It appears that no matter how often I have said that my remarks about consents for Kevin Forrester are not about the specifics of this or that person voting, or about their level of honesty and fidelity to a discernment process, etc, very few have heard that. Instead they have heard my comments about a climate of fear as a direct attack on those who voted not to consent. So something is wrong: either my friends and foes alike are unable to get what I was saying, I was saying it badly, or something else.
This afternoon Tobias Haller, priest and brother, a friend I hold in high esteem, wrote this in a comment on one of my posts on Forrester:
"Mark, I personally have no knowledge of any "progressive" who voted No on the consent to the election of KTF in order to prove he/she was orthodox. Your experience may be otherwise, of course; but it seems to me that whatever your experience in this regard you are painting with a very broad brush, and making judgments about the character and ethics of a broad swath of people.
Standing Committees were asked to testify (solemnly and without partiality) that they "know of no impediment on account of which" the bishop-elect "ought not to be ordained" as a bishop. You are suggesting that a number of people may have essentially perjured themselves by refusing to sign the consent, in an effort to appear more "orthodox" -- to someone, I can't imagine who.
On the contrary, in my experience people refused to consent on the basis of a belief that there was or were impediment(s) at play; and in spite of any partiality they might have felt in sympathy with KTF's personal character, declined to consent."
I took his comment to heart and have been involved in a bit of self examination on the matter.
I want to confess that my concerns were motivated by a variety of experiences in which my beliefs have been called into question, not by people of no or other faith, but by fellow Christians. Those not of the Christian faith have challenged me in direct but mostly polite and respectful ways. My Christian challengers have shown no such regard.
Because of that I looked at the trajectory of Forrester's rise and fall from a prejudiced position. I have seen him as suffering more fully a fate that I might well have suffered to some extent in other context. Thus I have written in ways that may not have served to illuminate. I have written with unexamined prejudice.
I am prejudiced against confinement. There. I suppose that is it. This is not the same as understanding and assenting to being one under authority. That I have agreed to and honor. It is the confining judgment of others that I strongly abhor. I saw that echoed in Forrester's treatment a stronger reverberation of things I have felt and experienced.
My ordination to the Priesthood was delayed because in part I was an unknown foreigner (from the US) and considered a hippie. Fellow Christian clergy and lay people did that. (As a result I will never catch up to my priest "age" with my friend Bill Wood. (sigh))
Years ago in Delaware an investigation to consider asking for my resignation as Chaplain was demanded because I supported the Gay Student Union. How could any Christian minister do that? The Episcopal Church Women asked that. The Diocese came to my defense.
I took part in the Philadelphia 11 Ordinations and had to face the possibility of reprimand. In the rest of The Episcopal Church people were getting dealt with severely. I was a very small grasshopper on the edge of the field, so when the fires came the passed me by.
Over the years a wide range of people have tried to convert me to Christianity, assuming and sometimes clearly stating, that they did not believe I was a Christian. Sometimes the reason was simple: I was an Episcopal Priest, and "you know about them." Sometimes the reason was because I wasn't a Christian the way they were a Christian. On at lest two occasions it was because I was a priest of the Episcopal Church, rather than another Church in the Anglican Communion. On some occasions their challenges helped form my faith, but often it just made me mad.
In recent days I understand I may have been accused of being ungentlemanly and engaged in conduct that was likely unbecoming a clergyperson.
So all in all my reaction has been just that - reaction - on the basis of personal experience. I have to say, all things considered, that I have been treated kindly and mostly justly by the Church. And, since I own my obedience to the Church, this is a good thing. The Church has mostly supported my being a Christian as I have understood being a Christian. The church has not been the confining factor, rather it is some people and movements in the Church who have taken on that task. And of course my experience is only a fraction, a small fraction, of the experience faced by people on the forward edge of the Civil Rights movement, the movement for GLBT rights, for the end of apartheid, for the people of Palestine, and on and on. I have not suffered, but I have been made, let us say, more sensitized.
It is always a shock to realize that there are people who are out to catch me in error, or to show that I am not a Christian, or to find some way to discount me.
When as a result there are those who want to say that The Episcopal Church is un-Christian, or no longer Christian, or un-orthodox, I take it personally.
When there are those who suggest that I am not a Christian, I take it personally.
When they say it about someone else who I believe is a Christian, I take it personally as well.
So, I confess that I am not particularly well fit to comment on Forrester. Its too damn personal. I wish him well and hope that having been challenged, he challenges back. More I hope he delights in living, and finds his home always with Christ Jesus. I don't think I have helped him or anyone else very much in this process.
Some of you commenting have made considerable headway in parsing out the realities of this process. I have not. I'm again' the whole miserable thing.
As for me, with forgiveness always a possibility, I am moving on to General Convention, ready to see sausage made and the Kingdom come.