AM Missionary Society: Evolution of an Idea

Last May, Rev. Jon Shuler petitioned Archbishop Rwaje with an idea for his New Anglican Missionary Society (NAMS). Shuler said he was advancing this idea at the behest of Chuck Murphy. The idea was for Shuler to become an AMiA bishop and to be the Primatial Vicar for NAMS outreach to the world.

The NAMS idea was not the full-blown, canon law, College of Consultors Frankenstein that later emerged from the AMiA drawing board. In contrast, it envisioned partnering with supporting Provinces and supporting their work, with “Bishop Advocates” in each of nine major global population blocks of the world. Shuler also saw a sitting Archbishop as a “NAMS Archbishop Guardian” who would in some way guide the “Global Leadership Team” through a future Bishop Shuler. Shuler made it clear that he was happy being a priest, but Chuck Murphy had encouraged him to ask about being made a bishop in order to enhance the ministry of NAMS.

This preceded the Rwandan HOB meeting in June, where the document Why Did AMiA Break with Rwanda? tells us that:

The House of Bishops meeting is shortened due to unrelated and unexpected circumstances in the Province. Murphy’s hope of obtaining permission to consecrate more AMiA bishops is not included in the meeting agenda. The Rwandan Bishops unanimously resolve to call a meeting in Kigali in September for all bishops, Rwandan and AMiA, to discuss ways of working together more collegially. Murphy refuses, saying that it is both cost-­‐prohibitive and impractical to do so when they could all meet together in Texas in January 2012 after the Winter Conference. The Rwandan House agrees to delay the joint meeting until then.

The Rwandan bishops ask Murphy to answer questions regarding the AMiA tithe. Murphy has brought AMiA Executive Director H. Miller to give a presentation on the topic. In the interest of time, the Rwandan bishops request direct answers from Murphy and a written report. Murphy indicates that he is unprepared to do so.

During lunch, Murphy chooses not to eat with the bishops. After lunch, he announces that he has a plane to catch and leaves the meeting. After that, he meets for several hours with Kolini before flying home that evening. He later refers to this trip as a “painful visit.”

Bishop Barnum gives us a glimpse behind the curtain and says that Archbishop Kolini decided right then (in June) that the AM should leave Rwanda.

Our Chairman reported that in June, at some point during or after the turbulent House of Bishops meeting in Rwanda, retired Archbishop Kolini said to our Chairman that he believed it was time for AMIA to leave Rwanda.

Now, the NAMS idea was transformed into an idea for the entire Anglican Mission:

By mid-summer, our Chairman met in London with AMIA’s retired and founding archbishops. It was here, as I understand it, that the concept of a new AMIA Missionary Society took shape out of a perceived concern that AMIA was suddenly vulnerable to the leadership changes in Rwanda. As this meeting took place, the vision of the Missionary Society — a real, tangible “option” — was as yet completely unknown to, and outside the counsel of, our own Rwandan Archbishop, Onesphore Rwaje.

Cindy Brust in her press release of November 3rd said the opposite:

As was communicated to Mr. Conger, discussions about the possibility of formalizing what has long been the stated vision of theAM’s functioning as a missionary society, is simply that – a possibility being discussed that represents a consistent trajectory. Remaining connected to Rwanda remains a high value in these conversations, and we have no reason to believe this would change.

Fortunately, Archbishop Duncan has stood his ground and has said that the crazy idea that a Missionary Society with a College of Consultors and a Primatial Vicar (with paid ‘oversight’) is not authentically Anglican and has implicitly indicated that Chuck Murphy needs to move on, something that Murphy has not found himself able to do. This mess has been a long time coming.

10 thoughts on “AM Missionary Society: Evolution of an Idea”

  1. I am thankful for the work Jon Shuler is doing through NAMS. Because of the confusion relating to the AMiA/Rwanda meltdown in December and January, I became very confused about the ‘global missionary society’ that the AM was becoming and how it related, if at all, to NAMS. I have been reassured that NAMS is separate from AMiA. NAMS is a pioneering, global church planting network. Their hope is to assist planting churches that plant churches and to make disciples that make disciples in order to spread the gospel. Please consider praying for and supporting this gospel work (http://www.namsnetwork.com)

    1. I’m sure NAMS is a good organization with laudable goals. It would behove Jon Shuler to distance himself from the disobedience of Bishop Murphy, however.

      1. Jon Shuler is no closer to ‘Chuck Murphy’s disobedience’ than you or I as far as I can tell. As far as I know we have all been hurt by the situation. Jon Shuler is a retired AMiA priest (not bishop) caring for an organization he started back in 1994 before AMiA was even a thought. To pull Jon into the AMiA’s HOB decision making process seems like a stretch to me. From what I can tell Jon is “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead”. NAM’s goal is to spread the Gospel. If you go on the font page of their website you can even see that Bishop Alexis of Rwanda has been a supporter of NAMS. Chuck Murphy and the AmiA HOB decisions are their own not Jon Shulers.

        1. You may be right, and if so, I stand corrected. My impression was that he is very much still a part of AMiA, but I could be wrong.

  2. Joel, I would be interested to talk to you in person. I live outside DC and attend church of the Advent. Your question regarding New Grace Church has much backstory and is irrelevant. I’m not sure what an AMiA church is these days, so it would be hard to answer your question. How would you define that? Terrell Glenn was their bishop up until his resignation. He is now helping wiith PEAR/USA. TJ Johnston was their bishop before that. TJ is now moving toward ACNA. Retired Archbishop Kolini installed Mike McDonald as senior pastor in January after Winter Conference. You could email New Grace church’s senior pastor Mike McDonald from the link I provided in order to find out for yourself. My understanding is that they have not decided their ultimate direction. Jon Shuler is senior pastor ’emeritus’, an honorary position. I don’t even think he lives near Flemming Island, where new Grace is located anymore. NAMS headquarters is moving to Charlotte, NC. I have some irrelevant, personal questions for you that I would like to discuss with you as well. Please contact me – jhenry2000@gmail.com

  3. New Grace is the breakoff of the Episcopal church that hosted the Institute for Worship Studies. They went AMiA when Schuler became pastor. I think I recall their bishop being Johnston, which would make them be moving to ACNA…unless they switched bishops.

    1. New Grace was AMiA long before Shuler took the helm. Sam Pascoe was the rector of “Old Grace” who moved out of TEC and into AMiA.

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