Bishop Murphy and the Rwandan House of Bishops

Unlike the fellows at Anglican TV, I am not a journalist. I do not have multiple sources and fact checks for the account below. Take it with a grain of salt and know that it could be wrong, misleading, or third hand and inaccurate information. Someone left it as a comment on my earlier post called “AMiA: the Plot Thickens.” It has at least the ring of truth to it, in that it recounts details that your average outsider would not know. So here is an edited version of the comment:

I can’t say how I know, but I can tell you that Bishop Murphy as downright disingenuous in his description of the June HOB [House of Bishops] in Rwanda. The entire house of Bishops objected to his bringing along Kevin Donlon and H Miller to [the] HOB meeting. They did not want to be lectured to, they wanted answers which the good Bishop and the former Abp. [editor – I believe he means Kolini] refused to give relating to a simple transparent accounting of monies supposedly given to Rwanda. No one, to this day, knows where more than 1 million dollars went over the course of 4 years. No one even knows what or whose bank account this money went to!
When the Bishops saw that they were not ever going to get an answer then they simply asked for proper procedures to be followed in the future. They also stated that the house of bishops would no longer be a rubber stamp for the Abp. when it came to the oversight of missionary districts, bishops, etc. At this Bishop Murphy stormed out of the meeting refusing to even take lunch with the Bishops.
Bishop Murphy is also attempting to deceive everyone with his talk, through Miss Brust, about ‘ongoing talks with Rwandan leadership’. He is only talking to Kolini and Rwaje. Bishop John [editor – I think he means Bishop John Rucyahana] wrote to Chuck Murphy begging him not to take this step. I know for a fact that none of the Bishops of Rwanda knew anything about this ‘new arrangement’. But, they all did know Chuck Murphy well enough to suspect that if they asked for financial transparency and proper oversight that the Bishop of Pawley’s Island would take his marbles and go home. The unknown is which circle he would go to to play marbles in next. Everyone knew he would not go to the ACNA. Now it seems he has co-opted the missionary vision of a good man and is twisting it to his own agenda. Isn’t it time for some AMiA people to suggest that Chuck retire and ask for a ‘real’ meeting with the Rwanda HOB?

[end of comment]

So there you have it. Perhaps a glimpse behind the curtain of what is really going on at Pawley’s. Perhaps it is worth noting here the charge to new Bishops from the 1928 BCP:

…be, to such as believe, a wholesome example in word, in conversation, in love, in faith, in chastity, and in purity;”

I hope that nothing is amiss with the finances, as nothing will more quickly bring the aspersion of the world and the discouragement of the Church than for there to be financial scandal in the Church.

General Councils in an Anglican Context

The 21st Article of the Articles of Religion:

General Councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of princes. And when they be gathered together, (forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and Word of God), they may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God. Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of Holy Scripture.


Living Into an Alternate Reality

or, a Factual Theological and Canonical Critique of the latest Press Release

Just kidding about that subtitle, this really won’t measure up to the canon law standards that govern communications from theAM. Today, press officer and Reverend Cynthia Brust launched another press release out there to let us know about something other than the Winter Conference (Jack Deere will be there by the way). Did the press release apologize for falsely accusing AnglicanTV last week? Did it clarify the canonical status of AMiA with regard to Rwanda? Did it address the financial accountability issues around the 10/10/10 giving to Rwanda? Of course not! Instead, it doubled down on last week’s release with an added dose of Episcopal-esque Newspeak that would make Rowan Williams proud! Let me break it down:

In our world of instant communication and Internet dialogue in and through the blogosphere, it is easy for misinformation and misunderstanding to be rapidly disseminated.

Just as easy as misinformation being rapidly disseminated via a press release, I might add. This sentence casts all of the internet chatter as somehow tainted.

Recently, a video blog made unsubstantiated and false assertions about the Anglican Mission’s relationship with Rwanda,

You would think that she could have at least given AnglicanTV some props here and mentioned their name! But repeating the canard that the claims of Episode 16 are false and unsubstantiated is absurd. Rev. Cynthia should apologize publicly to these men. I’m not going to rehash last week’s press release, just look at my post. Add to this that AnglicanTV today went into more detail about how last week’s story unfolded, and it makes Rev. Cynthia look like she lied to the men about the entire story. So who is making false assertions exactly?

and another statement [separate sources] presented negative commentary about theAM’s consideration of a working proposal presented during a recent Anglican Mission Presbyters’ retreat.

