Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Welcome Call for an Advent Respite

I have not, until this point, chosen to devote any posts to the ongoing developments with the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA). Although it is certainly a topic within the purview of this blog, I have preferred to wait until more facts are known before adopting a stance on what is happening.

That much having been said, I think it is fair to say that all Christians, everywhere, can uniformly deplore the manner in which this scenario has played out, given the Internet and its ability to spread news at the speed of light, as well as the reactions to that news. The Internet, because of its very immediacy, tends to magnify the significance of individual personalities, and at the same time, to make it thus more difficult to view the entire forest instead of the individual trees (or should I call them "personali-trees"?).

It is thus with great relief that I noted this letter addressed to all the participants in AMiA's ongoing evolution. It is written by the Rev. Alan Hawkins, Network Leader of the Apostles Mission Network, the body of churches and missions which are remaining under the jurisdiction of the Anglican Province of Rwanda (PEAR, to use its French-language initials). And yes, it is ironic that this body, which did not come to the forefront until just a week or so ago, could rely upon the Internet to establish its immediate purpose and presence, in order to reassure those congregations and clergy who were wondering what would happen, that there would indeed be an ongoing entity under the jurisdiction of PEAR with which they could continue their affiliation, if they so choose. As such, it is under the episcopal oversight of the Rt. Revs. Thad Barnum and Terrell Glenn -- the two bishops who have not resigned from the Rwandan House of Bishops, and who have been asked by the latter body to assume supervisorial responsibility for all of the parishes and missions who choose to remain under the Province of Rwanda's jurisdiction:
Dec. 10th, 2011

To whom it may concern:

We are deeply saddened and dismayed by the recent turn of events that have brought pain and separation between the Province of Rwanda and the Anglican Mission in the Americas. We are also deeply grieved by the subsequent "Internet" eruptions and email trails that have contributed to further damage in our witness before believers and non-believers alike.

On December 9th, 2011, the House of Bishops of the Anglican Province of Rwanda (PEAR) appointed Bishop Terrell Glenn, Jr., of Charlotte, NC and Bishop Thad Barnum of Fairfield, CT to oversee the care and shepherding of all clergy who are canonically resident in PEAR and affiliated with the Anglican Mission in the Americas. Bishops Glenn and Barnum hope to work on behalf of PEAR and with the leadership of The Anglican Mission in the Americas in assisting clergy and congregations with their present and future canonical residencies.

To that end, we are requesting an 'Advent Respite' while leaders representing those clergy and congregations concerned can honorably and honestly work through their respective issues. We respectfully ask members of the different media sites and those who 'blog' to observe this respite as well. We recognize this situation has raised numerous questions, especially those of canonical status and future affiliations. We believe these situations will be addressed and questions will be answered "in a manner worthy of the gospel" of Jesus Christ. We also know that, in God's time, there will be an opportunity to bear witness a positive and a Christ-honoring resolution to this painful situation.

In addition, we request of all clergy and congregations in PEAR, that all recruiting, posturing, and gathering for allegiance to one side or another in these matters cease immediately. In place of these, we commit to join everyone in fervent prayer to our Lord that His reconciling love would prevail in our hearts and that His grace would abound as we seek a way forward that blesses Him and brings glory to His Name.

Humbly submitted,

The Rev. Alan Hawkins

Network Leader, Apostles Mission Network
I heartily join in the declared "Advent respite", and wish the many good Christians affected by these events a grace-full and Holy Spirit-led Advent, in which they can mutually, and respectfully, grant each other the space within which to discern the roles to which Our Most Merciful Saviour is calling them within the body of His one holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

To quote again my favorite prayer (now relegated, alas, to the back of the 1979 Prayer Book):
O God, the creator and preserver of all mankind, we humbly
beseech thee for all sorts and conditions of men; that thou
wouldest be pleased to make thy ways known unto them, thy
saving health unto all nations. More especially we pray for
thy holy Church universal; that it may be so guided and
governed by thy good Spirit, that all who profess and call
themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and
hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in
righteousness of life. Finally, we commend to thy fatherly
goodness all those who are in any ways afflicted or distressed,
in mind, body, or estate; [especially those for whom our prayers
are desired]; that it may please thee to comfort and relieve
them according to their several necessities, giving them patience under their sufferings, and a happy issue out of all their afflictions. And this we beg for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.


  1. Alan,
    I was alerted to this late last night and have to say that it impressed me as a smoke-screen after the fact. Rwanda is trying to reclaim its authority and the first thing they need to do is control the press/media/internet discussion. I presume that most of the Continuing-Episcopalians will heed this demand and the Fifth Estate will be silenced, for a time. I don't have a dog in this fight and have said elsewhere that Murphy has been hoisted on his own petard, the very one which he and Donlon sold to Rwanda in 2007. Were these people (ac/na and AMiA) as prone to submission to authoritarianism when they were still part of TEC? I don't know. Just as Americans, generally, are ignorant of the US Constitution and so often give up their rights to authoritarians. People who claim to be Anglican and give up the Articles of Religion do the same thing. They are like sheep led to the slaughter. I do not believe that there are any "good guys" in this matter. Both they and their leaders give me the creeps.

