre of Episcopalian laity and clergy who are very serious (and usually very educated) about theology and the Anglican tradition. This group tends to agree on matters of theology, liturgy and church order, AND, in regard to the affirmation of women's ordination and the inclusion of all the baptized into sacramental life and leadership.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Threeness of God

Why should God be a communion of three divine persons, neither less nor more? Here again there can be no logical proof. The threeness of God is something given or revealed to us in Scripture, in the Apostolic Tradition, and in the experience of the saints throughout the centuries. All that we can do is to verify this given fact through our own life of prayer.

Bishop Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way (rev. ed. 1995)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Don't Tinker With Our Common Prayer

Rarely do I publish entire postings from other bloggers, but this one from Fr. Tobias Haller is too important and relevant to the purpose of this blog to not share the whole piece. Although succinct, it says so very much in a few words. Please do respond with your comments both here and at Fr. Haller's blog.



It is not within the authority (nor in many cases the competence) of individual bishops and parish clergy to tinker with (or radically revise) the texts of the Book of Common Prayer on their own initiative. I have no difficulty with bishops exercising their constitutional authority to allow for the development of liturgies for which no common text exists — though even in this case a bit of research may turn up work already accomplished elsewhere with greater grace and wisdom.

But when it comes to the texts of the Book of Common Prayer, it is important to recall the penultimate word: Common. These are not my prayers, they are our prayers. They are not mine to tinker with, to alter as the whim (or the Spirit, or the Ego, or both) strike me. There is plenty of scope for creativity in the liturgy without the need to refashion the Eucharistic Prayer or the Baptismal Covenant to suit my own peculiar views. This isn’t about peculiarity, but commonality.

These common prayers are there precisely to be central and uniform (though in the Eucharistic Prayer with considerable variety from which to choose.) They are the center stabilizing point of the compass whose inclusive reach can best be extended and expanded with a rich selection of hymnody (though there are limits there as well! — read the rules), vibrant preaching, and intercessory prayer adapted to the hearts’ content of the people for whom and by whom it is offered.

To those individuals tempted to tinker with the Common Prayer, I offer some old advice, “Put it down; it don’t belong to you.”



Fr. Haller offers his thoughts on exactly why he disagrees with those who "tinker" with the Prayer Book's liturgies here.

The Religion of Secularism

Below I've posted some thoughts on the the religious character of secularism from Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann.

Commenting on Schmemann's understanding of secularism, Fr. Alexis Vinogradov writes:

If the guiding axiom of the Church was always the universal, immutable, and essential connection: prayer-faith-life -- then the modern and unique heresy is the accepted disassociation of these parts into self-sufficient components. Secularism is the name for that heresy which affirms the primacy of human life without any necessary reference to any ultimate or transcendent reality. To be sure, in its most liberal guise it may even recommend various "spiritualities" as helpful or even culturally enriching, but regards them as decorative appendages to life, having no significant impact on the real course of human affairs. For Father Alexander the most pernicious secularists were those who professed membership in a church, but whose lives bore no evidence of a deep transformation of life and witness to the kingdom of God. If secularism is characterized by the self-sufficiency and self-satisfaction of worldly and social aims and projects, then the churchly secularist is one who is chronically satisfied with the forms and goals of modern "progressive" parish life or the salvific programs of religious institutions or the piety of various spiritual "paths" (of which a veritable marketplace abounds today).

Schmemann takes the analysis further, showing how secularism's "self-sufficiency and self-satisfaction" includes accepting and even embracing death as "normal."



