Saying the Episcopal Church has "denied Jesus the Christ" for elevating a noncelibate gay priest as the bishop of New Hampshire, the rector of the Church of the Nativity in Sarasota is resigning to form a new congregation under the umbrella of the Anglican Mission in America.
The Rev. Jim Murphy's last Sunday at Nativity will be March 28, according to the bishop¹s office. In a letter to his congregation dated March 6, Murphy said the Archbishop of Rwanda, the Most Rev. Emmanuel Mbona-Kolini, has agreed to accept him as a priest in good standing in order to explore "starting a new Gospel-minded, mission oriented congregation in this area."
Bishop John Lipscomb of Southwest Florida said he will grant Murphy an official transfer, called Letters Dimissory, to the Province of Rwanda if Archbishop Kolini requests it.
'Leave the door open'
Murphy has been an outspoken critic of the 2003 General Convention, where the Rev. Gene Robinson was affirmed as the bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of New Hampshire. In February, when it was announced that Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold would attend the diocese's annual convention this October, he publicly criticized Bishop Lipscomb for refusing to rescind the invitation.
In an open letter widely circulated on the Internet and published in Nativity¹s March newsletter, Murphy wrote, "Frank Griswold has arrogantly spurned repeated calls for repentance--he is to be treated as an apostate, with no rightful place at the table.
"With all due respect, Right Reverend Sir, now is the time to stand squarely upon the Firm Foundation and do the godly righteous thing: rescind the invitation to our Primate."
Bishop Lipscomb, who also opposed Robinson¹s election as bishop, nonetheless is committed to encouraging both sides to keep talking to each other. "We must leave the doors open and take every opportunity to be in conversation in the hope of reformation, renewal, and reconciliation," the bishop said in a pastoral letter to the diocese. "Anything less is not of Christ!"
Second to leave
Murphy is the second priest to leave the diocese for the AMiA. In April 2002, the Rev. Kevin Donlon, the former rector of St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Tampa, renounced his ordination vows to avoid an ecclesiastical trial for conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy. The 26-page complaint filed against him by the vestry dealt mainly with management style and personality clashes with staff and parishioners.
After being reinstated by Archbishop Kolini, Donlon formed the Church of the Resurrection, holding services in a women¹s club a few blocks from St. Mary's.
The Anglican Mission in America, formed in July 2000, is a group of about 60 congregations across the U.S., most of which have broken away from the Episcopal Church USA over their claims that the church has strayed from traditional Anglican theology.
The AMiA was sanctioned by the Anglican provinces of Rwanda and South East Asia, in order to "re-establish the unity that has been violated by the unrebuked ridicule and denial of basic Christian teaching" in the Episcopal Church.
The AMiA has sought to form official ties with the Anglican Communion. But to date, none of the AMiA's congregations, priests or bishops are officially recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury.