2/25/2009

IRD slams syncretistic Christian practice, Bishop elect Forrester, and yells "fire" in the theater.

Ah, the excitement in the wonderful world of the Purity First crowd. They have yet another bit of news to pick over. This time it is the bishop-elect of Northern Michigan, Kevin Forrester. In an article published today, the Institute for Religion and Democracy has now descended upon Forrester like a swarm of flies. Too bad that what it has to say is so misleading.

IRD says:

"An Episcopal priest who has received a Buddhist lay ordination has been elected bishop in the Diocese of Northern Michigan."

George Conger, writing for the Church of England Newspaper, quoted a Northern Michigan diocesan statement saying, "The bishop-elect had been “drawn into the Christian-Zen Buddhist dialogue through centreing prayer and his desire to assist persons in their own transformation in Christ. As many of you well know, he has practiced Zen meditation for almost a decade. Indeed, with marvellous hospitality, the Buddhist community welcomed him in his commitment to a meditation practice as an Episcopal priest (in a process known by some Buddhists as ‘lay ordination’)."

What is the commitment taken by someone regarding zen Buddhist meditation, and what is this business about "lay ordination." As I understand it, so called "lay ordination" so roughly like the covenant part of the baptismal vows... it is the commitment to a way of approaching the world. So what do those vows look like?

Here is one set, The Great Vows for All, from HERE.
The many beings are numberless, I vow to save them;
Greed, hatred, and ignorance rise endlessly, I vow to abandon them;
Dharma gates are countless, I vow to wake to them;
The Buddha's way is unsurpassed, I vow to embody it fully.

Here is another, the Ti-Sarana, from HERE:
I take refuge in the Buddha
I take refuge in the Dharma
I take refuge in the Sangha.

IRD believes in taking these vows, or something like them, Bishop-elect Forrester is practicing dual faiths.

IRD reports that his former bishop Jim Kelsey said he was "walking the path of Christianity and Zen Buddhism together." That is different from "practicing dual faiths."

Unlike creeds, which state beliefs, these particular vows constitute resolves - in this case to "take refuge" or "to save, abandon, wake to, or embody." IRD assumes that it is not possible to meditate using Buddhist meditation techniques or to take such vows without acting contrary to the teachings, path, and faith in Jesus Christ and that Forrester is involved in the practice of dual faiths, not benign meditation techniques.

Forrester is placed in the same camp with "Pennsylvania priest Bill Melnyk was revealed to be a druid" and "Seattle priest Ann Holmes Redding (who) declared that she was simultaneously an Episcopalian and a Muslim." IRD notes that "both Melnyk and Redding were eventually inhibited from priestly duties." This of course is the veiled threat...that the same will or ought to happen to Forrester.

So the question is out in the open: Can a Christian take the baptismal renunciations and affirmations and the vows of the baptismal covenant and still say one of the sets of vows given above? (I do not know if these are the vows Fr. Forrester took, only that they are often spoken of as vows within Buddhism.)

We certainly understand refuge. We Christians take refuge in God, in Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit.

The refuge in the dharma is very broad indeed... dharma can refer to law, higher truth, a virtuous path, religious duty. We Christians certainly can take refuge in the religious life devoted to God's truth. It can also refer explicitly to the teachings of the Buddha. This of course is less easily a place of refuge for Christians, although even there much can be learned.

The refuge in the sangha is a close parallel to the notion taking refuge in the church. Sangha is most often understood as the community of people of common refuge. It is the gathering of, if you will, refugees, strangers in a strange land, people whose home is envisioned in something like a faithful community. Again, Christians can take that vow, thinking of the church community as sangha. But of course it can be taken as the or a community of Buddhists. In that sense sangha is not easily adopted.

