CANA East becomes The Diocese of the Living Word

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.

What is going on with CANA?

A Nigerian Anglican Church

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.

Bishop Dobbs on the right.

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.

Bishop Dobbs: Why Am I an Anglican?

Bishop and Jedi Knight Julian Dobbs has written a good short summary of why he is Anglican here. An excerpt:

The Anglican Church provides a place of worship—common prayer for all people. One of the greatest strengths of the Anglican Church is the rich tradition of liturgical worship, which provides an opportunity for all people to connect with the Living God through prayer, sacrament, the public reading of the Bible, teaching, the creeds of the church, song and dance. The Anglican Church recognizes the primacy and centrality of the Bible and is enriched by reason and tradition. Reason and tradition must always be subservient to the Bible, however they help us understand and comprehend the word of God and the function of the church.

Moving Forward Together – Day 2

The Lord reigneth; let the people tremble: he sitteth between the cherubims; let the earth be moved. The Lord is great in Zion; and he is high above all the people. Let them praise thy great and terrible name; for it is holy. Psalm 99.1-2

I am generally allergic to overly sentimental and pious language as it is typically deployed in the Church. However, today was a real mountaintop day for me in many ways, and it engaged my emotions as well as my mind.
Before I describe the events of the day, let me summarize what I see as the mood down here in Raleigh, at least from my limited perspective. First, it is humble. There is not a spirit of boasting or exulting in the situation. Rather, there is a sense of the seriousness of the hour we find ourselves in and a sense of our own brokenness. Second, there is a sense of unity despite our many and very real differences. That unity is exemplified in the worship of our Triune God every day, where we are all equally united in praise of God. This in no way minimizes the difficulties of relating to folks who hold very different positions on key issues, but it does show that we can agree on the essential function of worshiping God and finding a way forward. Third, there is a a sense of gratitude to our Rwandan brothers, Archbishop Duncan and CANA for standing so visibly by our sides during this moment of trial. There is no doubt that we are one body, whatever our earthly jurisdictions are. On to today:
We began with Morning Prayer and a sermon from Bishop Louis Muvunyi of Kigali. Bishop Muvunyi preached on wearing the whole armor of God. His sermon was expository and emphasized the spiritual warfare that we are engaged in. He said that Paul could have blamed Nero, Herod or the Jews for his troubles, but instead he pointed out the spiritual enemy. He encouraged us to keep preaching and keep planting churches. He said that we need prayer warriors who will pray for church leaders.
After a short break, CANA Bishop Julian Dobbs spoke on the theme “Come, Let us Arise and Build” from Nehemiah. This sermon ministered to me and many others in a most powerful way. The unction and annointing of the Spirit was upon Bishop Dobbs and I was ready to run out and plant three or four churches at the end of his sermon. Further, we have decided that he should be the next Archbishop of GAFCON, Canterbury, and possibly the Pope for good measure! Just kidding of course, but his Anglicanism is one that we can fully support.
Bishop Dobbs pointed out several paralells from the story of Nehemiah to the current situation in North American Anglicanism. Nehemiah dealt with false accusations, parties and misappropriated funds. Dobbs honored the Rwandans, saying “my brothers, thank you.” He also frequently broke into other languages, seemingly knowing three or four with some ability. He presented six insights for the task of rebuilding:
1. A confident commitment to Biblical truth. Jude 3 tells us to contend for the faith, this implies a struggle. When doctrine goes bad, so do hearts and minds. We submit to the Bible, period. This is the faith for which our martyrs died. Not everyone will like the gospel message, show me in the Scriptures where they are supposed to, said Dobbs. ACNA should re-read and re-appropriate the Gospel. Dobbs mentioned the Jerusalem Declaration and the Prayer Book and said they contain the same gospel. GAFCON has given these things as a gift to America.
2. A determined commitment to evangelicalism. This means regularly, personally sharing the Gospel. Not the occasional mention to the guy at your gulf club, but something regular. Lord have mercy on me, this was a cause for great self-examination and grief. Dobbs said, “Let’s get busy.” His call was a call to action.
3. A radical investment in church planting.
4. A conduit for new leaders. We need bi-vocational ministers. We must offer ourselves for Gospel service, not someone else. What about you, he asked. Have you considered entering the ministry, planting churches and serving. Why not? Again, this was the type of direct preaching that comes down from on high, and I was very moved to at least reflect on what God would have me do.
5. This is an Anglican moment. Bishop Dobbs firmly believes that we are in a situation akin to Nehemiah’s and that is may not come again for a long time. Moses discovered that not everyone who departed with him from Egypt was fit to obey the commandments of God and enter the Promised Land. What unites us as Anglicans is a vision of a global Christianity. We need the Africans to remain in relationship with us.
6. A dedicated and determined discipleship. A life of dedicated sacrifice. Leave the palaces behind. Israel quickly looked back to Egypt when they had been delivered, how many of us miss the buildings and the pension plans, Dobbs asked.
This post has gone on long enough. I highly encourage you to listen to Bishop Dobbs’ presentation when it becomes available and to prayerfully consider his exhortations. Thank you Lord for sending him to us today and may we heed your call through him.

