The Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria has disregarded requests from the leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church in America by going ahead with the installation of Bishop Martyn Minns of Virginia as the head of a new diocese for congregations wanting to leave the U.S.-based church body.
Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori had strongly expressed her opposition to the installation, while the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, made an eleventh hour petition to Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola late last week asking him not to go ahead with the controversial ceremony.
Hundreds watched, however, as Akinola installed Minns as the "missionary bishop" of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America – the U.S. missionary branch of the Anglican Church of Nigeria – on a stage lined with large purple and yellow banners embellished with the word CANA.
Akinola has become the mouthpiece of a conservative movement within the Anglican Communion that is opposed to homosexuality and divorced clergy.
A number of conservative dioceses in the United States, meanwhile, have felt increasingly disenfranchised within the Episcopal Church as it persists in pursuing an increasingly liberal path that is rejected by large parts of the Anglican Communion. CANA will now provide spiritual leadership for those orthodox Anglicans who have left the Episcopal Church.
"Our name is now synonymous with discontent," said Minns. "It is a disaster, but it's not the end of the story. God wants to transform this into a celebration, and CANA is a gift."
A number of churchmen from Canada, England, the United States, Nigeria and Uganda were seated on the stage during the ceremony.
The Rev. David Banting, the chair of Reform and a trustee of Anglican Mainstream, was at the ceremony to represent both networks, and two Church of England bishops have already welcomed Minns to his new post.
Gerald O'Brien, a lay representative from the Diocese of Rochester on General Synod, attended the ceremony and offered the greetings of almost 30 General Synod members, including the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali and Bishop George Cassidy of Southwell and Nottingham – the diocese from which Minns hails.
The greetings praised Akinola and Minns for going ahead with the ceremony.
"Their clear witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, as revealed in the scriptures, over every area of life in their culture is an important contribution to the life of the Anglican Communion and to the witness of the Anglican Church in western society," the greetings read.
"We pray and hope that ways will be found to bring all those who wish to remain faithful orthodox Anglicans in North America into one united fellowship with the rest of the communion."
The U.S.-based Institute on Religion and Democracy also came out in support of the installation.
In a statement released the day before, the IRD's Director of Anglican Action, Ralph Webb, said: "Bishop Minns has served faithfully as an Anglican rector in many different types of parishes. His strong leadership qualities, unwavering commitment to orthodox theology and social witness, pastoral heart, and great concern for the poor are but four of many traits that will serve him well in his CANA responsibilities."
Webb added, however, that IRD would continue to support those Orthodox Anglicans who had decided to remain in the Episcopal Church and reaffirmed his hope for a "healed" Anglican Communion.
Minns, rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, shot to prominence last December when he led 11 Virginian churches in a breakaway from the Episcopal Church.