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Considering CANA [The Journey of Christ Church, Plano: Part III]
Stand Firm ^ | 12/21/2006 | The Rev. Canon David Roseberry

Posted on 12/21/2006 12:05:51 PM PST by sionnsar

The Journey of Christ Church, Plano: Part III

Peter Akinola was dressed in a brilliant white caftan with pajama-style pants. His outfit was clearly and beautifully Nigerian: it was made of silk and cotton and heavily embroidered. He wore a simple wooden pectoral cross on a dark string around his neck. He had a simple white silk headdress on... and an elfish grin on his dark face. He said, "I came down dressed incognito... " Indeed, while he was the most visible person in the hotel lobby, no one would have thought he was the leader of nearly 18 million Anglicans.

When Christ Church made the move over the summer of 2006 to disassociate from ECUSA and withdraw from the Diocese of Dallas, I knew that my life would be very, very busy for the following six months. Our vestry decided that, given our circumstances, we should handle our journey in two stages. We thought in terms of the process to adopt a child. First, the rights of the natural parents would need to be severed. Then the second stage would be final adoption into a new family. On September 15th, our relationship with ECUSA was officially and finally severed. But, as I have written previously, we needed to find a new home within the Anglican Communion.

I had my list and I embarked on a six month process of discussion and discovery. I read and discussed and researched many things. I spoke with leaders, took copious notes, taped some conversations where appropriate, and, as a final act of diligence, wrote these essays.

When it came time to explore the CANA option I felt I was miles ahead of what I needed to know already. Martyn Minns and I have been friends for almost 20 years. We have seen each other around the Anglican Communion working together on many different projects both in England and the US. We were veterans of numerous General Conventions together. Our wives are friends. Our churches are similar. We are brothers in Christ.

Most recently in Columbus, I stood beside Martyn at the back of the House of Deputies trying to predict the outcome of resolutions as the votes were tallied. He got most of it right... most of the time. Martyn Minns is, in the very best sense of the work, a church politico. He doesn’t just put up with the drama of dickering and debates, he loves it! It is not a flaw in him... it is a gift!

He is a striking man. He is tall, with a dark, grayish beard, a long face with a great smile, and more than a hint of an English accent. As rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, Virginia, he has been engaged in the same concerns and discussions that Christ Church has been.

But he is much more than the long-standing rector of an historic church. He is a leader and a servant-voice within Global Anglicanism and a bishop in Nigeria, recently consecrated in August of 2006.

On the day when Christ Church met with the Standing Committee in the Diocese of Dallas to finalize our withdrawal, Martyn happened to be on a flight to Dallas to see me. It wasn’t timed this way, but his presence with me and Fran on that historic day was a balm for our spirits. I will forever be grateful for his pastoral care to us. He prayed with Fran and me in our kitchen the first night of our ‘parental severance’ agreement. As I have said, we are brothers in Christ.

As we have been reading on this blog and others, Bishop Minns has been the receiving bishop for a growing number of parishes and clergy in the northern part of the Diocese of Virginia. As churches there vote to leave the Episcopal Church, many of them are also voting to join CANA and affiliate with this new Nigerian mission in the US.

But what is CANA and what is the purpose of this new and highly visible association? Their website is very clear: it is an Anglican missionary effort in the US sponsored by the Church of Nigeria. But for some reason I really didn’t understand how CANA was going to operate and what its place would be in the Anglican Communion. Affiliating with CANA would be a viable option for Christ Church and I have approached it with every regard and consideration. But before we would make our choice, I wanted to know more... a lot more. I wanted to know the kind of things that you can only know from leaders when you meet them face to face.

So I asked my friend Martyn if he could arrange a quick meeting for me with the Archbishop of Nigeria. So, on a December day when it was colder in Texas than it was in England, I boarded a flight for London where I would meet the man turning up the heat in the Anglican Communion and leading the Global South. His character and fingerprints will be on the CANA mission for the next few formative years. I wanted to go to London to meet him face to face.

