The Sociology of the Church

Some unrelated quotes from the book:

…the reasons for denominational diversity are deep-seated, complex, and cannot be removed by a wave of a magic wand or anathema. The problem can only be effectively resolved by local communication, cooperation, and prayer. It must be recognized by all parties that there are legitimate strengths and weaknesses in all the branches of the church.

The very best, and indeed only way to overcome disunity is to take as much of the truth as possible, make it as visible as possible through life and proclamation, and suffuse one’s life with as much communion with God as possible. These radical steps may seem calculated to separate the church further from itself, and they are indeed the opposite of the worldly lowest common denominator approach to unity, but they are the only steps God will honor.

The schism is the failure to maintain communion with God, and to recognize the sacramental presence of Christ in other churches.

Also, the teacher in the institutional church has a right to expect a special power from the Holy Spirit in his teaching that the parachurch teacher cannot claim.

The second commandment forbids bowing down and serving anything made by human hands in an attempt to conjure and manipulate God. It does not forbid the making of artistic or symbolic objects, nor does it forbid their placement in the environment of worship.

The most obvious bodily movement missing from “Bible believing Protestant” culture and worship is the sacred dance. The psalms repeatedly enjoin dancing, yet psalm-singing churches do not dance, and neither do hymn-singing churches. If there was ever proof that a Greek rationalistic intellectualism has robbed the church of her Biblical foundations, this is it. The African churches, which have not been ruined by rationalism, use dancing. Perhaps we shall learn from them.

in spite of all the yelling about abortion, and all the rhetoric about abortion’s being murder, how many evangelical leaders have come out and demanded the death penalty for conspiracy to commit abortion? Has anybody? No wonder God does not take evangelicalism seriously!

Conversion from the Top Down

I finally finished reading James Jordan’s The Sociology of the Church today. I am looking over bits of it and re-read this section on converting the nations:

Americans (evangelicals) like to believe the myth that society is transformed from the “bottom up” and not from the “top down.” This flies squarely in the face both of history and of Scripture. The history of Israel, as recorded in Scripture, is not a history of revivals from the bottom up, but of kings and their actions. Good kings produced a good nation; bad kings a bad nation. The order is always seen from the top down, though of course with real feedback from the bottom up.

To my knowledge, there has never been, in the entire history of Presbyterianism, a man who was set aside to be a scholar and writer. Without exception, Presbyterians load their best men down with detail and trivial tasks, so that they accomplish little. Their best thinkers are made teachers in theological institutions, where they are made to spend their days going over basics with young, immature men just out of generally worthless college educations.

We can contrast this with the armies of scholars maintained by Rome, and the small cadre maintained in Episcopalian circles. The difference is marked, and points to the fundamental difference between these two groups.The catholic party (Roman and Anglican) is frankly elitist. It strives to convert and control the elite in society, and it arms its best men for that task, giving them time for reflection and writing. The evangelical party (Presbyterian and Baptist, especially the later) is infected largely with the heresy of democracy, and believes (wrongly) that the conversion of society comes with the conversion of the masses.

Immersive Scripture Reading

Joe Carter has an excellent post at First Things on changing your life by absorbing Scripture. He says:

1. Choose a book of the Bible.

2. Read it in its entirety.

3. Repeat step #2 twenty times.

4. Repeat this process for all books of the Bible.

Christians often talk about having a Biblical worldview yet most have only a rudimentary knowledge of the Bible. They attempt to build a framework without first gathering the lumber and cement needed to create a solid foundation. The benefits of following this process should therefore be obvious. By fully immersing yourself into the text you’ll come to truly know the text. You’ll deepen your understanding of each book and knowledge of the  the Bible as a whole.

Read the whole thing.

Calvin on Hyper-Charismatics

Calvin discusses those who pit the Holy Spirit against the Scripture:

For certain giddy men have lately appeared, who, while they make a great display of the superiority of the Spirit, reject all reading of the Scriptures themselves, and deride the simplicity of those who only delight in what they call the dead and deadly letter…

But what kind of Spirit did our Savior promise to send? One who should not speak of himself (John 16.13), but suggest and instill the truths which he himself had delivered through the word. Hence the office of the Spirit promised to us, is not to form new and unheard-of revelations, or to coin a new form of doctrine…

From Institutes I.IX.1

V. AMiA Upheaval – The Road Ahead

I suspect that the Pawleys Island group wants to have something concrete in place to present to folks at the Winter Conference. I don’t see any way that this is possible given what Archbishop Duncan has said. The course suggested by Archbishop Duncan will require time, effort and discussion.

