Bishops on the Move

The news about the AMiA defections is out there, so I won’t repeat it. You can see an interesting source letter here, which reads in part:

The Rt. Rev. John E. Miller III of Melbourne, Florida, one of the bishops who consecrated me, has therefore requested to be received into this diocese. This is a temporary pastoral measure both for Bishop Miller and his parishes until the larger situation in AMiA is sorted out. He is a very committed, capable bishop and pastor, known and loved by many here in Florida.

I wanted to let you know that I will therefore be accepting Bishop Miller as an Assisting Bishop here as soon as I receive final confirmation of his transfer from the archbishop of Rwanda. Please read Bishop Miller’s and my announcement below.

“Assisting Bishop” is the role proposed by Archbishop Duncan and others, and is used in the recent understanding that has been created between AMiA and ACNA to help during this time of transition for AMiA. An assisting bishop is someone called to a particular and often temporary task, in this case to oversee Anglican Mission parishes in transition. It is not the same as an “Assistant Bishop,” which is a bishop whose appointment requires the consent of Synod. An assistant bishop would be a member of our ACNA College of Bishops, while an assisting bishop would not. We are planning no remuneration for Bishop Miller from our current diocesan funding at this point.

It is not possible to be sure of how long this arrangement will last. The understanding assumes six months.

Bishop Miller and the more than twenty congregations which have been under his care have been through a difficult season. Most but not all of these parishes are within our diocesan territory. I want you to open your hearts to them as we walk this path to care for them. Please keep them all in your prayers.

I know this is messy, and raises many questions. I am responding to a pastoral need with the encouragement of our archbishop. At this moment we are only receiving Bishop Miller. If any of his congregations or clergy wish to join us in our diocese, they may apply and be admitted according to our usual processes. They all have to make affiliation decisions in the next six months.

ACNA and the LCMS

Today, ACNA released a document called “Anglican Church in North America and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Dialogue—Report on the Discussions (2010-2012).” It is encouraging to see that the LCMS is holding ACNA’s feet to the fire on women’s ordination:

Disagreement exists among Anglicans about the propriety of ordaining women to the pastoral (presbyteral) office, while the LCMS opposes this practice.

LCMS/LCC representatives have discerned agreement with the majority in ACNA in regards to this issue. Although presbyteral ordination for women occurs in ACNA, a majority of ACNA bishops reserve presbyteral ordination only for men.

This “majority” position needs to become the only position within ACNA.

The Dude Abides

As I mentioned last month, Bishop Todd Hunter is slated to be a speaker at the ACNA assembly. That was before AMiA removed itself to the Congo, a Province that has been more in communion with Rowan Williams than Robert Duncan. You might think that Hunter’s participation in disobedience to Rwanda and flight from GAFCON would make him an unlikely speaker at the Assembly, but ACNA now has a story up that very much confirms that he will be there.

Bishop Hunter has hopped from place to place, having worked as National Director of the Association of Vineyard Churches from 1998 until 2001, then from 01-04 he was the Director of Allelon, an emergent movement that seems to have vanished, from 04 to 08 he was the National Director of Alpha USA, from 08 to 10 he headed a non-profit called Society for Kingdom Living. He was then brought in from being a non-Anglican to being ordained and consecrated as a bishop by Chuck Murphy in 2010.

Hunter brings an unorthodox view of women’s ordination to the AMiA (and thus fits right in):

It’s not about ordaining a particular gender or an issue of social justice for me – ordination is not a ‘right’ for anyone. While I recognize and celebrate the differences between genders, I want to raise up human beings gifted and called to Kingdom ministry…I guess you can say I’m an egalitarian of the complementary sort.

I am excited about the potential for women to be part of our church planting movement on the west coast and am already seeing fruit of such ministry in C4SO. This is all about facilitating a missional commitment.

A close eye is going to have to be kept on ACNA to see where it goes on women’s ordination and a host of other issues. Is it going to be TEC without the gay stuff, or is it going to be something better? That story remains to be written.

