Skip to comments.AMIA LEADER ANNOUNCES BOLD APPROACH TO REACH 130 MILLION UNCHURCHED AMERICANS
Posted on 01/17/2006 7:36:45 PM PST by Huber
Church must have a clear message and deliver on it. 'No reserve, no retreat, no regret'
By David W. Virtue www.virtueonline.org
BIRMINGHAM, AL: (1/15/2006)--The Rt. Rev. Chuck Murphy seems more like a CEO than a bishop. He thinks and talks like senior management of a high level company that has just gone public and is ready to move from a $2 million to a $10 million corporation complete with charts, a VCR-II plan, promoting 'vision', 'risk' and 'reliability'. He speaks with passion about 'growth', 'stewardship' and drops phrases like 'money is muscle', '130 million Americans need Jesus' and 'real fellowship is when God is moving'...it's not the coffee hour, stupid.
He offers a biblical vision for church life and drops ideas in rapid fire form like, 'worship is... God's presence, God's purposes, God's pardon and God's power.'
"The visible marks of a healthy church are numerical growth through evangelism; transformed lives with total commitment to God's Word." He pushes 'excellence' while arguing there are no sacred cows. He promotes risk-taking with characteristics of a godly vision that flows from the Word of God; building on the past while seeing the value of heritage and history (why after all be Anglicans if you want to be the church of what's happenin' now), and urges his hearers to speak to 'peoples needs', challenging them to 'stretch' and 'unite' arguing that 'a house divided against itself will not stand'. His is a long obedience in the same direction.
At 58, he is, like most executives, well groomed, good looking, presents himself well, exuding an affable Southern charm in keeping with his Pawleys Island, South Carolina based mission. But one senses there is an edge that keeps him wary, perhaps indicating a deep hurt that won't easily be pasted over. He has a devoted, loyal wife and a team of fellow bishops that are committed to the mission. He is seemingly comfortable in his skin now, having battled, and overcome, a heart ailment.
After nearly six years at the helm of the AMIA he has emerged out of the shadow of The Episcopal Church and into the sunlight of a new day, and century, ready to do battle with the principalities and powers while pressing on toward the goal of building the church.
The Anglican Mission in America has come of age and is at peace with itself. The four day conference in Birmingham includes no talk about sex (pansexual acceptance), nor is the Episcopal Church mentioned once. That is history.
The man is the fulfillment of the purpose driven pastor leading the purpose driven mission church.
Chuck, as he is known affectionately to his friends and colleagues, is a survivor of the treacherous ecclesiastical wars of America's premier, but declining denomination - the Episcopal Church USA, and as a heart survivor, and former Episcopal priest, he knows full well the battle he is in and the foes around him. He is nobody's fool.
In an exclusive interview, VirtueOnline talked with him at length about the AMIA, his goals, direction, hopes and fears.
VIRTUEONLINE: Are you confident bishop that you are going in the right direction?
MURPHY: Absolutely. There are 130 million unchurched Americans and I am filled with hope with those who will respond to a clear bold stand and witness for the full gospel of Jesus Christ as the truth, and I believe the results of the last five and a half years is clear proof that demonstrates a real hunger out there.
VIRTUEONLINE: You have been in business, so to speak nearly six years. What are the numbers?
MURPHY: We have four active bishops, 87 fully supported, tithing parishes, a dozen missions that will in time morph into parishes, and we are opening one new parish every three weeks.
VIRTUEONLINE: You managed to draw nine orthodox primates of the Anglican Communion to this year's annual conference, your sixth. Last year you had four. What's going on here?
MURHPY: I wrote them a letter and invited them to come and told them we would love to have them here and to listen to them and to one another and they said they wanted to come. There was no arm-twisting. They were not altogether fully on baord with AMIA but they genuinely wanted to come and see what we were all about. They left impressed. The fact that eight archbishops and several bishops took such a long trip from Africa speaks volumes.
VIRTUEONLINE: Are there any Anglican Communion Network deans present?
MURPHY: Yes. The Rev. Jim McCaslin, he is based in the Diocese of Florida and the Rev. Ron McCreary from Overland Park, Kansas. Canon David Anderson of the American Anglican Council is also here.
VIRTUEONLINE: Is Common Cause working out?
MURPHY: I personally believe that Common Cause is good. It came out of the Primates meetings and round table talks.
VIRTUEONLINE: Do you feel accepted by them?
MURPHY: Yes I do.
VIRTUEONLINE: The buzzword these days is realignment, what is you assessment of this?
MURPHY: My assumption is that a house divided against itself cannot stand. We are watching the Lord create a new wineskin for a new century. It is not unique to this century, history has had other realignments - the Reformation was a realignment, but it is underway again. Jesus came not to bring peace but division. It is not unique to this hour but it is underway again. There is a divide along the fault line of Biblical truth and those who still believe the faith once delivered to the saints, those who still trust the gospel message will come together and work together to create a way forward. I believe it will come in stages but not a magic moment or one glorious weekend together.
VIRTUEONLINE: What do you think will happen to the Episcopal Church?
MURPHY: I believe the Episcopal Church is going to wither away. It will not prosper, it cannot, it has abandoned the gospel. I do believe, however, the ECUSA will continue to have a presence for another generation. There are too many people, even orthodox people that simply cannot consider moving away from their present parish facilities and so there is a great reluctance to do anything too radical. They are good people who love the Lord but they are not called to be pioneers of a new wineskin.
