Archbishop of Canterbury asks Akinola to change US plans

By staff writers
5 May 2007

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has written to Nigerian Primate Peter Akinola asking him to cancel his plans to visit the United States and install Bishop Martyn Minns as head of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), a conservative missionary effort in the US sponsored by the Anglican Church of Nigeria - writes Matthew Davies of the Episcopal News Service.

The installation service is set for today (5 May 2007) at the Hylton Memorial Chapel, a nondenominational Christian event centre in Woodbridge, Virginia.

The event is part of the ongoing battle over sexuality, authority and the interpretation of Scripture in the 77 million Anglican Communion.

Anglican Communion communications director Canon James M. Rosenthal confirmed that Dr Williams' letter had been sent to Archbishop Akinola.

"Many people have noted that such an action would exacerbate a situation that is already tense," Rosenthal said, "especially as we look forward to the 30 September deadline outlined by the Primates at their meeting in Tanzania and the Archbishop of Canterbury's planned visit to the House of Bishops."

The Primates requested in February that the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops "make an unequivocal common covenant" that they will not authorize same-gender blessings and confirm that a candidate for bishop who is living in a same-gender relationship "shall not receive the necessary consent unless some new consensus on these matters emerges across the Communion."

An answer from the House of Bishops is to be conveyed to the Primates by 30 September 2007. Dr Williams has accepted an invitation to meet with the House of Bishops that month.

Archbishop Williams' letter to Archbishop Akinola follows a similar request from US Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who wrote to Akinola on 30 April urging him to reconsider plans to install Minns, an action she said "would violate the ancient customs of the church" and would "not help the efforts of reconciliation."

If the service proceeds, it "would display to the world division and disunity that are not part of the mind of Christ," Jefferts Schori said in her letter.

Akinola, in a 2 May response to Jefferts Schori, described CANA as providing "a safe place for those who wish to remain faithful Anglicans but can no longer do so within The Episcopal Church." He criticized Jefferts Schori for appealing to the ancient church "when it is your own Province's deliberate rejection of the biblical and historic teaching of the Church that has prompted our current crisis."

Archbishop Akinola is one of the Anglican Communion's leading critics of the Episcopal Church and its inclusive theology. He has maintained that homosexuality is incompatible with Scripture and repeatedly called for the Episcopal Church to repent for its recent actions, specifically the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, a divorced gay man living in same-gender relationship, and some dioceses' provisions for the blessing of same-gender unions.

The Anglican Primates, at their February meeting in Tanzania, acknowledged that interventions by bishops and archbishops of some Provinces have heightened "estrangement between some of the faithful and the Episcopal Church that this has led to recrimination, hostility and even to disputes in civil courts."

According to the communiqué issued at the end of that meeting, Jefferts Schori reminded the Primates that some in the Episcopal Church "have lost trust in the Primates and bishops of certain ... Provinces because they fear that they are all too ready to undermine or subvert the polity of the Episcopal Church."

Bishop Minns, who was onsite in Tanzania and was observed conferring regularly with Akinola in sessions apparently devoted to planning and influencing the Primates' Communiqué, told the New York Times that CANA was not interfering with the Episcopal Church.

Minns - an English-born former Mobil Oil executive and former rector of Truro Parish in Fairfax, Virginia - was elected and consecrated by the bishops of the Anglican Church of Nigeria to serve as CANA's missionary bishop.

"The reality is that there is a broken relationship between the Episcopal Church and the rest of the communion," he said. "We want to give people a freedom of choice to remain Anglican but not under the Episcopal Church as it is currently led."

In an earlier statement, Bishop Jefferts Schori said that "this action would only serve to heighten current tensions, and would be regrettable if it does indeed occur."

With acknowledgments and thanks to ENS.

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