Christianity Today on Northern Michigan: Too Unorthodox Even for the Episcopal Church?

Christian leaders outside the Episcopal Church said the church’s handling of Thew Forrester has implications beyond the denomination.

“If a so-called bishop does not agree with the central elements of the Christian faith, then he should not call himself a Christian, let alone a bishop””nor should a church ordain him. He is an apostate from the Faith; and a church that ordains such a one is also apostate,” said George O. Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler agrees.

“The difference between orthodoxy and heresy is of vital importance to every evangelical believer,” he said. “We should feel grief and pain whenever we see a church that is involved in this kind of basic theological turmoil and where we hear the truth of the gospel denied, because it compromises the gospel witness of Christians around the world.”

Read it all.


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

24 comments on “Christianity Today on Northern Michigan: Too Unorthodox Even for the Episcopal Church?

  1. Henry Greville says:

    Believing that the Episcopal Church has been especially inspired to redefine Christianity without regard for the rest of the world’s Christians – as though one branch of Christ’s followers were to be vanguards for the rest – has been and continues to be demonic possession writ large.

  2. Ralph says:

    The article mentions Jack Spong. I’ve been reading his latest book, Jesus for the Non-Religious. Pure, distilled heresy – page after page. Not even subtle. Conclusions built on assumptions, presented unilaterally in a condescending manner, as a textbook of radical progressivism. Yet, every now and then, he makes you stop and think for a moment.

    I’m not a fan of destroying books, but I’ve sure stopped and thought more than once about the best way to get rid of this one.

    If KTF is this far away from orthodoxy BEFORE being ordained a bishop, one must wonder how far he would take his diocese if he WERE ordained. Perhaps #1 is right. Over the cliff, and into the abyss.

    The vote against him is a sign of life in TEC. Perhaps it’s the beginning of a Great Awakening. We shall see.

  3. Anastasios says:

    Re No. 2. Ralph: I’m no Pollyanna, nor do I dismiss the depths which TEC has attained. Nevertheless I have indeed seen signs of an awakening in unexpected places among those who have the sense to see the bankrupcy of our current direction and are returning to traditional and historical sense. It may not involve jumping ship to sail with a new province which seems intent on recreating a lost Golden Age of Anglican doctrinal positions. In fact, it just might be in quite normal parishes whose clergy feel the call to teach and to model the Gospel life where they are. There are more of us out there than is generally thought. Could it be that it is worth staying to see this come to pass? The reconstruction will take many willing hands, hearts and souls being faithful, holding the line.

  4. jric777 says:

    Wow. It is hard to believe that Forrester calls himself a Christian, let alone wants to become a bishop. If we were so right with God then why do people still sin? If we sin and are one with God, in our sin doesn’t that make God sinful as well? Forrester’s Christology is weaker than anyone else’s that I have ever seen in the clerical community. I am glad the election has swung out of his favor. His election could have caused a cataclysmic schism in the Church. Thank You, God, for seeing alowing us to win this battle against the dilution of Your Gospel!

  5. Shumanbean says:

    #s 2&3;,
    I wish to be wrong about this, but I really don’t think the negative response to Forrester is based on a new dawn of orthodoxy as much as it is about the fact that Forrester took liberties with the prayer book.

  6. TomRightmyer says:

    The reports I read agree with (5) above that the problem is non-conformity to the Prayer Book text.

  7. Chris says:

    #5 & 6: is it not also a chance pre-GC to give the appearance of moderation? and blunt conservative criticisms that are no doubt on their way and will be magnified in Anaheim?

  8. Albany+ says:

    The problem often neglected in these discussions is public scandal. The mere title of this article shows it: “Too Unorthodox Even For The Episcopal Church?”

    The problem with this man — and it is a TEC problem — is that his theology is not only unorthodox/heretical but INSIPID.

    And yet, these folks think they’re cool.

  9. Jon says:

    I know I have said this sort of thing before at T19, but I really feel it is important to say one more time. The standing committees and bishops who have voted no to KTF are not doing so in a reflective principled uncoerced manner. They are only taking this stand AFTER the mainstream press drew so much attention to the story that there was simply no way to quietly say “yes.”