The Pawleys Island group is currently a continuing church, not attached to any Province of the Communion. It has an invented College of Consultors that it claims are providing it oversight and somehow connecting it to the Communion, but both of those claims are dubious. The Washington Statement said, “The Anglican Mission in its current form is a hierarchy in search of a polity” and that has proven to be true. If the Pawleys Island organization can somehow find its way into ACNA, what will it look like, who will remain with it, and what will it do? I have a few guesses:

  1. It needs fewer bishops, not more. Perhaps some of the bishops who have been around longer could step down. The Pawleys group has resisted folding in to ACNA’s geographical dioceses, but one theoretical solution is for this group to simply cease to exist, with its churches fully absorbed into ACNA and its bishops working geographically, or however Archbishop Duncan sees fit for them to work. I see this option as highly unlikely, but the prospect of 7-10 more bishops with not that many churches strikes me as less than optimal.
  2. Could Archbishop Duncan actually embrace the missionary society as outlined by Pawleys Island? I cannot see him sanctioning something as disruptive and unaccountable as what is currently drawn up, but I won’t rule anything out.
  3. I suspect that the current Council of Bishops could find a way to report to ACNA as a Mission Partner, with leadership changes, and with a subset of the former AMiA churches. Perhaps it could be sold as a ‘missionary society’ within ACNA and with the purpose of planting churches in the Americas only, but then what about Anglican 1000? And why exist as a separate structure at all?
  4. I think several existing churches will simply join ACNA of their own accord and say enough of the shenanigans. The individual congregations are free to do whatever they want, and if they have seen enough drama over the past few months, they might head for greener pastures.

Another possibility is that negotiations break down due to something like “a difference in vision.” ACNA’s demands may be too much for Pawleys Island to bear, and they could go looking for another suitor. I can’t imagine who that would be, but we can’t say that this group isn’t creative, so maybe they could come up with someone else. And as the bishops said, “several options have been considered and have presented themselves to us…” ACNA is only one option, one that they probably felt the most pressure to attempt.

I expect the clergy at the Winter Conference to endorse the missionary society ‘nothing more, nothing less’ concept and give the resigned bishops a blank check to negotiate on their behalf. They will land somewhere in the next few months. Given that the churches staying loyal to PEAR are generally the more classically Anglican parishes, what you will have left in the new AM is the emergent, “accidental Anglican” theology, the Kevin Donlon ‘Celtic’ Catholic theology complete with copious canon law, the women’s ordination theology advocated by Cynthia Brust, and miscellaneous a-theological or anything goes thinking in some quarters. There is no unifying prayer book, and indeed the very concept of a prayer *book* is more and more remote. What you will have in short is 1970’s Episcopalianism with somebody akin to a Jesuit near the top setting the rules.

Next, consider the group affiliated with PEAR. I don’t know what to call it, because although the Apostles Mission Network of the former AMiA is the core of the group, no one has officially named it. For the moment I will call these churches the “Rwandan churches.” This group has been silent for the most part throughout this entire upheaval. Bishop Glenn issued a letter when he resigned, bishops Glenn and Barnum issued the call for an Advent respite, and now Archbishop Rwaje has announced the Moving Forward Together assembly in Raleigh, almost immediately after the Winter Conference. Other than this, you have not seen the Rwandan churches providing press releases and interviews with David Virtue.

I have no clear indication of what the results of this assembly will be. I think that it will legitimately look for a collaborative way forward with the PEAR bishops. I don’t think the decisions coming from the assembly are pre-ordained, scripted or stage-managed. So it is harder for me to guess at what the Rwandan churches will do in the future. My hope is for a recommitment to the principles of the Solemn Declaration, the 39 Articles, the Jerusalem Declaration and historic Anglican norms. I know there will be a continued commitment to reaching the lost with the Gospel and planting churches, something we share with all sections of  ACNA and Pawleys Island. Hopefully there will be a commitment to begin our own discussions with ACNA about the eventual union of our two groups. I would eventually like to see a diocese of affinity within ACNA that is committed to a Reformed Anglican position, against women’s ordination, and nimble about ordaining new clergy and planting solid churches. But all this remains to be seen.

In closing, it is worth considering how the stated purpose of the Washington Statement remains unfulfilled. The Statement said, “Our purpose in writing this document is to speak the truth in love, in hopes of fostering honest and open dialogue together, for the sake of our shared Gospel mission to North America.” That honest and open dialogue was never had. Instead, precipitous decisions occurred and attempts were made to shut discussion down. There is a lesson here for ACNA and anyone else willing to heed it: discussions of theology, ecclesiology and just about anything else should be open for all clergy to participate in, and should be transparent to the watching world. Hiding documents from the public view or keeping things secret until it is too late to change them is not consistent with the praxis of a healthy communion of churches.

