October 21, 2014

The AMiA Leaves Rwanda: What Happened?

Note from CM: Perhaps you’ve read stories in recent days about the separation of the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA) from its majority-world leadership in the Church of Rwanda. The AMiA (founded in 2000) is based in South Carolina, and has been under the oversight of the Rwandan province. It has grown impressively, having now some 156 churches and missions in the U.S. and Canada.

I have asked our friend and Liturgical Gangsta, the Rev. Dr. Joe Boysel, to give us perspective from one who serves in AMiA. I hope this will be informative and helpful to those who have wondered about what happened, what issues this situation raises, and what the future may hold.

• • •

Rev. Joe Boysel

The AMiA Leaves Rwanda: What Happened?
By the Rev. Dr. Joe Boysel

When Charles (Chuck) Murphy and John Rodgers were consecrated bishops by the archbishops of Rwanda and Southeast Asia in January 2000, many people believed it was the beginning of what might become a new way of being Anglican in North America. Indeed, many people in the Anglican family presumed that foreign oversight offered a means by which we could maintain an ecclesiastical requisite (i.e., connection to the worldwide Anglican Communion) without having to be attached to what we saw as the sick, dying, and apostate Episcopal Church (TEC). The Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA), as we came to be known, thus offered a novel – yet authentic – alternative to TEC. The AMiA was a lifeboat for Anglicans in a rough and inhospitable sea of apostasy.

Surprisingly, however, things weren’t always so pleasant in those early days for the newly rescued Anglicans. Bishop Murphy was called “arrogant” and a “schismatic,” not just by those who were adversarial to orthodox Anglicanism, but by people who not only shared an orthodox theology but who would also, in very short order, pursue the very same path themselves, seeking overseas episcopal covering as they too jettisoned TEC.

For nearly 11 years the AMiA’s life with the Anglican Church of Rwanda (PEAR) was not only fruitful it was bountiful. The AMiA’s church planting strategies were blessed and we watched our tribe grow and grow. Our relationship with PEAR was such a blessing on both sides of the Atlantic. What grew out of that relationship, however, was an awareness of a unique missional vocation in the AMiA. Bishops, priests, deacons, and lay people all shared a passion to reach the continent for Christ. Not many of us cared about ecclesiastical politics or structures, we had a home in Rwanda and we had a job to do. Many people willingly sacrificed personal comforts for the sake of the mission. AMiA folk began to see ourselves as missionaries in our own culture in ways that mirrored what one would think of in cross-cultural missions. We began to realize that we were not a lifeboat for disaffected Episcopalians, we were a Mission.

In 2008 a Conference of Orthodox Anglicans, led by archbishops and bishops, particularly from the Global South, met in Jerusalem (this same year many of these bishops also boycotted the Lambeth Conference in London). The rationale for the conference was to determine the future of the Anglican Communion in the world, especially as that related to the areas of the world where the Gospel was under attack from what it saw as rogue churches like TEC. The consensus of the conference was that new provinces were needed to operate in areas of great apostasy. While this may seem like no big deal to American Evangelicals, I assure you it was a very big deal to Anglicans! Essentially then, what the Global South bishops were communicating was that they no longer recognized TEC as an Anglican Church and thus saw the need for a new province in North America. The new province they envisioned would become known as the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). Not coincidentally, then, the following spring saw the birth of the ACNA as an orthodox alternative to TEC.

At first, many in the AMiA assumed – like everyone – that we would “fold in” as it were to this new province and gradually unfurl our ties to Rwanda; that is until the ACNA actually began to develop. Almost immediately, the leadership of the AMiA saw that the aspirations of the ACNA were not the same as ours. We were a Mission, ACNA was a province (a structured church). We wanted to do mission – only, the ACNA wanted (and needed) to build structures (diocese, canons, hierarchy, etc.). The AMiA wanted loose structures, the ACNA needed tight structures. So, the AMiA decided to take a step back from the ACNA. When we did this, we assured the ACNA leadership (and the world) that we had no break in fellowship with our ACNA friends, but that we felt we had a particular vocation in North America and it was not to build a province. “Provinces are good and necessary,” we agreed. “We just don’t want to go about doing that work. We only want to do mission.” In other words, the AMiA began to see our distinctive role in North America becoming clearer and clearer: “We are a Mission; nothing more, nothing less.”

Unfortunately, the AMiA’s course correction caused people to misunderstand its motives, and particularly the motives of its chairman, Bishop Murphy. The bloggers criticized the AMiA and Bp. Murphy, but most of the people in the AMiA never felt insecure because we knew we had the support of our family in Rwanda.  Of course, anyone watching Anglican news of the past few weeks will know straightaway that that luxury no longer exists. The question, then, is how did this break with PEAR occur?

It all began with a perfect storm. Archbishop Kolini (who oversaw the AMiA for ten years) retired and a near complete turnover took place in PEAR’s House of Bishops. Concurrent with this turnover in leadership, Bishop Murphy and the Counsel of Bishops in the AMiA began to believe that it was time for the AMiA to alter how it related to PEAR in a canonical way (i.e., as a matter of Church Law). Instead of the informal structure which we had for 11 years with +Kolini, +Murphy et al believed it was time to clarify who we were in America and how it was we understood the divine hand of Providence to be leading us. AMiA was not a church, nor was it heading in that direction, it was a Mission (“nothing more, and nothing less”). Although not a perfect analogy, try to imagine the way the Jesuits relate to Roman Catholicism. No one questions whether a Jesuit is Catholic, likewise no one should doubt that AMiA is Anglican. Nevertheless, the Jesuits have a distinct mission within the Church, and so too the AMiA’s leadership saw the distinct mission it has within North American Anglicanism.

So, in the summer of this year, 2011, Bishop Murphy began to discuss the manner in which we would clarify this new structure PEAR through the development of a “Missionary Society.” We promised to continue to remain under the Constitution and canons of PEAR, but the new structure would no longer require us to be under the direct authority of the PEAR House of Bishops or the Archbishop. As I understand it, the archbishop of Rwanda, the Most Rev Onesphore Rwaje, consented to the plan and even wrote a public letter affirming his relationship and confidence in the AMiA and its leadership.

Bishop Chuck Murphy

The next step in the process, then, was for Bishop Murphy to gather counsel from the various levels of responsibility. First, there were meetings with the bishops. As I understand it, one bishop rejected the plan to form a Missionary Society, another bishop refrained from taking a position, and the remaining 9 bishops agreed this was the best way forward. After the bishops’ meeting, a meeting with Network Leaders was called. I was present at that meeting, and while there was some push-back and attempts at clarity, in the end most of the Network Leaders appeared amenable to the plan of forming a Missionary Society. Third, a meeting was held in Pawleys Island for all AMiA priests to outline and discuss the plan. It was at this meeting that a few priests offered considerable resistance, but their voices were a small minority to the nearly 70 who were present. Bishop Murphy concluded the meeting by explaining that the Missionary Society concept was still very much in its infancy and that it would be detrimental to relationships for anyone to begin to talk about their thoughts to the news media. We were having a “family discussion,” as I would call it, before we began to have a public one.

In what has been the most unfortunate and precipitous event in the entire saga leading to the AMiA’s departure from PEAR, a few priests in the Washington D.C. area released a statement just days after the Pawleys Island retreat, called The Washington Statement (WS), wherein they conspicuously did what Bishop Murphy had expressly requested they not do: discuss their thoughts publically. The WS raised concerns without providing context, it created adversarial relationships where there had been trust, and it exploited uncertainty in order to cause division. I found this action by my Washington brothers deplorable and inexcusable.