    In the past 10 years there has not been a single case of vigorous principled effort by centrist TEC leaders to rein in or discipline heretical priests that cannot be just as plausibly explained as PR damage control. ONLY when it becomes obvious that the story is not going to die down and that the whole world is going to be looking at how a liberal or centrist bishop votes/acts does he or she take action to defend the creeds. This is true about the disciplinary action against the Muslim TEC priest, the druid TEC priest, and so on.

    Now it may be true that in any particular case a centrist bishop MIGHT have taken action anyway, even if the story had remained completely invisible on the world’s radar, it is an unfortunate fact that he or she DIDN’T, and therefore the later action cannot in itself be said to prove anything about the bishop or standing committe’s commitments to the creeds.

    I feel like I have to say this again because it is a point NOT made in the otherwise excellent CT article.

    One thing I did like is the extended quote by Kendall, which also gives helpful grounds for skepticism that we are witnessing a great awakening of orthodox faith in TEC:

    Harmon and other theological conservatives also noted that the opposition to Thew Forrester is fragmented. A few oppose him because he was the only candidate for bishop on the ballot. Others say he should have gone before the proper channels before rewriting the Apostles’ Creed and baptismal covenant. Only a minority oppose Thew Forrester because they believe the changes are contrary to Christian teaching, Harmon said.

    Good for you Kendall and thanks to CT for including it.

  10. Albany+ says:

    #9 Excellent and important point.

  11. Chris says:

    #9, I don’t disagree with you, but MSM attention to Gene Robinson did not prevent his election. So there is certainly something more objectionable to Thew Forrester, even if he manages to get elected it will be by a far slimmer margin than Gene.

  12. Pb says:

    If you do not believe in sin or Satan, then you have to seach for relevence somehwhere else. But why would you cliam to be a Christian?

  13. Jon says:

    #11…. Good point, Chris. Glad you brought up VGR. Actually I think the two things are very much related. In some cases I suspect that Thew Forrester controversy is actually a gift to centrist and left-leaning bishops and standing committees. Ordinarily they would have approved KTF. But now that the controversy has become so public, they realize that they have been handed a no-cost opportunity to refute traditionalist criticism for their support of VGR.

    For the last six years traditionalists have (correctly) argued that VGR’s ascension is symptomatic of a deeper creedal abandonment. Now those who support VGR and oppose Windsor can say: see how wrong those guys were? I am voting No to KTF, so that means I am deeply committed to the creedal faith… right?

    So again I see the No votes as being deeply colored by PR considerations — we simply have no evidence of any mainstream or liberal leaders who actually are deeply committed to the creeds. They might exist, and no doubt some do, but the No votes are not evidence of it.

  14. Daniel says:

    All the liberal ‘Piskies should be PBS watchers so how about nominating Dr. Wayne Dyer to be Thew’s replacement. Dyer’s been plastered all over pledge week lately and I bet his theology will be appealing, comforting and familiar. Plus, Oprah really likes him. 🙂

  15. Phil says:

    I think Jon makes a great point. I would say further that, based on the reasons being given to not consent to Forrester’s election, he should also be defrocked.

  16. Ross says:

    #9 Jon:

    I’m not sure, but you may be overestimating the degree to which the average person on the street gives a rip about the Episcopal Church. The fact that Kendall highlights most of the relevant articles may give a false impression of how much attention is being paid to what we do. I suspect that if you interviewed randomly selected people from around the country, most of them would know that the Episcopal Church exists and they might have a vague idea that we’re having some kind of controversy about homosexuality, but that would be about it. The few who know more would probably be from areas where local churches are in property disputes and have been getting ongoing local news coverage. I would be very surprised if any significant number of them could tell you that we have someone who looks like not becoming a bishop because of his unorthodoxy, or that we had a priest defrocked because she held Islamic beliefs, or any of the other tempests that rock our particular little teacup.

    In other words, I don’t think that TEC is scrambling to do PR damage control, because I don’t think there’s a huge scandal in the first place, because I don’t think the public as a whole cares much about us or what we do. I really doubt that we’re on the public radar to that extent. That’s a bad thing for TEC in a lot of ways, but there it is.

  17. Jon says:

    Hi Ross. The metric you propose — “do most Americans know about news story X?” — is a bad measure for estimating whether prominent officials in an organization are worried about public scrutiny over a possible scandal, the need to perform PR damage control, etc. If that was the real bar that had to be met, then we’d have to conclude that the only guy in the last 40 years who has worried about doing PR damage control was (maybe) Dick Nixon at the height of the Watergate hearings.