It would be a great mistake ... to think of secularism as simply an 'absence of religion.' It is, in fact, itself a religion, and as such, an explanation of death and a reconciliation with it. It is the religion of those who are tired of having the world explained in terms of an 'other world' of which no one knows anything, and life explained in terms of a 'survival' about which no one has the slightest idea; tired of having, in other words, life given 'value' in terms of death. Secularism is an 'explanation' of death in terms of life. The only world we know is this world, the only life given to us is this life - so thinks a secularist - and it is up to us men to make it as meaningful, as rich, as happy as possible. Life ends with death. This is unpleasant, but since it is natural, since death is a universal phenomenon, the best thing man can do about it is simply to accept it as something natural. As long as he lives, however, he need not think about it, but should live as though death did not exist. The best way to forget about death is to be busy, to be useful, to be dedicated to great and noble things, to build an always better world. If God exists (and a great many secularists firmly believe in God and the usefulness of religion for their corporate and individual enterprises) and if He, in His love and mercy (for we all have our shortcomings) wants to reward us for our busy, useful and righteous life with eternal vacations, traditionally called "immortality," it is strictly His gracious business. But immortality is an appendix (however eternal) to this life, in which all real interests, all true values are to be found. The American "funeral home" is indeed the very symbol of secularist religion, for it expresses both the quiet acceptance of death as something natural (a house among other houses with nothing typical about it) and the denial of death's presence in life.

Secularism is a religion because it has a faith, it has its own eschatology and its own ethics. And it "works" and it "helps." Quite frankly, if "help" were the criterion, one would have to admit that life-centered secularism helps actually more than religion. To compete with it, religion has to present itself as "adjustment to life," "counselling," "enrichment," it has to be publicized in subways and buses as a valuable addition to "your friendly bank" and all other "friendly dealers": try it, it helps! And the religious success of secularism is so great that it leads some Christian theologians to "give up" the very category of "transcendence," or in much simpler words, the very idea of "God." This is the price we must pay if we want to be "understood" and "accepted" by modern man, proclaim the Gnostics of the twentieth century.

But it is here that we reach the heart of the matter. For Christianity help is not the criterion. Truth is the criterion. The purpose of Christianity is not to help people by reconciling them with death, but to reveal the Truth about life and death in order that people may be saved by this Truth. Salvation, however, is not only not identical with help, but is, in fact, opposed to it. Christianity quarrels with religion and secularism not because they offer "insufficient help," but precisely because they "suffice," because they "satisfy" the needs of men. If the purpose of Christianity were to take away from man the fear of death, to reconcile him with death, there would be no need for Christianity, for other religions have done this, indeed better than Christianity. And secularism is about to produce men who will gladly and corporately die - and not just live - for the triumph of the Cause, whatever it may be.

Christianity is not reconciliation with death. It is the revelation of death, and it reveals death because it is the revelation of Life. Christ is this Life. And only if Christ is Life is death what Christianity proclaims it to be, namely the enemy to be destroyed, and not a "mystery" to be explained. Religion and secularism, by explaining death, give it a "status," a rationale, make it "normal." Only Christianity proclaims it to be abnormal and, therefore, truly horrible. At the grave of Lazarus Christ wept, and when His own hour to die approached, "he began to be sore amazed and very heavy." In the light of Christ, this world, this life are lost and are beyond mere "help," not because there is fear of death in them, but because they have accepted and normalized death. To accept God's world as a cosmic cemetery which is to be abolished and replaced with an "other world" which looks like a cemetery ("eternal rest") and to call this religion, to live in a cosmic cemetery and to "dispose" every day of thousands of corpses and to get excited about a "just society" and to be happy! - this is the fall of man. It is not the immortality or the crimes of man that reveal him as a fallen being; it is his "positive ideal" - religious or secular - and his satisfaction with this ideal. This fall, however, can be truly revealed only by Christ, because only in Christ is the fullness of life revealed to us, and death, therefore, becomes "awful," the very fall from life, the enemy. It is this world (and not any "other world"), it is this life (and not some "other life") that were given as communion with God, and it is only through this world, this life, by "transforming" them into communion with God that man was to be. The horror of death is, therefore, not in its being the "end" and not in physical destruction. By being separation from the world and life, it is separation from God. The dead cannot glorify God. It is, in other words, when Christ reveals Life to us that we can hear the Christian message about death as the enemy of God. It is when Life weeps at the grave of the friend, when it contemplates the horror of death, that the victory over death begins.

~ Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World:
Sacraments and Orthodoxy (first edition 1963)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Lord, Have Mercy

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.