Friday, November 04, 2011

The Future of AMiA: Is the AMiA’s New “Missionary Society” structure the best way forward?

Dan Claire, Chuck Colson, and Tommy Hinson of Washington, DC raise concerns on current developments in the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA):
AMiA Bishop Chuck Murphy
On Oct. 25-26, 2011, Bp Murphy hosted some 75 Anglican Mission clergy in Pawleys Island, SC for a Presbyters’ Retreat. The bulk of the meeting was given to the presentation of the Chairman’s new structural proposal for the AMiA. Bp Murphy explained his rationale for the proposal, and then his canon lawyer, Kevin Donlon, presented the proposal in great detail. During the Q&A following the Chairman’s presentation, the first question asked was whether the time was only for questions of clarification, or if feedback also welcomed. Bp Murphy discouraged the latter, saying, “I’m only on the sixth step out of ten. I’m in a process now of trying to tell you the latest thinking. The next steps will be four more meetings. Then when we get to the point that we’re about to pour the concrete, that’s when we would need to hear back.” When asked when this might be, Bp Murphy said only that “we might want to call a gathering” at some point, but nothing definitive was offered. Many AMiA clergy left the retreat burdened with a growing uneasiness about the future, yet no avenue for constructive feedback has been provided by the Chairman. Thus, many clergy find themselves in an impossible bind, needing to engage in genuine dialogue with the leadership about the future but wary of insubordination. As a result, hundreds of conversations are taking place—without the leadership—in secret behind closed doors. It’s a tense and uncertain time for many in the AMiA. We desire to walk in the light by bringing the ongoing conversation into the light. 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. We have been greatly blessed by, and are indebted to, the AMiA and her leadership, and our hope is to see this mission continue as our Lord leads.
Among their concerns they write:
The proposed structure perpetuates a top-heavy polity. One of the greatest weaknesses of the AMiA is that, practically speaking, the Chairman is the sole decision-maker. While on paper Bp Murphy remains under the authority of Abp Rwaje, the Rwandan primate is nevertheless “22 hours away by air in the heart of Africa.” Meanwhile, the national officers all work for the Chairman, the missionary bishops function effectively as his suffragans, and there is no regular college of presbyters. In short, the AMiA’s current polity is extremely top-heavy. Our biggest concern with the proposed structure is that it codifies the Chairman’s unilateral leadership. It’s a fresh coat of paint on the old wineskin of the national office. Instead of an ecclesiology grounded in Holy Scripture and classical Anglican tradition, it is a monocracy legitimized by parachurch precedents. The architect of the proposal, Kevin Donlon, describes his role as telling the Chairman what he can and cannot do according to canon law. During the retreat he explained his understanding of the discipline of canon law in the traditional Roman Catholic sense: that not only is there Holy Scripture, but also natural law, from which ecclesiastical canon law is derived. In other words, in this framework, canon law does not flow out of Scripture, but runs parallel to it. Classical Anglicanism, on the other hand, understands canon law to be derived from and subordinate to Scripture (cf. Article 34). Here’s the problem: the Chairman’s canon lawyer has tailor made a structure that fits existing AMiA hierarchy not on the basis of Scripture or classical Anglican tradition. Rather, the structure is modeled after historical parachurch ministries primarily found in Roman Catholic tradition. If one must consistently resort to Roman Catholic terminology and analogies to communicate ecclesial structure, then it should come as no surprise if the end result is a Roman Catholic ecclesiology. Where are the biblical theologians advising the Chairman regarding better alternatives with more ancient, biblical historical precedents? Where are the historians recommending the checks and balances of Anglican episcopacy since the Reformation?
Read it all here.  For more commentary, check out the latest edition of Anglican Unscripted here.

UPDATE: The AMiA has issued a press release which you can read at SF here.  Here is a short excerpt of where they report they are in their conversations with the Anglican province of Rwanda:

The Anglican Mission has been in conversations for some months internally and with Rwanda leadership about shaping the best structure to both express and facilitate our consistent vision to be "a mission, nothing more and nothing less." All of the concepts discussed, including the creation of a defined "society for apostolic work," or "Missionary Society," include an expectation that we will remain connected to Rwanda, and the AM leaders are working collaboratively, as always, with Rwandan leaders. These conversations with leadership on both sides of the Atlantic remain ongoing, and it is important to note that no decisions have been made - we are in a process of conversations only, and frankly any public discussion is premature at best.
 We have learned, or I hope we have learned over the years that it is best to encourage public conversation that includes the laity over important matters that affect the people in the pews. The Episcopal Church is also going through public conversations as well as they too consider restructuring TEC with a call for a special General Convention before Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori steps down from her office in 2015. After all, structure is theology. 

