Bishop Barnum continues:
I have served with our Chairman, Bishop Chuck Murphy, for fifteen years. The brilliance of his leadership to me is the way he sees and casts vision. Time and time again, I’ve watched him gather leaders, present vision, and then break us into groups. He’d get us to talk it out and then come back and share our reflections. One of his most captivating and memorable lines is that, “God speaks to His people through His people.” And I’ve watched him listen to the people around him, take counsel, and move forward with his leaders with impeccable timing, great risk, and in obedience to the Lord.
For some reason, this fall was different.
With due deference to Bishop Barnum, I have to question his take on Bishop Murphy. Barnum’s letter is certainly not an exhaustive look into the decade long history of AMiA, so I don’t expect him to address all kinds of peripheral issues, but given the move away from ACNA in 2010, the machinations of Canon Kevin Donlon regarding the Rwandan canons, and the theological oddities within AMiA, I don’t understand the high praise for Bishop Murphy.
To me, there are underlying theological issues that have resulted in the final rupture with Rwanda. These same theological issues continue to exist within ACNA, and I am not sure how any group can hold together over time unless they are out on the table and discussed, not papered over in false unity until they cause further explosions. There may be a way to walk together in catholicity, but it won’t be at the cost of downplaying doctrine as if it just doesn’t matter. And AMiA has projected a doctrine free image in its official publications. It didn’t start that way, the Solemn Declaration was very solid, but over time we saw a magazine (the Wave), that was indistinguishable from an Assemblies of God or Vineyard magazine. Doctrine did not matter, just planting churches. But what do those churches believe? What do people learn once they get into these new churches? Is it a matter of total indifference?
I say all this to point out that I believe Bishop Murphy created a doctrinal vacuum at the top, and into that vacuum stepped Kevin Donlon. Why this is so, when Peter Toon, J.I. Packer or any number of other folks could have provided the kind of theological direction needed, is a mystery. So I cannot accept Bishop Barnum’s praise of Murphy’s leadership, but we may be coming at it from different angles. I sometimes wonder what AMiA might have become if Bishop Rodgers had been the Chairman, rather than Bishop Murphy.