PAWLEYS ISLAND, SC: All Saints Rector in Pitched Battle for His Job
Chaos as church and Anglican Mission face uncertain future
By David W. Virtue
August 10, 2012
In July, Grafe sent out a letter saying that he thought All Saints should move to the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), “I believe the Anglican Church of North America is that faithful place of coming together; a unified Anglican witness in North America through which we can continue to walk out our new life in Jesus Christ and serve Him as His Church. I believe All Saints Parish is called to affiliate with the Anglican Church of North America under the oversight of Archbishop Bob Duncan, in communion with the GAFCON and Global South Primates. I see this as the faithful next step. We continue to stand for His truth, and we stand for His truth in unity.”
However, VOL has been told that he did not tell the Vestry he was going to send the letter. Several neutral Vestry members advised him to sit tight until after Bishop Chuck Murphy, who leads the AMIA, retires next year. Apparently, Grafe ignored their advice.
Dina and J. Walker Clarke sent out a letter to the vestry and church signaling that they support Grafe and do not like the back room efforts to get rid of the rector.
“This week we were made aware that on August 5th, Bishop Chuck Murphy and Senior Warden Martha Lachicotte called a meeting with Rob Grafe. It is our understanding that Mrs. Lachichotte had presented a letter to Bishop Murphy asking him to replace Rob Grafe as rector of All Saints, citing a crisis in leadership. This letter was signed by four All Saints vestry members and five additional parishioners. We also understand that this was done without consulting the other members of the vestry, and that they were not notified of the meeting (or the letter) until after the fact.
“This time of division in our church family has grieved us and we have continued to pray for unity, peace and healing. We have heard the Lord tell us to remain quiet and pray, to wait for Him to make clear when the time would come for us to speak up. Upon hearing about the events of this week and praying about the situation, we believe that God is saying that now is the time.”
The couple said they had emailed each member of the vestry saying that these four vestry members do not speak for them, nor do they represent the views of what they believed were the majority of other members of All Saints, including many currently serving on the vestry.
“We want to make clear that we fully support Rob Grafe as our Senior Rector, and we fully reject any calls for his resignation. While we have tremendous respect for the individuals who signed this letter, we are concerned and do not respect the way that these four vestry members have chosen to misrepresent All Saints members and our vestry. We disagree with the manner in which this was handled, specifically that it was done in secret without the prior knowledge or consent of the majority of our vestry.”
They said Grafe has been “honest, faithful, and patient in gathering information from all sides during this conflict within our church family, and had been transparent and forthcoming with the church body about his intentions. He has sought Biblical solutions for our disagreements, and has offered all sides public opportunities to address the congregation.”
They also said that while some may disagree with certain views Rob has expressed, it cannot be said that he has not been fair. “He has exemplified true leadership. There has been no crisis of leadership by our rector at All Saints.”
A source told VOL that, as things now stand, there are three factions on the Vestry: pro-Church/AMiA, pro-Grafe/ACNA, and neutral Vestry members who feel that Grafe betrayed them by making this move without advising them first. “Satan has created or allowed us to create a masterpiece of dysfunction here,” he said.
The AMIA recently underwent a serious split with one faction wanting to stay in the AMIA under Murphy, another faction seeking ecclesiastical protection from the new Rwandan Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje and PEARUSA, and third group looking to come directly under Archbishop Robert Duncan of the Anglican Church in North America.
Serious questions are now being raised by observers as to whether the AMIA will survive in its present form. Since being ousted from the Anglican Province of Rwanda, Bishop Murphy has sought ecclesiastical protection form the Anglican Church of the Province of Congo, but this has not been forthcoming.
In Ridgecrest recently, at a Missions conference, Archbishop Duncan said the Anglican Mission in the Americas had “disintegrated” and this poses a challenge for North American Anglicanism and for Global Anglicanism. At the time, Duncan noted that “what was one of our founding jurisdictions, and distanced to became a ministry partner in June 2010, has gone through a season of re-definition and loss since June 2011 that has greatly diminished the AM and that has broken the hearts of many in this Council, across this Church and around the globe, not least that of your Archbishop.
“What will become of the remnant ‘Society for Mission and Apostolic Works’ we cannot know, we only know that what has emerged does not look like the Anglican Mission, the AMiA, that was once so central to who and what we became as a Church.”
He said the disintegration of AMiA produced an amazing new partner in PEARUSA (Province de L’Eglise Anglicane au Rwanda USA).
In June. Murphy met with a 150 members and reformulated the AMIA into what he called the Society for Mission and Apostolic Works. Clergy and lay leaders embraced what he called “a modified purpose statement geared toward recognizing, recruiting, resourcing, and releasing leaders for planting and serving churches in the Anglican tradition for the next generation of Kingdom leadership in the Americas.”
No mention was made as to what ecclesiastical oversight the AMIA was now under apart from individual dioceses in the Global South that the AMIA now claims attachment. For the moment, it seems the AMIA is twisting in the wind with no place to land.
Bishop Murphy will deliver his final address at next year’s Winter Conference. What happens after that is anybody’s guess. The AMIA now has less than 90 parishes, many in formative stages. Eight bishops, a majority, still remain loyal to Murphy and the concept of a Missionary Society.
Thanks to ‘virtueonline’ for this sad evidence on foxes in the hen-house. The problem of course is that schism often generates further schism, and the newly-emerging schismatic churches in North America are not immune. Once dissidents choose to go their own way – divorcing themselves from their parent church – the rivalries that arise are scarcely to be unexpected. ACNA and AMiA are both the fruit of foreign insurgency, and it is very difficult to ‘rule one’s children’ from a distance – especially when the adoptive parents want to appear to be a knight in shining armour rescuing damsels from distress.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand