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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.