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AMIA Bishop Murphy Resigns as Primatial Vicar in the Province of Rwanda

PAWLEYS ISLAND, SC: AMIA Bishop Murphy Resigns as Primatial Vicar in the Province of Rwanda
Anglican Mission in the Americas will go it alone until new overseas oversight is formed
Three overseas archbishops stand with AMIA

Exclusive Report

By David W. Virtue
December 7, 2011

The Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMIA), the first group of Episcopalians to leave The Episcopal Church over a crisis of faith and leadership more than a decade ago, has withdrawn from the Anglican Province of Rwanda following a breakdown in talks between Rwanda and the Anglican Mission, which was exploring the possibility of reorganizing as a Missionary Society and no longer simply as a Personal Prelature.

The chairman of the Anglican Mission, the Rt. Rev. Charles H. Murphy, III announced yesterday that he and seven of his fellow Anglican Mission bishops, along with retired Bishop John Rodgers, have resigned from the Anglican Province of Rwanda due to a strong difference in opinion about the future structure and identity of the Anglican Mission. You can read the letter of resignation here: http://www.theamia.org/am_cms_media/letter-of-resignation-from-the-house-of-bishops.pdf

Bishop Thad Barnum did not sign the resignation letter from the Rwandan HOB. On December 5, he chose to step away from his role in the Anglican Mission and instead continue in a pastoral and canonical relationship with Rwanda.

Bishop Murphy had been seated as a Primatial vicar in the Rwandan House of Bishops on an equal footing with Rwanda's House of Bishops.

"Valuing continuity, we see this as a logical, consistent progression of what God has been doing in and through the Anglican Mission since 2000," explains Bishop Murphy. "The missionary society concept provides the appropriate structure for us to be what we have said we are from the beginning - a mission, nothing more, nothing less."

Archbishop Rwaje communicated a series of concerns that included charges that AMIA failed to demonstrate financial transparency, of forcing the resignation of an AMIA bishop and abusive language by Murphy in a letter dated November 30. Bishop Murphy addressed those concerns in a personal letter to the Archbishop on December 5. You can read the full documents: http://www.theamia.org/am_cms_media/chm-letter-to-++rwaje-dec-5-2011.pdf and here:

"We received a letter from Archbishop Rwaje requesting a response within seven days delivered as an ultimatum which regrettably was leaked to George Conger before we could respond to Archbishop Rwaje's concerns," says Murphy.

"This was unfortunate in that it exacerbated the problems and forced an immediate decision and action in that Conger, who also received the letter when I did (on December 2), had within three days published his article in Anglican Ink, quoting the letter before I could respond to Archbishop Rwaje," Bishop Murphy told VOL. "We asked Mr. Conger to wait until the entire Council of Bishops had time to digest, pray and respond to Archbishop Rwaje before making an official statement. Regrettably the article was released anyway before our Council of Bishops could either meet or write a response to the Archbishop."

"I deeply regret having to take this action, but our hand was forced with the release of private letters and ultimatums before we could meet, act or continue our conversations about the proposed missionary society that had been scheduled to take place following Winter Conference 2012," Murphy explained.

"We believed that in the evolution of this 11-year Mission it was now time to move from an informal structure with the Province of Rwanda that was not based on a "covenant" but rather on the personal relationship of Primate to His Vicar (Personal Prelature) to the creation of a missionary society with clear and defined Constitution and Statutes," he concluded. "We had begin exploring this possibility with the leadership on both sides of the Atlantic."

At one point in the debate raging between the two churches, retired Rwandan Bishop John Rucyahana weighed in saying the reorganization plan would "take AMiA from its original intent" and described the Rwandan church as "nonplussed" by the proposal.

In an open letter to Bishop Murphy, he said the AMiA was being ungrateful, as "this move may hurt the relationship" between the AMiA and Rwanda, "which stood alone in the whole world with AMiA in the most difficult times."

He was also distressed by what he saw as the AMiA taking Archbishop Kolini out of the Church of Rwanda. "It may be extremely hard to comprehend for the retired Archbishop Kolini who led AMiA as a mission of Rwanda and now moves with AMiA out of the province during his retirement."

On Oct. 31 2011, Archbishop Rwaje wrote to Bishop Murphy "requesting that all procedures toward the formation of the new missionary society be halted until we go through the Jerusalem moment (are of common mind)." He also asked Bishop Murphy to reflect on "the spirit of rebellion and lawlessness." You can read this documents here: http://www.theamia.org/am_cms_media/alexisletter6june2011.pdf

"What makes all this confusing to me is that Archbishop Rwaje asked me and Canon Kevin Donlon to meet with him in Washington, DC on November 17-18 to continue, rather than halt, our conversations about the missionary society proposal." Murphy explained. "Following that meeting, I received an email from Archbishop Rwaje containing his personal notes of the meeting that indicated we would be engaging in further discussions regarding a missionary society possibility and a missionary jurisdiction possibility."

