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AMIA Bishop Blasts CEN Reporter for Fomenting Schism in Anglican Mission

AMIA Bishop Blasts CEN Reporter for Fomenting Schism in Anglican Mission
US Anglican Leaders say collaboration in Rwandan HOB led to collapse

By David W. Virtue
January 26, 2012

A leading world Anglican theologian, author and bishop, has blasted a Church of England reporter for fomenting schism in the Anglican Mission in the Americas. Critics assert the schism took place in collaboration with individuals within Rwanda who have been working with individuals in the US against the AMIA.

AMIA Bishop John Rodgers ripped George Conger, who recently worked in a Hospice as an Episcopal priest and part time reporter for an independent British weekly newspaper, accusing him of making false statements about Bishop Chuck Murphy and the relationship of AMIA with the Anglican Province of Rwanda and its Primate, Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje.

Others have noted that several key pieces of correspondence from Rwanda to Bishop Murphy were given to Conger before being received by Murphy. Since these documents originated from Rwanda, it implies that there are people in Rwanda who were involved with Conger in fomenting this unfortunate situation.

The AMIA became aware of correspondence from individuals within the US encouraging certain Rwandan bishops to prevent Bishop Murphy from presenting the AMIA facts and to thwart reconciliation efforts by the AMIA.

It has been reported by VOL that former Rwandan archbishop Emmanuel Kolini stated at the recent AMIA winter conference, "The AMIA is a victim of a power struggle of church politics in Rwanda." This may well be the root cause of the entire situation and the reason for the departure of the AMIA from its formal ties to the Anglican province of Rwanda.

Conger has, on a number of occasions, charged AMIA's top leaders in print with a pattern of lying, financial malfeasance, and abuse of authority. Conger wrote that the AMIA press office had issued demonstrably untrue statements.

"The AMiA has violated the Rwandan Canons and the ECFA guidelines, and the [Rwandan] House of Bishops has denounced Bishop Murphy for his abuse of authority." Has there been any repentance for these actions by Conger? Conger also accused Bishop Rodgers of libel.

Rodgers replied, "It may be that The Reverend Mr. Conger believes AMIA to be untruthful, but the truth, which he needs to acknowledge, is that we did meet with Archbishop Duncan in Pittsburgh and officially ask for a way to become members of ACNA.

Archbishop Duncan accepted our request and has set forth a process to explore that possibility with the intent to come to a conclusion by June of this year. One gets the impression that Mr. Conger hopes that we would just leave. One might hope that people would seek to pray for and hope for reconciliation and unity on all fronts. To desire and work to hinder reconciliation is itself a cause for repentance and amendment of life."

"Repentance and amendment of life depend on what is determined to be sinful behavior and by whom, and that is rather more complicated than Mr. Conger and many seem to envision. Those in the process will explore that complexity in the days ahead. Of course if that is already determined from afar, as it seems many have done, including Mr. Conger, much of the work of those conducting the process will prove unnecessary.

"I am unaware of anyone arguing that because AMIA has done something good in the past, or in the present for that matter, that is sufficient ground to excuse present day actions. Of course we do say that past behavior is often a clue to future performance, which might give grounds to people to hesitate to rush to judgment. Could it be that there is room for repentance and amendment of life and the extension of forgiveness on all sides?"

Allen Kannapell Pastor of His Church Anglican Network and leader of the Lighthouse Network for the Anglican Mission in America ripped Conger saying, "What in the world are you speaking of George? "You cry for an explanation of, 'the pattern of lying, financial malfeasance and abuse of authority committed by the AMIA's top leaders?' Of what are you speaking? What lies? What malfeasance? What abuse of power? While Bishop Murphy is not a perfect person, he is no liar, abuser, or malefactor. It is highly ironic that you bring up the word libel." Conger's reporting against the AMIA and Bishop Murphy is especially interesting since he was the recipient of over $6,000 from the AMIA to produce a white paper.

If Conger had thought that his "expose'" of Murphy and the AMIA (from a single leaked letter) was designed to bring Murphy down, he was deluding himself. The recent AMIA Winter Conference was a resounding success and reaffirmation of the faith, the mission of the AMIA to reach North America's 130 million unreached complete with three archbishops who have been with Murphy for more than a dozen years. Furthermore, more than 80% of all AMIA bishops stand with Murphy.

In addition, 800 laity showed up in open support of their leader in Houston. Reliable sources have told Virtueonline that the majority of AMIA bishops have remained with Bishop Murphy because they see the power play that is taking place in Rwanda and want to protect the AMIA from it. This is supported by various comments from people very close to the situation.

The real truth is that retired Rwandan Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini had an exemplary relationship with Murphy for more than a decade. The changeover to a new archbishop, a different personality and a new Rwanda HOB who knew very little about the relationship between Kolini and Murphy, began a pattern of manipulation and accusations about the misuse of money that has proven entirely baseless.

Furthermore, two Rwandan bishops have acted questionably with one, Bishop Laurent Mbanda (Rwanda), owning several homes. It is believed that it was Mbanda who leaked the document to Conger. Additionally, there have been at least two or three leaked documents including Bishop John Rucyhana's "open" September letter and the House of Bishop's letter with the seven-day ultimatum.

At this time, Rwaje has not inhibited or deposed Murphy and his HOB and Mission Rwanda, the Mission Forward Group that met in Raleigh recently have only ecclesial structure and a pastoral relationship with Rwaje not unlike the AMIA's Counsel of Bishops and the resident clergy.

In an interview with VOL, Murphy said that AMIA had sent more than $5 million, not counting pass-through gifts totaling several million more, out of total AMIA budget of $46 million to Rwanda.