Leaving AMiA

In one example of what are and will be many, Church of the Redeemer is leaving AMiA:

After months of prayer, research and discussion your Elders believe that our future lies in an orthodox, unified Anglican province on this continent.  Therefore, we have decided to bring our association with the AMiA to a close. We want to express our gratitude for the leadership and oversight that the AMiA provided as we formed Church of the Redeemer, and in particular our bishops – T.J. Johnston and Todd Hunter.

We are sad to lose some of the connections we had in the AMiA.  However, we look forward to the day in which AMiA congregations are all part of one larger Anglican Church again.

Todd Hunter at the ACNA Assembly

Bishop Todd Hunter of the AMiA is a featured speaker at ACNA’s Assembly 2012. Why? Although canonically resident in Rwanda, he left PEAR along with Chuck Murphy. Archbishop Duncan said of these folks, “They are now former Anglicans, that’s what they have to grapple with.” [1]

So why would Archbishop Duncan turn around and invite Todd Hunter to teach at the high point of ACNA’s life together? Possibly, it signals that AMiA is on the way to being folded into ACNA. Or, perhaps it means that Todd is a candidate for the Vicar (Provincial Director) for Anglican 1000? Either way, it sends a confusing message when paired with what Archbishop Duncan has previously said.


From Nairobi to Johannesburg

The new communique from GAFCON on reconciliation between AMiA and PEAR is probably the end of the road for this chapter of the saga. This latest communique does not seem to agree with many points from the earlier Nairobi communique, for instance:

  • AMiA agreed that they remain canonically under the Church of Rwanda and accept the doctrine of forgiveness.
  • AMiA agreed to continue to work with the Church of Rwanda and that other plans for restructuring will be put on hold for six [6] months to allow time for healing and for other fruitful discussions.

The latest communique says instead that “we have done the best within our human efforts to fulfill the recommendations of the Nairobi Meeting”. I haven’t seen AMiA putting their plans on hold for six months, so I interpret this to mean that Rwanda is graciously allowing them to go their way.

This again points to a problem for Anglicanism that is at least as old as Bishop Pike and his heresy trial, if not much older, and that is that there is a real failure of church discipline. Renegades can get away with pretty much whatever they want, and that is not in accord with what we see in the Scriptures. Although GAFCON is a new development, it is in for a lot of trouble if it maintains the laissez-faire approach to church discipline that it inherited from Canterbury.

It remains to be seen where theAM ends up, and I’m sure that will take more time to sort itself out.


Thoughts on the PEAR Communiqué

The two options presented to the Rwandan churches are a narrowing of the three envisioned options presented at Moving Forward Together, and they make more sense. They boil down to (1) joining ACNA outright, or (2) existing in a close relationship with ACNA on the same pattern that CANA has.

The Missionary District of Rwanda allows for a relationship with Rwanda that honors PEAR for its contribution to keeping orthodox Anglicanism alive in the USA during the last decade. It also means that clergy to clergy and congregation to congregation relationships can be maintained. It also means that these Rwandan congregations in America can work hand in glove with their local ACNA counterparts. This is how CANA is functioning on the ground in Northern Virginia. Truro and the Falls Church seem to see themselves as more a part of ACNA now, with CANA being a secondary affiliation, and this is how it should be. A future Missionary Bishop or two (lets hope its not more than that) can sit in the ACNA College of Bishops and in Rwanda at the same time (cf. Bp Dobbs and Minns).

The Missionary District means that the narrative of Africa re-evangelizing America is not lost. Both Nigeria and Rwanda continue to send missionaries to us (in a sense). This important narrative was threatened to be lost with the Pawleys Island “Missionary Society” concept.

The Jerusalem Declaration is central to the Missionary District, and this is a good thing. A definitively classical Anglican position is outlined for this District. This is a move back towards what most of us thought the AMiA was about given the Solemn Declaration. The other bullet points are clear distinctions against what AMiA had become, such as:

  • Collegiality in place of a Chairman calling the shots.
  • A “passion for transparency” in place of the ongoing drama over the finances of AMiA.
  • Unity with ACNA, in place of rivalry and the pulling away that occurred in 2010. This breach began to be healed very publicly by Bishops Barnum and Duncan in Raleigh. This Communiqué uses the analogy of a marriage and becoming one over time, and that is a wonderful picture of what should happen. A decade from now, these recent struggles may be lost in the fog of the past as thousands of new parishes flourish in the United States.