It is the refuge in the Buddha that is the most problematic, not because the one who was the Buddha, the one who woke up or was enlightened, is in any way a person not to be emulated as a good, virtuous, or enlightened one, but rather because the "enlightened one" becomes identified with the person who was enlightened and the person becomes worshipped rather than the path followed. Buddhists are given, as are we all, to confusing the messager and the message. Some Buddhists follow the one who was enlightened, others seek enlightenment. There is a world of difference.

To take refuge in the vision of the enlightened one is to want to be enlightened and to see the Buddha, or anyone else who has achieved enlightenment, as a source of light towards which we move. In that sense taking refuge in the Buddha is like seeking to be surrounded by the cloud of witnesses - the saints in light. It can also mean taking refuge in the person who became the Buddha. Again there is all the difference in the world.

Many believe that way, the way of refuge in the person of the enlightened one, is a mistake. Zen Master Lin Chi is reported to have said, "If you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha. If you meet a Patriarch, kill the Patriarch." In the "great vows for all" above, note that it is not the Buddha that is "unsurpassed" it is the Buddha's way. The Buddha's way might be reduced to a set of formal practices, but the range is very broad and some forms of Buddhist meditation does not require any formal set of beliefs at all.

A Christian, engaged in meditation and fully aware of the dangers of syncretistic practice, can I believe, take refuge in the law, particularly the law of love, in the community of seekers, and in the vision of enlightenment. I believe the Buddha and the Christ could stand together in the same path, keep silence together, and break fast. There is no reasons why we cannot do so as well.

As to the "proof" test of denying all others, I don't know. If being Christian requires that one deny the efficacy of any other religion we then have to ask which Christianity is being talked about. The core I suppose is, "Do you accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?" That I affirm. I do not believe that one must renounce the Buddha, the Sangha and the Dharma, understood in a wider sense. But that is a useful question to ask.

IRD doesn't ask it, it assumes the purity of Christian belief makes impossible engagement in a path that is informed by more than one religious tradition. IRD want religious purity, by bishops of a church that only some of this particular "ecumenical alliance" even consider useful or necessary to the life of the faith community. Some in this alliance don't even recognize the orders of the bishops of this church. But they can be righteous on our behalf. And they do so so that The Episcopal Church will be pushed to a particular notion: that Christian belief (as they interpret it) and democracy (as interpreted by IRD) are one. When their work is finished there will be no escape from the identification of true faith and democracy. From there theocratic ideal is no longer a distant dream. It is a devastating reality.

IRD President James Tonkowich is quoted as saying several things. I quote them with brief comment

The issue is not whether meditation is good, it is what is being meditated on. Attempts by Christians to be syncretistic devalue other religions,as well as their own.

The issue is precisely whether meditation is good. Only some forms of meditation involve meditation ON. It betrays a singular lack of depth to suggest that meditation must have an object. The observation about syncretistic attempts suggests that that is what is going on in Christians using Buddhist meditation techniques. That is a leap of several logical steps not shown.

Suppose one took Islam's call to prayer five times a day seriously, as seriously as do the best Muslims. Would that be syncretistic? No. It would be taking their call as our own.

If this kind of meditation is truly in the Christian monastic tradition, why do you need to go to Buddhism to find it? The reality is that this particular meditative practice is not in step with Christian doctrine.

There is no "this" in "this particular meditative practice." Buddhist meditation, even Zen meditation, involves a wide variety of practice. The vows may be problematic, but the practice involves matters not determined by particular religious communities or their vows.

Buddhism is not merely a series of practices, saying so devalues it. Buddhism is an entire worldview.

Well, so IRD says. Let's ask a wide variety of Buddhist. And should we discover that there is a world view common to all Buddhists would we decide that that world view is on the face of it false because it differs from our own? I am not a follower of Jesus Christ because of a "world view." I am a follower of Jesus Christ because Jesus is the light that enlightens and the love that heals.

These interfaith innovations go far beyond witnessing and respecting other faith traditions. They seek to blend Christianity with other belief systems in a way that ultimately compromises the message of the Gospel.

