The Anglican Mission in the Americas (the Anglican Mission), a conservative group trying to keep the outward focus and missionary tradition of the Anglican Church alive in the United States and Canada, is in the midst of significant transitions.
Motivated by a new archbishop in Rwanda, the resignation of Bishop Terrell Glenn and Anglican Mission Leader Chuck Murphy’s retirement announcement, church leaders are considering their next steps as an organization.
Bishop T.J. Johnston, rector at St. Peter’s Church in Mount Pleasant, S.C., released a letter Friday regarding the changes. He said he wanted to address the recent resignation and the church’s relationship with Rwanda.
The letter said, in part: “The addition of many new bishops, a new archbishop, the establishment of new dioceses, and the retirement of several bishops have led to a desire in both Rwanda and in the Mission to review and consider all the structural options that have been used to date in our relationship.”
The Anglican Mission began in 2000 after a break with The Episcopal Church over the authority of Scripture and theological differences, including the ordination of non-celibate priests within the church.
Before that, in 1997, 30 priests led by Chuck Murphy declared the authority of The Episcopal Church to be “fundamentally impaired” because they no longer upheld the truths of the Gospel.
Due to the controversy, Archbishops Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda and Moses Tay of South East Asia consecrated Chuck Murphy and John Rodgers as bishops at St. Andrew's Cathedral, Singapore, in January 2000. In August, the Anglican Mission was officially established and it expanded its structure in 2007 and created the Anglican Mission in the Americas.
Part of Johnston’s letter addresses the body’s partnership with Rwanda. According to Anglican Church structure, the Anglican Mission, or any other church body, would not be able to operate as part of the Anglican Church without church oversight. For the Anglican Mission that has meant a relationship with Rwanda.
Right now they are considering changing their operation into a missionary society, to give them broader reach throughout the world.
As of now, Johnston said they are engaged in talks with the Rwandan archbishops. The letter states that these conversations have been initiated by the House of Bishops of Rwanda and are under the leadership of Rwandan Archbishop Onesophore Rwaje. The talks are meant to clarify the Anglican Mission’s identity with Rwanda.
Johnston wrote, “We are willingly and thankfully submitted to the Constitution of the Province of Rwanda; and our clergy remain canonically resident in Rwanda.”
The Anglican Mission’s Council of Bishops has already met three times to discuss ties with Rwanda and how they will move forward with them in future. They will meet again, due to a request by Rwandan Bishop Rwaje after the annual Anglican Winter conference in January in Houston.
During that time they will consider the structures of a Missionary Society and a Missionary Jurisdiction. Johnston told The Christian Post that the “goal is to come to an agreement on what type of structure would best support the relationship between Rwanda and The Mission.”