Below are bullet points excerpted from Archbishop Rwaje's notes from the Washington, DC meeting that he sent to Murphy:

1. "In the House of Bishops in September 27, 2011, Bishop Chuck Murphy shared with members of the House about the idea of changing AMiA to a Missionary Society."

2. "This meeting in Washington DC is the first one between the representatives of AMiA and of the House of Bishops to brainstorm about this idea."

3. "We met, brainstormed, discussed many things and basically agreed on the following:
a. "New missionary society is a concept that has not yet been formally discussed and it needs detailed discussions."
b. "Two ideas are emerging: VOCATIONAL and JUSRISDICTION, thus Missionary Society [Vocation} and Missionary Jurisdiction."

4. Need to access [sic] and do SWOT analysis and let situational analysis lead us on the best way forward.

"Needless to say, the November 30 letter from Archbishop Rwaje caught me completely off-guard as it was such a departure from the meeting notes he had sent me."

Ironically three weeks earlier on November 4, Rwaje and Murphy issued a joint statement saying that "unfounded rumors and false assertions" were sowing discord between the two churches and that "the work and relationship between the Anglican Mission and the Province of Rwanda remains solid and cherished."

That relationship collapsed following Rwaje's next letter (November 30) expressing deep concerns and demanding specific actions including ending any and all further discussion of a missionary society.

Request for Financial Clarity

Among the issues raised by Archbishop Rwaje and leveled at the Anglican Mission regarded monies sent to the Province of Rwanda.

Rwaje demanded to see AMIA's books. Anglican Bishop Alexis of Rwanda charged that AMIA had not been frank in the disbursement of monies to the African province.

Murphy said that these rumors were totally unfounded. "We insist on the highest standards of financial accountability and have a coveted membership in the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability (ECFA), a watchdog agency committed to maintaining these standards.

"There is no problem with money. We in fact, have been giving away an average of 12% to Rwanda over the last seven years. It has always been a gift." The "10, 10, 10" (a plan asking parishioners to tithe to their congregations; congregations to tithe to the Mission; and the Mission to tithe to Rwanda) is still in place.

"This Biblical principle of the tithe is always voluntary, not mandated. The money we give goes to Rwanda's provincial budget and other special projects and needs as they are identified. In each case, it is a gift intended to bless and encourage ministry within the province. This has been our practice from the very beginning of our history."

AMIA Bishop John Rodgers echoed this and told VOL in an e-mail that the charges by the Bishops of Rwanda concerning Bishop Murphy are "erroneous and profoundly disturbing."

To make his case for accountability, Murphy flew H. G. Miller III, AMIA's Executive Director, to Rwanda with all the financial data to present to the HOB only to be told that there was no time in the agenda of the Bishops meeting to which Murphy and Miller had been invited. "The accounts of AMIA are open, careful, and audited," opined Rodgers. You can read two letters between Archbishop Rwaje and Bishop Alexis Bilindabagabo here: http://www.theamia.org/am_cms_media/re-invitation-for-h-miller-to-give-financial-transparency.pdf and http://www.theamia.org/am_cms_media/+alexis-request-that-h-miller-not-speak-at-hob-meeting.pdf and here http://www.theamia.org/am_cms_media/strengthening-working-relationships-01.pdf

Murphy said he was even more troubled by the fact that he was not permitted to present the clarifying financial materials that he had prepared and brought for that House of Bishops meeting. "Sadly, the decision to prevent Miller from addressing those financial questions back in June has only served to keep the questions surrounding finances from being settled and resolved once and for all."

At one point in the discussion, Rwaje told Murphy that a "cloud had been lifted" within the House of Bishops concerning those financial questions.


Reflecting on the present situation and the need to withdraw from the Province of Rwanda, Murphy told VOL that the Anglican Mission has received a firm commitment from their founding Archbishops Emmanuel Kolini, (Rwanda) Moses Tay (Singapore) and Yong Ping Chung (Singapore) to provide oversight until they find their new provincial home and move forward with the process of developing a missionary society.

Murphy had requested of Rwaje that those priests who wanted to stay under the Province of Rwanda be afforded ecclesiastical protection and remain under the oversight of Rwanda with AMIA's blessing.

Citing the Book of Exodus 5:1, 8:1, 9:1 etc. and that Africa was not their lasting home, Murphy said he now saw a parallel between the Exodus story and the present situation with Rwanda and the PEAR.

"Things have now been made very clear to me, and I am thankful for the clarity that I now have." Murphy said he was joined in his decision by his fellow Anglican Mission bishops. "We say this without feelings of anger or hurt. We recognize that just as leadership changes in Southeast Asia following Archbishop Yong's retirement brought to an end the oversight that we had enjoyed for a number of years from that Province, so now, the many new leadership changes in the PEAR following Archbishop Kolini's retirement, have brought to an end the oversight that we have enjoyed from the Province of Rwanda. We actually see the Lord's hand in all of this, and we are, therefore, at peace with this change and with this new reality. We will always be grateful to both S.E. Asia and Rwanda for taking us in and spiritual refugees," Murphy added.


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