Nevertheless, after the release of the WS, Bishop Murphy met with Archbishop Rwaje in a face-to-face meeting in Washington D.C. to explain himself and to explain, more fully, the details of the plan for a Missionary Society. According to the minutes of the meeting and the testimony of people present, it concluded with unequivocal assurances from +Rwaje that the AMiA’s relationship with PEAR was strong as was the personal relationship between himself and +Murphy. Everyone smiled and warmly embraced everyone else.

And that’s when the shoe dropped.

Archbishops Rwaje & Kolini

Immediately upon returning to Rwanda a letter was sent from +Rwaje to Bishop Murphy (with simultaneous copies sent to the press) replete with adversarial language. In the letter, ideas that had been previously agreed upon were now caricatured as rebellious and defiant and a demand for repentance and recantation was issued by +Rwaje. In response, Bishop Murphy did apologize and then together with the entire AMiA Counsel of Bishops, save for one, submitted their resignations from PEAR (Bp Terrell Glenn had already resigned from the AMiA while retaining his relationship with PEAR).

Today the AMiA lives in what some might call “canonical limbo.” Some parishes see themselves as Rwandan and have viewed +Murphy’s resignation as the end of their relationship to AMiA. Although, to be clear, I think these churches represent a small minority in the AMiA. Most of the parishes see themselves as AMiA churches and they understand +Murphy’s resignation as the end of their relationship with PEAR. I suppose there are still other parishes who see the crumbling relationship between AMiA and PEAR as an opportunity to reassess all affiliations. It’s a mess.

Sadly, these events I have detailed are not the ones you likely read on any of the Anglican blogs. The reason for this is that most of us did as our bishop asked: we avoided talking to the press. But not all did. The ones who talked were those most disenchanted with +Murphy, personally, or with the AMiA in general. It seemed to me that they told their stories so that the events could be interpreted in ways that were most unflattering to +Murphy. Indeed, I felt that they used the Anglican blogosphere to supply misinformation, conjecture, and speculation, which only led to misrepresentations and damaged relationships. One blogger (not affiliated with Rwanda or AMiA) called Bishop Murphy an “arrogant schismatic,” despite only knowing part of the story. Indeed, what has bothered me most of all, throughout these past few weeks, is that I was seated in meetings which were later described on blogs by people who were not present and in ways that were fundamentally contrary to what actually happened. The whole thing made me feel like I was watching Rita Skeeter in Harry Potter! Anything for a story, even if the truth be damned.

How do I see the future, then?

I think the AMiA will continue its plan to restructure itself as a Mission Society, likely under the constitution and canons of the ACNA (although it is possible that another province could also provide the needed oversight).

Is the AMiA doing this because +Murphy is an arrogant schismatic? I suppose my answer would go something like: If you think Francis of Assisi was an arrogant schismatic for forming the Franciscans, or Ignatius of Loyola was an arrogant schismatic for forming the Jesuits, or that the Wesleys of England were arrogant schismatics for establishing the Methodist Societies, then, yes, the AMiA is doing all this in order to feed the ego of its chairman. But if you believe that God raises up, not just individual missioners but entire societies to promote mission in the world, then perhaps the AMiA is just following the path of Providence. Only time will tell.

Finally, thank you for your time in reading this essay which offers my perspective on how this division between the AMiA and PEAR took place. I pray that people use it for clarity, not to exacerbate further divisions. Most of all, I thank you for your prayers for healing and reconciliation.

With Blessings,

The Rev Dr Joseph Boysel
Rector, Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Hudson, Ohio
Network Leader, CrossRoads Network

Comments

  1. Much like a recent conference on Anglicanism in November in Brockton, MA, the definition is all over the map. One of the statements all the purple shirts agreed with was basic agreement w/ Newman’s position via Tract 90. Abp. Haverland of the ACC reduced the import of the 39 Articles as simply historically conditioned, a hermeneutical point some pro-life people might find troubling IRT the US Constitution. Fact is, many Continuing Anglicans are uncomfortable w/ 16th-17th century Anglicanism–the 1604 Canons of the C of E mandated clergy to subscribe to the 39 Articles. How many Continuing Anglicans are exclusively using either the 1662 or 1928 BCP? Again, most use the Missal which re-incorporated much of the Sarum Rite back into Anglican altars. How many of the later breakaway Anglicans are willing to purge their clergy ranks of women? The reality is the vast majority of Continuing Anglicans are far more comfortable with Tridentine theological formulations (look at the signatures of ACA bishops on the Catechism of The Catholic Church) especially in sacramental theology than their Anglican ancestors. Basically what it comes down to is Continuing Anglicans, except some very notable exceptions, are Romans playing Anglican dressup and ultimately lack the discipline (and fortitude) to place themselves under the authority of the Patriarch of Rome.

    • One more Mike says:

      You’re going to need more lawyers.

    • It seems to me that of the continuing Anglicans, a third are Romans, a third are Lutherans, and a third are Calvinists. But hasn’t that always been the case?

      • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

        For at least a good 150 years or so.

      • Isn’t that kind of all Anglicanism? I was under the assumption that the halmark of Anglican identity involved embracing conflicting ideologies.

        • I always thought Anglican identity was the embracing of the Book of Common Prayer.

          • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

            Heh… in recent years people may say that, but the BCP is rarely used in most circles. Most folks use some alternative liturgical text or another, whether it’s Common Worship in England, The book of Alternative Services in Canada, some form of the Missal in Anglo-Catholic circles, or a book called the BCP that is very different from the historic ones in form and theology here in America. Or one of a myriad of one-off or custom liturgies. And I think that’s problematic from a catechetical and theological standpoint. So much for lex orandi, lex credendi.

        • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

          Has been in recent generations. In the earliest days, the conflicts were more over how extreme along the Reformed path was it going to be (Puritans vs. the more traditional folk). And most of that was less doctrinal or theological and more issues of practicum. The “Elizabethan Settlement” was not to find a “via media” between catholic and protestant, but to find a “via media” between different kinds of protestant. Later (esp. 19th century), that changed, much to the chagrin of more Reformed folk. These days, you often hear of people talking about the “three streams” of Anglicanism, which are usually either described as liberal, catholic, and evangelical or charismatic, catholic and evangelical (when talking to conservative Anglicans). But the three streams idea is maybe 100 years old.

        • Head, meet desk. I think you need to check your dictionary for a better definition. This one will do nicely:

          http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/1911_Encyclop%C3%A6dia_Britannica/Anglican_Communion

    • Pastor Mac, you seem to be confused. This story is about the AMiA. You’re talking about Continuing Anglicanism, which was a result of the Affirmation of St. Louis in 1977. Two completely different churches. Hence, this story has nothing at all to do with AMiA, and is totally irrelevant.

      • Every group since the Chamberlain consecrations has always said exactly the same thing–we’re leaving over liberalism/apostasy. Instead of re-grouping around a common set of ideals, i.e.classical Anglicanism, which by definition meant finding common fellowship with Continuing Anglicans, every single group has re-invented the wheel. The AMiA could’ve easily merged with an existing province. Question is, why not?

    • I think I’ll just call myself a Christian and not worry so much about being a “better Anglican”.

