By Robin G. Jordan
What amazes me is how people could join or support a missionary organization that did not provide copies of the articles of incorporation and bylaws of its non-profit corporation and all changes to these documents and detailed reports of revenues and expenditures to its congregations, clergy, and mission partners (donors), and which did not post this information on its web site. I cannot imagine how they justified the absence of these very common accountability mechanisms in their minds. The Anglican Mission in the Americas was a scandal waiting to happen. I am surprised that there has been no scandal before now.
I am inclined to give credence to the accusation that Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini did not exercise any real oversight over the AMiA and left Bishop Charles “Chuck” Murphy to do pretty well what he pleased. His willingness to sponsor in the Anglican Church of Rwanda’s Provincial Synod and House of Bishops the 2008 Code of Canon Law that Canon Kevin Donlon drafted and to use his influence in these bodies to secure the code’s passage supports this conclusion. Title I.6.2(e) and 8 enables the Primate of Rwanda to delegate almost unlimited authority to the Primatial Vicar of a missionary jurisdiction or society, giving the Primatial Vicar carte blanche in the missionary jurisdiction or society. No limit was imposed upon the term of office of the Primatial Vicar and no provision was made for the conduct of a regular, comprehensive and candid evaluation of the Primatial Vicar. The Primatial Vicar was required to make only an annual report to the Primate of Rwanda “according to the manner established the House of Bishops or the Provincial Synod of the Province” (Title I.6.10). This last requirement was modeled upon a similar requirement for diocesan bishops in the 1983 Roman Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law.
When Archbishop Kolini retired as the Primate of Rwanda, Bishop Onosphore Rwaje was elected as his successor. Bishop Murphy discovered that the new Primate was not open to giving him carte blanche in the AMiA. Archbishop Rwaje did not support Murphy’s vision for the expansion of the Anglican Mission’s sphere of operation beyond North America and with the expansion of its sphere of operation the expansion of Murphy’s jurisdiction. The recent change of the name of the Anglican Mission in the Americas to “the Anglican Mission” reflects Murphy’s vision for the expansion of the Anglican Mission’s sphere of operation.
In social work the problem that brings a client to the attention of the helping agency is called the presenting problem. Assessment generally will reveal an entire complex of interrelated problems of which the presenting problem is one. It may not even be the main problem or the most serious problem.
The June 2011 meeting between Bishop Murphy and the Anglican Church of Rwanda’s House of Bishops was what attracted attention to the difficulties in the relationship between Bishop Murphy and the Rwandan bishops and to the problems underlying these difficulties.
To observers like myself who had been following developments in the Anglican Mission and the Anglican Church of Rwanda these difficulties and the underlying problems did not come as a surprise. Conversations with Anglican Mission pastors revealed concern in the Anglican Mission over these developments. However, these pastors were not in a position to do anything about them. The Anglican Mission is structured so that lower-level clergy, much less the laity, have no meaningful participation in the discussion and determination of major issues affecting a mission network or the larger organization. The particular organizational culture of the Anglican Mission with its emphasis upon submission to authority also discouraged them from doing anything.
In a number of ways the structure of the Anglican Mission bears a strong resemblance to the National Socialist German Workers’ Party in Germany in the 1930s and the 1940s. The structure of the NSGWP was hierarchical; major decisions were made by those at the top of the hierarchy and were carried out by those at the lower levels of the hierarchy. Strict obedience was demanded from party members to the leader of the party and to their immediate superiors. The NSGWP was in part a response to the economic, social, and political dislocation following World War I and the threat of Bolshevism.
The structure of the NSGWP was founded on the Führerprinzip, or “leader principle." The following explantion of this ideology is taken from Wikipedia.The Führerprinzip was not invented by the National Socialists. Hermann Graf Keyserling, a German philosopher, was the first to use the term "Führerprinzip". One of Keyserling's central claims was that certain 'gifted individuals' were "born to rule" on the basis of Social Darwinism.
The ideology of the Führerprinzip sees each organization as a hierarchy of leaders, where every leader (Führer, in German) has absolute responsibility in his own area, demands absolute obedience from those below him and answers only to his superiors. This required obedience and loyalty even over concerns of right and wrong. The supreme leader, Adolf Hitler, answered to God and the German people. Giorgio Agamben has argued that Hitler saw himself as an incarnation of auctoritas, and as the living law or highest law itself, effectively combining in his persona executive power, judicial power and legislative power. After the campaign against the alleged Röhm Putsch, Hitler declared: "in this hour, I was responsible for the fate of the German nation and was therefore the supreme judge of the German people!"
The Führerprinzip paralleled the functionality of military organizations, which continue to use a similar authority structure today, although in democratic countries members are supposed to be restrained by codes of conduct. The justification for the civil use of the Führerprinzip was that unquestioning obedience to superiors supposedly produced order and prosperity in which those deemed 'worthy' would share.
This began as soon as the Beer Hall Putsch; Hitler used his trial for propaganda to present himself, claiming it had been his sole responsibility and inspiring the title Führer.
This principle became the law of the National Socialist German Worker's Party and the SS and was later transferred onto the whole German totalitarian society. Appointed mayors replaced elected local governments. Schools lost elected parents councils and faculty advisory boards, with all authority being put in the headmaster's hands. The Nazis suppressed associations and unions with elected leaders, putting in their place mandatory associations with appointed leaders. The authorities allowed private corporations to keep their internal organization, but with a simple renaming from hierarchy to Führerprinzip. Shop stewards had their authority carefully circumscribed to prevent their infringing on that of the plant leader.
