Sunday, May 6, 2007

Bishop Martyn Minns, rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, was installed yesterday as the head of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, whose leaders ignored a last-minute appeal from the archbishop of Canterbury to cancel the ceremony.

About 1,000 people clapped and cheered as Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola handed Bishop Minns his gold crozier — the shepherd’s crook symbolizing the office of bishop — during the ceremony at the Hylton Memorial Chapel in Woodbridge.

Many of those in attendance were from 11 former Episcopal parishes of the Diocese of Virginia that left the diocese last winter over disagreements on biblical authority and the 2003 consecration of New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, a practicing homosexual.

“CANA is God’s gift to those who want to serve God as Anglicans, but who cannot do so in the Episcopal Church as it is currently led,” Bishop Minns said. “We want to see lives transformed, not excused. We want a church where all are welcome, but none leave unchanged.”

The congregation then gave a standing ovation to Archbishop Akinola for establishing CANA as the American offshoot of his 18.5 million-member Anglican Church of Nigeria, the largest province within the 77 million-member Anglican Communion.

No mention was made during the service of a private letter Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams sent to the Nigerian archbishop asking him not to preside at a ceremony that elicited heated protests last week from the U.S. Episcopal Church. By the time the letter was sent, Archbishop Akinola already had arrived in the United States.

Clad in brilliant white, red and gold vestments, the archbishop has built an international reputation for his outspokenness and opposition to homosexuality. He kept a low profile all weekend, first failing to show at a scheduled appearance Friday at Church of the Apostles, another CANA congregation in Fairfax.

He also did not appear at a press conference yesterday and did not preach, celebrate Communion or deliver the kind of informal remarks typically given by visiting prelates during an installation.

For his part, Bishop Minns used the occasion to outline CANA’s mission as a fledgling denomination of 34 churches encompassing about 7,000 members.

“We wish to be faithful Anglicans when, frankly, the Episcopal Church is headed in the opposite direction,” he said yesterday at the press conference. “Anglicanism came to this country 400 years ago, and we’re trying to reclaim that.”

The 64-year-old native of Nottingham, England, admitted he is still surprised to find himself leading a national movement.

“I never imagined I’d be here at this time and this place,” he said. “It’s sad the Episcopal Church has gone off the track the way it has … but I feel honored to stand with these churches, which have taken this step of faith.”

Asked about his reaction to the letter, Bishop Minns responded: “It is clear to me that the archbishop of Canterbury is in an impossible situation. He is trying to pull together two irreconcilable truth claims.”

When asked whether CANA is the seed of a new Anglican province in the United States, he said, “I see ourselves as a building block for that.”

It marked the first time Bishop Minns has stated openly what many Episcopal officials fear — that CANA is the beachhead for an effort by Asian and African bishops to replace the Episcopal Church with a more conservative alternative.

Of the 13 bishops who stood with Archbishop Akinola and Bishop Minns on the chapel stage, at least six flew to the United States from Nigeria for the ceremony. Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh was the only Episcopal bishop present. Two bishops from breakaway Anglican groups such as the Anglican Province of America and the Reformed Episcopal Church also attended.

“This is a very historic event, and we want to support that,” said Bishop Leonard Riches of the Blue Bell, Pa.-based Reformed Episcopal Church. “We are very supportive of Martyn Minns and how he’s working courageously for the Gospel.”

The Rev. Don Armstrong, rector of Grace and St. Stephen’s Church in Colorado Springs, flew in for the ceremony. He was grateful, he said, that Bishop Minns flew out to visit him and his congregation after he was accused by the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado of embezzling nearly $400,000. Mr. Armstrong has contested the charges, and his congregation plans to join CANA.

“Martyn is a wonderful and holy man who, by his word and presence, brought the comfort of the Gospel to our congregation,” Mr. Armstrong said. “He has shown us what it will be like to be part of a church that is not in constant turmoil and conflict.”

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