Sunday, February 24, 2002

Letter to the ABC from Bps Chuck Murphy and John Rodgers Of the AMiA

February 6, 2002

The Most Rev. and Honorable George Carey
The Archbishop of Canterbury
Lambeth Palace
London, SEI 7JU
United Kingdom

Dear Archbishop Carey,

We trust this letter finds you well. We want to thank you for meeting with our sponsoring Archbishops, Archbishop Kolini and Archbishop Yong, to explore a way forward.

Subsequent to your meeting, and after conversations with Archbishops Kolini and Yong, it became clear to us that you are laboring under a number of very serious misconceptions concerning both the Anglican Mission in America [AMiA], and the Episcopal Church in America. This, of course, concerns us, because these misconceptions have clearly influenced both your attitude and your behavior toward us. It is our hope that this letter will offer you more accurate information, and that it will serve to give you a more truthful and helpful perspective on our work and our objectives through this important Anglican Mission in America. Given the importance of these matters we dare to hope that you will read this letter personally. We will try to be brief and will not seek to cover all that could be said. Do be assured that we can document at length all of the assertions that we make and stand ready to do so should you wish further clarification.

Misconception # One: The most urgent problem facing the Communion, and threatening the life and unity of the Communion at this time, is the Anglican Mission in America, and not the state of the ECUSA and many of the other Provinces in the West. This would explain your concern for unity, and due respect for provincial boundaries, over what you see as the less urgent problems that exist surrounding matters of biblical truth and orthodoxy.

If there is, indeed, no serious -much less critical- "problem" in the ECUSA concerning its Faith and morals, and if, in fact, appropriate order within the Church is of far greater importance than any questions of Faith that numerous "orthodox voices" seem to be raising, then the Anglican Mission in America would, obviously, be the greater problem facing this Communion, for we are, indeed, ministering in a Province without being invited. It is, however, our position that we are not, in fact, the problem, but rather, one of the necessary ways that orthodox Anglican believers have responded to a pervasive and systemic crisis of Faith and Leadership in the ECUSA.

The creation of an Anglican missionary outreach within the United States has taken place only after exhausting every other avenue for Reform and Repentance in the ECUSA, after a long and sustained effort of at least a period of 25 years to bring about reform and repentance, and only after orthodox congregations were being harassed and persecuted by the revisionist leadership.

Since you have written that the Episcopal Church is "theologically sound" let us respectfully offer four ways in which this evaluation reveals a devastating misconception:

1: First, there is the inescapable fact that every conservative group in ECUSA has repeatedly told you that the Episcopal Church is well beyond all Biblical and Anglican theological and moral boundaries, and that it is beyond self correction. The American Anglican Council, Forward in Faith, North America, Episcopalians United, the Prayer Book Society, Ecclesia, First Promise and the Association of Anglican Congregations on Mission, which is now a part of the Anglican Mission in America, have all said the same thing. We have said this numerous times, and have sent you more documentation than needed to make matters clear. Can we all simply be wrong?

2: The Primates "Come and See" report, made by concerned Primates who came and visited in the USA over a lengthy period of time to assess these conclusions [point #1 above], has voiced the same concerns. Again, so did the Primates letter, following your meeting in Oporto, which asked the Presiding Bishop to address some of these issues within the Episcopal Church.

3: It is now being argued that a Church can continue to be defended as "fundamentally sound" unless and until the Faith of that Church is officially, objectively, and/or canonically changed. Many now hold that pervasive disobedience to the church's teaching and standards, while perhaps, on some level, both disappointing and troubling, is simply not enough to justify serious rebuke, correction, or discipline - much less the acceptance of an act of "outside intervention" by fellow-Primates such as the creation of the AMiA. The refusal to act, or to support some action, based on a flawed argument concerning what it finally takes to declare a Church "fundamentally unsound" is not the position found in the teaching of the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 5:9ff, or in Article 19 of the 39 Articles.

