The apparent rejection of a controversial candidate for bishop in the Episcopal Church could be a historic move. As reported by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester has not received the necessary consent of the majority of diocesan standing committees. Unless some of the votes are re-cast before the July deadline, Forrester's election will be denied.
The Episcopal Church has not denied consent to a candidate for bishop since 1936, when the house of Bishops declined to consent to the seating of John Torok, nominated for Bishop Suffragan of Eau Claire (Wisconsin) on procedural grounds. The last candidate rejected on purely theological grounds was James de Koven, denied consent as bishop of Illinois in 1875.
Forrester's election has drawn opposition from all corners of the 2.2 million-member denomination, with both conservative and liberal camps finding fault with different aspects of Forrester's election and practices.
Forrester first drew attention for his Zen Buddhist "lay" ordination, earning him the moniker of the "Buddhist Bishop". Further investigation of his practices revealed unilateral editing of the Book of Common Prayer's baptismal rite and the inserting of a verse from the Koran into a church service as the Word of God.
Jeff Walton of the Institute of Religion and Democracy commented in a press release, "The more Forrester defended his election, the more trouble he brought upon himself. A written defense of his theological views, which seemed to reinterpret Christ's Atonement and other historic teachings, sent to dioceses across the church appears to have actually backfired, giving yet more ammunition to his critics.
"While the Buddhist practices of Forrester were ultimately the reason only some opposed him, the Buddhist element was still essential to the denial of consent. If it had not been for the attention created by the Buddhist lay ordination, people probably never would have dug as deeply into his record and discovered his other objectionable practices.
"The liturgy found in the prayer book has unified Episcopalians of all theological stripes for hundreds of years. Forrester's unilateral decision to 'enhance' the baptismal rite was ultimately the final straw."