The South American Missionary Society, born in the UK and for some years now with a US parallel agency, SAMS - USA, has mutated or transfigured into new forms. SAMS - UK is now part of CMS, the Church Missionary Society, giving CMS a wider reach as a missionary society in England. SAMS in England was melded with CMS.
This week The Living Church reports that SAMS-USA has now changed its name to "The Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders." What's going on there?
There is little beauty in the new name. It is awkward and not very uniquely descriptive. So those who were used to talking about SAMS will continue to do so, only now the reference will not be to South America, but to Anglicans, and it will not be a mission society, but a society of missionaries and senders. So be it.
SAMS has an peculiar history in the US. SAMS-USA started in 1976, at a time when there were questions about whether or not TEC would continue as a mission sending organization. It provided a sometimes important overlap between The Episcopal Church, Church of England and Anglican Church of Canada efforts in South America. At the same time it built on the mostly evangelical missionary work of SAMS - UK. Sometimes there was cooperation but often considerable friction with TEC which is on some level organized precisely as a mission society. Still there have been notable long term missionaries serving with SAMS - for example, The Parks in Honduras and now Peru, and Caroline Humphries until recently in the Dominican Republic.
SAMS - USA has mostly cast its lot with the realignment crowd and with those who have formed the Anglican Church in North America. The use of the word "Anglican" in the new title is no accident. The brand takeover of the word "Anglican" is well underway and this is another example.
A note of interest: Among the missionaries in South America, there is one bishop listed as a missionary of SAMS - USA, the bishop of Bolivia, Frank Lyons, who in addition to his other duties is arguably one of the smallest of the dioceses in the Communion, has taken on the oversite of a number of parishes in the US that have opted out of relations with the bishop of jurisdiction. Bishop Lyons seems to have no problem with mucking about in TEC with considerable abandon. SAMS - USA has never muttered a word.
But then that is not so surprising. SAMS -USA is listed as an agency working with the Anglican Church in North America. It withdrew from the Episcopal Partnership for Global Mission several years ago. While several of its missionaries are from TEC a growing number are from communities that have left TEC.
It began doing work in South America, and in an opportunistic moment entered Spain, and now Uganda. It is now a sizable mission sending organization and well on its way to being the primary agency for North American Anglicans not related to TEC or its missionary sending. The biographies of its missionaries reveals many good people doing good things in the name of the Lord. It also reveals a strongly evangelical bent. But the change in the name reveals a strategy to become a more powerful voice in the workings of ACNA, GAFCON and the like.
SAMS - USA may have another name beneath the letters SAMS, but nothing has changed.