Divorce is messy, the lessons from a failed marriage often complicated.
Such is the case with this week's split of the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMIA) from its majority-world leadership in the Church of Rwanda.
Until the 11-year-old partnership crumbled, it seemed to embody the potential for Global South church leaders to rise up and provide spiritual oversight and direction in the developed world.
"It would be unwise to draw any general conclusions for the future from a dispute which is clearly about particular human relationships," said Brian Stanley, director of the Centre for the Study of World Christianity at the University of Edinburgh.
Under the oversight of the Rwandan province, the South Carolinabased AMIA grew to more than 150 congregations in the United States and Canada, AMIA spokeswoman Cynthia Brust said.
But the 2010 retirement of Rwandan Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini—who had a strong connection with Bishop Charles Murphy, AMIA's chairman—precipitated a change in the relationship.
Suddenly, AMIA faced questions and accusations from Rwandan church leaders over the American association's finances, oversight, and long-term direction.
"All the Christian churches are becoming increasingly global, and as they do, these kinds of cross-cultural tensions—or perhaps these are better seen as cross-cultural abrasions as we sometimes just rub each other wrong—are likely to increase," said Douglas Jacobsen, author of The World's Christians: Who They Are, Where They Are, and How They Got There.
AMIA claims it gave 12 percent of its collections to the Church of Rwanda over a seven-year period, but bishops there demand to know what happened to the money.
"That's not our question," Brust said. ...1