AMIA's books are carefully monitored by the accounting firm of Capin Crouse, one of the nation's leading national accounting and advisory firms primarily serving the Christian not-for-profit community. They follow scrupulous internal accounting methods and have a CPA on staff to assist and assure financial integrity. Also, the AMIA has and maintains the valued approval of the highly esteemed Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). Accusations by Conger of "financial malfeasance" are clearly false. Kolini told VOL that this whole split has to do with "power and money, but especially power" with those charges leveled directly at Rwanda, not AMIA and Murphy.

This power struggle began in Rwanda and has spilled over into the U.S., he explained. The central issue of AMIA becoming a Missionary Society and no longer a personal prelature has been under consideration and talked about for more than five years. The concern many have is that Rwaje may have been manipulated by forces within the HOB when, after the two parties including Murphy and canonist Kevin Donlon met in Washington DC and agreed on how they would move forward, he did an about face upon returning to Rwanda and backed down on what he had agreed to in Washington. This shocked and surprised Murphy who issued a statement with some unfortunate remarks to the biblical Exodus.

That only threw gasoline on the now raging ecclesiastical fire. Murphy later apologized for his remarks and indicating they were an analogy. He did not intend to make any of the inferences that others have ascribed to in order to continue to foment the break.

Whether you like him or not, Murphy is a WYSWOG - What You See Is What You Get - and his transparency and openness, which is part of his charm, can also get him into trouble when dealing with people who have another agenda. He seems genuinely bewildered by the actions initiated in Rwanda.

In obvious collaboration with individuals in the US, Conger's public involvement has made the matter much worse. These matters, which should have been dealt with in private, have been aired for all the world to see and speculate about through their own lenses and desires.

"Canon Donlon has well-stated some of the canonical issues involved in this tragic, tragic turn of events. It is appears that the relationship with Rwanda could have continued with the AMIA as a Missionary Society long into the future if the Rwandans had not changed their position and sought long-distance interference into the inner workings of the AMIA and leadership. This concept has been openly discussed for many years - not just the last few months, as some seem to assert. It has been discussed in the context of continuing the Rwandan-AMiA relationship - not concluding it," asserts the Rev. Dr. Tim Smith, a former lawyer who has been to Rwanda 8-10 times and still maintains a close relationship with dozens of his brothers and sisters in Christ there.

"Nevertheless, there are deeper and longer standing underlying reasons for what has taken place. It was never the Anglican Mission's intention to completely sever ties with Rwanda, where many wonderful, vibrant and hopefully lasting relationships have been forged over the last dozen years. The efforts by a few in Rwanda to exert power and to seek to gain control over the inner workings of the AMiA and over the substantial monies which the AMiA has graciously and voluntarily given to Rwanda since 2000 are at the heart of this matter.

"Those Rwandan forces have apparently and intentionally leaked sensitive information to the press, which Mr. Conger has chosen to print despite AMIA's appeal to him, based on the Christian principles of Matthew 18, to ask him to allow these matters to be resolved in private and not in public. The leaking of them to Conger is flat-out wrong. Conger's insistence on placing them in the public arena and his slant with sensational headlines along with the misstatements and mis-characterizations in his articles only made matters worse. Matters which well could have been amicably resolved otherwise.

"Having been aware for a number of years of the animosity borne by one of the Rwandan bishops toward the AMiA and Archbishop Kolini, these events do not come as a complete surprise. The effort to unseat Bishop Murphy and to malign Archbishop Kolini is indicative.

"The late November ultimatum of just seven days to Bishop Murphy to repent or resign reveals, to me, the goals of those in Rwanda and their allies in the US. This ultimatum, I would venture to say, 'threw down the gauntlet.' The fact that it was not personally delivered to Bishop Murphy according to Christian principles, was publically leaked for broad and viral dissemination, and set such a very short deadline for response, which precluded a face-to-face discussion of the matter, all indicate to me that reconciliation was not its intent.

"The objective of this ultimatum - I have to think, unbeknownst to many of the other Rwandan bishops - was to seek Bishop Murphy's ouster, not repentance and reconciliation. Those Rwandan forces were seeking to intervene in the internal affairs of the AMiA and remove him as the head of the AMiA. Little did those forces know that a substantial majority of the AMiA bishops would see this as the power play which it apparently was and take steps to protect the AMiA from such further intervention, meddling and long-distance control as had been unfortunately been sought for a number of recent months.

"The responsibility for this tragic turn of events rests upon a few. However, their actions have had widespread and dramatically unfortunate ramifications. For myself, I sincerely hope to maintain strong and growing relationships with most of my Rwandan brothers and sisters. We have established a deep caring, respect and love over the last years. My recent communications with many of them reveal that they are equally dismayed that this has taken place. It's tragic - truly tragic."

In a phone call to VOL, Archbishop Kolini had this to say: "The article by Conger chronicles lies and arrogance that doesn't please God. Archbishop Rwaje has no authority to accept their resignations. The AMIA bishops resigned from the Rwandan HOB over conflict with Rwaje, they had nothing personally against Murphy. AMIA is still connected with Anglican Communion and they are still members of the Province of Rwanda until they are deposed.

The Archbishop cannot do this alone he needs three bishops present and a judge. The AMIA still has apostolic succession and connection." They can still be transferred by letters dimissory or reactivated for the province.

He also noted that Bishop Alexis Bilindabagabo of Gahini Diocese took money from Trinity Wall Street. Kolini said charges that he himself misused money were simply untrue. "I was not the chairman of the Finance Committee, only one of its bishops. Why didn't they and Conger ask me? The money went to the province to rebuild it after the Genocide. It is true the dioceses suffered a lot because I had to build up the province again."


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