3/21/2009

Bishop Kimsey writes in support of Bishop Elect Forrester.

The Rt. Rev. Rustin R. Kimsey, Assisting Bishop for the Diocese of Alaska, has written the following letter in support of the election of Fr. Kevin Thew Forrester as bishop of Northern Michicgan. Additional letters of support from Bishop Thomas Ray and from the Standing Committee , Commission on Ministry, Diocesan Council and the Discernment Team. They may be found HERE and HERE and HERE. The letters are very helpful and supportive.

The Open Letter from Bishop Kimsey is posted here. Bishop Kimsey is one of the most level headed and quietly corageous bishops I have ever met. I hope his letter puts the concerns about Bishop-Elect Forrester and the diocesan process to rest.


The letter:


Friday, March 20, 2009
An Open Letter to Bishops, Standing Committees and their Constituency of the
Episcopal Church:

My friends in Christ:

I am writing you on behalf of Kevin Thew Forrester, Bishop-Elect of the Diocese of Northern Michigan. I have been an ordained person for nearly 49 years, and I have served as a bishop for 28 of those years in two dioceses, an area mission and faith communities that represent the complexity and the vitality of our Episcopal Church. Kevin Thew Forrester and his wife, Rise, have been significant gifts within my faith story, particularly during their ministries in Eastern Oregon. Both being Episcopal priests, they lived into their shared priestly vocation with sensitivity, care and wisdom. There was never a question of the obedience to
and the appreciation of their ordination vows.

It is because of my personal experience with Kevin that I am confounded by the controversy over his election by his home diocese to be their bishop. In the matter of his practice of Zen Buddhist meditation, when did the way in which we are deepened into the Presence of God become a litmus test for being a follower of Jesus Christ? Christians have employed countless ways and environments in their search for an integrated and clearer focus on the Holy One. When I worked and lived with the Navajo and employed some of their images of their
creation story in my own devotions, was I being disloyal to my Christ and to my Creator God? I think not. In the 6th century when St. Columba of Iona honored the culture that preceded him by referring to Jesus as his “druid brother”, was he lessening Christ or was he honoring the Spirit of God that was in Celtic lands long before Christianity arrived? I am especially dismayed when a significant world religion, Buddhism, is subtly tainted in this matter. Kevin could not be clearer: he is a Christian who on occasion practices Zen Buddhist meditation. I
would think he would be commended for such exploration into a milieu that is known for peace and healing and harmony.

The other significant issue raised by The Living Church in their editorial of March 22, 2009 is the discernment/election process Northern Michigan employed in electing Kevin. The editorialists should have done their home work and not left such negative and constricted views in the wake of their words. More than a year ago, a Northern Michigan Diocesan Convention gave to a 21 member discernment committee the responsibility for reflecting, dialoguing and praying into being a ministry team that would support and enhance the ministry and mission of the Diocese of Northern Michigan. Contrary to The Living Church,
Kevin was not the chair of this working committee. I wish the readers of this letter could have been privy to any part of the work this devoted community of people advanced over these past months. They discerned what their diocese needed in multiple arenas of their Christian life, building on the rich traditions of decades of Mutual Ministry experience, and they set out to recommend to their next diocesan convention persons who were fit to do the tasks. One of these positions was bishop. Again, contrary to The Living Church editorial, there were a number of people considered for the episcopal office. Serious honoring and
prayerful attention were paid to these persons and, in obedience to the mandate given them by the 2007 Diocesan Convention, the discernment committee decided on one person as their nominee for Bishop of Northern Michigan and that person is Kevin Thew Forrester. There have been many pot shots taken at this process, and I am saddened by this response. Is our present norm of selecting bishops the wisest way of the Spirit? I think not. Is an electing
convention with multiple nominees the most sensitive method? At times it has been when political in fighting was nil and honesty on the part of the nominees was at a premium. But Northern Michigan’s diverse and representative discernment committee also should receive our affirmation as a way in and through an episcopal election IF the diocesan convention creates and affirms such a model. Northern Michigan’s Convention had two opportunities to affirm or deny this avenue and in both instances they overwhelmingly chose to affirm
the discernment committee’s work. For those stuck on our cookie cutter approach to episcopal elections, think back to how Matthias was selected and read up on Ambrose. Northern Michigan would be the first to say that to simply adopt their model without the hard preparation they embraced would be a mistake, but what they have done does invite every diocese to think outside the box a bit, pay primary attention to the context of ministry needs in our dioceses and discern early on in our processes where the office of bishop fits in our
ministry and mission needs.