Fr. Forrester may or may not be involved in "interfaith innovations." I doubt it. IRD is terrified by the possibility that something might "blend Christianity with other belief systems in a way that ultimately compromises the message of the Gospel." This is the sort of thinking that led some to gasp that a bishop form Sri Lanka was doing some syncretistic muttering in his closing words at the Lambeth opening Eucharist. It turns out he was using traditional chant and form to carry Christian words of blessing.

While church leaders may respect other faiths, their vow of Christian ordination has always meant an exclusive commitment to Jesus Christ and the Christian faith.

Exclusive commitment to Jesus Christ and the Christian faith does not exclude the use of spiritual tools, techniques and even forms and symbols from other disciplines and faiths. If this were not so we would be hard pressed to explain how Christmas trees, academic intellectual rigor, prince bishops and Thursday got into the lives of committed Christians. (None of these by the way have any warrant in the experience of the New Testament.) They got there because they were part of one or the other religious and social systems already there. (Remember the great slogan, "Put Thor back in Thursday"?)

No one from IRD seems to have asked Bishop-elect Forrester if he holds "exclusive commitment to Jesus Christ and the Christian faith." I bet he does.

But asking was never part of this game plan. The plan was to label him syncretistic. Just as the headline of the Church of England Newspaper article is "Anglican-Buddhist is elected Bishop in Northern Michigan" a headline that sells papers by trumping up charges of syncretistic practice. The purpose of this headline is to hang the Bishop-elect upon the fears of bishops unwilling to face into the wind that blows from the neither portions of the body politic.

Once again the plan is in place: "off with his head." It is a plan from Alice in Wonderland.

'Let the jury consider their verdict,' the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.

'No, no!' said the Queen. 'Sentence first - verdict afterwards.'

'Stuff and nonsense!' said Alice loudly. 'The idea of having the sentence first!'

'Hold your tongue!' said the Queen, turning purple.

'I won't!' said Alice.

'Off with her head!' the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved.

'Who cares for you?' said Alice, (she had grown to her full size by this time.) 'You're nothing but a pack of cards!'

We know what to say to the IRD: You're nothing but a pack of cards!

33 comments:

  1. First, I will say that participating in a lay ordination was a mistake. The so-called "orthodox" anglicans don't understand Christianity, so expecting them to grasp the subtleties of Buddhism is pointless.

    On the other hand, IRD's response is, predictably, muddled and hysterical.

    "What is meditated on" is the same objection, born of ignorance, I've heard from the Eastern Orthodox. Zen doesn't meditate "on" anything, but is a practice - and that is any Zen roshi's term for it - of being present. Of course, then I've had people say "Well, that leaves your mind open to devils." I have no response to that, as I was born after 1690 and have no license to practice psychotherapy.

    Why not seek it in Christianity? Largely because sola scriptura Calvinists have done away with such contemplation in the West - using exactly the same arguments as they use against Zen, now. Even the RC likes their religious orders to be busy, productive and oh-so-socially conscious.

    Ignorance. The great doctrine of the so-called "orthodox" christians.

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  2. How convenient, Querido Padre, that they stopped short in the piece that they quoted from the diocesan website. I quoted it more fully in my comment on your post farther below regarding the bishop-elect. Here is the relevant piece they left out;
    "Lay ordination" has a different meaning in Buddhist practice than in the Christian tradition. The essence of this welcoming ceremony, which includes no oaths, is the resolve to use the practice of meditation as a path to awakening to the truth of the reality of human suffering.

    A quick Google of lay ordination reveals that there is a variety of ideas about what it is. Just as there are different strands of Buddhism which is practiced. We can take the folks in No. MI at their word, there were no oaths involved, or we can decide that they are lying! There is no other option that I can see.

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  3. PS - It is my understanding that the Refuge Vows that you reference are not lay ordination, but are Buddhist Initiation, the vows one consciously takes to begin being a practicing Buddhist.

