Coastal Schmutz: It is time to lift the gaze.

It is a beautiful morning on the beach here in the village by the big water. Off on the horizon there is nothing but delight in the first promise of something like spring beyond the snow of this winter.

Out there in Anglican Land, the land of blogs and fogs, there are intimations that Preludium has been wavering in its defense of the pluralist opportunities. In particular the criticism of the particular gifts of the bishop-elect of the Diocese of Northern Michigan has come up. The matter of consenting to his election has given rise to quite a bit of noise on the blogsphere.

The most recent and quite good response in defense of Fr. Forrester has come from the grand one from New Jersey, who is Telling Secrets. Elizabeth said, in a comment on a blog entry here at Preludium, "The legalistic, zealous, uber-conservative "Young Republican"-type Evangelicals in the Episcopal Church are no different from their counterparts in other denominations. The real irony is this: they are our religious terrorists, on their own lawless jihad to bring about their sense of theocracy. They will break any rule, exaggerate any claim, push any boundary, all "in the precious name of Jesus."

But there are other warning signs from good friends. The Pluralist has written one of his usual romps through the wilds of the coastal marsh that is Anglicanism at low tide. An Island Coastal Village is a cautionary tale concerning chopping down the trees, and therefore the forest, and leaving only barren land, and a cross on which the bishop-elect is hung. It is an amazing piece of writing.

The Pluralist wrote a warning there to the little Preludium thingy and noted, "As this campaign develops with ever more vigour and smear, the villagers that might have enjoyed and defended his classesoccasionally start to wobble and doubt their own mindfulness: perhaps they might have to accept what is going to happen in order to dampen the stresses and strains of actual communal life."

The Pluralist knows that occasionally on the coast one finds at low tide coastal schmutz, dirt that moves, and casts itself up on the beach. Such things happen, and when it does the gaze moves from the horizon to the near at foot. It is indeed possible to start to wobble and doubt ones own mindfulness at such a time. Particularly when this distraction comes shortly after removing dog poop from the carpet in the home of Preludium's dog Sarah, a home in which Preludium's blog guy is allowed also to live.

Having been thrown off balance by the schmutz of the railing against Fr. Forrester I did indeed suggest that some questions were in order if we had them. I still believe that is true.
Many of us had considerable reservations about Mark Lawrence, now bishop of South Carolina. Many of us had concerns about the now deposed bishop of San Joaquin. Sometimes our questions were answered and sometimes we as a church found them unsatisfactory. We can expect no less in this instance. But the schmutz on the beach can indeed be a cause of stumbling.

Here's my take on the matter. Every person elected or nominated as bishop brings gifts to the table. Not all of them are easy gifts, and some are not gifts at all, but simply schmutz.

I believe the creative gifts of imagining and envisioning ways to meditate, sing, dance, to lift our eyes to the horizon, the event-horizon perhaps, and to God present with us, are gifts to be desired. Are they the gifts we want in a bishop? Most are, I think. But better in a bishop who works with others in leadership, who is committed to life together both in the diocese and in the Church as a whole. There the gifts are part of a wider range of gifts, and not the only images available.

God forbid that Fr. Forrester is hounded and finally crucified on the altar of Communion unity through the smashing of imagination. It will be on our heads.

Read the Pluralist again. Is this the story that will hold? Let's hope not.

Here along the Atlantic coast the late winter storm has passed and the schmutz is on the beach. It will wash away and our gaze can still be upon the horizon and the event-horizon of our hopes.

If we trip a bit over the shortsighted attention to the trash talk perhaps it is because we want also to hear the legitimate questions that tell us people do indeed care about leadership here in Episcopal Church land. Having to elect bishops is a mess, but then again having them appointed is its own mess. So we need to stumble on. If Fr. Forrester is chopped down, perhaps, as with Fr. Lawrence, the tree will spring from the roots.

Meanwhile, Jesus Christ holds, then, now and always. Wish there were other ways to that horizon than by way of stumbling and mumbling and various crosses, put there by the imperial powers, state and religious, of our present world.

