KIGALI, Rwanda The Episcopal Church of Rwanda's House of Bishops, meeting Sept. 4 in Kigali elected three former Episcopal priests to serve as bishops for the Anglican Mission in the Americas, which describes itself as a "missionary outreach" of the Rwanda Church.
The elections came as more and more conservative congregations in the American communion are seeking to leave The Episcopal Church because of its increasingly liberal interpretation of the Scriptures. Upon leaving, they are looking to overseas communions for jurisdictional oversight.
In a similar move last year, Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola consecrated Martyn Minns, former rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, Virginia, to lead the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, a conservative missionary effort in the U.S. sponsored by the Anglican Church of Nigeria.
The Anglican Primates, at their February meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, acknowledged that interventions by bishops and archbishops of some Provinces have heightened "estrangement between some of the faithful and the Episcopal Church (and) this has led to recrimination, hostility and even to disputes in civil courts."
The Episcopal Church's House of Bishops, at their last meeting in March, noted that such violations of provincial boundaries have "caused great suffering and contributed immeasurably to our difficulties in solving our problems and in attempting to communicate for ourselves with our Anglican brothers and sisters."
The bishops, in their March 2007 letter to the Episcopal Church, said: "We have been repeatedly assured that boundary violations are inappropriate under the most ancient authorities and should cease … The Dar es Salaam Communiqué affirms the principle that boundary violations are impermissible, but then sets conditions for ending those violations, conditions that are simply impossible for us to meet without calling a special meeting of our General Convention."
The Dar es Salaam Communiqué gave the House of Bishops a Sept. 30 deadline for them to "make an unequivocal common covenant" that they will not authorize same-gender blessings within their dioceses nor give the necessary consent for a candidate for bishop who is living in a same-gender relationship "unless some new consensus on these matters emerges across the Communion."
The bishops were scheduled to address the requests of the Primates when they met Sept. 20 to 25 in New Orleans. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams will attend part of that meeting at the bishops' invitation.
Although it was widely reported that both sides were seeking a compromise, results of those meetings were not available at press time. Some reports suggested the compromise would allow liberal congregations to offer pastor counseling to homosexual couples, while implementing a ban on same-sex blessings and ordaining homosexual clergy.
As for the Rwandan church, the Rev. Terrell Glenn, the Rev. Philip Jones and the Rev. John Miller will be consecrated Jan. 26, following the Anglican Mission's Winter Conference in Dallas, Rwanda's House of Bishops announced.
According to the Church of England newspaper, the Episcopal Church of Rwanda announced that nearly half of its bishops will be former Episcopal priests by January 2008. The three new consecrations will take the total number of Rwanda's House of Bishops to 16, with seven U.S. missionary bishops and nine Rwandan diocesan bishops.
The Anglican Mission is not officially recognized as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion and the consecrations of its bishops have been described by Anglican Communion Office and Lambeth Palace officials as irregular. The Anglican Mission bishops are among those the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has not invited to the 2008 Lambeth Conference.
Rwanda's announcement followed the consecrations of three former Episcopal priests in Kenya and Uganda. The Rev. John A. M. Guernsey was consecrated Sept. 2 as a bishop in the Church of Uganda to provide oversight to conservative congregations in the United States, while in Kenya the Rev. William Murdoch and the Rev. Bill Atwood were consecrated Aug. 30 as suffragan bishops of All Saints Cathedral Diocese to serve congregations and clergy in the U.S. under Kenyan jurisdiction.
Such events have been described as "interventions" or "boundary crossings" by official councils or representatives of the Anglican Communion. Despite calls by church leaders for such interventions to cease, some Anglican leaders continue to cross provincial boundaries and exercise authority over congregations in the U.S. without consultation or consent from the leadership of the Episcopal Church.