Friday, June 30, 2006

The election of a Virginia clergyman to lead Anglican Nigerian immigrants in the U.S. is being criticized by the Episcopal bishop of Virginia and the archbishop of Canterbury as “an affront” and “neither timely nor constructive.”

“This is not a welcome development,” said Jonathan Jennings, spokesman for Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, about Wednesday’s election of Canon Martyn Minns of Truro Episcopal Church in Fairfax as bishop for the Anglican province of Nigeria.

“It’s neither timely nor constructive,” he said. “It further complicates an already complex situation.”

Mr. Minns, 63, was informed Wednesday morning by Nigerian Archbishop Peter J. Akinola that he had been elected as bishop of the Convocation of Anglican Churches in North America (CANA).

Virginia Bishop Peter J. Lee called the election “an affront” to the autonomy of his diocese over which, according to Episcopal policy, he has complete rule. His comments were contained in a letter to the 90,000-member diocese that was posted Thursday on the diocesan Web site.

Archbishop Akinola admitted the appointment was problematic in a letter to the archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop Lee said.

“The request by Archbishop Akinola that Martyn be allowed to continue as rector of an Episcopal congregation while also serving as a Nigerian bishop seems to me, at this point, to be impossible,” Bishop Lee wrote.

Mr. Minns told The Washington Times on Wednesday that he wants to stay on as rector of the 2,300-member Truro parish until a replacement is found, a process that could take up to a year. The transition will be discussed at parish meetings tomorrow at Truro.

Several Episcopal rectors interviewed Wednesday said the arrangement to have Mr. Minns elected as bishop by the Nigerians had been under way for some time. Archbishop Akinola announced the convocation’s formation at an October 2004 press conference at Truro, at the time calling it the Church of Nigeria in America (CONA).

It underwent several name changes, resurfacing Wednesday as the Convocation of Anglican Churches in North America (CANA). CANA also could include Episcopal congregations wishing to flee the denomination in response to the 2003 consecration of an openly homosexual man, Canon V. Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire.

CANA may chiefly end up as a haven for dissidents, as there is not an accurate count of Nigerian Anglican expatriates. Archbishop Akinola estimated there were 250,000 in 2004, but Episcopal Church headquarters in New York said that was an overestimate.

Mr. Minns guessed Wednesday there are about two dozen Anglican Nigerian congregations nationwide. A list provided yesterday to The Washington Times by an Anglican source showed 16 congregations.

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