The Living Church

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The Living ChurchFebruary 20, 2000Two American Priests Become Bishops in Singapore, Then Return to U.S 220(8) p. 6-7

Two American Priests Become Bishops in Singapore, Then Return to U.S
Bishops Rodgers and Murphy are associated with groups unhappy with the leftward drift of the Episcopal Church.

Bishops Rodgers and Murphy are associated with groups unhappy with the leftward drift of the Episcopal Church.

Two American priests, the Rev. Charles H. Murphy III and the Very Rev. John H. Rodgers, Jr., were consecrated bishops Jan. 29 in St. Andrew's Cathedral, Singapore, by a group of Anglican bishops, including two from the Episcopal Church.

Fr. Murphy, rector of All Saints' Church, Pawleys Island, S.C., and Dean Rodgers, retired dean of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, were consecrated as bishops and "will be released to minister in the United States of America," according to a news release. It was not immediately clear who released the bishops.

The Rt. Rev. C. FitzSimons Allison, retired Bishop of South Carolina, and the Rt. Rev. Alex D. Dickson, retired Bishop of West Tennessee, were among the co-consecrating bishops. The Most Rev. Emmanuel Kolini, Archbishop of the Province of Rwanda, the Most Rev. Moses Tay, Archbishop of the Province of South East Asia, and the Rt. Rev. John Rucyahana, Bishop of Shyira, Rwanda, were the consecrators. The Rt. Rev. David Pytches, former Bishop of Chile, Bolivia and Peru, now a rector in London, also was a co-consecrator.

The two new bishops are associated with organizations which have been supportive of the formation of a new Anglican province for traditionalists who have been unhappy with the leftward drift of the Episcopal Church. Bishop Murphy is a leader of First Promise, based in Pawleys Island, and Bishop Rodgers is aligned with Association of Anglican Congregations, an organization of Episcopal and "continuing" congregations which has headquarters in suburban Chicago.

"Our calling is to minister to those congregations who believe that the authority of scripture and the historic creeds are central to our faith, conduct and unity as Anglicans," Bishop Murphy said. "We are committed to lead the church - not leave it."

Bishop Rodgers cited the membership decline in the Episcopal Church during the past 30 years and said, "This crisis of decline is a crisis of the Christian faith that has left the Episcopal Church divided."

According to the news release which announced the consecrations, the new bishops "will provide pastoral support, guidance and oversight at the request of clergy and congregations that want to continue in the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as the Anglican Communion has received them. They will actively seek to plant Anglican missions in areas where there are receptive communities and little faithful witness in the Episcopal Church."

The release added, "The archbishops and bishops agree that this is a gospel issue, not a political issue. It is an action to re-establish the unity that has been violated by the unrebuked ridicule and denial of basic Christian teaching. They are convinced it is time to give the faithful in the U.S. a place to remain Anglican.

"The sending of these bishops back to the United States is offered as an interim step in an ongoing effort to lead the Episcopal Church back to its biblical foundations."

"The releasing of bishops into another province is an action not without precedence in the Anglican Communion," Bishop Allison said.

It was anticipated that the matter of either forming a new province or providing "flying" bishops to traditionalist congregations in the United States would be on the agenda when Anglican primates gather next month in Lisbon, Portugal, for their regularly scheduled meeting. The involvement of two of their members in the Singapore consecrations may have an effect on how the primates deal with the subject.

Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold said he was "appalled by this irregular action and even more so by the purported 'crisis' that has been largely fomented by them and others, and which bears very little resemblance to the church we actually know, which is alive and well and faithful, as the Zacchaeus Report so clearly indicates.

"It is ironic that this action occurs at a time in which we as a community of bishops have come to a deepened awareness of our unity and of the need to work together for the upbuilding of the church we serve in Christ's name. We are not helped by voices of panic and catastrophic projection which seek to undermine the careful and patient way we have sought to proceed together in discerning the motions of the Spirit."

The Most Rev. George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury, was in the Province of Southern Africa when he heard the news. He expressed regret that the action had been taken ahead of the meeting of the primates of the Anglican Communion in March, which will be addressing the matters to which the action relates. In a statement, Archbishop Carey said the consecrations were "a grave disappointment" and that they were "irresponsible and irregular and only harm the unity of the Communion."