Thoughts on the CANA Property Situation

From the beginning, I have believed that it was a mistake for the CANA churches to defend their property. Having said that, I think it is outrageous, sickening and yet entirely predictable that this ruling has come down. As Van Til taught, we do not live in a world of neutrality. I don’t know anything about the judges in this case, but I do know that ‘the system’ is not neutral. There is a natural presumption against Christ and his Church.

I have believed from the first that CANA should have turned the keys over and walked away, starting new parishes down the street and saving their money to maybe buy these buildings back someday. Instead, they have spent a fortune defending these buildings. I have been to Truro several times and it is a gorgeous old place. To see it transformed into a mosque or something in the future is detestable.

We live in a time where God seems to be killing old structures and resurrecting them in new configurations. The Protestantism of the past is essentially dead. James Jordan puts it this way:

As I maintained in Crisis, Opportunity, and the Christian Future, the Protestant age is coming to an end. That means that the Reformed faith and Presbyterianism are also coming to an end. The paradigm is exhausted, and the world in which it was worked out no longer exists. We must take all the great gains of the Calvinistic heritage and apply them with an open Bible to the new world in which we are now living. We must be aware that there is far more in the Bible than the Reformation dealt with, and that many of our problems today are addressed by those hitherto unnoticed or undeveloped aspects of the Bible. Those who want to bang the drum for a 450-year old tradition are dooming themselves to irrelevance. Our only concern is to avoid being beat up by them as they thrash about in their death-throes.

We are seeing this before our eyes in the Anglican Communion. Indeed, God in his providence is bringing to pass events this week that are reshaping the lay of the land. I believe that this month marks the end of the first act of the reconfiguration of Anglicanism. AMiA is it was will cease to exist, the Rwandan Mission will go in a new direction and these historic CANA parishes will be forced to do something new.

It isn’t easy to move on from the past. Those buildings represent the work of God in history and they were places for the proclamation of the Gospel for centuries. Our evil age has caught up with them and now congregations may be forced to move on. Bishop Guernsey put it like this: “Our trust is in the Lord who is ever faithful. He is in control and He will enable you to carry forward your mission for the glory of Jesus Christ and the extension of His Kingdom.”

This month is the opening of Act Two in the reconfiguration. The way forward is being sketched out and it looks like what the earlier advance of the Church looked like: a Bible saturated, liturgically faithful, missionary effort to baptize the nations into the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

CANA Continues

Lost in the AMiA kerfuffle has been the CANA story. If you think back to the first AnglicanTV episode with tidings from Pawley’s Island, you’ll remember that there was also a story about CANA creating a new diocese in America geared towards Nigerians. This was met by mutual statements of support from ACNA and Bishop Dobbs (a man that I respect a great deal).
In my view, the problem is not so much the creation of a new diocese, but rather the continued existence of CANA. CANA issued a pastoral statement yesterday, saying in part:

The bishops rejoiced in the recent creation of the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic where many clergy and congregations continue in their relationship with CANA. While acknowledging that the concept of ‘dual citizenship’ continues to raise some questions we heard a number of testimonies from those who have embraced this gracious provision and celebrate this opportunity for a direct connection to the Anglican Communion through the Church of Nigeria. We believe that this can only strengthen the ongoing work of ACNA in its determination to demonstrate the transforming love of Jesus Christ throughout North America.

Yes, this concept does raise some questions, such as, what is the end game? I can understand why groups with theological qualms might hesitate to jump into ACNA with both feet. The REC seems to be sticking only one foot in the water, for example. But as far as I can tell, there is no discernable theological difference between ACNA and CANA. Further, there is not a difference in praxis. Both ordain women, both do not seem to be particularly affectionate for the Prayer Book in their worship and so forth. So why the separation? And what event or series of events will signal to CANA bishops that their structure can come to an end? The pressure should be on Bishop Minns and the other CANA bishops to answer these questions clearly.
I must say as an observer of the Anglican scene in North America that the lack of transparency from all parties does not engender trust. Statements from bishops seem to assume knowledge that does not exist. ACNA has not revealed its “Theological Lens” document, CANA has not revealed why it keeps a separate identity, and the issue of women’s ordination is as clear as mud. For there to be unity, these discussions should be had in the open, not revealed to the masses when the bishops feel that it’s safe. Perhaps an unfortunate legacy of the Episcopal Church is this tendency to do things quietly behind closed doors and only reveal a matter when it has been decided. CANA should lead the change here by openly stating why they continue to exist, and what would allow them to cease existing.