Apart from this, however, it is beyond dispute that both the Faith and morals of the Church itself are being objectively altered within the Episcopal Church, U.S.A. First and foremost, there has been a pervasive rejection of the authority of Holy Scripture, and a denial that they serve in the ECUSA as "the rule and ultimate standard of faith" [Resolution 11 / Lambeth Conference of 1888]. The revisionist Court in the Righter Trial ruled that, in the ECUSA, one cannot appeal to the clear teaching of Scripture to discipline a Bishop for violating them, but only to the Creeds and Canons. Of course, since neither the Creeds nor the Canons were ever intended to replace the Scriptures, but only to aid in their application, or in showing a clear and responsible reading of them, this now official, "reductionistic" decision has become an open door through which the secular culture has come to dominate the Episcopal Church, through its revisionist bishops who are now effectively removed from any likelihood of official sanction, discipline, or correction.

Add to this removal of Scriptural authority, and the appeal only to the Creeds and Canons, the fact that the 39 Articles are not held to be authoritative, nor is the Book of Common Prayer and its Catechism, and it becomes clear exactly why the ECUSA now has no effective authority upon which to exercise any discipline. This loss of Scriptural Authority, and the proper methods of interpretation mandated in the 39 Articles, has produced the primal error which rendered all the other errors inevitable. "Ye do err knowing neither the Scriptures nor the power of God". [Matt. 22:20]

Of course, the General Convention of the ECUSA could change this if it wished, but, as you know, that body has increasingly moved farther and farther away from the teaching of Scripture and tradition. At the very time in which strong action and leadership is most needed in the American church, one can begin to understand exactly why the vow to "drive out all strange and erroneous doctrines contrary to God's Word" dramatic expression in the person and voice of retired Episcopal bishop Jack Spong. Jack Spong has, as you know, denied every one of the tenets of the Creeds [12 Thesis], even as he remains in the House of Bishops with both voice and vote, and of course, was invited to be present as a bishop in good standing at the last Lambeth Conference. Although now retired, he continues to lecture throughout this country at prominent schools and universities such as Harvard - again, as a bishop in good standing!- without ever having been disciplined or defrocked by the House of Bishops. In short there is simply no will for, and no standard by which, any responsible ecclesiastical discipline on matters of Theology and Ethics can be exercised in the ECUSA, except a very narrow appeal to the Canons that are themselves so very limited as to be unable to serve that purpose. The deterioration is systemic.

There is in the ECUSA, a very real crisis of both Faith and Leadership that is both pervasive and unchecked. It is expressed rather forcefully in the person, and in the writings of, people like Jack Spong, but this crisis is also evident in the official actions of ECUSA's diocesan and national conventions. For example, over half of the dioceses of ECUSA rejected Lambeth Resolution 1:10 on human sexuality, either by public statements by the bishops, or by the resolutions of their diocesan conventions. At last count only 6 dioceses voted in convention to affirm that resolution. With all of these developments being so visible, so vocal, and so relentless, we find it difficult to understand how it is that you can write that the ECUSA is, in your estimation, "theologically fundamentally sound". Is there anything that you have not received in the way of documentation that you would like for us to send you?

When faithful Anglicans simply could not continue with this increasing secularization of the Church, and when faithful leaders and congregations began to be marginalized and persecuted simply because of their unwillingness to embrace the latest theological trends and innovations, a number of us began to appeal to the larger Communion for some kind of "intervention." It was only after voicing our concerns at several international gatherings that a few of the Primates, intervened, consecrated missionary bishops, and formed the Anglican Mission in America.

This Anglican Mission in America was created as an interim step until these serious matters of orthodoxy and accountability can finally be resolved at the highest levels of the Anglican Communion. It remains an interim step to extend pastoral care to those in this country who wish to remain within the Anglican family, but who simply can no longer remain within the ECUSA.

