Seeing Thew Forrester for the trees

KTFCover.jpgBack in February, Terry noted the story of the election of Father Kevin Thew Forrester as the new bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan. Thew Forrester's views on Christianity are less than traditional. He wondered why the story -- lighting up the blogosphere -- didn't attract more mainstream media attention. And a few weeks ago Terry noted an interview Arkansas Democrat-Gazette religion editor Frank Lockwood secured with Thew Forrester. Well, Lockwood is back with another interesting installment. It's probably best read by following the entire story and backstory at his BibleBeltBlogger site, but Lockwood contacted the roughly 100 U.S. dioceses to find out whether the House of Bishops will even consent to Thew Forrester's election. And, it turns out, the odds aren't in his favor:

If a majority withhold their consent, Thew Forrester will be the first bishop-elect since the 1930s to be vetoed by the bishops of the church.

Bishops on the left and right say they'll vote "no."

"Statistically or politically, however you may like to describe it, there is only a slim chance of [Thew] Forrester pulling this one out," predicts the Rev. George Conger, an Episcopal priest and chief correspondent for the Church of England Newspaper.

In the blogosphere and in official church publications, the focus has been on the dispute over the bishop-elect's Zen Buddhist meditation practices and the unconventional process that led to his election. However, Lockwood finds out through his old-fashioned reporting techniques that the large number of Episcopal bishops object to him on theological and liturgical grounds. They say the meditation practices and the election process are not the key stumbling blocks, according to Lockwood.

Now I don't know if this has been ignored by the rest of the mainstream media because the larger story involves doctrine about something other than sex or because it doesn't fit the preferred narrative that The Episcopal Church should be syncretistic, but it's a shame. Lockwood, by contacting each diocese, gets some great information from those who oppose the election. The 10 who do support Thew Forrester have not given public defenses of his views.

The [Right] Rev. Paul V. Marshall, for example, expressed doubts that Thew Forrester would "proclaim unambiguously the gospel of Christ in all its fullness."

"As a Church we are increasingly a laughingstock. Not because we welcome lesbian and gay people, and carry on social ministries that enact the sacrifice of Christ on a corporate basis, and certainly not because of our latitude and the conversation it engenders. We are a laughingstock because we do not consistently proclaim a solid core, words as simple as 'all have sinned and come short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23],' yet 'God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself [2 Corinthians 5:19],'" wrote Marshall, the bishop of Bethlehem, Pa.

"Increasingly it seems that the Cross has become foolishness in the Church. ... If our embarrassment is going to end, the voices of bishops as clear, traditional and powerful evangelists need to be raised in the churches and in the marketplace." Bishops like Marshall began wrestling with Thew Forrester's fate in March. They have until July to cast their votes.

Yesterday I pointed out the importance of getting quotes where actual religious views are expressed. This is a great example of doing just that rather than using the more popular political quotes.

Along with the main story, Lockwood posted three sidebars. One deals with quotes from other Anglicans and other Christians about Thew Forrester's views. The second compares the bishop-elect's views with quotes from Scripture, the Book of Common Prayer, a Jesus Seminar fellow, Bishop John Shelby Spong and Bart Ehrman. The third sidebar contains quotes from the bishop-elect about sin, salvation and Buddhism. These sidebars help provide perspective on Thew Forrester's views in the context of the larger world and history of Christianity.

Too bad there's no sex scandal to get the rest of the mainstream media interested!

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