It is this last issue I wish to emphasize. Again, in The Living Church editorial, it is stated: Northern Michigan has been a leader in the “Total Ministry” approach to pastoral care in its congregations, but its attempt to extend that concept to the episcopacy could bring about an unsettling precedent. I find so many things wrong with this statement that I need to rein my emotions in. Total Ministry is not primarily about pastoral care in its congregations. It is about offering to our membership the privileges and the responsibilities of their baptism into Christ’s Body. I believe that unless a bishop is integrated into this empowering Gospel
with his/her constituency and rooted in the context of life as it is with that diocese, there will be trouble. I spent 20 years as an active bishop in the House of Bishops, and it is my memory that much of the heartache and disillusionment of the episcopacy came from isolation and lack of feeling connected to the faith community. Certainly some of that malaise was our own doing, but there is much in the office of bishop that separates a bishop from the people of God. Total Ministry prioritizes that leadership within the Body of Christ, lay orordained, should prayerfully pursue a course of transparency, collaboration, clarity, wise sharing of authority and consistent listening for the Holy Spirit’s next intervention. If we as bishops embraced these priorities more than we do I would welcome such an “unsettling precedent.”

Kevin has devoted himself to a priestly ministry that constantly strives for the honoring of the integrity of all the people of God. He has done so with discipline in being attentive to and embracing of the theological and liturgical traditions of our Church, and he has also employed openness and imagination in exploring new ways to think and behave within our baptismal promises. In so being, he stands in the impressive episcopal tradition of Tom Ray and Jim Kelsey. Episcopalians in Northern Michigan have spoken clearly and decisively in their affirmation and election of Kevin Thew Forrester as their bishop-elect. If any believe this process to be skewed or manipulated or short sighted, they know little about the integrity, the strength of character and the wisdom of the people of Northern Michigan. Kevin Thew Forrester is my friend in Christ, and I urge the Bishops and Standing Committees of our dioceses to confirm his election.

This comes with prayers for us all and the assurance that I am

Faithfully yours in Christ,

(The Rt. Rev.) Rustin R. Kimsey

Assisting Bishop of Alaska
The Fifth Bishop of Eastern Oregon
Assisting Bishop of Navajoland, Retired

16 comments:

  1. The creeping, yet ongoing, deception and outright blurring of REALITY at The Living Church is demoralizing to other Christians who aspire to carry Christs GOOD NEWS! (makes one wonder who pays the bills over there for the ¨editorial¨ smearing and fancy graphics)

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  2. It's good to see some Courage, for once ;)

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  3. I'm still unconvinced as to this "process" they invented whole cloth.
    I'm gratified they decided that they still needed a Bishop on this "Support Team" they are so inordinately proud of. They have now, in their opinion, successfully reduced all of the Ordained orders to mere functions and we have to all be happy over it, since they have replaced catholic order with this ill thought out Baptismal theology which is a tad backwards in function since Baptism isn't all that important since, I think, Kevin+ advocates open communion.
    Not to worry though, since all criticism of this mess can be , and has been, written off as just "the usual suspects." That I'm not one, last I checked, is unimportant since it is a safe way to deflect criticism.

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  4. "For those stuck on our cookie cutter approach to episcopal elections, think back to how Matthias was selected and read up on Ambrose. Northern Michigan would be the first to say that to simply adopt their model without the hard preparation they embraced would be a mistake, but what they have done does invite every diocese to think outside the box a bit, pay primary attention to the context of ministry needs in our dioceses and discern early on in our processes where the office of bishop fits in our ministry and mission needs".

    The majority in San Joaquin, Ft Worth, Quincy and Pittsburgh rejected the same cookie cutter approach to Provincial structures and thought outside the box and somehow the same logic doesn't apply! How come?

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  5. I have never yet come across a "new expression" of church which promises to empower the laity that hasn't ended up with the "leaders" being more controlling of the laity than those whom they replaced.

    Most of those who sing Forrester's praise are from the controlling group (which includes all bishops no matter how nice and level headed they are individually). There is enough evidence from people, not in the controlling group, that Forrester needs to control and change things, after his own image, even where change and control are not required or wanted. He thinks he is right and that he is doing what God wants and that is a very dangerous attitude for a bishop to take - well dangerous from laity's point of view.

    And before you start cheering Kimsey's attack on democracy I suggest you take a long hard look at the undemocratic processes of the English Church. Yes, democracy can cause unhappiness and rivalry but it's a damned sight fairer and effective than the old school tie network that gives jobs to the boys in my country.

