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February 25, 2009


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It is when I read this kind of thing I realize anew how inhibited our culture has become that I might spend any time trying to cushion my assessment of this. When is it OK to use the "w" word?


On the former part, like much of what he writes, the piece by George Conger appears to be a melange of distortion and half truth with a soupcon of blatant falsehood thrown in to enhance the flavour.

The bishop-elect has responded and largely put paid to Conger's accusations.

I have some real issues with the process by which Forrester was nominated and elected, and with the curious rationale for it. Those are real issues. Conger's viscious slandermongering isn't worth using to line a birdcage.


Malcolm - I agree that the whole "process" for this election seems dodgy at best. I'll try to find some more of bishop-elect's own statements. On the question of "sin" however, it appears that the bishop-elect's own words are being quoted.

ps - at least I'm not going to VOL for news :^)


It's relatively easy to use isolated quotations - particularly if we recreate the context - to convict most anyone of some sort of heresy. Heck, even things not said - witness the furor over what the Primate of Nigeria has not said (and seemingly not been prepared to say) about religious violence.

Here is what Forrester himself has to say about his use of Zen medidative techniques, the nature of "lay ordination" in Zen Buddhism and his personal relationship with Jesus.

It pretty much puts paid to the latest lies from George Conger.

My Christian Faith & the Practice of Zen Buddhist Meditation
Kevin Thew Forrester 25 February 2009

As a Christian, I am deeply aware that I live and move and have my being in Christ – as does all creation. I am honored to be the bishop-elect of the Diocese of Northern Michigan with the opportunity to serve and work with the Episcopal Ministry Support Team as well as the people of the diocese for the next 10 to 15 years, committed as we are to the ministry of all the baptized.

Each of us is formed in the image and likeness of God. As a Christian, I owe my life to our Trinitarian faith. Over the years my faith and spiritual practice have been largely shaped and profoundly imprinted by the mystics and the contemplative spiritual tradition.

I have grown in my awareness that the grace of God, which is God’s very Presence, cannot be circumscribed. Because of my faith in the gracious goodness of the Godhead, I am open to receive the wisdom from, and be in dialogue with, other faith traditions; not to mention the sciences and the arts.

I am quite honored, as an Episcopal priest, to have been trained in the art and practice of Zen meditation. I am not an ordained Buddhist priest. I am an Episcopal priest eternally grateful for the truth, beauty and goodness, experienced in meditation.

I am thankful for the pioneering work of Thomas Merton in the Buddhist-Christian dialogue. I am also thankful for the current elders in our Christian tradition, such as Thomas Keating and David Steindl-Rast, whose practice of meditation (like that of Merton) deepened their own contemplative life and led them to explore the sacramental common ground we share through the grace of God. As a Christian I can be receptive to divine truth, beauty and goodness, because I know that “All things come of Thee, O Lord; and of thine own have we given thee.”

I have been blessed to practice Zen meditation for almost a decade. About five years ago a Buddhist community welcomed me as an Episcopal priest in my commitment to a meditation practice—a process known by some Buddhists as "lay ordination."

Literally thousands of Christians have been drawn to Zen Buddhism in particular because, distinct from western religions, it embodies a pragmatic philosophy and a focus on human suffering rather than a unique theology of God. “Lay ordination” has a different meaning in Buddhist practice than in the Christian tradition.

The essence of this welcoming ceremony, which included no oaths, was my resolve to use the practice of meditation as a path to awakening to the truth of the reality of human suffering. Meditation deepens my dwelling in Christ.

My experience continues to be that through the grace of meditation I am drawn ever deeper into the Trinitarian contemplative Christian tradition. I have been able to bring the practice of meditation/contemplation to the wider diocese through the gifts discovery process and through the founding of the Healing Arts Center at St. Paul’s in Marquette.

The Center is devoted to assisting people in their own spiritual journey, which includes the practice of meditation within the sanctuary and the exploration of Christian contemplatives and mystics.

-- Kevin G. Thew Forrester
Ministry Developer
Diocese of Northern Michigan

Leslie -

I apologize for breaking the Anglican peace, Joe...

But this is wrong.
It is wrong. It is wrong. It is wrong.
If I had a thesis to nail on a door some where I would do it and invite the lightening bolt that leveled Luther knock some sense into all of us.

