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…

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