Nigeria ordains bishops for CANA, dumps on the Covenant, but who cares? Apparently not the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Various bits and pieces of news from the Church of Nigeria (Anglican) (CofN) have been out this week, among them a report of the recent consecration of two bishops for the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) which is at the same time part of the CofN and The Anglican Church in North America. (ACNA).  Good luck to that!

So I did some exploring, wondering if Nigeria got bumped from the Anglican Communion body dealing with Ecumenical relations. The answer, I believe is NO. The reason is apparently that the CofN claims the bishops it has ordained are part of the CANA in the US and thus the CofN is not interfering in the life of The Episcopal Church, etc. 

Still CANA and the CofN make it clear that the bishops in CANA are indeed members of the CofN. It also has those clergy placed in the jurisdiction of another church in the Anglican Communion (The Episcopal Church) without permission of the bishops in that location. Further, its bishops and clergy are counted as members also of ACNA in at least "fraternal" splendor. ACNA, in case anyone is wondering, believes The Episcopal Church to be beyond the pale. 

But all of this does not seem to faze the Archbishop of Canterbury who has not seen fit to suggest to the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion that Nigeria's member on the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Faith and Order be reduced in status to a "consultant."

Looking back, I see in one of George Conger's articles that at the time that US members of these committees were bounced, Conger noted that "Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda have members on the communion’s ecumenical dialogue commissions and the UFO and have also sponsored breakaway groups in the US.  However, Canon Kearon’s letter appears to indicate that he has accepted their statements that they have turned over their American missions to the oversight of the ACNA and are not currently crossing provincial lines to support breakaway groups."

Well, looks like Nigeria does believe CANA people are their people. The report of the consecration in Nigeria makes it very clear that they are indeed members of the house of bishops of the CofN. Here is what CANA says took place:

" HERNDON, Va. (September 26, 2011) The Right Reverend Julian Dobbs and the Right Reverend Felix Orji have been made bishops of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and will serve in North America. Dobbs and Orji were consecrated for their new leadership roles at a four-hour worship celebration on Sunday, September 25, 2011 in Lagos, Nigeria. Four additional bishops were also consecrated at the service for ministry based in Nigeria.

"The Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh, Primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, presided at the consecration service. Over 1,500 people packed into Archbishop Vining Memorial Cathedral in Lagos to participate in the celebration, capping a week of missional work by the Church of Nigeria’s General Synod. Earlier in the week, the Church of Nigeria received the Right Reverend Derek Jones as a bishop of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). Jones is based in Alabama." (Jones is a ringer himself, coming not as a reject from The Episcopal Church but from a splinter group, but his reception by the CofN is into the CofN, not ACNA.)

OK,  so what gives?  

Not a peep from the Anglican Communion Office, or the Archbishop of Canterbury. We can call this hypocritical.

Then again, there has not been much said about the news out of Nigeria about the Anglican Covenant either. But here is what was said by Bishop John Akao is chair of the Church of Nigeria Theological Resource group back in March 2011:

"6.    The Anglican Church in Nigeria is not able to subscribe to or sign to the Anglican covenant because it disagrees with the above trend. We hold the scripture as God’s word written to be interpreted in the light of the best biblical scholarship and under the influence of the Holy Spirit. The Bible occupies a central and controlling force in our corporate life as the Word of God to be obeyed, not just a document to be rough-handled as an anachronistic piece. The Bible was meant to speak to culture, traditions and ways of life of people in a manner that Christianity eventually transforms such culture. Unfortunately today, there is a rift as to which is superior, whether human culture or the Bible. For some, culture has the upper hand and this we are unable to accept. This has brought the Bible down from the pedestal from which African Christians received it. We in Africa have decided that it is either the Bible or nothing else.
7.    A group of people that lacks cohesion cannot easily enter into covenant. We will maintain relationship in mission and evangelism with any part of the Communion that is ready to uphold the scriptures as a rule for faith and practice in public and daily life.

As long as there is no cohesion, the idea of a covenant will remain impracticable."

The No Anglican Covenant has yet to report on this paper by the CofN Theological Resource Group back in March, so its standing is still perhaps in some question as to whether or not the General Synod at which the bishops were consecrated also passed on this paper. But I bet they did.

The number throwers keep saying things like the Church of Nigeria has about 25% of the world's Anglicans in their Church. Perhaps there is just the desire not to mess with them too much. In which case there is not simply hypocrisy here, there is political expediency.