    OCICBW...

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  4. I was going to write on this but you have done a much better job than I could, Mark.

    As Frederick Clarkson over at Talk to Action (http://www.talk2action.org/story/2009/2/24/16414/1458) wrote:

    "The ever-divisive Institute on Religion and Democracy is in a snit because a newly-elected Episcopal bishop once received a lay Buddhist ordination. IRD rarely passes the laugh test anymore. IRD is staffed by Anglican schismatics who are not even members of the Episcopal Church USA. They can say what they want, but why should anyone care?"

    Indeed.

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  5. Sir, if you are right on how benign and similar this "lay ordination" is to our own faith, then there really is no need for a bishop following 2 paths.

    You complain that "Genpo" has not been questioned - Conger says he is not willing to be questioned.

    You suggest he is not a pluralist - he or the diocese could make a one line press release to end the story if that is true.

    I would share your exasperation about the reporting if "Genpo" issued a clarification which agreed with your post....esecially re him not being a pluralist.

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  6. Mark, I have no hope I'll change your opinion, but for the sake of others who might read your blog and not be aware of the background to the story, I offer this:

    Perhaps some here think the reaction at conservative blogs such as Stand Firm, or IRD is over the top, but I think there's one fact that some readers here might not be aware of.

    It's not just the report that the bishop-elect is apparently some kind of "ordained" Buddhist.

    There is more that many of the conservatives are reacting to. Most of us had our first exposure to Bishop-elect Kevin Thew Forrester back in October of 2007 when we read the Response of the Diocese of Northern Michigan to the Dar es Salaam Communique. Kevin Thew Forrester was noted as the principle author of this response.

    Here is the link to the thread:
    http://www.standfirminfaith.com/...te/article/6799

    The key part of the statement that so alarmed many of us was this:

    [quote]We seek and serve Christ in all persons because all persons are the living Christ. Each and every human being, as a human being, is knit together in God's Spirit, and thus an anointed one – Christ. Jesus of Nazareth reveals this as the basic truth of the human condition:

    God is more in me
    than if the whole sea
    could in a little sponge
    wholly contained be.
    ~Angelus Silesius

    We strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being, because each person embodies the living God. Life is inherently and thoroughly sacramental, which is why we love one another without condition.
    [/end quote]

    Read those statements again:
    ALL PERSONS ARE THE LIVING CHRIST
    Each and every one... is an anointed one - Christ.

    THAT is the theology that Kevin Thew Forrester seems to believe, which to most of us speaks volumes more than the apparent fact that he received "lay ordination" as a Buddhist. The information about his Buddhism just backs up the obvious universalism of the outrageous theological statement that he authored.

    Please check out the background about Forrester. It's deeply alarming.

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  7. Sir, just read your piece again as I am interested to understand your point of view. I agree when you say, "I believe the Buddha and the Christ could stand together in the same path..." Sure, they could stand together but would the Christ not say to the Buddha, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, nobody comes to Father except through me" and explain to him that he came to give his life as "a ransom for many" including the Buddha? I don't think the Christ would change his message because he was in the presence of a great man like the Budda....he was in a different league (being the Word made flesh and all that!)

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  8. Karen...my opinion, at least as far as the blog article was concerned, had to do with the question of Buddhist meditation practice and its compatibility with Christian faith and the particularly with the "lay ordination" question. I believe it is not incompatible.

    You raise an important but quite separate question that was not part of the IRD report or my response.

    I have no idea where the matter of us all being "the living Christ" is going in the essay you cite. This can be an extension of the idea in the baptismal vows that we seek and serve Christ in all persons. It can mean that "Christ" because it means "anointed" is what redeemed humanity is about and that in Jesus the Christ we find the paradigm of every one of us as anointed.

    It is of course reasonable to ask Bishopelect Forrester just how he saw that statement in relation, say, to our also being miserable sinners, etc.

