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.

5 thoughts on “IV. AMiA Upheaval – A Changing Course”

  1. Fine analysis. Just to note, that about 1/3 of the way down (paragraph beginning “Archbishop Murphy mentions three factors, the first being …”), there are some references to “Archbishop Murphy” where I am sure you meant “Archbishop Duncan”.

    Personally, I would very much like to hear from Abp. Kolini and the other retired Archbishops who are providing oversight to the Pawleys Island group (and I mean no disrespect here, I am unsure what to call these groups, as “AMiA” could be the corporation headquartered at Pawleys Island, or the mission continuing under the oversight of Rwanda). What would they like to see happen, in the next few years?

    1. Thank you TJ – corrected. My hunch is that the three former Archbishops aren’t driving that car, but rather are along for the ride.

      1. You think that the Archbishops are just along for the ride? As if they can’t read everything that is going on, touch base with those in Rwanda, touch base with Archbishop Duncan, think for themselves and work through this issue on their own?

        I am not sure if we are giving Murphy way too much credit here in pulling the wool over 3 (not 1) former Archbishops eyes in such a way that they are completely fooled by his tomfoolery and can’t see what is really going on.

        Or maybe the former Archbishops are just not the smart, Godly leaders that we all thought they were? And are willing to be led by an American that just walked away from Rwanda without questioning everything? Maybe we should feel sorry for these guys who know no better than just to take Murphy’s word for it and not thoroughly check everything.

        Or maybe, just maybe, and this is just my far off and ignorant theory, maybe there is a little more to the story that we have not heard. Now granted, I am not an ordained priest and have only been a confirmed Anglican for about 2 years, so my opinion is probably deeply discounted here. I am the belief that maybe we should let it all play out. These 3 former Archbishops are standing with/behind Murphy for now and that is good enough for me to think that maybe there is more to the story than what has been reported by people who have generally treated Murphy like he was an ignorant, leadership hungry non-Christian. Not asking people to treat each other like best friends but like brothers in Christ would be a great start.

  2. Drew, there is always more to the story, that’s for sure. This is not a comment on their intelligence, but on their allegiance. They have defied a Province of the Communion and my opinion is that it is based on factors that we don’t know clearly yet. I could be wrong, it wouldn’t be the first time.

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