A Pastoral Letter to My Congregation Regarding the AMiA
Dear Church of the Redeemer
I hope that you are all having a blessed Advent season. For me, it has been both more difficult and more meaningful than I expected. I am grateful for the opportunity to engage in daily worship, pastoral care, and written reflection with you all. I look forward to a continued holy Advent as well as the dawning of Christmas.
I’m writing to you all today to inform you that the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA) has entered into a time of transition. For some of you who follow these things on the various Anglican websites, this will not be news to you. For most of you this may or may not be entirely interesting. I will do my best to explain a complex situation as briefly and directly as possible.
I must begin with some background. Church of the Redeemer joined the AMiA back in July of 2004, just as we were beginning as a church. The AMiA was a mission organization of the Anglican Church of Rwanda. The Archbishop of Rwanda was Emmanuel Kolini. He gave oversight to the AMiA. Bishop Chuck Murphy was the American leader of the AMiA and T.J. Johnston was our bishop.
During my years in the AMiA, it has changed in many ways. It has never been an organization that loved structure. As someone who is not entirely comfortable with change, I can tell you that I have not always enjoyed this element of the AMiA. I have however noticed that, generally speaking, these changes typically turned out for the better.
A couple of years ago another organization was birthed in the U.S. This was the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). I was there for the beginning of this group, as was the rest of the AMiA. The AMiA currently is a partner of the ACNA but we are not the same group. Redeemer is relationally connected with the ACNA while we have been happily part of the AMiA since our founding. My personal hope is that someday these organizations will be even more closely connected, if not one in the same.
Over the past few months, the top leadership of the AMiA (by which I mean Bishop Chuck Murphy in conjunction with the AMiA bishops and the bishops in Rwanda) have been discussing a change at the top level of the organization. Bishop Murphy and others have been considering the possibility of transitioning the AMiA from a Rwandan ministry to an international ministry under a panel of archbishops. This would mean the AMiA would be something church lawyers call a “mission society.”
Apparently this discussion unearthed a great deal of tensions at the bishop level. I have to honestly tell you that I was unaware of these tensions. These conflicts came to a sudden flashpoint a few days ago. Several letters were exchanged, charges were made, and poor communication abounded. Most of this played out on gossipy “Anglican” blogs and websites. The effect of all this was that most of the bishops in the Anglican Mission resigned from the House of Bishops of Rwanda. This includes Chuck Murphy, our former bishop T.J. Johnston, and our current bishop Todd Hunter.
There is a lot of talk about this on the internet right now. Rather than repeat all the ins-and-outs, let me recommend the best news story I have read: http://tinyurl.com/amiarwanda
So what about Church of the Redeemer? I think it is vital that our leadership not take any quick action. Jumping to conclusions based on incomplete facts has, in my opinion, been a leading cause of the current unpleasantness. The facts on the ground are changing very quickly. No one knows how any of this is going to ultimately shake out. Because all of this conflict is happening well above us in the hierarchy, I suggest that we all take on the Advent discipline of waiting and praying.
As of today, Church of the Redeemer is still a member of the Anglican Mission in the Americas. I am still a priest in good standing in the Anglican Province of Rwanda. Our bishop is still Todd Hunter. Any of that might change in the next few months, but that is where we are right now.
Three retired archbishops, Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda and Moses Tay and Yong Ping Chung of Singapore have agreed to provide temporary oversight to the AMiA during this time of transition. I have been told by our bishop that within the next two weeks we can expect to see the AMiA once again in relationship with a province of the Anglican Communion. He has also told us that we can expect to get a full understanding of the next stage in the life of the AMiA at the Winter Conference (January 11-14 in Houston). Any of you are welcome to join our staff at Winter Conference, if you would like.
My recommendation to our Elders is that we take no action until after Winter Conference. It will be important for us to hear from the AMiA leadership. After all, God has given us our relationship with the AMiA for these years. If the AMiA ceases to be a legitimate option for Redeemer, then we may choose to continue on as a missionary congregation of Rwanda under a new bishop or we may choose to join the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).
I am a person who believes in Divine Providence. In other words, I believe that God is always at work, even in the midst of our sinfulness. I do not believe that this break from Rwanda has transpired in a good and godly way. I believe that bishops on all sides bare responsibility for this situation. But I also believe that God is in the redemption business. I have long hoped for an Anglican Province in this country that we can all be a part of. I have long believed that each nation should have its own Province, rather than one national church being in charge of another. While this is not the way I would have liked to see it happen, it may be that the Lord is bringing this vision to pass even in the middle of this mess. I truly hope it is.
Ultimately, it will be up to our Elders to decide how Redeemer will deal with the long term implications of this situation. So please pray for us. Pray also for Todd our bishop. In the mist of all of this, his wife is very ill and is having a serious surgery next week. Please pray for our Archbishop Rwaje, as well as Chuck Murphy and all the other bishops involved.
I wish I had more information at this moment, but unfortunately I don’t. I If you feel that you would like to discuss this matter further, please feel free to contact me and set up a meeting. I will do my very best to keep you, the congregation, informed as things develop.
Fr. Thomas McKenzie
Pastor, Church of the Redeemer