Bishop elect Forrester and the occult hand of journalism...

Paul Greenberg with some friends invented a whimsical and apparently fictional secret society of journalists, the Order of the Occult Hand, all of which in turn feeds into conspiracy theories of just how journalism is a cabal. Bob Garfield interviewed Paul Greenberg in 2004 in a playful item on NPR, On the Media. Garfield began,

"Conspiracy theories about the press abound. It's a mouthpiece for the left; it's cowed by the right. It's under pressure from the administration; it's under the thumb of corporate interests. It's controlled by the Jews. But there is one insidious media conspiracy that has actually been documented --journalists from all over the country secretly in league as if guided by an occult hand to corrupt daily reporting with certain code words meaningful to the conspirators and to the conspirators alone. And one of them joins me now. He is Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette."

I found this delightful interview because I was actually looking for some link to the fact that Paul Greenburg had written an editorial on Bishop elect Forrester, first published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on May 3rd and picked up by AnglicansUnited on May 5th., and then by the Wilmington Delaware News Journal on May 15th.

Greenberg is a thoughtful if often conservative writer and he does his homework. The
article, "The Bishop of Unbelief" is well crafted, as befits a Pullitzer Prize winner. Greenberg is not an Episcopalian but he brings into the essay a knowledge of the Book of Common Prayer, baptismal vows, creeds, etc. He has no truck with Fr. Forrester.

At the core of the article is this quote,

"By now the Reverend Forresters have succeeded in creating their own backlash in the mainstream church. In a turn that still strikes some of us more parochial types as unusual, if not miraculous, most of the world’s Anglicans, that is, adherents of the old Church of England, now live in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The see of Canterbury seems to have grown somewhat, and acquired some colorful offshoots.

These new Anglicans grow restive with all the backsliding they detect in their still imperialistic brethren. Whenever a bishop back in England or the United States embraces some new morality that sounds a lot like the old immorality, they threaten to go their own way-or rather the old way. And they may yet succeed in restoring it in the church.

God works in a mysterious way His wonders to perform. Who would have guessed that the Third World might come to the rescue of faith in the First?"

Note the phrase, "the Reverend Forresters." Plural, he has become legion. Greenberg has picked up on the so called orthodox line - that Forrester is an example of the drift of Episcopalians from their Anglican roots, and that Anglicans in the Third World are on a rescue mission in making bishops for the restoration of the church in the US and Canada.

So the argument against Forrester is that he is part of the drift and the argument for bishops and standing committees not granting consent is that it is a sign of orthodoxy to deny him ordination.

Gone in this argument is any mention of the election process. That process may have been peculiar but it is not outside the canonical possibilities. Gone in this argument is the Buddhist meditation issue. The issue in this essay is about Forrester as a symbol of the slide away from conservative "orthodox" Anglican stances.

Fr. Forrester's witness as a faithful, if peculiar, Christian is being pillaged by the right. First he was the "Buddhist bishop," then he was not elected properly, and now he is part of the army of the heterodox coming to let the devil in by the back door.

The tragedy is that the so called "Christian" right may succeed in getting him racked up as a bishop who failed to get consents. There will be glee in righteous blogland, and perhaps a smile from Greenberg.

Forrester appears to be a complex believer with a simple stance, that is his Christian witness may reflect the convolutions of the thinking believer and his prayerful stance may reflect the awe of one who knows the presence of God. He may be a treasure for the church. But we may never know because he will be flattened by the hammer that smashes only and does not build.

On to the matter of the "occult hand of journalism." I picked up the Wilmington, Delaware News Journal this morning, May 15th, and found that Greenberg's essay was on the editorial pages of the paper. This is twelve days after it appeared in Arkansas, ten days after AnglicansUnited picked it up. Why now?

Perhaps someone in Delaware connected to the News Journal knew that the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Delaware was meeting this coming Tuesday and would be voting then on giving consent to Fr. Forrester's election. Perhaps there is some management of information, some secret cabal of orchestrated journalism playing out its hand.

