Friday, February 27, 2009

An Open Letter to the Bishop and Standing Cmte. of the Diocese of South Dakota: Deny Consent for the Would-be Bishop of Northern Michigan

Ash Wednesday, 2009

An Open Letter to the Bishop, Standing Committee and General Convention Deputies, Diocese of South Dakota

Dear Bishop, Committee Members and Deputies,

We write to request that you deny consent for the consecration of Kevin Thew Forrester as Bishop of Northern Michigan. Because this issue is of importance to the whole Episcopal Church, we send this as an open letter to open as many eyes as we can.

There are several significant reasons to deny consent for Thew Forrester’s consecration:

1) Thew Forrester, in comments printed in Northern Michigan’s diocesan newsletter, specifically denies that human beings need salvation. But if he is to be consecrated, he will be required to sign a public declaration declaring his belief that the Bible contains “all things necessary to salvation.” The Presiding Bishop will pray that Thew Forrester’s consecration serve “the plan of salvation.” (Book of Common Prayer, “Ordination of a Bishop.”) Thew Forrester cannot possibly participate in the consecration rite of this church with any kind of integrity. A review of sermons, liturgies and other statements by Thew Forrester reveal a complete disregard for The Book of Common Prayer and its basic, unifying expressions of our Christian faith.

2) The most recent General Convention of the Episcopal Church (2006) passed Resolution B033, which calls for restraint in consecrating bishops "whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church." Our South Dakota convention deputies reported that this resolution was a triumph of the middle way in the church. The consecration of a self-professed Zen Buddhist will violate any reasonable definition of a middle way and present a direct challenge to the wider church.

3) In contrast to the open nomination process we used here in South Dakota, the Northern Michigan process was tightly managed by a small group, of which Thew Forrester was part. He emerged as the only nominee – there was no true election.

4) This questionable “process” is being justified as “Mutual Ministry”, which corrupts an important model that we use here in South Dakota (and which has been a big success here at Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls). While we completely respect and participate in Mutual Ministry, we see it as totally inappropriate for selecting a Bishop. By definition, bishops serve the wider church, not just one part of it. This is why you are called on for consent, which you should not grant in this bizarre case.

5) In his 2004 address to the Diocese of Northern Michigan, the late Bishop James Kelsey stated that Forrester had received “lay ordination” in Zen Buddhism. It is the policy of our current Presiding Bishop to declare that clergy who assume roles in religious bodies outside of the Episcopal Church have “abandoned the communion of the Church” and to discipline them. A serious disciplinary precedent exists in the Diocese of Rhode Island, where Bishop Geralyn Wolfe has inhibited Anne Holmes Redding for claiming to practice the Islamic religion while functioning as an Episcopal priest. In this time of turmoil in our church, the worst possible message will be sent by favoring one kind of “mixing and matching” while applying strict discipline to others.

We regret the sad recent history in our diocese, in which sincere letters from concerned church members are often ignored. We regret that our heated disagreements on some issues have caused a perceived break in the circle of the diocese, and we hope to repair that in coming days. But we hope and pray that in spite of our various wounds, you will take seriously the well being of the church and your leadership responsibility for it. What is being done in Northern Michigan is not good for the wider church. And a bishop is not just a “local matter” – s/he serves the wider Episcopal Church and even the Anglican Communion.

As we enter this holy season of Lent, all of us are challenged to hear “the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith” (Ash Wednesday liturgy). We plead with you to help the church repent of provocative actions and help us find unity in Jesus Christ. We are asking only for the basic unity provided in the Book of Common Prayer – what is going on in Northern Michigan violates both the letter and spirit of our common life in Christ.

Please deny consent for the consecration of Kevin Thew Forrester, an ordained Buddhist and unelected “candidate”, as Bishop of Northern Michigan.


The Reverend Timothy L. Fountain
Rector, Church of the Good Shepherd
Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Melissa Fountain
Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls

Mark Barker
Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls

Rose Barker
Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls

Father Warren Shoberg, SSC
Diocese of South Dakota (retired)

Ronald Briggs, Sr., DDS
Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls

Dorothy Briggs,
Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls

Ron Briggs, Jr.
Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls

Tammy Briggs
Parish Administrator
Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls

Christopher Haberman
Vestry Member
Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls

Brad Olson
Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls

Amy Olson
Vestry Member
Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls

James T. Simmons, PhD

Christ Church, Yankton

Wyatt Boutwell
University of South Dakota Law School

Holli Burke
Iowa Resident
Baptized Confirmed Communicant, Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls

Barb Miller
Iowa Resident
Baptized Confirmed Communicant, Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls

Dale Dobrovolny
Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls

Ingrid Dobrovolny
President, American Anglican Council/South Dakota Chapter


Anonymous said...

It is exciting that all, including lay people, are able to voice such an important message, spoken so articulately by Tim Fountain.

Anyone who feels that they must know my name, lest I be a coward, please come forth, with your name, and whether you agree with me.

TLF+ said...

Hal Perry
Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls

by email