Thursday, November 03, 2011

No Surprise in News of Possible Split Between Anglican Mission and the Anglican Church of Rwanda


By Robin G. Jordan

On “Anglicans Unscripted” on Anglican TV Kevin Kallsen and George Conger broke news of a possible split between the Anglican Mission and the Anglican Church of Rwanda.(Story begins 7 minutes, 40 seconds into the video.) This development should come as no surprise to Anglicans Ablaze readers. I have in a number of articles for more than a year drawn attention to a number of provisions in the 2008 revision of the canons of the Anglican Church of Rwanda that significantly changed not only the governance of the province but also its doctrine. They model the organization and structure of the province on that of the Roman Catholic Church and substitute Roman Catholic doctrine for the Anglican doctrine in a number of key areas. The 2008 revision was the work of Canon Kevin Donlan, an Anglican Mission priest and a special assistant to Anglican Mission Chairman Chuck Murphy. The revision is heavily indebted in doctrine, language, principles, and norms upon the Roman Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law.

Canon Donlon also served on the Common Cause Governance Task Force. The influence of the Roman Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law can also be discerned in the constitution and canons of the Anglican Church in North America. A number of provisions clearly have been taken from Roman Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law either directly or by the way of 2008 revision of the Rwandan canons as a comparison of these documents will show.

The Rwandan Provincial Synod adopted and the Rwandan House of Bishops endorsed and promulgated the 2008 revision of the Rwandan canons on the recommendation of former Rwandan Primate Emmanuel Kolini. I gather that Archbishop Kolini told these bodies that someone trained in canon law had prepared the revision and the Anglican Mission needed a number of the provisions in the revision to operate in North America.

The 2008 revision of the Rwandan canons create the office of Primatial Vicar, make the Primatial Vicar solely responsible to the Rwandan Primate, and give him almost unlimited authority over the Anglican Mission as a Missionary Jurisdiction of the Anglican Church of Rwanda, second only to the Rwandan Primate to whom the Primatial Vicar serves as deputy in North America. The primatial Vicar is the only legislator in the Anglican Mission. All authority exercised by the Missionary Bishops and other leaders of the Anglican Mission is derived from the Rwandan Primate through the Primatial Vicar. The relationship of the Primatial Vicar to the Rwandan Primate is almost identical to that of a Roman Catholic Archbishop to the Roman Pontiff. The provisions governing the relation of the Primatial Vicar to the Rwandan Primate is adapted from the provisions of the Roman Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law governing the relationship of the other members of the Roman Catholic Church’s hierarchy to the Pope. The Primatial Vicar is not accountable to Rwandan House of Bishops. Nor are the Missionary Bishops of the Anglican Mission. The Missionary Bishops report to the Primatial Vicar and the Primatial Vicar reports to the Rwandan Primate. Except as Network Leaders the clergy have a purely consultative role in the governance of the Anglican Mission. The laity’s role in the governance of the Anglican Mission is largely confined to the local congregational level. Lay Network Leaders are rare.

I gather that the Rwandan Bishops have not been happy with the almost absolute authority that the Primatial Vicar exercises over the Anglican Mission and the lack of any accountability to the Rwandan House of Bishops. I suspect but have not confirmed that Bishop Murphy’s decision to sever relations with the Anglican Church of Rwanda is his response to a move to curtail his almost unlimited authority over the Anglican Mission, even to eliminate the office of Primatial Vicar, and to make the Council of Missionary Bishops accountable to the Rwandan House of Bishops.

I also gather that the Rwandan House of Bishops has not been happy with the doctrinal changes that the 2008 revision of the Rwandan canons introduced. As I have pointed out in several articles, they replace the reformed Anglican doctrines of the Thirty-Nine Articles with the unreformed Roman Catholic dogmas of the Council of Trent. For example, they make the doctrines of Transubstantiation and the Sacrifice of the Mass the official doctrines of the Anglican Church of Rwanda. The Anglican Church of Rwanda was established by the Church Missionary Society, an evangelical missionary group, and historically has been Protestant, evangelical, and reformed in its doctrine. The East African Revival with its emphasis upon the power of the atonement began in Rwanda. The Anglican Church of Rwanda is one of the signatories of The Jerusalem Declaration, which calls the Anglican Church back to the Thirty-Nine Articles.

As I have pointed out in a number of articles, the liberals are not the only group in North America that is trying to export their agenda to the global South. The 2008 revision of the Rwandan canons gives the appearance of a blatant attempt to export unreformed Catholic faith, order, governance, and practice to an evangelical Anglican province in the global South and even to cynically exploit the Anglican Church of Rwanda’s connection with the Anglican Communion and GAFCON.

As for women’s ordination being one of the issues dividing the Anglican Mission and the Anglican Church of Rwanda, I must point out that the Anglican Church of Rwanda created the Anglican Mission in the Americas as a cover organization for churches that are affiliated with the Anglican Church of Rwanda and have received the practice of ordaining women. These churches are largely found in the Anglican Coalition in Canada. A change in policy on the part of the US-based Anglican Mission to accept women’s ordination would not cause a rupture with the Anglican Church of Rwanda unless the Anglican Church of Rwanda changed its policy toward women’s ordination.

I suspect that the principal reason behind this possible break is a move to curtail Bishop Murphy’s authority over the Anglican Mission. The Anglican Mission chose not to accept sub-provincial status in the ACNA and become fully integrated into that body ostensibly because it would reduce the Anglican Mission’s effectiveness as a missionary organization. What went unsaid was that it would also reduce Murphy’s authority over the Anglican Mission, subordinating Murphy to a close-to-home North American Archbishop rather than a distant African Primate.

2 comments:

David Wilson+ said...

Kevin Your last paragraph says it all.

Theo said...

Robin, thank your for your perceptive and accurate assessment!