VIRTUEONLINE: How long do you give the Episcopal Church?
MURPHY: About another 30 years. It will work itself out through a continual stage of deterioration. John chapter 15 speaks of the vineyard and dying branches. ECUSA is a dying branch. It has no gospel to proclaim.
VIRTUEONLINE: Do you think a new Presiding Bishop following Frank Griswold, who might be moderate rather than revisionist would make a difference to you and AMIA?
MURPHY: We would be out of communion with an unreformed, unrepentant ECUSA.
VIRTUEONLINE: Are you talking with any Episcopal leaders about the future?
MURPHY: Yes I am.
VIRTUEONLINE:Are you able to deal tangibly with Episcopal leaders.
MURPHY: There is an increasing awareness that a house divided will not stand. I do not see a long range future for orthodox Episcopalians in the ECUSA. People are saying what will we do and where will we turn. If I am no longer engaged with the problem of ECUSA where will we turn, they ask.
VIRTUEONLINE: How serious was the consecration of V. Gene Robinson in your estimation and the damage it has done to ECUSA?
MURPHY: Robinson's consecration confirmed a persons worst fears. It was a complete disregard for biblical authority and a willingness to embrace the fuzzy, fudgy theology of Griswold and the ultimate expression of that is Gene Robinson.
VIRTUEONLINE: There seems to be little from the ECUSA House of Bishops about the 20/20 program to double the church. Why is that?
MURPHY: We believe we have a very clear call to reach out to 130 million unchurched people in this country. We believe our charge and our work leads us away from the biblical battles in the Anglican Communion. It is not going to hold us captive and our drive to reach America's unchurched.
VIRTUEONLINE: Do you think ECUSA will split?
MURPHY: Absolutely. I believe it could split in the next five years.
VIRTUEONLINE: What do you think that will look like?
MURPHY: We will have enormous clarity by Lambeth 2008. Lambeth will acknowledge and recognize what already is?
VIRTUEONLINE: Do you believe you and your bishops will be invited to Lambeth 2008?
MURPHY: Yes, I believe we will be invited. All the seated bishops will get invitations. The AMIA bishops are being invited to Lambeth because of our affiliation with the Province of Rwanda. The question is; is that the appropriate venue and will the orthodox participate or be a part of it. The huge Global South is in impaired or broken communion with ECUSA and the Canadians. In many ways it all depends on who gets invited. Unless there is a dramatic turnaround at GC2006 and in Canada, I don't believe the Global South, who are already out of communion, will find an avenue like Lambeth to stay in the Communion.
VIRTUEONLINE: These are your assumptions?
MURPHY: This is my reading based on assumptions and possible reversals of course. My opinion is that if the Global South leadership is faced with the refusal by ECUSA to repent, they will find it very difficult to participate if the liberals are invited.
VIRTUEONLINE: What is your feeling about the position Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury is in?
MURPHY: I believe he is going to have to make a hard decision as where he wants to stand because a house divided against itself cannot stand, and he is going to have to decide where he stands in this great divide.
VIRTUEONLINE: You are a missionary movement not a denomination. Do you see the Anglican Mission in American needing to fold its tent as a mission into something bigger or will you stay a mission forever?
MURPHY: As far as I can see down the road there is going to be an enormous need for skilled trained effective missionary outreach to the U.S. We could easily be a mission for the next 25 years.
VIRTUEONLINE: You have had some health problems, do you think about retirement?
MURPHY: I am 58. My desire is to step outside my role as chairman of the AMIA in the next three years simply because I want to have an appropriate transition of my leadership role. I don't believe my health is a factor. This is not about my health which is actually very good.
VIRTUEONLINE: Will you have an appropriate successor and transition of leadership in place?
MURPHY: Yes I will. I am a missionary bishop; this is not just a role. I am chairman and given the authority and oversight of the mission.
VIRTUEONLINE: How is your health?
MURPHY: I have had four heart procedures and a pacemaker and the result is that I am in great health. My enemies might be depressed at the news. (laughter).
VIRTUEONLINE: What alliances are in the works?
MURPHY: We are in conversation with the Reformed Episcopal Church, the Anglican Province of America and we are strengthening our relationship with Forward in Faith. We are on board with the Anglican Communion Network and two of their deans are here at the conference. We are also talking with the American Anglican Council. Canon David Anderson is here at the conference.
People have come to realize over the last five and a half years that the AMIA is not a flash in the pan, and unless something changes, it will grow from strength to strength. Over 105 clergy are here, two dozen bishops and nine Primates who are all very receptive of us. The questions about our existence have been settled in their mind. At our last conference five Primates came. We have nearly doubled that number in 2006. My read is that God is doing a new thing and that is not going to suddenly stop. He is pouring new wine into new wineskins.
VIRTUEONLINE:: Thank you Bishop Murphy.
The word "Unchurched" needs to be retired. Right now.
"There are too many people, even orthodox people that simply cannot consider moving away from their present parish facilities and so there is a great reluctance to do anything too radical. They are good people who love the Lord but they are not called to be pioneers of a new wineskin."
What if Lot said, "I don't want to leave my present parish facilities"???
I couldn't find it in my 1928 Prayer Book. It must be from the 1979 BCP, Rite III!
Ha! I believe you're right!
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