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AMiA: Bishop Rodgers Talks about The AMiA, ECUSA & Mission


Virtuosity interviews the Rt. Rev. John H. Rodgers of the Anglican Mission in America

By David W. Virtue

WILMINGTON, DE (9/17/2004)--Bishop John H. Rodgers, 74, former ECUSA priest, Dean and president of the Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry was four times deputy to General Convention. He has served on the interfaith Lutheran/Anglican dialogue and the Lutheran/Episcopal dialogue for 20 years. He has not been on the edge of the church, but
a servant at the heart of the church. Rodgers was consecrated a bishop with the Anglican Mission in America in Singapore January of 2000 by Archbishop Moses Tay (Southeast Asia) and Emmanuel Kolini (Rwanda). Also in attendance were three ECUSA bishops and one bishop from the Church of England. Bishop Rodgers was in Wilmington, Delaware recently addressing a Conference for the Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen where Virtuosity caught up with him.

VIRTUOSITY: Bishop Rodgers, where does the AMIA stand with respect to the proliferation of Continuing Anglican churches?

RODGERS: AMIA is a pastoral mission to receive congregations who feel they can no longer remain in their dioceses and to plant churches where people are not reaching
out to the lost. We attempt to remain flexible with these churches while offering a temporal pastoral mission. We are not going to get involved with structural matters. We are certainly open to being supportive, friendly and cooperative with any biblically faithful, orthodox, caring, mission-minded Anglican church.

VIRTUOSITY: The AMIA is growing at a rapid rate based on your own statistics? Where do you see the future going for the AMIA?

RODGERS: We are uncertain as to the pace and nature of how the Anglican Communion will unfold in the immediate future. We are staying on course. If it seems likely that
the Primates do not take bold action; we might anticipate congregations coming in
because we have a number of congregations offering fellowship and mutual ministry as well as oversight with strong godly primates.

VIRTUOSITY: The realignment is clearly underway in the Episcopal Church. A Network of Dioceses, Clergy and Parishes has been formed with Bishop Robert Duncan at its head. The AAC is also gathering hundreds of parishes, so far about 300, with thousands of orthodox laity and clergy drawn into its embrace, and an Anglican Relief and Development Fund has been established to fund hurting African provinces who will no longer accept money from The Episcopal Church; can you see the AMIA being part of the new NETWORK?

RODGERS: When we took our steps initially in the Year 2000 we believed we were acting not just for ourselves but for all conservative Anglicans both inside and outside ECUSA. We want to be serving a common goal which is acceptance by the Anglican
Communion...so in principle yes. My only personal proviso is a serious commitment to doctrinal standards for me to feel comfortable.

VIRTUOSITY: If the Network disconnected from the ECUSA would the AMIA join up?

RODGERS: The Network would need to be disconnected or parts of ECUSA not in agreement with Lambeth '98 would have to be disconnected from the Episcopal Church.
We cannot be part of the ECUSA as long as ECUSA embraces both orthodox and the

VIRTUOSITY: The AMIA is a mission not a denomination, clearly the Global South bishops who consecrated you envisioned the AMIA at some point folding its tent into something bigger. What sort of Anglican structure do you see emerging that would let the AMIA join with integrity another ecclesiastical entity?

RODGERS: We look to the Primates to give us guidance. A reformed ECUSA which
would involve the exclusion of parts of ECUSA, or the recognition of a totally new province.

VIRTUOSITY: Do you think the Lambeth/Eames Commission, if it suspends Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, will give fresh impetus to the AMIA to go after wavering, fence-sitting Episcopal churches?

RODGERS: We in the AMIA have never gone after any churches aggressively, churches have come to us and we have received those churches. Would it propel many more parishes coming to us? Yes, and we are open to that.

VIRTUOSITY: Which of the Continuing Churches is the AMIA talking with at this time?

RODGERS: We have had serious discussions with the Reformed Episcopal Church, and I and several other representatives of other jurisdictions sat down with the AMIA at the meeting in Orlando, Florida earlier this year, and we are exploring possibilities of a multi-lateral; federation of so-called Continuing churches, and we want to explore that as well. The one proviso is that we don't want to spend time on structural matters that would detract our energies from the mission which is both evangelism and discipleship.

