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Source: Encompass: First Quarter, 2012
BY ROBERT H. LUNDY, EDITOR
Encompass: First Quarter, 2012
The abrupt breakup of the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA) has left many clergy and their parishes looking for a new ecclesial home. Recognized as a vibrant Anglican expression of evangelism and church planting, the AMiA seemed to fall apart as its leaders' long-held relationship with the Province de L'Eglise Anglicane au Rwanda (Anglican Church of Rwanda, PEAR) disintegrated. The Bishop and Chairman of AMiA, the Rt. Rev. Chuck Murphy, along with all but two of his fellow bishops, resigned from PEAR in December of last year in order to form a "Mission Society" that was, among other things, free from the oversight of the church of Rwanda. As of yet, it remains to be seen how many of the AMiA's 150+ churches will follow Murphy and leave their ecclesiastical relationship with the Church of Rwanda to establish a new mission society.
|PEARUSA leaders along with ACNA leaders prepare for Holy Communion during the Sacred Assembly meeting. Photos courtesy PEARUSA|
For those churches who want to remain officially connected with PEAR, a new option has emerged. The Province de L'Eglise Anglicane au Rwanda en USA (PEARUSA) formed after a January, 2012 meeting in Raleigh, N.C. and serves those clergy and parishes who want to stay connected to Rwanda as well as those wanting to reconnect with the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).
In 2010, AMiA's leadership chose to distance themselves from the newly started ACNA. Where AMiA was once an organization with "dual citizenship" within the ACNA as well as Rwanda, it pulled out of the ACNA, changing its status to "mission partner." Some inside the AMiA were disappointed by this distancing and wanted the opportunity to officially reconnect with the ACNA; now the establishment of PEARUSA by the Archbishop of Rwanda, Onesphore Rwaje, has rekindled hopes for those who want to be structurally within the ACNA.
The Rev. Clark Lowenfield, Rector of Hope Pointe Anglican Church near Houston, Texas is among those formerly in AMiA who are now in PEARUSA and would like to join the ACNA. Lowenfield says there are a number of parishes in his region alone that desire as much, however "there is a very high value on doing things decently and in order" within the group. That's good news for a mission organization that has been through such turmoil in recent months and is made up of churches that may be headed in different directions.
|PEARUSA leadership including Bishop Thad Barnum (far left) during the Sacred Assembly meeting|
Bishop Thad Barnum is one of two AMiA bishops who did not resign but chose to remain canonically resident under the Church of Rwanda. He, along with Bishop Terrell Glenn, is also on the steering team for PEARUSA and is picking up the pieces from the AMiA's breakup. In ministering to clergy and parishes wondering where they should look for oversight, Bishop Barnum is taking his cue from the Archbishop of Rwanda. "Archbishop Rwaje has said (to PEARUSA members) ‘just tell us where you're going and how we can help.'" It is this generous approach to helping Christians navigate a complex alphabet soup of organizational acronyms that Barnum hopes will keep a spirit of Christian unity among the members of PEARUSA and ACNA. "I would love to see this not be divisive. I would like to see a dynamic serving in ACNA and Rwanda and a dynamic unity."
The ability to dynamically serve within Rwanda and ACNA may come from what is being called a missionary district for those churches who want to be part of both provinces. At a February 26-28 meeting, the PEARUSA steering team set forth two ecclesiastical possibilities for its members. One was for a new North American Missionary District to be formed that would allow parishes dual citizenship in ACNA and Rwanda. This arrangement would be similar to the relationship AMiA parishes enjoyed before 2010. The second option was for parishes to directly affiliate with ACNA and be fully under its oversight. Before PEARUSA parishes decide which option they want, the House of Bishops of the Church of Rwanda must discuss and approve the two options. The Rwandan bishops will meet on March 29 to address the options presented by the PEARUSA steering team.