Yes, the Washington Statement gets no love here, and no mention that it came FROM AM CLERGY!!! I will not allow this characterization of the Statement as “negative commentary” to go unchallenged. Once again, there is no interaction with the substance of the Statement itself, just a casual dismissal. The Statement asks for a discussion: “We need clear, fair processes for corporately engaging the issues and challenges all organizations inevitably face. When major changes happen without any formal process involving open communication, the foundations of the movement are shaken.” This call for a discussion is being called “negative commentary.”

Notice also the refrain of “working proposal”, as if all we are talking about is a possibility, just a friendly discussion, nothing more.

Each of these has generated some blog discussion.

On this we are agreed. It has also generated some heated conversations involving Bishop Murphy!

These issues have been publicly addressed in a way that can cause confusion and responding is challenging, as many of those on our mailing list are not aware of the inaccurate reporting and negative commentary. 

This is a poorly constructed sentence. If the confusing, negative reports aren’t known to “those on our mailing list”, then why enlighten them? And really, responding should not be challenging, it should be easy. Simply tell the truth about whatever meetings occurred (don’t deny that meetings happened like you did to Conger). Why not publish the slides that Donlon presented on your website so we can all see what was discussed?

The reporting was not inaccurate, except regarding Christ Church, Plano – which Conger has since retracted. The commentary was not negative, unless you are Bishop Murphy.

We believe it is important, however, to reassure those who have read blogs and may be concerned or confused and to address the misleading information and personal commentary in a general way.  To that end, Archbishop Rwaje and Bishop Murphy have issued a joint statement that you can read below.

Well, she has certainly addressed it in “a general way,” because specifics are entirely lacking. The joint statement is not helpful at all, as I said when it was published.

This unforeseen situation actually provides us with the opportunity to share some potential developments, which we believe promise a new and rich season of ministry together.  The Anglican Mission has been actively engaged in conversations with Rwanda over the last several months, exploring the concept of a Missionary Society designed to formalize what has long been the stated vision of theAM – to be “a mission, nothing more, nothing less.”  A Missionary Society, focused on the apostolic work of church planting, would provide a stable, long-term framework for what we have been communicating and living from our inception.

One wonders if this “opportunity to share” would have ever happened if not for the work of AnglicanTV? My guess is that the opportunity wouldn’t have happened until the decision was made.

Further, the AMiA is already a misson, and there is nothing preventing it from being so. This obfuscation is a head fake about the real issue, which is the formal, canonical relationship with Rwanda. Not only that, but there is nothing stopping AMiA churches from being on mission if they simply joined ACNA. What would change then is the money, offices, and titles of those in Pawley’s Island.

Over its 12-year history, the Anglican Mission has been consistent in vision, while being careful not to rush to structure.  We have established a pattern of processing and discussing in multiple levels of leadership how best to live into our vision, addressing pros and cons, and determining a plan of action. This approach has marked the in-depth process of considering what a Missionary Society would look like and how it would operate. 

How exactly does one process and discuss “in multiple levels of leadership” how to “live into” a vision? Does this sentence mean anything? Someone please send Rev. Brust Orwell’s Rules. Brust is characterizing the Murphy-Kolini discussion as an in depth process that was simply considering how to operate. What is wrong with how things are set up now?

While no decisions have been made, this concept represents a consistent trajectory and is being discussed widely…

It is now!

in an ordered and sequential way…

We were on step 6 of 10 when it went to hell in a handbasket! But let’s be clear, it wasn’t being discussed with clergy, it was told to them. Murphy is quoted as saying “I’m only on the sixth step out of ten. I’m in a process now of trying to tell you the latest thinking. The next steps will be four more meetings. Then when we get to the point that we’re about to pour the concrete, that’s when  we would need to hear back.”

internally and with Rwanda. 

Who in Rwanda? Who internally?

As additional clarity is reached, and an actual proposal is more clearly defined, [my editing follows]:

  1. we intend to – you have to start with intention.
  2. develop a format to – next is developing a format, no easy task.
  3. provide an organized opportunity for – we are getting there, just wait.
  4. clergy and lay representatives from all of our Networks – very nice, and perhaps a new development?
  5. to speak into – not sure what this means, but it is a trendy, Lambeth-like phrase. Perhaps it translates “Indaba.”
  6. the “shape” of a proposed Missionary Society. I suggest a unified church called ACNA. How about you?

