I am going to give it a try.
There are a slew of people from all over here. I bumped into Benjamin Kwashi and his wife Gloria in the lobby on the way in. We had about a five minute visit. Loved seeing the text messages from their children. I asked about the climate in Nigeria and no, it is still not safe for Bishop Kwashi. An important reminder of the cost of following the gospel.
I had a warm greeting from Bishop David Bena and thought about the sheer courage of the man. Many forget that he was the Bishop who read a word of protest on behalf of a number of bishops at the New Hampshire Consecration service in the fall of 2003. I was there.
The atmosphere coming into the event is hard to describe accurately. On the one hand, given the statement of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and some reappraising blogs seemingly howling in protest over the matter, it seems like a big deal.
But it isn’t in one sense. The entire province of Nigeria in Synod voted to set up CANA a long while ago. Martyn Minns went over to Nigeria last summer to be consecrated a missionary Bishop. One didn’t hear many protests or concerns then (hmmm—wonder why not?). So why now? All this is is the period at the end of a sentence which was written almost entirely by the previous two events.
Also, as a commenter below observes, numerous steps were taken that did not need to be to ensure it was even less provocative. It is not in an Episcopal Church but in a neutral site. Archbishop Akinola is not preaching—Martyn Minns is. There will be no press conference by Archbishop Akinola (though I am sure the press who are here will try as hard as they can to get a comment from him). All of this is part of a decision on the part of those in leadership to be careful and quiet, relatively speaking.
True, Archbishop Akinola is clearly the second most powerful person in the Anglican Communion and so simply his presence here (or anywhere apparently) receives notice and response. But there is response and then there is overresponse. The right way to understand the Presiding Bishop’s response is to say “methinks she doth protest too much” (both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times observed that she was angry). Ditto the Bishop of Viriginia. Jim Naughton is trying hard to spin away the overrecognition of the service today, but it isn’t working.
So why the overreaction especially relative to the other two far more important events related to the starting of CANA? Surely a fuller answer to this will need to wait for some time since when one is in the midst of something, one rarely sees its full dimensions or significance clearly.
But this much is clear now: it is because it is here in America. Immediately somehow there is a threat to the Anglican franchise which the TEC establishment seems to assume is theirs by divine right in perpetuity (one can’t help thinking of Jeremiah’s Temple sermon in Jeremiah 7 in this regard). Immediately there is an incursion into the air space which TEC leadership in a bizarre way somehow claims as its own (newsflash to Mark Harris: “the Diocese of Virginia and…the Province of The Episcopal Church” does not include Hylton Chapel).
Yet even this does not do justice to what is taking place, there is some depth that is being touched upon causing surprise when the action is anticlimactic and anything but a surprise.
From where I sit, I believe the answer is this: the TEC leadership does not believe their actions will have real consequences.
Their gamble is simple: they will embrace the new theology and put it into practice faster than the Anglican Communion will evolve effective mechanisms of discipline to deal with it. At the end of the day, they did not believe the Primates would act. We know from earlier Primates meetings that Frank Griswold said that he believed the global South leadership was simply talk but their would be no action. The October 2003 meeting was after all just a meeting which issued a statement. One could make similar observations about other Primates meetings, which, although they have now included specific proposals and dealines, still have not specified any concrete consequences for TEC.
Archbishop Akinola, no matter what you say about him, is a leader. He says he will do something and then he does it.
He did it twice in Nigeria and there was little recognition or response but TEC did not feel the consequences. Now there is a sense that there might be real consequences and that explains the strength of the overreaction.
As Archbishop Akinola made clear in his letter, he would be the first to step back from this ministry if the Episcopal Church does what the Anglican Communion leadership has asked it to do. But they have already rejected the proposed Dar Es Alaam pastoral scheme making some kind of pastoral provision even more necessary in his mind. It is an unusal step. It can be a temporary step. But what it signals is tangible consequences which TEC leaders in denial simply are unwilling to face.
Anyway enough of that. The service began with energetic worship and enthusiastic singing with, yes, a bit of an African flavor in terms of style.
Scripture was read. A formal recognition of Martyn Minns from Archbsihop Akinola was read, including a reference to Martyn’s consecration in Nigeria and a naming of each Archbishop present at the service.
The gospel is being read now from John 17.
Martyn has prayed and begun to preach. Opening line: “You can learn a lot about a person by listening to their prayers.” He then gives examples of prayers, both goos ones and bad ones. John 17 gives us a glimpse into Jesus’ prayer life. Archbishop William Temple calls it perhaps the most sacred passage in all of the gospels.
Notice how it ends. It reflects his passion for the whole world it is not a prayer of self-justification.
We are here for that reason above all. This is not a gathering of the like minded. This is not a gathering of people who agree with each other. This is a gathering of people who long to see the world persuaded of the truth of the gospel of Christ.
A disciple is someone who is called by God. We tend to foget this.
A disciple is also somehow who knows who Jesus is and where he came from.
These are difficult times for orthodox Christians. CANA is God’s gift to orthodox Anglicans for those who cannto find a home in Tec as it is currently led.
We want to see lives transformed and not merely excused. We want a church where everyone is welcomed but no one leaves unchanged. We want to remain faithful members of the Anglican Communion.
We are thankful for the recognition of CANA by the Primate of Nigeria it has cost him a great deal (standing ovation). The solidarity of the provinces of the global South has also been an inspiration.
What’s next. Many of the issues are unresolved. The Anglican Communion is wrestling with irreconciliable truth claims.
1—radical inclusion we are a missionary church
a servant church
all to the end that God’s glory will be revealed and the whole world may believe in him.
During the greetings, Martyn made special reference an thanks to Archbishop Akinola, Bishop David Bena, Bishop Bob Duncan amd the Anglican Communion network, and Nigerian Judge the Honourable Abraham Yisa.
For the offertory, during praise music, people who were led to give were encouraged to do so Nigerian style by dancing up to the oferring plate, putting their offering in, and dancing back.
On the way to receive Communion I bumped into Dom Armstrong and a contingent from Colorado, and saw Christopher Leighton from Connecticut.
A very raucous chorus of “These are the days of Elijah” after the post-communion prayer.
Martyn asks people to be seated. The primate of Nigeria is asked to bring a word:
“This indeed is a unique and historic event. This has never happened before in the church of which I became a part. As the Chinese say a journay of a 1000 miles begins with a single step. I want to remind everyone that this is simply a first step.
The journey ahead is long, the rough will be rough probably, but you don’t go through life bread and butter we are called to pick up a cross and following our master. The Church of Nigeria itself has almost nothing to offer. We are doing this on behalf of the Communion. If we had not done this many of you would be lost to other churches, maybe to nothing at all.
I urge you to continue to pray for ECUSA. Continue to pray for the Anglican Communion. IF the Episcopal Church gets back in line with the rest of the Communion I renew my pledge, which I also made in Tanzania to the Primates and to Rowan, that we will cease from the ministry of CANA. It is meant to provide a safe spiritual home.
God bless you.”
(Please note this last section is anything but verbatim the Archbishop went too quckly).