  2. AMiA, TEC, PEAR, etc. Help! I’m drowning in alphabet soup!

    • AMiA = Anglican Mission in America
      TEC = The Episcopal Church (specifically the US church)
      PEAR = Province de l’Eglise Anglicane au Rwanda (Province of the Anglican church of Rwanda)

      • Why the two sets of acronyms, TEC (The Episcopal Church) and ECUSA (Episcopal Church USA)?

        Is there a difference? If not, which is preferred?

        • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

          They have changed their name a couple of times. Originally they were the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America (PECUSA). Then they were simply the Episcopal Church of the United States of America (ECUSA). Now they are simply The Episcopal Church (TEC).

          • Thanks, Isaac. I hear both, but it’s probably a generational thing.

          • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

            Yeah, the change to TEC is very recent, and a lot of folks never stopped saying ECUSA, even among the clergy (my grandmother’s an Episcopal deacon and she still says ECUSA).

    • I’m confused also….. (Eagle waves a white flag…)

    • Heh. That’s only a spoonful of the soup, Marc. Throw in CANA, Reappraisers versus Reasserters, Communion Partners, GAFCON, Continuing Anglicans, the Windsor Report, Lambeth, and a whole lot more, and you can see why it makes the Roman Curia look a model of economy by comparison :-)

      • Actually, not all of these aconyms denote separate organisations. For example, “Communion Partners” indicates a number of different denominations working together under the ACNA umbrella. So, your comparison to the Roman Curia isn’t legit.

        • wyclif, at least the Roman Curia is technically supposed to all be under the one boss and working towards generally the same ends.

          The ‘alphabet soup’ has me very confused about who is what where when. I half-understand the ones under the auspices of Anglican provinces abroad (like the Southern Cone, Uganda and Rwanda) but when it comes to the ones that split off sometime during the 70s or earlier, I have no idea about are they gone off altogether on their own, what do they understand themselves to be in relation to the rest of the Communion.

          Throw in those who choose to remain within TEC but are looking outside for guidance, those who are walking away, and those who are criticising both of the above – well, you see what I mean?

  3. Why do I get the feeling that this website is implicitly siding with the (sexist, homophobic) AMiA over the (progressive) TEC? Do you have no TEC friends who will give their perspective on the gospel?

    TEC is better off without these people. But you people…just remember, you become like the company you keep. And right now, that company looks a lot like those Bad Old Evangelicals you’re always complaining about.

    • Blake, I haven’t noted internetmonk to be particularly unfriendly to the TEC. For me personally, the TEC provided me with a place of shelter when I needed to find peace with the idea of attending church. I attended anonymously and alone for quite some time. I personally couldn’t say that all of my own beliefs coincided with your current archbishop, who is little too “progressive” for me (the issue of human sexuality aside…some of her ideas touch universalism a bit much for my theological tastes)…so I eventually found my way into the ACNA. Heck, Blake, I can’t even say that I like everything about the ACNA…I would bet, though, that there are little things that irritate us all about our respective denominations…but I do love the liturgies, the ancient traditions, the episcopal form of church government, and the theology of the sacraments the Anglicans adhere to.

    • …not everyone who refrains from progressive kool-aid is a sadistic nazi. Your generalization of anyone who cannot by good conscience accept the positions that TEC affirms sounds a tad bit fascist.
      Not everyone who rejects the far left is a hard line right winger. If you can’t see that around here many are seeking for a more balanced, middle position, than I’m not sure you’re capable of recognizing a third way.
      For a TEC take on the gospel, click the “mockingbird” link above.

      • sooooo…
        The People who “drink progressive kool-aid” call you a “sadistic nazi”?
        you are not a “nazi”, but they sound “fascist”?
        & you are more “balanced”?
        nice.

        • The comment is more than fair. Is is polarizing to insist that anyone who disagrees with you must therefore conform to your caricature of the extreme opposite position.
          It’s essentially like saying, you agree with me, or you are evil. Is it really imbalanced for me to point that out simply because I do not accept the labels “sexist” or “homophobic”? Those terms are nothing more than liberal non-sequiturs designed to ostracize even partial dissenters. How is that not intolerant? The “balance” I refer accepts neither the extremes of the left or the right. It must be possible to be neither fundamentalist nor liberal. Pointing out that it’s unfair to lump everyone into one of two camps is justified.

        • On second thought, there is legitimate sexism and homophobia out there. But the terms are so often used to bulldoze those who won’t accept a progressive agenda. This, imo, gets in the way with addressing the real problem, which are misogyny and agression towards those who are different.

          • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

            Right. It’s a lot easier to call those who disagree with you names, whether it’s “homophobe,” “sexist,” “heretic,” or “liberal” than to actually address the areas of legitimate theological, social, and canonical disagreement. But, hey, I came to the show after the formation of ACNA, so I don’t REALLY care what goes on in TEC. I’m fine with letting them take care of their own in whatever way they believe they ought to do so.

        • briank, would you consider the term “chicken dinners” tossed around by the liberals at the 1998 Lambeth Conference when the Global South bishops opposed their agenda to be balanced commentary?

          “Perhaps the Africans and Asians weren’t to blame. Perhaps they were manipulated by American conservatives who wooed them with free barbecues, strategic advice and technological support throughout the 13th Lambeth Conference, a once-a-decade gathering that ended on Aug. 9. Holloway wasn’t alone in suggesting many had been swayed by “chicken dinners.”

          Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda wasn’t amused at the charge. “We have chicken back home in Africa, you know,” he told the Christian Challenge. “Only one thing bought me and still buys me, and that’s the cross and nothing else.”

          There has been the use of intemperate language by both sides, not to mention the condescension shown by TEC and others when explaining how the Africans can’t help their views, they come from traditionalist societies and are still under colonial influence.

    • Blake,

      I’ll be a little more to the point than my good friend (ordained as Deacons on the same day by the same Bishop) is. The TEC did two things for me.

      1. I slipped in one Wednesday night to their Celtic Eucharist (sorry Martha) and fell in love with the liturgy. I am told that this Wednesday night service is one attended by a lot of the remaining orthodox of the parish b/c it is the one service that has no preaching.

      2. They pushed me to ACNA when I had lunch with the assistant priest and at no prodding of my own he goes on a 30 minute rambling where he denies original sin, accepts universalism, louds Gene Robinson as a personal hero, and says that if Paul had known the homosexual couples that he knew that Paul would not have written Romans the way he did.

      Now I realize that there are pockets (very small pockets) of orthodox TEC and a handful of good Bishops left and some folks feel compelled and stay and fight the good fight. I pray for them. But I was not about to join up with a church so obvioulsy headed away from orthodoxy.

      • My lunch with a TEC guy was a bit different, Austin…Instead of standing firm in one direction or another, he basically said that this particular church body was taking no stance at all on the issues of human sexuality, nor on the universalist leanings of the archbishop. I started visiting an ACNA church the following week. I just had to have more clarity, more direction, just like you.

    • This isn’t about the AMiA’s split with the TEC, it’s about AMiA’s split with PEAR.

      • Yes, this thread is all over the place. It’s like a drive-by wreck, populated by people who aren’t Anglicans and haven’t even bothered to inform themselves with what that is or what it means. Some of the comments here are just outright trolling. Don’t feed the trolls.

        You shouldn’t be allowed to comment on a thread about Anglicanism if you haven’t got the faintest clue what the difference is between the mainline Episcopal Church and the AMiA.