Be assured that as decisions are reached regarding any component of our life together, we will communicate that information to you directly.

Of course, we wouldn’t expect anything less than transparency from this outfit.

Because conversations are ongoing as we seek to discern the will of God and the right way forward through wise counsel and prayer, we cannot state definitively the results of this process, but we can make you aware of the conversations, and with confidence and transparency, refute false rumors and offer a different perspective on negative commentary.

You are doing a fine job of this, I admit it. I am glad that you first made us aware of these conversations weeks ago, before we had to hear of them from a video on the web, except that you didn’t.

Our hope is that none of us will become distracted from our mission and ministry.  We ask you to pray for wisdom and discernment as the Anglican Mission and Rwanda seek God’s will and best plan for this missionary movement He has created.  We believe our best days are still ahead as we seek to maintain a long obedience in the same direction.

Copyright Eugene Peterson or Friedrich Nietzsche.

So I’ve had a little fun with this latest balderdash from the folks at theAM. Seriously, they still aren’t putting any substance out there yet. As I wrote earlier today:

Further, Bishop Murphy clearly stated that one reason for moving away from ACNA last year was that “the Mission is embedded in the Constitution and Canons of the Province of Rwanda.” This claim is now disputed by the Washington Statement. It should be a simple matter for AMiA to clear this up: have they, or have they not made a petition to the House of Bishops in Rwanda to become a Missionary Province of Rwanda? Has Bishop Murphy lied, or is there some other explanation? At this point the silence is deafening. Assertion requires evidence. For Rev. Cindy to assert things about AnglicanTV, she should provide some evidence, proving to us that there was no meeting at Pawley’s attended by AMiA clergy where a presentation was made. Bishop Murphy should provide some evidence about the canonical status of AMiA within Rwanda…and the 10/10/10 financial records from the past several years.

Ninth Commandment Issues at Pawley’s Island

The new episode of AnglicanTV is out here. The guys do a great job of calmly and dispassionately having a conversation about how their story came about last week and how news functions. In the course of the episode, George Conger discusses contacting the AMiA’s press officer (Cindy Brust) about the discord at Pawleys, and he says that here response to him was something like:

There was no meeting whatsoever, perhaps I (Conger) had heard about a meeting in Little Rock about pastoral issues. There was no friction or break or rift or anything like that with Rwanda.

This accords well with the heated press release that AMiA issued last week. Once again, it looks like the AMiA is not trustworthy when it comes to these matters. If they claimed that there was NO meeting except something unrelated in Little Rock, they were not telling the truth.

Further, Bishop Murphy clearly stated that one reason for moving away from ACNA last year was that “the Mission is embedded in the Constitution and Canons of the Province of Rwanda.” This claim is now disputed by the Washington Statement. It should be a simple matter for AMiA to clear this up: have they, or have they not made a petition to the House of Bishops in Rwanda to become a Missionary Province of Rwanda? Has Bishop Murphy lied, or is there some other explanation? At this point the silence is deafening. Assertion requires evidence. For Rev. Cindy to assert things about AnglicanTV, she should provide some evidence, proving to us that there was no meeting at Pawley’s attended by AMiA clergy where a presentation was made. Bishop Murphy should provide some evidence about the canonical status of AMiA within Rwanda…and the 10/10/10 financial records from the past several years.




The Week Ahead for AMiA

What does the new week hold in store for theAM? Among other things:

1. The Bishops are having a “retreat” in Pawley’s Island. Never has the word retreat been more apropos.

2. Kevin Donlon circulates his “Factual Theological and Canonical Critique of Is the AMiA’s New Missionary Society Structure the Best Way Forward?” One wishes that Donlon would invest his time and affection for Catholic theology in convincing Bishop Murphy that women’s ordination is neither ancient or Catholic.

3. A new episode of AnglicanTV is due. I imagine they will have a lot to discuss!

The Archbishop Weighs In

In the past few hours, a statement from Archbishop Rwaje and Bishop Murphy was issued, saying in part:

We have recently been made aware that a number of unfounded rumors and false assertions regarding the relationship between the Anglican Mission and Rwanda have begun to swirl in various circles and on the Internet. We are releasing this statement together to urge you not to be misled or distracted by those who would sow destructive seeds of discord through innuendo and commentary, for we know that this is the work and design of the Enemy.

