This is quite fascinating. At least for those of us who are interested in “the making of Bishops.”
It doesn’t come along all that often, given over 200 years of existence of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, that is, the declination of consent to an election of someone to be the bishop in or of a diocese. It has happened, though.
The AESOP (the subject of this weblog) now has almost 700 bishops included. In doing research for some of the details, you could expect a few stories to surface, and the justifications for either the bishops of the Church or the Standing Committees of the Church, or both, withholding consent to go ahead with a consecration of the person elected. Such as with Wm DeKoven at the height of the Ritualist controversy after the Civil War, often over simplified to Anglo-Catholic vs Evangelical and Broad Church (50 years before in the Diocese of Massachusetts, Bp Manton Eastburn refused to make a Pastoral Visit to Church of the Advent, Boston, because the Officiant was known to face the altar rather than the people during the Prayers, thus perpetuating religious superstitions; also the preacher was known to wear a surplice while preaching instead of simply a gown; among other things – his refusal lasted most of his episcopate, but I digress).
And sometimes the consent process is mercifully cancelled, as with the priest from the east coast elected in the southern diocese back in the 1800’s, or the one elected out of Virginia, or the one elected out of Eastern Oregon (both in our life time), where the Standing Committee pulled the plug due to undisclosed information that suddenly became disclosed. Personally, that’s what I wish would happen in Northern Michigan, that either the Standing Committee would pull the election, or the newly bishop-elect would just voluntarily withdraw himself prior to the end of the consent process.
But that then is the subject here, the election or as some have called it the “appointment” of the Rev Kevin Thew Forrester as the intended bishop (this has nothing to do with the election but for clarification’s sake, in case you are looking, Kevin’s wife’s maiden name is Thew, the same kind of use of surnames as Katherine Jefferts Schori and her husband, but without a hyphen).
My sole purpose here is to share my thoughts on how this consent process is going to play out, not to explain my personal discernment.
Again, for explanation, anytime an election for a bishop takes place, it kicks into play a process of requiring all bishops of jurisdiction (all except those who are not currently in charge of something, and thus most retired bishops. Note +Jerry Lamb, for instance, retired but acting currently as bishop of provisional authority in San Joaquin will be able to vote), and all Standing Committees (that’s the committee that is in charge of a diocese in the absence of a bishop) to respond to the election with a letter of consent, or voicing their lack of consent. A majority of consent approvals must be received within a 120 day period from both bishops and Standing Committees. This is like a “vote by orders”, where if one group fails to give consent the whole thing goes down the tubes, and the process goes back to the electing diocese to try again.
I won’t rehearse here what the problem is with Thew Forrester, or with the way the election took place. Just Google Forrester, or Thew Forrester, Northern Michigan, or even Buddhist Bishop, and you will start to hear the complaints. The Diocese of Northern Michigan has had an apologetic posted. Both liberal and conservative weblogs have carried a multitude of links, as well as beginning to post notices of bishops who are registering their consents and lack of consents.
I also won’t rehearse here the makeup of the House of Bishops in terms of conservative and liberal and how that came to be within The Episcopal Church at this time in its history. This background reading can also be researched up by a search engine, or even by reading the Wikipedia article on The Episcopal Church (I wouldn’t use it as the last word on Episcopalianism, but at least it identifies current issues).
So, here we go. I’m using terms here not to stereotype but to help make it easier to count noses.
There will be 30 clearly “reappraiser” (see Titusonenine for definition of reappraiser and reasserter) bishops who quickly vote for consent, there will be 20 clearly “reasserter” bishops who will quickly decide not provide consent. It is the 65 to 70 inbetween on the theological spectrum to consider. Bishop Ted Gulick (both of Kentucky and who was approved to be the bishop of provisional authority to the Episcopalians left from Fort Worth), who has recently announced his Withholding of Consent (No) vote already, represents that middle. But even the middle can be understood as spanning a spectrum. Actually, the way +Gulick defines himself in his response pretty well defines the spectrum: a mixture of socially liberal/progressive pastoral concerns and conservative evangelical and/or anglo-catholic theology and faith.
So how does Bp Gulick discern this situation in Northern Michigan? Well, since there are no major liberal/progressive sensitivity buttons being pushed (such as if Thew Forrester were gay) then +Gulick’s sensitivities are able to focus almost completely on the serious issues raised in theology, liturgy, and bible. On that basis alone, and yet with no real sense in my mind about the layout of that spectrum of the House of Bishops (HOB) middle – so let’s just say it’s half and half – 1/2 of the middle, the half that finds itself claiming to give more weight to more conservative theology, etc., will have already made of their mind, and will not send in their consent, that is, they will withhold their consent. With that, it is almost a break-even consent process for Thew Forrester and anyone else who presses the “buzz” button.
HOWEVER, the hypothesis that I laid out above also means that those bishops in the House of Bishops Middle who would agree with +Gulick’s self-identity, but give more weight to the social progressive side of their dual nature (if you will), will ALSO spend more time in discernment inquiry on the theology, liturgical digressions of Forrester, and will provide a majority of votes in the “No” category.