But no, no. The Episcopal Church is not exactly a big player here in Delaware. In fact, one might wonder why the News Journal would find it interesting or useful to post Greenberg's article at all. Surely no. There is nothing orchestrated here.

It is not the occult hand of journalism that is at play here, but it looks like nasty business to me.

The fat is in the fire for Fr. Forrester and every vote against him counts twice, once for him, once for all the rest of us who might ever think of stretching the language or the form of worship or the range of spiritual experience for members of The Episcopal Church.

And yes, the fat is in the fire and the rescue crowds from the Global South churches are here to lend a hand to local home grown purists. When they finish with the matter there will be a purified and quite manageable Christian Church in the United States that mimics every other splinter of the remnants of Christendom.

I will not be there, nor I hope Fr. Forrester, nor I hope you.


  1. Won't be the church for me anymore.

  2. I, too, will not be there.

  3. Forrester is an example of the drift of Episcopalians from their Anglican roots - but, thank the Lord there is still something of a line ECUSA won't cross, even if the line is only seen and observed under the white-hot glare of publicity.

  4. Surrender Dorothy15/5/09 3:19 PM

    Ah, but the left wing DID go too far, Mark Harris! It's about time you and other baby boomers came a-cropper.

    Your comeuppance (love that cowpoke lingo) is richly deserved and long a-building.

    It must hurt to see a fellow who represents the logical conclusion of your liberalism-- non-Christianity-- go down to humiliating defeat from the CENTER of the Church.

    But I think this pain should be instructive to you, and I hope you will feel it long enough to learn from it. May you not suffer too long, too much, or to no purpose.

    Your generation doesn't know everything. In some ways you are the most ignorant people who ever trod the soil of America. Truth must make its entrance somehow, even if it hurts. You've had fifty years of unchallenged dominance, and our church has never been weaker or less credible. Come OFF it, already!

    Thank God we still can muster enough faith to reject Genpo despite the Politburo of 815 Second Avenue.

  5. The holier-than-god lobby with its Central African allies will indeed create something. I call it the Continuum Redux. It will indeed exclude you Fr. Mark, and me, and many others.

    In a real sense that exclusion is important. People who join something like CANA or another of the alphabet soup need to know the organization wont let just anyone in -- that is a major reason to join it.

    In my view that sort of exclusiveness means they wont let any Jewish carpenters in either.


  6. Gee Surrender Dorothy....I see you have trouble expressing your feelings.

    The notion that "my generation" is fifty years in the doing and that we had "unchallenged dominance" is amazing.

  7. Nor will I be in that hate-filled, ugly, stark, unloving, unforgiving, vengeance-desiring, exclusionary thing they will call their "traditional" church. And I am quite thankful for that, Lord.

  8. Mark, for what it is worth, I don't think KTF's being a bishop or not will have all that much effect. Certainly not the kind of effect Surrender Dorothy surmises.

    I think we Boomers (is KTF one?) have had both positive and negative effect on the church, and as far as I can see, a good number of the radical right are just as much boomers as the radical left.

    In the end, I think it is too early to say whether KTF will be confirmed or not. In either case, I will not run screaming from the room, and I doubt if many others will either. The church is stronger than any of its individual members -- which is both good and bad.

    See you in Anaheim...

  9. I might just gently and respectfully suggest that there are some of us who have questions about Forrester who are not reacting to anything but his own work. It's not helpful to say that anyone who votes "no" has become a tool of the alphabet-soup folks. Some of us with plenty of progressive cred have questions about the role of a bishop, the place of the Creeds, the meaning of baptism, etc. that ought to be aired without our being accused of betraying the cause.

    Mr. Arabin

  10. Mr. Arabin...I am thankful that there are questions being raised about Fr. Forrester. You are quite right, there really are questions that need to be asked.

    My concern is not about genuine questions raised, but about the use of Fr. Forrester as the sign of all that is wrong with TEC and why he is just another example of our all being what Surrender Dorothy said.