IV. AMiA Upheaval – A Changing Course

After the meeting in London between the Triumvirate of former Archbishops, the ever present Canon Donlon and Bishop Murphy, the Pawleys Island leadership regrouped in North Carolina.   Next, they sent two of the resigned bishops to Pittsburgh to meet with ACNA Archbishop Robert Duncan.

Archbishop Duncan issued a Pastoral Letter following this meeting. What follows are my comments on parts of the letter.

For the Anglican Church in North America the starting point was the importance of our Provincial relationship with the Province of Rwanda (a sister GAFCON Province) and with His Grace Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje, of our relationship with the North American Bishops Terrell Glenn and Thad Barnum and all the clergy licensed in Rwanda, and of our relationship to those represented by the Pawleys Island group with whom we were meeting. We, as the Anglican Church in North America, have been deeply connected to all three, and we can only move forward when issues and relationships have been adequately addressed and necessary transitions are in progress.

Archbishop Duncan wisely tells the Pawleys Island group that there must be some degree of restoration with the Rwandan House of Bishops. Consider that in the previous weeks, these PEAR bishops were attacked by Pawleys-aligned clergy and former Archbishops as being akin to Pharaoh and Lot and being part of a plot by Satanic forces! The tone of communication since beginning to dialog with ACNA has markedly changed. The harsh rhetoric has been replaced with pleas for harmony and an end to criticism.

The agreement from today’s meeting in Pittsburgh was that the Anglican Church in North America is prepared to enter into a process by which our relationship with those who will rally to the Pawleys’ vision and leadership (Anglican Mission in the Americas, Inc.) might be restored to a status like the one existing before the Ministry Partner decision of 2010.

Archbishop Duncan is outlining something that will take time and will result in a mission partner status at the end of the line. This status was rejected by Bishop Murphy in 2010 when he claimed that AMiA was “embedded in the constitution and canons of Rwanda.”

All those at the meeting today agreed “that there were no subjects that were not on the table.” For the Anglican Church in North America, these subjects must include leadership, relationships, and jurisdictional participation in a way that is fully Anglican.

Archbishop Duncan mentions three factors, the first being leadership. The mere mention of the term with no elucidation of meaning leaves us to guess at what is implied. I hazard a guess that the existing structure of a Triumvirate of ex Archbishops and Bishop Murphy as “the ecclesiastical authority” will not do. The second factor mentioned is relationships and it is easy for us to figure out what that refers to, namely, the many broken ties between bishops, clergy and others. I am not sure that there is a way forward on that front other than to agree to disagree, but God is capable of great things. Thirdly, Archbishop Duncan says that the structure and relationship of whatever the AMiA becomes and ACNA must be fully Anglican. I believe he is implying that reporting to a College of former Archbishops won’t cut it. Only in time will we realize the full implications of his statement.

We made a partial beginning. Bishops Leonard Riches and Charlie Masters agreed to lead the negotiations from the Anglican Church in North America. Bishops Doc Loomis and TJ Johnston will lead from the AMiA side. There is much about what has happened that will have to be faced.

I think this implies that the resignation and flight from discipline will have to be acknowledged and somehow dealt with before anything else can happen.

The other part of this beginning will be to come alongside P.E.A.R. and their designated bishops (Barnum and Glenn), clergy, people and parishes in North America as they discern their next steps.

Whatever happens with the Pawleys Island group, I expect relations between ACNA and the Apostles Mission churches to be fraternal, cordial and ultimately, unifying.

Shortly after the Archbishop’s letter appeared, the Pawleys Island leadership issued its own letter. Note a couple important features of the latest communication:

First, it did not come from Bishop Murphy or Rev. Cindy Brust. This is not to say that they did no have a hand in crafting it, but the email was sent from the email address of Bishop T.J. Johnston and was signed by the “Council of Bishops” minus Bishop Murphy. This is the first time in recent memory that communications have not flown directly from the office of “the Chairman.”

Second, in a complete volte-face, the aggressive and hostile communication that began with the resignation letter to Archbishop Rwaje ended, and in its place we find language of conciliation. The Pawleys letter first apologizes “for the fallout that you have felt” from the “collision” between PEAR and the Pawleys Island bishops.

The Pawleys letter then repeats the language of Archbishop Kolini et al in saying “Nor are the attacks, in particular, against our Chairman, Bishop Chuck Murphy, true in regard to his character or leadership.” I am not sure what this refers to, but I know that I have called into question the truthfulness of statements made by Bishop Murphy and I see no reason to change my mind. If anything, events have now proven that Bishop Murphy was not honest about the status of AMiA when he changed the mission partner status with ACNA in 2010. Nevertheless, the Pawleys letter is not specific, so I cannot be specific in assessing it, because I don’t know what it refers to.