        • One more Mike says:

          Then start your own blog and check everyone’s “credentials” before you allow them to comment. That should go over well and be very successful. But Challies and Virtue may have that market cornered.

    • To be honest that is the same thought I had. Whenever I meet people who are part of a breakaway pseudo-Anglican sect, my first thought is, probably nice people but anti-gay.

      I know Presiding Bishop Shori has expressed views at times that veer close to universalism. Truthfully, if I were inclined to Christianity I would prefer that kind of generosity.

      I spent some time with the TEC on my way out of Christianity. It was the realization that I could not actually commune with folks in African Anglicanism that thought the Gospel required gay people being imprisoned,. Who wants to be associated, however tangentially, with that?

      In the same way I would be skeptical of a Christianity that was unable to communicate a Gospel that would prevent its own clergy and nuns from participating in genocide.

      • You know, that’s a good point that sometime the outcry against liberal theology is louder than the protest against cruel treatment of human beings. Your critique of African Anglicanism, though broad, has truth to it. However, it is never quite so simple as that: It’s almost like blaming German Lutheranism for condoning practices that lead to world war. Some did, yet there were pockets of resistance. And many African Anglicans are at the forefront of movements working for healing and restoration.

        Ever check out the universalist unitarian church? Not sure if they are technically Christian, but it may have more of that generous spirit you like.

        • If I were still seeking, the UU would probably suit me well. As it is, in Reform Judaism, I find enough room for all my skepticism and rationality to flourish. I suppose if I found even it too constricting, then I would just amble over to Humanist Judaism, but as it is I find no need. Plus those congregations are hard to find!

          My partner, on the other hand, is a non-theist and finds the UU to be a comfortable place for him to be. He may join at some point in time.

    • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

      Why do I get the feeling that this website is implicitly siding with the (sexist, homophobic) AMiA over the (progressive) TEC?

      Glittering generalities much? Labels and ad hominem statements are certainly much easier than genuine theological and ecclesiological discourse/debate.

    • The TEC is nothing more than the 21st century version of the U/Us.

    • don francisco says:

      TEC is nothing more or less than unitarian… scriptures mean nothing to them

  4. Dan Crawford says:

    Though I appreciate Dr. Boysel’s aggressive defense of AMiA’s behavior, several things continue to bother me. I am not at all convinced by AMiiA’s rationalization for its withdrawal from ACNA. I am troubled by Dr. Boysel’s dismissal of the Washington Statement. Even more I have been concerned for several years by the suggestion by many in AMiA that AMiA can do no wrong. The personal attacks on George Conger who first brought the dispute to the attention of the rest of the Anglican world, the recent statements from Pawley’s Island, the attempt to control and even limit the discussion of the issue on some Anglican sites, and Dr. Bosley’s misguided attempt to depict Bishop Murphy as a modern day Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola and the Wesleys, though well-intentioned, leave me wondering just what AMiA is up to. Will they submit to any kind of ecclesiastical oversight? To whom will they be accountable – or will they imitate the organization from which they split to provide a “lifeboat” for orthodox Anglicans? This whole episode deeply saddens me because when AMiA began I expressed my concern that its life trajectory would begin to resemble the life trajectory of all the churches of the Reformation.

    • Dan, I wonder where they are headed in terms of episcopal oversight, as well. There was a rumor that they might join with the Catholic Church, which was shot down pretty quickly; and I’ve also heard that they might seek oversight through another province. It will be interesting to see this play out. I only wish AMiA the best…they have done a lot of good work for the Kingdom, and I hope that work will continue without losing momentum.

    • Hi Dan. Thanks for your comments. Really.

      I understand that many people in the wider Anglican world — like yourself — think the AMiA operates like spoiled schoolchildren (my words, not yours). Fair enough. My point in this essay, however, was simply to explain how some of us within the AMiA feel so strongly about mission that we will not let anything displace it; even if that means being misunderstood or misrepresented.

    • Dan,

      According to what I know, AMiA was told that it could not both exist under Rwanda’s oversight and ACNA’s at the same time. I have heard that this was one (of I’m sure other) reasons why AMiA was nothing more than a “ministry partner” with ACNA.

      • Dan Crawford says:

        Now that it is no longer under Rwanda’s oversight, what is preventing AMiA from joining with ACNA.? (BTW, I see no sign that there is thought given to that possibility. For that matter, given Archbishop Duncan’s plan to plant 1000 churches in 5 years, what differentiates AMiA’s missionary thrust different from ACNA”s?)

      • This is my understanding as well, that there was some concern (possibly from overseas) that AMiA would be somewhat split between taking leadership from ACNA and PEAR.

        That it wanted to be a partner with ACNA should suggest that the “rift” between the two groups isn’t as much as some might suggest. We’ve assisted an ACNA plant recently in a nearby city, and the relationship is good.

    • If anyone is still reading this.

      “I am not at all convinced by AMiiA’s rationalization for its withdrawal from ACNA.”

      It is my understanding that AMiA existed before ACNA. And there was no withdrawal, just a decision not to join together.

  5. the “pure” get “pure-er”

    • Considering that the AMiA has been desiring oversight from another Anglican Province since its inception, this doesn’t seem to be a terribly accurate accusation.

      As it’s been said many, many times on this situation: this isn’t an issue of theology. It appears to be a sad breakdown of communication and cultural relationships.

      • But it’s not a wrong statement either. It seems to be a trend that offshoots that offshoot for theological or political considerations, keep splitting. Look at the ORC (Old Roman Catholic Church). Granted, in its modern form it already has 2 progenitors, 1 a political dispute in the Netherlands, and 2 bishops opposed to Vatican I (given the skulduggery that went on there, I’m only surprised the schism wasn’t larger). So you have the ORC which then splits and splits and splits…

        Look at previous pseudo-Anglican breakaways. Same tradition. Split, split, split… Here in this case you see a large minority splitting and saying no, we want to continue as was. Split 1. What’s next?

        My suspicion is that the only reason the Anglican church survived it’s initial split from Rome without becoming an endless sea of splits was that it was controlled by a powerful monarch. Once the monarch got its wings clipped a bit, you see Wesleyism and other traditions split off. Catholics are held together by the Pope, who afterall has the power to excommunicate and thus define who is and is not Catholic. That and the fact that historically the Church has been heavily entwined with politics.

        Lutheranism also had the power of the state behind it for its crucial early years, which kept the splits from getting out of hand.

        Another example…LDS. An all-American faith. Do you know how many splits there are off it? I’m not sure anyone knows them all. There’s the original schism, Community of Christ. Then there’s the well known FLDS, but it has a half-dozen or more step-sisters all groups that split off over the ending of polygamy. Then there are the Strangites and the Beckerites… It’s a mess. But it’s America which has a pretty close to free-market in the area of Religion and Spirituality.

        • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

          Even Rome has had splits and splinters post-Reformation. For example: the Society of St. Pius X and other anti-Vatican II groups that refuse to recognize JP2 or B16 as legitimate popes.

          One thing that has been interesting in the recent splintering from TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada is that the vast majority of those various and sundry splinter groups have banded together in the form of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), which includes the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC) that split from the main church 150 years ago. When the “Continuing Anglican” folks split 30-40 years ago, their attempts at forming the first ACNA just resulted in more splinters. Granted, the current ACNA has some issues to settle and is only a couple of years old. Maybe it’ll end up re-splintering also. But I’m pretty sanguine about it’s chances of sticking things out.