  1. The reality is that the Anglican Communion is dysfunctional, with or without the Covenant, and it is likely to remain so. The Episcopal Church cannot fix this, but it can try to limit the damage to itself.

  2. I am a relative newcomer to the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion, but I've noticed that glacially slow responses are one of the confounding problems that reduce opportunities for healing. In other times and places, allowing space for problems to work themselves out might have been a wise strategy. These days it allows small sections of documents like the Windsor Report to become the basis of martial law because a few "leaders" think they should be.

    I dearly love the Anglican Communion and want the Episcopal Church to remain a fully participating member of it. But if we can't fully participate, I don't want to fund the meetings and ministries that marginalize our voices.

    Could an Anglican Covenant provide a means of re-establishing bonds of "communion"? If so, it's worth a try. I don't think it could hurt anything.

    probably simple minded

  3. “probably simple minded”

    Right. Study the No Anglican Covenant site.

  4. Anonymous...no it is not simple minded (sorry Lionel). But Lionel is right to push you over to the No Anglican Covenant site to look into it further.

    Of course it would seem on first look that any effort to keep churches in a mix together would be helpful, so if it takes an Anglican Covenant to do so, so be it. But the problem is that the Covenant is not part of the solution because it does not present itself as either a constitutional document (what constitutes the Anglican Communion and membership in it) or a canonical document (here is what we do about church discipline.) And yet in the end it is disciplinary without being constitutional.

    The most it can say about constitution is that Churches in the Anglican Communion participate in (i) the Lambeth Conference, (ii) the Anglican Consultative Council(ACC), and (iii) the Primates Meetings. And those Churches hold the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury in esteem (he presides at meetings of the three groups). The Covenant assumes the ACC determines membership in it and indirectly for the rest.

    But the Covenant moves directly into a defined method of dealing with Churches who are acting outside the norms (only partially spoken) of the whole. That method involves giving specific powers of investigation and recommendation to particular groups (the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion and the Archbishop of Canterbury). The exercise of these powers limits the participation of church members in various activities.

    The end result is, as we have already seen, NOT "a means of re-establishing bonds of communion" but rather limiting precisely those occasions when members of various churches work together as Anglicans on a particular matter.

    In the head of it all your question may be called "simple minded" (you called it that yourself) but humility on your part is one thing, agreeing with you is another.

    I believe the issue of accepting or not accepting the Anglican Covenant is itself an exercise in being in communion with one another. Surely, disagreement about whether or not the AC is a good thing can not itself be a measure of whether or not one is IN the Anglican Communion? Sadly some think so, thus the strong objection to the Covenant.

    The Covenant has been packaged so that at least at first rejecting it looks like a decision to withdraw or otherwise give up on the Anglican Communion. Far from it. If the acceptance of the AC becomes a litmus test, then a number of Churches will fail, including it appears Nigeria, the Philippines, and perhaps us. We shall see.

    Go read deeper into the issues. Press forward.

  5. "in the head of it"? what i meant was "on the face of it." Typing too fast too wild.

  6. Mark said, “I believe the issue of accepting or not accepting the Anglican Covenant is itself an exercise in being in communion with one another. Surely, disagreement about whether or not the AC is a good thing can not itself be a measure of whether or not one is IN the Anglican Communion? Sadly some think so, thus the strong objection to the Covenant.”

    The Archbishop of Canterbury has insisted, properly or not, that rejection of the Covenant does not put a church outside the Anglican Communion. Presumably, therefore, The Episcopal Church could decline to adopt the Covenant and remain a member in good standing of the Communion. (No doubt, some would argue otherwise.)

    I don’t think the Anglican Communion “bad,” but I do believe it has taken a wrong turn.

    Regarding what we might choose to do with the Covenant, it useful to contemplate the notion that “friends don’t let friends drive drunk.”

    Believing, as I do, that adoption of the Covenant is a colossal mistake that will exacerbate conflict among Communion churches rather than resolve them, adoption appears to be the analogue of getting into a car with a drunk driver to “demonstrate” one’s friendship.

    A true friend—a true Christian—on the other hand, takes away the keys and says “no,” risking impaired friendship, perhaps for a very long time. The alternative is likely to be very ugly indeed.

    The Episcopal Church should reject the Covenant and encourage other churches to do the same.


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.