Spin it any way you like, but this is a blow to the Anglican Church in North America
But it seems that the leadership of the Rwandan church is not content to have the bishops of the Anglican Mission be members of the House of Bishops of Rwanda and of the ACNA at the same time. So after months of negotiation it appears that the Anglican Mission will move back next month from being a full member of ACNA to being a "Ministry Partner."
Here is a portion of the emailed release of this announcement sent out from the Ambridge, PA headquarters of ACNA yesterday (apparently not yet on the ACNA website) to clergy and lay leaders conveying this news:
The Archbishop's Cabinet has been working since February with the
leadership of the Anglican Mission (theAM) in the Americas to clarify
the Anglican Mission's structural relationship within the Anglican
Church in North America (ACNA). This consideration came as a result
of a January resolution by the Rwandan House of Bishops objecting to
the dual membership of Rwanda's missionary bishops in the North
American College of Bishops. The Anglican Mission, one of the
founding entities of the Anglican Church in North America, was
established as a North American missionary outreach of the Province of
Rwanda following the consecrations of Bishop Chuck Murphy and John
Rodgers in the year 2000.
The Constitution and Canons of the ACNA were written so that theAM
might be practically integrated in the structure of the ACNA as a
jurisdiction, while sustaining identity as a missionary outreach of
Rwanda. The jurisdictional approach has led to a number of areas of
confusion for bishops and congregations of the Anglican Mission.
Consequently, it has been agreed by the Executive Committee of the
ACNA (presently also the Archbishop's Cabinet, and formerly the lead
bishops of Common Cause) that the Anglican Mission will petition the
June meeting of the Provincial Council for status as a Ministry
Partner, a status provided for in the Constitution and Canons of the
North American Province and agreeable to the Province of Rwanda.
The Ministry Partner option will clarify the existing confusions. The
Primatial Vicar of the Anglican Mission, appointed by the Archbishop
of Rwanda, serves as chief liaison between the Province of Rwanda and
the Anglican Church in North America. Representatives of the Anglican
Mission continue to sit in the Provincial Council. The ACNA and its
Ministry Partners remain fervently committed to Anglican 1000 and
church-planting. Local congregations continue to work together in
ministry, and are free to transfer between the Anglican Mission in the
Americas and the Anglican Church in North America (or vice versa) in
consultation with the bishops concerned. Clergy of theAM remain
canonically resident in the Province of Rwanda and subject to their
Norms, Prescripts, and Disciplines, but Ministry Partner status does
provide canonically for clergy of theAM and the ACNA to minister in
both ecclesiastical entities provided they are in good standing. The
most significant change brought by Ministry Partner status is that AM
Bishops would no longer be regular members of the ACNA College of
Bishop Chuck Murphy, Primatial Vicar and Bishop Chairman of theAM made
the following comment concerning the future of the Anglican Mission as
a Ministry Partner within the Anglican Church in North America: "We
are delighted that the Anglican Church in North America is now
successfully up and running. As one of the founding members of the
ACNA, we in the Anglican Mission have invested significant time and
energy into its formation and we remain strongly supportive of the
Province and Archbishop Duncan's leadership of this important new
work." Archbishop Duncan noted, "The vision of a biblical, missionary
and united Anglicanism in North America remains the vision of every
North American Anglican. Jurisdictional integration also remains a
future hope as Rwandan canons do provide for the transfer of the
Anglican Mission to the Anglican Church in North America when the time
Try as the announcement does to make this sound like good news--or at least not a very big deal--apparently a large portion of the ACNA is withdrawing from full membership and falling back to what seems to amount to a "friendly fellow traveler" status. I, for one, have never thought of FACA--a Ministry Partner-as a member of ACNA but rather as folks who share many of our values as Anglicans and want to work together with us as much as possible. But am I right in reading this note to indicate that now the Anglican Mission is going to have a similar "Ministry Partner" relationship to the ACNA as that of FACA? Or is there more to the AM's future status than that? The AM's bishops will not be part of the ACNA college of bishops from now on but they will still have representatives on the Provincial Council. Has FACA had such representatives on the Provincial Council up to this point? I am quite confused.
All of us have accepted that there will be confusion during this time of "realignment" in world-wide Anglicanism. Apparently the Rwandan leadership just doesn't want to tolerate any "joint membership" of their missionary bishops with a North American jurisdiction while the rest of the overseas provinces who have helped us don't mind a little untidiness for a bit.
Hopefully administrative conservatism is all there is to this. I truly don't want to believe the rumors I have heard that the motive for Rwanda pulling back the AM from the ACNA has something to do with fears of losing North American funding. It would help squash those concerns here if the Rwandan church would issue a statement fully committing them to allowing the AM to join us as full members of ACNA as soon as is feasible in the future. That might dispel any hint that the Anglican Mission's US parishes are being "held hostage" by the Rwandan church.
I would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed by this news. I am completely committed to the future of the ACNA. Thus it saddens me to see the province diminished in this way. May God hasten the day when we will be fully reunited in every aspect, not simply as "partners" in ministry.