    Tobias is right... we will vote up or down and all together it will not spell the end of anything or the triumph of the true faith, etc.

  11. I'm trying to remember what the precedents are for a bishop-elect not getting the necessary consents. Let's see....there was James DeKoven in the 1870's (twice) -- I wonder whatever became of him. Oh, yes -- Lesser Feasts and Fasts (2006), pp. 204-205.

  12. Yes Mark, I think you are right. KTF is being used as a tool; I think you are correct to be suspicious of the timing of the article in the Delaware newspaper--that is beyond coincidence. And I do think that those in the more progressive "camp" of TEC are proving their so-called orthodoxy and willingness to toe the line by voting him down.

    It grieves me terribly. I, too, will not find worship in a church which worships one strict interpretation of holy scripture rather than the living, breathing, sacramental God.

  13. I was against Forrester, but this yellow journalism by the allegedly orthodox is nothing but emotional manipulation of the coarsest and particularly unevolved sort, rather like writing "Surrender Dorothy" above the Emerald City.

    Better that what has come to call itself christianity - though it now seems divorced of any actual experience of God in its "orthodox" form - than to allow the wilfully ignorant and spiritually stagnant.

    Urge consent.

  14. Forgive me. What I wrote was sent in haste on a poor computer and should have read:

    Better that what has come to call itself christianity - though it now seems divorced of any actual experience of God in its "orthodox" form – fall into ruin than to allow the wilfully ignorant and spiritually stagnant.I would not wish anyone to think I value what the Reasserters posit as religion.

  15. Wonderful verification word: pigrant!

    Hmmm, I do believe the "Greatest Generation" was just coming into power 50 years ago, but that's stretching it a bit. Not quite as much as we boomers running the Episcopal Church from our cradles and the local schoolyards.

    Actually, Surrender, the only bad-mouthing I have heard about TEC in recent years (from non-Episcopalians, that is) was from a Roman Catholic, who was upset we had just started ordaining women. He was a bit surprised to hear his timing was off by about 30 years.

    The process will determine if Thew Forrester's becomes a bishop. Isn't that what it is designed to do?

  16. Mark, I truly appreciate your tolerance as a blogger host.

    Tobias, thank you for presenting a voice of reason amongst the comments.

    It seems to me that both sides have turned KTF into a symbol to be fought over.

    I find it very intriguing that folks here are stating they would leave...what some of those on the right have decided to do. Both sides seem to be saying if we can't play my way, I'm taking my toys and going home. What happened to living in the tension?

    Arguing over KTF is to me more about arguing over the role of a bishop as a leader and representative of all the church -- not an argument over the direction that the church itself would take in terms of restricting theology and belief or going the opposite direction and eliminating all definitions and having an anything goes universalism.

    In the end, KTF will become another victim not of right wing conspiracy but of the open accessibility of the internet. At the time he published his sermons, writings, etc., when the diocese put up its news articles, no one could think about how that would affect things down the road. Professionals are advised to make certain that their internet trail is free of embarrassing photos etc. because corporations will do google searches and find these things.

    I hold to the belief that all the efforts on the part of this diocese's leadership to prevent this election from going to convention have backfired. Had they taken their time and allowed it to go to convention, there would have been much less time to focus on all this. Instead there has been this enormous window for folks to dig up his writings and disseminate them to the bishops and standing committees. The process has changed, perhaps for the better. Only time will tell.

  17. Mark,

    You're defending KTF?? Really, this is worth your time?? A guy that rewrites the baptismal vows in the BCP, a guy that rewrites other parts of the BCP on a regular basis, a guy that doesn't think Jesus had to fulfill the scripture by dying on the cross.... really, this is the guy you're going to use to attack the Orthodox? Of publicly announced consent decisions, he's got 40 "No" votes and 14 "Yes" votes from standing committees, and this is a conservative witch hunt? Really?

    I think this is one of the most amazing posts ever.

