The Diocese of Northern Michigan issued a response to the news that The Rev. Kevin Forrester did not receive the necessary consents from a majority of bishops and standing committees. His election was controversial in itself, and that was compounded by the complexities of his own spiritual path and the particular needs of the Diocese for a different sort of leadership - a shared ministry model. The combination of those factors, exacerbated by failures to communicate sufficiently, outcries from several bloggers and misleading, inflammatory headlines in church publications, and the need by some to show that there were limits to theological inclusivity, contributed to the lack of support.
The Standing Committee of the Diocese has issued a gracious and forward looking response. It is a fine example of generosity of spirit. Here it is.
DIOCESE OF NORTHERN MICHIGAN RESPONDS TO CONSENT PROCESS
MARQUETTE, MI., July 28, 2009—The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Northern Michigan released this statement today. The members of the Standing Committee are Linda Piper, president; Marsha Kleber, Marcia Franz, Hazel Satterly, Carol Clark, Sue Jamison, and Sue Ray.
The election of the Rev. Dr. Kevin Thew Forrester to be our bishop has not received the required consents from diocesan bishops and standing committees across the Episcopal Church. Elected at a Special Convention of the Diocese of Northern Michigan held on February 21, 2009, Thew Forrester received 88% of the delegate votes and 91% of the congregational votes. We are disappointed and saddened by the outcome of the consent process.
We are a diocese of twenty-seven small congregations scattered across a wide geographical area—a forested land tucked among three Great Lakes in a place of great natural beauty and harsh climate. Our congregations are located in small towns with declining populations and in one of the country’s most economically depressed rural areas. However, while we may be small in numbers, we are committed and caring Christians who are faithful to the Episcopal Church and committed to our common life.
Now we will continue to discern God’s call to the people of the Diocese of Northern Michigan. We proceed with a sense of deep gratitude as members of the body of Christ in the Episcopal Church.
As we discern, we ask for the prayers of the people of the Diocese of Northern Michigan and of people throughout the Episcopal Church, especially diocesan bishops and standing committees.
We invite the wider church to reflect with us on what this experience can teach us about the episcopal search and consent process. Among the issues ripe for discussion are how bishops and standing committees can best be made aware of the particular needs of individual dioceses, and how new communications technologies affect the consent process. We hope that out of our disappointment can come a deeper understanding of the ways in which we can all be accountable to one another as members of the body of Christ.