Moving Forward Together – Day 2 continued

Next came a panel discussion with all of the Rwandans and the two American bishops. Steve Breedlove moderated, took the questions and gave the respondents time to think on several subjects before responding.
The Opening questions consisted of asking about whether the bishops reconcile, what the new structure will be, and who the new leader will be. Also, the bishops were asked ‘What sins can you acknowledge?’
Archbishop Rwaje said (paraphrased), “I’m willing to make steps towards him (Murphy).” But he said that this meeting (Moving Forward) should involve the people in the room, not those absent. “Anyone here who has been wounded by me, come and talk to me and I am willing to talk to him or her.” He said that reconciliation between he and Chuck, is another level of reconciliation. Then, reconciliation of both of them as leaders is on another level still. But he said that the process has started.

Next was a question on women’s ordination.
Archibishop Rwaje asked Bishop Alexis to address women’s ordination in their context. “As a part of us, what are we thinking.”
Bishop Alexis said: “I don’t know why he has given me this very hard question!” (laughter) Alexis said that whatever needs to be handled, the Rwandans will deal with it!
He then circled back to reconciliation, and said that there are no shortcuts to reconciliation. There are four steps: 1) mending my relationship with God, 2) be reconciled myself with myself. 3) I go to my neighbor 4) I reconcile with creation.
Alexis said that we are here to get right with God, and to get right with each other. “My hope is that when you leave, you have at least done step 1.”
“My dear friends, there are problems that require time, they require prayer. We cannot leave here with all the answers. There is going to be a period of healing. Then we start dealing with some of the issues on the table. we agonize, we pray, we consult with one another.” He said this in regard to women’s ordination.
Bishop Mbanda was asked to respond to a question about structure: Who is going to determine the structures? He replied: “His Grace will decide! No, just kidding!” Within the Anglican tradition there are acceptable structures within our tradition. Those that God has put in our tradition. We need the time to heal, we need to come together – later we can answer what context, where are we, what will serve us better to be able to do the work that God has called us to do? Then we will determine a direction.
On the question of reconciliation, Bishop Mbanda referred to Nairobi and said that there is a process, the first steps were put down.
The bishops were asked again “What is it that this group is sorry for? Someone else asked where are we deriving our identity from as Anglicans (i.e. Lambeth or other things). Someone else mentioned Rwaje’s letter to Murphy being immediately in the press and asked “Do you all know who leaked it? Is that something that ought to be apologized for?”
On the issue of owning sin, Bishop Thad said that anytime there is a break in relationship…if we point our fingers and blame we enter the wrong path. There is a dynamic sense when you read the Scriptures, Daniel and Nehemiah, “Lord we have sinned and our fathers have sinned.” He said:
We in the Council of Bishops were not able to reconcile and do the hard work of relationships..In the pursuit of all the things we’re about and doing, why didn’t I realize the hurt I was causing around me? The decision that we made in 2010 [to step back from Ministry Partner status from ACNA] I didnt know until yesterday that it hurt Archbishop Bob and the folks at ACNA.”
Thad praised the courage of Terrell. “I cannot tell you how hard it was in November to watch Theresa and Terrell leave the room and to go on with business. I have lost really good friends in this and I’m responsible to begin the work to make a difference.”
“I am sorry of the offense to my Archbishop for not listening to his council and the united council of the House of Bishops when they brought discipline to us. For the anger that I have for the hurt … that has caused so many people in the field to be divided.”
And then, in one of the most moving moments of the conference, Thad looked at Archbishop Duncan in the audience and said, “Bob Duncan we are sorry for the offense we caused.”
Archbishop Duncan yelled back, “sorry received; forgiveness given!” The crowd broke into applause and these bishops later hugged. Praise God for this tangible example of restoration, and really, it was so easy, so, so easy.
Terrell addressed his sin by saying “I’m sorry I haven’t loved my wife as I should. The one (sin) that I struggle with the most and I’m still trying to get light for is the resignation from the COB. On the one hand, it’s a place to which I believe I was led in the interst of relationships and not wanting to maintain a facade that all was well. But the moment I resigned I hurt many people. I know that I will spend a long time dealing with that. I struggle with the deep hurt I’ve caused many people especially those I was charged to giver oversight to.” He asks forgiveness from those he hurt. He said that “we’re so confused about where we are that we don’t know where to go next.”
Regarding who put the private letter on the internet: Bishop Louis said, “only God knows. I’m not an internet expert, I don’t know who did, but it’s unfortunate. I feel sorry, I feel hurt.”
Archbishop Rwaje: “There are many things on the internet. From December to January we got more information that we should not get. And this we read on the internet. Who does that? But, in the House of Bishops, when there was a leakage of the private letter written by the HOB to our colleague, to the Council of Bishops (and) two days later, we read it on the internet. Whoever did it, we condemn that.”
Archbishop Rwaje said that in Nairobi, the Rwandans expressed that are very sorry for that.”
Bishop Alexis said that “We are very sorry as a House of Bishops for signing some documents that we should not have. We trusted people who brought it to us.” He clearly referred to the canon law debacle.
Bishop Mbanda said that the issue is not the internet, but the heart issue that drives people to the internet. What is the root cause?
On the issue of Anglican Identity, Bishop Terrell said “we’re going to draw our identity from the internet!” (laughter) Terrell said, “The internet as a device is not a sin.” Malice, hatred, bitterness, and accusation can be sins. It is not the tool, but its’ use.”
On identity again, he said the Scriptures and tradition of the Church guide us – all of that. We’re not there yet in terms of figuring that question out. Our identity right now comes from Rwanda. ACNA has lately provided assistance on the West Coast. They offered and we’ll take them up on it.
Finally, Bishop Alexis stood and gave an impassioned, cheerful defense of himself against the attacks on him and worse, his wife as being mentally ill. He discussed his long record and indicated that it would be absurd to think it could have been accomplished by someone with mental illness.
During the Evening Prayer, we were treated to a message from the Rev. Dr. Lyle Dorsett. I confess to being ignorant of him before tonight, but what a blessing he was! He was impassioned, often fighting back tears and asking us if we “love his appearing”? Do we love Jesus so much that we long for his appearance or are we dry? I was moved at many points of his sermon, and it was a gift of God to us to provide us with such conviction today. All praise and glory to the Lamb who sits on the throne, both now and forever, Amen.