    I was thrilled to see the News-Journal run the story, because now I can continue to lay low and don't have to write the standing committee. Because it says to me that their decision will get reported, and our 41 churches here in Delaware will hopefully not be the laughingstock of other Christians in the state.

    Because the people at my parish- moderate as it is- know about KTF and are talking about how they hope he doesn't get elected, because he's too far outside the bounds.

    I'm in the Diocese, Mark. If you really think this what parishioners outside of the beach, SSaM, and maybe 1-2 other churchs want, you are seriously out of touch with your own diocese. I have no doubt a bunch of clergy here support his ideas, but not those of us out in the pews and on vestries.

  18. I'm defending Fr. Forrester against the stupidity of trouncing him as somehow being the symbol of the terrible things TEC is doing, locally, on a diocesan level or church wide. Whether or not he should be confirmed as bishop is not my primary issue.

    As to being in the diocese, fine. I have been here thirty-six years and I know perfectly well where people stand. Obviously they often stand elsewhere than where I stand.

    If Forrester is not to get the required consents, OK. But most people (certainly excluding you) have not made any attempt to understand what he has to say. Instead they have simply decided that the headlines are right- that he is the Buddhist bishop, not properly elected, and now not orthodox enough.

    I am not suggesting how members of the Standing Committee vote. I am saying that voting on the basis of the headlines is wrong.

    As to your comment that "Jesus had to fulfill the scripture by dying on the cross..." I suggest a rethink.

    Yawner... I asked before who you are. You may have said, but if so I lost it. Mind letting us know?

  19. I still ask, as I have before, if Forrester is so far outside the accepted norms to all of these bishops and dioceses, why hasn't anyone filed a presentment against him for conduct unbecoming of clergy? Denying him the bishop's chair is one thing but the defamation he has undergone is either true, and requires further actions or false, requiring repentance on those bearing false witness.

    There is no doubt now that whether Forrester is or is not fit to be bishop he will not be given consent at this point.

    He is already made the sacrificial lamb, the scapegoat, meant to appease not an angry God, but an angry orthodite herd that is smarting from the RCDC smackdown and the upcoming GC. Many are saying that this is the final straw that will break the unity camel's back and it seems that unity has become the mission of TEC.

    I don't personally see anything wrong with what Forrester has done but I respect those who do. I do not believe that he is being given a fair hearing in all cases, however, and that is very sad.

    My word verification is "confess". How a propos....

  20. Priscilla, (or anyone else)who would be the one to "file a presentment" and what exactly is that?

    I agree with Mark - there has certainly been a bit of "swine flu" about all this, but there has also been some genuine discussions and deep thought. A number of the bishops have contacted KTF personally for further explanations of his theology and still voted "no." Some of the recent "no" votes have come AFTER KTF and the Northern Michigan Standing Committee have disseminated his 9 page statement explaining his theology.
    Finally, I don't believe that "the fat lady has sung yet." There are still enough unpublicized votes out there that can turn this around and none of the votes thus far made public are locked in - the process allows for changing votes/granting consent or changing vote/removing consent up until the 120 days are over. My understanding is that most if not all of general convention will be during the 120 day period so there will be much discussions occurring in Anaheim. There is potential here for some important serious thought about how we believe as a church, what the role of a bishop is, what the role of the consent process it, how the internet continues to alter older processes,etc. If you feel KTF is being grossly wronged then step up and start writing letters, posting on blogs, or whatever it takes for you to get your opinion heard.

  21. Renz, a presentment is like an ecclesial indictment, someone, usually a group with standing and cause to do so, brings canonical charges against the person.

    As to Anaheim, I seriously doubt that any discussion will take place regarding Revd. Forrester beyond unofficial chatter and gossip. There are no grounds for it to occur. Unlike with +Gene, as you have often pointed out, your diocese made sure that this consent did not go to TEC's GC.

