The title above borrows from a Frank Zappa song:
But I said look here brother
Who you jiving with that cosmik debris?
Now who you jiving with that cosmik debris?
Look here brother,
dont waste your time on me...
"Progressive" Episcopalian blogs are circulating a statement, reportedly from Kevin Thew Forrester, the would-be bishop of Northern Michigan. But since it is documented by media professionals that The Episcopal Church has hired public relations damage control specialists in place of its resigned news people, one has to wonder who is blowing this handy cloud of smoke.
You can go to the puffy link above to read the whole thing. Here are the key talking points, along with my responses in italics:
"I am honored to be the bishop-elect of the Diocese of Northern Michigan with the opportunity to serve and work with the Episcopal Ministry Support Team as well as the people of the diocese"
Keep in mind that Thew Forrester is part of the Ministry Support Team, and that pretty much these same people picked him as the only "candidate" for bishop. This was not an election at all.
"As a Christian, I owe my life to our Trinitarian faith."
Now, that sounds Christian, right? But if you read the whole piece you will find a very careful avoidance of how Jesus Christ is present in this Trinitarian faith. In fact, the statement avoids the specific name of Jesus. The cross and passion are missing - very odd for a statement released during Lent. Nor are there any but the most tangential references to the Biblical revelation. If he is consecrated as a Bishop in the church, these are Christian truths that Thew Forrester will have to affirm, publicly.
"Over the years my faith and spiritual practice have been largely shaped and profoundly imprinted by the mystics and the contemplative spiritual tradition. I have grown in my awareness that the grace of God, which is God’s very Presence, cannot be circumscribed. Because of my faith in the gracious goodness of the Godhead, I am open to receive the wisdom from, and be in dialogue with, other faith traditions; not to mention the sciences and the arts."
The conceit here is manifest. Haven't Thew Forrester and the PR folks listened to any solid Evangelical preachers or Catholic theologians? Both routinely draw illustrations and insights from sciences and the arts, and even from other religious traditions where there is something relevant, to exposit the message of the Biblical revelation. But notice that the Bible is missing, again, from the formula expressed in the "statement." Thew Forrester is styled as some kind of elite mystic, but John of the Cross, one of the greatest Christian mystics, wrote "I will not rely on experience or science, for these can fail and deceive us. Although I will not neglect whatever possible use I can make of them, my help in all that, with God's favor, I shall say, will be Sacred Scripture, at least in the most important matters, or those that are difficult to understand. Taking Scripture as our guide we do not err, since the Holy Spirit speaks to us through it." Remember, in the consecration rite Thew Forrester will be required to affirm and sign a declaration that he believes "The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, containing all things necessary to salvation." He (or whoever wrote it) ain't representin' in this here "statement"
"I am not an ordained Buddhist priest. I am an Episcopal priest eternally grateful for the truth, beauty and goodness, experienced in meditation."
The "statement" goes to great pains to make this talking point: Meditation is just a technique, not a belief system. But Zen Buddhism is more than deep breathing. It is a philosophical construct that cannot necessarily affirm much of what Thew Forrester will have to affirm as a Bishop - including the existence of God or any unique revelation of God beyond one's own experience. So we will have a "bishop" whose teaching is based in his own intuition, not any revelation open to the rest of us idiots. Ooh ooh - and note the crafty choice of "Episcopal" rather than "Christian" priest when he tries to make his mixing and matching more palatable.
"Literally thousands of Christians have been drawn to Zen Buddhism in particular because, distinct from western religions, it embodies a pragmatic philosophy and a focus on human suffering rather than a unique theology of God."
OOOPS! Who let that slip? Zen is "distinct" from western religion and has no unique theology of God (Theology of God? "Knowledge of God of God"???) So Thew Forrester is to be elevated and subsidized as an officer in a western religion which he thinks inferior to a distinctly eastern philosophy. Where can I send my checks? Oh, and by the way, the long history of western Christian contemplation of the cross, devotions to the Lady of Sorrows, and other ways of seeing God in human suffering never happened. Maybe Thew Forrester needs Christian PR people who can at least speak the language.
"My experience continues to be that through the grace of meditation I am drawn ever deeper into the Trinitarian contemplative Christian tradition."
My...I... and then the vague "Trinitarian contamplative Christian tradition." This is a guy who really believes we should all bend to his feelings. He will throw on some churchy sounding language to lower our guard, but he is an ambassador for himself, not God.
Kevin G. Thew Forrester
Diocese of Northern Michigan
Except there ain't much ministry developing there in Northern Michigan, where Thew Forrester has been mover & shaker for several years.