Skip to comments.ANGLICAN MISSION IN THE AMERICA'S TAKES WINGS AND FLIES
Posted on 01/22/2007 7:47:32 PM PST by Huber
It is time for the great expansion, says AMIA leader
The AMIA recently held its Seventh Annual Winter Conference in Jacksonville, Florida. VirtueOnline interviewed Chuck Murphy Bishop and Chairman of the AMIA
By David W. Virtue www.virtueonline.org 1/21/2007
He looks the picture of health. His heart troubles are behind him. At 59, the Rt. Rev. Charles "Chuck" Murphy seems in no danger of having a midlife crisis. And while the Mission (AMiA) he started in 2000 is going through the growing pains that most organizations go through, he and they are poised for new growth. The man in charge is at the top of his form. He knows what he believes, he has a fix on the message, his strategy is clear, his audience identified, and if he were running a mid size American corporation he would be sitting in his board room exploring new markets with his staff.
In fact, that is exactly what he is doing. He is the chairman of the board and he keeps a firm hand on the tiller as he steers his orthodox craft into the secular waters of a post-Christian culture. His former church - The Episcopal Church USA - (like Eastern Airlines or Enron) is now on life support, losing market share, its vast endowments and trust funds channeled to paying attorneys fees to fight litigious wars over fleeing parishes and priests. Money that should have gone for mission and the expansion of the church through gospel proclamation is being funneled into court room dramas that will play out in the ultimate death of the church. They may win the buildings, but lose the people, and that is a pyrrhic victory. The Episcopal Church has no Biblical gospel to proclaim, has no identifiable doctrine it can declare, and its single-focus interest on pansexuality, upgraded to Millennium Development Goals (MDG's) by Mrs. Schori has left its spiritual DNA in total disarray.
Murphy's bishops and networks are, by contrast, a mission with a clearly defined spiritual DNA. He has identified 130 million unchurched Americans and his eye is on the prize to win them for Jesus Christ. All he needs he says are those who will catch the vision and join him along with those who can provide the millions he says he needs to make it all happen. He is comfortable in his skin in public, though oddly distant and painfully shy in private. He moves across the stage in front of 1600 evangelical Anglican pioneers clearly in control, explaining his vision and urging his hearers to join him in the task of spreading the Good News - the Great Commission and the Great Commandment - the focus of his waking and sleeping hours.
VirtueOnline sat down with the Rt. Rev. Chuck Murphy and asked him about his goals, ambitions and how he proposes to move to the next level of gospel engagement with a culture that views tolerance as a virtue and sin as little more than bad self esteem.
VOL: You have had a corporate name change since last year. You now call yourself the Anglican Mission in the Americas, no longer simply the AMIA. Would you tell us what this is about and what it all means?
MURPHY: The Province of the Episcopal Church of Rwanda has canonical letters from three different groups. From Canada we now have the Anglican Coalition in Canada (ACiC). This was done to justify Women's Ordination in that country. Then we formed the Anglican Coalition in America (ACiA) where we believe that the ordination of women should only be to the level of the Diaconate only. Thirdly, we still have the original Anglican Mission in America - the largest group of canonical letters - priests that do not accept the ordination of women to the priesthood.
VOL: So you have not changed your fundamental position on Women's Ordination?
Murphy: No we have not. The charge from the Province of Rwanda was to create a structure that could embrace all three groups and maintain the integrity and conscience of each of the three groups. The AMIA consists of two nations, Canada and the U.S. and two positions on the appropriate biblical response with the Women's Ordination question. Since we are in a province that has Women's Ordination and since we are in a period of Reception to discern the mind of Christ, our response is, being under authority, we created an umbrella with two countries and two positions while maintaining the integrity and conscience of both. I am the chairman of it all and Rwanda gives oversight. We remain under authority and in full communion with our Archbishop in Rwanda, even in our differences.
VOL: Some of your priests I spoke with were quite upset, with several using words like "betrayal", "backtracking", "caving in", "disaster"... to the point that they said it would have grave consequences on the church's ability to grow and more. A number of your North American priests believe Women's Ordination is a nose in the tent, a slippery slope to spiritual anarchy. How would you allay their fears? Are you concerned that it could ultimately divide you?