  22. My apologies, DahVeed, I didn't mean to suggest formal dialogue - but that given the situation and strong feelings on either side there would be many personal conversations occurring in the hopes of getting "votes" switched before the 120 days are up. Thanks for the explanation - you'll have to tell me more either here or in e-mail. I've never really heard about canonical charges etc and who then hears the case etc. How do you know all this?

  23. Fr. Harris:

    You wrote: As to your comment that "Jesus had to fulfill the scripture by dying on the cross..." I suggest a rethink.

    How does this compare to: "After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst." ~John 19:28

    Priscilla- how does your contention that this is an "orthodite" action to vote down KTF fit with the fact that of the 41 standing committees and 40 bishops so far reported to have vote "no", many of them hardly fit that label and many fit the opposite of that label?

    Fr. Harris- the last time you inquired as to my identity, I passed because I tend to lay low on my views in my parish, which we love. I don't want to stir things up there- I have a leadership position. I view my role as ensuring the parish stays strong, healthy, and vital. If we leave TEC as a family, we'll leave, but in the meantime I prefer not to have my views distract from the good work happening in the parish. So, as much as I'm sure others feel I am cowering beyond anonymity, I really view it as best to lay low. Sorry.

  24. Yawner...thanks for your comment. I had forgotten. You are not cowering at all. There are times when I have also not wanted to upset good work going on. Laying low has its point.

  25. Yawner, you asked me:

    "Priscilla- how does your contention that this is an "orthodite" action to vote down KTF fit with the fact that of the 41 standing committees and 40 bishops so far reported to have vote "no", many of them hardly fit that label and many fit the opposite of that label?"

    followed shortly thereafter by:
    "If we leave TEC as a family, we'll leave. . . ."

    I believe, perhaps erroneously, that it is this implicit threat that has cowed many of the 40 or 42 "no" voters. Just as BO33 was passed in a failed attempt to prevent a leavetaking at the last GC, there are many middle of the road, moderate bishops and standing committees that see this as the lesser of 2 evils.

    Denying consent to one bishop-elect to appease the clanging cymbals and gongs of those who will most leave anyway is a desperate attempt at peacemaking that was tried before and failed.

    Of course some, I'm sure, can't accept Rev. Forrerster's Christianity as he has expressed it. But many don't even know what that would be since SFinF and Titus1:9 created the meme for the "Buddhist" bishop who denies Christ and baptism and everything else orthodox and holy and he likes Muslims too and throws out the Creed for them! A page from the Karl Rove book of smearing opponents quite effectively without worrying about facts and the truth, an orthodite specialty, no? Just pick a bit here and a piece there an none are safe in the light of such character defamation.

    We will never know if Rev. Forrester is or is not fit for the episcopacy because of this mudslinging and that is a tragedy in my eyes, however weak and wrong-sighted they may be.

  26. I know this is an old thread, but I would presume that perhaps the noise on the left about an orthodite conspiracy against Forrester, him being made a sacrificial lamb, all that nonsense... may finally die down now that Bishop Bruno (of all people) and the diocese of Los Angeles appear to have put the nail in the coffin as far as the publicly known count is concerned.

    I think that Ann Fontaine and others held onto the "it's because he's Buddhist" position far too long- that hasn't been what it's about since perhaps the 2nd day that his Buddhist interest became known. Much more troubling was his straying from the BCP and messing with the baptismal vows. And THAT would have looked bad for TEC, no matter how it is spun. So I congratulate all of the bishops and standing committees that stood up for having some sense of who we are as a church, for saying that even though the bounds may be wide there are indeed bounds, and for holding the line somewhere. I wish our standing committee had done the same, and I don't know how Bishop Wright has decided. But it appears not to matter at this point.

    And my prayers are with Forrester, and his wife, and the people of Northern Michigan, as he deals with the setback and they painfully begin the process over. I am sure there is pain for them. I do not envy them, in such a small diocese with limited resources. Perhaps it ought not to even be a diocese given that its largest church has an ASA of 30. But that will no doubt be a discussion for some other time.


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.