After Winter Conference
This is the pastoral letter I just sent to my congregation. It is about the current mess in and around the Anglican Mission in the Americas.
Dear Church of the Redeemer,
Greetings to you. I hope this letter finds you well.
As you are probably aware, this has been a tumultuous time in the Anglican world. I have written three other updates which I hope you have already read. You can find them on our website. My first letter is here: http://tinyurl.com/7gb86aq My second letter is here: http://tinyurl.com/7kmcdfr My third letter is here http://tinyurl.com/7m3ru2p
Since I last wrote to you, I have been to the annual Anglican Mission (AMiA) Winter Conference. I was joined by our other pastors and three of our elders. The highlight of the event was Jenna Martin’s ordination to the deaconate! I don’t always enjoy the programs at these conferences, but I always enjoy seeing my fellow clergypersons from both North America and Africa. This year many of these friends were absent.
It was a pleasure to be with the clergy leaders of all the AMiA churches in our “Mid-South Network” (Middle and Eastern Tennessee). We had many good discussions. I was especially grateful to hear from Bishop Todd Hunter and Canon Ellis Brust. Bishop Todd was our bishop until his resignation from Rwanda, and I would love for him to be our bishop again in the near future. The best thing I experienced in that hotel was the discussion which took place between Bishop Todd and the Tennessee clergy.
Bishop Todd's humility and non-defensiveness were remarkable. When I asked him why he had resigned from Rwanda, he answered me that he had made a mistake. He did not know that his resignation would affect his relationship with our church. He expected that the bishops were simply going to move into another Anglican Province. He reminded us that he has only been an Anglican for a couple of years. He did not fully grasp the enormity of this move. He said these same things to the entire conference.
Bishop T.J. Johnston, our previous bishop, was also a humble and sensitive presence. He apologized to all of us, not for what he had done but for the pain that had been caused. He is leading an effort to negotiate with the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). It is possible that these negotiations will lead to the AMiA coming under the oversight of ACNA. This is what I would most like to see happen.
Unfortunately, much of what was said by the leadership of the AMiA was not as helpful. From my personal perspective, I heard too much arrogance, fact spinning, and finger pointing. I would prefer not to give a laundry list of specific examples, as this is not beneficial to my soul. They explained to us that they intend to begin a “missionary society” that will possibly not be part of an Anglican Province. They did not tell us what a missionary society was, or why it should exist. At least one of the bishops questioned whether it was even necessary for the organization to remain Anglican at all.
Our Elders and Pastors have had serious conversations about the situation. We are not satisfied with the present circumstances. We don't believe that the AMiA has adequately addressed important questions. Redeemer is completely committed to remaining Anglican, and attached to an Anglican Province (or at least an emerging Province like the ACNA).
All that being said, we are still hopeful that the AMiA will find a satisfactory a resolution. We don't see the value in making any hasty decisions. While we are not currently governed by any AMiA bishop, we intend to retain our membership in the AMiA for now. However, we are also paying close attention to the guidance of our present bishop, Archbishop Rwaje and the bishops who did not leave Rwanda. Furthermore, we are in contact with bishops of the ACNA.
At this time we have not been officially offered an alternative structure. Some new structures are emerging, but nothing is in place quite yet. I expect that at some point Redeemer will be asked to make some important decisions regarding how we will relate to the wider Anglican Communion. At that time, I will make sure to give you whatever information I have.
I am still a priest of the Anglican Province of Rwanda. Danny Bryant is a deacon of Rwanda, and Jenna Martin is actually a deacon of the Anglican Church of Congo. Church of the Redeemer is part of the world-wide Anglican Communion by virtue of these connections. Archbishop Rwaje is our bishop.
Regardless of how we are connected to the Anglican Communion a year from now, I am certain that Redeemer will remain what it is today, a church that lives and proclaims Christ’s redeeming love. Our vision, our values, and our direction have not changed. I do not believe that this current mess was God’s best for his people. I believe it came from the sinfulness of men, though what those sins were and who committed them are not mine to know or judge. I do know that the Lord is still in the redemption business. I believe he will take this messy situation and bring forth something beautiful. I continue to hope that he will bring forth a more fully unified Anglican Church in this nation.
I call upon each of you to pray. Let’s kneel together in this season. Please pray for your pastors and elders. Please pray for the leaders of the AMiA, the ACNA, the Province of Rwanda, and all those affected by this situation. Pray that all of us would find resolution soon. Pray that the enemy of our souls would find no foothold. Pray that no further dishonor would come to the Name of Christ.
As I said in my previous letter, if you feel that you would like to discuss this matter further, please feel free to contact me and set up a meeting. There is a great deal of opinion and “information” on the internet. Feel free to explore that as much or as little as you like. I will do my very best to keep you informed as things develop.
May the Lord grant to us His peace, the peace that the world can’t give. The peace that we will never find in good circumstances, in happy climates, or in godly leaders. The peace that comes from Him alone.
My love and prayers are with you all,
The Reverend Thomas McKenzie
Pastor, Church of the Redeemer