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HOUSTON, TX: AMIA Leaders Lay out Future of Mission Post Split

HOUSTON, TX: AMIA Leaders Lay out Future of Mission Post Split

By David W. Virtue in Houston
January 12, 2012

While reconciliation is openly being sought between two groups in the Anglican Mission in the Americas that recently split, not everybody is ready to move. With the change of leadership in Rwanda, the change in relationship will be fraternal not residential. It will not be one of oversight, according to Bishop John Rodgers, AMIA bishop and theologian.

He said recent meetings with ACNA Archbishop Robert Duncan and Bishop Chuck Murphy revealed concerns for inclusion; roundtable talks came to the fore, but met with no conclusion. "We entered into a process with the ACNA, but in terms of the arrangement (which AMIA had helped form), it would allow AMIA to keep its unique structure and culture. We are not committing hari-kari. We laid it before Archbishop Duncan and we have set up a process for resolution by June of this year. We will see then if it still fits. We have sought at all times to be faithful Anglicans."

When he rose to speak, Bishop Murphy received prolonged applause. He said some 700 were registered for the conference with over 800 at worship. "We need to discern the future and move forward. This conference is different from past conferences," he said

"In Nairobi, the chair of GAFCON primates [Kenyan Archbishop Dr. Eliud Wabukala] called us up to have a meeting. Bishop John Miller and I flew to Kenya and sat down with Archbishop Rwaje and five observers from Kenya and Nigeria and we talked what was happening. We began a process to work on reconciliation, friendship and support. We made genuine headway. They now have a wildly different leadership in Rwanda. They were not exposed to what we were up to, as Kolini knew. We went through a formin', stormin' and normin' process and we tried to sort out together what our relationship is and needed to be."

Murphy said these African leaders were enormously impressed by the work of AMIA. They were very supportive and wanted to facilitate the best way forward. We had a remarkable time together. We began to talk about the AMIA story.


Murphy said AMIA had watched a truly remarkable thing in last 12 years. "We collected a staggering amount of money. It takes a lot of money to launch a mission. The money that left the mission reached $46 million in 11-12 years. It came from several sources with congregations giving $19 million. A handful of donors gave $20 million. Another group of donors threw in $6 million. Money follows vision."

The AMIA chairman said the vision produced 268 churches in various stages of development. If churches experienced tension and friction, they wanted help. "Despite the money, we're in a painful tear. Sense of expectation always been the heartbeat and we expect God to to help us to move forward. He will speak to us in concrete ways."

Internet "Painful"

On a personal note, Murphy publicly admitted that the Internet "has chopped me up. It has been a very painful experience for me and my family. These have been WOW moments. I cannot believe the vitriol on the Internet and there was not a lot I could do about it. For some people I come across as a monster over the last five months with a depth and strong negative impact that has taken me back.

"The attacks on my character, integrity, leadership had come from people who were hard to identify. The vitriol was enormous."

Murphy said his decision was to practice what he preached, "I needed to walk in the Spirit to avoid the temptation and get in the fray and tear into people. I asked God to give me the grace to exhibit the fruits of the Holy Spirit especially self-control. Isa 30:15 was a favorite text. This experience brought me in many ways to my knees. I was getting sometimes up at 4am to pray.

"Intercessors were constantly praying. I was constantly learning by what God was teaching me and as He speaks to us, all we have to do is listen. I also learned the lesson 'Don't strike back'. The Lord chose not to strike back. Jesus was reviled and did not revile in return. I had to model a better way to deal with firestorms. Good people can sharply disagree."

Murphy said he saw models in Paul and Barnabas, leaders of the reformation in men like Luther, Calvin and Zwingli who were all doing the best they could, but they didn't agree on everything.

The AMIA leader noted that there were 38,000 denominations in the 21st century so we can say that good people can just disagree. "God throws different nets to catch different fish. The Anglican Communion has an alphabet soup of churches that God uses to meet a variety of spiritual and cultural needs.

"The Anglican Church of my childhood simply does not exist. Sometimes people can disagree yet all of those groups have people who love the Lord and who want to proclaim the gospel in the Anglican tradition. Good people can sharply disagree. When we part to go in different direction the person who moves in a different direction is not the enemy. They go to do a different kind of thing. You can disagree and still remain friends.

"Should this happen in a Spirit filled community, yes read the epistles, there were big issues there. Some said 'I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas. There was dissension, bickering and jealousy in that church yet God works and God's voice is heard. In Acts 6 we read about the Hellenists and Hebrews who were murmuring. Out of it came the Diaconate. The community in Acts 6 was shaken...this has happened to the AMIA. It is going to be okay. Very good things will bubble up out of this difficult time."

Murphy said he was moved and drawn to a book by Phyllis Tickle The Great Emergence - the church's 500-year Rummage Sale. Tickle's basic thesis is that every 500 years, the Church goes through a rummage sale, cleans out the old forms of spirituality, and replaces it with new ones. This does not mean that previous forms become obsolete or invalid. It simply means they lose pride of place as the dominant form of Christianity. Constantine in the late 4th century, early 5th, the Great Schism of the 11th century, the Reformation in the 16th century, and now the postmodern era in the 21st century have all been points of reference for these changes.

"What is giving way right now is liberal Protestantism, in the form that we know it, and what is emerging is a new form of Christianity, that she calls The Great Emergence.

"How do we interpret what God is doing? We need to look at this through this particular lens. Genuine believers are found in all these denominations. "It is essential we do not quit. We need to hang in there for a long obedience in the same direction. Jeremiah was rejected by his friends and family for 40 years and through five kings but he would not throw in the towel. Our call is from God and we can never question that. I have confidence in the call God has given us.

"How do we see ourselves? Flip the green lizard off your shoulder and listen to the living God, his is the voice we want to hear. Do not give up. Don't quit a take a biblical vision and drive with us."

Missionary Society

Murphy said he had been talking about a Missionary Society for the past five years. "At the last five winter conferences, we have talked about the Celtic model, missionary orders and Church Missionary society type of structures that are sustainable, flexible platform for all the changes in the decades before us.

"The position of the work of the AMIA is that it is sustainable and flexible and to weather the various twists in life. We can order our lives around who we think we are. We can provide continuity and the province can provide continuity in oversight. Steve Jobs [APPLE CEO]had a vision to make phones perfect on the inside and outside. The largest religion on the planet is Christianity. We have not finished and we are not quitting."

Murphy received a standing ovation.


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