A Retraction

Last week I speculated that GAFCON was dropping the ball on church discipline based on the communique from Johannesburg. I was wrong. The Anglican Church of Rwanda is indeed setting out some clear parameters for the rebellious bishops of AMiA. It still offers the bishops the option of moving on gracefully, when I think there should have already been penalties, but nevertheless, it is a good step for the health of the Church.

The options facing these bishops are to resign their orders, find another Anglican jurisdiction to take them in or to face discipline and ‘get out’ that way. Clearly, if they can find another Anglican Province to take them, that would be their preference. Now, I think they already attempted this with a bishop in the Congo (not the Archbishop), but it came to light and nothing more was heard of it. I am not sure under what authority recent AMiA ordinations have occurred. So maybe their is a possibility that some other Province takes them in.

This does throw a wrench into the meetings of the "Design Group" of ACNA and AMiA bishops. Would ACNA accept AMiA in immediately per Rwanda’s demand? I doubt it, but stranger things have happened. I think it is more likely for AMiA to say that they tried to work with ACNA and it just didn’t pan out.

AMiA has already laid a foundation to say that Rwanda has no authority over it. They claimed that their submission to the canons of Rwanda was ‘voluntary’ and that they would not renew it. They claimed that due process was not followed in threatening to remove Chuck Murphy. So the likely scenario in my mind is to see a Kevin Donlon letter about canon law saying that Rwanda has no authority to do X, Y and Z. Perhaps the bishops could renounce their orders (or have them removed) and then be re-instated by the former Primates to the new Missionary Society that we saw put forward in December. This would be entirely outside of Anglicanism formally, but would retain a veneer of Anglicanism due to the historic connections of the ex-Primates.

Whatever happens, AMiA will be left with a small number of parishes and members, sustained by the donations of a few millionaires. The model looks more and more like many of the Anglican micro-denominations that we have seen over the past thirty years.

The Status of AMiA Bishops

Archbishop Rwaje has addressed the status of the AMiA bishops:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ:

Greetings in the precious Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The House of Bishops met together on March 29, 2012, during which time we seriously and prayerfully considered how to respond to the desire of those in the Anglican Mission in the Americas who wish to disaffiliate from the Province de l’Eglise Anglicane au Rwanda (PEAR). Those AMiA missionary bishops who resigned on December 5, 2011 have maintained their credentials in the Province of Rwanda up until now. However, in a meeting of delegates from PEAR and AMiA in Johannesburg earlier this month, they asked to be “released” from the PEAR.

According to our Provincial Canons, there are only three ways that we may “release” clergy affiliated with us:

    1. By transferring them to another jurisdiction within the Anglican Communion;
    2. By their voluntary renunciation of orders;
    3. By formal ecclesiastical discipline.

Today we wrote to those AMiA missionary bishops who resigned and asked that if they wish to continue in episcopal ministry within another Anglican jurisdiction, that they please inform us of that jurisdiction immediately so that we may translate them appropriately.

For the time being, all remaining AMiA clergy continue to have canonical residence within the PEAR. Any clergy who wish to withdraw their credentials are free to do so in writing. We encourage all North American clergy credentialed in the PEAR to join PEARUSA, which is our missionary district in North America, unanimously erected by our House of Bishops in our today’s meeting.

We pray that you will not be distracted from the higher calling of Jesus’ Great Commission. Preach the good news, love the poor, plant healthy churches, and disciple Christ’s flock.

The grace and peace of God be with you all. Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje

Steve Breedlove’s Latest Letter

An outline of  PEAR USA’s theology is coming into focus. The Rev. Steve Breedlove’s letter of March 30th offers some more reflections on what, if anything, is distinctive about the new Missionary District. What is encouraging about this letter is that it very clearly stands on the shoulders of the Jerusalem Declaration – something that has featured in all the PEAR communications. Why does this matter? Well, the Jerusalem Declaration says:

3. We uphold the four Ecumenical Councils and the three historic Creeds as expressing the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
4. We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.