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  6. "He has done so with discipline in being attentive to and embracing of the theological and liturgical traditions of our Church"

    A parishioner has stated that Thew Forrester substituted the Nicene creed for very much non-Trinitarian New Zealand affirmation of faith so that a Muslim husband of one of his parishioners could participate (by this, it sounds like open communion) without feeling "excluded." This is hardly "embracing the theological and liturgical traditions of our Church."

    The business about TF now denying his Buddhism is actually more troubling by adding prevarication to his syncretism. Bp Kelsey stated publically that TF "walk[ed] the path of Christianity and Zen Buddhism." Did TF ever ask Kelsey to retract this? Lay ordination in Buddhism is akin to confirmation where the adult TF openly confirmed his membership in the Buddhist religion.

    Interesting the Kimsey has a long and perfect LGBQT voting record. It sure seems that his support for TF is more about voting the party line than for affirmation of office of bishop which is to be a defender of the faith, not faiths.

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  7. Here again we have robroy determining that saying one thing clearly encompasses saying another just because raibroy says so.

    Perhaps, robroy, if you would deal with things that have actually been said and done as opposed to the fevered byproducts of your hysterical imaginings, you'd find you had a lot less to get worked up about.

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  8. The questions about the bishop-elect's practice of Zen have been answered. You refuse to accept those answers, your loss. It's a non-issue, though a convenient smokescreen.

    However, nobody has been able - or even attempted - to explain to me what is wrong with this election and what is this new "way of ministry" Forrester has come up with.

    Can someone please explain this, clearly and simply, from both sides. I will automatically have a knee-jerk suspicion of anything that takes more than a paragraph of explanation when dealing with governance and ministry.

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  9. Mark+,

    Do you think his explanation of Trinity in the sermon posted on SF is consistent with 1. basic theism and 2. that contained in the Nicene Creed?

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  10. Mark B,

    I think the objections to the electoral process come down to two points.

    1. There was only one candidate presented for consideration to the synod. This is, at the very least, irregular.

    Some liberals have justified this by comparing it to the second election of Bishop Lawrence in South Carolina, but I think the particulars of that case distinguish it sufficiently. (Having previously been elected in a multi-candidate field, Lawrence's election then failed on a technical point to achieve the necessary consents.)

    2. The bishop-elect was part of the process which chose to put forward his name as the only candidate for consideration. Had the nominating process led to multiple candidates, this would certainly be less of an issue, if it were an issue at all. In fairness, I understand that the bishop-elect recused himself when it became clear what the developing consensus was.

    Personally, I think the process is highly irregular, but falls short of being uncanonical. The fact that the synod was prepared to ratify the actions of the nominating committee by a wide margin certainly alleviates (though does not eliminate) my concern. Similarly, the fact theat there seems to be virtually no hue and cry from people who actually live in the diocese suggests that even those unhappy with the process are content enough with the outcome, or at least feel that their dissent was heard.

    I have yet to meet a bishop who started off with the unanimous support of the diocese. Yet despite this, none of the usual suspects have been able to produce a Northern Michigan Episcopalian prepared to offer up their hysteria as his own.

    (All that said, I still think the process sucked and it was a stupid way to proceed. But sucky and stupid do not necessarily uncanonical make.)

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  11. 2. The bishop-elect was part of the process which chose to put forward his name as the only candidate for consideration...In fairness, I understand that the bishop-elect recused himself when it became clear what the developing consensus was.

    Padre Malcolm, a source from the diocese has told me in private email that this is not true. Father Forrester made two presentations on the Enneagram at the beginning of the discernment process to the assemble discernment team, but that he was not a member of this team and did not participate beyond the two presentations.

    I am not familiar with the Enneagram, but it appears to have widespread use in this diocese's distinct manner of calling folks to ministry.

    Also, I understand from sources that the process originally selected someone else, who later withdrew from the process after his spouse visited the see city and refused to live there! Father Forrester was a next best on the list identification.

    The word verification is ouskie. How did Goggle know I am from an outside Anglican church and not a Piskie?

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  12. Thank you, Malcolm!

    So, now, I suppose, the question is did he run unopposed, or did he "run unopposed?"

    I'm not sure how nominations are made, so, were there others who applied? Does one "apply" for a see when it becomes open?

