But as the old adage says, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire!”
By Robin G. Jordan
In a joint statement the Bishop Chuck Murphy, chairman of the Anglican Mission, and Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje,Primate of Rwanda, denied reports of a growing rift between the Anglican Mission and the Anglican Church of Rwanda. In this statement they were critical of what they characterized as the unfounded rumors spread by these reports. Giving currency to these rumors, they maintain, harms the Church.
Rumors that have no foundation may indeed cause harm to the Church. But a number of the reports are based upon well-documented facts. These reports may be embarrassing to church leaders involved. However, they call attention to wrongdoing that needs addressing. The cause of the gospel is not served by the concealment of wrongdoing.
A rumor is general talk or current statement of doubtful accuracy. What do we know that is not uncertain as to its accuracy?
We know that Canon Kevin Donlon, a special assistant to Bishop Chuck Murphy, drafted the 2008 revision of the canons of the Anglican Church of Rwanda. Bishop Murphy approved the draft revision and recommended them to Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini, then Primate of Rwanda. Murphy told Archbishop Kolini that they had been prepared by a canon lawyer and contained provisions needed by the Anglican Mission. Kolini recommended passage of the draft revision to the Anglican Church of Rwanda’s Provincial Synod, which approved it. Kolini also recommended the draft revision to the Anglican Church of Rwanda’s House of Bishops, which endorsed and promulgated it.
We know that Canon Donlon in drafting the 2008 revision of the Rwandan canons drew heavily upon the doctrine, language, norms, and principles of the Code of Canon Law (1983) of the Roman Catholic Church. This may be seen from a comparison of the two documents. This writer undertook such a comparison this past summer. This comparison showed that the Roman Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law is the primary source of the revised Rwandan canons. Other sources that this writer identified were the Roman Catholic Church’s Guide for Catechists (1993) and the canons of the Church of England, the Church of Nigeria, the Church of Uganda, and the Episcopal Church.
We know that the revised Rwandan canons created the office of Primatial Vicar and made the Primatial Vicar the highest authority in the Anglican Mission, second only to the Primate of Rwanda. All authority in the Anglican Mission flows from the Rwandan Primate through the Primatial Vicar. The Primatial Vicar governs the Anglican Mission with the assistance of a Council of Missionary Bishops that derives its authority from the Rwandan Primate through the Primatial Vicar. The Primatial Vicar is the sole legislator in the Anglican Mission. We know that the provisions of the revised canons governing the relationship between the Rwandan Primate and the Primatial Vicar are based upon the provisions of the Roman Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law governing the relationship of the Roman Pontiff—the Pope—to subordinate members of the Roman Catholic Church’s hierarchy.
We know that the revised Rwandan canons altered the doctrinal norms and formularies of the Anglican Church of Rwanda, substituting for them the dogmas of the Council of Trent. They replaced historic Anglican principles with Roman Catholic teaching. In altering the doctrinal norms and formularies of the Anglican Church of Rwanda, the revised canons also altered the doctrinal norms and formularies of the Anglican Mission, which is a missionary jurisdiction of the Anglican Church of Rwanda and bound by its canons.
We know that under the provisions of Article V of the Solemn Declaration of the Anglican Mission should the doctrinal norms and formularies found in the Solemn Declaration be altered by any means, the Anglican Mission ceases to exist. See the accompanying article, “Anglican Mission – Anglican Church of Rwanda Split Holds More Surprises in Store.”
We know that Archbishop Kolini attended the 2008 Global Anglican Future Conference and signed the GAFCON Statement and The Jerusalem Declaration, as did Bishop Murphy. The Jerusalem Declaration upholds the Thirty-Nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s word and authoritative for Anglicans today. It also upholds the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer and the classical Anglican Ordinal as an authoritative standard of clerical orders.
We know that Canon Donlon served as a member of the GAFCON Theological Task Force, representing the Anglican Mission and the Anglican Church of Rwanda. He is presently serving as a member of the GAFCON Theological Education and Formation Committee and promoting a revamping of Anglican ecclesiology.
If we put these facts together, the denial of any problems that merit the concern of Anglican Mission clergy and congregations and Anglican Mission mission partners do not appear to be credible. It defies belief that no one in Rwanda is troubled by the extent of the authority the revised canons give to Bishop Murphy as the Anglican Mission’s Primatial Vicar and the corresponding lack of accountability they require from him. The revised canons make the provincial bishops of Rwanda the sole legislators in their respective dioceses as in the Roman Catholic Church but they withhold oversight of the Anglican Mission from the Rwandan House of Bishops, a body that chooses the Anglican Mission’s Primatial Vicar and Missionary Bishops.
