The Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester, bishop-elect of the Diocese of Northern Michigan, is seeking to clarify his lay ordination as a Buddhist. In a prepared statement, Fr. Forrester said that “lay ordination has a different meaning in Buddhist practice than in the Christian tradition. The essence of my welcoming ceremony, which included no oaths, was a resolve to use the practice of meditation as a path to the truth of the reality of human suffering. Meditation deepens my dwelling in Christ-the-healer.”
In an interview with the Marquette Mining Journal, Fr. Forrester denied that he was a practitioner of two faiths.
“There’s one faith and it’s Christianity,” he said. “The gift is that that faith is deepened by my meditative practice and I’m eternally grateful to Zen Buddhism for teaching me that practice and receiving me as an Episcopal priest.”
Fr. Forrester, rector of St. Paul’s, Marquette, Mich., and ministry development coordinator for Northern Michigan, was a member of the search committee which selected him as the only candidate to lead an episcopal ministry team. He was elected on the first ballot during a special convention on Feb. 21 with 88 percent of delegate votes.
In an article in the February 2004 edition of The Church in Hiawathaland, the diocese’s newspaper which is edited by Fr. Forrester’s wife, Fr. Forrester wrote that he had received “lay ordination” and that he now “walk[ed] the path of Christianity and Zen Buddhism.”
Before he can be consecrated, Fr. Forrester must receive consent to his election for a majority of standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction. The Rt. Rev. Bruce Caldwell, Bishop of Wyoming and a consultant to the search committee which nominated Fr. Forrester, wrote an open letter in support of Fr. Forrester that was sent to standing committees and bishops.
“I have known and worked closely with Kevin for over a decade and I am convinced that he is a person of strong Christian faith, a thoughtful theologian and a voice of advocacy for baptismal ministry which is much needed in the church,” Bishop Caldwell said. “In my opinion, he will have no difficulty as a bishop guarding the faith and unity of the church.”