Malcolm, the clergy are the stewards of the Truth if that even exists anymore and to wordsmith a way into making this OK is to invite confusion amongst the regular people of the world who don't spend their time honing the practice of academic wordsmith-ing. And to think Jesus was foolish enough to say let the little children come to me.

There is one God. One Christ. No other.
One path to the Father, according to the Book you're selling. Not many.

If nothing else, the apostle Paul says everything is permissible, not everything is beneficial...or some such hooey I guess. What is a body to do with I am the way the truth and the life, no man come to the Father but through me?

Brand Conger hate-mongering if you like, but Forrester's own words and affiliations leave the path to salvation unclear. Those enticed by Buddhism will be confused.

But who cares about them as long as there is peace within the Anglican Church, eh?

At least that is how it appears to my eyes.

If this faith of ours is so mushy that nothing matters then what use is there in dedicating one's life to its service??? In all honest sincerity I truly cannot understand what the draw is to becoming a progressive Anglican (or ELCIC) priest when the tenets of the faith are just a bunch of talk. Funnily enough it seems difficult to recruit young people to the ministry these days. Sacrifice? For what?

Submitted with my humblest apologies to the proprietor,



He has taken a meditative technique - one not dissimilar to that of thousands of Orthodox (ie, real Orthodox) religious over the centuries.

That does not "sow confusion."

What sows confusion is when a bald-faced liar like George Conger writes a completely false lead for his story - and the pseudo-orthodox tribunes of far-right Anglicanism give it the widest possible distribution.

Kevin Thew is no more a Buddhist than he's a Guernsey cow. Or George Conger is a journalist.


I don't think the question is whether or not a person in a particular leadership role has a card which says "Buddhist" any more than having a card which says "Christian" is an indication of actual adherence to that faith's tenets.

I think there are several things in the bishop-elect's approch which sow confusion. Here is one of his most recent writings from Nov 08 (You can view it online in the Diocesan newspaper). His approach to interfaith dialogue is summarized:

"Either we will learn not only to tolerate but embrace and celebrate the sacred quality of the religions of the world and their inherent right to expression, or we will continue the downward spiral of religiously motivated violence and cultural destruction. In the words of the Franciscan Richard Rohr, either we will learn to recognize the sacred in everything that is, or we will lose the ability to recognize the sacred at all. This is a religious conversation with deep and far reaching cultural and political implications for the United States, a constitutional democracy in which the freedom of religious expression is a cherished value. We welcome Imam Qazwini as one who embodies the way, the truth and the life."

I thought Jesus embodied the way, the truth and the life, and only Jesus. I think that his approach, while laudable in its wish to see less strife between the peoples who hold the major religions, fall short of Christian thinking on the topic. I see the profound shift here "not only to tolerate but embrace and celebrate". And this is faily vague - what relgions? Islam, I presume? Buddhism (in the western sense of being a religion?), Hinduism (with or without the caste system?), tribal folk religion of central Asia?

I think there is a common mistake being made here. As Christian, I would posit that all human beings are made in the image of God, but not all faith systems. And the specific posting also had more to do with the nature of sin (Ash Wednesday and all that), and a detached and theoretical approach which wishes to divest us of our responsibility, and attribute more "goodness" to us than the Gospel warrants as our starting point.

If my problem is sin, then I need a Saviour. But if my problem is only blindness to the goodness that is within me, all I need is an Enlightener.

My concerns are with the content, not the titles.


Perhaps we might consider Paul's preaching at the Aereopogus.


I do think that Athens has something to do with Jerusalem (my apologies to Tertullian), but I am of a more cautious nature as to which is directing the path, and which is serving in an "advisory" capacity.


Bishop: "Either we will learn not only to tolerate but embrace and celebrate the sacred quality of the religions of the world and their inherent right to expression, or we will continue the downward spiral of religiously motivated violence and cultural destruction."

Either or statements are somewhat of a slight of hand tactic in discussions. Either celebrate world religions or violence. No other possible option.


I think there are all sorts of reasons to be dubious about the bishop-elect of Northern Michigan - not least the odd process leading to his election. He also seems to be a particularly fuzzy thinker, and the available evidence suggests his approach to liturgy is a trifle . . . self-indulgent.

But the claim that he is a Buddhist is bumph from start to finish.

The RI story is much like most things from George Conger - 2/3 poor journalism and 1/3 axe to grind.

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  • Copyright Rev. Joseph Walker, St Timothy's Anglican Church

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