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Bishop Elected in Episcopal Church Holds Buddhist Ordination

by Jeff Walton, Institute on Religion and Democracy, Feb 23, 3007

"Buddhism is not merely a series of practices, saying so devalues it. Buddhism is an entire worldview." -- James Tonkowich, IRD President

WASHINGTON,  USA -- An Episcopal priest who has received a Buddhist lay ordination has been elected bishop in the Diocese of Northern Michigan. The Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester, who has served in the diocese since 2001, was elected on the first ballot and received 88 percent of the delegate votes.
The results of the election are now sent for consent to all bishops with jurisdiction and standing committees across the Episcopal Church, in what is usually viewed as a rubber-stamp procedure.
Forrester, who has been identified by his former bishop Jim Kelsey as "walking the path of Christianity and Zen Buddhism together", is not the first Episcopal clergyman to practice dual faiths. In 2004, Pennsylvania priest Bill Melnyk was revealed to be a druid; while in 2007 Seattle priest Ann Holmes Redding declared that she was simultaneously an Episcopalian and a Muslim. Both Melnyk and Redding were eventually inhibited from priestly duties.
IRD President James Tonkowich commented,
"The issue is not whether meditation is good, it is what is being meditated on. Attempts by Christians to be syncretistic devalue other religions, as well as their own.
"If this kind of meditation is truly in the Christian monastic tradition, why do you need to go to Buddhism to find it? The reality is that this particular meditative practice is not in step with Christian doctrine.
"Buddhism is not merely a series of practices, saying so devalues it. Buddhism is an entire worldview.
"These interfaith innovations go far beyond witnessing and respecting other faith traditions. They seek to blend Christianity with other belief systems in a way that ultimately compromises the message of the Gospel.
"While church leaders may respect other faiths, their vow of Christian ordination has always meant an exclusive commitment to Jesus Christ and the Christian faith."

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