    I believe we have every business asking about how a bishop-elect understands his or her theological and personal commitment to Jesus Christ, just as I believe it important to ask bishops elect to clarify their position re the constitution and canons of the church (as we did of Bishop Lawarence).

    What is really bad news is the immediate jump to the conclusion that the bishop-elect is a "Anglican-Buddhist" and therefore not a true or real follower of Jesus Christ. If people find him to be a "univeralist" and his statements outrageous, and believe these make his ordination as bishop a mistake or wrong, then they should say so.

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  9. Mark+, you wrote, "No one from IRD seems to have asked Bishop-elect Forrester if he holds .exclusive commitment to Jesus Christ and the Christian faith.. I bet he does."

    Yet, you ignore this ditty from George Conger's article entirely:

    "Known also by his Buddhist name, “Genpo” which means “Way of Universal Wisdom”, Fr Forrester holds progressive views on a number of traditional Christian doctrines. Writing in the diocese’s news letter he stated: “Sin has little, if anything, to do with being bad. It has everything to do, as far as I can tell, with being blind to our own goodness.”


    Is he channeling Pelagius? (That is tongue in cheek. I do know that Buddhists don't channel.) This is not Christian Faith but heresy long rejected.

    But an important question that is not being asked, is whether this guy is the best candidate? It certainly brings more derision on the Episcopal Church. The diocese of Northern Michigan is in dire straits. Thew Forrester has been a bureaucrat in that tiny diocese since 2001. During that time, attendance has fallen 24.75% and now stands at a microscopic 690. If ever there was a time not pick one out of the ranks, this is it. Perhaps, the diocese could have picked a retired bishop with actual experience of growing a diocese. Using the sniff test, in many aspects, the selection process stinks.

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  10. I do find it regrettable that some people find it "alarming" to claim that we are all Christ. This is most certainly what I believe. I don't see a lot of point in seeing Jesus as "wholly man" if we cannot participate in everything he was. Personally, I see Jesus as the perfected version we all are hopefully moving toward, in this life or the next. I think it is a matter of consciousness, of knowing who we are. I think there is certainly a Christ-spark within us which hopefully will grow brighter.

    I think that this may sound a bit Buddhist - I'm not a Buddhist, so I'm not sure - if so, I'm okay with it. I suspect Jesus would not have had a problem with Buddha.

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  11. Once again, we see self-appointed judges rushing to decide for us who is "Christian" and who is not. So now only "approved" prayer tools are allowed, or one is in danger of being denied the designation of "Christian"?

    Buddhism is not a "religion," but a set of spiritual practices. I fail to see what the issue is in this latest witch hunt.

    Regarding us all being Christ, is there supposed to be something heretical in that notion? Seems to me to be basic sacramental theology: Jesus Christ is the sacrament (outward and visible sign) of God. The Church is the sacrament of Jesus Christ. Every Christian is called to be a living sacrament, functioning as the outward and visible sign of the presence of Jesus Christ in this world.

    After a decade of this mud slinging, one tends to get weary of these constant weak attacks. I suggest we just ignore them, and let them stew in the juices of their self-righteous indignation. We have better things to do.

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  12. 'I believe we have every business asking about how a bishop-elect understands his or her theological and personal commitment to Jesus Christ, just as I believe it important to ask bishops elect to clarify their position re the constitution and canons of the church (as we did of Bishop Lawarence[sic]).'

    Amen. Canon Harris. Amen.

    Certainly if we can demand from Bp. Mark Lawrence answers to his views of church polity and the future of the administration of the Diocese of SC, we can ask of this bishop-elect his views on theology and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. If he's merely deepened his prayer life while not running afoul of 2000 years of Christian teaching, wonderful.


    May we all have a holy and penitent Lent,
    -miserable sinner

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  13. Our brother in Christ and fellow cleric, George Conger has sold his soul to the Company Orthodox Store. He will now take anything out of context and

    1. use it to spin the truth he needs / wants to tell.