NEW UPDATE: Meanwhile, the Church of England newspaper has an article that focuses on the creation of the Diocese of the Trinity by the Church of Nigeria in the United States.  I know that CANA is working on forming dioceses, as it did with the Diocese of the Mid Atlantic, that will have the opportunity to join the ACNA.  CANA is in a unique position in that its bishops sit in both the Church of Nigeria House of Bishops as well as the ACNA College of Bishops.  It reminds us that we are still in transition - the ACNA prayerfully waits to become a province in the Anglican Communion while at the same time maintain connection with provinces that are full members of the Anglican Communion as is the Church of Nigeria.  And this transition is not only applicable to the ACNA as it develops, but also The Episcopal Church as it takes a hard look at where it stands today.  Both entities show the affects of the division, a division that even the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Virgina recognized as real when it affirmed that the evidence "clearly establishes that a split or rupture has occurred within the Diocese and, given the evidence of similar events in other dioceses of TEC, the split or rupture has occurred at the national level as well."

Mending the rupture for all parties  means not only mending the structures of the Church, but in a way that best proclaims the Gospel.  Structures are indeed theology.

Jesus knew what He was doing when He prayed so fervently for us.  He is praying for His disciples that night in the Garden in the hours before He is taken away to the cross when his attention turns to us all:
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."
-John 17:20-23
EVENING UPDATE: Well, so much for oneness.

A Statement from the Archbishop of Rwanda and
the Primatial Vicar of the Anglican Mission in the Americas

We have recently been made aware that a number of unfounded rumors and false assertions regarding the relationship between the Anglican Mission and Rwanda have begun to swirl in various circles and on the Internet.  We are releasing this statement together to urge you not to be misled or distracted by those who would sow destructive seeds of discord through innuendo and commentary, for we know that this is the work and design of the Enemy.

The work and the relationship between the AMiA and the Province of Rwanda remains solid and cherished, as we discuss and explore together the future shape of our life and our work in the mission from the Lord which we share on two continents.  As always, we ask for your prayers and support as we continue to seek the best way forward together in growing the Lord’s Kingdom on both sides of the Atlantic.  

The Most Rev. Onesphore Rwaje
Archbishop and Primate
Province of the Anglican Church of Rwanda

The Rt. Rev. Charles H. Murphy, III
Primatial Vicar and Chairman
The Anglican Mission in the Americas

How can one not recommend to the laity at this point to pray hard and run for the exit?  Not kidding.


Anonymous said...

BabyBlue - the turmoil among orthodox Anglicans is distressing. The very recent report on ACNA and Nigeria coupled with this is worrisome.

What's your take?

Here's the ACNA report:


Lapinbizarre said...

Stopped by to mention Conger's Church of England Newspaper piece, but "anon" has beaten me to it. Here's a direct link, though.

John said...

Inevitable, when you you look at the conflicts that were papered over to form a united front.

Kevin said...

Oh this is rich, BB! I understand this at so many different levels.

I should first confess a log in my eye, Colsen+ very new to Anglicanism and I'll say is NOT a convert, but merely got a job, and brought his old ecclesology with him and we've had some difficulties that had me wanting to go to a bishop (oddly since one retired it would have been +Murphy) but deciding to just leave. I'll not go into too many details, but I'll say, if I use his own words, he'd have no business signing this letter.

However, God is wonderfully gracious. Sure why I left was human sin (mine and others), but I am so thankful I am out.

My commentary is that +Thad Barnum was one that strongly opposed AMiA's move to ACNA. There is a AnglicanTV clip that will give hints publicly about this but a lot from personal interaction. Oddly, the Lord seem to have sent three from Truro to Dan+ in about the same time '07-'09. In this time there seemed the Lord using three to push for a greater unity, one with more influence even connected +Minns to visit Dan+, I unsuccessfully suggested an invitation to +Guernsey (45 minute drive away) to attend an ordination service. Also seemed to be a feedback loop in revealing issues back to you, sometimes I was dismissed, however the one that ended up with +Bena emailing his cell phone # still freaks me out. Oddly, when two of us seems either called out or lesser role just about the same time that AMiA made its decision be remain distinct from ACNA.

So on that note I'll say I find two issues a tad hypocritical in Dan+'s letter. First is the point #6, what I observed from the inside, there was little interest in forming a greater unity with ACNA, very much a desire to remain in their own dominion. Second bit is the use in Dan+'s justification of Article 34, "Of tradition not repugnant to Scripture," while true the first sentence does put cannon law subservient to Scripture, Dan+ does not continue to show how whatever he is mad about is in violation to what part of Scripture. Second is Article 34 is actually for us laity to hold presbyters accountable, in fact I had to use it with Colsen+ and told I was not allowed {odd). So again if a signatory wants to use it, he should first submit unto it.