    There is NO single news story that most Americans know about — or even a large minority know about.

    That doesn’t mean that when a number of different newspapers, including major MSM like the NYT and the Washington Post and so on run have run stories on a possible scandal in your organization, that you don’t get nervous and become aware that reporters are looking at you.

    Put it this way: if a small article mentioning me personally in a highly embarrassing context began to appear in a number of newspapers, I would be frantic about it — and I would not be reassured by a friend telling me not to worry because only 1% of the US population had read it.

    By the way, can you clarify for the others on the thread what you mean when you use phrases like “tempests in a teacup” and “I don’t think there’s a huge scandal in the first place”?

    You might mean that, while you agree that Anne Holmes Redding and Thew Forrester and so forth are in one sense gravely scandalous (you agree that their heresies are deeply disturbing, etc.), it’s hard to use the term “scandal” since none of the non-TEC public care. Or do you also mean that even if more people did know about it, it’s not really that big of a deal to have Muslim TEC priests or bishops with the views of KTF — i.e. you think TEC should be open to such doctrinal diversity in its leaders?

  18. Andrew717 says:

    I don’t know if they’re worried about general PR, Ross, but there are still a lot of folks “asleep” in the pews, waking up now and then to write a check.

  19. Shumanbean says:

    Jon (#9),
    If i remember correctly, in the case of the muslim priest. + Geralyn Wolff took firm,graceful action directly after she learned that the priest in question was under her authority. But that doesn’t necessarily cast doubt on the rest of you theory. Two things, though…in my posting at #5, I’d guess that bishops are more concerned with prayerbook conformity than are standing committees, although I have no qualified reason to feel that way…just a hunch. And secondly, I’m not certain, either, that most people give a hoot about Episcopalians. Most people can’t even seem to pronounce or spell it, for that matter.
    #7, Chris. You may well be right. I believe that sort of thing happens (C.I. Jones). Still, I can tell you that bishops who consider themselves orthodox will often display a great deal of theological latitude, but then get right clammy when it comes to the prayer book.

  20. Shumanbean says:

    I Jon,
    I might also add concerning your post at #9, although I don’t have any way of verifying, perhaps there are centrist bishops who have taken action against wayward priests. For example, a priest of a fairly large parish in ATL was inhibited by +Alexander a few years ago for participating in a lesbian wedding somewhere in Europe. I don’t know that you would describe +Alexander as centrist, but I think he would describe himself as centrist.

  21. Ross says:

    #17 Jon:

    I think you overstate your case when you say that, “There is NO single news story that most Americans know about—or even a large minority know about.” I’m confident that most Americans knew about, say, the last presidential election, or the Iraq war.

    By the way, can you clarify for the others on the thread what you mean when you use phrases like “tempests in a teacup” and “I don’t think there’s a huge scandal in the first place”?

    You might mean that, while you agree that Anne Holmes Redding and Thew Forrester and so forth are in one sense gravely scandalous (you agree that their heresies are deeply disturbing, etc.), it’s hard to use the term “scandal” since none of the non-TEC public care. Or do you also mean that even if more people did know about it, it’s not really that big of a deal to have Muslim TEC priests or bishops with the views of KTF—i.e. you think TEC should be open to such doctrinal diversity in its leaders?

    In that particular comment, I meant that I don’t think there exists a scandal because I don’t believe that the general public knows or particularly cares. I was not proffering an opinion on whether or not these cases scandalize me personally.

    But since you ask… I am, I think it’s safe to say, comfortable with a much broader range of doctrinal diversity within the church than you are. In the case of Anne Holmes Redding, I do have doubts about whether it’s really possible to hold Christianity and Islam together… but she said that she did, and I respect her intelligence and scholarship enough to believe that she had found a way that made sense to her. I would have been OK with her continuing to be a priest; but I also recognize the authority of Bishop Wolf to depose her, if she (+Wolf) chose.

    Forrester I don’t know, and admittedly I haven’t looked into his sermons and so on in great depth. To the extent that I have, they strike me as mushy. Obviously I’m not going to object to liberal theology, but I do think that any theologian should be able to stake out some ground and say, “This I believe, I can do no other.” (Which, you may note, is what Anne Redding did.) I probably wouldn’t lose any sleep if he were to get his consents, unlikely as that seems now; but on the whole I think it’s best that he does not.