MURPHY: The nose in the tent is that we are in the Province of Rwanda. This Province believes in women's ordination (and is growing as a church) and they have assured us that they respect our decision and our position with respect to women's ordination to the Diaconate only. I believe them. We are encompassing two nations and two positions. This is not a new development. We are giving leadership to all who are part of the Province of Rwanda. It is simply a new charge to give leadership to all the Canonical letters.
VOL: A year ago you had seven networks now you have 14 networks. What exactly is a Network and how does that differ from a diocese?
MURPHY: All networks are being overseen by missionary bishops. Networks are simply clusters of congregations and leaders that are committed to strengthening the mission through new church plants. We are committed to building a team of pastoral leaders, strategic mission leadership, coaching, credentialing, etc. We are not setting up dioceses, we are leaving behind networks to grow. We are, above all a mission, not a denomination. We have 14 networks that embrace the U.S. and Canada .
VOL: What sort of growth are you talking about?
MURPHY: We have 14 networks growing 108 congregations with 64 new congregations in the pipeline. Some 35 of the new congregations have been birthed out of the Networks - half of the total has bubbled up out of the Networks. We hope to be 20 networks in a year.
VOL: You have at this conference some 8 overseas archbishops, 9 Anglican bishops', approximately 120 clergy, 2 Episcopal Church bishops, albeit retired, with all 1600 representing 36 states, from 15 nations. Are you satisfied with your success? How quickly are you growing? Are you comfortable that you are growing fast enough?
MURPHY: Yes. I personally believe that we are seeing what the Apostle Paul in I Cor. wrote, that it is God who gives growth, that is, real recognizable growth the like of which we have seen in such missionary movements as Campus Crusade for Christ, Youth with a Mission (YWAM), the Vineyard etc. We are all looking at a long obedience in the same direction. (Nietzsche). The biblical model is "first the blade, then the shoot and then the full ear." We have seen 16 new congregations start in one year or one new church every three weeks. It is God who gives the growth...relentlessly, persistently giving growth into a mission that has sadly been much maligned. However, we just keep growing.
VOL: Are you reaching the 130 million unchurched English speaking in America or are you still pulling in disaffected Episcopalians? Where did you get the figure of 130 million
MURPHY: I got the figure from the book "Lost in America" if you read it, it tallies it all up. While we are still drawing in disaffected Episcopalians, we are looking beyond that to the wider world that needs Christ within the framework of our Anglican tradition.
VOL: What are your greatest setbacks?
MURPHY: Our Greatest challenge is leadership and money. People call up wanting churches to start in their area. We have to provide ordained leaders and millions and millions to make it happen. To do the work of planting churches is a costly business.
VOL: What do you see as your greatest strengths?
MURPHY: We are enormously focused on what we are as a mission, nothing or nothing less for those who feel inclined to know where to look. Another strength is that we are under authority, we are not an independent people that has set about to do a task. We are connected to the Global South we have oversight which is biblically and necessary in a time of enormous change.
VOL: Do you expect to be invited to Lambeth 2008?
MURPHY: Yes. It would be stunning not to invite part of the province of the HOB of Rwanda. It would be jarring and very hurtful to the Province of Nigeria or Rwanda that they have duly consecrated bishops who would not be invited.
VOL: What are your biggest challenges ahead now that you are over the bump of being "former Episcopalians?"
MURPHY: Quite a number of people here are from dioceses under siege like the Dioceses of Virginia, Florida and California. Many are here on a "come and see" basis to try and understand what we are about. They want to see if it is a good fit for them. A number of Episcopal churches will be coming our way in 2007...churches that have allied themselves with Bolivia, Uganda and other orthodox centers. The Rev. David Roseberry from Christ Church, Plano, the largest attended parish formerly in the TEC and the Diocese of Dallas is very interested and taking a closer look at us.
VOL: How do you view the bigger picture working with the Anglican Communion Network, other Anglican Continuing churches, Common Cause etc.
MURPHY: I have met twice in the last two months with leaders like Bishop Martyn Minns of CANA, Bob Duncan, of the Network, John Guernsey and Bishop Frank Lyons of Bolivia that are all working together in Common Cause, and I have other meetings planned next month that includes the American Anglican Council, (AAC), Forward in Faith, North American (FIFNA), the Anglican Province of America (APA), an Anglo-Catholic Continuing Church and the Reformed Episcopal Church (the APA and REC are in a formal 5-year plan to merge into one jurisdiction by 2008. We believe God will sort out the future, but we are leaving no stone unturned in looking for true ecumenicity
VOL: You have recently taken on new leadership. Why?