Thanks to the Pluralist for the dread story. Thanks to Fr. Forrester for standing.


  1. I was, of course, being a little naughty.

    Now I guess from your writing that you have not seen the film The Wicker Man, or at least not recognised this inspiration for my little tale.

  2. Father Harris,

    It is instructional to see that you recognize that people within your church (as well as fellow Christians) who may question a Bishop who has done more than a little dabbling in another religion as your "Religious Terrorists".

    You, with all your education and wisdom find this rhetoric "quite good".

    Is that label (invented by Neo-cons in order to better facilitate the killing and quarantining of people suspected of fitting that label) helpful to you? Quite good, indeed!



  3. Well, "terrorism" may be a poorly chosen word, but I for one find the comparison apt. The psychology is the key, in my opinion. Elizabeth seems surprised at the tactics of "The legalistic, zealous, uber-conservative 'Young Republican'-type Evangelicals in the Episcopal Church". I'm not sure why she'd be surprised. It's called "Hudaibiya", the Islamic practice of LYING to Infidels.

    It's right there in the Koran for anyone to read. And certainly anybody that questions the applicability of Leviticus, or the near hysterical inferences by the weak-minded based upon poorly translated letters of Paul is obviously an infidel. He CAN'T have been talking about temple prostitution after all, that's not what it says in King James...

    It's certainly possible that I'm making an unfair generalization. And I'm probably guilty of making an ad-hominem argument. Sincere they may be, both the Islamist types and the Christianist types. I am convinced that the psychology is the same.

    Any Mr. Worms, Buddhism is a practice and a philosophy. But as it is non-theistic, one thing it's NOT is a religion. Buddha never called himself a god, only the Hindus did that.

  4. It is a religion because it has rituals, rituals that have a salvic purpose. It leads to a universe of helpful meanings on the way to its view of salvation. There are prayers and meditations, contemplations, actions that are far from being purely functional. Philosophies alone do not build monasteries with spiritualities directly comparable to Christian spiritualities.

  5. Yes, Buddhism is a religion.


    Apparently, you missed the memo from rightwing central kommittee:

    From your fellow-traveler "Yawner":
    You keep bringing up the Buddhism thing as if that's the main angle. It's not.

    Forrester explained his involvement with Zen - which can and frequently is divorced from the religious aspect of Buddhism - and it is too clear to be used for Reasserter leverage, so your side has abandoned that as last week's non-issue.

    To recap:

    Forrester explained fully and accurately.

    You are ignorant of other practices.

    End of Buddhist melodrama.

    Try again.

  6. Perhaps you're right Pluralist, I've long lurked on your blog and you usually are. There are certainly many faces of Buddhism, I'd have to concede that Tibetan Buddhism is a Religion. But what I've learned of Therevadan doesn't seem like one. How can they be a Religion in the conventional sense? They're not required to hate anybody? ;-)

    I haven't found anything in Buddhism that contradicts anything in Christianity. This leads me to believe that it's certainly possible to be a Zen Christian, unless it's the sort of Christianity that requires the cessation of critical thought (Benedict's war on the Jesuits leaves me wondering if that's next for the Church of Rome.)

    I tried Buddhism myself when the Catholic Church left us and abandoned parts of the Catechism, but I never felt "right" about it. It wasn't until my "epiphany" at St. Luke's in Portland, listening to an Episcopal Priest's sermon and taking the Eucharist that I found a spiritual home. Not perfect perhaps, but home.

  7. I had already read Pluralist's story, and it is indeed an amazing story. It left me stunned and speechless, so I didn't comment.

    Upon your order, Mark, I went back to read the story again, and I was brave enough to leave a comment, although I mostly used your words. I, too, hope for a different ending to the story.

    Now I must go read about "The Wicker Man" and maybe even see the movie.

  8. Re Kevin Thew Forrester, I commend to you this article by Ruth Gledhill (Yes, Ruth Gledhill: SHE'S written a fair-minded article re the Bishop-Elect of N. Michigan---wonders never cease! ;-0)


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