Misconception # Two: The Anglican Mission in America is schismatic and, in essence, a Church and not a mission.

We, of course, argue strongly that we are neither schismatic nor a Church. We maintain that we are not some new Church, but rather an interim, pastoral mission giving protection to congregations who seek us out, and planting congregations in areas where the Gospel and the Faith is not being faithfully represented by a given Diocese of the Episcopal Church. We do not recruit congregations in the ECUSA, but rather, a number have sought us out. Our concerns are chiefly pastoral and evangelistic. We do not have the structures of a Church or Province or Diocese. We have no House of Bishops, the bishops consecrated serve under the authority of our sponsoring Primates. They are, as stated, missionary bishops, and our congregations are missionary congregations. We have had no constitutional convention; we operate with ad hoc arrangements, and under the close supervision of our Archbishops, until such time as the Primates provide a way to deal with the crisis in ECUSA, and indeed in many of the Western Provinces for that matter. We are a new mission and not a new Church.

Nor are we schismatic. This is evident in a number of ways. First, we have not left the Anglican Communion. To transfer from one Province to another is not schism. It is simply that, a transfer from one part of the Communion to another. Second, schism is best defined as a separation on secondary matters. ECUSA's profound departure from Biblical teaching and morals as taught by Anglicans from the beginning is hardly a secondary matter. We may be in violation of ecclesiastical boundaries, for emergency purposes, and for only as long as the emergency exists, but we are not schismatic nor are we loose canons. These steps were taken only when we had Archiepiscopal authority to do so.

We are certain that you believe that you have given even-handed, and wise leadership to the Anglican Communion with respect to the state of the Episcopal Church and with respect to the Anglican Mission in America. We trust that you are acting out of your convictions. You have led many others who trust your orthodoxy and integrity, and because of your position as Primus Interpares among the Primates, to hold the same views as do you. We are aware that you have moved strongly against the two Primates and the Anglican Mission in America since the consecrations in January of 2000 in Singapore. Unfortunately you have not heard the cry of those whom we have listed above, nor the many whom they represent. You have publicly denied the depth of the Crisis and declared increasingly that it is the two Primates and the Anglican Mission that are the problem, implying that if we would just go away, all would be well. But, of course, the ongoing crisis of faith and leadership in the American Church would remain.

You have, so far, shaped the Primates' Meetings to limit discussion of the depth of this Crisis. You have declared that you have no authority to meddle in the affairs of a Province such as ECUSA while, at the same time, contacting all of the Bishops in the Provinces of South East Asia and Rwanda to get them to break affirmation of, and sponsorship of, the Anglican Mission in America, as well as the leadership of their Archbishops in this matter. We are not aware of any letters you have written to the bishops of the ECUSA leading them to question the leadership of Presiding Bishop Griswold, or urging the rejection of those denying the Faith and changing the morals of the Episcopal Church. It does not seem that you have taken a clear stand on the mandate given you in the Resolutions of Lambeth 1998. Instead you have placed the one resolution concerning the boundaries of dioceses above the importance of all of the resolutions concerning the Faith and morals of the Communion.

We do not mean to question your integrity, but only to indicate that because of the above misconceptions, from the beginning, you have taken one side in this matter, and that we believe the true dimensions of the crisis have never be addressed. As a result, the Anglican Mission in America has been unfairly characterized and treated.

We are saddened to learn that you will be retiring for we know of your orthodox faith and believe that in due time, better informed, you would offer the needed leadership. Now another must take the lead. However we are hopeful that since you have one more meeting of the Primates, that at that meeting you will take the way forward that Archbishops Kolini and Yong have suggested. We have appended a copy of that way to this letter.

Sincerely in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Charles H. Murphy, III
The Right Rev. John H. Rodgers

cc All Primates

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon
Minister of Christ Church, Biddulph Moor,
England & Vice-President and Emissary-at-Large of The Prayer Book Society of America

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