Leader Confident in Virginia Lawsuits. "We are moving forward"
By David W. Virtue
The leader of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, a Nigerian church plant of orthodox Anglicanism in the US says his church is growing with some 60 parishes (20 more in the pipeline), 120 plus clergy, and some 8,000 in attendance all in two years, making it one of the fastest growing body of orthodox Anglicans in North America. In an interview with the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns at the Anglican Mission in the Americas Winter Conference in Dallas, David W. Virtue talked with Bishop Minns about the present state of Anglicanism in North America and CANA.
VIRTUEONLINE: Where is CANA at today?
MINNS: We are going forward and growing, adding churches, adding clergy and planting new congregations. We have 60 churches with several coming out of the Continuing Church movement, led by several archbishops and bishops from the Continuing movement. They have laid down their episcopal office to serve as priests in CANA.
VIRTUEONLINE: Are you simply monochrome or is there some diversity in your ranks?
MINNS: The episcopate and clergy is a blessed reflection of the diversity of the American populace, with significant numbers of immigrants and minorities. We are committed to modeling for American Anglicans the possibility of respecting both integrities regarding the ordionation of women within one ecclesial body.
VIRTUEONLINE: What are the distinctives of CANA?
MINNS: We are an indigenous ecclesiastical structure with representative leadership by member clergy and laity. One distinctive is that we see ourselves establishing the necessary structures for a growing church in North America along with our friends in the Common Cause Partnership.
VIRTUEONLINE: How do you differ from say the Anglican Mission in the Americas?
MINNS: It is a difference of approach, not theology or mission. We are equally committed to planting new congregations, but we are also structuring ourselves as a church fully in communion with the Province of Nigeria and the worldwide Anglican Communion.
VIRTUEONLINE: You are a church then, rather than a mission?
MINNS: We are committed to mission, but I am happy to embrace the word "church". I think the connection through Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola is seen as being positive. Those who come to us see he has taken a strong stand for the gospel. The Nigerian Church, indeed nearly all the African Anglican provinces, will not compromise in their core understanding of the gospel.
VIRTUEONLINE: So you wanted, from the beginning, to connect with an orthodox province in the Global South?
MINNS: Yes. Our desire was and is to connect with a larger structure.
VIRTUEONLINE: How long have you known Archbishop Akinola?
MINNS: We met briefly in '98 and started working closely together in the beginning of 2003.
VIRTUEONLINE: Are you pleased with what is happening in North American Anglicanism now?
MINNS: I am grieved by the brokenness of the Episcopal Church and the intransigence of the leadership in matters of faith and morals, but in the middle of this I see wonderful changes, lives are being transformed, people are offering themselves for ordination.
VIRTUEONLINE: Do you have standards for ministry comparable to the more well established educational channels and vehicles of education in Anglicanism? How well do you look after your clergy?
MINNS: All our clergy are properly educated. We have some flexibility in terms of context, but all clergy must have, at a minimum, a Bachelor's Degree or equivalent in theology. We will insist on more theological training, if necessary. We are also able to offer a comprehensive national healthcare, retirement, and insurance plan for clergy and congregational employees.
VIRTUEONLINE: In the Virginia situation, where some 12 parishes are being sued for their properties by the diocese and The Episcopal Church, the recent intervention by the Virginia Attorney General seemed to tip the scales in your favor. How do you read this?
MINNS: We are very grateful that he did intervene, and that he made it clear that the law is constitutional and that it applies to our situation.
VIRTUEONLINE: What do you hope for an outcome?
MINNS: I am hopeful, but I am still realistic. It is a complex legal case in all kinds of areas. We anticipate many appeals on a very costly, and frankly, an unnecessary journey. We had begun a process of amicable separation that could have been a model for the rest of the church, but those in power at 815 were not willing to let it happen. I am impressed by the thoroughness of the judge and his grasp of the complexities of the situation.
VIRTUEONLINE: What has happened with the lawsuits against vestries?
MINNS: My understanding is that the lawsuits have been put in abeyance and that the Episcopal Church is not proceeding with them.
VIRTUEONLINE: How are your people coping emotionally with what is going on regarding the lawsuits and their ability to minister in the midst of all this? MINNS: It is one of the hardest things going on, but they are handling it remarkably well. Some of the churches have experienced some division over this. We have lost people, but we are also planting new churches in Virginia. Our larger churches are seeing congregational growth. It is a very serious situation, but people are handling it pretty well. VIRTUEONLINE: What about the cost financially?
MINNS: There is an incredible cost financially. Our money is coming from individual parishes, churches and individuals and parishioners versus a line of credit and selling properties, which the Diocese of Virginia is doing. There is a big difference here; our people are fighting this battle. We have a lot of lawyers, some are working pro bono or giving time sacrificially, but our costs are comparable with the diocese. I think the national Church is spending a significant amount but less than the diocese.
VIRTUEONLINE: You are here in Dallas at the Anglican Mission in the Americas Winter Conference. Are you comfortable here?
MINNS: I am very comfortable and delighted to be here to see a healthy and growing Anglican mission. I am seeing lots of old friends. I have the vision of a united orthodox province that is stronger than ever. I was invited to come here and I accepted that invitation. It is important to see and experience encouragement and practical instruction going on. END ------------------------------
Editor's Note: St. Andrew's Anglican Church in Vestal is the CANA parish in Central NY.