  2. Alan,

    The Apostles Mission Network has been in existence for a number of years and is one of the largest AMiA mission networks. When Bishop Murpy resigned as Primatial Vicar of the AMiA, he in effect also resigned as the chairman of the board of directors of the AMiA and its chief executive officer. Murphy may be representing himself as the head of the AMiA but the AMiA under its charter was two organizations--one ecclesiasticl and the other secular. The ecclesiastical organization was created by the Church of Rwanda under its canons. The secular organization was presumably registerd as a non-profit under the laws of the state of South Carolina. (While the Rwandan constitution and canons were posted on the AMiA website along with its charter. Its articles of incorporation and its bylaws were not. Most folks in the AMiA have never seen them.) Under its charter the Primatial Vicar of the ecclesistical organization is also the chairman of the board of the directors and chief executive officer of the secular organization. When Murphy ceased to be Primatial Vicar, he also ceased to be chairman of the board of directors and chief executive officer, assuming the articles of incorporation and bylaws were changed to reflect the charter at its adoption. If not, I think that you as an attorney see the legal implications.

    Before Murphy resigned, he may have changed the provisions of the articles of incorporation and the bylaws so that he could retain the position of chairman of the board of directors and chief executive officer of the secular organization. If not, he is acting illegally if he is representing himself as the head of the AMiA and using its funds and resources.

    On the other hand, since the ecclesiastical organization of the AMiA is a creation of the Church of Rwanda, a missionary jurisdiction of that church, under Canon 6 of the Rwandan canons the Rwandan House of Bishops has authority to appoint missionary bishops to oversee that jurisdiction. Since Murphy and all but two of the other missionary bishops resigned, the Rwandan House of Bishops must appoint replacements. Since Bishops Terrel Glenn and Thaddeus Barnum did not resign, the House of Bishops has appointed them to oversee the jurisdiction. The AMiA clergy are canonically resident in the Church of Rwanda. They are now faced with the choice of joining Murphy's new organization and transferring their canonical residence to that organization or remaining canonically resident in the Church of Rwanda and under the oversight of Bishops Glen and Barum.

    There are a lot of unanswered questions about the AMiA that need to be answered. A call for a media blackout for the next two weeks is highly questionable. It may relieve tensions but it also enables the unscrupulous to conceal any illegal acts without the risk of attracting media attention.

  3. Robin Jordan, thank you for that correction about the Apostles Mission Network -- I have edited the post slightly to take into account the organization's previous existence.

    I view the request for an "Advent respite" as a ceasing of the tendency to react instantly, at Internet-facilitated speeds, to the latest pronouncement from this or that player in the drama. If you have read the post by Dean Quay at VirueOnline, there may well be a backstory to all this on the Rwanda side, as well. I plan to use my Advent to gather patiently the various bits and pieces of information which are trickling out, and may try my hand at an overall perspective after Epiphany (the Church's, not my own).

    Robin Jordan, you have been doing a stellar service by analyzing the Rwandan canons, and by calling attention to their provenance. That kind of factual reporting is invaluable at any time, and I do not read the call for a "respite" as discouraging it. We should instead use this Advent season to put an end to all the public speculation as to where this is going, as it is obviously out of our hands. Moreover, short-term finger-pointing and blame is not helpful, as it is the longer run which should concern us. And the fault lines and chain of causation that will eventually bring about the long-run result will not become clear for quite some time yet.

  4. Well said, Mr. Haley. As I have said other places....if you understand something of the personality shown of Chuck Murphy when he was a priest in the Diocese of South Carolina and had a dust up with Bishop Salmon at a diocesan convention, none of this should be a surprise to anyone. Not a bit.

    This instant communication at the speed of the internet is not necessarily effective communication.

    Two reason to let this lie and wait for more information before pointing fingers at anyone as the cause.

    SC Blu Cat Lady

  5. A little late now!!!

    PEAR HoB probably should have thought about that Nov .30, in the first week of Advent.

    RE: Apostles Mission Network -- it appears mostly the old NorthEast Network that Mark Booker+ used to be "Network Leader" & run out of Church of the Resurrection (with Miriam's salary paid 50%/50% parish/network). So the relational connections have been there for a while.

  6. Hmmm, I did read by Dean Quay. interesting that he makes +Murphy sound almost prophetic. Alas, I can only guide Mr. Quay to the excellent book by Mr. Nick Zielgler if you would some background info about +Chuck Murphy. I don't think Murphy is all innocence and light as Mr. Quay. Dang, here I go again stirring the pot.