Charles H. Murphy, III (transcribed for the web by Anglicans Online)
16 February 2000

Many times in history God does a work that does not make sense in the moment. Bishop Michael Marshall calls it, “The Abrahamic Factor” because, like Abraham, we are to step out into the unknown and do things that we do not fully understand. I believe we are in such a time as that now.

In the past years, we have asked the international community of Anglican bishops and archbishops to get involved in the problems of the Episcopal Church. In the consecrations of Singapore, they have responded. And their response was to ask us to take a lead in this all important work.

I want to address the question, what do these consecrations mean? For our church, frankly, we are still All Saints, Pawleys Island; still in the Diocese of South Carolina; still a people who take it very seriously when we pray “Lord use us.” For the larger Church, I want to look at several key points that might help give us a clearer picture.

1. This is an Archbishops’ Action

I may have some influence in some circles but I do not have influence enough to make Archbishops do what they have just done. If people have trouble with it, I want to refer them to the two consecrating Archbishops. Most bishops in the Episcopal Church are consecrated with one Archbishop. We had two knowing it would be doubly difficult for some to understand. John Rodgers and I are under their authority.

These same Archbishops have written a formal letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey. In it, they make some clarifying statements:

The consecrations in Singapore are an interim action to provide pastoral assistance and nurture to faithful individuals and congregations.

The boundaries of Christian and Anglican Faith have been notoriously breached.

It is precisely our irresponsible inaction that has allowed this division to continue.

This is a pastoral and Gospel issue and not a political one.

We see this action as reflecting a serious resolve to uphold the Lambeth Resolutions.

The present conditions in the Episcopal Church have produced an "intolerable situation."

Only an unapologetic and firm insistence in the Faith entrusted to us will keep us together.

The international community knows there’s a problem and is beginning to act.

2. The Singapore Action is an Interim Step - Not the “Goal”

As the Archbishops state, the consecrations are an interim step. They are not the goal. We have not arrived. We have simply been given a tool that will enable us to accomplish the greater objective which is reformation in the life of the larger Church. We must remember this is an interim action, a beginning, and not our destination.

3. The Action Authenticates our Work

This action authenticates the work of First Promise. For a long time, people in the Episcopal Church, which is broken and dysfunctional (as declared in the Phoenix Convention of 1991), have been saying, “What’s going on in Pawleys Island, zip code, 29585?” I want to say these two Archbishops and their provinces have recognized and affirmed the work God has called us to in these past two and a half years. We are watching a new movement of God.

4. Not the Elevation of Two Men To TAKE ON Authority

But the Elevation of Scripture to BE the Authority

I want us to hear this clearly: It’s not about the elevation of two men to TAKE ON authority. It is about the elevation of the scriptures to BE the authority. So, we are saying that scripture is the record of God’s Word, voice, action, and plan in a broken, fallen world. Without the record of that action, we would all be wandering aimlessly and confused, forming opinions for ourselves, doing what was right in our own minds and thoughts. Scripture is that record: it explains Jesus Christ, the Cross, what happened on the day of Easter and Pentecost. It is God’s Living Word.

We are affirming the scriptures in our lives. We are submitted to their authority. We are not above the scriptures; interpreting them the way we want to understand them. That’s what the action of Singapore is all about: The elevation of scripture to BE the authority in the 21st century.

5. We Are Called to LEAD the Church, not LEAVE It

I have said it again and again: We at All Saints are called to LEAD the church, not leave it. We have heard it said that All Saints is going to leave the Episcopal Church. It’s not true. Leadership involves getting out front and taking risks. It is not a matter of consensus. Our politicians take overnight polls, decide what the American public wants, and then say they have a bold vision. Applause breaks out because they already know what the public wants. No! Leadership involves getting out front and taking chances for the Kingdom. We are not leaving. We are called to lead the Church.

6. What About This “Purple Shirt?”

What does this bishop’s purple shirt mean? It is not a symbol of defiance. Rather, it is a symbol of authority and commitment to move, act and lead. That’s all it is. It’s the same with being an ordained deacon or priest. It’s just a symbol of an authority given to lead. So, with these shirts we are told to “Take this tool and do the work He has given us to accomplish.” The real authority is not the color purple. If it was, we wouldn’t have a problem in the Episcopal Church today where there are over two hundred purple shirts.

But the real authority comes from Him: “I will pour out My Spirit on all people.” (Acts 2:17) He gives us all a certain authority by His Spirit for His purposes. That’s what we’ve have been experiencing together at All Saints for years: The work of His Holy Spirit in our midst; enabling us to grow from glory to glory.

7. Risk Our Jobs To Do Our Jobs

Guess what happens in a nuclear regulatory agency when you become a whistle-blower? Guess what happens anytime, in any job, when you become a whistle-blower? It’s not popular. But sometimes we have to risk our jobs to do our jobs. That’s certainly where I am right now and I do it without blinking. I do it without apology. This is something that God demands of us on occasion. And I believe it’s something God has asked of us in this hour.

8. Bishop Salmon’s Commitment to Work with Us

What about our local diocesan Bishop? Notwithstanding the comments he made in a pastoral letter to the diocese, Bishop Salmon is determined to work with us and stay connected. In a recent phone conversation with him, I said, “So, you’re saying we’re going to try to work this out together even though it’s a new way of doing things — never quite been done before. He said, “Don’t say try, we will work this out together. We’ll make it work.”

9. Bottom Line: “Release “ to “Mission” in this New Millennium!

This is about a release to mission. The Episcopal Church has cannons and structures which inhibit mission. With this tool of consecration, this authorization, we will be able to move out into the world and accomplish the good things that God has prepared for us to walk in. It’s time to return to the Great Commission; to making disciples, to teaching them “to obey all that I have commanded.” That’s our work, our focus, our plan for the next season.

One of the chapters in Robert Quinn’s book, Deep Change is called “Build the Bridge as You Walk on It” and that’s what we’re up to. We’re in new territory following the pillar of fire by night and the cloud of smoke by day. The cloud moved in Singapore. We’re not blinking. We’re moving with it. That’s what it means to be a servant under authority for the sake of the kingdom of God.

Years ago, we committed ourselves at All Saints to the work of presenting the full counsel of God. We said we were called to risk boldly and to bring encouragement to

the Church and the World. We are still in that work today. We have not arrived. In the action of Singapore, God has commissioned us to press forward. As a parish family, I want us to stay focused on His will, stay united in His truth, and stay committed to risking boldly so that we might be used mightily, yet again, to extend His kingdom, and present His Son Jesus Christ to a broken and confused world. Let’s embrace the good things God has given us in the events of Singapore and move forward, in the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, into the next chapter to do all that we have been raised up to do. Amen.