The canons of Rwanda are being revised with the recognition that they currently do not reflect the faith and practice of PEAR. The travesty authored by Kevin Donlon will be undone, and this is a great thing for the future of GAFCON. A real disaster was averted.

Also, the Missionary District asks for “conciliar episcopal oversight” from Rwanda. This is a clear difference from the language of “reverse colonialism” and Egypt used by both Bishop Murphy and former Archbishop Kolini.

Anyone who wants to simply move to ACNA, CANA or the REC can do so with Rwanda’s blessing. This isn’t a power grab. The existing, interim structure will go out of business soon and churches will be back on track to disciple the nations. God has wrought wonderful things out of a tough situation.

PEAR USA FAQs and Finances

PEAR USA has begun to cobble together a website. Also, the first financial report is up for all the world to see, here. What follows are a report and the FAQs from the new website:

A Visit with the PEARUSA Steering Team, February 10, 2012

May God give grace and peace as you read this report from your brothers serving Christ in the United States and Canada!

Yesterday our Steering Team had its third extended conference call since the Sacred Assembly. We are grateful for the support of our friends at Knox Seminary in providing the technology to enable us to talk across the miles.

The main substance of our conference was hearing from regional leaders who shared reports from their conversations with dozens of PEARUSA clergy over the past week. These conversations were a follow-up to an email blitz that began January 30: this linked message was sent on or shortly after January 30 to all PEARUSA clergy (all clergy whose orders are held in Rwanda) on behalf of Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje.

Although a few clergy that we called feel fully cared for in their current relationships and await further guidance through an AM bishop, most were grateful for the contact and conversation. The FAQs produced in previous weeks were helpful for some questions that arose, but many more questions about the future remain unanswered. It is clear that the biggest issue on everyone’s mind is, “What next?” In particular, “What is next for our relationship with the Anglican Church of Rwanda; and what is next in our relationship with the Anglican Church of North America?” Our urgent work lies in unraveling the answers to those questions.

Thankfully, the ball is rolling. Conversations with ACNA Archbishop Duncan and other ACNA bishops and canons are happening daily. The process for direct affiliation within existing and emerging ACNA dioceses is coming into focus, and Archbishop Rwaje has pledged full support to PEARUSA clergy and churches that choose that path. Rev Clark Lowenfield and his team are hard at work assembling the details, knowing that the steps will vary from situation to situation, from diocese to diocese. Nevertheless, a model for moving directly into ACNA is emerging and should come into focus within the next few weeks. Keep checking, or call Clark+.

1. What is PEARUSA?

a. PEARUSA is not a new entity: PEAR is the acronym for the Anglican Church of Rwanda. PEARUSA is simply a way to talk about and identify the US clergy who are seated in Rwanda and the churches they serve. Therefore, we are clergy and churches that seek to remain in active participation in mission and ministry under the oversight and care of the House of Bishops of Rwanda and Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje. In order to clear up confusion, we are using the name PEARUSA in an effort to reclaim and identify what we have always been. Continue reading “PEAR USA FAQs and Finances”

Fisking the AMiA “Letter on Their Future”

It’s been some time since we’ve had any official word out of the Design Group or AMiA in general about current events. The latest letter of February 16 doesn’t say much, but I’d like to read between the lines a bit and see what is there.

Last week, we gathered in a special meeting of the Council with a deep desire to seek Jesus’ heart for the Anglican Mission.

As we concluded our meeting, we were convinced that the Lord had truly met with us and had given us clear direction, enabling us to consider things in a new way with fresh insight.

We concluded our meeting united and confident that the Lord was showing us an exciting and challenging way forward.

Nothing that is said in the rest of the statement is new, and the bishops have made this claim of a new way for two or three months now, so it isn’t clear what the Lord showed the bishops this time that was new.

In order to more fully embrace our call of service to Christ’s Church, we have determined to form a Mission Society that is authentically Anglican and focused on North America.

