Thousands of Anglicans across the country on Saturday are expected to attend the installation service of the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns as overseer of an Anglican splinter group.
Minns will be installed as missionary bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) – an offshoot of the Church of Nigeria – amid divisions within the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion.
CANA is one of several splinter groups that formed in the United States as conservative Anglicans disagreed with the theological direction of the Episcopal Church and sought to remain "faithful Anglicans" in the worldwide Communion. Dissident Episcopal parishes cited the Episcopal Church's departure from Anglican tradition and scriptural authority, particularly when it consecrated its first openly gay bishop in 2003, as reasons for distancing themselves from the American arm of Anglicanism.
Installing Minns on Saturday will be Archbishop Peter Akinola of the Church of Nigeria, whose visit has drawn objections from Episcopal leaders, including U.S. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.
"Strongly" urging Akinola not to come and install Minns as a bishop in CANA, Jefferts Schori said "such action would violate the ancient customs of the church which limits the Episcopal activity of a bishop to only the jurisdiction to which the bishop has been entrusted, unless canonical permission has been given."
Minns told VirtueOnline, a voice for global Orthodox Anglicanism, that the presiding bishop's citing of ancient customs of the church was "a little strange" when "it is the rejection of key aspects of the historic teaching of the church that has resulted in our current crisis."
In a response letter to Jefferts Schori on Wednesday, Akinola wrote that "brokenness" in the Anglican Communion remains since the 2003 consecration and thus the usual protocol and permissions are "no longer applicable."
While interventions from overseas, such as Akinola's CANA initiative, were said to have exacerbated the current divide, Akinola noted that the Primates (Anglican leaders) recently recognized the need for pastoral strategies to address congregations in the United States that are at odds with the Episcopal Church and want to remain in the Anglican Communion. The Nigeria archbishop said CANA was established to "provide a safe place for those who wish to remain faithful Anglicans but can no longer do so within the Episcopal Church as it is currently being led."
The Episcopal House of Bishops passed a resolution in March saying they would not agree to let Anglican leaders outside the Episcopal Church oversee conservative American dioceses that reject the authority of Jefferts Schori. Such a response has made it clear to Akinola that a pastoral protection like CANA is "even more necessary."
"It is my heartfelt desire – and indeed the expressed hope of all the Primates of the Communion – that the Episcopal Church will reconsider its actions – and make such special measures no longer necessary. This is the only way forward for full restoration into fellowship with the rest of the Communion," stated Akinola.
Both the U.S. Episcopal head and Nigeria Anglican leader made a call to reconciliation but the latter noted inconsistency in the words and actions of Jefferts Schori as the Episcopal Church has not dropped its filed complaint against breakaway Anglican churches in Virginia. The Primates had recommended that parties in the United States back away from property litigation.
In his letter, Akinola renewed a pledge that he had made to the former U.S. presiding bishop, Frank T. Griswold. He said the Church of Nigeria will be the first to restore communion on the day that the Episcopal Church "abandons its current unbiblical agenda."
The installation service will be held in Woodbridge, Va., with an expected crowd of 3,000 Anglicans.