AMiA Fracturing

Well, that didn’t take long. I have been reading the tea leaves about the trajectory of AMiA for a few years now, most recently with the last issue of Wave. Now, Anglican Unscripted reports that AMiA is cracking up over women’s ordination and Bishop Murphy’s apparent desire to rule as he sees fit. The video is below:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQ1XM0-a4DU]

Essentially, the report says that there is some discord between the Church of Rwanda and AMiA, and that they are coming to terms of separation. Bishop Murphy wants to support women’s ordination (surprise, surprise) and appoint his own bishops without Rwanda being able to nix his appointments. The AMiA will pull out from Rwandan oversight and is seeking another Primate from another Global South church or Archbishop Kolini or some other option.

The video asks if AMiA all of the sudden doesn’t have an Archbishop sponsoring them what happens to them? They speculate that Chuck Murphy will keep some of them together and maybe they will come under ACNA. They also report discord among the bishops of AMiA. Some orthodox bishops want to leave AMiA and head to ACNA to maintain no women’s ordination.

So, Bishop Murphy can’t seem to stand oversight. If he wants women’s ordination so much, why doesn’t he simply merge into ACNA as it is? Well, that would mean breaking up the fiefdom right? And shame on Archbishop Kolini for supporting such nonsense. I confess I thought that women’s ordination wouldn’t mess up ACNA for another ten years or so, but it appears to be happening already. There is now a crying need for a diocese or two within ACNA that is totally opposed to women’s ordination. Anything less will produce further splits and the end of ACNA.

Past Posts on the Same Subject:

Here, here, here and here.

The Origins of Women’s Ordination in the Episcopal Church

So how did it all begin? Without going into great detail, we can look at the seventies and the illegal ordinations that happened at that time. The heretic James Pike had previously ordained a woman to the diaconate, but the ball really got rolling in 1974.

In the book “Anglican Communion in Crisis”, Miranda Hassett writes:
…women deputies were not accepted by General Convention until 1967. By this time the controversial liberal bishop James Pike had already ordained a woman as a deacon, an ordained role oriented toward service and without all the sacramental duties of the priesthood. With the encouragement of the women’s movement in the larger society, other breakthroughs followed quickly. The General Convention of 1970 accepted female deacons, and the 1976 Convention admitted women to the priesthood, following the unauthorized 1974 ordinations of eleven women as priests. The first Episcopal woman bishop, Barbara Harris, was consecrated in 1989.
In “A Brief History of the Episcopal Church”, David Lynn Holmes writes:
Nevertheless, in the summer of 1974, in Philadelphia’s Church of the Advocate, eleven women deacons were ordained to the priesthood by three Episcopal bishops. Two of the bishops were retired; the third had resigned as bishop of Pennsylvania earlier in the year. Neither the bishops, nor the deacons, nor the parish had authorization for the ordinations. In an emergency session, the House of Bishops declared the ordinations invalid and rebuked the ordainers.” (page 168)
Time magazine has articles on these ordinations here, here and here. And now, a mere three decades later, “conservatives” all over the place accept this practice, foisted upon the church by radicals and heretics, as perfectly fine and normal.

Anglican Church Planting Done Right

There are a lot of bad church plants and established churches out there in the Anglican world. Theology is thin, sometimes Arminian, sometimes idolatrous. Discipline is lacking, discipleship does not exist. Some churches don’t want to be terribly liturgical despite a 2,000 year liturgical tradition. A focus on digging into the Bible isn’t there, mission mindedness towards the local community is lacking, and the list goes on. At the top level, the AMiA looks corporate and atheological. There are simply a lot of problems.

And yet, there is hope. Here on the East Coast there at least six parishes pastored by men with strong Augustinian convictions, a commitment to the Bible, a desire to see healthy Christian living and a focus on mission. A new article outlines the history and status of the three RenewDC parishes, one of which I attend:

Through AMiA, Claire became a Rwandan missionary to Washington, D.C., and started the Church of the Resurrection on Capitol Hill.

Now Resurrection is about to celebrate its seventh year in the same rented historic church building near the Library of Congress. Two new churches have already been planted out of Resurrection, and a fourth and fifth in the D.C. region are in the works. The three current churches meet inside the Capital Beltway on Sunday evenings, renting historic church buildings in keeping with a mission-minded, streamlined budget where church planting is a priority.

Together, these congregations compose a church-planting movement known as RenewDC.

Consistent with the theology of Anglicanism’s founding documents, Claire is Reformed and paedobaptist. But joining RenewDC churches requires subscribing only to Christian essentials, which are “hopefully the same among all the gospel-centered churches in the city,” Claire says. The churches focus on gospel essentials (worship, discipleship, and community) leading to mission. As a result, the RenewDC churches resemble missionary outposts and could perhaps be compared to military chapels outside the United States.

The diversity of backgrounds among congregants is striking, if not surprising given the urban environment. In the midst of such diversity, one perhaps counter-intuitive strategy for bridging the gap between people is simple, liturgical worship. “It provides a common framework,” Claire says, “a common language for people.” These Anglican worship services follow the same basic outline as most Christian churches since the earliest days of the church: worship, prayers, Scripture reading, sermon, affirmation of belief (creeds), and the Eucharist. They practice these ancient rites using contemporary music and language.

It can be done right, it should be done right, it will be done right! To read more about it, click here.