The phrase “focused on North America” raises the question of if the “global missionary society” concept with Jon Shuler as some sort of bishop for overseas planting is now dead? If so, this would be a significant walking back from the earlier position of the “new thing” being global in nature. Perhaps the ACNA bishops have made clear to AMiA that the global concept will not work for them. Or perhaps the global idea is still on, but they just failed to mention it here.

The phrase “authentically Anglican” brings to mind Archbishop Duncan’s statement that a personal prelature is not Anglican. Coupled with the phrase “focused on North America”, this may tell us that the AMiA is indeed modifying the original vision of last year. Indeed, what follows in this statement is not at all different from what AMiA was doing prior to the flight from Rwanda (Egypt), except that there is no Rwandan oversight.

Like other mission societies that have historically supported the broader Church by planting churches on its behalf, we also feel called to express our ministry through such a model. (See attached documents.)

It’s difficult to know what this means without the attached documents, but I would guess that it references the same societies mentioned by Kevin Donlon last year in his turgid response to the first Washington Statement. The phraseology at this point is very much from the charismatic renewal, i.e. “feel called to.” And one wonders what was wrong with how AMiA “expressed its ministry” for the past eleven years?

This decision marks the first step in a process to develop the mission society as we continue to seek the Lord’s guidance with your input.

Factually, this is not true. I thought the London Statement issued when the leadership fled Rwanda was the bold declaration of an “emerging Mission Society”? Wouldn’t that make this at least the second step? While this might be a minor point, it does strike me as odd that this letter merely re-states what has already been said again and again, but casts it as if it were new. What is going on?

With this end in mind, we will be reviewing all of our structures and roles in order to discern the specific shape of the mission society as we engage our process.

My read on this is that ACNA is continuing to tell AMiA that Bishop Murphy may want to consider a new phase of ministry and that the bishop to church ratio is too high. This came through in the December statement from the Council of Bishops (COB) as well, but was quickly scuttled in statements from Bishop Murphy and Bishop Rodgers who mentioned “Hari Kari”, DNA and things of that nature.

We are committed to the following:

Again, none of what follows is different in any way from what AMiA was doing for eleven years and begs the question of why this rupture and upheaval was necessary if this is all that results from it?

* evangelism and discipleship through planting churches that plant churches;

* the expression of three streams: the Sacred (sacramental and liturgical) the Scripture (evangelical), and the Spirit (charismatic);

As an aside, it is striking how the “three streams” language is now de rigueur and almost a tenet of orthodoxy in North American Anglicanism.

* orthodox theology (adherence to the 39 Articles of Religion and historic formularies of the Church);

This is encouraging, although false. Kevin Donlon (amongst others) has openly disagreed with the 39 Articles for years and yet continues to operate at the highest levels of AMiA with no problems.

* Anglican polity;

AMiA is signaling its intention to remain Anglican, but Archbishop Ducan has said that they really are not at the present. Duncan has said, “They have not been so good about accountability and the unity of the church.” He also said, “They are now former Anglicans. That’s what they have to grapple with.” The Nairobi Communique from GAFCON said that AMiA would put on hold for six months “other plans for restructuring.” It is clear that AMiA is not complying with GAFCON. Bishop Murphy called the GAFCON statement “unhelpful.”

* fostering an entrepreneurial culture;

* pursuing both temporary (short-term solutions) and enduring relationships with an Anglican jurisdiction.

As I said, nothing is new to this except what entity AMiA is connected with. It is puzzling why there is a need for a temporary and an enduring relationship? Does this mean the Congo (for example) temporarily and ACNA in the long-term? It is another odd turn of phrase that raises more questions than it answers, to quote the Chairman.

This vision is consistent with our clear call to be “a mission, nothing more and nothing less.” Our focus on planting churches as an outreach for an existing judicatory within the one holy catholic and apostolic church continues our established pattern.

This established pattern also includes lack of accountability and fleeing church discipline.

As we continue our conversations and discernment with the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), we will keep you fully informed.

This doesn’t seem true, because we have no details of what has been discussed or what is going on. Perhaps this is directed to a subset of AMiA, such as the clergy, who hear more from conference calls. In the cause of transparency, it would be nice if full meeting minutes from the Design Group were published.