    To me, it's clear that the process, as a whole, needs a great deal more transparency. As it is, it's not clear whether the election or the process was questionable. And, yes, questions are being raised, so questionable is the right term. I feel it hypocritical of us to have exposed the Lawrence election to such scrutiny - rightfully - and say it's okay to ignore the questions about Forrester. At the same time, if his diocese are content, then I am, as well - it would be hypocrisy for me to say that Gene Robinson should stay because his diocese want him and claim something different for someone else because he's straight.

    I'm still not clear on this rather novel approach to ministry, though it seems to have something to do with "appointing" laypeople out of congregations to become priests in a sort of hands-on training system. Frankly, I think the whole ethos of clergy and clergy-selection has become suspect and in need of some serious attention.

    My word verification: "ruing."

    Oh, I hope not! :D

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  13. Mark B, in my private email exchanges, it was made clear that the diocesan discernment group was not accepting applications. In this discernment process that this diocese uses, starting on the parish level, one does not seek office or responsibility. A call to office is discerned by one's peers as all prayerfully ascertain their own individual gifts of ministry. So they accepted nominations from inside and outside the diocese of folks to consider.

    Again, this is a bit different to the process to which I am accustomed, but it is a process/system of forming home-grown leaders, both lay and clergy, in more rural settings where parishes do not often have resources to pay clergy, and individuals do not always have resources to go the more traditional route of paying for seminary training.

    It also appears to divide what has been the entire bundle of skills a parish usually expects from a clergy person, among a group of folks who share these responsibilities. So a small group of laity may be discerned to be the parish preachers. Another group, pastoral visitors and peer counselors. But perhaps only one ordained a priest, and given the sacramental faculties.

    Now imagine that process raised to a diocesan level to discern a similar group to function in the bundle of skills expected of a bishop, but only one ordained and given the sacramental faculties.

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  14. David-

    One of the problems I have with this process is that the responsibilities are inherent in the office. The reduction of ordination to being given a function to do the sacraments and nothing else is a violation of the Ecclesiology that TEC has inherited. We have Bishops, not Ministry teams.

    Also, this sort of thinking helps set up and maintain echo chambers. There is no danger, under this for an outside voice to come in and challenge the status quo, which Kimsey+ is undoubtedly a part of. I've called this set up incestuous in the past, and I continue to do so.

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  15. John, I am not taking sides in my posts. TEC is not even my church. I am merely trying to clear up misperceptions of what occurred in the process and any falsehoods brought to my attention, based on the inside the diocese confidential reports shared with me.

    The only thing that I take issue with regarding what is now a big mess, is what appears to be out & out calling these folks liars when they have tried to offer explanations to folks questions of how they arrived at this point.

    RobRoy and Company are doing just that, not always here at Father Mark's blog, but in other blogs where I have read their posts. Father Forrester has point blank said that he was not a Buddhist, that he was a committed Christian. He has said that he took no oaths. But throughout the blogoshere RR and his lot continue to say he did, that he lies.

    The bishops and lay folks who walked this road of discernment have given their witness that it was an honest and prayerful approach, within the TEC canons. If we cannot accept their testimony as God's honest truth, then we can accept no one's testimony to the truth and we are doomed. We might as well throw in the towel and call it quits, because if I cannot believe any of them, then I cannot believe any of you.

    Dear Lord in Heaven have mercy on us all.

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  16. I think I may need to explain myself.
    I'm not accusing them of dishonesty, at least not conscious dishonesty. I think that they have followed their consciences and what they see as the validity of their view of the Ministry of the Church. Where I make my critique is in the idea that the rest of TEC has to just nod and go on.
    Was this a canonical process? They honestly think so, others may disagree with just as much honesty. To say rather baldly that there is nothing for the rest of TEC to discern here is not quite true. Many see this as an attempt to force a purely functionalist view of ordination on the rest of the Church. Others want to know how this "team" system works. The fact that this process is hermetically sealed, gives many of us pause. The defensive posturing and responding (it has taken a while to have answers given rather than responses that don't touch upon the questions asked) hasn't helped.
    This entire thing has opened questions that should be answered, and (no matter the sincerity of those involved) must be discussed.
    Discernment, I keep being told, is a larger process than just one individual. The election of a bishop is more than just one Diocese action, it has direct affect upon the rest of the community, hence why I didn't think that a discussion on +VGR was a bad thing, I (and a good deal many others) just think the objections were valid.
    Lets have the theological and eclesiological conversation, but lets do it in the open. No accusations of apostasy and no defensiveness.

    BTW- the magic word is gestera, I'm not sure what to make of it.)

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