GREENSBORO, NC: AMIA Leader Notes Losses, Sees Hope in Formation of New Society
Bishop Murphy said two thirds of his parishes have fled to other jurisdictions
By David W. Virtue
February 27, 2013
In his final address to members of the Anglican Mission in America (AM), outgoing Bishop Chuck Murphy admitted that he has lost two thirds of his churches to other Anglican jurisdictions, but said the best still lies ahead for the Anglican Mission, now transitioned into a Society of Mission and Apostolic Works.
"This is the first winter conference since the great realignment and we are now the same size we were four years ago," he said.
Addressing several hundred followers in Greensboro, NC at their annual Winter Conference, Murphy noted that in the first eleven years, the Mission celebrated one new church plant every three weeks with a total of 268 churches. However, over the past eleven months, two-thirds (about 179 churches) had transferred into another expression of church life, he said.
He called the last year of his leadership "brutal" and "painful" because of personal attacks. He described the experience as "awkward and difficult for us".
Murphy said he saw the attacks as "a work of the devil...it is part of the deal."
"We build a church and Satan builds a chapel."
He described what happened to him and the Anglican Mission, "As a very interesting chapter in a civil war," calling it surprising and hurtful on many occasions.
The Chairman admitted to a painful 2012 in the life of the Mission and personally. He interpreted those losses through the words and wisdom of others such as Bishop John Finney who talks about the pitfalls of movements in his book Fading Splendor.
"I can't deny that something happened and was very hurtful." Murphy likened his situation to the destruction of the twin towers on 911 calling it "very devastating and a BIG deal, real...and rough." He added there has been redemption in the formation of a Society of Mission and Apostolic Works.
"This is the first winter of the great realignment. We are about the same size we were four years ago. This is the first winter conference that we are constituted as a Society of Mission and Apostolic Works and talked of AMIA's 'new focus'", said Murphy.
Murphy announced this is the 13th annual winter conference and his last as chairman. He announced 11 new ordinations. He went on to say that this is "a pivotal moment in the history of AM. "It is an unusual occasion, an awkward moment. [Now] we must ask, what is the vision for AM's move into the next chapter?
"What we have been through is jarring so how do we see growth. In the first 11 years we planted a new church every three weeks for a total of 286 church plants."
He said AM is now entering an interesting chapter. "Some want a more denominational model which is not logical for us to ask. I do not believe God is to stop giving the growth He initiated, birthed and continued. He cited Bishop John Finney's book. Murphy also cited the Second Law of Thermodynamics where things wear out, become more alike and distinctions disappear.
"We started a new thing and then we became institutionalized. Every great movement starts with a prophet and ends with a policeman."
Murphy said the Mission Society is a religious organization dedicated to mission work. "This is all we want to be about. We were sent to further the work of mission. We came to recognize recruit, resource and release dynamic leaders. Our model is in the Celtic tradition. We want to establish mission abbeys and be deep in mission, in the way we do work. We will be led by dynamic leaders." He said the Office of Apostolic Vicar would be maintained "to make sure we maintain one call, one culture one community, a place to meet the living God."
He said he was modeling the future after the Celts who changed the face of Western Europe and the British Isles without the benefit of jurisdictions and provinces. He called it "an exciting banquet table of the things of God" that now awaits the Mission. Some items on the menu include a renewed focus on identifying dynamic leadership, the creation of Mission Abbeys in Chattanooga, Dallas, and Mount Pleasant, SC, gathering clusters of Cohorts for the care and community of congregations and missionary bishops doing the work of the ministry.
Murphy said he still believes in the three streams model - evangelical, catholic, and charismatic, but didn't foresee it tearing AM apart. "The older paradigm was a different kind of call. We want to be clear and defined with one call, one culture one community." He envisions that happening with the Society of Mission and Apostolic Works.
"We should be free to be innovative. There will be very real differences in Canada and Texas. We want freedom with fences. We want to be pioneers...the morning stars of the reformation."
Despite financial shortfalls, Murphy said he has received $800,000 "in cold cash" in the past few months to keep the society going. "We can maintain the infrastructure. We are not cleaning up, we are building. We planted five churches last month." Unfinished works will be the next chapter of the Anglican Mission.
"We must never step away from the vision we have been given. He described the AM as an "unfinished masterpiece.
"Don't quit stay with this thing."
The Chairman concluded his address by using a metaphor in the sculpture of David by Michelangelo. The sculpture, a work originally begun by another artist who abandoned it, was resurrected by Michelangelo twenty-five years later at the age of 26. He devoted two years chipping away at "everything that didn't look like David" completing the seventeen foot piece of classic art.
"We must never step away from the vision we've been given like Michelangelo who saw David in that six ton block of marble," declares Murphy. "We must keep chipping away at the work we've been given; chip away everything that doesn't look like the mission so that the finished work will emerge with more clarity. We need to hear and understand that the Mission is God's unfinished work and He will take us to new places that will be stunning."
Murphy did not announce who would succeed him.
UPDATE: The Council of Consultors for the AM has announced that The Rt. Rev. Phillip Jones had been elected the next apostolic vicar pending his acceptance.
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