Moving Forward Together

AnglicanTV should have videos of yesterday’s sessions up soon, if they don’t already. The first meeting took place at 3:30 in the sanctuary of Church of the Apostles. here in Raleigh. Archbishop Rwaje spoke, telling the gathering: “You are part of us and we are part of you.” He said that those who have ‘deserted’ are welcome back at any time, but that any such move must be orderly – there can be no cheap reconciliation.
Archbishop Duncan then preached, saying that Jesus’ last words to Peter in John were ‘follow me’, just like at the first. The challenge to us is to follow him today, not worrying about where he will take us tomorrow. Archbishop Duncan then said that he wanted to share wisdom with the Moving Forward Together that was gained by the ACNA leadership over the years.
He mentioned that something began to change with AMiA about two years ago. The move from full jurisdictional partner to mission partner took place, and all communication was to take place between the Bishop Chairman (Bishop Murphy). This was a profound sadness. Why did it happen – we don’t know, but we are all sinners. Reconciliation requires all parties to “claim.”
Duncan continued, “In the Spring of 2004, I received a communication from Lambeth that said you in North America will never get it together.” ACNA was birthed out of a resolve to show this to be wrong. Bishop Murphy was a founding signer of ACNA. Duncan mentioned three “do you love me” relationships:
1. With Rwanda. What must we do to feed that relationship? We must continue to be in relationship. We must continue to be on mission. You cannot abandon those who birthed and harbored you (applause).
2. With ACNA. “We need you.” Duncan mentions Anglican 1000 – “you were the heartbeat of it.” Church planting is key, Duncan says “I’m preaching to the choir.” We need to think about how and where discipline is done. It’s a cruel thing to hand discipline to bishops 8,000 miles away, it doesn’t encourage accountability. The notion of a personal prelature is not Anglican, not synodical. We must be in this together.
3. The 130 million. The unreached. It won’t do for us to stay closed in these buildings. I will do everything I can to stand with you. I am here with you, I will be here with you, we will do this thing together and will do it with Rwanda.

V. AMiA Upheaval – The Road Ahead

I suspect that the Pawleys Island group wants to have something concrete in place to present to folks at the Winter Conference. I don’t see any way that this is possible given what Archbishop Duncan has said. The course suggested by Archbishop Duncan will require time, effort and discussion.

