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An Exclusive Interview with Bishop Charles Murphy

By David W. Virtue

PAWLEYS ISLAND, SC-The leader of the fast growing Anglican mission to
America wears a heart pacemaker these days, but that hasn't stopped the
pace of growth of his mission to bring the gospel to Americans who want
something more than Evangelical Lite in worship and spongy feel-good
sermons. The 56-year old leader is laid back, though still imposing,
bearing in mind that he was once offered the job as rector of the
largest Episcopal Church in the US (in Houston) and was offered a chance
to run for Bishop of Florida. He turned down both offers.

Chuck, as he is known by friend and foe alike, is a former Episcopal
priest who is, by any standard of measurement, on a roll. But he is not
without his detractors. Mention his name and you get one of two
responses. He's either the devil incarnate who left the Episcopal Church
when he should have stayed to reform it, or he is the savior of
Anglicanism in the US by offering a safe place for Episcopalians who can
no longer abide the church's leftward swing to revisionist thinking in
faith and morals.

His detractors say he is a renegade Episcopal priest with powerful
ambitions to have his own show; that his Anglican Mission is a jump
start operation to split the ECUSA. He would argue, as do his followers
and not a few Episcopal bishops and Anglican Primates that he is merely
responding to the 40-year breakdown in the ECUSA and the cry of
thousands of laity who want an alternative place to practice the
Anglican expression of their faith. Oddly enough it is not just the
Episcopal Church's revisionists like Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold who
hate him, a goodly number of Evangelicals dislike what he is doing as well.

His more immediate problem is a clash he is having with the Episcopal
Bishop of South Carolina, Ed Salmon, over the property the AMIA
headquarters shares with All Saints Waccamaw, a 1,000 person evangelical
Episcopal church that was, till recently, a parish of the diocese and
the Episcopal Church.

I interviewed the bishop recently in his office in Pawleys Island.

VIRTUOSITY: The Bishop of South Carolina, Ed Salmon, has declared All
Saints Waccamaw a mission. He has excommunicated the vestry and put in
his own vestry. Where does that leave you?

MURPHY: We had a special corporate meeting last Thursday night. We had
500 adults present, two-thirds of the adult membership. 42 voted against
changing the church's charter and 38 voted against leaving the ECUSA.
462 overwhelmingly voted for consensus. It was very positive. We are
severing all ties and coming under the oversight of another province.
The membership wants to come under the oversight of the AMIA and to
transfer their canonical letters to the Episcopal Church of Rwanda.

In short we have moved on. Bishop Salmon has appointed another vestry
with four new families. Ed [Salmon] is moving forward to set up a
"shadow vestry," a mission committee, and reduce the church to a mission.

VIRTUOSITY: The parish voted overwhelmingly to end its relationship with
the Diocese. Have you heard from the Bishop? What has been response?

MURPHY: He met Friday at a local hotel with 10 people and appointed a
senior warden, a junior warden, and the rest of the committee and the
new mission committee. He will write and present his side and take out a
full page parish advertisement.

VIRTUOSITY: Will you walk away from the properties if you have too?

MURPHY: Yes we will. The reality is the Dennis Canon can be used
retroactively. If it happens, the congregation will leave. This is the
cost of discipleship.

VIRTUOSITY: The courts have determined that the dioceses and national
church had no interest in this property. Even though Ed Salmon appealed,
Judge John Breeden Jr. said a second time under a motion that the
diocese had no interest. He issued a summary judgment saying in effect
that it was not worthy to be taken up and made a trial over. Ed Salmon
has gone to the Appellate court to get a ruling.

On Sept 19, 2000 the diocese filed a notice in the public records of
Georgetown, SC, which states that the subject property is "held in trust
for the Episcopal Church and the PECUSA in the Diocese of South
Carolina. The filing of this notice precipitated this action. It was all
initiated by Ed Salmon. He filed using the Dennis Canon; it is in the
records of the Georgetown Courthouse.

If the Dennis Canon wins it would set legal precedent and hurt everyone.
That is regrettable.

It troubles me to be in litigation because of 1 Cor. 6. At the same Paul
also appealed to Caesar because he could not get justice from the
religious courts and he appealed to the secular courts. If you have good
cause in the ecclesiastical setting, I think it is right to appeal.

VIRTUOSITY: Do you think that the AMIA could be the evangelistic arm of
the new Network of Confessing Dioceses and Parishes?

MURPHY: It is too early to know. The Network has not sorted out the

VIRTUOSITY: With the emerging creation of this Network on the horizon
why do you believe it would still be best for orthodox parishes to leave
the ECUSA?

MURPHY: I believe that there are two strategies among the orthodox that
are presently being implemented. There is the inside strategy which
argues that the best way forward is to fight within the system. This is
about either reform and correction of the ECUSA which idea may now be
largely abandoned, or at least a safe haven, shadow-government church
within a church - an orthodox ghetto.

The outside strategy is to go offshore, seek canonical residence in
another province, appeal to the international Primates for backing and
support and get out from under the coercive structures and canons of the
Episcopal Church so we can move forward with the mission.

All Saints, Waccamaw has chosen the outside strategy. On Thursday night
All Saints said they can no longer remain a part of the ECUSA and will
seek canonical residence off shore in another province, in this case
Rwanda. They are applying for affiliation in the AMiA.

VIRTUOSITY: Why are you doing it at this time?

MURPHY: We believe that a house divided against itself cannot stand and
therefore the creation of a shadow government or another house within a
house is a failed strategy. It may take years, decades, but it will
happen. Just the strains in the Anglican Communion show that a house
divided against itself cannot stand. The real solution is an outside
strategy, inside the Anglican Communion but outside the ECUSA.

VIRTUOSITY: Would you like to be recognized by Canterbury?

MURPHY: I believe there is a realignment going on in the Communion and I
will need to know where Rowan Williams ultimately lands before I am able
to answer that question. Ultimately, the answer to that question must
come from our two overseeing archbishops. We are going to meet with
Williams in March and perhaps we will get more clarity in answer to my

VIRTUOSITY: Do you think the Episcopal Church is the answer the AAC
prayer for continued unity?

MURPHY: I believe that a house divided against itself cannot stand…We
should have had discipline and correction in the House of Bishops 30
years ago.

VIRTUOSITY: Some have said you are calling yourself a Presiding Bishop?

MURPHY: No. I am a Bishop and the chairman of the Anglican Mission.

VIRTUOSITY: There is a group, the Anglican Communion Institute, calling
for quiescence in the face of revisionism. They argue that the orthodox,
though opposed to revisionist actions, should just wait, pray, be
humiliated and let the Holy Spirit lead. Do you believe in such a strategy?

MURPHY: Thank God for pacifism, and I am so glad there are few of them.

There are four P's: Power, position, properties and pension, but we
cannot let those four P's be the determining factors. I don't think it
is bad to have four things necessary for a vibrant organization, but it
is regrettable if those 4 P's become the ultimate determining factor.
All Saints, Pawleys, though is concerned about property, but for All
Saints those 4 P's are not ultimate. We have to risk our jobs to keep
our jobs.

VIRTUOSITY: There is implicit in this argument that those who stay no
longer think the Reformation was a good thing. How would you respond to

MURPHY: I would not be an Anglican if I thought the Reformation was bad.
I would be a Roman Catholic.


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