An archbishop in sympathy with the consecrating bishops, the Most Rev. Harry Goodhew of Sydney, said, "While I appreciate the concern and frustration that has prompted this action, I wish to express my profound disappointment that these consecrations have taken place at this time and in this manner.

"While I express my disappointment, I trust that the primates of the Anglican Communion will have some understanding of the sense of frustration that has led to these consecrations. When they meet in Portugal, I hope they will fully appreciate the grave concerns many sincere Anglicans have about departures from the historic faith and disciplines of the Anglican Church, and from the traditional theology, morals and ethical norms which are firmly based on the biblical tradition."

Church of England Newspaper reported that the primates of at least four provinces sent an envoy to attempt to dissuade Archbishops Kolini and Tay from taking action before the primates meet in Lisbon. TLC also learned that the Rev. Jon Shuler, executive director of the North American Missionary Society (NAMS), had been scheduled to be consecrated with the others, but plans were changed during the week before the event took place.

Bishop Murphy, 52, has been rector in Pawleys Island since 1982. He was born in Decatur, Ala., and graduated from the University of Alabama and the School of Theology of the University of the South. He was ordained to the diaconate and priesthood in 1975, served as curate at St. Paul's, Selma, Ala., 1975-77; rector of St. Thomas', Greenville, Ala., 1977-80, and as canon at Trinity Cathedral, Columbia, S.C., 1980-82. In the Diocese of South Carolina, he has been a General Convention deputy, member of standing committee and diocesan council. He and his wife, Margaret, are the parents of three children.

Bishop Rodgers, 69, was a member of the faculty when Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry opened in 1976. He became the school's second dean in 1978 and remained in that ministry until 1990, when he became the director of the seminary's Stanway Institute. He retired in 1995. He is a native of Clayton, Mo., and is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Virginia Theological Seminary and the University of Basel (Switzerland). He was ordained deacon and priest in 1958. He was curate at the Church of the Epiphany, Washington, D.C., then joined the faculty of Virginia Seminary, where he remained until the founding of Trinity. He and his wife, Blanche, have four children and two grandchildren.

The bishops of the dioceses where the two new bishops had been canonically resident were not entirely surprised by the news. Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, where Bishop Rodgers was resident, issued a statement the day after the consecration.

"It seems to me that this is but another in the spiral of events of the last 30 years by which the fabric and the direction of the Episcopal Church are being tested and shaped," Bishop Duncan said. He called Bishop Rodgers "one of the finest, humblest, brightest and most gracious priests I have ever known," and said he would be welcomed in Pittsburgh "as the leader and friend he is."

In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Bishop Duncan said, "I certainly don't rejoice in this action that has taken place, but it was bound to happen somewhere, somehow, since the left seems unwilling to make provision for those whose views have actually not changed."

Pittsburgh's interest in the consecrations is magnified by the diocese's relationship with the Province of Rwanda and specifically the Diocese of Shyira. Pittsburgh's diocesan convention last fall voted unanimously for partnership with Rwanda and Shyira.

The Very Rev. George Werner, vice president of the House of Deputies of General Convention, who recently retired as dean of Trinity Cathedral, Pittsburgh, called the consecrations "very, very, very, very sad."

Trinity School for Ministry's dean and president, the Very Rev. Peter Moore, issued a statement which said, "we do not view this as an un-Anglican act. To the contrary, we view this as an attempt to keep many within the Anglican (even the Episcopal) fold who are sorely tempted to leave it because they believe that only in doing so can they effectively serve the Lord."

In South Carolina, the Rt. Rev. Edward Salmon, diocesan bishop, told TLC he would meet with Bishop Murphy and the vestry of All Saints', Pawleys Island, as soon as Bishop Murphy returned.

BISHOP RODGERS Age 69 Dean, Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, 1978-1990 BISHOP MURPHY Age 52 Rector, All Saints' Church, Pawleys Island, S.C., since 1982
Bishop Griswold: "We are not helped by voices of panic and catastrophic projection which seek to undermine the careful and patient way we have sought to proceed together in discerning the motions of the Spirit."