The Graciousness of Northern Michigan

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.


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.


  1. Now that is true Christian virtue in action.

    You're opening paragraph is spot on, too.

  2. Sir - pls tell us what you think of the ABC's statement on GC09

  3. I too found this to be a gracious statement made by a group of people that deserve our compassion and help.

    As one who was born and raised in Michigan, there are few parts of the country as vast and constantly rural as the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. There are few places as difficult to live in and fewer still with so few financial and political resources. On top of that, in a desperate need to survive, they have made some of the most incredible theological revelations this side of the Latin base communities. This is the real proving ground for ministry.

    What the bishops and standing committees of TEC have done in not confirming the bishop-elect is unconscionable, especially in light of their relative abundance. Some of our friends that have objected to theologically oppressive arguments from across the ocean leveled the same oppression toward a frontier training ground for living out the Baptismal Covenant in true community. In other words, it seems that many of our bishops are afraid of what our northern friends are doing; which makes me even more supportive. May God continue to bless them.

  4. I have to wonder if the discernment process wont ask the question of whether 27 small congregations spread across a part of the country where populations continue to shrink and job opportunities are so rare, might not be a questionable polity. If the diocese folded itself into diocese of Fon-du-lac it would be with folks who understand the social/economic realities, are really good an ministering within them and would be undaunted by the climate.


  5. Emotionally and spiritually stable letter¨, thanks for sharing it, their solid stand yet ability to be humble was quite apparent to me...thanks Northern Michigan (makes me want to move there).

    I know. This is probably not tasteful (and completely out of line) but perhaps these folks might look into reviewing the background and into the fine and loving leadership skills of Father Terry Martin (until last weeks cutbacks head of Evangelism at 815 Churchcenter).

    Respectfully suggested.

    Leonardo Ricardo

  6. What would happen if the the diocese went back to the selection process, followed the correct procedures, and then again elected Forrester? Is the endorsement given by the Bishops and Standing Committees a validation that proper procedures were followed or a judgement on the person selected?

  7. Observer... I'm working on it. What is there to say about the ABC's remarks that have not already been said, except impolite statements about the workings of his mind.

  8. Drew, I'm sorry I don't agree, to read your post one would think that it was the episcopal ministry support team concept that was the problem. I can tell you that the leadership was quite vocal in this diocese about the need to have a candidate before the deadline that would bring the decision to convention. In hindsight, this strategy backfired. It allowed representative samples of Kevin's sermons and writing (that he long ago published himself and made available on the web sites) to be disseminated, reviewed and discussed. The weeks that dragged on over the course of the 120 days allowed for a very thorough vetting of the candidate. Many Standing Committees voted "no" in the days following receipt of Kevin's own 9 page explanation of his theology. Bishops who contacted him by phone for a 1-on-1 conversation came away unable to support him.

    Finally, Kevin will no doubt remain an active member of the episcopal ministry support team and so the diocese will not be without his leadership - he simply will not be wearing the mantle of bishop.

    He will be one of the 12, just not the "first among equals."

    Judy, this is why going back to the selection process and still choosing KTF would likely like work - in the end it was his theology and practice of revising key parts of the liturgy that created hurdles that some could not get beyond, not the process that undid this nomination.

  9. I think JimB's point is well taken and hope that that issue enters into the discernment process.

    Also, if the process should take another three years, I suggest that Upper Michigan take a note from the page of Ecuador Central and plan their election to fall a week or two closer to General Convention. Telling your story in person to the people who will vote is more effective than relying on the internet to spread information and misinformation.

  10. Paul (A).

    I am curious what "misinformation" was spread? Exactly what was untrue?

    In case you haven't been following this, the Bishops of such conservative places as, oh, California, Nevada, and other right-wing havens like those dioceses declined assent based on KTF's own writings.

    If there is going to be a meme that KTF was rejected due to misinformation, THAT ought to get TEC thrown out of the Communion. It simply is not true, and the majority of denied consents came far, far after the whole Buddhist flare-up. Consents were denied because of his Christian theology, not his interest in Buddhism.

    And, as such, I didn't think their statement was completely gracious, because it seems to blame electronic communication for the lack of consents, when in fact that communication informed people as to his own sermons, his own rewriting of the baptismal covenant, and his own ommission of the Creed. It's like Nixon blaming the tape recorder for his impeachment.

  11. Wow, Yawner, you went right on the defensive there, didn't you?

    Makes one wonder. I opposed KTF and found no threat or accusation in what Paul A. wrote.

