Over on Facebook Mark Engle wrote me something on Keven Forrester, bishop-elect but in all likelihood without sufficient consents. I thought it really fine and asked him for permission to include it here. I have tried to stress (with only some success) that the questions we are raising are not about the right of people to withhold consents, or the various specifics sited as reasons, but rather about an increasingly self-limiting sense of what sort of theological manner of life is permissible, or about being "orthodox." Just so we don't have to go through this again: this is not about telling those who voted not to confirm that they did something wrong, or evil, or cruel. Rather it is about reminding ourselves that the field has narrowed and we need to be careful.
Mark Engle writes:
Some thoughts while mowing the lawn. . .
The apparent failure of the Diocese of Northern Michigan to secure consents to its Bishop Elect, Kevin Thew Forrester has elicited a spirited, if superficial, response. While I have written publicly on the matter before I wanted to reflect on something of the meaning of the failure. So here goes.
It seems to me that the key question revolves around the tension between orthodoxy and innovation. At a time when the unthinkable is happening to us as a nation: Our largest corporation is bankrupt and evaporating; banks and brokers are falling; medical care is increasingly inaccessible; we continue to fight in far away lands with a bare grasp of the significance of some of these wars; the list is long. One needs to ask, how will the church respond? Shall we take a sectarian approach, circle the wagons and end the discussion? Shall we utter the last words of a dying church, "We never did it that way before?" (A perception that is entirely manufactured, by the way. Nothing Kevin proposes has not been done before.) I think that is what Kevin's repudiation represents. Now that comes at a cost, one that our future generations will bear. We already see what happens when congregations are divided and embrace the status quo option. I hope that this is not the first whisper of a church following the way of General Motors.
It is clear to me that if we are to be the church in the coming decades we will do so as we are able to build bridges to innovation. We will face the hard questions around a calcified system of authorization, a shrinking from R and D in congregational life and the near loss of mission focus. Northern Michigan has been on the forefront of each. Time and again, in human relations, prison ministry, environmental leadership, canonical reform, ministry development, this little community has produced astonishing results. Elsewhere, the church displays an dismaying lack of vigor.
By the withholding of consents, we will effectively bar a strong voice from the table in the House of Bishops. . . a seat which Jim Kelsey held with distinction. When we are entering into a corporate and congregational environment, the likes of which we have not seen in my lifetime, retreat into the answers of the past will not do. Some exploration will be required. If Kevin's modest innovations set folks hair afire, I cannot see how we will muster the umph to look our problems squarely in the eye.
For now, we seem to have set our course in the matter. I am distressed that we are leaving ourselves so vulnerable to coming events that are as inevitable as they will be crushing. I so wish we would not dig up the shoots of new life, naming them as weeds.