Bishop Paul Marshall of Bethlehem: My position on the Northern Michigan Episcopate

In the case of the bishop-elect of Northern Michigan, perhaps we can get our ducks in the correct rows. His Buddhist practices are sensational but not the point. In sermons and other writings (including eucharistic prayers which I fear were used outside Rite III settings, giving us a question of discipline as well as doctrine), the bishop-elect makes it clear that the doctrine of the Trinity as confessed in the Creed and explained in the Catechism is not what he holds.

He will use base-three theological language, but never in service to the proposition that in Jesus of Nazareth God became fully human. Similarly, his understanding of the atonement is not conformable with the liturgy or catechism, but appears to be something like gnostic enlightenment. His writings represent a very shaky understanding of the Second Person of the Trinity, God incarnate, severely weakening his gospel.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Christology, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Northern Michigan, Theology

22 comments on “Bishop Paul Marshall of Bethlehem: My position on the Northern Michigan Episcopate

  1. A Senior Priest says:

    Paul Marshall not only understands the problems in Kevin Forrester’s theology, he understands that TEC is a laughing-stock in world Christianity. This pleases me. Now the elephant in the room is coming into view.

  2. mannainthewilderness says:

    WOW! What an amazing opine! Pray that more in TEC have ears and hear!

  3. Fr. Dale says:

    [blockquote]their qualification to be bishops, however, is as the chief confessors of the creeds and presidents at the sacraments. They are to be unambiguously ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through them[/blockquote]
    So, I guess he is OK as a priest but at least Bishop Paul Marshall doesn’t want KTF elevated to Bishop.

  4. Sarah1 says:

    I’m enjoying seeing folks claim that the hullaballoo from the conservative wing has been about these silly trivial “Buddhist practices.”

    No — we’ve never had a problem with the “Buddhist practice” or two tossed around by Thew Forrester. We’ve had a problem with the FACT that he is — and proudly is — a Buddhist.

    He is a Buddhist.

    He “practices” all sorts of Buddhist thingies because He Is A Buddhist and proud to be so.

    Bishop Marshall runs around listing all the things that are wrong with Thew’s theology.

    All the while ignoring the fact that the foundation for Thew’s beliefs are — he is a Buddhist.

    I’m not saying that Buddhism came first.

    But it’s the foundation — no matter how poorly he may understand even that philosophy.

    He MAY have started out by saying “hey — I don’t really believe in sin and . . . I don’t think Jesus was God — in any particularly special way . . . because you know . . . we’re [i]all[/i] God. . . . Hey wait — there’s a nice philosophy over there called “Buddhism” that seems to encompass these marvellous new ideas I’m having.”

    But the fact is you can’t distinguish or separate Thew’s lack of Christology or lack of a notion of sin or lack of a need for salvation from the sheer and simple fact that the guy is a Buddhist.

    What happened here is a massive spin debacle. The leftward institutionalists started out chuckling and clucking and tsking over the conservatives up in arms over, you know . . .the silly fact that Northern Michigan had “elected” [sic] a Buddhist to be their bishop. Pretty nouveau and cool, from their perspective.

    But then, as more and more details came out about what Thew actually is on record as believing and practicing as, yes, a Buddhist . . . they began to get uneasy.

    The only way they can back away slowly from the man is to say “well — we’re rejecting him not because of his Buddhism [read: “practice of Zen meditation”] but because of all of his unorthodox beliefs.”

    Couple that with the huffing and puffing about how orthodox they themselves are and you have a real spectacle going on amongst left-of-center bishops.

  5. A Senior Priest says:

    Kevin Forrester is at BEST a revisionist Buddhist, which means…not! He’s just as much a Buddhist as he is a Christian. That’s the problem, he has been given over to the futility of his own mind and while he asserts that he follows one or two religions what he says denies them both. To my mind, Sarah, calling Kev a Buddhist is a callous insult to one of the world’s great religions. :]

    Oh, and him inserting a quote from the Quran doesn’t make him a Muslim either. I found that unwarranted insertion as insulting to Islam as much as it was an insult to Christianity.