    In short, I consider both cases to be on the borderlines of what constitutes acceptable diversity; and as such I can see arguments for each case going either way, in or out. To you and other T19ers, both of them are clearly far beyond the pale. But on the other hand so am I; so it’s not surprising we have different ideas about just how big the tent ought to be.

  22. Jon says:

    Ross —

    Interesting that you say that “to you… I am beyond the pale.” (Paraphrased very slightly.) At least in my case, and I know for some other T19’ers, you are mistaken. The objection that I have to KTF is that he is being nominated for BISHOP — in the case of AHR she was not only a priest but also in charge of Christian Formation. Thus the Job Description (from the perspective of a T19er) is what rules them out — and even here rules them out only of that particular office or role. I do not have a desire to see anyone excluded from the church itself. YOU are not beyond the pale.

    You’re right that I overstated my case. It was hyperbole but one that I figured you’d understand. I will freely admit that the day after Obama was elected, a simple majority of adult Americans had heard that fact. The same about the day after we invaded Iraq — most of us heard about it. Same for the death of Lady Di. Same for the attack on the World Trade Center. But these are exceptions that prove the rule. If a scandal had to be on that scale for an organization to worry about bad press, then virtually nobody would have press agents or spin doctors.

    Thanks for clarifying that you have no particular problem with AHR (the Muslim) being a TEC priest or KTF (the Buddhist) a TEC bishop. I thought that was likely but wasn’t sure.

  23. Jon says:

    #19, 20… hello Shumanbean. Your example about +Alexander was interesting. He is in fact the bishop of my diocese. Which parish was it, do you know?

    It strikes me as an intriguing but ultimately unsatisfying example. Remember that what people like me are looking for is a centrist bishop reigning in a heterodox priest on DOCTRINAL grounds. The example you gave can’t be an example of that, since Alexander is a vigorous promoter of church-blessed gay relationships and wrote a whole book about it. Alexander is however a bishop with a strong control ethos (not necessarily a bad thing) — so what is more likely is that the priest was inhibited for DISOBEDIENCE (perhaps +Alex had asked priests in his diocese not to do this without coming to him first?).

    Regarding Bishop Geralyn Wolff and the Muslim TEC priestess she disciplined, you write that:

    “Wolff took firm, graceful action directly after she learned that the priest in question was under her authority.”

    Well, we don’t know that to be true. What we do know is that it had been going on for a while, then made it into the Seattle newspapers, then was taken up the conservative blogosphere, then was being talked about by all kinds of people — and THEN Wolff took some action. She claims that this is the first she heard of it. She also in an interview several months ago told a reporter a manifestly false chronology of when she first learned of it (if the journalist reported what she told him accurately) — a chronology that could be disproved by the public record. Maybe she just misremembered what happened.

    At any rate, the facts in the Wollf/Redding case are the same as what I said in my original post (#9). Woolf did not take action until the situation had become a big news story that was not dying down. Now, as I also said in #9, it was possible that she would have defrocked Redding anyway, and that perhaps it was just a bad stroke of luck for her that it APPEARED she had waited first to see whether it would go away on its own.

    The unfortunate fact, however, is that in situations like these, where prompt action according to the public record was not taken, one’s later action proves nothing in itself. If you run up to the burning building minutes after the firemen have rescued the kids and put out the flames, it is possible, even likely, that you only just got the news; but you shouldn’t expect to be listed in the Heroes Hall of Fame.

  24. Dilbertnomore says:

    I’ve said it before and here it is again. KTF is going down in flames because he has staked out for himself a brand of weird that has not yet been approved by TEC. The ugly secret of classical modern Liberalism is it is welcoming of every idea Liberals already approve of, but don’t try to stray off the reservation and expect approving acceptance. Had KTF done the Druid thing or the GLBTSDKJAKASLJ thing or the Gaia thing or the UN as Our Father/Mother thing or any other apostasy/heresy that was already on TEC’s approved list, he would have glided on through to his purple shirt and oven mitt.

    But, NOOOOOOOO!, KTF had to try to out-weird TEC. That will not stand!