As evidence of this speculation of mine, I would suggest that +Tom Breidenthal (the new bishop of Southern Ohio, and an old acquaintance of mine and +Ted Gulick are on either side of that invisible line down the center of the H.O.B., +Tom on the liberal progressive tendency, and +Ted on the conservative evangelical/Catholic side, and both have said “No”. +Tom just got to his vote sooner than some of the others on his side of things because he simply thinks theologically (the reality – self-admitted – not all bishops do) and worked through what he needed to work through faster.
I’m not saying that those 30 bishops that reasserters have clearly identified as reappraisers (or some label as revisionist) don’t think theologically, nor that at least some of them aren’t willing to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But the concept of “progressiveness” is a constant and immediate lens through which they view most everything, and they are more quick to defend “progress” even if they haven’t personally investigated what they should in order to provide a reasoned consent.
Moving along, doing the math as laid out above, I’m thinking that the mind of the bishops at this moment of discernment, including those who have already voted and those who haven’t, is somewhere in the 55 “no” – 65 “yes” range (based on about 120 bishops who are eligible to vote). And will eventually – as bishops do the thinking and praying and finally send in their vote – be as high as 73 “no” -47, “yes” (based on 120 eligible bishops and all voting).
[UPDATE, 04/16/09: My new count shows 99 bishops of jurisdiction as Diocesan Ordinaries (quite a few vacancies), plus two bishops (at least) with provisional authority, which seems to have allowed them an invitation to send in a letter of consent, making 101. My further question would be if there are more bishops who have been allowed to participate in the consent process, such as +Whalen of Europe, +Packard of Armed Forces, +Kimsey assisting in Alaska, +MacDonald assisting in Navajoland, etc. But I need to revise the 70 (for a total of 120) down to 55 (for a total of 105). So I am revising my final count to the following equation: 30 yes – 20 no + 13.75 yes (55/2/2) – 41.25 no (55/2 + 55/2/2) = 43.75 yes – 61.25 no, where +1 was needed for approved consent. At least 61 no, and 43 yes, based on these numbers of diocesan bishops able to give or withhold consent.
Again, absences in voting on both sides will affect the final. So, let’s just say at least 60% will withhold consent.]
[another UPDATE: It seems clear now that +Kimsey, and thus +MacDonald, will not be involved in this process since they are bishops providing episcopal ministry, but not holding ecclesiastical authority, and thus not “bishops of jurisdiction”. Also that the Presiding Bishop would hold her jurisdiction for Europe, rather than +Whalen. That solidifies the 101 number. Based on my theory of the numbers at the end of the spectrum, the total # of bishops won’t make any difference, that is, it would be 30 yes’s plus 1/2 of 1/2 of the “moderates”, or about 40%. At this point (05/01/09), certainly no more than I originally predicted, and then slightly modified down to 43 yes consents.]
Please note that I have not bothered to include the factors of institutionalism, Church order, seminary training, nature of diocese of residence, understanding of church growth and development, and Anglican Communion covenant. A bishop’s expected vote can be fine tuned with these factors, and institutionalism, order, and Covenant could be final consideration factors for some bishops in this particular consent matter.
Bishops, consenting – 16 (17)
+Neff Powell, Southwest Virginia
+Marc Andrus, California
+Carolyn Irish, Utah
+Bruce Caldwell, Wyoming
+Tom Ely, Vermont
+John Chane, Washington, DC (along with rude comment to phone surveyist)
+Creighton Robertson, South Dakota
+Tom Shaw, Massachusetts
+Bob Gepert, Western Michigan
+Jerry Lamb, for San Joaquin
+James Waggoner, Spokane
+Drew Smith, Connecticut
(+Wendell Gibbs, Michigan)
+Ousley, Eastern Michigan
+Orris Walker, Long Island
+Joe Burnett, Nebraska
+Mark Sisk, New York
Standing Committees, consenting – 32 ( = means bishop voted the same, – not)
San Joaquin =
Central Pennsylvania –
Southern Ohio –
Western New York
Northern Michigan N/A
Washington, DC =
Eastern Michigan =
Eastern Oregon (will Rivera have a vote, now that she is the Bishop of Provisional Authority there?)