The Pawleys letter blames the new bishops in PEAR for wanting to “exercise much greater control over the day-to-day operations and direction of the Anglican Mission, moving in a direction that is inconsistent with anything that had been fully discussed or engaged in over the past thirteen years.” Why is this a bad thing? Is the oversight of the Kolini era, which appears to have been no oversight, the only acceptable form of ecclesiastical relationship? What does it say to Archbishop Duncan as he weighs allowing these bishops into some form of relationship with ACNA? It seems that Archbishop Duncan, or anyone else, should not exercise any meaningful oversight over this group, because they can’t handle it.

The Pawleys letter then describes the missionary society yet again. No one from Pawleys has yet made an argument for why this society is necessary. The Church by her very nature is to be a missionary endeavor. The Great Commission is part of the warp and woof of every single church. Further, ACNA is clearly committed to evangelization. Further still, AMiA used to claim the narrative of “Rwanda re-evangelizing America.” So what possible need is there for yet another change in structure, ecclesiology, and theology? To me, it suggests a greater desire for autonomy, control, and theological deviation from Anglican norms. There is no pressing missiological reason for AMiA to adopt a new structure.

The letter says “For today, we will leave the details of these past nine months to history. Things will all be made clearer as the dust settles, as relationships are restored and truth comes to light…We will not speak further of what has happened save in the pursuit of reconciliation among our Houses.”

This reflects the apparent belief of Pawleys Island that they are in possession of the true narrative of what has happened. They have not provided an account of why Bishop Murphy separated from ACNA in 2010, only to now approach ACNA again in a time of distress. They have not accounted for Canon Donlon’s activities, or the reason why Donlon inserted provisions for ‘a missionary jurisdiction, a missionary society, or an extra-territorial missionary diocese’ in Title Six of the Rwandan Canons way back in 2007. Historically, PEAR never had any extra-territorial outreach, but Donlon saw fit to provide for three alternate structures for such a purpose in their canons. As someone told me, “It looks like Murphy was putting the possibility of these structures in place to accommodate his future plans as early as 2007.” Truth is indeed the daughter of time.

The Pawleys letter says:

Although several options have been considered and have presented themselves to us, in prayer and conversation with many of you, it became clear that a process of discernment should first be engaged with the Anglican Church in North America.

Note the claim of “several options.” My take on this is that the clergy, baffled by what had just occurred, pressed their leaders in the conference call with Doc Loomis to work with ACNA. So bishops Loomis and Johnston are now working with ACNA “first” but not exclusively. What may develop is a conflict between Bishop Murphy’s desire for control and continued leadership, versus ACNA’s desire for legitimate Anglican structures. Also, how does ACNA bring in at least seven more bishops for 80-100 churches? The bishop to laity ratio is becoming absurd in the rump AMiA. Add to this the desire to make Shuler a bishop and who knows how many other potential bishops in waiting (all declined by the PEAR HOB this summer) and you have a more and more top-heavy structure, despite protests to the contrary.

A close reading of these letters provides several hints that Bishop Murphy may be shown the door. The Pawleys letter says that “strategic decisions” have to be made, and says “a number of important leadership issues and transitions…would be involved in formalizing a Missionary Society.” Finally, it says, “the Council affirmed Bishop Murphy’s leadership as Chairman, even as all of us, including Bishop Murphy, acknowledged that in this time of transition to a Missionary Society, current positions and leadership roles are likely to change.” In all likelihood, the coming days will involve a set of decisions about what is more important to AMiA, Bishop Murphy maintaining his choke hold on leadership with Pawleys Island exploring some of the other “several options,” or the Council of Bishops moving to ACNA somehow and Bishop Murphy departing for the lecture circuit as “Chairman Emeritus” or something like that.

In my next post, I will do some guesswork on the road ahead.

III. AMiA Upheaval – Outline of the New Thing

Bishop Murphy’s resignation letter to Archbishop Rwaje had a dual audience, being intended for public consumption as well as the Archbishop’s eye. In the letter, Bishop Murphy announced that the Lord was doing a “‘new thing’…with the Mission.” What exactly did Bishop Murphy and Canon Donlon have in mind for this new thing? What would the theology and ecclesiology be?"What the heck is an ius Commune Anglicanae Kevin?"

Glimpses of the new thing started appearing with The “Anglican Mission in the Americas Communiqué from the London Meeting,” which said:

Our current situation necessitates [sic] a clear response based on what we have heard from the Lord, and therefore we commit to the creation of a missionary society as a cherished and honored model recognized within the wider Eastern and Western traditions of the Church.

