Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Saturday’s installation of Bishop Martyn Minns, the outgoing rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, to preside over the Convocation of Anglicans in North America has sparked mixed reactions among Episcopal conservatives.

CANA is the newest of several theologically traditional groups to break away from the Episcopal Church over the 2003 consecration of openly homosexual New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson and questions of biblical authority.

Despite a general invitation to CANA-affiliated parishes in Virginia plus about 200 invitations to out-of-town church officials, most conservative Episcopal leaders are avoiding the rite.

A phone survey of 10 Episcopal dioceses that belong to the Anglican Communion Network (ACN) — a confederation that opposes the Robinson consecration — revealed that only its moderator, Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, plans to attend. Bishop Don Harvey, moderator of the Anglican Network of Canada, has also accepted.

But Central Florida Bishop John Howe, also a conservative and Bishop Minns’ predecessor as rector of Truro, will not attend because of schedule conflicts. Rio Grande, the New Mexico diocese where Bishop Minns was under consideration for the bishop post in 2004, is sending no one.

Neither is South Carolina, a solidly conservative diocese that just elected as bishop the Rev. Mark Lawrence, who failed to get the necessary approval by two-thirds of all Episcopal bishops and their diocesan standing committees.

Canon Kendall Harmon, spokesman for the diocese, said he has not decided whether to attend on his own.

“I’d go to offer personal support for Martyn,” he said. But as a diocesan representative, “it’d be associated with schismatic behavior. It’s that kind of climate.”

As more conservatives bolt the Episcopal Church, their leaders are disagreeing privately over strategy . Some prefer the ACN’s method staying in the Episcopal Church, but others say it’s time to leave.

Others say the issue is not Bishop Minns but his sponsor, the outspoken Archbishop Peter Akinola, who founded CANA as a mission of the Church of Nigeria, which he heads.

Archbishop Akinola, who will preside at Saturday’s ceremony, heads the world’s largest Anglican province, with 18.5 million people. He has openly challenged Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on several matters, such as the Church of England’s backing of civil partnerships for homosexual clergy.

“There’s a sense that Akinola is a very strong leader. Does he want to take over?” said Bishop John Rodgers, the retired co-founder of the Anglican Mission in America, which was founded in 2000 as a U.S. breakaway group by foreign bishops.

Like many church leaders invited, Bishop Rodgers had prior commitments and will not come. He said CANA is perceived as recruiting ACN churches into its ranks, “although I know,” he added, “Martyn just wants a safe place where people can be orthodox.”

Not all conservatives are convinced CANA wants to be a team player.

“No one can be sure if they’re competing against us or cooperating with us,” an ACN source said.

Episcopal Church officials continue to oppose Saturday’s rite. Earlier this week, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori sent Archbishop Akinola a request by e-mail and airmail that he not officiate at the gathering.

Canon Akin Tunde Popoola, a spokesman for the archbishop, e-mailed The Washington Times yesterday morning to say they had received neither request.

“It will however be strange that [the Episcopal Church], which had all along explained why the election, consecration and enthronement of Gene is irreversible,” he wrote, “suddenly feels that of Martyn Minns, elected by the Nigerian House of Bishops, can be tampered with.”

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