    2. whip up the conservative /orthodox folk into some action that will be, ultimately, destructive to TEC

    3. cause a reaction such as this in the progressive blogs.

    It's hard to know when to take him on and give him way more 'air' time than he needs or deserves and when to ignore him.

    Given the fact that the orthodox among the conservatives, the "Purity First" Crown, were screaming about "the process" of his election, this puts to rest that the real issue was his liberal, progressive stance. The Buddhist stuff is as bogus as the claims about a deficient process.

    Thanks for this, Mark. You done good - again.

    The word verification is: "spinaddi". You can't make this stuff up!

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  14. dr.primrose25/2/09 1:13 PM

    In response to Karen's concerns, I certainly don't believe that we all all mini-Christs -- the same thing as Christ in somewhat smaller form.

    On the other hand, I wonder if Forrester is terribly far from Jesus' teaching, "I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you." (John 14:20)

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  15. Mark, thanks for another timely article, as most of yours are. Within the hour I'll be travelling to give a talk to a class of Buddhist high school students taught by a Buddhist monk friend. Your article is perfect "grist for the mill" in the ongoing dialogue between Buddhism and Christianity.

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  16. I would feel pretty ripped off if I was Bill Melnyk or Ann Holmes Redding.

    They lose their jobs, while this guy gets appointed a Bishop

    DoW

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  17. IRD's worldview is more Constantinian than scriptural. It is a triumphalist Christendom worldview that no amount of satemenst about respect for other religious traditions can soften. While I believe that every knee will bow at the Name of Jesus only on the Last Day, triumphalists like the IRD crowd see set on winning the world for Christ by any means. I think it would be well for us Christians to accept that, like our 1st century sisters and brotehrs, we are a minority community called to bear witness to a crucified savior. Not much room triumphlaism.

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  18. George Conger, unfortunately, is a journalist in much the same way that Tokyo Rose was.

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  19. "Taking refuge" basically is about NOT taking refuge in our ego - which, sadly, most of us do most of the time. Another way of interpretting what Buddhists call "taking refuge" is that it is about dying to self. I "take refuge" every time I meditate. What that means is that I form a clear intention to engage in meditative practice for the purpose of learning to let go of ego-grasping.

    There is absolutely no contradiction with Christianity whatsoever.

    Refuge in "the Buddha" does not mean refuge in a historical figure. It means our own capacity for enlightenment (the word "buddha" simply means "awakened one"). And (once more with feeling) that is not the EGO'S capacity for enlightenment but rather that of our "true nature" - from a Christian point of view, our having been created in the image and likeness of God.

    The five precepts speak for themselves and are right in line with the Ten Commandments so I don't seen how anyone could have a problem with that.

    I have studied Buddhist meditation (primarily the Tibetan variety) for many years now and from lamas themselves. (I now run an interfaith meditation center and teaching meditation is the aspect of my ministry to which I give the most attention. So, I'm not just going by something I've read somewhere.) I got specific permission and, indeed, encouragement to do so from Rowan Williams himself who was the bishop to whom I was accountable at the time (back when he was Bishop of Monmouth). Whatever anyone thinks about Rowan one way or the other, I can tell you this much with confidence: he is impeccably orthodox in his theology.

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  20. Daniel Weir has the right of it: "I think it would be well for us Christians to accept that, like our 1st century sisters and brothers, we are a minority community called to bear witness." Jesus the only way? that makes God both cruel and impractical. There have been human beings for a couple of million years; they settled down and started writing history about ten thousand years ago. Jesus came along two thousand years ago, and his followers spread a message (not necessarily HIS message) throughout the Roman Empire, that is, around the Mediterranean Sea. This leaves southern Africa, most of Asia, and all of the Western Hemisphere in the dark for 1,500 years. Christianity didn't go worldwide until the colonial expansion that followed Columbus, and that was more economic and political than religious.