Two brief comments here before continuing: Bishop Murphy and Canon Donlon had been peddling this missionary society for some months, so it is a rhetorical device to say that this proposal was a new response to events in PEAR. Second, the mention of “the wider Eastern and Western traditions of the Church” reflects the continued quest of Canon Donlon for a radically re-imagined Anglican Communion, made in the image of Oriental Rite Catholicism. Donlon signaled this goal several years ago when he wrote:

The fontes exemplars that would be helpful in strengthening the Windsor Covenant are laws and customs from the Oriental traditions, which Anglicanism shares a some common features with…An example from a Byzantine source could be found in the Codex Canonum Ecclesiarium Orientalum. In this codex from the Oriental Rite here applied to Anglicanism, common law designates laws and lawful customs that would be common to all Anglican churches.

The Communique went on to say that a new structure would be a “mission…nothing more, nothing less in North America and beyond.” The “nothing more, nothing less” tagline is the marketing angle adopted by the Pawleys Island leadership to sell whatever concept they concoct to their donors and the watching Anglican world. But what should jump off the page to you is the phrase “in North America and beyond” [emphasis added]. What does “and beyond” imply? Robin Jordan, who has been doing yeoman’s work on the situation for years, wrote a very intriguing post which said in part:

Murphy’s proposed restructuring of the AMiA would enable him to expand the AMiA’s sphere of operation and his jurisdiction beyond Canada, the United States, and its territories. Instead of being a missionary organization targeted at the unchurched population of North America, the AMiA would be international in scope.

A further glimpse behind the curtain was provided by the internet poster “Theophorus” who has posted several places with a wealth of details. In a comment at Stand Firm, he wrote:

The Rwandan House of Bishops knew that Chuck Murphy had larger plans than evangelizing America. He had pushed the Rev. Jon Shuler to ask ++Rwaje to make him (Shuler) a Missionary Bishop of the AM and Primatial Vicar over a world wide Missionary Society that would send missionaries all over the world to preach the gospel and provide an Anglican presence wherever there might be a need. (this letter is floating around). The Rwandese were incredulous that their missionary jurisdiction in North America was presuming to become a ‘worldwide’ Mission Society without even consulting them.

Now, for those with an interest in the backstory of what this situation is really all about, here is another key piece of the puzzle. The Washington Statement itself had not provided this level of detail, namely, that AMiA would functionally become the “Anglican Mission to the World” all reporting back to Chuck Murphy, and with a strange brew of women’s ordination, emergent church theology, and doctrines totally rejected by the Anglican reformers but resurrected by Canon Kevin Donlon. This is not conjecture as the London Communiqué confirmed it in using the phrase “in North America and beyond.”

Stop and think of the breathtaking audacity of this idea for a minute. What does it say to the Primates of other Provinces and to ACNA that an essentially parachurch ministry would go around the world planting churches wherever it jolly well feels like, and reporting to an unheard of creation from the mind of Canon Donlon? Donlon’s desire to emulate Byzantine Rite Catholicism would truly come to fruition with this many headed hydra.

Also, think of what a reversal this is from the founding purpose of AMiA. The Rwandans and others provided a life raft for orthodox Anglicans so that they could advance the gospel in America until an orthodox province could re-emerge. Now, a mere eleven years later, with an orthodox province emerging, Bishop Murphy apparently thought the time to be ripe for jettisoning Rwandan oversight in order to go around the world planting churches that would not report to their own local Province, but rather report to Pawleys Island, a new Canterbury for these modern times.

The proposed outline for the “new thing” is given in “A Pastoral Declaration for Ministry in The Anglican Mission in the Americas,” another of the many statements pouring forth lately. This document appears be a collaborative effort but the grammar again points to the hand of Canon Donlon. Some points of interest from this “Pastoral Declaration” are:

  • The AM is about “building an alliance of faith communities in the Americas…” Does this imply that it would branch out beyond the the confines of Anglicanism in order to plant churches in other traditions as well?
  • The Declaration makes frequent references to ACNA, at one point claiming “The ecclesiastical organization of the Anglican Mission as a Ministry Partner with ACNA provides for ecclesial structures that complement this particular ministry which has precedent in the historic church.” This contorted grammar could simply be translated ‘we are a Ministry Partner of ACNA and are therefore legitimate.’ Archbishop Duncan destroyed this concept within days by saying: “The Anglican Mission also lost its status as a Ministry Partner, since that status had been predicated on AMiA’s relationship with Rwanda.”
  • There is something of a fantasy-land aspect to the array of titles and bodies set up by the Declaration. The amount of titles and structures for a group of 100 or so churches reflects an aura of grandeur that does not reflect reality. The proposed organization boils down to:

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Sponsoring Primates

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Lead Bishop

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College of Mission Bishops

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Archdeacon

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Canons

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Network Leaders

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The “Lead Bishop” (aka Chuck Murphy) would be “the ecclesiastical authority” who would govern “all spiritual, pastoral, and ecclesiastical matters of the Anglican Mission.” Does that sound like a missionary effort or like an exalted Archbishop of Canterbury to you?

