Bishop Barnum on AMiA / ACNA Divisions

PEAR USA has posted a heartfelt reflection from Bishop Barnum on the history of struggle between AMiA and ACNA here. Excerpts:

Because of this alliance, we were allowed to be fully Anglican in America with no  ties to the Episcopal Church and its new gospel. And I believed this movement  would grow, a movement uniting orthodox Anglicans in North America for the  purpose of reaching our culture for the Lord Jesus Christ.

But what happened surprised me. I found, in those early days, the sharpest criticism  AMIA received wasn’t from the “revisionists” in the Episcopal Church. It was from  the orthodox. Some of the strongest evangelical bishops were dead-set against  Anglican overseas provinces crossing into North America, and worse, into their own  diocesan territories. In their mind, Anglican Mission in America was far from a godly  response to the brazen heresy of the Episcopal Church. It was a threat that could  negatively impact their own dioceses. They could lose clergy, churches, leaders,  finances and strength as a united people.

We, at AMIA, made the decision to forge ahead. Like us or not, we decided to devote  ourselves to “Mission: Nothing more, Nothing Less.” It was a choice not to be  distracted by our detractors, keep the focus on gospel mission, and trust the Lord  would bring all things together in His time and in His way.

By 2003, with the consecration of an openly gay bishop, the Episcopal Church broke  from its historic Christian mooring and set a “new gospel” course most orthodox  believers were unwilling to follow. Faced with uncertainty, the trail blazed by AMIA  – though disregarding the ancient Christian tradition of not crossing diocesan  boundaries — seemed worthy of consideration.

This was it, I thought. This was the moment for a united orthodox Anglicanism in  North America to catch fire. Two archbishops had begun the work. More were  coming on board as the Episcopal Church publicly shunned discipline for their  actions. In a day of wild rebellious heresy, Anglicanism was alive in America.

Alive and together.

At least that’s what I thought was going to happen. But it didn’t. Instead, we split  into different groupings. Some went to seek the favor of the Anglican Province of  Uganda; others with Kenya; others with Nigeria; some with us in Rwanda; others to  the Southern Cone and Tanzania. How was this possible? The Episcopal Church had  separated from the gospel. Why were we separating from each other?

I remember preaching at a conference and making a strong appeal that we resist the  temptation to divide in a day of gospel reformation. A priest came up to me  afterward, patted me on the back, and told me I was arrogant to think AMIA was the  answer to unite orthodox Anglicans in America. It wasn’t, he urged, and suggested  we pray for each other as we go our different ways.

Our different ways?

But – are you kidding? — why do that?

And my heart grew colder.

I lost passion for a united orthodox Anglicanism in North America. I turned my full  attention to the daily work of gospel mission in AMIA and to deepening our  fellowship with Rwanda. By the time the “Anglican Church of North America” was  born a few years later, the divisions between us had become so real in my  experience that, for me, a new vision for unity felt strangely shallow and  disingenuous. I was grateful, on the one hand, AMIA played a strong role in the  formation of ACNA. But on the other hand, I couldn’t get past our divisions. How  could AMIA and ACNA possibly reconcile until these underlying tensions between us  were owned, confessed, and publicly dealt with? Isn’t that how biblical unity is  forged?

Let me get this straight, I quietly protested, you refused to be part of us and now you  want us to be part of you? Doesn’t that sound a little strange?

So in May 2010, when the AMIA Council of Bishops re-evaluated our relationship  with ACNA, I was quick to make the decision to move to “Ministry Partner” status with no consideration of the negative impact on ACNA. What mattered to me most  was that this decision strengthened AMIA and our ever-deepening fellowship in  Rwanda.

Fast forward to Raleigh, January 2012, and I am face-to-face with the fact that our  decision, my decision, caused hurt to my brothers and sisters in Christ in ACNA. I  didn’t know that before. But far worse, I was suddenly aware of the dark, ugly  condition of my own heart.

I had come to a place where I didn’t care.

  •       *       *

“So what are you sorry about?” a questioner asked.

On the second day of the Raleigh Assembly, we held a panel discussion with  Archbishop Rwaje, three Rwandan bishops, Terrell and me on stage. Before the  question was asked, we’d already stated that biblical reconciliation requires us to  stop blaming others. It’s imperative, we said, to examine our own hearts and confess  our own sins that led to this break in relationship. That’s when the question came.

I asked for the microphone.

Archbishop Bob Duncan was sitting in the front row of the church. I knew it was not  my place to speak on behalf of my colleagues in AMIA. But I could speak for me. I  could own – among many things to own – my complicity in the hurt I’d caused. And  this was it. The time to take first steps, baby steps.

I looked over to him. I told the congregation the story. I confessed my part in the  May 2010 decision that led to deepening and widening the chasm between AMIA  and ACNA. It was all too unrehearsed. I didn’t know how to say that there had been  too many hurts over the last fifteen years and that for me, my heart had become cold  and uncaring. For whatever reason, that didn’t come out.

I just knew to say “I am sorry for the hurt I’ve caused.” A real sorry. A real  complicity.

He said it loud. He said it clear, for everyone in the congregation to hear.

“Apology received, forgiveness granted.”

  •       *       *

An AMIA priest from the Midwest came over to me after the panel discussion. He  was kind, so gentle in his approach. He wanted me to know that the May 2010  decision didn’t just hurt Christians in ACNA.

“It hurt us too,” he told me. “There’s a huge number of us in AMIA who are still  confused and offended by your decision. It was even harder for us because we  weren’t given voice. It was simply announced.” And with that, he smiled, hugged me,  and said that today had begun the healing process. I thanked him for telling me,  looked him in the eyes, and said it again because I meant it again.

“I’m sorry for the hurt I caused.”

First steps.

  •       *       *

Archbishop Rwaje and his fellow bishops of Rwanda ended the Solemn Assembly  with the same kind of grace that opened our time together. He appointed a “Team”,  with Bishop Terrell Glenn as our “Team Leader”, to help serve, care, and encourage  clergy and churches still in the Anglican Province of Rwanda to find their way in  these days of crisis and division.

He also appointed a “Task Force” with two specific goals. The first, to help those  clergy and churches that wanted to go directly from his oversight straight into a  diocese of ACNA. It was essential to ++Rwaje that at some point, in a few months,  this transfer not simply be a “paper transaction.” Rather, he would hold a service of  worship with Archbishop Duncan and fellow members of the ACNA in which these  clergy and churches would be handed over with blessing from the House of Bishops  of Rwanda.

A profound demonstration of unity.

The second task is meant to serve those clergy and churches that want to remain in  Rwanda. By the good example of our brothers and sisters in CANA (who share full  inclusion in both the Anglican Church of Nigeria and ACNA), we have precedent to  both honor our relationship in Rwanda and to do everything possible to hold up the  vision for a united orthodox Anglican presence in North America.

And in that unity, to go do the work we’re called to do in mission.

But this time, a radically different kind of mission. A John 13:35 mission. The kind  that demands the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ “love one another” – as He has  loved us – for this is ground zero of mission work. This is how the world knows that  we belong to Him and that we’re ambassadors of Him. Not in our fighting against  each other, not in our divisions and schisms, but in allowing the love of God given us  in Christ Jesus our Lord to reign over us. And heal us.

We must do everything to work for reconciliation in all things. It’s hard work to do. I  don’t like it. I hate the way it demands me to examine my heart first, own my sins, and in humility confess them. But that’s what we do. It’s where it starts. In these  days, it’s where we all must start. First steps.

Baby steps.

Until the day comes that we hear the Lord say to us. Say to all of us…

“Apology received. Forgiveness granted.”

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