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HOUSTON, TX: The Anglican Mission Remains Stable in Stormy Ecclesiastical Times

HOUSTON, TX: The Anglican Mission Remains Stable in Stormy Ecclesiastical Times

By David W. Virtue in Houston
January 12, 2012

Today, Virtueonline talked with a number of influential and knowledgeable members of the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMIA). The following is a summary of their observations about the ecclesiastical stance of the AMIA within the wider Anglican family especially the Province of Rwanda.

The questions VOL posed were about who holds the franchise name for AMIA now that there are technically two AMIA's, the historical roots of AMIA and Rwanda, the relationship now with Rwanda, and the future.

The Anglican Mission in America (which later became the Anglican Mission in the Americas and then The AM) was established as a 501(c)3 in the State of Illinois. It has a duly constituted board of directors that includes the present Bishop of AMIA - the Rt. Rev. Charles Murphy.

The AMIA came out of Amsterdam in the year 2000. The relationship of the AMIA to the Province of Rwanda was one of personal oversight (prelature) that existed from the get go, first from Southeast Asia Primate Moses Tay, later Yong Ping Chung, and later still with Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda.

When Yong Ping Chung retired, Archbishop John Chew would have nothing to do with the AMIA, which is why Kolini became the sole primate involved. The center moved from SE Asia to Rwanda and Kolini.

At that time, one needs to remember, there was no GAFCON, no movement or talk about realignment, and no ACNA. There was only Common Cause. The only thing moving was the AMIA because they viewed The Episcopal Church as apostate and heretical, beyond theological repair, and, therefore believed they could no longer be a part of The American branch of Anglicanism.

Chuck Murphy along with Dr. John Rodgers sought a relationship with these overseas primates. At no time was it thought that the AMIA would be a self-standing jurisdiction. Both men were consecrated in the cathedral in Singapore.

A common statement made repeatedly by Bishop Murphy was, "We are a mission -- nothing more nothing less."

When Kolini became the sole primate, he wanted to see the AMIA continue and safeguarded so he sought to give it a better canonical and ecclesiastical covering. In 2007, he established a Canons Committee that included Bishop John Rucyahana (Shyira), who chaired the committee, and Bishop Onesphore Rwaje who was the Dean. He later became Archbishop. Much later, an American canonist joined the group.

What Kolini wanted was a long-term safe haven for the mission. It should be noted that Murphy had nothing to do with this. The first time Murphy saw the whole set of canons was when all the bishops of Rwanda met in November of 2007, the week before synod.

The words Anglican Mission do not appear in the canons or constitution. There is only provision for an entity like the AMIA to exist, but it is not there by name.

When the canonical charter was authored for the AMIA, it served two purposes. The first was to lay out the ecclesiastical relationship and, secondly, to lay out an organizational relationship required by law.

There was never a mandate by Rwanda for that charter. Murphy said that it would be a good idea on how to live out the relationship between Rwanda and the Anglican Mission. However, it only addressed one part of the relationship - the ecclesiastical, not the secular.

There are no documents that suggest Rwanda would have a claim to the Anglican Mission name, structure or secular entity.

With the split, we now have the Anglican Mission and a group that dissents from the Anglican Mission, but they are not organized to date to bear the name of Anglican Mission or anything related to it.

However, it is within the province of the Archbishop of Rwanda to create another ecclesiastical structure if he so desires, but to date that has not been announced.

Furthermore, it has always been ACNA Archbishop Robert Duncan's desire to see a closer relationship between Rwanda, AMIA and ACNA.

How that is going to play out remains to be seen.

Next week in Raleigh, NC, the other AMIA faction, which includes two former AMIA bishops Thad Barnum and Terrell Glenn who both loyal to the Province of Rwanda and Archbishop Rwaje, will meet. (VOL will be covering that event as well.)

Another question posed by VOL was what standing do these three retired archbishops have with AMIA and the wider Anglican Communion.

VOL was told that this was a pastoral, not an ecclesiastical jurisdictional relationship. No one has ever claimed that this was an ecclesiastical jurisdiction; it was pastoral relationship for a state of emergency in exactly the same way they did in 2000.

AMIA is not a jurisdiction, but an emerging missionary society. In short, they are doing what they have always done. There is nothing new.

It is ironic that when they did this the first time, both the Archbishop of Canterbury and TEC PB Frank Griswold very exercised about how wrong this was and called on Archbishop George Carey not to recognize the group. Carey succumbed to the pressure of then Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold.

What is the relationship now between AMIA and the Province of Rwanda?

VOL was told that, first and foremost, the relationship is based on personal pastoral care. All the archbishops, including Kolini, said that there would be a line of clergy to ensure pastoral care of the people and that these clergy were canonically resident in the Province of Rwanda (and before that SE Asia.)

From that clergy were and are canonically licensed from Rwanda (the sponsoring province), but the parishes are affiliated with the AMIA whose clergy is supplied by Rwanda.

To date the AMIA bishops have not been deposed even though they have resigned, their resignations have not been accepted by Archbishop Rwaje.

The Future

VOL was told that the AMIA has not contacted any primate "to please give us a home." For the moment, the three retired archbishops provide pastoral nurture and support. AMIA's priests continue to be licensed in Rwanda as long as they follow the solemn declarations to abide by the faith or unless Archbishop Rwaje decides otherwise. The parishes in the US continue to benefit from the clergy they already have.

Money Trail

While Trinity Church Wall Street and The Episcopal Church has offered money to the Rwandan bishops and some have accepted it, there are consequences and alliances that emerge from this - the liberalization of Rwanda is under way to the degree that they play along with TEC. It is understood that Bishop Alexis Bilindabagabo of the Diocese of Gahini, Rwanda who succeeded Dr. Onesphore Rwaje (now the Apb) visited 815 2nd avenue to plead his case for money as he told the Presiding Bishop he would be the next Archbishop. It never happened.

Kenyan Invitation

Recently Bishop Murphy was invited by the chair of GAFCON and archbishop of Kenya Eliud Wabukala to come to Nairobi because he has an interest in the future of the AMIA and wants to be involved in reconciliation talks. "It is very clear that when Chuck was invited to come to Kenya at the invitation of the Kenyan Archbishop was that he both liked the missionary model of AMIA and was anxious that it did not devolve into fragmentation," a source told VOL.


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