The Declaration again leans on ACNA for legitimacy, claiming “The College of Mission Bishops, as members of the emerging mission society enjoy a canonical status in the ACNA.” This means that the bishops who resigned with Murphy en masse are really still cool with ACNA and so they lend legitimacy to this unheard of structure. Archbishop Duncan saw fit to reject this claim when he wrote: “The resigned bishops lost their status in our College of Bishops as a result of their resignation from Rwanda.”

What the Declaration does *not* mention are the Articles of Religion, the Solemn Declaration, or anything else recognizably Anglican. In fact, it throws this gem in at the end: “When necessary, this Pastoral Declaration shall be amended by the College of Episcopal Delegates who may consult with…experts in ecclesiastical law and other appropriate consultative persons and or bodies to ensure continuity with the tradition of the church East and West.” I take this to mean that traces of classical Anglicanism will be erased to keep the church in conformity to the very tenets of theology rejected by our early Divines.

There you have it. The “new thing” would be a church planting structure reporting to Chuck Murphy, reflecting very little traditional Anglicanism, and almost unaccountable to anyone outside his hand-picked circle of former Primates. How exactly this could fit inside ACNA in a coherent way is hard to imagine. The proposal was made, concrete was being poured, and then Archbishop Duncan spoke, and that leads me to my next post…

II. AMiA Upheaval – Continuing Pawleys Island Reactions

As I mentioned in my last post, the initial reactions from those more aligned with the vision of the Pawleys Island leadership was to issue some public accounts of what had happened. These initial responses obliquely compared Bishop Murphy to Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, and the Wesleys. Rev. Quay said that Murphy “basically made the same decision that Luther did.” The implication of these comparisons is astonishing, and it also begs the question of what exactly was preventing Bishop Murphy et al. from being a mission before this Fall? Were they not able to plant churches and ordain clergy for the past ten years? What were the presenting theological issues that necessitated flight from Rwanda just when Rwanda was first starting to exercise some serious oversight of events on the ground?

An initial email from Rev. Cindy Brust blamed the resignation and flight from church discipline on “unforeseen and extraordinary circumstances” and said “these events came as a significant surprise to all of us, and circumstances beyond our control have necessitated [sic] rapid decisions and actions.” No mention was made in Brust’s email of the impending removal of Bishop Murphy from his role as Chairman of AMiA, instead, the hazy language of unforeseen circumstances was put forward, with no other details provided. The end of the email from Brust included an odd list of testimonials to the greatness of AMiA from various bishops, in the manner of a political advertisement or product endorsement. Also, it clearly signaled a division between former Archbishop Kolini and the very Rwandan House of Bishops that he had left behind.

Eight days later, another email came from the Pawleys Island leadership, this time announcing a foregone conclusion – the support of bishops Kolini, Tay and Chung for Murphy’s new initiative. I will outline the details of the proposed Society in my next post, so I won’t dwell on it here. This 16 December communication from Rev. Brust again failed to mention any impending discipline as the spur for Murphy and the other bishops to resign, and again spoke hazily of a “rapid and dramatic chain of events that have led to this moment” and said that, “We grieve [for] the pain caused by such a radical and sudden change…” A video attached to the email featured Bishop Murphy talking about a “painful period” of making “touch decisions.” Murphy claimed to have felt the Lord’s presence and received God’s direction for the new Mission Society in “North America and beyond” for the next 50 years. The charismatic language of “covering” was used to justify the ad hoc structure of Murphy and the Pawleys Island group reporting to the three former Archbishops.

A letter from the Triumvirate of Archbishops and Bishop Murphy did not spend any time on responding to church discipline or discussing theological issues of substance, but instead claimed: “we believe God is showing us His direction for the future of the Anglican Mission.” Yet another letter entitled “Apostolic Covering and Oversight” referred to PEAR as having violated “their own canonical norms and processes as set forth in their canon” in a clear nod to Canon Donlon.