In practice, the selection of unsuitable candidates often led to micromanagement and commonly to an inability to formulate coherent policy. Albert Speer noted that many Nazi officials dreaded making decisions in Hitler's absence. Rules tended to become oral rather than written; leaders with initiative who flouted regulations and carved out their own spheres of influence might receive praise and promotion rather than censure.
Mission Network Gatherings and the Anglican Mission Winter Conference serve similar functions to party rallies. Under the heading “Mission Network Gatherings” the Mission Network Manual states:Mission Networks should sponsor at least three Gatherings each year (in addition to attendance at the Winter Conference). These Gatherings are essential for several reasons.
First of all, it is a recognized fact that a vision that is not continuously reinforced will be lost. Accordingly, a key responsibility of the Network Leader is to remind people that we are a missionary movement committed to gathering, planting and serving dynamic congregations in the Anglican tradition. Elaboration of what this means in practice should be an underlying theme of each Gathering.
Second, a Gathering offers a special opportunity to teach core values and the necessary skills needed for spiritual leadership. Each Gathering should include a teaching that emphasizes some aspect of our call as members of the Anglican Mission. Leadership development and specific gifts development should be considered and encouraged.
Third, a Gathering should demonstrate authentic, participatory worship in Word and Sacrament in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Fourth, a Gathering is a time of fellowship in which our sense of community is revitalized.
Fifth, a Gathering can offer refreshment to clergy and clergy spouses. Every Gathering should have some time allocated to matters of clergy health, welfare and team building.
Finally, a Gathering is a good time to handle administrative announcements and make sure that everyone is operating on the same page. It is a good time to solicit new ideas. It is a good time to publicly commission those being called to specific parish ministries and to commend those whose ministries are bearing fruit.
Under the heading “Winter Conference” the same manual states:Network Leadership should strongly encourage attendance at the Anglican Mission Winter Conference. Winter Conference serves all of the purposes of the local Mission Network Gatherings, but in a larger community. In addition, Winter Conference gives participants a chance to hear directly from the archbishops and bishops who are leading and serving our Mission.
Anglican Mission laity and clergy may object to the comparison but to anyone who has studied the totalitarian parties and regimes of the last century, the similarities are unavoidable.
I must stress that I am NOT likening Bishop Murphy to Adolph Hitler—far from it. I am drawing attention to the similarities between type of structure found in the Anglican Mission and the type of structure found in the NSDGWP in Germany (and in the Fascist Party in Italy and the Phalangist Party in Spain during the same period).
Historically missionary organizations in the Anglican Church like the Church Missionary Society have been overseen by a board or its equivalent. The board or its equivalent raised funds for the support of missionary work, and recruited, trained, and deployed missionaries. The missions established in a particular country were organized into a missionary conference, which served as the local governing body of the mission to that country. While nothing was outside the purview of the missionary conference as a whole, it directed its attention more particularly to mission policy, to receiving and dealing with reports of its committees, and to the opportunity for united devotion and intercession. It gave main responsibility for actual administration, including finance, to its executive committee. The executive committee directed the work of the mission between the meetings of the missionary conference. This type of structure fits more with the contemporary trend toward flat and flexible networks than does the centralized hierarchical structure of the Anglican Mission.
What Bishop Murphy and Canon Donlon are proposing for the restructured Anglican Mission is not a board of oversight. It is a college of consultors, which is a Roman Catholic institution. Its primary function in vicariates and prefectures apostolic is consultative. It is a council of at least three missionary priests whose opinion that the Vicar or Prefect hears in more serious affairs. The college of consultors would not be at the top of the Anglican Mission hierarchy. It is a lateral structure. In an organizational diagram it would appear to one side of the head of the organization that would be at the top of the hierarchy. Under the proposed restructuring the head of the organization would remain Bishop Murphy.
The Anglican Mission could have avoided the present crisis if it had adopted the type of structure usually found in missionary organizations in the Anglican Church with a board of oversight and missionary conferences in Canada, the United States, Puerto Rico, and other US territories where the Anglican Mission had established missions. There should have been term limits for all officials and regular, comprehensive and candid evaluations of these officials. The articles of incorporation and bylaws of the Anglican Mission corporation and all changes to these documents and detailed reports of revenues and expenditures should have been a matter of public record. Every effort should have been made to establish openness and transparency as a part of the Anglican Mission’s organizational culture. The responsibility for the lack of openness and transparency as a part of that culture ultimate rests with the Anglican Mission’s longtime chairman, Bishop Charles “Chuck” Murphy. It was not one of the values that he promoted.
Anglican Mission Canon Tony Baron in an article entitled “Bishops in Conflict: The Godly Response” encourages clergy and laity of the Anglican Mission to trust their leaders, arguing that they are trustworthy. I must disagree. One of the problems of the Anglican Mission is that its people have blindly placed their trust in its leaders. As Canon Baron admits, all leaders are imperfect. This means that some leaders are trustworthier than others. The Thirty-Nine Articles, Anglicanism’s confession of faith, recognizes that their natural inclination to evil remains even in those who in Christ are reborn. This infection of our nature is something with which we all struggle. Nowhere in Scripture are we told to relinquish thinking for ourselves and to turn all decision-making over to our leaders. On the contrary, we have a responsibility for warning them when they are at the risk of falling into sin, urging them to repent when they do fall into sin, bring them to the attention of the church when they are obdurate, and otherwise doing all that we can to turn them back from their wrong way. The sixteenth century English Reformers did not shrink from this responsibility. Neither should we.