          Also, from what I understand, many of the other mainline Protestant churches in North America have had similar splinterings and realignments over the years. E.g. various Lutheran groups becoming ELCA in the late ’80s, and by several Presbyterian groups becoming PCUSA in the early ’80s.

          I think you’re right in that a lot of this is a typically American thing due to most everyone being immigrants in their ancestry and the freedom of religion bit. When there’s State Churches running the show (like has been typical in Europe, at least on paper), you don’t tend to have the right circumstances for that level of splintering and realignment.

          • Isaac what is truly amazing is the level of ecumenical conversation going on between ACNA and others.

            Have you read the edition of the Apostle out recently that highlights those facts?

          • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

            Yeah, that’s true. I’d heard rumblings and rumors about some of those things previously, but this is the first time I’ve seen it in print. Of course, even at the inaugural assembly the Orthodox Church of America and others said they were interested in opening dialog that could lead toward full communion.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            “Also, from what I understand, many of the other mainline Protestant churches in North America have had similar splinterings and realignments over the years. E.g. various Lutheran groups becoming ELCA in the late ’80s”

            The history of Lutheranism in America begins with individual groups of immigrants forming churches and looking to the old country for clergy. These congregations gathered together for various pragmatic purposes more efficiently performed jointly: publishing, seminaries, connecting clergymen with vacant parishes, and so forth. This is the origin of the various synods, typically organized along state lines, with more than a little ethnic element as well. (You think Swedes and Norwegians are the same ethnicity? Don’t tell that to a Swede or a Norwegian!). This history is still visible in the names of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. These state synods gradually merged, with the ELCA being the end result. The Missouri Synod, in the meantime, expanded as the conservative wing (and the Wisconsin Synod to the right of Missouri).

            There was some splintering as well. The Missouri Synod of fifty years ago was not so conservative as it is now, but the conservative wing gained control and had a good old-fashioned purge. Some of the purged Missouri Lutherans formed the American Evangelical Lutheran Church, which in turn was a founding component of the ELCA. In the larger picture, what happened was the crystalization of American Lutheranism into three camps: the far right wing (WELS), the right wing (LCMS), and everyone else (ELCA). (I suspect a conservative Lutheran would object to this characterization and describe the ELCA as the liberal wing, but conservative pastors and congregations can and do exist in the ELCA, where liberal pastors and congregations in the LCMS are far more problematic.)

            So the general trend in American Lutheranism is local and ethnic churches and church bodies gradually merging together. The process is incomplete, and I think it has gone as far as it is going to go. The remaining divisions are not regional or ethnic, but ideological. The ELCA and LMCS could only merge if one or both turn into something very different from what they are today.

          • The Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA), as we came to be known, thus offered a novel – yet authentic – alternative to TEC.

            I was raised a Presbyterian but was drawn into Anglicanism through the Reformed Episcopal Church (now, as has been noted, a member of the Anglican Church in North America) in 2000, right after the consecrations of Bishops Murphy and Rodgers. It would appear that according to Fr. Boysel I chose an authentically Anglican path.

  6. Rev. Boysel,

    Thank you very much for this essay. I became a member of an AMiA church one day before the break, a friend of mine became a priest in the same church, and we commissioned a pastor for a new church plant across town.

    I know there are other sides, and plenty of gossip for those who live and die for those things. Too many people seem to want to take credit for saying it’d never work than attempt to pray for stronger relationships. For now, my church is praying for peace, reconciliation, and wisdom for Anglican leaders and local churches. I ask, no matter which side you find yourself on, that you do the same.

    • Sounds like you and your church are doing what you should be doing, Justin! And, yes, I’m with you in praying for peace and reconciliation.

      Blessings,
      Joe+

  7. This makes my head hurt and my heart ache. I wonder if we looked at denominational histories, would we see similar trends…splinter groups splinter and splinter again and again and again, until new structures of faith are formed; until the generation passes that remembers the cause of the initial splintering; until folks get tired of fighting about church and just want to enjoy it again. Isn’t this how we came to have hundreds and even thousands of different denominations that call themselves “Baptist”, “Pentecostal”, “Anglican”, and even “Catholic” or “Orthodox”?

    Why is it I wish for an ecumenical Rodney King, eating locusts and honey and wearing animal skins, crying in the wilderness, “Can’t we all just get along?” I’m not sure even that would help. We are fallen people, living in a fallen world, trying to have dominion over and operate a church that doesn’t actually belong to us.

    I have a good deal of respect for the AMiA, and particularly for Bishop Todd Hunter. I hope they can pull it together in the months to come, and gain some clear direction and healing.

  8. Why does the 2,000-year history of the Christian Church read like “same song, second verse” ad infinitum ad nauseam?

    • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

      The thing is, doctrine matters. Sometimes it matters more than unity. In the mid-20th Century, a bunch of folks figured they could put aside doctrine for the sake of unity in the form of the World Council of Churches and the Ecumenical movement. It hasn’t really worked out the way everyone expected. ‘Cuz ultimately, we CAN’T put aside doctrine.

      I can dig the idea of AMiA wanting to be a missionary society akin to the Jesuits. But I can’t see that working out very well without some form of Provencial oversight. Especially since they ARE establishing structures in the form of Parishes. I can’t speak for all AMiA parishes, but I know that the local ones don’t see themselves as missionary outposts; they see themselves as churches. That means that even if missions is a top priority, it’s naturally going to compete with other congregational priorities. My bishop (not AMiA) definitely functions primarily in a missionary capacity rather than primarily in a diocesan one. However, as the diocesan bishop, he’s got a LOT of non-missionary duties that often get pushed down on the priority list. Ultimately, I figure we’ll probably have to have two bishops in the diocese: one for the missionary stuff and one for the diocesan stuff. It ain’t easy trying to wear multiple hats and essentially have multiple full-time jobs. Something eventually has to give.

      Hopefully this is all just growing pains for AMiA and for North American Anglicanism. I’d personally like to see AMiA become part of ACNA. I like the idea of AMiA being a missionary society within ACNA. But there are a lot of unanswered questions as to what that would look like from a practical standpoint.

      Also, I’d like to point out that AMiA is not in schism with Rwanda (or ACNA). There are structural disagreements, but everyone’s still in communion with each other. This is just a structural/institutional issue, albeit a pretty ugly one, by all appearances.

  9. “Jesus wept.”

  10. I had lunch with my TEC rector and we discussed the mission of the parish and how it plans to reach the community with the Gospel of Jesus and hopefully start an InterVarsity fellowship at the university.

    • Great Jordan,

      And not knowing your rector or your parish or Diocese I pray that goes well. However, if your rector or Diocese or parish has a less than orthodox handle on what the “gospel” is, as do many in TEC then be careful.

    • Out on Long Island I’m running into a surprisingly large number of overtly evangelical Episcopalians. Especially in the charismatic variety. I hear they’ve not yet become a minority in the denomination.

  11. “We promised to continue to remain under the Constitution and canons of PEAR, but the new structure would no longer require us to be under the direct authority of the PEAR House of Bishops or the Archbishop.”

    How can you be outside the church authority structure and yet remain part of the church? The repeated statement, “‘We are a Mission; nothing more, nothing less'” is great, but a mission of the church is not an entity that operates outside of any oversight, especially given Anglican church polity.

    “Some parishes see themselves as Rwandan and have viewed +Murphy’s resignation as the end of their relationship to AMiA. Although, to be clear, I think these churches represent a small minority in the AMiA.”