It is equally as unbelievable that no one in Rwanda is disturbed by the alteration of the doctrinal norms and formularies of the Anglican Church of Rwanda, the replacement of historic Anglican principles with Roman Catholic teaching, and the role that the Anglican Mission played in the introduction of these changes. Title II. 17.1.1 of the revised Rwandan canons, for example, comes almost word for word from Canon 899 §1 of the Roman Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law. This is the text of Title II.17.1.1:The Nature of the Eucharist in this Church. The celebration of the Eucharist is an action of Christ himself and of the Church. In it Christ the Lord, through the ministry of the priest, offers himself, substantially present under the appearances of bread and wine, to God the Father, and gives himself as spiritual nourishment to the faithful who are associated with him in his offering.
This is the text of Canon 899 §1:The eucharistic celebration is the action of Christ himself and the Church. In it, Christ the Lord, through the ministry of the priest, offers himself, substantially present under the species of bread and wine, to God the Father and gives himself as spiritual food to the faithful united with his offering.
Two doctrines are summarized in Title II.17.1.1 and Canon 899 §1. They are the doctrines of Transubstantiation and the Sacrifice of the Mass. The Thirty-Nine Articles, which form with the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the 1661 Ordinal the long-recognized doctrinal standard of Anglicanism, rejects both doctrines.
Anglican Mission clergy and congregations and Anglican Mission mission partners themselves should be concerned that those to whom they look for leadership failed to safeguard and defend historical Anglican principles. They put the aggrandizement of power and the furthering of their own agenda before the safeguarding and defense of these principles. An Anglican Mission canon drafted a revision of the Rwandan canons that conflicted with the doctrinal norms and formularies found in the Anglican Mission’s Solemn Declaration and the Anglican Mission’s chairman and lead bishop approved this document and recommended it to the Rwandan Primate who presented it to his Provincial Synod. Anglican Mission clergy and congregations and Anglican Mission mission partners should be deeply troubled by the shamelessness with which their leaders exploited the Rwandans, one to concentrate more power into his hands and the other to introduce unwarranted doctrinal changes into the canons of the Anglican Mission’s sponsoring province. They should be disturbed that the Anglican Mission’s chairman and lead bishop, having failed to safeguard and defend historic Anglican principles in the process of strengthening his position in the Anglican Mission subsequently signed a document that seeks to safeguard and defend these principles.
As the Scriptures tells us, only those guilty of wrongdoing wish to keep what they have done hidden. They do not want their actions subject to public scrutiny.
“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God.” (John 3:19-21 ESV)
Those who done no wrong have nothing to fear from a comprehensive review of their actions and the basis upon which they took these actions.
The Rwandans may wish to be spared the embarrassment of all and a sundry learning that those whom they have trusted have shown themselves unworthy of their trust. However, Anglican Mission clergy and Anglican Mission mission partners deserve to know what is happening. They need to determine for themselves whether those in high positions in the Anglican Mission have acted wrongfully. Any and all allegations of misappropriation of funds warrant thorough investigation.
A major weakness in the Anglican Mission is the lack of accountability at the highest levels. Where accountability is lacking, there is a very real likelihood of abuse of power and malfeasance in office. A global South Primate or a panel of former global South Primates half way across the planet simply cannot provide the kind of oversight the topmost leaders of the Anglican Mission require.
Bishop Murphy and Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje may not want the attention that the Anglican Mission and Anglican Church of Rwanda are presently receiving. However, the time has come for the full disclosure of what really lies behind Bishop Murphy and Canon Donlon’s proposal to make the Anglican Mission autonomous without changing its present hierarchical organization and structure. It is time for that which has been hidden in darkness to be brought into the light.
Anglican Mission – Anglican Church of Rwanda Split Holds More Surprises in Store
A Statement from the Archbishop of Rwanda and the Primatial Vicar of the Anglican Mission in the Americas
Anglican Mission and Anglican Church of Rwanda to Sever Ties?
Anglican Mission Spins Break with the Anglican Church of Rwanda
Is the AMiA’s New "Missionary Society” Structure the Best Way Forward?
No Surprise in News of Possible Split Between Anglican Mission and the Anglican Church of Rwanda