'Two-for-One Clergy' For the Weekend

Beliefnet has a decent article on an Episcopal Bishop-elect in Michigan who is also a Buddhist. Check it out here: "One Priest, Two Faiths."

Essentially, some Episcopalians are angry that this Bishop-elect holds what they view as competing beliefs and thus is unfit to be a bishop.  This is called syncretism meaning "holding multiple religions."  To those who believe in the exclusivity of their religion against all others, this is unacceptable for a bishop.

Let's make this an open weekend conversation. What do you think?

  • Can people hold tenets of different faiths in our culture which is increasingly blending even as it is separating?
  • Can religious leaders find meaning in two separate paths without losing their way?
  • Does this really matter unless it is affecting their spiritual leadership? 
Discuss and enjoy the weekend!


Warren March 14, 2009 at 11:26 AM  

It seems to me that what matters is the particularities of the two religions that should determine if and when two (or more) religions can be held at the same time.

In the case of Christianity and Buddhism, I can see nothing in either that outright contradict each other. Buddhist Christians have existed for many years, particularly in places where Buddhism is the predominant religion.

Furthermore, anyone that has studied Biblical and Church history knows that the Hebrew/Jewish and Christian religions have never remained "pure". One can easily trace the understandings about the nature of G-d in the Hebrew Bible and compare that to the religions that were surrounding the Hebrews/Jews at the time. In order to see how non-Christian religions influenced Christian celebrations, one would have to ignore when we celebrate Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Easter, Pentecost, and Christmas which were all taken to fit within other religions' frameworks.

Having said all of this, I do find that two religious worldviews can be so divergent that I don't believe that they can be reconciled.

Larry B,  March 14, 2009 at 8:51 PM  

For me, having spent time examining Buddhism and Christianity from an apologetic standpoint and visiting with only a few Buddhist monks on my overseas trips, I have come to the conclusion that these two faiths are logically inconsistent with each other. I don't know how anyone can hold a rational view of faith and follow both Buddhism and Christianity.

The deepest divide I encountered is Buddhism's essential premise that there is no self. Guatama Buddha makes this assertion as necessary for eliminating suffering and eventually achieving the state of being as the Enlightened One.

Christianity is diametrically opposed to this based on the two commandments from Jesus summing up the Mosaic law: Love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.

You cannot follow these commands of Christianity if you fundamentally reject the concept of self as Buddhism would require you to do.

The other point that was vaguely discussed by Buddhists, but essentially there was agreement, Buddhism is inherently an atheistic religion. They deny the existence of God. Jesus cannot therefore be who he said he was and be making any kind of rational claim if you follow Buddhism.

To me, they two religions are completely at odds with each other in fundamental matters.

The question for the episcopal bishop is what is it that he finds lacking in Christianity that he feels that he must identify with another religion to justify what he is practicing. If meditation is that helpful, why can't we find room in the Christian Church to develop meditation practices that are helpful to our Christianity? Perhaps that is what this Bishop has done, but the optics of the situation look bad to others.

isabella mori March 15, 2009 at 6:37 PM  

the answer to your first question, in my very particular case: the issue of "faith" is becoming less and less interesting to me. perhaps i could be called a pragmatic mystic. the question is always for me - what do i DO? i cannot and do not want to give up my christian roots. intellectually, i am deeply committed to buddhism. and in my spiritual actions, i am a pagan. i understand that this syncretism would not be possible if dogma was important to me. but it isn't.

as someone else said, christian buddhists are not exactly new. brother steindl-rast is a good example. i see him as a great leader. are they good leaders for the church (rather than the community)? that i don't know. we all know the pope would have a big problem with it.

interestingly enough, i am just reading a book by sensei ogui, a buddhist minister (and therefore leader) who practices two types of buddhism which are often not seen together - zen buddhism and shin buddhism. the latter is one of the more theistic forms of buddhism. i am gaining tremendously from this book.

Rev. Jeremy Smith April 2, 2009 at 6:47 AM  

Just as a follow-up, one of the Episcopal priests in the article who identifies as both Muslim and Christian has been defrocked. LINK

Larry B,  April 2, 2009 at 7:23 PM  

Thanks for the update - I wondered what they were going to do with that situation.

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