I could go on and on about the irony of this, however, "in a multitude of words, sin is not absent." Since this letter is public, I believe a public reply on two inconsistencies is acceptable.

I actually have little complaint against Dan+, except maybe his quick diagnostic of someone having trouble with authority and wondering if maybe its not him who is leading by example and others reflecting back (that same true for Colsen+, Tommy+ is a signatory, but I know a few area where he'd might disagree and overall one of the nicest people you could meet).



FYI Chuck Colsen+ has NO relations to the founder of Prison Fellowship, other than a shared name.

The Rev Canon Dr David Wilson said...

Besides Chuck Murphy's colossal ego and Thad Barnum's anti-institutionalism one can't discount Keven Conlon's prior ordination and training as a Roman Catholic priest and especially his education in RC canon law. So Colsen's limited experience in Anglican isn't the only limited experience weighing in on this brouhaha.

Kevin said...

Hi BB!

RE:"includes the laity over important matters that affect the people in the pews."

I could not agree with you more!

However, while unsure how AnglicanTV got word of this, I can say with some certainly that Ido not think the Clair+, Colson+, Hinson+ letter was written for public consumption. Since Google messed up my comment, wanting me to log in again, I'll take it as warning from the Lord to keep it brief and merely say that I did not find those parishes very open to lay discourse and even have a tight reign over hand picked governance. Other proof, but maybe why the last comment hung-up, so just whoever told AnglicanTV probably wanted a public discourse but I'd be very surprised if it was the same as the authors of the letter -- that was probably like the PECUSA HoB/D listserv type of stuff, not quite meant for public consumption.

Per AMiA press release ... wow ... that's a lot of words. They must be pissed. Whatever charges one may have against me, I never took it public (this is probably the most info I've said outside of few friends and it still does not reveal specifics other than a parishioner had issues with a presbyter, big deal, that's pretty common place), so the behind the door conversations must be very interesting.

Lapinbizarre said...

Connoisseurs of Chuck Murphy's ego may appreciate Nick Ziegler's (former Chancellor of the SC diocese) account of his (Murphy's) treatment of Bishop Salmon, who was recently installed as dean and president of Nashotah House, at the 1997 South Carolina diocesan convention. The incident is reported almost exactly half way through this account, reported by Anglican Curmudgeon.

Robin G. Jordan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robin G. Jordan said...

To get a better look at the larger picture, see my article, "Rumors of Anglican Mission – Anglican Church of Rwanda Split Point to Other Serious Problems." Go to: I have posted a number of articles relating to the rumored split, the concerns Dan Claire, Chuck Colson, and Tommy Hinson express in their letter, the changes in the Anglican Church of Rwanda's canons AMiA Canon Kevin Donlon drafted, AMiA Chairman Chuck Murphy approved and recommended to then Rwandan Primate Emmnaul Kolini, and which Archbishop Kolini in turn recommended for adoption to the Rwandan Provincial Synod, and for endorsement and promulgation to the Rwandan House of Bishops, and the ramifications on my web site. As more details become available, I will post them. I have good reason to believe that there is much more to these developments than people in the ACNA and the AMiA realize. They have long-term implications for the North American Anglicans' relations with the African Anglicans. They have shown the Africans that even conservative North Americans cannot be trusted!

Kevin said...

Robin G Jordan,

Please remember I am a cranky ex-parishioner and do not judge merely on what I say.

However, I really do not think the Washington Statement has anything to do with your issues. At least without being the largest hypocrites in the World. When I had issue, I tried to reason from Scripture but was told "we have priest and bishops to do that." [Great appeal to a magisterium]. Also one of my many great crime was "no respecting my high office!!!" - Never-mind two Scriptural references forbidding that or the fact I agreed he had a high office, our disagreement was over if he were fulfilling it.

Long/Short - you may also express valid concerns, but I don't think that what it is about unless they favor a congregationalist approach where presbyter is his own personal pope.

Anonymous said...

Wow Kevin, sounds like we have had similar AMiA experiences. I got fired from church council via letter and when I called my network coordinator to discuss the local church conflict and a need for outside mediation, I was told they could not discuss it with me.

It's kind of funny how various AMiA parishes have the priest's family members on church council, etc. I found it to be very much an expat Episcopal church "old boys" network.

Anonymous said...

With the litigation winding down, and the losses mounting, this kind of fracture - and the kind between CANA and ACNA - are going to be more common.