  12. Mark,

    Paul wrote:

    "Telling your story in person to the people who will vote is more effective than relying on the internet to spread information and misinformation."

    I apologize if I read the last 6 words differently than he meant. I read it as a clear implication that misinformation had been spread, and that this alleged misinformation was the reason KTF did not receive consents.

  13. In a place where dial-up is the norm and the thought of high-speed internet is just a dream, ... I'm not surprised in the least that the Yoopers wouldn't have thought about what people on the net and the wider TEC thought.
    Right about now most people in Michigan, Upper and Lower are wondering whether they will be gainfully employed within the next 6 months.
    Some things NEVER change in Michigan.

  14. Drew

    Gracious statement? The standing cmte's letter was petulant and insulting by implying the electronic media was to blame for Thew Forrester's defeat. That responsibility rests totally on their doorstep. They, along with the team that saw to it only his name could be placed in nomination was what ignited the fires of rebellion.

    Those who challanged his suitability as a bishop did so based on his published writings, buddhist leanings and past history within the diocese. They didn't lie but it can safely be said there was plenty of information the cmte's tried to hide from view.

    As for the unfortunate who live in the Upper peninsula one only has to talk to them face to face to learn of their love for this land of trees, lakes, swamps, mosquitoes and roads plugged by snowdrufts stretching to the horizon. Sure , its tough up here but for some reason the population has been growing the past few years. That leads me to believe trolls and flatlanders from below the bridge are beginning to realize it's a good life up here.

    As for the "great theological strides" made up here one would be hard pressed to explain why a third of the membership of this diocese has left in the past ten years if that is the case. In fact, the membership of 3,800 in 1983 is now down to 1899.

    Some may feel pity for us Yoopers but we survive and we don't feel a need for outside assistance, thank you.

  15. Yes. As I said, YOU interpreted it that way. I did not. Others don't seem to. It is interesting, given your posting history on the issue.

  16. Some may feel pity for us Yoopers but we survive and we don't feel a need for outside assistance, thank you.

    What was that about petulant and insulting?

    You might recall that a great deal of the "outside assistance" you received was from people who opposed KTF, including me, without reference to Buddhism but out of concern for what we believed to be the well-being of our brothers and sisters in the UP. If you wish that to cease, perhaps a more congregational church would suit you?

  17. Okay, Mark, so we both use polemic writing styles. Of course, you use words like "orthodite" on a regular basis whereas I have never used words like "reappraiser." I may have a consistent viewpoint and aggressive arguments, but I think a complete review of my comment history will reveal I have never used inflammatory words. Anyway- my point is that you are no less biased than I am.

    The fact is that there are those who read it my way.

    Just like, when I open the new issue of Episcopal Life, it seems that more than half of the letter-writers to the official church paper view D025 and D056 differently than the PB does. I'm sure they will also all be dismissed as irrelevant and unrepresentative, since that seems to be your standard response.

  18. Mark

    If you can tell me you've been a part of the DoNM for 50 years as I was and are as well acquainted with the people who are running this diocese into the ditch I might agree with your stance.

    However, I suggest you review what they have posted on their web site about this issue. That they have ben offened by the opposition to their single nominee would be an understatement. Then again read their letter and look for the nuances buried in that written statement.

    What would you do if a priest in the diocese made inquiries, without your permission, about your church attendance, where your membership was or how much you put in the plate? Or infer you were really not an episcopalian because you didn't pledge?

    Wouldn't you wonder why a senior warden would give hin that information without your permission? Why would he publish that information and for what purpose? I leave it to you to speculate on the reason(s) why he would do so much less wonder why a priest would do this.

    Walk in my mocassins and then tell me why I shouldn't have doubts about the sincerity of the letter writers and their supporters.

  19. rauper,

    Go back and read what I actually wrote before you jump on me again.

    We - out here - have also been trying to help you. If it weren't for those "outside," KTF would be your bishop now.

  20. MarkB-

    (And I'm sorry to Fr. Harris that we're fighting this out here...)

    You say in your comment:

    "You are orthodites - you worship and praise orthodoxy. This is not inflammatory."

    From your blog (eamaa.blogspot.com):

    "I neither need nor value orthodites, so why should I value or support a church that continually aids in their wickedness?"

    Orthodites are wicked. That's not inflammatory? I see why we're having trouble here, if we view the English language so differently.

  21. nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;I too thought it very gracious and E-mailed them directly to tell them they would be in my prayers.

  22. Oops! Sorry for the unintentional code. I was trying to make an indention. I forgot the ampersand sign.


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.