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.