MURPHY: We took on the Rev. Ellis Brust as the new president and CEO of the AMiA to take off of me some of the administrative load. His wife Cynthia is now handling all our media communications. Andy Piercy is our new worship leader. We have a new corporate name and we are covered with our archbishop and bishops in the Province of Rwanda. I see my own role as increasingly one of strategic planning.
We have a new approach to leadership. We are also planning new initiatives among Hispanics and Asians. We have a huge population in the U.S. that is Hispanic, and we need to reach out to them. We also have a new model, a new exemplar in the "missionary order". This is no Not unlike missionary orders in eqrlier centuries ancient/future strategy. We find our future through the past, not unlike the Domincans - order of preachers, the Franciscans and the Jesuits as reforming missionaries.
I want to stress however that we are fundamentally unchanged for 2007. We are a mission movement, nothing more nothing less. To be a mission means to believe fervently in missionary outreach, operating like a missionary order...our values are unchanged.
VOL: And the spiritual disciplines?
MURPHY: We are praying more fervently. We believe in unity in diversity. We embrace the three streams - evangelical, catholic and charismatic. We are Scriptural, sacramental and spiritual.
VOL: And your focus?
MURPHY: Our focus has not changed. We are reaching out to the 130 million unchurched Americans. We are not creating a new denomination or province. Our operating paradigm is unchanged, it is that of St. Paul - we are out there in the mission field winning people for Jesus Christ.
VOL: How is your relationship with orthodox Episcopalians who are still in The Episcopal Church?
MURPHY: Bishop Bob Duncan is the St. James of Jerusalem. He has a different kind of work. Important but different. Our operating paradigm is that we are breaking into new territory. We are planting new churches. We are "unchanged". We are more Celtic than Roman. We are people on mission. We have BHAG - Big. Holy Audacious Goals. When I look at the Vineyard church movement or the work of YWAM (Youth with a Mission) - one man Loren Cunningham morphed into a staff of 40, so with Campus Crusade for Christ. We are solidly evangelical. The Vineyard began with 8 churches in 1981. Within 10 years they had 280 churches. By 2000 they had 526 churches then a 1000 and 2000 worldwide. But we too have big, holy audacious goals. It takes work, prayer and the sovereign hand of god resting on us. Nothing is inevitable On this day in 1991 Eastern Airlines went out of bus after 62 years. They lost their way. Churches can lose their way and God raises up a new generation to do a new work for Him. It is always like that.
Life and growth is not inevitable. We have to maintain our values. Our relationship with Jesus Christ is central. We are saved by our relationship with Him not knowledge about him, but a relationship with Him. The Holy Spirit gives us the power. We have to seek the lord's face and do it in worship. We must focus on the living God. It is a time for great expansion, our text and model is Isa 54: 2,3..."Lord, enlarge the place of our tents..."
"VOL: Some of your priests I spoke with were quite upset, with several using words like "betrayal", "backtracking", "caving in", "disaster"... to the point that they said it would have grave consequences on the church's ability to grow and more. A number of your North American priests believe Women's Ordination is a nose in the tent, a slippery slope to spiritual anarchy. How would you allay their fears? Are you concerned that it could ultimately divide you?
MURPHY: The nose in the tent is that we are in the Province of Rwanda. This Province believes in women's ordination (and is growing as a church) and they have assured us that they respect our decision and our position with respect to women's ordination to the Diaconate only. I believe them. We are encompassing two nations and two positions. This is not a new development. We are giving leadership to all who are part of the Province of Rwanda. It is simply a new charge to give leadership to all the Canonical letters."
What seems clear from this is that the justification for the African 'missionary' effort in North America is that Americans simply couldn't manage this aggiornamento thing without outside help. I will take this away with me as a striking reminder that the AMiA is not orthodox.
The issue remains humility before God and submission to His written word. Either you accept what God has said and follow Him or you go your own way. If Murphy is in fact as successful as he says, then the latter appears to have short-term benefits. Truth is, it always has had and it seems to me that AMiA just amounts to a variant way of splitting the difference between what the secular world is drifting to and what God has always required of us.
That's what I have found to be true. I love the way God is moving in this mission church.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.