Friday, 3 August 2007

Sort of Confirmed Rumour

The Church of England Newpaper has warmed up the rumour by some degrees. According to the free edition, daily_020807.pdf, the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) will consecrate a bishop to organise churches in England.

News Digest

England to get ‘flying bishop’?

NIGERIA is on the verge of appointing its own 'flying bishop' in England to represent disillusioned Anglicans, the Church of England Newspaper has learnt.

A new bishop to be appointed by Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola could be consecrated before next year’s Lambeth Conference if plans succeed.

A source describing himself as a ‘worker in the Nigerian diocese’ said he was aware of such plans and that such a person would be employed as a ‘mission co-ordinator’.

Rumours regarding the possibility of such a role have been circulating over the last few months but this is the first time it has been confirmed by a clergy member from Nigeria.

Speaking to the CEN he said: "It is possible that Archbishop Peter Akinola will have somebody appointed by the next Lambeth Conference in July 2008."

To read the whole of this story see this week’s Church of England Newspaper or go to

Note that the Church changed its name to Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) months back. The pattern in the United States is for a national of that country to be a bishop but under the Nigerian umbrella. The same would happen for England, as below. This is from the extended report, given in full here:

"They will choose someone in the Old Testament way," he said, "they are not looking for management people, they are looking for people who will be mission co-ordinators."

He added: "Whoever is elected will have a very rough ride... I think that anyone in that position will be a hostage to fortune."

But it is believed that the appointment will be of an English priest, rather than a Nigerian one, following the pattern set in such appointments in the USA.

The development would also reflect the current structure in North America where many Anglicans resort to the authority of the Rt Rev Martyn Minns of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). In May 2006, the Most Rev Peter Akinola consecrated Bishop Minns, a former Episcopal priest, to provide for those concerned about liberalism, sparked by the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson in 2003.

As for who - I know where my bet is going, and the odds are shortening.

This rush to organise - before Lambeth 2008 - is in keeping with the decision of the Bishop of Pittsburgh in the last few days to organise outside the Canterbury centred Anglican Communion. He won't be able to take a diocese or even parishes with him - lawsuits and all that will fly all over the place - but of course individuals and groups (majorities and minorities of churches) may well leave and set up again with him as their overseer. He has decided, already, before the Archbishop of Canterbury meets The Episcopal Church (TEC) House of Bishops, to go; this meeting could pave the way for The Episcopal Church to be sidelined from the Anglican Communion. However, this does not seem likely, and although The House of Bishops cannot agree to the Tanzania Communiqué of February 2007 (it needs the General Convention of 2009 to do that) it does have to agree to continue with the Windsor Process and the Covenant discussions in order for the invitations to Lambeth 2008 to continue to be valid for its bishops. It can do that, plus the Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken about the value of patience.

Those who want TEC disciplined see September 30 2007 as a do or die day, but certainly the invitations to Lambeth 2008 did not give that impression, nor the Archbishop's intention of keeping as many talking as possible.

Some think that the Archbishop can be "bullied" into not inviting the TEC bishops and inviting those he left off, bishops who are boundary-crossers, such as those from the Church of Nigeria into the USA. It could be that these moves are an attempt to shock the Archbishop into reversal.

However, the Conservative side is not united. Ephraim Radner resigned from the Anglican Communion Network, a body organising dissent with The Episcopal Church, as soon as Bishop Duncan said he would organise outside of Canterbury. Philip Turner, vice president of the Anglican Communion Institute, has also written in the same way, against leaving the Canterbury Communion.

The logic of this is fairly simple. The more that turn up at Lambeth on the Conservative side, the more likely will they there get to discipline TEC and have the kind of Communion and Covenant that suits their Conservative agenda. Unfortunately, for them, the schismatics are schisming, and history elsewhere suggests that it tends to catch on. Liberals, used to putting up with doctrines in lists, and being inclusive, will tend to turn up anyway. The Conservatives seem to be like generals in an army all marching off in different directions.

My view is let them. The ones organising the getting out and setting up their own really do want a Church Communion in their own image. They want it doctrinal, biblical, anti-gay and as strict as need be. They know that Lambeth 2008 must lead to compromise, simply because of the nature of the Anglican Communion, with liberal leaning Churches like the US, Canada, Wales, Scotland, Ireland (it seems), South Africa, most of Australia and New Zealand. These Western Churches simply will not accept a restrictive Convenant, if (in the end) one at all, and will emphasise Catholic inheritance and the place of human reasoning. If enough of the Conservatives break off and organise on their own, the effect must be be to re-emphasise the tolerant nature of Anglicanism, its breadth of views and its multiple inheritances. It may even get itself off this sexual hangup that won't even accept faithful and loving gay relationships amongst its clergy and lay workers who "promote religion".

An outbreak of tolerance might not happen at Lambeth 2008. October 2007 onwards is going to be a pretty nasty time all around, and Lambeth 2008 will either be full of bitter arguments, unoccupied chairs or (most likely) both. When the dust settles, however, the outcome might just be a little better than some could have hoped.

Incidentally, I am by nature someone who wants to keep the tent as big as possible. However, the people leaving the tent, and those sitting in the corner (most of whom may conclude with events that they in the end have to leave), are going to make the tent more managable.

This upcoming schism, that seems to get more and more likely as this impatience runs riot, is in this one Church or denomination, but the divisions are within most denominations and it is (in institutional terms) the start of the New Reformation that I wrote about in my Ph.D up to 1989.

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