Thursday, February 5, 2009

Oh Buddha, This Is All We Need

News from the Christian News Wire:
An Episcopal priest who has received a Buddhist lay ordination has been nominated for the position of bishop in the Diocese of Northern Michigan. The Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester, who has served in the diocese since 2001, will be the only nominee for the vacant position.


John Whittaker said...

Sigh... There is much to love about the Episcopal Church, but ordaining a Buddhist Bishop is not one of them.

The argument for women in the Church is pretty solid. I don't see how you could read Judges and not walk away with a clear approval of Deborah as a bonafide spiritual leader. For Christians, Hebrews 11 should eliminate any doubt as to whether we are meant to hold the Judges as Hero's of the faith. This is where the Episcopal Church shines the brightest.

The homosexual position that has been at the heart of so much controversy has some substantive scriptural problems, from my view. Not enough to make me feel obliged to leave the Church, but certainly causes some dilemma. Though I am still prayerfully pondering this, and anyway, it is really fodder for another conversation. At the very least, I think that most can safely say that there should be some cognitive dissonance for anybody trying to develop Christlike character in their thoughts and actions, and the stance and hateful language that has been used by some who wrap themselves in the flag of "defending the faith". We are all made in the image of God and are deserving of a degree of common dignity. The Episcopal Church at the very least offers an option for this segment of our brothers and sisters to worship and try to find grace; for this I believe that the Episcopal Church has done something that is good and feels to me to be God's work. (More to come on this subject in a future post.)

As for the development of a dual religion, this cannot stand up to logic or our faith, especially for a bishop, or clergy of any kind, it is unacceptable. We are a Church, not a club or a political party. We are Christians. Without a serious misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the whole mission and point of the Church, I don't see how anyone could be for this development. Being a Christian should be a nonnegotiable for anyone desiring a leadership role in a Church.

This of course is not directed at you, Fr. John, it is just so frustrating to see these developments.

God bless,


Fr. John said...

Thanks for a beautiful comment, brother.

Barry Fernelius said...

Buddhist practice is not necessarily incompatible with being a Christian. The Roman Catholics have a Jesuit priest, Robert E. Kennedy, who is also a lay Buddhist teacher. He has written a fascinating book, Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit.

It is my understanding that Fr. Forrester has been ordained as a lay Buddhist teacher, a role similar to the one played by Fr. Kennedy. If Fr. Forrester had been ordained as a Buddhist priest, that would be an entirely different matter. I would find that unacceptable.

Fr. John said...

Thank you for that important clarification, Barry.

John Whittaker said...

Greetings Barry,

Blessings to you, and thank you for further clarifying my post. If I might expound upon it for the benefit of any readers who might get the wrong idea, and hopefully confirm that we are on the same page...

I agree that certain aspects of Buddhist practice or method can be borrowed, rather it is their philosophy that is incompatible. For example, one might gain considerable value by learning from the Buddhist approach to the discipline of meditation. Utilizing a neutral human technique for improving the practice of meditating on Scripture and focusing on God during prayer, does not bring anything unholy or constitute a malefic practice.

It is the philosophy or system of belief that is the problem. From a Buddhist perspective, I can see that being Christian and Buddhist would be acceptable. Same as being any religion and Buddhist would be acceptable. Given this venue, hopefully I can explain without getting too lengthy or metaphysical.

From the Buddhist viewpoint, at least the one most prominent in the west, nothing is good or evil and suffering along with most everything is ultimately an illusion. The more one realizes this, the further along in their spiritual journey one becomes. So being comfortable with any religion would be part of one's journey to "enlightenment" and could be seen as positive. From a Christian worldview this cannot be said.

The Christian perspective sees absolute truths. It recognizes evil and suffering, and faces it. A Christian may strain and at times buckle under the weight of the scale and scope of this substantially human problem, but faces up to evil and points to God who will ultimately make things right again. Additionally, we see Christ as the sole method of salvation. A Christian clergy, no matter what denomination, is a representative and teacher of the faith in Christ.

I have simplified and left out much (thank goodness, lol) that would be useful in understanding these profound differences, but hopefully I have articulated it well enough. I would be happy to go into more detail, but I'm already pretty wordy for a blog commenter.

I have actually just completed a short, but very good work on this very subject by one of my old Professors. Since I just read it, I probably have borrowed much of the viewpoints within. It is called the Five Sacred Crossings, by Craig Hazen. Craig is not C.S. Lewis, but he has been blessed with a particularly clear mind and does a very good job of presenting a reasonable argument for Christianity vs. some other faiths in an allegory. I highly recommend it for anyone who is considering religion, particularly though, it might be useful to the later high school or college aged or those who are in influence of said...

God bless,

John W.

P.S.- If you go to St. John's, I would be happy to loan you my copy.