This vague statement doesn’t really answer much of anything. What are the “unfounded rumors”? What are the “false assertions”? Three clergy in good standing have issued a statement of fact, yet to be countered in any meaningful way, in order to foster a discussion. That is what grownups do, they discuss things and have a conversation. This latest attempt to shut down the conversation with an “all is well” press release doesn’t answer any questions. So rather than generalities about “innuendo and commentary,” let’s hope there is a charitable and public discussion going forward.

One possible side affect of the Washington Statement is that it will derail whatever Bishop Murphy had in mind in terms of a College of Consultors. Ultimately, there is no reason for AMiA, CANA or the REC to exist any more. They should all disband and fold into ACNA. Why continue to maintain separate staff, offices and work at cross purposes? Why not shelve these groups before further hardening happens and divisions become permanent? Keeping AMiA apart from ACNA is indeed inviting discord.

A Missionary Jurisdiction of Rwanda?

The AMiA document “A Canonical Charter for Ministry Of the Anglican Mission in the Americas” says, “The Anglican Mission is a Missionary Jurisdiction of the Anglican Province of Rwanda…” (Article 1). Bishop Chuck Murphy has written that, “The Anglican Mission Charter states that the Anglican Mission remains as a missionary outreach of the Province of Rwanda, and in addition, the Mission is embedded in the Constitution and Canons of the Province of Rwanda.”

And yet, the Washington Statement issued by three AMiA clergy says:

In 2007, Kevin Donlon wrote new canons for the Province of Rwanda, which were then approved by the Province. The canons do not mention the AMiA, but they do make provision for organizations such as the AMiA to become “missionary jurisdictions” of the province through petitioning the House of Bishops.The AMiA has yet to make such a petition. Consequently, the AMiA’s Canonical Charter for Ministry (9/2009) wrongly identifies the Anglican Mission as a missionary jurisdiction. Further, it is incorrect to say, as Bp Murphy has often said, that the AMiA “is embedded in the Constitution and Canons of the Province of Rwanda.”In truth, the AMiA exists as a “Personal Prelature,” i.e. a  personal ministry initiative of a bishop, in this case, Abp Kolini until his retirement, and  now Abp Rwaje, who will serve for another 6 years.

The question should be put to the leadership of AMiA: why this discrepancy? Why hasn’t AMiA made such a petition? And wasn’t this one of the driving reasons behind the move away from ACNA last year?

Comparing the Statements

Let’s compare the Washington Statement with the AMiA press release and do a little exegesis. The AMiA’s statement is on the left, the Washington Statement is on the right.

