AMiA in rebellion, Rwanda charges

 

AMiA in rebellion, Rwanda charges

Author: 

George Conger

  The Anglican Mission in America (AMiA) has come under sharp criticism from the Church of Rwanda over its plans to pull away from the oversight of the African church. On 31 Oct 2011 Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje directed AMiA Bishop Charles “Chuck” Murphy to suspend work on a proposal that would change its oversight from a “personal prelature” under the Rwandan primate to a missionary society overseen by an independent “college of consultors”. Founded by Evangelicals in response to what it saw as the abandonment of the classical Anglicans in the United States, Bishop Murphy and Bishop John Rodgers were consecrated on 29 January 2000 at St Andrews Cathedral in Singapore by the Archbishop of Southeast Asia and Rwandan Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini. It has grown rapidly under the leadership of Bishop Murphy, but has begun to witness internal tensions as well as stresses in its relationship with Rwanda. Citing personal disagreements with Bishop Murphy, the Rt. Rev. Terrell Glenn, an assistant bishop, last week announced his resignation.  Questions have also been raised over the transparency of the AMiA’s finances and leadership structure.  Criticisms have also been raised over new canons prepared by a former Roman Catholic clergyman now serving in the AMiA that have incorporated a Roman Catholic ecclesiology and sacramental theology. The AMiA is not synodicaly governed but operates under the sole authority of its leader, Bishop Murphy, who acts as a primatial vicar for the archbishop. Rwanda’s Title II Canon 15 hold there are seven sacraments of two kinds, while Canon 17 teaches the doctrines of Transubstantiation and the Sacrifice of the Mass – a stance that puts the church at odds with Articles XXV and XXVIII.  The canons also follow the Roman Catholic teachings on confirmation, penance, matrimony, ordination, holy unction as well as baptism. At its 2011 Winter Conference, Bishop Murphy indicated there would likely be a change in the AMiA’s relationship with Rwanda in light of the retirement of Archbishop Kolini.  Only two Rwandan bishops had been in office when the AMiA had been formed and the “institutional memory” was fading away, he noted. A June 2011 meeting in Rwanda brought matters to a head.  The Rwandan Church asked for an accounting of funds collected by the AMiA and designated for the East African province.  Questions were also raised about the degree of accountability the AMiA had towards the Rwandan House of Bishops.  The Rwandan bishops also declined to approve Bishop Murphy’s assistant bishop nominations. Bishop Murphy noted that the AMiA had no canonical obligation to send money to Rwanda – it had however, contributed an average of 12 per cent of its income over the last seven years to Rwanda’s general fund.  However, no public accounting of the disbursements has been made so far. He also charged the Rwandan bishops with “reverse colonialism” – seeking to oversee a church half a world away.  This had not worked during the age of colonial expansion when London missionary societies oversaw African churches and could not work today, he argued. At a 27 Sept 2011 meeting, Bishop Murphy unveiled the reorganization strategy to the Rwandan bishops.  The new arrangement would provide stability and continuity for the Pawleys Island, South Carolina-based organization by moving oversight to a self-perpetuating college of consultors, initially led by Archbishop Kolini.  While Bishop Murphy told CEN he believed the meeting went well, the Rwandan bishops were left nonplussed. In an open letter to Bishop Murphy, Bishop John Rucyhana deplored the plan which would “take AMiA from its original intent.”  He believed the AMiA was being ungrateful, as “this move may hurt the relationship” between the AMiA and Rwanda, “which stood alone in the whole world with AMiA in the most difficult times.” He was also distressed by what he saw as the AMiA’s taking Archbishop Kolini out of the Church of Rwanda.  “It may be extremely hard to comprehend for the retired Archbishop Kolini who led AMiA as a mission of Rwanda and now moves with AMiA out of the province during his retirement.” On 31 Oct 2011, Archbishop Rwaje wrote to Bishop Murphy “requesting that all procedures toward the formation of the new missionary society be halted until we go through the Jerusalem moment (are of common mind).” The AMiA also needed to address Rwanda’s concerns over the “painful visit” at the June House of Bishops meeting, the charge of “reverse colonialism” leveled by Bishop Murphy, the “assumption that the new Archbishop does not make decisions,” and to reflect on “the spirit of rebellion and lawlessness.” Bishop Murphy told CEN it was “absurd” to suggest he was in rebellion.  He denied the AMiA was seeking to withdraw from Rwanda and stated his relations with the archbishop remained strong.  A meeting is scheduled next week in Washington between the AMiA and the primate to review the tensions before the 21 Dec 2011 meeting of the House of Bishops in Rwanda

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