    I know the Apostles Mission Network leadership sees themselves as Rwandan and are unclear about their relationship with the AMiA. That network comprises 52 churches, approximately one third of the AMiA (in my mind a rather significant majority). Granted, the individual churches may disagree with their leaders, but I think there are more than your statement implies.

    • Brad, you know that there was not an attempt to operate outside of authority. In fact, the entire Mission Society concept was painstakingly crafted with legitimate canonical paths of authority as a central tenant. The concept of the Mission Society has a history in the Church catholic and it’s a well-established one.

      As to your complaint about the Apostles Network representing a significant minority (I assume you meant minority and not “majority” as you said): Fair enough. Consider my essay amended.

      Ultimately there are no winners and losers here, only losers.

      • I agree that unless some sort of reconciliation takes place, there are only losers, and if I appeared to be trying to win an argument, I sincerely apologize. (I did mean significant minority, thanks.)

        From what I have read and from your own statement that I quoted, it appears as if the AMiA doesn’t want to be under the authority of any church hierarchy. I have read that there were talks about creating college of retired bishops who would have oversight, but this, though providing outside authority, would still be outside the Anglican church authority structures. Base on the way things have been reported and what you have written here, it seems like the only thing that would change if the AMiA became a Mission Society is that it would no longer report to the Rwandan House of Bishops and Rwandan Archbishop.

        Put another way, the AMiA is made up of churches — where do these churches fit into the Anglican church structure? Who are their bishops and archbishop? Which diocese and province do they belong to? I’m not an expert in Anglican polity, but doesn’t a Mission Society in the Anglican Communion have to be able to answer these questions?

        These are sincere questions from someone wrestling with and hurting over what is going on. I have yet to hear a clear answer from those who have resigned. Instead what I hear sounds like a disagreement broke out and the AMiA has decided to take it’s bat and go play elsewhere. I would love for this to not be the case.

        • Joe Boysel says:

          Good questions, Brad. I’m sure you are hurting (as am I). Here’s what I understand re: your questions:

          1) Yes, the AMiA plan was to be under the authority of a College of Archbishops, while remaining attached to PEAR. Presumably +Rwaje would have been one of those ABs but the HoB would no longer take an active role in directing the AMiA. There is a precedent for this in the Church catholic.

          2) AMiA churches would be Anglican churches, just like Jesuits plant Roman Catholic churches.

          3) Mission Societies do not typically fall under diocean ordinaries. Franciscans answer only to the Bishop of Rome, regardless of where they work in the world.

          4) I wish with all my heart that our bishops had not resigned. I felt like this action was precipitous and unnecessary, but of course I only know part of the story. I remain hopeful, however, that real reconciliation can take place and that maybe we can find a way to push a “reset” button. (It works on Wii!)

          • Joe,
            Thanks for your clear replies. I think I know what lays at the heart of my confusion and hopefully these last set of questions will clear things up for me. Thanks for bearing with me.

            You have been drawing parallels between missionary societies and religious orders. In a religious order, the members are people. Neither the religious order nor its members are considered churches. In my mind it makes sense that the members of a missionary society are missionaries, not churches.

            The question then becomes, when a church is planted (by either a religious order or a missionary society), how does that church find its membership in the larger denomination? In my mind, while the church planter (missionary or monk) is still a member of the missionary society / religious order, the church that is planted is not. In the example of the Franciscans who answer to the Bishop of Rome, the church is essentially directly overseen by the Pope until such a time as a new diocese is put into place. So, while “Mission Societies do not typically fall under diocesan ordinaries”, my understanding is that the churches they plant do. (I recognize that my understanding is not based on a thorough study and could easily be wrong.)

            If the AMiA is a Mission Society, who are its members? churches? individuals (who plant churches)?

            Is the vision of a the AMiA as a Mission Society one where every individual is considered a missionary and what we now call churches are just organizational structures inside the Society?

            It is at this divide between Mission Society members and churches they plant that lines get blurred and things are not so clear for me.

  12. Comparisons to St. Francis of Assissi, Ignatius of Loyola and Wesley? Can I point out that the reference only works in hindsight, after the fruits of their labours have been seen. How do you know this gentleman is not a Stephen of Cloyes, instead?

    • “How do you know this gentleman is not a Stephen of Cloyes, instead?”

      I suppose my answer would be: 1) Because I know him, 2) Because I have seen God’s blessing on the AMiA, 3) Because there were much easier paths he could have followed. Well, that’s a start anyway…

  13. I’d just like to thank everyone involved in AMiA, ACNA, PEAR, TEC, etc. for reminding me why I left the Anglican Communion. ‘Preciate it. ;)

  14. This may be a repost. I’m stuck in moderation fog for some reason.

    I do have several questions, and a few comments, and I must say up front for full disclosure that I am a priest in an ACNA church, and in our Diocese we work hand in hand with our AMiA brothers and they are always welcome at all of our gatherings. So there is a cordial relationship there and I very much respect the work and committment of folks serving in the AMiA. I have little to no exposure to +Murphy so any comments on my part there regarding how he is to work with or what transpired in closed meetings would be pure speculation.

    So here are my thoughts….

    1. When the church I was planting was just beginning we decided to go with a new ACNA Diocese in formation instead of an AMiA network b/c we felt that the geographical affiliation was best. The Networks always seemed to me run the risk of becoming fiefdoms (even more than a Diocese) b/c you choose which network of the several close to you that best “fits” your local church.

    2. Many of the folks I met in AMiA (and no doubt is b/c of previous battle scars) were very suspicious of any sort of structure. That is understandable given their past experiences and hardships but a very odd view on submission and organization for an Anglican. Personally, coming from a baptist background, the order, accountability, and submission (I’ve got to write an Ember Day letter to my Bishop today) were something I craved and that I have found very comfortable.

    3. I don’t think AMiA folks mean it, but they come off insulting sometimes when they suggest they were too busy doing “mission” and “kingdom work” to be part of ACNA. The implication there is that us ACNA folks are just sitting around in vestry meetings all day.

    4. I am totally ignorant here about how the Jesuits work (help Martha!) But do these “missionary societies” have “churches.” I know they may have chapels or such attached to schools, hospitals, relief societies, but are they in the business of doing “local parish” churches?

    • Austin,

      In case Martha doesn’t see this to respond. The Jesuits and other religious orders/communities within the Catholic Church sometimes work in parishes as the pastors/custodians. Depends on the particular order and their charism. Some do it a lot; others don’t do it at all. Often though this is simply due to a lack of diocesan priests.

  15. Matt Lemieux says:

    Church polity aside, I was quite amused by an Anglican’s invocation of Wesley and Wesleyans as a model for breakaway. Let me preface by saying that I say this as a Methodist born-and-raised. Wesley had no claims to orthodoxy in his little breakaway manoeuvre. Parish priests aren’t supposed to be consecrating bishops simply because of a disagreement with their hierarchy. Wesley ended up founding an entirely new church (though that wasn’t really his intention).

    Colourful metaphors of apostasy aside as well, I think that the church needs to take a good long look at the actions that we are taking and the consequences thereof. (See Christ Church Savannah v. Episcopal Diocese of Georgia) I think that the best thing that can be said for the whole lot of this episode is that I’d rather be seeing and hearing more Christ and less humanity.

  16. I really miss the good old days when churches split over really fundamental issues like our understanding of the Trinity or the Incarnation.

