8/21/2006

Bishops in the Church of God and in the Anglican Communion.

The Church of Nigeria (Anglican) has done us a great service by immediately publishing text and pictures related to the consecration of four bishops on August 20th. Including, of course, among them was now Bishop Martyn Minns.

The pictures are indeed worth a thousand words: here are Nigerian barristers in wigs, Anglican prelates in Episcopal garb, candidates signing oaths, new Bishops and their wives. The report and pictures settle the matter: Canon Martyn Minns is now Bishop Martyn Minns, bishop in the Church of God under the discipline of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican).

He was already congratulated by the American Anglican Council and the Moderator at the AAC Council meeting last month on being elected. The Common Cause Roundtable, on its way to being the Common Cause Federation, has determined to include the Convocation of Anglicans in North America as part of its group. And immediately following the Consecration on the 20th the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes (The Anglican Communion Network) issued a statement from its Moderator: “We in the Anglican Communion Network offer our unreserved support both for Bishop Minns as he begins this new phase of ministry and to the Church of Nigeria.”


But matters now get more complex. Outstanding questions still have to be answered and new ones arise.

(i) What of Bishop Minns’ standing as Rector of Truro Parish in Virginia? Bishop Minns has taken oaths regarding his obedience to canons of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican) and has become then a member of the clergy of that church. Where is his canonical residence? This is all being worked out one way or another by Bishops Lee and Minns with appropriate quiet. We will see.

(ii) What of Bishop Minns and the matter of invitation to the Lambeth Conference? He is a bishop in the Church of Nigeria (Anglican) and ought to be invited, as should EVERY bishop of every Province. I realize this raises all sorts of questions about the AMiA bishops who claim to be bishops in other jurisdictions part of the Anglican Community. Still, Bishop Minns appointment and ordination to work in what is clearly the jurisdiction of The Episcopal Church is entirely out of order. How then to invite him without implicitly suggesting that the Archbishop of Canterbury thinks it is acceptable for churches to start new Episcopal ministry in an already existing Province, that is, to act contrary to ancient canon confirmed over and over again as the desirable practice of the church, is the question.

(iii) Is Bishop Minns a diocesan bishop, with powers of the ordinary, or is he some form of assisting bishop? The fact that the Nigerian CANA operation is not called a diocese raises interesting questions about CANA claming to be a “parallel jurisdiction.” Bishop Minns is clearly operating with the assumption that he is at least like a diocesan in that CANA can accept clergy and churches to join it. The CANA site says, “CANA offers clergy and congregations an authentic connection to the Anglican Communion through an emerging ecclesial, canonical, and jurisdictional structure.” Well, let’s see what emerges.

(iv) And then there is CANA and the Common Cause Partners/Federation. The only full blown churches that are part of Common Cause are churches not in communion with Canterbury (Reformed Episcopal Church, Anglican Province of America, Anglican Mission in America – although the ecclesial questions about AMiA are similar to those of CANA.) AMiA was not a “lock in” to the Anglican Communion fellowship of churches. Will CANA offer the realignment crowd another way in?

Many of these sorts of questions arise because we ordain Bishops “in the Church of God.” At the same time there are oaths taken concerning obedience to Archbishops, the Constitution and Canons of the particular church, and other references that place the ordination clearly within a given religious community – the Church of England, the Episcopal Church, the Church of Nigeria (Anglican), etc.

In terms of respect due the office, my sense is the “Church of God” trumps “The Church of England,” “The Episcopal Church,” (The Church of Nigeria (Anglican)” or any other church. That is why Bishop Minns is indeed bishop. But he is not by that fact “my” bishop, or anyone else’s. He becomes a bishop of jurisdiction by decisions made within a church with bishops. He becomes one of “our” bishops or one of “theirs.” Bishop Minns is not one of ours.

Bishop Minns joins a long list of bishops I pray for, am willing to respect as bishops, but for whom it is true to say “they have no more jurisdiction than any foreign bishop.”

Fr. Jake, as in “Fr. Jake stops the World” had a fine piece on “the Nigerian Shell Game.” That piece shows what a confusing history the notion of CANA has had already. Now the next level of confusion takes up where the previous matters left off.

1 comment:

Marshall said...

I'ev shared my own reflections on electing bishops "for the whole church" on my own site at http://episcopalhospitalchaplain.blogspot.com/2006/08/church-whole-church-and-nothing-but.html. In that I concluded that "In fact any ordination is within the purview of the particular faith community within which it occurs. That’s as true of our bishops as it is of Roman bishops or Methodist bishops or, for that matter, bishops of the “Three-Self Patriotic Movement” churches in the Republic of China." The same is true of Bishop Martyn.

I agree that the issue of Lambeth and CANA and AMiA (and perhaps REC and APA, since they've entered into communion with the Church of Nigeria - Anglican) is interesting and complex. I do kind of hope Canterbury invites everybody; but, then, I don't expect everybody to come. It will, however, be the ultimate point at which to determine the theological tenor of the Communion as recognized by Canterbury, and to determine who wants to be in communion with that.