On Tuesday, October 25, Mr. Conger made a call to Cynthia Brust, our Director of Communications, requesting confirmation of a “source’s” claim that the Anglican Mission Council of Bishops met the week before and decided to break their relationship with the Anglican Province of Rwanda. He was told that the information was not correct and that the source was misinformed. He followed up with an email dated October 31, indicating it was a “query” from the Church of England Newspaper. The AMiA will transition from an outreach of the Province of Rwanda into a missionary society in the tradition of religious orders such as the Jesuits).The AMiA will no longer be under direct oversight of the Archbishop of Rwanda, but instead under a “College of Consultors,” i.e. seated or former archbishops.
Perhaps we could say that “the information was not correct” in that a final decision has not been made to pursue this course of action, but that would be to cast a Clintonian view on the words that were presented to the Council of Bishops. As the Washington Statement shows, theAM was indeed planning to alter the relationship with Rwanda. We could quibble about the word “break”, but the intent seems clear.
It read in part: “What I have been told is that the Anglican Mission is exploring pulling out from the oversight of the Church of Rwanda. It will either find a new sponsor from among the GS primates, or ask Archbishop Kolini to be its sponsor. College will consist of retired Abp Kolini of Rwanda, and Abps Tay and Yong of SE Asia. Bp Murphy will transition from Primatial Vicar to “Apostolic Vicar.” While executive authority will be the responsibility of the Consultors, it will be largely delegated to the Apostolic Vicar and his “apparatus,” i.e. the national office of the AMiA.
Yes indeed, the Washington Statement shows that Archbishops Kolini, Tay and Yong are envisioned as part of the odd new structure concocted by Pawley’s Island. Conger et al are correct again.
The reason for this move, I am told, is friction over the decision of the Rwandans not to approve some episcopal appointments proposed by the Anglican Mission.” We responded to that email early yesterday afternoon (November 2) making it very clear that Mr. Conger’s source or sources were ill informed and clearly stating the Anglican Mission’s and Rwanda’s mutual desire to remain connected. The proposed structure doesn’t preclude “reverse colonialism” either. The Chairman coined this term in response to efforts by the Rwandan House of Bishops to provide to the AMiA increased oversight, particularly with regard to finances and the selection of senior leadership.
Calling oversight “reverse colonialism” sounds a bit like friction to me.
All of the concepts discussed, including the creation of a defined “society for apostolic work,” or “Missionary Society,” include an expectation that we will remain connected to Rwanda, and theAM leaders are working collaboratively, as always, with Rwandan leaders. These conversations with leadership on both sides of the Atlantic remain ongoing, and it is important to note that no decisions have been made – we are in a process of conversations only, and frankly any public discussion is premature at best. Religious orders must abide by a set of canons; the AMiA will voluntarily submit to the canons of Rwanda. For the time being, AMiA clergy will remain credentialed in Rwanda.
If by “connected to Rwanda” you mean “voluntarily submitting to their canons for the time being” then I guess you could say that.
2. There has not been “friction” or “discord” about appointing bishops for the Anglican Mission. A planned discussion of the possibility of new bishops at the Rwanda House of Bishops meeting in June was not brought forward simply because the two-day meeting had to be reduced to one-day due to a funeral. The very full agenda did not allow for a conversation about new bishops. The proposed structure doesn’t preclude “reverse colonialism” either. The Chairman coined this term in response to efforts by the Rwandan House of Bishops to provide to the AMiA increased oversight, particularly with regard to finances and the selection of senior leadership.

No friction or reverse colonialism due to ‘increased oversight…with regard to…the selection of senior leadership’ Score another one for Anglican Unscripted.

3. Bishop Murphy has in no way changed his personal position on women’s ordination to the priesthood, but the Anglican Mission in the Americas has made room for two integrities and two positions on this issue for two reasons: the Province of Rwanda does ordain women to the presbyterate, and the Anglican Communion is in a period of reception. There is no general acceptance of women’s ordination in the Anglican Mission, but we have chosen to live in the tension of two theological positions out of mutual respect. The new structure will permit the ordination of women to the priesthood but not require it. AMiA clergy will opt for either the Normative Rite (male presbyters) or the Provisional Rite (male and female presbyters) according to preference.

Bishop Murphy may not have changed his “personal position” but the envisioned changes seem to make women’s ordination possible with AMiA itself, instead of just all the various legal sub-groups. Anglican Unscripted is correct again.

The conclusion of theAM statement is very strident, calling Anglican Unscripted’s reporting false, uncorroborated and questioning motives. The decent thing for Bishop Murphy and Rev. Brust to do would be to apologize to Conger and Kallsen for this kind of exaggerated rhetoric.

AMiA: the Plot Thickens

Today, the Director of Communications for the AMiA, the Reverend Cynthia Brust, saw fit to put together a press release expressing outrage over yesterday’s Anglican TV episode that mentioned the internal turmoil of the organization. As organizations in this situation usually do, the statement questions the motives of the reporters and the sources of their information. It sort of reminds you of Herman Cain, attacking Rick Perry and the media for his problems.

Unfortunately for Reverend Brust, three clergy from AMiA churches who were at the meetings in question issued an article that seems to validate everything Anglican TV reported. So now rather than throwing around phrases like “unnamed sources that can only be considered as propagating unfounded rumors”, theAM will have to deal with what is actually going on, rather than who said what to whom and why did they say it?

Knuckleheads like me are left to wonder what prompted this faux outrage from Pawley’s Island? Could it be that they didn’t want any of their plans leaked until the concrete was poured and the new structure was a fait accompli?

Rev. Brust says that “Anglican Mission leadership has been considering a proposal centering on formalizing a missionary society, discussing this proposal widely in an ordered and sequential way.” If this is the case, then the folks at Pawley’s shouldn’t be unhappy with the “proposal” being discussed a bit more widely, although not in perhaps as orderly a fashion as they had hoped for.