Bishops – 41 (47)
+Ed Little, Northern Indiana
+John Howe, Central Florida
+Ted Gulick, Kentucky
+Bruce MacPherson, Western Louisiana
+Greg Rickel, Olympia
+Bill Love, Albany
+Tom Breidenthal, Southern Ohio
+Paul Marshall, Bethlehem
+James “Bud” Shand, Easton
+Larry Benfield, Arkansas
+Charles Jenkins, Louisiana
+Michael Curry, North Carolina
+James Adams, Western Kansas
+Jim Mathes, San Diego
+Peter Beckwith, Springfield
+Mark Lawrence, South Carolina
+Dabney Smith, Southwest Florida
+Bob Fitzpatrick, Hawaii
+Jim Stanton, Dallas
+Gary Lillibridge, West Texas
+Don Wimberly, Texas
+Gene Sutton, Maryland
+Don Johnson, West Tennessee
+Nathan Baxter, Central Pennsylvania
+Dorsey Henderson, Upper South Carolina
+John Bauerschmidt, Tennessee
+Jacobus. Fond du Lac
+Michie Klusmeyer, West Virginia
+Peter Lee, Virginia –
+Samuel Howard, Florida =
+Barry Beisner, Northern California =
+Jon Bruno, Los Angeles =
(+Philip Duncan, Central Gulf Coast)
(+Neil Alexander, Atlanta)
(+Franklin Brookhart, Montana)
+David Alzarez-Valazquez, Puerto Rico
+Francisco Duque, Colombia
+Scott Mayer, Northwest TX
(+Porter Taylor, Western North Carolina))
+Sean Rowe, Northwest Pennsylvania
+Charles vonRosenberg (East Tennessee)
(+John Buchanan (Quincy))
+Mark Hollinsworth (Ohio)
+Bp Guerrero, Venezuela
+Alfredo Morante (Litoral Ecuador) =
Standing Committees, refuse consent – 58 (62)
Rio Grande (N/A)
Dallas (by convention) =
Central Florida =
West Tennessee =
Fond du Lac =
West Texas =
Southwest Florida =
El Camino Real
South Carolina =
Northern California =
West Virginia =
Western Louisiana =
Rhode Island =
Western Kansas =
Fort Worth (=)
Southwestern Virginia =
San Diego =
North Carolina =
Northern Indiana =
Puerto Rico =
Convocation in Europe
Northwest Texas =
(Louisiana = )
(Central Gulf Coast =)
(Western Michigan – )
Upper South Carolina =
Central New York
Litoral Ecuador =
Waiting to hear from 24 Bishops, (plus 10 non-revealed):
+Jean Duracin (Haiti)
+Ambrose Gumbs (Virgin Islands)
+David Lai (Taiwan)
+Wilfrido Ramos-Orench (Central Ecuador)
+Lloyd Allen (Honduras)
+Julio Holguin (Dominican Rep.)
+Dean Wolfe (Kansas) *
+Gladstone Adams (Central NY) *
+Leo Frade (SE Florida) (Abstaining?)
+George Councell (New Jersey)
+James Jelinek (Minnesota) *
+Jeffery Lee (Chicago) *
+Stephen Lane (Maine) *
+Henry I. Louttit (Georgia) *
+Stacy Sauls (Lexington) *
+Brian Thom (Idaho) *
+Wayne Wright (Delaware) *
+Michael Garrison (Western NY) *
+Clifton Daniel III (East Carolina) *
+Kirk Smith (Arizona) *
+Catherine Waynick (Indy) *
+Alan Scarfe (Iowa) *
+George Smith (Missouri) *
+Gordon Scruton (Western MA) *
probably voted but refuse to reveal (10):
+V. Gene Robinson (New Hampshire)
+Dan Edwards (Nevada)
+Edward Konieczny (Oklahoma)
+Katherine Jefferts Schori (Europe)
+Robert O’Neill (Colorado)
+Mary Gray-Reeves (El Camino Real)
+Barry Howe (West Missouri)
+Prince Singh (Rochester)
+Mark Beckworth (Newark)
+Holly Hollerith (Southern VA)
Waiting to hear from 16 SC’s:
[UPDATE (6-3-09)] I have been unwilling to make any predictions about Standing Committees and their consent decisions. Although there is a tendency for Standing Committees to support their bishop in such decisions, there are just too many people involved, and no diocese votes for offices in a strictly monochrome manner. Nor in every given situation do even “party line” Standing Committees vote the party line. What happened in San Joaquin back in late 2007 and following is a perfect example. For that matter, the Standing Committee votes for Forrester’s consent process is also a perfect example of what folks expected, and what decisions were actually made.
However, at 55 votes out of 111, I already know that there is at least one more Standing Committee vote out there that will make it a majority withholding of consent. But let me just mark the following as to how I think it will go. In the meantime, I am still holding to the tally of bishops I made in February, going 60%/40% withholding, specifically at least 58 withholding and 43 or less consents.
(Litoral Ecuador) voted No as of 6-25; got that one right
(Venezuela) voted no reported as of 6-22; got that one right
California voted No as of 6-10; missed that one
Wyoming voted yes as of 6-21; got that one right
(Kansas) voted Yes as of 6-17 got these two exactly backwards
Central NY voted No as of 6-17 got these two exactly backwards
(Upper South Carolina) “No” announced 6-13 – got that one right
(Virginia) “yes” announced 6-23 : Hmm, got that one wrong – weirder than CA
(Bethlehem) “No” announced 6-4 – got that one right
(Navajoland- will abstain?)
taken action but withholding information:
Nevada — voted NO, announced 7-1 (got this one wrong, although my first inclination was they would vote no)
(Western North Carolina)
FINAL UPDATE: The consent for Thew Forrester was in fact declined by the House of Bishops, along the lines as predicted. The count for the Standing Committees would make no difference, since one group, the Bishops, declined.
The announcement from the Presiding Bishop’s office never includes the numbers of consents and declines. So the announcement simply was made that the consent process failed to approve the diocese of Northern MIchigan’s election.
The next attempt by the diocese however was successful with a different person being elected.