The letter echoed earlier language used by Bishop Murphy in that the Triumvirate of bishops said,“We clearly discerned that there were unseen strong hands behind all these with the clear and determined intention of destroying the good relationship between AMiA and PEAR.” It needs to be pointed out that Bishop Murphy could have submitted to PEAR, even if he felt he was wronged, and strived to work out the relationship over time. His precipitous actions were not those of one concerned with collegiality, honest give and take and consultation with those whom he shepherds, but rather spoke to an executive style of leadership that brooks no dissent and reacts unfavorably to questions.

The letter went on to discuss “character assassination” directed towards Bishop Murphy. I am not sure what the bishops are referring to with this charge, because they don’t get into specifics. Certainly, a lot of heated rhetoric was generated during those weeks, but I’m not sure that anything rose to the level of character assassination. If anything, the charges leveled against bishop Alexis were a clear case of character assassination. The letter compared the Pawleys Island bishops to Christ in turning the other cheek when smitten.

I would emphasize how impossible it is to clearly discuss underlying issues when the mere asking of questions generates grossly overinflated charges of Satanic activity, character assassination, comparisons to Pharaoh, and so on. Central questions of theology and ecclesiology are ignored, while marketing tactics substitute for deep dialog. The behavior of the Triumvirate of bishops has cast an unfortunate pall on their earlier history of AMiA, something that never should have happened.

Essentially, the reaction of Pawleys Island from the time of the resignation through the meeting in London was strident, aggressive and supremely self assured of God’s leadership via charismatic promptings and feelings. In my next post, I will describe a bit of what we know of the proposed Mission Society, which is essentially designed to be a communion within the Communion, reporting to Chuck Murphy.

I. AMiA Upheaval – Discipline and Resignations

Much has happened since the Rwandan House of Bishops threatened to remove Bishop Murphy as the head of what was the AMiA. It was hard to keep abreast of developments for a time as events were happening on a day to day basis. Let me summarize what I see as the strategy of the Pawleys Island leadership (as named by Archbishop Duncan) to date.

First, to avoid the immediate loss of authority over the former AMiA, the majority of the AMiA bishops resigned en masse at the eleventh hour on December 5th, essentially fleeing church discipline. This resignation was communicated via two letters, one from Bishop Murphy, the other ostensibly from Murphy, but clearly written by Canon Kevin Donlon, with his trademark underlining, bolded, italicized underlining, and references to the canons he foisted upon Rwanda several years ago. The AMiA bishops signed the Donlon/Murphy letter, minus Thad Barnum and the resigned Terrell Glenn.

These letters adopted the stance that the Pawleys Island leadership had the authority to release to Rwandan oversight parishes within AMiA that wanted to remain with Rwanda, rather than the Pawleys Island leadership structure. The letters were part of a broader approach to the media that reversed an earlier reticence to speak. However, the articles that appeared failed to answer several key questions. But I am getting ahead of myself. The PR strategy included an interview with Anglican Ink. Before the resignations were made public, someone (probably Brust)  told Anglican Ink:

A spokesman for Bishop Murphy told Anglican Ink the proposed reorganization has “required the [AMiA] and the Province of Rwanda to engage in substantive dialogues, and we seek to ensure that our unique cultures are in clear communication with each other.”

“It has required that we listen carefully to one another in our attempts to fully understand all of the issues involved from one another’s cultural perspectives,” the spokesman said, noting the 30 Nov letter was “part of that yet unfinished dialogue and it will be addressed as our Archbishop has required.”

The impending discipline was referred to as dialogue and clarification was mentioned, when in fact very clear boundaries had been set and a “cease and desist” order regarding the new Mission Society had been issued.

After the break with Rwanda, Brust chalked up the mass resignation to a difference of opinion, no mention being made of the impending church discipline:

Brust said AMIA has every intention of remaining a part of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The association will seek a group of retired archbishops to serve as a college of consultors and connect to an undetermined Anglican province.

“It’s just a difference of opinion in the way Rwanda wanted to move forward and what the Anglican Mission felt like God was leading us to do,” Brust said.

The Pawleys Island leadership then released to David Virtue some of the notes from the November 17-18 meeting between Bishop Murphy, Canon Donlon and Bishop Mbanda and Archbishop Rwaje in Washington D.C. It is interesting to note that no one has characterized this meeting publicly except Bishop Murphy and other former AMiA clergy. As far as I can tell, David Virtue did not contact Mbanda or Rwaje to ask what their side of the story of the D.C. meeting was. If he did, there is no evidence of it in his reporting.

Four days after this precipitous resignation, Archbishop Rwaje appointed bishops Glenn and Barnum to oversee the clergy and congregations remaining affiliated with the Province of the Anglican Church of Rwanda (PEAR). Archbishop Rwaje further stated that the resigned Pawleys Island leadership had “forfeited their authority over those clergy and congregations that have been affiliated with Rwanda through AMiA.”