The essentially Reformed nature of the Anglican Church is thus maintained via the Jerusalem Declaration. Breedlove goes on to say:

We bring a distinct, complementary reformational Anglican theology.

  • Rooted in the robust work of the English Reformers, we stand firmly on the great Reformation doctrines of sola gratia, sola fides and sola scriptura.
  • We acknowledge the unique breadth of theological understanding within biblical, faithful Anglicans, and we are committed to honor and serve joyfully alongside those with whom we honestly differ. In that collegial context we bring a united voice for historic reformational Anglican theology.
  • We also hold firmly to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England as the standard for both faith and worship, believing that it rightly clarifies aspects of doctrine and worship and unites them in the liturgical practices of the Church.
  • We also hold to the conviction that mission requires unshakable convictions concerning doctrine but flexibility and freedom in liturgical practices. We are heirs of worship that has been culturally adapted while remaining fully orthodox, and we believe that is missionally essential.

I regard this as a home run for Classical Anglicans who want to move forward via the past. It does not tie us to sociological models of the past, but it firmly grounds us in the theology of the Reformers (and St. Augustine). The one open issue that I have not seen addressed to date is women’s ordination. If it is properly dealt with, then we could have the possibility of a Missionary District that is committed to being Anglican, has moved on from ordination errors, and is a safe harbor tied to ACNA for those of a like mind. Maybe I am being overly optimistic, but I hope so!

Update: Father Shane Copeland writes:  Steve addressed the WO issue in his reflection on Anglican1000.

To be more specific, we are committed to the 1662 Prayer Book as the standard of both doctrine and worship. At the same time, our charter will establish the liturgical flexibility that seeks to make word and worship accessible to people. We also affirm an ecclesiology reflective of the historic understanding of the church concerning women’s ordination to the priesthood.

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.

 

Rev. Steve Breedlove on Anglican 1000

Steve Breedlove has a really excellent letter on the PEAR USA website outlining the relationship of PEAR USA churches to ACNA. It is a hopeful letter, with many salient points. One excerpt:

..many key leaders in the ACNA want us to come in as PEARUSA. The zeal for exploring our identity as an entity, for seeking to be formed as a jurisdiction, was shaped by conversations with ACNA leaders. Early on, rectors of large, mission‐minded ACNA congregations proposed: “Come in as a jurisdiction – as a unit. Bring your best to the table to help us do what we are all committed to do.” Archbishop Duncan himself spoke clearly. Sitting in a restaurant near the provincial office in Pittsburgh in early January, +Terrell Glenn asked, “How do we begin to move into a right relationship with the Anglican Church in North America?” ++Bob’s wisdom was, “Begin by being what you always thought that you were.”

Since that time, many conversations have revealed an eagerness to receive the body of churches that we currently refer to as PEARUSA into ACNA. This is not competition: it is the creative synergy that comes as like‐minded people with much in common help each other do the work of Christ. We are being invited to be a part of the big net.

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.”

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 pearusa.org, 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”

PEAR and ACNA – Options

The statement issued at the close of Moving Forward Together listed three long-term options for parishes still affiliated with Rwanda (not the AMiA parishes):

1. Full participation in an existing diocese of ACNA

2. Remaining affiliated with PEAR while also forming a subjurisdiction of ACNA

3. Remaining affiliated with PEAR by establishing a missionary jurisdiction in North America

I would think, although I am not sure of it, that the first two options will be the most popular. Some churches may want to simply be part of the new province in North America and will move accordingly. Others may desire to have a part in ACNA and do what Archbishop Duncan called for in planting churches with Anglican 1000, still maintaining ties with our Rwandan brothers and sisters.

The option of creating a missionary jurisdiction in North America is what the AMiA was supposed to have been, before all the talk of a ‘personal prelature’ came about. What I don’t understand about that option is why PEAR would want two separate entities within the USA? Also, what would the difference be on the ground between option two and option three? I’m sure time will bring clarity to these options.