Our breakfast meeting was scheduled at 8 am at a nice hotel near the Paddington Station. We arrived in plenty of time. The streets were crowded with the usual sights: black cabs, umbrellas for the slight rain, but the warmth of the morning surprised me.

We walked into the lobby looking like Anglican clergy: Martyn wore the purple shirt and dark suit (he looks the part) and I was dressed in a dark suit and black clerics. People stared... but they always do. We sat together in the lobby for a few minutes waiting for the Archbishop to come down from his room. I could tell when "His Grace" came through the elevator doors by the look on Martyn’s face. He smiled and looked at his friend and spiritual leader... they are good friends, as unlikely a pair as they are together. But when I turned around to meet the man, I smiled too.

Peter Akinola was dressed in a brilliant white caftan with pajama-style pants. His outfit was clearly and beautifully Nigerian: it was made of silk and cotton and heavily embroidered. He wore a simple wooden pectoral cross on a dark string around his neck. He had a simple white silk headdress on... and an elfish grin on his dark face. He said, "I came down dressed incognito... " Indeed, while he was the most visible person in the hotel lobby, no one would have thought he was the leader of nearly 18 million Anglicans.

In his suite we ordered room service, and began our conversations. I found him to be a completely honest and clear minded man. He was kind and gracious and fun. He is a plain talker, though his speech is thickly accented and very rapid. It took my American ears a few minutes to learn to decipher it.

He struck me as a man under ‘orders’, in a sense: orders from God about the leadership needed in Africa today. As he told me the story of his election and elevation as the Primate of All Nigeria, I realized that he felt genuinely surprised to be who he was and where he was. There isn’t any reluctance in leadership on his part, but he does seem to be taken aback and humbled at what his life has become... and the power and influence he wields.

He is a comical man with a lovely, almost childish sense of humor. He teases people that he knows well, like Martyn. He will be demanding sometimes of others in a playful sort of way. He is, in a word, disarming.

But Akinola is nobody’s fool. He spoke in very savvy terms about many people and personalities around the Anglican Communion which he knows well and travels extensively. Without giving up on his ideals and passion, he seems willing to work with anyone for the good of the Gospel. He works best it seems to me, face to face and is not adverse to direct personal confrontation.

He is very open-handed with leadership, not threatened and a bit non-directive in his hopes for CANA. He was very free with information and answered every question that I asked... and answered it with a thoroughness for which I am thankful.

CANA is an initiative of the House of Bishops of the Province of Nigeria. The ‘N’ in CANA originally meant "Nigerian" (Convocation of Anglican Nigerians in America) and when it was first envisioned, it was to provide oversight and pastoral care for the Nigerian churches in the US. Soon enough it became obvious that the real need was far beyond Nigerian congregations only. Other African churches (Liberian or Sudanese) wanted to have oversight from non-ECUSA bishops too. But now, as the ECUSA meltdown takes its toll on congregations and leaders, CANA has changed the meaning of its acronym and is becoming a place that many will choose to remain connected to the Anglican Communion within the US border.

I asked about the Windsor Report directive about ‘border crossings’. Well, Akinola says, they waited until after TEC’s General Convention gave clarity about their non-submission to the Windsor Report. Akinola is a man of bold action and he felt that a new bishop was needed for the new Nigerian Convocation. It was time to provide the oversight for African church and for any US church fleeing TEC. A bishop was needed and who better than Martyn?

The CANA organization is without a clearly determined structure so far. There are early ideas now of ‘districts’, or clusters of congregations headed up by a regional bishop. CANA sees itself as one of the first building blocks of a new 39th Anglican Province that will lie within TEC boundaries.

I asked about the role of CANA in the formation of a 39th Province. He sees the need for a 39th Province but is unsure of the structure and form it should take. The primates will not (probably) be able to initiate such a structure soon, but if it gets a few hundred churches and a functioning college of bishops, the primates may bless it. But this is not something that will happen soon... not even before Lambeth. Whether or not Rowan or Lambeth will ever bless it remains to be seen, he feels.

