An Episcopal diocese in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is preparing to elect an “ordained” Zen Buddhist as its bishop.
Kevin “Genpo” Thew Forrester is the only nominee for “Bishop/Ministry Provider” in the Diocese of Northern Michigan, the diocese’s website reports.
A special diocesan convention is set for Feb. 21 to choose a new bishop.
Genpo means “Way of Universal Wisdom”, Forrester explained in an article in the diocesan newsletter, soon after he changed his name and accepted lay ordination as a Zen Buddhist. You can read all about it on page C.
A universalist, Forrester has unorthodox views about some traditional doctrinal matters, including sin. In the diocesan newsletter, he writes: “Sin has little, if anything, to do with being bad. It has everything to do, as far as I can tell, with being blind to our own goodness.”
Ironically, Forrester’s selection to serve as a Zen Buddhist Episcopal bishop comes shortly after a Seattle Muslim Episcopal priest was punished for claiming to be a follower of both Christianity and Islam.
It will be interesting to see whether the national church will give its assent to Forrester, assuming Michiganders give him the nod. It will also be interesting to see how Anglican archbishops around the world respond to this development.
The Diocese of Northern Michigan is the third smallest in the Episcopal Church [just ahead of the diocese of Micronesia and the Navajo Missions diocese, according to the denomination’s statistics. On a typical Sunday, 690 Episcopalians attend services diocese-wide.
Membership in the diocese dropped 31.7 percent over the past decade.