The Pawleys Island group is currently a continuing church, not attached to any Province of the Communion. It has an invented College of Consultors that it claims are providing it oversight and somehow connecting it to the Communion, but both of those claims are dubious. The Washington Statement said, “The Anglican Mission in its current form is a hierarchy in search of a polity” and that has proven to be true. If the Pawleys Island organization can somehow find its way into ACNA, what will it look like, who will remain with it, and what will it do? I have a few guesses:

  1. It needs fewer bishops, not more. Perhaps some of the bishops who have been around longer could step down. The Pawleys group has resisted folding in to ACNA’s geographical dioceses, but one theoretical solution is for this group to simply cease to exist, with its churches fully absorbed into ACNA and its bishops working geographically, or however Archbishop Duncan sees fit for them to work. I see this option as highly unlikely, but the prospect of 7-10 more bishops with not that many churches strikes me as less than optimal.
  2. Could Archbishop Duncan actually embrace the missionary society as outlined by Pawleys Island? I cannot see him sanctioning something as disruptive and unaccountable as what is currently drawn up, but I won’t rule anything out.
  3. I suspect that the current Council of Bishops could find a way to report to ACNA as a Mission Partner, with leadership changes, and with a subset of the former AMiA churches. Perhaps it could be sold as a ‘missionary society’ within ACNA and with the purpose of planting churches in the Americas only, but then what about Anglican 1000? And why exist as a separate structure at all?
  4. I think several existing churches will simply join ACNA of their own accord and say enough of the shenanigans. The individual congregations are free to do whatever they want, and if they have seen enough drama over the past few months, they might head for greener pastures.

Another possibility is that negotiations break down due to something like “a difference in vision.” ACNA’s demands may be too much for Pawleys Island to bear, and they could go looking for another suitor. I can’t imagine who that would be, but we can’t say that this group isn’t creative, so maybe they could come up with someone else. And as the bishops said, “several options have been considered and have presented themselves to us…” ACNA is only one option, one that they probably felt the most pressure to attempt.

I expect the clergy at the Winter Conference to endorse the missionary society ‘nothing more, nothing less’ concept and give the resigned bishops a blank check to negotiate on their behalf. They will land somewhere in the next few months. Given that the churches staying loyal to PEAR are generally the more classically Anglican parishes, what you will have left in the new AM is the emergent, “accidental Anglican” theology, the Kevin Donlon ‘Celtic’ Catholic theology complete with copious canon law, the women’s ordination theology advocated by Cynthia Brust, and miscellaneous a-theological or anything goes thinking in some quarters. There is no unifying prayer book, and indeed the very concept of a prayer *book* is more and more remote. What you will have in short is 1970’s Episcopalianism with somebody akin to a Jesuit near the top setting the rules.

Next, consider the group affiliated with PEAR. I don’t know what to call it, because although the Apostles Mission Network of the former AMiA is the core of the group, no one has officially named it. For the moment I will call these churches the “Rwandan churches.” This group has been silent for the most part throughout this entire upheaval. Bishop Glenn issued a letter when he resigned, bishops Glenn and Barnum issued the call for an Advent respite, and now Archbishop Rwaje has announced the Moving Forward Together assembly in Raleigh, almost immediately after the Winter Conference. Other than this, you have not seen the Rwandan churches providing press releases and interviews with David Virtue.

I have no clear indication of what the results of this assembly will be. I think that it will legitimately look for a collaborative way forward with the PEAR bishops. I don’t think the decisions coming from the assembly are pre-ordained, scripted or stage-managed. So it is harder for me to guess at what the Rwandan churches will do in the future. My hope is for a recommitment to the principles of the Solemn Declaration, the 39 Articles, the Jerusalem Declaration and historic Anglican norms. I know there will be a continued commitment to reaching the lost with the Gospel and planting churches, something we share with all sections of  ACNA and Pawleys Island. Hopefully there will be a commitment to begin our own discussions with ACNA about the eventual union of our two groups. I would eventually like to see a diocese of affinity within ACNA that is committed to a Reformed Anglican position, against women’s ordination, and nimble about ordaining new clergy and planting solid churches. But all this remains to be seen.

In closing, it is worth considering how the stated purpose of the Washington Statement remains unfulfilled. The Statement said, “Our purpose in writing this document is to speak the truth in love, in hopes of fostering honest and open dialogue together, for the sake of our shared Gospel mission to North America.” That honest and open dialogue was never had. Instead, precipitous decisions occurred and attempts were made to shut discussion down. There is a lesson here for ACNA and anyone else willing to heed it: discussions of theology, ecclesiology and just about anything else should be open for all clergy to participate in, and should be transparent to the watching world. Hiding documents from the public view or keeping things secret until it is too late to change them is not consistent with the praxis of a healthy communion of churches.