Breakaway Anglican Group Experiencing Schism

A group of American churches that left The Episcopal Church over theological differences is experiencing its own issues with breakaway congregations.

The Anglican Mission in the Americas, a South Carolina-based denomination connected to the Anglican Church of Rwanda, has found itself in a complex power struggle that has thus far resulted in 20 of its 250 affiliate churches and congregations leaving.

This whole episode began with the varied responses that several conservative Episcopal congregations had as their church hierarchy became increasingly liberal on social and theological issues. The increasingly liberal hierarchy of The Episcopal Church resulted in several congregations leaving the denomination.

Most formed their own denominations. Others, namely high church "Anglo-Catholic" congregations, decided to join the Roman Catholic Church under an agreement that they maintain their Anglican tradition.

Others, however, agreed to be mission churches for African Anglican Provinces. This is due to the theology of Anglican Churches in Africa being more conservative. Groups like this include the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), which was established by the Church of Nigeria, and the AMiA, which was established by the Church of Rwanda.

AMiA was founded in 2000. Initially the relationship between the American congregations that joined the Rwanda Province went well due to the lax control the Rwandan Church exercised over AMiA congregations. In return for being part of the Rwandan Church, AMiA freely gave 10 percent of its revenue to the province.

Problems began after Emmanuel Kolini, the archbishop of Rwanda, retired in 2010. His successor, Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje, desired more oversight of AMiA, which led to tensions between Rwaje and American Bishop Charles Murphy, a missionary bishop ordained to head AMiA.

This led to the decision by some bishops including Murphy to resign in December of last year and leave the AMiA.

In his letter of resignation, Murphy noted the "voluntary submission" of AMiA churches to the Province of Rwanda. While some join Murphy and others in leaving the province, others hope to remain in the AMiA.

In a letter sent out earlier this month, AMiA leaders vaguely spoke of a recent conference that they believed helped heal the internal issues of the denomination.

"As we concluded our meeting, we were convinced that the Lord had truly met with us and had given us clear direction, enabling us to consider things in a new way with fresh insight," read the letter.

"We concluded our meeting united and confident that the Lord was showing us an exciting and challenging way forward."

The Anglican Mission in the Americas did not return comment by press time.

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