    The problem with revisionists is that they don’t show respect for ANYONE’S tradition!

  6. A Senior Priest says:

    Paul Marshall’s recognition of Kevin Forrester’s theological problems does not acknowledge that TEC is the very source of K’s deviation, it actually serves to cover them up under a sham orthodoxy. When a denomination does not preach and teach the full range of orthodox Christian faith and practice you get people free-associating theology. which has been appalling and entertaining us for decades. Paul Marshall is as much at fault as Kevin is. What I think will happen is this: Kevin might withdraw or he might not get the necessary consents. Then the orthodox might possibly claim a victory, but it will be a Pyrrhic one. A withdrawal of Forrester or a defeat will allow revisionist bishops and Standing Committees to show they supposedly stand for something, and then give them enough cover to steam full ahead on the Consultation’s 10 Point Plan at GC2009. I think Forrester will be sacrificed by TEC’s revisionist clique in order to achieve this goal.

  7. Sir Highmoor says:

    K is just one of many different and varied “Special” K’s in TEC. TEC is lost because it’s leadership is lost, compromised, and not followers of the Christianity that has been preached and taught by the Church for 2,000 years. What is surprising is so many stay in this land of Oz.

  8. Toral1 says:

    What is ‘base-three theological language’? Do I want to know?

  9. Rick H. says:

    And what is Rite III? Have I missed something? Is there a new prayerbook wafting around out there, ready to alight and be adopted at an upcoming general convention near you?

  10. KevinBabb says:

    Rite III is a recognized form of the Eucharist set out in the ’79 Prayer Book. It is meant for use under special circumstances, such as Church camp services, and according to the rubrics is not to be used on a regular basis in preference to Rites I or II. A Rite III Eucharist allows a substantial amount of liturgical freedom to the celebrant, but sets forth those liturgical elements that must be included (e.g., the Words of Institution, a Gospel reading, the Lord’s Prayer) to constitute a valid Eucharist.

  11. KevinBabb says:

    And, Toral1, although I don’t claim to know the mind of Bp. Marshall, I think that “base III language” just means writing from a Trinitarian perspective. At least that seems to be the context.

    This may be a situation where, due to his choice of words, Bp. Marshall seems to be promoting some sort of avant-garde theology, when he is really describing an orthodox idea.

  12. Hakkatan says:

    Just an additional note – “Rite III” is not an identifier you will find in the BCP, but an informal way of referring to “An Order for Celebrating the Holy Eucharist” on p. 400.

    And I think that “base III language” refers to linking three things together in a semi-plausible way and calling them a “trinity.”

    To revisionists, theology is a branch of speculative philosophy, using terminology from “the Christian tradition.” It is human-based, for all we have to go on is our experience. To the orthodox, theology is a systematic exposition of things revealed by the living God in Scripture. Theology is God-based, because God has revealed himself (truly although not exhaustively) in Scripture.

  13. Ralph says:

    The so-called “Rite III” is very useful for seminarians studying liturgy to practice writing (and then using) Eucharistic prayers and design services (of course, under the watchful eye of an experienced mentor-priest).

    It’s also good for planning chapel services under certain special circumstances; perhaps a Eucharistic prayer with petitions for healing. It also allows for the borrowing of Eucharistic prayers from other branches of the Anglican Communion.

    The BCP rubrics admonish, “This rite requires careful preparation by the Priest and other participants,” and “It is not intended for use at the principal Sunday or weekly celebration of the Holy Eucharist.” Amen.

    KTF really ought to withdraw from the process and take a leave of absence from ordained ministry. Perhaps an extended retreat at Nashotah House would help.

  14. The_Archer_of_the_Forest says:

    If you read the rubrics for the “Rite III” Order for Celebrating the Holy Eucharist, it is very clear that such an Order is not to be used for the “principle Sunday celebration of the Eucharist.”

