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Story by CAROLINE WAFULA
Publication Date: 9/8/2007
For one of the newly ordained US bishops of the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK), the gay controversy that has caused a split in the church is clearly closer to him, probably closer than any other member of the communion.
Back home, the Rev William L. Murdoch’s is facing a dilemma as his blood brother, an Episcopal Church priest, is gay.
The Murdoch brothers are struggling to relate peacefully despite the magnitude of the problem between them. They have a different understanding and interpretation of the Bible, an issue that has on the global level, caused a split in the Anglican Communion.
The Rev William, 58, a priest in West Newbury, is opposed to the Episcopal Church’s ordination of gay clergy. Together with the Rev Canon Dr Will (Bill) Gillespie Atwood, they were consecrated as suffragan bishops of the All Saints Cathedral by ACK last Thursday and will be heading back to the US where they will lead congregations affiliated to ACK in orthodox faith.
The consecration of the two was part of the widening split in the worldwide Anglican Communion over gay relationships, mainly supported by the Episcopal Church.
Brian Murdoch, 53, who is the Rev William Murdoch’s younger brother, is an Episcopal priest in West Roxbury. He did not join his brother for the ceremony in Nairobi. The Rev William had said a day before the consecration that his brother would not be present.
The Murdoch brothers face a deep disagreement in their spiritual faith. That they minister just a few miles apart is a great contradiction to the fact that they belong to rival camps in the present dispute within their church.
Though he admits that his brother is gay, The Rev William refused to talk much about the issue.
He parried the issue by opting to revisit a quote he gave in an interview with a reporter with Boston Globe where he says; “My brother and I love each other and always will. My family and I love Brian and have always been proud of his service to others for the sake of the Gospel... The pain of our disagreement over this issue will not change my love for him.”
To William, homosexual activity is a sin but to Brian, it is kind of a blessing or gift.
Disagreement on sexuality
Asked how he has managed to handle the issue and remain close to his younger brother, William, in a telephone interview, said “I love my brother very much and I have all my life. This disagreement on sexuality will not therefore end our good relationship.”
The matter, he said, was a private family issue and declined to discuss the matter beyond. “That is all I can tell you about my brother,” he says, after repeating the above quote.
Bishop William says he has managed to maintain his love for his brother through a consistent prayer life and his trust in Jesus Christ.
The Bishop will return to North Shore to start a new parish affiliated to the All Saints Cathedral diocese.
ACK’s decision to spread its wings to America followed months of consultations with other Anglican Church provinces around the world opposed to gay relationships.
The global Anglican Communion is split over the issue of gay relations. It started with the ordination in 2003 of Rev Gene Robinson an openly gay as the bishop of New Hampshire. The action by the Episcopal Church was met with angry disapproval from church followers around the world opposed to gay relationships.
Most of the churches opposed to gay relations are concentrated in Africa and Asia known as the Global South, although they have support from conservative Anglicans in the US. The division threatens to cut funding of the Global South.
In Africa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa has attacked the African Anglican Church over the stance towards gay clergy and has been quoted saying that “the God I worship would not consider the gay clergy issue to be a priority concern.”
Brian told the Boston Globe that he was less bugged today than he has been at times. He said of William; “He’s my brother. I have a lot of memories that have been good growing up, and those stand. And I know we’ll be helping one another get heavenly aid the rest of our days. And it’s not going to change how we cut the pie at the table.”
ACK, while ordaining the two American priests as its bishops to serve its international interests, issued a strong statement against those supporting gay relationships.
The Rev Benjamin Nzimbi, the Kenyan archbishop said the fabric of the Anglican Communion, had been torn by the actions taken by the Episcopal Church to ordain gays.
“It is evident that the conflicts in the Anglican Communion affect us all and we have a responsibility to address the areas that we are able to impact,” he said.
Archbishop of the West Indies Drexel Gomez who delivered the sermon at the consecration event said the Bible was clear on what sexual relations were permitted by God and that homosexual relations violated the order of creation.
“God created man and woman fro definite roles and that should not be distorted,” he said.
He added that homosexual activity was an exchange of the truth of God for a lie and that biblical teachings must never be compromised.
ACK said its move had received immense support from the Anglican Communion. Some clergy in the USA are said to have been among the first organisations to welcome the bishops’ consecration decision.
Once they go back to the US, Murdoch and Atwood have instructions to give sound and dedicated leadership to the ACK flock in the US by boldly proclaiming and correctly interpreting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is supposed to enlighten the minds and stir up the conscience of the 30 congregations of ACK in the US.
They are expected to guard the faith, unity and discipline of the church as well as guide and strengthen the deacons and all others who minister in the church.
Upon his ordination, Bishop Murdoch described their consecration a dramatic moment explaining that it was an urgent mission for the church. He said he was ready to go and lead the correct interpretation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Bishop Murdoch has been married to his wife Sally for over 30 years and they have three adult children. Rev Atwood is married to his wife Susan and they have two adult daughters.