Monday, May 18, 2009

Pittsburgh: Consent Withheld On Northern Michigan Bishop-Elect

The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has unanimously withheld its consent of a candidate for Bishop in Michigan because of his questionable theology.

The Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester is Bishop-elect of the Diocese of Northern Michigan. But before he can be installed, a majority of Standing Committees and diocesan Bishops in the Episcopal Church must consent.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh’s Standing Committee found fault primarily with Forrester’s liturgical innovations which deviate from the Book of Common Prayer.

Especially troubling were changes in the language for baptisms performed at Forrester’s parish. The prayers used at those services removed references to the sacrament as being a cleansing from sin and renunciation of evil. Throughout, the service appears to put an emphasis on human actions as opposed to divine redemption.

“To change such a fundamental understanding of the sacrament, in which we share by water in the saving death of Jesus Christ and confess our belief in a Triune God, makes Father Forrester unacceptable as a Bishop in the Episcopal Church,” said the Rev. Dr. James Simons, reflecting the Standing Committee’s position.

The Committee’s decision will be the only vote on record for the Pittsburgh Diocese, since it currently does not have a Diocesan Bishop in office. Assisting Bishop Robert H. Johnson, who retired as Bishop of Western North Carolina in 2004, cannot vote. Still, Forrester’s case gives him pause.

”Generally I believe a diocesan election of a bishop should be honored unless there are serious obstacles,” said Bishop Johnson.

Pittsburgh joins a number of other dioceses who have withheld consent on Forrester, although an official tally has not been made public. Dioceses have until late in June to weigh in. If a major of Bishops and Standing Committees consent, the new Bishop of Northern Michigan is scheduled to be installed on October 17 of this year.

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