    My experiences may be abnormal, but I frequently worship both at an Episcopal church and at an Episcopal monastery, and am involved in Episcopal youth ministry as well, and in all those settings I’ve encountered doctrine far _more_ orthodox than your average evangelical church. That is, at least, if you define “orthodoxy” as it has traditionally been understood and as it is expressed in the early creeds. The one AMiA church I’ve visited, on the other hand, seemed to lean very far in the evangelical direction of a gospel limited to penal substitution, instead of preaching the older and more Biblical understandings of salvation. So I, ironically, stick with the Episcopal church _because_ their doctrine is sound when it comes to the fundamentals.

    • Me too, Michael.

    • ditto.

    • Yes!

      One thing I find frustrating is that the fights over “orthodoxy” are happening over sex, a matter which is no doubt important but not a matter one I consider foundational to any definition of orthodoxy. I am far more concerned with the Nicene Creed and a gospel of salvation that embraces both evangelical “definitions” and the wider, Biblical vision of the redemption of all creation. But as these issues are apparently not the fighting ones, it is difficult to know what to think of denominational factions in Anglicanism or anywhere else.

      You observation about your corner of the TEC is interesting — and encouraging as well.

      • Danielle,

        Exactly! I am sick and tired of lables based on sex and sexuality. I am tired of being labeled “liberal” because I am more passionate about the Nicene Creed and the historical story of redemption than I am sexuality.

        It seems OK to base Christianity on “How to manage your money, how to be a better spouse, how to be a battle depression…..”, but if I base my Christianity on the Nicene Creed, I am labeled a liberal. Doesn’t make sense.

        Allen

    • My Anglican Mission in America church adopts the Nicene Creed as our primary doctrinal statement. The leadership believes in traditional Christian views on sex (of which the gay question is only part and has been blown out of proportion), but it’s not even close to a central issue. The preaching doesn’t try to always fit the Gospel into a single framework, whether it’s a specific soteriological system good money management or social justice. The few times I’ve heard my priest talk about the Episcopal church he’s been charitable to them despite his disagreements (but my church isn’t an Episcopal split, so there’s not much bad blood there).

  17. Joel,

    as the former pastor’s wife of an AMiA church plant closely affiliated (through affinity) to the Washington “Three” I can tell you that this divisiveness has been stirring for some time (long time). It is rather heartbreaking, in my mind, what has happened and ultimately how the media (SFiF and Conger) have capitalized on our situation. I am upset that the WS became what it was, but I’m sure that was the intention for those Washington Three. Having formally been under Network Leader Mark Booker (the rector of the church my husband planted)- he said (to my face) how the Apostles Mission Network leaders (Thad & Terrell) had been in talks to push Murphy out. These statements happened 1+ year ago, but I can imagine they were still in talks since my husband and I left. I knew there was a lot of hatred and angst toward Murphy and Donlon (more Catholic) from these more (I would consider them ultra) Reformed types. It was sickening to see, and as a young woman newly married to a pastor (nonetheless) coming away from Winter Conference and realizing the weight of all the politics left me in tears. What upset me most living in New England and having been a part of this Network (former) is how it is so filled with divisiveness and hatred. The things I saw and heard prepared me for the more recent events.

    I can’t speak to Thad, but I have alot of respect for Bp. Terrell, but if they don’t start reprimanding their priests for their actions and how they’ve negatively influenced their congregations then this will only grow. And, with Murphy and Donlon gone, who is to say they won’t now turn on each other?

    • whoops, I meant Joe*

    • I am sorry that you’ve had to navigate these events. I have no idea what is going on — I am just kind of blinking at it all from a distance and trying to make some sense of it. But I have seen heady times within churches in other contexts before, and I know it’s esp hard on pastor’s and pastor’s wives.

      Peace to you both.

  18. hmmm…

    i have been on a spiritual journey that did not remain ‘planted’ in any one faith tradition+expression. my own journey has no denominational loyalty or liturgical tradition. although i do appreciate the seasons within the various faith expressions i have been part of, my distaste for church politics & posturing has me steering clear of such disruptions.

    i do understand the hurt, disappointment & frustration those that do ride out schisms/splits have. crazy to think that Christians can be the source of such pain when there is more than enough bullshit of life we all deal with as we live out our faith in this broken world…

    i am comfortable having the generic blue stripe label of Christian/disciple rather than of this or that faith expression/tradition/denomination. of course there are trade-offs for such a direction as i have chosen, but then the absence of church intrigue & machinations is not missed…

    will there be a time when the dust settles & shake-ups cease within the organizational church structures no matter what faith expression one identifies with? is it always a negative thing? more like growing pains & not necessarily destructive? maybe–maybe not. i do hope those that find themselves caught up in the emotionally intensity of such happenings remain as Christ-like as possible in the midst of the upheaval without automatically throwing those of differing viewpoints onto the trash heap of heretic/apostate…

    Lord, have mercy on us… :(

  19. Richard Hershberger says:

    “Surprisingly, however, things weren’t always so pleasant in those early days for the newly rescued Anglicans. Bishop Murphy was called “arrogant” and a “schismatic,” ”

    Why is this surprising? I can’t speak to his being arrogant, but the characterization of Bishop Murphy as “schismatic” is a perfectly straightforward statement of objective fact. A schismatic is “one who creates or takes part in schism.” “Schism” is “formal division in or separation from a church or religious body”. The AMiA is a body of people who separated from the Episcopal Church. Schism may or may not be the lesser evil, but complaining about its being correctly named is simply pathetic whining.

    “Not many of us cared about ecclesiastical politics or structures…”

    That’s a hoot! Ecclesiastical politics and structures is the whole point. No one ever forced a conservative Episcopal parish to hire a female and/or gay rector. After losing the ecclesiastical political discussion over allow other parishes to hire such rectors, some found it intolerable to share an ecclesiastical structure with parishes that did this. Hence the schism.

    • Richard you are smart enough (my assumption by your well stated posts) to know that it is not that simple.

      I wouldn’t call someone who left a church that had ceased to be Christian by anything other than name only to be a schimatic.

      Secondly, you should also realize that when you are in an “episcopal” church and a church that cares very much about the the legitmatacy of orders and has a very real understanding of what a communion actually is, that what happens other places and in higher up places matters a great deal.

      • I think the difference here is that the word schismatic is not meant to impart a value judgment. It is simply a statement of fact. One can say that the Catholics and Orthodox Christians schismed off of (more or less) unified Christianity without getting in the weeds with the question of who proceeds from whom.

      • to clarify my comment, my statement was meant to say that folks leaving TEC were not schismatic b/c what they had left was not actually a church (many would argue)

        now +Murphy leaving Rawanda as he did could by some be seen as schismatic (again i have no standing for making such a statement but can see how folks make that conclusion)

        • Richard Hershberger says:

          “…were not schismatic b/c what they had left was not actually a church…”

          This is, of course, exactly what every schismatic for the past two thousand years has said.

      • “I wouldn’t call someone who left a church that had ceased to be Christian by anything other than name only to be a schismatic.”

        Oh well, I guess you can get the boy out of fundamentalism but you can’t fundamentalism out of the boy.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        “…you should also realize that when you are in an “episcopal” church and a church that cares very much about the the legitmatacy of orders and has a very real understanding of what a communion actually is, that what happens other places and in higher up places matters a great deal.”