After these events, two stories appeared publicly from clergy loyal to the Pawleys Island leadership. The first from Rev. Mark Quay leveled particularly incendiary charges against Bishop Alexis Bilindabagabo and was published on Virtue Online. Quay is the President and Dean of the Anglican School of Ministry, an arm of the former AMiA. Quay’s story quickly vanished from Virtue Online, and I have not seen a further statement from him.

Next came a story from Rev. Joe Boysel, a priest at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, reporting up through Bishop Doc Loomis. Boysel’s story on Internet Monk offered further thoughts as to what had just happened. He posited a difference between ACNA and AMiA in terms of mission vs. structure – this has been a common theme, and one that makes little sense as any church on earth is to be engaged in mission per the Great Commission. Boysel’s version of events perpetuated the Murphy angle on the final meeting between Archbishop Rwaje and Bishop Murphy. Boysel says that “Everyone smiled and warmly embraced everyone else” at that meeting. He does not say what his source for that angle on the meeting is.

Neither Boysel, Murphy or Quay mention the role of Canon Donlon in writing canon law for Rwanda and then pushing it on the bishops of Rwanda and AMiA. The Pawleys Island leadership are assigning blame on the Washington Statement clergy, Bishop Alexis, perhaps Archbishop Rwaje, and so on. And yet none of them have offered a cogent account of what Donlon has been up to these past several years.

Here is the rub: Donlon’s theology does not represent the founding theology of AMiA itself. See the Solemn Declaration of Principles of the Anglican Mission in America. The Solemn Declaration explicitly says:

This Church subscribes to the teaching of the 39 Articles of Religion of the Church  of England. These are to be interpreted, as ordered in the Declaration which  prefaces them in the English Book of Common Prayer, “in the full and plain  meaning thereof” and “in the literal and grammatical sense.” Further, it is  understood that there are places in the Articles (i.e. Art. 37) that assume past  and present political structures in England which do not directly apply to this Church located as it is in North America.

Donlon’s theology does not represent the theology of the Rwandan Anglicans, nor does it represent GAFCON’s theology. The Jerusalem Declaration says:

We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.

Further, the GAFCON document titled The Way, the Truth and the Life emphatically embraces the Articles as the norm of Anglican doctrine:

Authentic Anglicanism is a particular expression of Christian corporate life which seeks to honour the Lord Jesus Christ by nurturing faith, and also encouraging obedience to the teaching of God’s written word, meaning the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. It embraces the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion (published in the year 1571) and the Book of Common Prayer (the two versions of 1552 and 1662), both texts being read according to their plain and historical sense, and being accepted as faithful expressions of the teaching of Scripture, which provides the standard for Anglican theology and practice.

Donlon’s theology clearly contradicts the Articles and classical Anglican norms. I hope to outline this at length later, but suffice it to say that his sacramental views alone are a rejection of the Articles and early Anglican norms.

In order to bring about sweeping changes in theology and structure to Rwanda, AMiA and GAFCON, Donlon (and Murphy) should have submitted these changes for public discussion and debate. In fact, clergy who adopt the Romanist position of Donlon on the sacraments should not affirm the Solemn Declaration in good faith – how they have done so until now is a matter for their own consciences to answer. So, did Donlon submit his proposals on the sacraments and other theological issues to the broader denomination for review, interaction, debate or a vote? No, he rather performed an end run around the broader group and essentially subverted Rwandan theology from within (granted, this reflects very poorly on Rwandan leadership at the time and the AMiA bishops from that period). He (abetted by Murphy) then attempted to hustle through a Mission Society proposal, presumably in time for the next Winter Conference, and then when exposed to public scrutiny, did not engage in debate or obedience, but rather fled discipline.

Further, the stories by Quay, Boysel, and Bishop Murphy have not explained or even attempted to explain why both Glenn and Barnum felt the need to resign. Just what was it that pushed them to do this? We may never know, but you would think that an accurate backstory of what happened would at least venture a guess as to why they came to the decisions that they did.

This initial flurry of stories from the Pawleys Island associated clergy was not met with any public response from PEAR or PEAR clergy in the USA. Rather, bishops Glenn and Barnum called for an Advent respite to blogging and news sites, perhaps reflecting the difficulties inherent in the the age of internet communication. Church structures now struggle with how to handle comments from the priesthood of the plebs. This is understandable, but it cannot be changed – there is no going back to the pre web days, as much as communication organs wish that there is.

I will continue my look at events in days ahead, charting the changing reactions, the proposed Society, and the lay of the land currently.