CANA East has decided to remain within the ACNA as The Diocese of the Living Word. This leaves CANA West and the Missionary Diocese of the Trinity as part of the Church of Nigeria. While this move makes sense, it adds to the welter of affinity dioceses within ACNA, several of which now believe essentially the same things. I support affinity dioceses, but not multiple ones within the same geographic area that have no real theological differences.
The upcoming ACNA Assembly features two troubling speakers: Rwandan Archbishop Laurent Mbanda and the apologist Ravi Zacharias. Why are these men troubling? Zacharias was discovered to be inflating his credentials a couple years ago, something he apologized for, but only when caught in the act. Professor John Stackhouse gets to the point about why this is troubling:
Well, when your whole job is to tell the truth as accurately, carefully, rigorously as possible, when what you’re really asking people to do by setting forth your credentials – which literally comes from the same word as creed or credo – why I should be believed, then you really take on a tremendous burden to speak very circumspectly. And if right out of the gate your credentials are suspect, then what are people supposed to do in the audience when he makes certain claims? Are they all supposed to hit their phones, or tablets and start checking everything you say because the stuff they can check isn’t quite true. Isn’t quite true. And I think as soon as we get into the it’s not quite true phase, I think you’re done. I just don’t think you can continue as an apologist if you’re not going to be scrupulous about telling the truth in a way that you can predict your audience will understand. Otherwise, you’re in the wrong game.(source)
Zacharias was also involved in a strange ongoing exchange of texts with a woman that may or may not have been inappropriate on his part. We will never know because there is an NDA between the parties, but the gist of the case can be seen here and here. Perhaps it was an extortion attempt, but the credential inflation is still a serious matter and giving him a platform at the Assembly is not necessary.
When it comes to Archbishop Mbanda, you have a man who does nothing but praise a dictator who kills his own people in the Rwandan police state, it would be akin to St. Paul praising Nero as a visionary leader. I have documented this extensively on this site, see this link. Unfortunately it seems that ACNA continues in its uncritical approach to Rwanda, which Mbanda is exploiting, with the new development that GAFCON’s next bishops meeting in opposition to Lambeth will take place in Kigali next year.
It would be one thing if the Rwandan bishops asked for prayer in the face of an oppressive state, but instead they trumpet this evil regime as if it is a great thing. In the future, ACNA’s unthinking acceptance of this narrative will look quite bad, but as of yet this has produced no change in our conduct.
The Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) is changing its status from being a dual jurisdiction within the Church of Nigeria and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) to being a Ministry Partner of ACNA. The ACNA Constitution says of Ministry Partners:
Ministry Partners may have representatives attend functions or gatherings of the Church upon invitation of the Archbishop, and may attend functions and gatherings of any constituent jurisdiction of the Church upon the invitation of the Bishop with jurisdiction. Representatives of Ministry Partners may have seat and voice as determined by the Archbishop or Bishop with jurisdiction. Ministry Partners may withdraw from affiliation or have their affiliation ended with or without cause.
CANA consists of four dioceses: East, West, the Missionary Diocese of the Trinity, and Armed Forces and Chaplaincy. Each diocese can apparently make its own decision on whether to join ACNA or stay with CANA. What I am hearing initially is that CANA East under Bishop Julian Dobbs may move into ACNA with a new diocesan name, while West and the Trinity stay with Nigeria (CANA). I assume the Armed Forces will have to get sorted out as that impacts the rest of ACNA heavily. On May 17th, CANA East will be discussing and voting on what to do at their synod.
What precipitated this development? One major factor was Nigeria consecrating four bishops for the Missionary Diocese of the Trinity without following ACNA’s Constitution and Canons on how this is supposed to work. Further, one of those consecrated, Augustine Unuigbe, embraces the heretical prosperity gospel, which has now put down massive roots in Nigeria (see this article). Unuigbe has written things such as, “I decree and declare that Poverty is banished from my home.” When he was headed towards trouble in CANA East, it appears that he jumped over to the Missionary Diocese of the Trinity.
Beyond this, Nigeria’s canons and the ACNA’s canons are different on the matter of electing new bishops. Why CANA could not have amended its canons and followed ACNA’s is not clear to me. But perhaps by giving each diocese the ability to decide for itself where they want to land, it has in effect done the same thing.
In some ways this is a result of the messy founding of ACNA. Before ACNA existed Chuck Murphy started AMiA, Martyn Minns more or less started CANA, and then Bob Duncan was the main catalyst behind ACNA. In my opinion each of these men wanted to be “the guy” but Archbishop Duncan sort of won out due in part to being a better organization man. This of course simplifies matters greatly and is a caricature, but I think it is essentially true. We all know how AMiA ended up in a spectacular fireball of confusion, but CANA went on a different path. CANA also transitioned from being friendly to women’s ordination and Arminian theology under Bishop Minns to being Reformed and against women’s ordination under Bishop Dobbs. CANA East and to some extent CANA West have become safe havens for that type of thinking.
To further confuse matters, I believe each CANA congregation could choose to leave its diocese. So if CANA West leaves ACNA, churches within it could leave CANA West. Who knows what will be left when it is all said and done? What this means in the short term however is that we now have several overseas Anglican Provinces still operating in the U.S.A. many years after ACNA has formed. Nigeria in addition to the various illogical connections to the oddball AMiA from Africa have persisted.
Here is some of what the ACNA press release says:
In January of this year, the Church of Nigeria elected four suffragan bishops for the Diocese of the Trinity, a CANA diocese composed primarily of expatriate Nigerians in North America. These elections surprised the Anglican Church in North America and led both provinces to desire clearer lines of authority for the CANA dioceses. A joint committee of representatives from both provinces met in Houston, Texas on March 12, 2019, and the final agreement was signed by both primates this week in Sydney, Australia during the Gafcon Primates Council Meeting.
The agreement provides that CANA become solely a mission of the Church of Nigeria but allows each of the three dioceses (Cana East, Cana West, Trinity) to make its own decision regarding its provincial relationships.
Each diocese will amend its constitution and canons as necessary, and may request to be a ministry partner of the alternative province. Both provinces are thankful that this resolution has been reached and look forward to continued collaboration in Gospel ministry, sharing full communion as provinces in the Anglican Communion.