Church politics gone viral

Daniel Burke of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life notes how church politics has gone viral, mirroring many of the trends and tecniques of secular politics, and he holds out the election of Kevin Thew Forrester as Bishop of Northern Michigan as the latest example.

Burke writes:

Internet columns and chain e-mails question the candidate’s Christian bona fides. Old sermons are dredged up and dissected. Supporters, meanwhile, post documents online to combat perceived smears.

In short: a campaign for high office delivers some low blows.

The candidate in question? No, it’s not Barack Obama, but rather Bishop-elect Kevin Thew Forrester of Marquette, Mich., who was elected last February as the new leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan.

At another time, a new bishop for a sparsely populated string of 27 Great Lakes parishes might have been the end of the story. But in the Age of the Internet, when all politics are global, it’s just the beginning.

Soon after Thew Forrester’s election, conservative bloggers from across the country discovered that he practices Zen meditation and received “lay ordination” from a Buddhist community. Deeper digging found that he has eschewed the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, the anchor of Anglican doctrine, and written his own rites for baptisms. And scrutiny of his sermons posted online led some bishops to decide that Thew Forrester is not sufficiently orthodox to join their ranks.

Read the rest here.

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