Sunday, January 21, 2007

RWANDA—further innovation in missionary outreach in America?

Two Integrities rolled into One? A discussion starter

Peter Toon

To pursue its mission to and in North America, the Province of Rwanda has been, and continues to be, “led” to reject conciliar decisions taken by the Instruments of Unity of the Anglican Communion, in particular by the Lambeth Conference.

One rule of the Communion has always been that one Province does not enter into another Province except by invitation. and certainly does not enter to take over or set up parishes or do missionary work therein, except by the most express and clear invitation. And this rule is an ancient Catholic rule as well. By setting up what became known as the Anglican Mission in America, without the invitation or the permission of The Episcopal Church, or the Instruments of Unity of the Anglican Family, the Province of Rwanda broke this rule in a very clear and explicit way. In mitigation, it may be said that since The Episcopal Church has moved fast into heresy in the last decade, the action of Rwanda, which was originally widely condemned in the Communion of Churches, is now tolerated by many. However, the Anglican Mission itself is neither regarded by the Archbishop of Canterbury nor some Provinces as part of the Anglican Communion.

Yet, whatever its ecclesial status in the Communion and before the Throne of Grace it is an entity which is growing fast in America, especially so when compared with other local Anglican groups.

The Mission does not show much signs of the democratic procedures which are inbuilt in the governing and polity of American denominations. It appears from the outside to be very much run on what feminists call patriarchal and sexist principles, with the Archbishop of Rwanda as the patriarch, the House of Bishops of Rwanda as his council of advice, Bishop Chuck Murphy as the American Chief Executive Officer, and with the Mission divided into Networks (not dioceses—note the business term) each with a junior CEO. This way of functioning—from the top downwards rather than from the bottom upwards—makes for efficiency when an organization is new and expanding. It also keeps the workers on the ground busy so that they do not have too much time to reflect upon and discuss policy, which is decided at the top. And while there is a task to perform and an enemy (Episcopal progressive Liberalism) to fight then all seems well.

But sometimes the troops on the ground do begin to ask questions and mumble to each other. Further, friends outside (like me and others who were guests at the AMiA Winter Conference) begin to be extremely concerned. This anxiety is now occurring because of the setting aside by Rwanda of another important conciliar rule of the Anglican Communion of Churches—the doctrine of Reception. And it is occurring, practically speaking, through the combination of African paternalism and America pragmatism. To explain this charge, we need to read a recent press statement from the Director of Communications of the Mission, writing about the new umbrella body called (do not get confused) “The Anglican Mission in the Americas [plural]”:

Anglican Mission in the Americas, a missionary outreach of the Province of Rwanda, is large umbrella structure for three entities:
· Anglican Coalition in Canada (ACiC)
· Anglican Mission in America (AMiA)
· Anglican Coalition in America (ACiA)

In May 2005, Archbishop Kolini asked the Anglican Mission in America to seek a way to embrace all those priests and deacons, male and female, canonically resident in Rwanda, but living and ministering in the US and Canada (now and in the future). The current structure of the Anglican Mission in the Americas, discussed and planned over the last 18 months, was created in response to Archbishop Kolini’s request and represents an expansion of our missionary outreach – a widening of Anglican Mission’s tent.

The Anglican Mission in the Americas embraces two countries (the US and Canada) as well as two positions on the ordination of women. ACiC and ACiA ordain women to the priesthood, as does the Province of Rwanda, while AMiA maintains its policy of ordaining women only to the diaconate. Anglican Mission in the Americas provides a way to maintain the integrity of those with differing opinions and policies on women’s ordination.

The three entities – ACiC, AMiA and ACiA – are equal, are in communion with one another and are under the authority of the Province of Rwanda through its missionary outreach – the Anglican Mission in the Americas .

Bishop Chuck Murphy serves as chairman of Anglican Mission in the Americas , and the National Mission Resource Center will assist and facilitate ministry for the ACiC, AMiA and ACiA.

The Canadian arm came into being at the time of the Winter Conference in Birmingham Alabama, January 2006, and the new American arm was announced by Chuck Murphy at the Winter Conference in Jacksonville, Florida, in January 2007. As the Press announcement suggests, the creation of these entities did not involve getting a vote of approval neither from the AMiA churches already in existence nor from licensed clergy.

From the perspective of the Anglican Doctrine of Reception (for details see my booklet, Reforming Forwards? The process of reception…, Latimer Studies 56/57, what I suggest that Rwanda should have done was to appoint one or more bishops solely for the ACiC and the ACiA, in order to maintain what is referred to within the Anglican Way as “the two integrities.” The present policy as determined by Rwanda has one set of bishops and one set only who are all in the AMiA, where all of whom are committed by oath, annually taken, to the doctrinal basis of the AMiA. This includes commitment not to ordain or promote women as priests and means that they belong squarely within one integrity.

Now in the Anglican Communion, apart from this integrity, which is that of maintaining catholic order and practice, there is another integrity, one that is only a few decades in existence, and this is to ordain women as priests but within certain rules, which rules are set forth in the Anglican Doctrine of Reception (created by the Lambeth Conference of 1988 and elaborated by The Eames Commission in the 1990s). This doctrine states that the decisions of synods to ordain women is to be open to continual discernment and testing by the faithful, and that only after an indeterminate period of time will the mind of the Lord be known as to whether ordained women are to become a permanent part of the Ministry of the Church. Further, the doctrine assumes that there will be in existence the two integrities and thus bishops will belong to one integrity or another. It is impossible on principle for a bishop, who does not ordain women in one diocese of province or network, to cross over into another place and there act and speak as if the ministry of women priests is fine. That is, a bishop cannot as a man of principle belong to two integrities simultaneously. This mocks truth and sets aside the Anglican Doctrine of Reception.

The Province of Rwanda has ruled that women may be ordained in Rwanda but this ruling, because it is within the Doctrine of Reception, does not require a bishop who does not accept the innovation of women priests to ordain women or even license women to be under his pastoral care as Father-in God. In the Mother Church of the Anglican Communion, the Church of England, there are Bishops known as Provincial Episcopal Visitors who minister to parishes which do not receive the ministry of their territorial, diocesan Bishop, because he ordains women. The aim here is to maintain two integrities while the process of reception is continuing.

For the Bishops of the AMiA, who are committed to one integrity, that of maintaining historic catholic order, to move into another (which is what the ACiC and ACiA contain) and function there, as if they were also of that integrity, is clearly contrary to right reason and to good ecclesial practice. It is to conflate two integrities into one. Also it contravenes the conciliar decision of the Anglican Communion in its adoption of the Doctrine of Reception. And it undermines the possibility of harmonious working relations in the long term in the Anglican Mission in the Americas (plural).

I suggest that to put matters right Rwanda should provide immediately a bishop who belongs to the new integrity so that he or she can minister to the ACiC and ACiA. And, as part of the pain of the modern Anglican situation, let it be understood that Bishop will not be able to minister within the AMiA, once he has ordained a women as a priest. As Anglicans we cannot escape the situation we have knowingly walked into—maintaining two integrities on ordination until we all agree as to the mind of the Lord—and we need to be clear that this situation cannot be treated as a problem in business which the “chairman” and “CEO” can solve by decisions from on high. It has to be solved in ecclesial ways and that is what The Eames Commission sought to describe. We may not like these ways but we have to live with them as Anglicans within the Communion of Churches.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon January 21, 2007

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