The Diocese of Northern Michigan has released a statement describing their choice of The Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester to be their next bishop and defending the process by which he was chosen. They have also released supporting letters from two bishops, the Rt. Rev.Tom Ray, retired bishop of Northern Michigan and The Rt. Rev. Rustin R. Kimsey, currently Assisting Bishop for the Diocese of Alaska.
The statement from the leadership reaffirms their faith in Kevin Thew Forrester, his leadership and pastoral skill and affirming again his deep commitment to the Christian faith.
Many of you have been hearing about our recent election and about Kevin Thew Forrester, our bishop-elect. We have known, lived, and worked with Kevin in this diocese for eight years and know him to be a person of deep faith and witness to the love of God and Jesus. His deep spiritual grounding, his extensive learning, his pastoral sensitivity, and his passion for living truthfully and authentically have enriched our diocese and provided focused guidance during the years he has been among us. We are confident that Kevin will guard and defend the faith of the Church while inviting us to ever fresh expressions of that faith.
The statement also defends the process by which he was selected saying that the objections to Forrester is also about the process the Diocese undertook.
A sense of family on the congregational, regional, and diocesan level has allowed us to love, support, encourage and call forth leadership to sustain us through the difficult times we have faced. Through the grace of God, the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit we have emerged from the deep pain of sorrow and loss at the death of our beloved bishop, Jim Kelsey, nearly 22 months ago, into the excitement and renewed commitment represented by the election of our new bishop and the creation of the Episcopal Ministry Support Team.
We have confidence in the discernment team we called, aware of their diversity, giftedness and single minded devotion to the trust we placed in them. We believe the discernment process that we have followed has been open, thorough, faithful and canonical, with a greater degree of outside scrutiny and support than most traditional search processes. We believe it to have been a Spirit-led, prayerful process. Their work has been overwhelmingly affirmed by two conventions and by the vast majority of our people.
Bishop Ray wrote:
Presumably there is some E-mail concern that Kevin is not fully Christian. Well, he honors his baptism like few I know and I have known Kevin and Rise for over fifteen years. He seeks to affirm every one's baptism in this diocese and as bishop he would carry daily this conviction: "You belong to Christ, you are His light in this world." Kevin is authentically in love with Jesus and such a faith can not be fabricated or pretended. A fake is quickly discerned. I am absolutely clear that Kevin is for real and shares personally and deeply my Christian friendship.
...This diocese has emerged out of Gethsemane with a vitality, a cohesiveness, and a vision that is unquestionably inspired. As an aging and ailing elder of this diocese, I smile with gratitude and satisfaction that this simple diocese is such a unique testimony to our Christian faith, our ministry and mission. Kevin is not only a gift to us in this diocese, he could be a similar gift in our House of Bishops.
Bishop Kimsey also responds to the charge that the Bishop-elect is not eligible for leadership because of his meditation practices:
It is because of my personal experience with Kevin that I am confounded by the controversy over his election by his home diocese to be their bishop. In the matter of his practice of Zen Buddhist meditation, when did the way in which we are deepened into the Presence of God become a litmus test for being a follower of Jesus Christ? Christians have employed countless ways and environments in their search for an integrated and clearer focus on the Holy One. When I worked and lived with the Navajo and employed some of their images of their creation story in my own devotions, was I being disloyal to my Christ and to my Creator God? I think not. In the 6th century when St. Columba of Iona honored the culture that preceded him by referring to Jesus as his “druid brother”, was he lessening Christ or was he honoring the Spirit of God that was in Celtic lands long before Christianity arrived? I am especially dismayed when a significant world religion, Buddhism, is subtly tainted in this matter. Kevin could not be clearer: he is a Christian who on occasion practices Zen Buddhist meditation. I would think he would be commended for such exploration into a milieu that is known for peace and healing and harmony.
Kimsey pays particular attention to an editorial in the Living Church, noting that the Bishop-elect was never a chair of the discernment committee, as stated in the editorial, and the process was approved by the convention of the diocese. He says that the discernment committee looked at "a number of people considered for the episcopal office. Serious honoring and prayerful attention were paid to these persons and, in obedience to the mandate given them by the 2007 Diocesan Convention, the discernment committee decided on one person as their nominee for Bishop of Northern Michigan and that person is Kevin Thew Forrester."
Here is the letter from the Diocesan Leadership.
This is Bishop Ray's letter.
And here is Bishop Kinsey's letter.