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HOUSTON, TX: Bishop Murphy Answers Questions about AMIA Split

HOUSTON, TX: Bishop Murphy Answers Questions about AMIA Split

By David W. Virtue in Houston
January 13, 2012

Virtueonline interviewed AMIA Chairman and Bishop of the Anglican Mission in the Americas, the Rt. Rev. Charles "Chuck" Murphy III, about the split, how he is handling it, and what he thinks the outcome will be.

VOL:How much of the $46 million raised by the AMIA and spent over the last 11-12 years went to Rwanda?

Murphy:We sent them $5,078,000 not counting other pass through gifts totaling several million more.

VOL:To date how many parishes have left AMIA for the pull away group?

Murphy:To date, I only know of 4-5 congregations. I suspect by the end of the day, it could be 20-25 congregations, which include the Apostles Mission, networks and congregation in the Birmingham Alabama network. We will know more next week. For these to leave, they will need a process to disaffiliate.

VOL: You talked in your message about the pain and hurt you have felt, do you have a sense of betrayal by people who you thought were your friends?

Murphy:I am genuinely surprised, but I want them to do what the Lord is calling them to do.

VOL:It is rumored that Bishop Laurent Mbanda, newly elected Bishop of the Shyira, and Bishop Alexis Birindabagabo of Gahini were behind the leaked letters to the Church of England newspaper that in effect escalated the ecclesiastical battle that brought about the split Is that your understanding.

Murphy:I believe they have been involved, but I have no way of knowing the specifics. They have been actively involved in many public and private conversations about their relationship with the mission.

VOL:If Archbishop Rwaje knew about the proposed setting up of AMIA as a Missionary Society, which at first he accepted and then rejected, who and what do you think was behind that turnaround in his thinking?

Murphy:It is hard for me to speculate. The key players in their HOB have a very persuasive voice with Archbishop Rwaje and when he took counsel, they must have agreed that he needed to take the steps he took. The change in the HOB, which is inevitable, also means a loss of memory and history. It was simply not there after Archbishop Kolini left. Rwaje is acting out of advice of counsel of his House and that is their preferred future. I don't know specifics.

VOL: What was in it for them to do that?

Murphy:It was definitely about power and control. It makes no sense on any other level. We wanted a defined directional role. A multi-million, multi-national mission to which God has given enormous favor. Their HOB wanted to be more involved in the direction of the AMIA. They wanted more involvement in leadership and direction.

VOL:Do you see The Episcopal Church's fingerprints in any of this?

Murphy:I have no idea.

VOL:You have said the idea of a Missionary Society has been in the works for five years with the full approval of former archbishop Emmanuel Kolini. Why did Rwaje suddenly get cold feet on that issue?

Murphy:I don't know. We, including canonist Kevin Donlon with Bishop Mbanda and Archbishop Rwaje, were simply exploring this together.

VOL:when I asked Archbishop Kolini about the root of the split between AMIA and the Province of Rwanda, he said these words: "Power and Money, but mainly it was about power" Does that ring true for you?

Murphy: Yes. Archbishop Kolini is right. I don't think it is primarily about money, but about power, influence and giving more on hands direction from 8000 miles away.

VOL:I have been told that both bishops Alexis and Mbanda were ambitious for Kolini's job and were angry that they were not chosen and therefore decided to sabotage the relationship of Rwanda with AMIA. Does that make any sense?

Murphy:I have no idea. Bishop Alexis wanted to be the primate, but he got one vote as far as I know and that is as much as I know.

VOL:I was told that the Rwandans saw AMIA as a money pit they could draw on endlessly and jealousy arose among some diocesan bishops about who was getting the lion's share of the money. Can you enlighten me on all this?

Murphy:I honestly don't know. For the 11 years we were under Archbishop Kolini, these issues never surfaced therefore all of this is new to me.

VOL:According to your own bylaws you still own the AMIA franchise, and the other group are dissidents until they are recognized by Archbishop Rwaje. Is that your reading?

Murphy:Yes. My understanding is that our board owns the logo, the name, the buildings (on Pawleys Island which includes the mission center building. There is a sector of congregations affiliated with us until they have created a new entity.

VOL:I am told that while your bishops have resigned, the resignations have still not been accepted in Rwanda and no one has been deposed. Is that correct?

Murphy:No one has been deposed and no charges filed. He accepted our resignations and told us this last week in Nairobi. He did say he could act and pull together a special synod, but he has chosen not to do that.

VOL:Do you foresee a time when the AMIA will fold its tent into the ACNA? For many that would make logical sense.

Murphy:We are presently exploring the possibility to determine whether or not there would be a good fit. We are not going to throw away our culture, vision and leadership in order to force fit into a system that would, in the words of Bishop John Rodgers "commit hari kari."

VOL:Could that happen before you retire in two years, presuming that you are, or would that be up to your successor?

Murphy:We are exploring that. In Pittsburgh, we met with Archbishop Duncan who appointed two people from both sides to have ongoing conversations to see if it makes sense and is a good fit. Bishop Doc Loomis and Bishop T. J. Johnson and Bishop Charlie Masters (Canada) and REC Presiding Bishop Leonard Riches need to put their heads together to see what makes sense. We would like to have an answer by the June synod meeting of ACNA.

VOL:However you cut it, Archbishop Duncan's first loyalty must be to Archbishop Rwaje because they are both primates in GAFCON. He cannot sacrifice that loyalty at any cost. Do you think you might be thrown under the bus because Duncan has a higher commitment to his fellow archbishop?

Murphy:Duncan is in a difficult political situation. He would like to include AMIA to add critical mass to ACNA, but he also needs to ensure his relationship with all the GAFCON primates.

VOL:How do you plan to move forward with priests who are no longer in AMIA? Will you be forced to depose them?

Murphy:No. Every priest is in Rwanda canonically. They need to decide to continue to be a Rwandan priest overseeing an Anglican congregation or transfer to another jurisdiction.

VOL:How do you see the future as you move ahead; what does the future look like now?

Murphy:I anticipate we are walking down separate paths, but I would love to do that with one another's blessing and support. If I am wrong, I am open to that. I anticipate that Thad Barnum and Terrill Glenn will move in one direction and we will walk in another direction. I hope we can walk apart and still be friends.


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