Growing pains for ACNA: The Church of England Newspaper, Nov 4, 2011 November 3, 2011Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, CANA, Church of England Newspaper, Church of Nigeria.
Tags: Amos Fagbamiye, Martyn Minns, Robert Duncan
First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.
A chill has descended over relations between the Church of Nigeria and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) in the wake of the creation of a diocese for Nigerians in America by the Church of Nigeria.
While official statements from Archbishop Robert Duncan of the ACNA and Bishop Martyn Minns of CANA – the Church of Nigeria’s American outreach — have been upbeat, sources at the top of the ACNA tell The Church of England Newspaper the situation surrounding the formation of the Diocese of the Trinity has been a “mess”.
Archbishop Duncan is understood to be meeting in the near future with the Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, to seek clarification as to why the Nigerian Church believed it necessary to create a race-based diocese in America.
Questions also remain unanswered as to why Nigeria continues to hold on to its American operations after Kenya, West Africa, Uganda and the Southern Cone turned their churches and clergy over to the ACNA.
On 12 October 2011, Bishop Minns released a letter to the CANA clergy announcing the formation of the Diocese of the Trinity. At the September meeting of the General Synod, the Nigerian Church “decided to permit the establishment of dioceses within CANA, under the leadership of the CANA Missionary Bishop, in order to strengthen our missionary focus and provide enhanced support for local clergy and congregations, especially for Nigerian Anglicans living in North America.”
Bishop Minns stated that suffragan Bishop Amos Fagbamiye had been named the diocesan bishop of Trinity Diocese. These actions were “subject to the enactment of necessary canonical provisions within the Church of Nigeria’s constitution and canons and also the relevant by-laws and protocols of CANA,” he added.
The CANA leader noted that while “church structures are important and can be useful … what is most important is that we continue with the work of witness and discipleship and reaching North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ. Mission must always drive and shape our structures, not the other way around.”
On 15 April 2011 Bishop Fagbamiye met with 40 clergy and lay leaders to discuss the formation of a missionary diocese. The purpose of the diocese was to “build a Christ-centred, multicultural, multiracial, Bible-based church that believes in the apostolic teaching, and is sensitive to human needs.”
The organisational meeting recommended the new diocese “be under the supervision and derive authority from Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion but will be affiliated with CANA and ACNA.”
On 31 October 2011 Archbishop Duncan gave a statement to CEN stating there was a “desire among many Nigerian nationals, some of whom have been part of CANA and some who have been waiting for a development like the Missionary Diocese of the Trinity, to come together as a Nigerian diocese in North America. Created by the recent General Synod at Lagos, the plan is that the Missionary Diocese is to be part of CANA and to also apply for recognition as a diocese in the Anglican Church in North America.
“As the Constitution and Canons of the Anglican Church in North America make provision for affinity dioceses, the creation of the Missionary Diocese of the Trinity can readily be accommodated within the Anglican Church structure,” the Archbishop said.
However, affinity dioceses within ACNA have so far been constructed along doctrinal lines – with non-geographic dioceses for Anglo-Catholics. Until the formation of the Trinity Diocese the only race-based church unit was the Niobrara Sioux mission to American Indians.
A spokesman for CANA said it was a mistake to presume that Trinity Diocese was composed solely of Nigerians. “One of [Bishop] Fagbamiye’s own archdeacons is white: the Ven John Beasley. I think he also has some non-Nigerian clergy on staff at his church in Indianapolis,” said Harry Zeiders of CANA.
One ACNA leader who declined to be named as he was not authorised to speak on its behalf said the creation of the Trinity Diocese had come as an unwelcome surprise. It was a retrograde step, in his opinion, for the Church of Nigeria to be creating new structures in North America on its own initiative after it had already committed itself to support the ministry of ACNA, he said.
It evidenced a lack of “trust” in ACNA, he said.