(I learned something about the Primate’s Meetings. It is not a legislative body. They probably can’t vote into existence the kind of entity that some have been promising. They may respond to a reality or a ‘fact on the ground’. But, in my opinion, it is doubtful that Akinola will see a 39th Province before he retires in 24 months.)

CANA wants to plant churches throughout the US. Their church planting technique is very effective in Africa. Bishops are sent to form dioceses and collect and initiate new plants. But this hasn’t been thought through yet for a US based effort. Many US church leaders discover that it takes years and years to plant a single church... not just an appointed bishop or leader in an area. Akinola is looking for new bishops to do this work and Martyn is prepared to suggest to the Nigerian House of Bishops the names of a few men for consecration and deployment as soon as possible.

Akinola was very specific on the Nigerian and African ‘flavor’ of CANA. It was first formed to deal with the pastoral challenge of offering ‘ex-patriot’ Nigerian people pastoral and spiritual oversight. It should always have that ‘international’ sense of being a world church.

This presents some issues which we addressed. Christ Church has about 20 Nigerian families as members. But we haven’t found it easy to assimilate them into the main life of our ‘ mostly white, mostly suburban’ church. They are there. They love the service. They look stunningly beautiful in their colorful, traditional dress. But they naturally link to other Nigerian families. But both Minns and Akinola admitted that this was not an isolated issue. Nigerians tend to remain in ‘ex-patriot communities’ and keep their families together socially, even according to their African-based tribal connections.

While I was there a challenge arose regarding a newspaper story concerning The Falls Church/Truro Church voting drama. A reporter had carelessly or maliciously stated that these two historic, upscale churches were leaving TEC and joining with Akinola who is advocating, the reporter claimed, the jailing of gays. While it is not true that Akinola holds this opinion, it is true that his name appears on a communiqué supporting a new government bill to this effect... though it needs further debate and refinement.

This was an opportunity to get clarity about an important issue. Namely, what is Akinola’s view of homosexuality?

I had asked him earlier that day to speak about his theology and pastoral vision for homosexual community. He outlined a very simple and evangelical hope. All people are broken and hurt and in need of healing. Homosexuality is simply one more way that the sin of the world and brokenness in family life affects and influences wrong behavior. All homosexuals... all people... need to be welcomed in all churches... because all people need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. He sees homosexual activity as a sin and violation of God’s law, but he does not condemn people out of hand.

At the same time he believes that no one in church leadership should ever practice, model, or teach such things. The church leader is called to be a wholesome example to believers (1 Tim. 4:12). This was the initial shock he had years ago when he discovered what was really going on in TEC: the leadership, both the clergy and bishops, were bringing condemnation on themselves for teaching and practicing sin. At first, given the culture he comes from, he could not even imagine such a thing! He still can’t believe it and is truly amazed that the church is still discussing this.

His expressed position on homosexuality is actually a reasonable position in the church. All people are made in the image of God and need to hear the transforming message of Jesus Christ. I have spoken on numerous occasions about this and generally say something like "The church cannot bless what is not God’s best for people." I think in his heart, Akinola holds the same opinion.

When I asked about CANA and AMiA, he sees them completely different. CANA is hard-wired into the Nigerian Constitution quite apart from Akinola’s personal endorsement. The General Synod of Nigeria took the time and care to change their constitution so that it CANA is a constitutional feature of the Province of Nigeria. However, he views AMiA as an organization which started as a personal mission of Archbishops Yong P. Chung and Emmanuel Kolini.

