In the ongoing dispute over the role of homosexuals in the church, two new conservative Anglican bishops have been designated as missionaries to the United States to promote orthodox teaching and practice.The Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold has blasted their appointment. Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, head of 70 million Anglicans worldwide, including the Episcopal Church, will not recognize them. But Charles Murphy III and John H. Rodgers Jr. consider themselves bishops nevertheless. Their maverick consecrations as bishops occurred in the wake of ongoing infighting among Episcopalians over homosexual ordination and same-sex unions.The Jan. 29 consecrations of Murphy and Rodgers—presided over by then-Archbishop Moses Tay (South East Asia) and Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini (Rwanda)—provoked a fierce debate within the worldwide Anglican Communion.Murphy is a bishop in the Province of Rwanda and Rodgers is a bishop in the Province of South East Asia, both recognized entities within the Anglican Communion. Both men say their archbishops have authorized them to begin episcopal ministries—confirming new Christians, ordaining priests, and overseeing the pastoral ministries of priests.Griswold called the consecrations "singularly unhelpful" and warned against a "dangerous fundamentalism—both within Islam and our own Christian community—which threatens to turn our God of compassion into an idol of wrath.""Bishops are not intercontinental ballistic missiles, manufactured on one continent and fired into another as an act of aggression," added Michael Peers, Griswold's counterpart in Canada.Carey wrote to all Anglican bishops on Feb. 17 that he would not recognize the episcopal ministries of Murphy and Rodgers until "a full rapprochement and reconciliation has taken place between them and the appropriate authorities within the Episcopal Church of the United States."When the 38 primates of the Anglican Communion met in Portugal in late March, they endorsed Carey's letter. Murphy and Rodgers stress, however, that the primates did not address the legitimacy of the consecrations, and that the primates' communiqué urged a discussion among the American, Rwandan, and South East Asian provinces.Emboldened by the continued support of Kolini and Tay's successor, Ping Chung Yong, Murphy and Rodgers say they are ready to build a "virtual province" in a church that normally honors geographical boundaries."George Carey will have to work this out, because he does not want a tear in the Anglican Communion, whether from Rwanda or from South East Asia," Murphy tells Christianity Today.So long as Rwanda and South East Asia are in good standing with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Murphy and Rodgers say, their work is under that umbrella of recognition. The provinces have authorized Murphy and Rodgers to function as missionary bishops—working in the United States among beleaguered Episcopal parishes that feel repressed or isolated by liberal leaders.Murphy and Rodgers cite recent friendly gestures from Episcopal bishops. Murphy says Albuquerque-based Bishop Terence Kelshaw has granted him permission to visit and confirm at an Episcopal parish within Kelshaw's diocese. During a recent ordination service, Bishop Edward Salmon of Charleston, South Carolina, invited Rodgers to participate in the service liturgy.Initially, Murphy and Rodgers will work mostly among parishes that have left the Episcopal Church in recent years. They plan, however, to launch parishes not affiliated with the Episcopal Church, such as St. Andrew's Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. Conservative Episcopal laity launched St. Andrew's as an independent parish after Larry Maze, the Episcopal Church's bishop of Arkansas, said the proposed new church did not fit with the diocese's plans for new congregations.Both Murphy and Rodgers say they expect more primates to support Rwanda and Singapore openly, especially if General Convention approves ordaining homosexual clergy or blessing same-sex unions.
Douglas LeBlanc is Associate Editor ofChristianity Today.
AnglicansOnline has an excellent collection of news stories and links about the consecrations.The primates' communiqué is available at AnglicanCommunion.org. See more coverage of the Portugal meeting in Church Times.Dianne Knippers, President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, D.C., has an article on the subject in last week's Weekly Standard. "The Battle of the Bishops" isn't available at the Standard's site, but it is available elsewhere.
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