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Published by TheLivingChurchdocs
Ephraim Radner reflects on the ecclesiology and theology related to the Anglican Mission in the Americas' separation from Rwanda's Anglican bishops.
Ephraim Radner reflects on the ecclesiology and theology related to the Anglican Mission in the Americas' separation from Rwanda's Anglican bishops.

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Published by: TheLivingChurchdocs on Dec 16, 2011
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January 1, 2012 • THE LIVING CHURCH
(Continued on next page)
By Ephraim Radner
he recently disclosed rupture inthe relationship of the RwandanHouse of Bishops and bishops of the Anglican Mission in the Americas,although hardly yet resolved or com- pletely transparent, illumines at leasta couple of key elements about eccle-sial existence, especially among Anglicans.I was never a supporter of the AMiA’s formation, for mainly tworeasons:it diluted traditional Angli-can witness within North Americaand it provided a model of and stokedthe dynamics for Anglican fragmen-tation around the world.But for allthat, many of the AMiA’s leaders havebeen people of enormous missionarycommitment and skill, and the publicdispute among their American andRwandan leaders hardly does themthe honor they deserve.But what does the dispute illu-mine?First, it clarifies some of the perennial limitations of “strategiz-ing” for the Church’s “reform.”These limitations, it needs to besaid, afflict Christians of all theo-logical commitments, not just the AMiA.And they do so preciselybecause strategizing reform is aninevitably political process thatdemands marshaling decision-mak-ing powers and, in the case of eccle-sial recognition (“replacement” provinces, “pressures” on Canter-bury, and the rest), persuading othersuch powers on one’s behalf.Politics may be both necessary inthe Church and the potential placefor the exercise of certain virtues, butit is in fact rarely the latter, andbecause of this, the realityof the former is a burdento be borne rather thandeliberately assumed,let alone constructed.Questions of authority,resources, andlegalstanding emerge astools and objects of contest, and it isalmost inevitablethat instead of reform onefinds the corruption of purpose andrelationship.The fact that money, jurisdiction,and threatened lawsuits are now partof the dispute is hardly a surprise:they are the natural result of politi-cizing the shape of Christian witness.North American Anglicanism’s land-scape is now littered with such exam- ples. Non-corrupting reform withinthe Church comes from anothersource, surely, to be discovered onanother path.Thus, second, we can now seemore clearly some of the alternativeand contrasting “graces of Christiancommunion,” to use Philip Turner’sterm, through which reform mayindeed arise.It is telling that one jus-tification for the AMiA’s episcopaldefection from its Rwandan connec-tion is exactly the absence of a“covenantal” relationship, accordingto AMiA chairmanChuck Murphy:the agreement of connection wasmeant to be renewable yearly, if desired, and limited by various local purposes, and the breakability of therelationship was therefore always anintrinsic aspect of its character.In his resignation letter to the MostRev. Onesphore Rwaje, Rwanda’sarchbishop, Murphy wrote that “thereis no covenant” between the AMiAand Rwanda. Indeed.But for this rea-son, the characteristics of commun-ion were themselves never woveninto the expectations of a commonlife and points of accountability. Forsome Anglicans, of course, this is justwhat they would wish and expect of one another, and here some liberalsand conservatives converge.But theconflicts between the AMiAand Rwanda underscore why suchwishes and expectations fall short of Christian unity in its evangelicaldepth and breadth.By the sametoken, they show how a covenantalrelationship is not at all the samething as a political one, and why thefears of such covenantal relationshipsin Christ are driven by political con-cerns more than anything.If, for instance, the proposed Angli-can Covenant fails for
rea-sons— if it is deemed unhelpful tothe manipulative purposes of this orthat church and her strategized pro-
In Support of the Anglican Covenant
Covenantsand Fragments

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