        I understand how episcopal churches are set up. I was responding to the disingenuous claim that “Not many of us cared about ecclesiastical politics or structures…” The formation of AMiA was a political act, and it was entirely about ecclesiastical structures. Yet we get this absurd self-aggrandizing pose of wounded innocence: we aren’t doing that nasty “politics”; those other people are! The professed lack of concern about ecclesiastical structures is absurd on its face. If they didn’t care about this they never would have left TEC.

        I am making no judgment here about the substance of the decisions made. I am pointing and laughing at the ridiculous posturing.

    • Joe Boysel says:

      By your definition, Richard, we’re all schismatics. Follow me: If a person is a member of a church, then s/he is a member of a divided church (we’ve not had an undivided church for a thousand years). Ergo, one’s participation in any church means s/he is participating in the ongoing schism of the Church.

      What I find objectionable in the use of “schismatic,” is that it seems to place blame on the “other” in order to provide one the requisite tools for self-congratulations. Ad hominem always avoids dealing in “objective truth,” Richard, despite your argument from semantics. On the contrary, name calling always promotes smug self-righteousness which our Lord told us to avoid (Matt 7:3). Perhaps I would find it less nauseating if, the next time I heard someone called a “schismatic,” it followed the phrase, “As a schismatic myself…”

      • longer than that really, the Coptics had split off a long time before, to say nothing of the Oriental Orthodox. Plus one might argue that the earliest Christians were schismatics off of Judaism, which has gone through it’s own divisions…

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        “By your definition, Richard, we’re all schismatics.”

        Not my definition: Messrs Merriam and Webster. If you don’t like it, take this up with them.

        “Follow me: If a person is a member of a church, then s/he is a member of a divided church (we’ve not had an undivided church for a thousand years). Ergo, one’s participation in any church means s/he is participating in the ongoing schism of the Church. ”

        You seem to think that this argument is a reductio ab adsurdum showing the dictionary definitions to be wrong. To the contrary, however, it is banally obvious. Of course we are participating in the ongoing schism of the Church. How could anyone with a modicum of education in church history think otherwise?

        “What I find objectionable in the use of “schismatic,” is that it seems to place blame on the “other” in order to provide one the requisite tools for self-congratulations. Ad hominem always avoids dealing in “objective truth,” Richard, despite your argument from semantics. On the contrary, name calling always promotes smug self-righteousness which our Lord told us to avoid (Matt 7:3). Perhaps I would find it less nauseating if, the next time I heard someone called a “schismatic,” it followed the phrase, “As a schismatic myself…””

        As a general rule, when someone dismisses an argument as mere “semantics” the actual complaint is that they were trying to redefine words for their own convenience, and someone else called them on it. This is not a reasoned argument. It is the purposeful avoidance of reasoned argument. To repeat myself, schism may or may not be the lesser evil, but complaining about its being correctly named is simply pathetic whining.

  20. Gut wrenching, really. Any time divisions occur, and no doubt they will continue, it is a painful divorce for those involved. It started from day one. Alright day two, so to speak. Nevertheless, the gates of hell wil not prevail against the invisible church that is fixated on ministering to its spouse, the Lord Jesus.

  21. I’m not going to comment on the internal affairs of another denomination, but I do have to make a note regarding this:

    “If you think Francis of Assisi was an arrogant schismatic for forming the Franciscans, or Ignatius of Loyola was an arrogant schismatic for forming the Jesuits”

    Except that St. Francis sought the permission of the Pope to found a new order (the famous dream of Innocent III) and St. Ignatius not only had his Society approved by Pope Paul III, he introduced a fourth vow (to the traditional three of poverty, chastity and obedience) of obedience to the Pope,

    I have seen on other blogs a link to a letter of explanation by Bishop Murphy, and I can only say his language is unfortunate. When you have to explain that your use of the term “knucklehead” was “intended to be more playful than abusive, and was not directed to Bishop Alexis or to any specific bishop”, you do leave yourself open to the charge that you are getting too big for your mitre.

  22. Never thought I’d see the day when being a Southern Baptist at iMonk would seem the less confusing choice (for me, not a gereral statement :) )

    • Elizabeth, you made my morning!

    • The Guy from Knoxville says:

      Now that is a statement…… SBC less confusing – not! But I get your drift – I’m a recovering SBC and it ain’t over yet – sorry for the corn but, after all, it is the south! LOL.

  23. This sort of leaves me wondering how much of this is cultural.

    I have to admit to having wondered how long an American Anglican group would remain under African leadership.

    If Africans are anything like the middle east, once a decision was made amongst the Rawandan bishops they would have written their letter simply telling AMiA ‘this is how it is…’ and they would expect obedience.

    And how will Americans respond? Ask the British who tried a similar tactic in the 18th century.

    • There is a lot of truth in this. I cannot comment on this specific case, but I doubt very many people really considered how difficult the cultural gap between Africa and America would be to navigate — esp. for those who had newly made the decision (rightly or not) to make their differences a point of departure from their former authority structure.

  24. Sounds like a bunch of Baptists to me :)

  25. the discussion of church politics leaves me feeling empty; that maybe the focus is off and has been for a very long time.

  26. Joe Boysel says:

    Brad, the thread wouldn’t allow me to answer your question because it was too long, so I started a new one. You asked:

    “The question then becomes, when a church is planted (by either a religious order or a missionary society), how does that church find its membership in the larger denomination?”

    Frankly, that’s a great (GREAT!) question and it’s one I asked myself while in Pawleys Island back in October. Unfortunately, the guys in Washington were so eager to make this a public squabble, that we never got there. I assume the laity would have still been part of PEAR. But honestly, I don’t know…

  27. I came to Anglicanism two years ago and have been attending an ACNA church.

    Frankly, I don’t understand why the AMIA exists as a separate entity from the ACNA. The church I attend was under Ghana for a while but was transferred to the ACNA once that got up and functioning. I don’t see the need to tied to another Anglican entity other than that entity’s recognition by Canterbury matters to you. The ACNA isn’t officially recognized therefore it’s not officially Anglican.

    Aren’t we all “Missions”? We don’t have our own buildings. We are out there just like every other start-up church that meets in a school, trying to figure out how to best reach the community around us with the gospel.

    • Joe Boysel says:

      While all churches must be in the business of mission, I think there are some people, and even entire groups of people (i.e. societies), that have a special charism for mission. So don’t misunderstand me, I am very positive about the ACNA (as are most of the people in the AMiA). But ACNA is a Church with a heart for mission; the AMiA is a Mission with a heart for the Church. Does that make sense?

      BTW, I don’t worry about Canterbury’s assessment of any of us, especially ACNA. Canturbury does not hold all the keys to Anglicanism. If 70% of the world’s Anglicans are in communion with ACNA, then that sort of says the ACNA is Anglican in the only ways that matter.

  28. As a member of an AMiA parish, I have been somewhat confused by the talk of a missionary society. The analogous connections to Francis, Ignatius, John, and Charles are helpful in providing a historical precedent, but I am not sure what that means for the practical life of AMiA. Being a Franciscan or a Jesuit clearly sets one apart from the normal experience of parish life, and involvement in the societies that the Wesleys seems definitive enough in differentiating that from the rest of the Church of England. However, my experience in an AMiA parish has simply been that we operate as any other church would, with perhaps a stronger emphasis on local and foreign mission involvement (though not any more, it seems, than some Baptist churches I have visited). Is my experience irregular for an AMiA church or not what is intended? How practically does an AMiA parish differ from an ACNA parish with a heart for missions and local outreach?