Who’d have ever thought a few short days could make such a difference in the exciting world of Orthodox Biblical Christianity? For almost two thousand years Conservative True Christians have been as close as newly-wed Kardashians, but now, merely two weeks after I posted my important homily on little Chuck Murphy and his faux-Rwandan Anglican Mission in the Americas, it’s all turned nasty.
Indeed, you can be sure I’m not the only one reminded of that moment which always seems to occur at parties you’ve been really looking forward to attending; that point when just as things are getting lively someone goes too far and puts the host’s tropical fish in the cocktail blender. Or thinks the French guest of honor can’t possibly take offense at their hilarious Inspector Clouseau impersonation.
So… with that in mind let me stress from the outset how aware I am that My Beloved Sinners don’t come here in search of reasoned commentary on the circumstances surrounding little Chuck’s hasty departure from his land of canonical residence - they want reliable Orthodox hyperbole . Those seeking intelligence should click on over to Fr. Harris’ Preludium: my vocation when it comes to ecclesiastical reportage is a purely Murdochian one - even if I haven’t as of yet found a way of fully integrating phone-tapping, inane competitions, and semi-nudity into my regular homilies. Thus the question upon which I’d like to specifically focus is the one on everybody’s lips (albeit alongside droplets of spittle, a nasty little lump for which I strongly recommend medical attention, and the dried whitish substance which I must every Sunday morning force myself to believe is toothpaste before passing over the Common Chalice) - What’s going to become of the AMiA churches?
Of course there are really only three possible outcomes, since the fourth – that AMiA congregations realize the silliness of their “canonically Rwandan” claim and are welcomed back into TEC by mature Bishops gracious enough to never again mention what has really been nothing more than a brief spasm of deeply embarrassing immaturity – is simply too far-fetched to be even worth considering:
1) They follow Chucky as the AMiA abandons all pretence of Communion membership, and becomes an independent “continuing Anglican” church. Of which we know there aren’t nearly enough. This has the benefit of conferring a comforting “We’re the only ones in the entire universe doing church right” smugness upon adherents: just ask any member of the Exclusive Brethren why they tolerate long meetings in closed halls filled with people who shun deodorants. On the downside, however, once the last vestiges of regulatory oversight have been lifted from Chucky’s ego it’s an even-money bet these AMiA congregations will soon calling Primate Murphy “Our Beloved Leader” and raising funds to buy a large compound in Guyana. Wherein they shall stockpile Kool-Aid.
2) One of the two AMiA Bishops who not signing the hasta-la-vista-Rwaje letter, Terrell Glenn and Thad Barnum (yep- I know I’m not the first to make this gag, but with a name like “Barnum” how can I resist mentioning one gets born every minute?), is appointed by the Rwandan hierarchy as Chucky’s successor, and things continue as before, albeit under more compliant leadership. Call me pessimistic, but I don’t give this scenario much chance of playing out smoothly: it’s unlikely Chuck didn’t long ago lock down ownership of the AMiA so tightly as to exclude the slightest possibility of anyone ever doing to him what he did to the Church to which he once vowed loyalty. Which will leave AMiA congregations torn between once more changing their name and identity (do you think it’s worth my registering “New Anglican Mission in the Americas” so as to profitably on-sell to the Rt. Rev. Barnum?), not to mention facing associated legal challenges concerning any property they may have acquired, or saving money on signage and continuing to dance to whatever tune Chucky orders put on the jukebox. With their dimes, of course (see scenario #1).
3) Tiring of the whole Rwandan charade, AMiA churches drop the game and hitch their wagons to the ACNA train. This is, as you’d expect, the scenario that’s been waking little Bobby Duncan up in the middle of the night with sticky pyjamas, and there’s undoubtedly more than a few players on the AMiA’s middle tiers who see it as the fast-track to a purple shirt of their own. Yet simply changing the flavor of one’s schism doesn’t make the bad taste go away. Or, in this case, the legal obligations touched upon in option #2. Although wasting money on actions against fellow conspirators would make a nice change from giving it to lawyers fighting one’s opponents.So you see, My Beloved Sinners, that whichever way things plays out it’s going to be messy. My recommendation is anyone even remotely connected starts stocking up on latex gloves and disinfectant now. Meanwhile the best thing we can all do is sit back and enjoy a little music: for reasons entirely comprehendible to anyone who’s met him little Chuck has always reminded me of my favorite aspects of Elvis – a comparison I’m certain he finds quite flattering. Although I very much doubt Chuck Murphy thinks the next stage of career will involve manning the counter of a 7-11. Even so, whatever happens there’s a prescience about the title of this little number – watch for the uncanny resemblance to Chucky’s own interpersonal skills at 3:0-4:00:
And finally, a rare correction. I began my previous homily by explaining that schism is like eating potato chips: a more accurate analogy would be to have said it’s like eating peanuts. In a crowd of anaphylactics.
I’m Father Christian and I teach the Bible.
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Judging by a release sent to Viagraville (where else?) just hours after my posting this homily, it appears Messrs. Barnum & Glenn (do you think if I asked him politely enough Layman Terrell would consider changing his last name to "Bailey"?) have chosen scenario #2, and dragged their old name (and website) of "Apostles Mission Network" out of mothballs.
Which proves our Chucky truly has locked up the name (and thus, we can also presume, the assets) of the AMiA tighter than the records of a Jensen family company. That the legals of this circus are already delightfully convoluted is evidenced by this absolute gem located about halfway down Barnum's epistle: "The Apostles Mission Network does not seek to proselytize others but only offers support and structure for those who desire to remain resident in Rwanda and to collaborate together toward fulfillment of our mission... "
And how much did the lawyer charge for advising nobody gets caught openly urging AMiA congregations to call in a signwriter and change the letterheads? Whatever the sum, you'd better believe they're currently wearing the kind of smile only ever found on a mouthpiece with a new file that they know is going to get worked on a daily basis for years to come...