    Point: Most of humanity have done without Jesus or Christianity (not the same) for most of history. Today, we get our facts about the physical world from science, not from the Bible or tradition. (Genesis is legend, wrong on all the facts.) One hopes that two thousand years of experience in meditating on the ministry of Jesus and the experience of the church has yielded SOME wisdom -- but it can't just be asserted. If Christians have anything to say to people today, they have to say it fresh, without dogmatic claims to Truth.

    Murdoch Matthew
    spouse of Garydasein

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  21. One of these days, thanks to technology, we'll ALL be able to read each others minds...

    ...and then we'll ALL excommunicate each other. Because EVERYONE believes something horrifyingly DIFFERENT from what "I" (each one of us) believes!

    ... OR, we'll get over it.

    We'll instead say "if you profess the Creed"---full-stop, and w/o anyone else inquisiting what it means---"then that's good enough for me, to gather w/ you at the Table of the Lord."

    I'm sick and tired of the gossip, and judgment. >:-(

    Does Kevin Forrester lift the Host, and say "Take, eat, for this is my Body"? Does he lift the chalice and say "Take and drink, for this is my Blood"?

    Good enough, already!!!! [As to his theology. As to his ecclesiology, I've insufficient information, but I trust the process that TEC has, for confirming bishops-elect. If they say "Aye", then welcome Bishop Forrester! If they say "Nay", then try again, N. Michigan.]

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  22. When are going to stop listening to the orthodoxy police? They throw out some idiotic complaint and we try to mollify them by using reason to answer their screams. They will not listen, their minds are made up, don;t try to confuse them with facts. They don't even recognize TEC's baptismal covenant. Let's not waste our time on them.

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  23. Sir, this sums up the problem for me: can you imagine Christ saying,

    "I take refuge in the Buddha
    I take refuge in the Dharma
    I take refuge in the Sangha" ?

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  24. Elizabeth Kaeton writes, "Given the fact that the orthodox among the conservatives, the "Purity First" Crown, were screaming about "the process" of his election, this puts to rest that the real issue was his liberal, progressive stance."

    That is interesting because apparently Kevin Martin dean of the Cathedral of Dallas raised concerns with Schori et al that the selection process was rigged. He writes, "I had little concern about the person. I have known clergy who have received Buddhist Meditation training and did not consider this in and of itself a concern. My concern remained the process." Kevin Martin's words will be considered prescient: So, a flawed process, run by a small group of people, has resulted in a questionable candidate elected to the Episcopate. This will result in some conservatives focusing on the person and his non-orthodox views which will result in an immediate endorsement by the progressive members of our church who will close rank to defend one of their own.

    What happened to precious polity?

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  25. The difficulty, Murdoch, is not simply whether we understand Jesus to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life. It is whether God can save regardless of an individuals knowledge of and assent to Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Those who want it to rest entirely on our assent want to limit the reach and scope of God's love, by limiting the extent of God's Spirit to what we can apprehend. What God can do God has done already in Christ. To conceive God as limited to and by our appreciation of that is to assert ourselves as more powerful than God.

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  26. Mark,

    It has been reported -- but not confirmed -- that Bp-Elect
    Forrester likes take-out Chinese food... Cameras have been set up to ascertain the truth of such
    backsliding syncretism, but also to check his attitude to green tea and fortune cookies!

    A bit more seriously, the least that I can say about Bp-elect Forrester is that his spirituality is not run of the mill. I am not sure that I understand all the facts as some others seem to have done. But you are right, it is fair to question him, and allow him to have his say before throwing stones -- or before singing praises to his enlightenment!

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  27. JCF,

    Forrester is well-documented as having disregarded the BCP, and having left out the Creed, in prior years, preferring instead to write his own services.

    So- he doesn't affirm the Creeds, and doesn't even profess them on a regular basis.

    End of story.