VIRTUOSITY: Has the AMIA paper on Women's Ordination been a boon to church growth or has it hampered church growth? What has the paper done for you?

RODGERS: I don't know if it has been a boon or hamper. It has allowed us to come to a decision and appeal to the Primates. We are practicing what we preach.

VIRTUOSITY: What is the AMIA's position on women's ordination?

RODGERS: Given the biblical teaching about women, we believe they fit into the Diaconate, since that was not a headship exercise of authority, but we felt and believed the priesthood and the episcopacy should be male. This was a fairly strong pervasive position in the body on that.

VIRTUOSITY : How have the Primates reacted?

RODGERS: Primates like Emmanuel Kolini who has ordained women into the priesthood, said he trusted we would be sensitive to the women in his and other provinces. They do not ordain women in Southeast Asia to the presbyerteriate-episcopate or Diaconate.

VIRTUOSITY: The focus of the AMIA is very evangelistic...gospel preaching, discipleship and planting new churches. How do you reconcile and make overture with the sacramental approach of Anglo-Catholics who seem more concerned with tradition, adopting more of a maintenance mentality rather than vigorous evangelism as you pursue talks with them?

RODGERS: We have intentionally defined ourselves as a three-stream expression of
Christ's body. It has been something of a disappointment that so few Anglo-Catholic congregations have joined us. We want to be able to explore that as most of our parishes
have weekly Eucharist, so I don't see any inherent incompatibility of our understanding of the Eucharist and other emphases of the AMIA. We are liturgical. We have seeker friendly services, but we have limits.

VIRTUOSITY: Would you like to see AMIA parishes get together with Evangelical ECUSA parishes in revisionist dioceses around the country for dialogue and mission?

RODGERS: It is not so much for dialogue, rather for mutual encouragement and joint evangelization of that particular area. Also they don't have to merge...they can go across lines. The emphasis on structure is therefore minimal. I am frustrated that more of that doesn't take place.

VIRTUOSITY: It would appear, even on a superficial level, that the slow but steady decline of ECUSA because of bad theology and equally bad morals will continue apace, and that the AMIA will be the beneficiary of disillusioned Episcopalians as they leave; how are you dealing with the emotional fallout of Episcopalians leaving their old "safety
Net" parishes?

RODGERS: It is initially a problem particularly in the South where many are saddened
when they have to leave familiar buildings and families where for generations they have worshipped. One parishioner, with tears in his eyes said to me: "John, I don't have to
leave but I must leave for the sake of my grandchildren." Those are heartfelt moments.

VIRTUOSITY: One parish, the Church of the Holy Spirit in Roanoke, VA seems to be on fire. It is one of the largest AMiA churches, with over 1,500 members, with average Sunday attendance in excess of 700. According to their priest they have grown so large that they "planted" another church on the other side of Roanoke with about 70 of their people which in just 2 years ago, has grown to over 600 members, with Sunday attendance in excess of 300! Can you see this being replicated around the country, regardless of what happens in London, (Lambeth) or New York?

RODGERS: Yes. We really don't know what will happen in terms of the Primates and how fast it will happen. We are to soldier on, and to reach as many people as possible and grow as fast as possible wherever God honors it. Some parishes are experiencing quite an explosion...we can't explain it, it is just happening. There are also faithful parishes in place that are not seeing the same kind of growth and the priests have been faithful...there
is a mystery here that cannot be reduced to technique.

VIRTUOSITY: How do you feel about orthodox American Episcopal priests and their parishes coming under orthodox primates like Greg Venables and others, instead of the AMiA?

RODGERS: This is a good thing. The more Primates that are involved in the North American ECUSA scene the better. As the ECUSA decline continues and fragments their involvement will become increasingly more necessary.

VIRTUOSITY: Thank you Dr. Rodgers.

For more stories about the Anglican Communion from an orthodox perspective go to www.virtuosityonline.org.

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