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Charles H. Murphy III, 1948-2018: ‘He Fought a Good Fight…’

Charles H. Murphy III, 1948-2018: ‘He Fought a Good Fight…’


By David W. Virtue, DD
January 11, 2018

The Rt. Rev. Charles “Chuck” H. Murphy III, founder of the Anglican Mission in the Americas, has died of brain cancer. He was 69.

Murphy, the son of an Episcopal priest, was a graduate of the University of Alabama, Trinity College (Bristol, England), and the University of the South’s School of Theology. He was ordained deacon and priest in the Episcopal Church in 1975.

Murphy was behind the First Promise Movement that led to the formation of The Anglican Mission, in opposition to the theologically and morally deteriorating situation in The Episcopal Church. He is recognized for his vision, innovation and values that made him a major figure in the birth of the realignment of Anglicanism in North America.

He and the Rt. Rev. John Rodgers Jr., the second dean of the Ambridge-based Trinity School for Ministry, were consecrated bishops in 2000 by the Most Rev. Emmanuel Kolini, Archbishop of Rwanda, and the Most Rev. Moses Tay, Archbishop of South East Asia in Singapore.

That action caused then Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold to race across the Atlantic, appealing to Archbishop George Carey not to recognize the newly formed Anglican jurisdiction. Carey obliged.

Starting in 1982 as rector of All Saints Church, Pawleys Island, Murphy fought for the parish in a long-drawn out legal struggle with Diocese of SC Bishop Ed Salmon, with the Supreme Court of South Carolina ruling in favor of the diocese. Under Murphy’s leadership, the church grew from 150 to over 850 with a multi-million-dollar budget.

Undeterred by legal issues, Murphy gathered around him a group of men and women to reaffirm the faith when they saw they had no future in TEC as it dissembled the faith. Under his leadership, the AMiA grew. He described himself as a missionary bishop. His desire was to reach America's 130 million unchurched by planting new churches across North America.

“Chuck’s ministry at All Saints Church, Pawleys Island was marked by a remarkable development of ancient future worship, solid biblical teaching, and congregational development. Additionally, many lay leaders were recruited, developed, ordained and released through a parish-based theological training program then known as the All Saints Leadership Institute,” observed one blogger.

On a church-wide level, Murphy had been a conference and keynote speaker at Kanuga Center, Ridgecrest, and Aqueduct, and a visiting lecturer at both the Trinity School for Ministry, Ambridge, PA, and the University of the South, School of Theology in Sewanee, Tennessee. He has also taught and provided stewardship education and training in over 25 dioceses and 75 parishes throughout the U.S.A. and taught at a number of conferences in the UK prior to becoming a missionary bishop.

But dark clouds loomed on the horizon. In 2012, it all began to unravel. I wrote at that time that it was an unholy mess, a clash of wills, power struggles and theological direction. And so, it was.

Constitutional and financial accountability issues with the Province of Rwanda led to charges and counter charges with the African province accusing Murphy of “disobedience and abuse of office” withdrawing its ecclesiastical support with counter charges by Murphy of “reverse colonialism”. Issues over money, leadership style and the belief by Murphy that the AMiA needed to be a Missionary Society forced Rwanda Archbishop Rwaje’s hand. The relationship came to an end. The AMiA lost her last ecclesiastical lifeboat. The Society for Mission and Apostolic Works was formed.

Rwandan Bishop John Rucyahana put his finger in the pulse of the situation when he wrote VOL saying, "I wrote an open letter to +Chuck calling for him and the House of Bishops in Rwanda to put right the differences that developed in the June 2011 meeting. Indeed, what I predicted has come true. The formation of a missionary society came at a wrong time when Rwanda was transitioning in leadership from ++ Kolini to ++ Rwaje." Reconciliation, however, was not to be. Positions hardened.

The birth and rise of the Anglican Church in North America under the leadership of Bishop Robert Duncan and the clash as to who would lead it, took its toll on both Murphy and the AMiA.

Murphy’s leadership style did not go down well with a number of his own bishops and one by one they left the AMiA and joined the ACNA. Murphy was isolated. It was a case of the bear vs the lion, and in the end the lion won. Duncan had the scars of battle as a TEC bishop under fire from the Church’s leadership for leading his diocese (Pittsburgh) out of TEC. He had a military background that had taught him how to wrestle with the revisionist demons of his fellow bishops; was experienced in drawing together disparate forces and had the gravitas of a Churchill that Murphy simply did not have. In the end it was no contest.

The fight over leadership and the bitterness that resulted between the two men was never resolved. Murphy withdrew from the ACNA leadership. A source close to both men told VOL that Bob and Chuck had no contact for years. “So, no, no reconciliation. Chuck talked a good line but that’s all it was.”

Murphy resigned as the AMiA’s apostolic vicar in 2013, with all of AMIA’s bishops and most of AMiA’s congregations coming under the spiritual and ecclesiastical authority of the ACNA. Today, the AMIA is a shadow of its former self with many believing it has no sustainable future.

Murphy returned to Pawleys Island to lick his wounds, and in 2012 he founded a new congregation, the Abbey at Pawleys Island. The Abbey began holding weekly Sunday worship services. In the fall of 2014, it purchased The Carriage House in the historic, 300-year old Litchfield Plantation as a permanent home.

An official announcement said, Chuck passed away peacefully, surrounded by the love of his family and his Savior. He is survived by his wife, Margaret, three children and six grandchildren.

Murphy’s successor, Bishop Philip Jones said +Chuck made a huge impact as a bold, innovative leader for all of his ministry. God worked through him in significant and fruitful ways to change the face of Anglicanism in North America for generations to come. His sense of vision and God’s timing was supernatural in origin and scope. +Chuck often said of the AMiA, “We are about mission, nothing more, nothing less.”

Canon Phil Ashey, President and CEO of the American Anglican Council wrote kindly; “Although +Chuck was the subject of some controversy in his later years, he was and will always be remembered as a faithful, brilliant, Mission focused pioneer of Anglican renewal and realignment. We rejoice that he is now in glory with the Lord Jesus whom he loved so passionately.”


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