By ED STANNARD
Episcopal Life staff
Two American priests consecrated as bishops in Singapore on Jan.
29 have ignited a firestorm of debate among Anglicans worldwide.
The action by six bishops, apparently performed outside normal
procedures, will be a major focus of a meeting March 23-28 of
the leaders of the 38 autonomous Anglican churches in Oporto,
Portugal. Two of the consecrating bishops, Moses Tay and Emmanuel
Kolini, are primates.
What is generally acknowledged is that Charles H. Murphy
III, rector of All Saints Episcopal Church, Pawley's Island, S.C.,
and John H. Rodgers Jr., dean-emeritus of Trinity Episcopal School
for Ministry in Ambridge, Pa., are now bishops of Rwanda and South
East Asia, respectively. Their consecrations are considered valid
But their plan "to minister to those congregations [in the
Episcopal Church in the U.S.A.] who believe that the authority
of Scripture and the historic creeds are central to our faith,
conduct, and unity as Anglicans," as Murphy stated in a press
release, has precipitated a potential crisis.
Bishops need permission to enter another bishop's diocese,
according to Episcopal canon law. The principle was affirmed at
the 1998 Lambeth Conference of bishops. But the two new bishops
apparently intend to enter other bishops' dioceses with or without
a welcome. Those involved in the Singapore ceremony contend that
many bishops are violating their ordination vows -- and ignoring
another Lambeth resolution -- by ordaining non-celibate homosexuals,
blessing same-sex unions and otherwise violating "the doctrine,
discipline and worship of Christ as the Anglican Church has received
them," as the press release stated.
"The apostasy of the '12 Theses' [of Bishop John Spong], the
continued rejection of the Lambeth resolutions by a number of
dioceses ... have gone unrebuked as the boundaries of Christian
and Anglican faith have been notoriously breached," wrote Tay,
primate of South East Asia, and Kolini, primate of Rwanda, to
Archbishop of Canterbury George L. Carey after the consecrations.
"The unity of Anglicanism must be understood as grounded
not merely in polity but fundamentally in the historic faith entrusted
to us. Far from being an attack on the [Anglican] Communion, this
action is an affirmation of the unity of Anglican doctrine and
faith which has been frequently and flagrantly violated in the
Reaction to the consecrations was swift and mostly negative.
Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold sent a letter to bishops
in which he said, "I am 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" .
Carey issued his own statement, which stated that "it is
his view that such consecrations are irresponsible and irregular
and only harm the unity of the communion." Griswold later met
with Carey and his chancellor in London.
For some conservative bishops, the action was ill-timed.
Three of them, Archbishop Harry Goodhew of the Diocese of Sydney,
Archbishop Donald Mtetemela of the Church of Tanzania and Presiding
Bishop Maurice Sinclair of the Church of the Southern Cone, stated
in a letter, "We are disappointed that our friends acted against
our clear advice and we cannot approve such a step as they have
taken at this time."
The letter referred to a meeting in November in Kampala,
Uganda. After that meeting, nine bishops, seven of them primates,
wrote that they would seek "effective measures" in places where
the "boundaries of Christian and Anglican faith have been notoriously
Although Murphy said he planned to remain "rector emeritus"
of All Saints, according to a Charleston, S.C., newspaper report,
Bishop Edward L. Salmon of the Diocese of South Carolina wrote
in a pastoral letter to his diocese that relationships still would
have to be worked out.
"The consecrations pose serious questions about the relationships
of provinces of the Anglican Communion to the American church,
doctrinal and canonical issues within the American church and
canonical questions within the Diocese of South Carolina," wrote
Salmon on Feb. 2. He continued, "Obviously the office of bishop
now is his status, therefore in reality, he is not a priest of
the diocese. I will have to depend on the chancellor to work these
matters out canonically. He has stated his desire to remain at
All Saints' Church. To do so will require my permission and license."
One of the consecrators is Bishop FitzSimons Allison, Salmon's
predecessor. In his letter, Salmon said that in a discussion with
Murphy and Allison, he "pointed out the strange canonical issues"
and mentioned "the commitment that Bishop Murphy made some time
ago to live in the diocese and not be divisive to its common life."
A second retired U.S. bishop, Alex Dickson of West Tennessee,
took part in the Singapore ceremony.
One of the largest parishes in the diocese, All Saints contributes
$62,000 a year to South Carolina's $2 million budget, 4.5 percent
of its net income, according to the Rev. Canon Michael Malone,
diocesan financial officer. The diocese asks parishes to give
10 percent on a voluntary basis.
In several dioceses, including Massachusetts, Pennsylvania
and Washington, D.C., parishes have resisted the ministry of their
bishops because the bishops support gay blessings and ordinations.
Bishop Charles Bennison of Pennsylvania said that he would
tell the clergy in his diocese not to invite one of the missionary
bishops. "That would put it in a canonical context," he said.
If his order was defied, action could be taken against the rector
Episcopal News Service contributed to this story.
Historical / legal questions /Presiding Bishop Griswold's letters / Other reactions