I will conclude my review of Bishop Barnum’s letter with another selection from it:
This was it. The moment of decision. AMIA bishops were being asked to leave a paper trail of their decision. Not once did any of the bishops ask to take time in prayer over this momentous decision or to consult their Network leaders, clergy and lay leaders.
This is a telling point. The obvious reason for the rush to resign was because church discipline was impending. Rather than going through a process with the Rwandan House of Bishops or taking the discipline, Bishop Murphy fled. Barnum informs us that there was no prayer, and we already knew that no clergy were consulted. Again, the institutions only exist to serve the individuals, not vice versa. This is a model of action from the corporate world where decisions must be made on the fly with the CEO leading the way.
The rest of Barnum’s letter summarizes events and discusses his hope for reconciliation. It is instructive to notice what Bishop Barnum did not discuss, things like:
- The veracity and tone of the press releases from Pawleys.
- The issue of finances.
- Kevin Donlon’s role in the canon law fiasco.
Bishop Barnum is diplomatic as is befitting for his role in the Church. He is asking for a restoration of unity, but this is problematic. First, the move away from the oversight of Rwanda was what created this disruption. Second, real and visible unity should probably be achieved with ACNA, something that AMiA has resisted up until now. Third, the fissures within Anglicanism, be it ACNA, AMiA or even the broader Global South, cannot be contained forever. There are deep theological issues of long standing that cannot be swept under the rug indefinitely. These include, but are not limited to, women’s ordination, the number and nature of sacraments, the authority of the Formularies today and the methodology of governing the Church.
We can all agree that we are united in the Universal Church. We are all Christians. But the theological issues are not second order issues. Ultimately, there may be further separation ahead, because people will not always stand for a watered down unity. The ACNA’s Theological Lens document indicates that the prayer book being drafted will not be satisfactory to Reformed Anglicans. The issue of women’s ordination is not being resolved. It is difficult to see how to keep parties together with vast differences like this.