GRACE EPISCOPAL CHURCH
405 Glenmar Avenue
Monroe, Louisiana 71201
March 7, 2009
To the Bishop Ordinary and Standing Committee of the Diocese of Western Louisiana
Rt. Reverend Sir, ladies and gentlemen of the Standing Committee:
Following prayerful consideration we write to urge that you vote no, and that you withhold consent, to the confirmation of the Rev’d Kevin Thew Forrester as the next bishop of the Diocese of Northern Michigan. We cite two concerns: the process used in selecting candidates by the Diocese of Northern Michigan and the suitability of the candidate himself.
In regard to the process by which nominations were made, the committee charged with this task presented one candidate for election. On the surface, presenting a single candidate raises immediate issues about the transparency of this process. Why was a single candidate presented? Was no one else seen as qualified to stand for election? Should we be concerned there was a small group of people trying to control the process?
Though we are mindful that search committees for rectors do sometimes distill the result of their search process to a single preferred candidate, we are nonetheless mindful of the fact that had the Diocese of Northern Michigan asked the House of Bishops to elect a bishop for them in lieu of holding a diocesan election, which is provided for in Canon III, paragraph 11, section 1b, the House of Bishops would have been required by national canon to present a minimum of three persons to stand for election. This begs the question, “if it is appropriate for the House of Bishops, why is it not appropriate for the Diocese of Northern Michigan?”
Regarding the Rev’d. Forrester’s suitability, he is on record as being both a practicing Zen Buddhist who received lay Buddhist ordination and a Christian. Whereas these two faith traditions may not be mutually exclusive to one another in the life of a lay person, the vows required of a Bishop in Christ’s one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church exclude a person from being beholden to any other faith tradition save Christianity””no matter how complementary to Christianity other traditions might seem.
In the liturgy for the ordination of a Bishop, the candidate is first required to state their belief that the scriptures of the Old and New Testament contain all things necessary to salvation, and that they will conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church. If one takes this question seriously, does a person holding dual religious allegiances forswear himself or herself upon making this declaration? Later in the service, the candidate is required to affirm, “Christ’s sovereignty as Lord of lords and King of kings.” Again, is this possible if one holds to two faith traditions simultaneously? Finally, the candidate is asked if they will the guard the faith, unity and discipline of the Church. Can this be done with integrity when one qualifies their response to the affirmation by claiming to also follow another religious tradition?
We hope and pray that you will keep these concerns in mind as you prayerfully consider voting on the question of granting or denying consent to the confirmation of the next bishop of Northern Michigan. We most strongly urge you to decline to give your consent.
Your Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Gregg L. Riley, Rector C. Joseph Roberts, III, Sr. Warden
David Waller, Jr. Warden Jodi Lyle, Treasurer
Cindy Fisher, Secretary Max Cox, Vestry Member
Gerry Emerel, Vestry Member Tom Mason, Vestry Member
Amanda Reeves, Vestry Member Bryan Caldwell, Vestry Member