    But, of course, it won't be, because Elizabeth Kaeton and her Baby Boomer activist ilk see it as all about growing/learning/feeling instead of believing.

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  28. Although I bave great respect for Kevin Martin and think that questions about the process are very appropriate, in Martin's piece that robroy linked to, Martin suggests that the election was not in accordance with the Consitutions and Canons. I have read the sections of both documents that govern the election of a bishop and find nothing there that would bar a diocese from using the process used in Northern Michigan. I do think that the other questions about the process that Martin raises need to be addressed as bishops and standing committees consider whether or not to consent, but as far as I can tell the election was in accordance with the Constitution and Canons.

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  29. Mark, you spoilsport, the IRD & friends have got to have something to yelp about, don't they? What with the Anglican Consultative Council meeting coming up, and all that.

    But I wish we could name this behavior on the part of IRD & friends by its right name: It's an addiction. Like talk-radio listeners, they are addicted to their own internally-generated threat and fear chemicals. Life for them is not worth living unless they are continually engaged in causing damage to the Episcopal Church. Nothing else -- literally nothing -- matters.

    Proof: Recent diocesan elections in Central Florida. Here we are suffering from a disastrous collapse in real estate values. Foreclosures, high unemployment, huge increase in families on food stamps, budget cuts everywhere. Things are so bad that St. Lucie County is considering declaring a state of emergency, saying the economic devastation is worse than the 2004 hurricanes. Yes, it is that bad here.

    Now a few candidates at the diocesan election in January actually mentioned that people in Central Florida were suffering, suggesting that the diocese might focus some of its energy on, you know, feeding the hungry, comforting the afflicted... stuff like that.

    And did they get elected? Oh no.

    George Conger did, though, and all the rest of the alarmist-addicts on the ballot did. And they are (I am sure) even as I write spinning around in circles hyped up on this latest "threat," while all around them hunger and desperation are growing. It's pathetic.

    That's why I have now transferred out of the Diocese of Central Florida.

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  30. From the bishop-elect -

    Folks,
    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
    kevingtf@gmail.com
    906-360-1915 (cell)
    906-226-2912 (office)

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  31. Any church with Spong, Otis Charles and Charles Bennison as bishops can hardly be faulted for electing a Buddhist. rom those examples, a Buddhist is actually a step in the right direction.

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  32. Dan, many of us here are equally horrified by the thought of a church run by a bunch of Jensens.

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  33. Thanks for an insightful interp. of the texts you found. As a longtime practitioner I agree with Ellie that the Buddha in the sense of refuges is "realization," in other words, the light of Christ. My sect makes clear that the precepts ceremony is not "lay ordination" but rather follows in depth study of the 16 bodhisattva precepts. A bodhisattva is one who defers their own paradise to see to others, in other words, the way of the servant. You can find the jukai ceremony in the same source (ciolek). They do track the baptismal vows, with some of the commandments, but stated in the form of affirmations rather than laws (the way of not killing, the way of not lying, the way of no sexual misconduct, not indulging in anger, etc.). (The Soto temple in No. Mich may be a little different.) Having said all this I must say that, helpful as the precepts study process was (kind of like EFM), if I were considering ever being elected bishop, I wouldn't have gone through the precepts ceremony. (I am not a priest.) It unnecessarily confuses people, and having an identification with a group would hopefully not be necessary; it's extra. Ideally in zen practice, one is learning to scrutinize one's motives. When I first entered the zendo 14 years ago (just after leaving a monastic community in TEC, and lonely for it) when bowing in the direction of the statute of Manjushri on the altar (the bodhisattva of wisdom), what came to my mind was "the mind of Christ." To this day my heart's not changed. We take refuge in the way of practice toward the light of Christ, and become open to expressing the boundless compassion of the heart of Christ, the heart of the world. Nothing can diminish that light, whether we see it or not. What changes is our ability to recognize what is so. I appreciate your insights.

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