  15. John Wilkins says:

    Sarah: when did Forrester call himself a Buddhist? What do you think a Buddhist believes?

    A different question is can someone who uses Buddhist “practice” believe in the doctrine of the Trinity? Yes. They can. Do they? Well, then you need empirical evidence.

    However, if someone believes, like many Buddhists, that God is nothing, or empty, then yes, they are not in any clear sense a Christian (although there seem to be theological exceptions in the Catholic tradition, but I’m sure you are already aware of them).

    It seems to me that your point is that someone cannot have two religious identities; that one’s religious identity is primary and total, perfect representation of one’s self. There is some truth to that, unless one insists that a “practice” can be divorced from a religious identity.

    Can a Christian pray five times a day toward Jerusalem, prostrating themselves, washing their feet beforehand, calling out to Jesus, and still be a Christian, even though the style is derivative from another faith?

  16. Fr. Dale says:

    #15. John Wilkins,
    [blockquote]It seems to me that your point is that someone cannot have two religious identities; that one’s religious identity is primary and total, perfect representation of one’s self. [b]There is some truth to that[/b], unless one insists that a “practice” can be divorced from a religious identity.[/blockquote]
    There is more than some truth to that. What are you after here John? Hasn’t this been nailed down to your satisfaction?

  17. D. C. Toedt says:

    Suppose a doctor were publicly ambivalent about the received medical dogma that common peptic ulcers were caused by stress. It would be imprudent to deny the doctor a faculty position on that ground, because you’d look pretty stupid when other doctors later won a Nobel Prize for showing that such ulcers are in fact caused by an easily-treated bacterium.

    To deny Fr. Forrester a cathedra because of his seeming ambivalence about the Trinity would seem to fall into the same category. God is what he/she/it/they is, which might not be what trinitarians or even monotheists think.

    Better to judge Fr. Forrester’s suitability for the episcopacy by his results: How effectively does he organize and support others to bring people to a trust that all will be well?

  18. Fr. Dale says:

    #17. D. C. Toedt,
    1. So, the judgment of Bishop Paul Marshall is in error but Thew Forrester is not.?
    2. [blockquote]Better to judge Fr. Forrester’s suitability for the episcopacy by his results: How effectively does he organize and support others to bring people to a trust that all will be well?[/blockquote] Where will I find this charge in the BCP or is this just your personal requirement for Bishop? A good baseball coach could qualify for Bishop based on this standard.

  19. John Wilkins says:

    #16 – well, I happen to be ambivalent about most theories about “identity.” I think following Jesus means a general ambivalence about all sorts of identities, which creates a paradox within the faith itself. I don’t think most people get to this point. Conservatives, for example, are right that following Jesus does challenge the notion of sexual “identity.” But it also challenges all sorts of other identities.

    I think that a totalizing sense of self, however, can be experienced quite tyrannically.

    In practice, an “identity” is more like, what club do you belong to, and do you play by that club’s rules (say, do you assent to the creeds of the club). It is, in practice, deeply subjective, although I recognize that the concept of “subjective” self is one that needs lots of philosophical exploration and description.

  20. Fr. Dale says:

    #19. JW.
    [blockquote]In practice, an “identity” is more like, what club do you belong to, and do you play by that club’s rules (say, do you assent to the creeds of the club).[/blockquote]
    It seems to me that what you are describing are “roles” not an identity. Christians all have the same identity and that is Christ Himself. That is who we are at the center of our being. St. Paul understood this about as well as anyone when he stated, ” It is not I who lives but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians). It is He who makes us one in spirit yet uniquely individual.

  21. D. C. Toedt says:

    Dcn Dale [#20], maybe you have no individual identity; I like to think I do. (But hey, I could be wrong ….)

  22. Fr. Dale says:

    #21 D.C.
    “maybe you have no individual identity; I like to think I do. (But hey, I could be wrong ….)”
    D.C. Please reread my last sentence in #20. “It is He who makes us one in spirit yet [b]uniquely individual”[/b]