The Buddhist Bishop 5

Because the Episcopal church doesn’t have enough to contend with these days. These links are forwarded (with permission) from “StandFirm.” This is a conservative site, “Traditional Anglicanism in America,” so you already know their angle, but you have to admit…this seems more than a bit silly. Are their no Christian clergy in MI willing to take up the mitre?

(I am not keen on the fact that the links all point to their own site, but what can you do? I don’t have time to go and tease them all out and they have done the work for us.)

There have been a lot of posts generated around the blogsphere and at
StandFirm on the election of a Buddhist priest as the next bishop of
Northern Michigan. Below is a roundup of the posts at StandFirm from the
past week — and believe me, there will be plenty more in the coming week,
judging by what’s being posted in blogland.


— Northern Michigan Makes It Official, Elects Buddhist as Bishop

— Anglican Curmudgeon has a lengthy and detailed post on the history of
Kevin Thew Forrester, the “election” that became a “selection,” and what it
portends for future bishop elections in TEC. It is a must-read for anyone
who wants to a solid background in what is shaping up to be the next
“constitutional crisis” of the Episcopal Church:

— Just what is “Lay Ordination” in Buddhism — this post helps:

— Still on Patrol’s commentary on the Buddhist Bishop:

— An excellent brief article on “bad faith” in the Episcopal Church:

— Some Episcopalians are trying to spin this as just a man who

— The Church of England, Converting Buddhists; The Episcopal Church,
Consecrating Buddhists

— Blog Comment of the Week on the Buddhist Bishop:

— Episcopalians in the Diocese of South Dakota have posted an open letter
of protest:

— Episcopalians in the Diocese of Southern Ohio have posted a petition
asking their Bishop and Standing Committee not to consent to the election
of Kevin Thew Forrester as Bishop of Northern Michigan:

— And finally, an open thread for Standing Committee contact information
and discussion on what Episcopal laypeople can do about the Buddhist


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5 thoughts on “The Buddhist Bishop

  • Anonymous priest

    Re your question: Are there no Christian clergy in MI willing to pick up the mitre.

    My limited understanding of this situation is:

    The election occurred far enough out that it should not need to be approved during General Convention.

    Kevin Thew Forrester is a priest and had been serving as a rector.

    Apparently he has an interest in world religions which also makes him open and interested in various spiritual practices (this is nothing new, compare what we call “contemplative” or “centering” prayer with what others call “meditation”, people often borrow or adapt practices). Some may find themselves more bothered or worried about this than others.

    On the “lay ordination” buddhist thing. I may not have this completely accurate, but this seems to be something not unlike a person finding something about the spiritual practices and rule of life of a religious community or Order that you feel drawn to learn from them and work some of that into your own faith walk, yet know that you do not want to completely join the order and become a brother or sister, and so you become an “associate” or “oblate” or “friend” of the order. Rather than use these terms we may be more familiar with and understand, they use the term lay ordination and we have certain use and understanding of the word “ordination” that makes it more complicated or confusing when we hear about this. Because this is the wording they use, he seems to have chosen to honor their tradition and the terms they use.

    It seems that the diocese has put time and energy into reflecting on what they are called to do and be as a diocese since the death of their bishop in a car accident in June 2007.

    I think the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is not an easy place to be. Michigan in general is currently not be an easy place to be. Everyone has been hit by the economy, but Michigan was ahead of the curve so more recent troubles have exacerbated the situation.

    Here is a quote from Todd Ousley’s bishop’s address at diocesan convention in October (

    “The Michigan economy continues to slide deeper into recession; overall congregational giving is flat around the diocese and has been for the past 3-5 years; Average Sunday Attendance has declined by 26% since the diocese was created 14 years ago; only 11 out of 50 congregations can afford full-time clergy leadership with half of those being subsidized through diocesan and/or convocation redevelopment grants — this means that today only 22% of our congregations can sustain the traditional model of clergy leadership with the likelihood that the percentage will hover between 10-15% in the next five years; 38% of our congregations have attendance and/or budgets so low that their future viability must be carefully examined.”

    He adds not to give into fear but to be aware God is present so to both receive and share the hope that comes from an abundant approach.

    The diocese of Eastern MI places heavy emphasis on ministry of all the baptized and has been exploring and trying out different approaches to ministry such as the use of Ministry Teams. This seems to grow partially out of diocesan identity and partially out of need.

    It may be that Diocese of Northern Michigan is faced with similar realities and challenges and that informed who they discerned is the best candidate to be their next bishop. If they do face some of the same economic realities and demographic challenges, unless folks from other parts of the country want to send money and clergy to help out, continuing to be a presence of hope in the peninsula and trying to move forward and continue to touch lives rather than becoming complacent and content to simply survive or perhaps even die out… is likely to require some creativity, flexibility, and openness.

    • Chris Brady Post author

      Anonymous priest – thank you for your long and thoughtful comment. My understanding of this particular situation is limited as well, although what I know corresponds to what you have said as well. I do think there is a bit more of a difference here than merely finding traits of habits in another religion that could be admired or even co-opted. As someone who works in and teaches religious studies I myself have learned much from studying other religions and know many who have done the same. I have not however felt the need or that it was appropriate to take on any formal title of recognition of that other religion. That Forrester did so suggests that there is something more to his relationship with Buddhism than simple respect.

      Times are very difficult and you are absolutely correct that MI more than most states right now is being hard hit. That is why my question was not completely facetious. We are seeing dramatic shifts in demographics and that will likely include religious representation as well. Creativity, flexibility, and openness are important so long as they do not lead to a compromise in the faith. How far this compromise will take Northern Michigan is something we will have to wait to see.