Two Brothers, Two Journeys, Same Christ

Two brothers, both Episcopal priests, symbolize the difficult choices and strong feelings that grow out of the current struggles in the Episcopal Church. They ministers just miles away from one another. They are deeply committed Christians and Anglicans. Yet Fr. Bill Murdoch of West Newbury, MA, is leaving the Episcopal Church, starting a congregation affiliated with the Anglican Church in Kenya and will be consecrated a missionary bishop of that communion. At the same time, his brother, Brian, serves a church in West Roxbury, also of the Diocese of Massachusetts, and is gay. They both hope that the struggle in the church does not become a division for their family.

According to a feature in the Boston Globe by MIchael Paulson, Bill sees the issue as a matter of Biblical interpretation, saying that he and no one in his breakaway parish is opposed to gay people. “Intolerance and abusive behavior toward gay people is abhorrent to Christ, the Gospel, and his church,” he said. “Hostility toward gay people is a sin. It’s prohibited by any Christian pastor, period.”

But Brian, wonders “what he (Bill) would do if my partner and I went to Kenya for the consecration and were jailed,” he said, referring to the fact that homosexuality is illegal in Kenya.

Two brother-priests, unable to resolve a deep disagreement in the way they interpret the Bible, find themselves ministering just a few miles apart and yet divided by an ocean. Despite their shared commitment to follow Jesus and uphold the rituals and traditions of Anglican Christianity, they are now members of rival camps in an unusual intradenominational battle and are trying to make sure it doesn’t become an intrafamily fight too.

“I am less bugged now than I have been at times,” Brian Murdoch said in an interview at his parish, Emmanuel Episcopal, a tiny 19th-century church in a West Roxbury neighborhood. “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.”

Bill Murdoch, who since 1993 has been the rector of All Saints Episcopal in West Newbury, but is planning soon to launch All Saints Anglican at a former Catholic parish in Amesbury, offered a similar assessment.

“My brother and I love each other and always will,” he said by e-mail. “My family and I love Brian and have always been proud of his service to others for the sake of the Gospel and the many, many people Brian has loved in the name of Christ. The pain of our disagreement over this issue will not change my love for him.”

This story in the Globe highlights what many in the Diocese already knew:

Although many Episcopal priests in the Diocese of Massachusetts know the Murdoch brothers and although Brian is out as a gay man in his parish, this is the first time either has talked about the other publicly. Both brothers were reluctant to talk, and Bill declined to do so in any detail, but Brian consented to an interview, saying he had decided he was willing to go public after reading a story in the Globe last month in which Bill referred to homosexuality as a sin and decried the influence of the “gay agenda” on the Episcopal Church.

Read the rest.

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