But there are other differences between the two associations that Akinola is quick to point out. Not one penny of CANA’s money goes back to Nigeria; whereas money (a tithe) does flow to Rwanda from the AMiA. He is afraid that the financial model set up between AMiA and Rwanda will ultimately weaken the country and the mission organization. Rwanda could become dependant upon the American supply of money through AMiA... and thus, like other African countries, it might never gain self sufficiency in the modern world. Akinola has very strong opinions about this. Financial independence is important, and Nigeria seems determined to fend for themselves. He views dependence on handouts as dehumanizing.

Both Martyn and I were in the same room with Bishop Akinola when I asked him about the consecrations of the AMiA bishops in 2000 and the consecration of CANA’s first bishop in August of 2006. Martyn drew this distinction. AMiA’s initial consecration of bishops (Murphy and Rogers) took most of the Anglican Communion by surprise. They were quick and sudden and without a lot of support. Martyn’s consecration was a very public event in Abuja, Nigeria, in the middle of the day with plenty of advance notice. His election was approved by the whole Nigerian House of Bishops who went through constitutional due process. With the AMiA consecrations, Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey rebuked the new bishops (Charles Murphy and John Rogers); Archbishop Rowan William’s only comment about Martyn’s consecration was "this is not helpful". The point is, according to Minns, CANA doesn’t carry the bad baggage of hard feelings and the rebukes of six years ago.

The interview lasted a few hours and when I left I went down to the lobby by myself to have some coffee and water. I needed time to reflect. The time with the Archbishop was intense and I was tired. It could have been the jet was six in the morning in Dallas. But there was something else too. The man is a passionate leader. He has a vision for his country and the Anglican Global South. He has been placed in a position by God and he wants to maximize the moment for the sake of the Kingdom. He is a clear thinker and clear speaker and is oftentimes criticized for his direct approach and bold actions.

He is also caught up in a wider church that tends to speak in nuances, political tones, and the subtleties of diplomatic language. He seems genuinely surprised that what he says and does create such a stir sometimes. It is a bit like showing up for breakfast dressed in a white caftan, white pajamas, and white headdress... and thinking that you are ‘incognito’.

It is a ten hour flight back from London to Dallas. I left in the late afternoon and the plane flew with the sunset all the way back to Texas. In other words, it was a long day and I had plenty of time to think about these two strong personalities and the vision they present to the church. As unlikely a pair of leaders as they are together, they have been bold in their actions together. They have defied convention and taken steps that have set new structures in place. They have put their ministries, reputations, and resources on the line for the sake of the Gospel.

But I thought about the actions of two other leaders six years earlier who had also put their ministries and reputations and resources on the line. I thought back to the early days of First Promise and the consecration of Bishops Chuck Murphy and John Rogers in Singapore and the formation of the AMiA. I took out my written notes from my trip to Pawley’s Island in August and tried to compare the two mission organizations: CANA and AMiA. As different and distinct as the Archbishop of Nigeria claimed they were, I wasn’t sure that I agreed with him on that point. And as the wheels touched down in Dallas and the sun finally set, I decided I’d go back to my notes and think again about the AMiA.

My thoughts, interviews, and understanding of the AMiA are the subject of my next article.

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant
KEYWORDS: amia; anglican; cana; ecusa; tec
Main Entry: pri'mate
Etymology: Middle English primat, from Old French, from Medieval Latin primat-, primas archbishop, from Latin, leader, from primus
Date: 13th century
1 often capitalized : a bishop who has precedence in a province, group of provinces, or a nation
2 archaic : one first in authority or rank : LEADER

3 [New Latin Primates, from Latin, plural of primat-, primas] : any of an order (Primates) of mammals comprising humans, apes, monkeys, and related forms (as lemurs and tarsiers)
-pri'mate-ship \-*ship\ noun
--pri-ma'tial \pr*-*m*-sh*l\ adjective

1 posted on 12/21/2006 12:05:56 PM PST by sionnsar
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2 posted on 12/21/2006 12:06:44 PM PST by sionnsar (?|Iran Azadi| 5yst3m 0wn3d - it's N0t Y0ur5 (SONY) | UN: Useless Nations)
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