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.

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.

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.

Ending the Anglican Alphabet Soup

With the creation of the Anglican Church in North America, the time has come to end the various sub-groups which were necessary for the time of trials just passed through. Part of me doesn’t like this much because I think that parts of the AMiA are the best current representation of what a Biblical Church should look like. But it seems to me that every dollar spent on maintaining separate organizational structures is wasted. Why have a separate communications structure for CANA, AMiA, REC, etc? It’s waste of effort and money. And yet we see Bishop Minns saying:

Since Day 1, CANA has been and will continue to be a full participant in the life of the new province, and will continue to maintain our own identity.  We will encourage groups of congregations when they are ready, to establish themselves as free-standing dioceses.  Our goal is to support the work, mission, and ministry of the gospel on this continent and bring our own particular distinctive to that task.

Bishop Murphy has said similar things about AMiA continuing in something of a “Canterbury and York” model. Indeed, as I was writing this I received an e-mail from AMiA where Bishop Murphy says:

As a founding member of both the Common Cause Partnership and the emerging province, we will continue to fully participate in ACNA.  As we have consistently explained, however, we remain a missionary outreach of the Province of the Anglican Church of Rwanda under the authority of Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini.  This allows us to enjoy dual citizenship, a similar relationship to that of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA).

But I think we need to ask whether in ten or twenty years we will need all of these separate groups? It’s great for AMia and CANA to continue missionary efforts, but they should be able to do this as some kind of missionary diocese under ACNA, without needing their own leadership and headquarters. How much of this division is due to leftover animosities between bishops and churches?

I do understand some legitimate reasons for staying apart. As my friend Jim said to me, many folks won’t want to be under a Bishop who approves of women’s ordination, for example. But these issues need to be worked out from within ACNA unless it becomes obvious that it will never change and is un-reformable, which is hardly the case right now at its inception. I think good Anglican in all the bodies that make up ACNA should voice their desire for unity to their leaders and pray for change.

A Drive to Kilmarnock

This past weekend we drove to a town called Kilmarnock which sits in a region of Virginia called the Northern Neck, on the Chesapeake Bay. It is something that I’ve wanted to do for three years but have been prevented from doing for one reason or another.

The drive over was beautiful and very typical of Virginia. By that I mean rolling hills, trees, farms, small towns and lots and lots of old churches with their attendant graveyards. Why is it that our modern churches never have graveyards? I understand that property is at a premium for most churches and perhaps a graveyard would be “wasted” when it could be a parking lot, but I think we would do well to re-establish the practice of Christian burial in a church graveyard.

Most of these old, rural towns have a United Methodist parish, a Baptist church or two, and sometimes an Episcopal parish. It is truly heartbreaking to see these gorgeous old buildings most of which are in the hands of heretics. Just imagine working and praying to build a parish, teach, preach and serve. You go down to your grave when your alloted span is done only to have the entire thing fall into the hands of the enemy within a century or so.

The churches that we saw were mainly built of brick. I imagined what life would be like if they were inhabited by preachers with evangelical fervor and sound doctrine. What would it be like to have our rural areas dotted with churches that were sacramental and reformed? Instead we have these sad monuments to a bygone age inhabited by the opponents of the truth.

Kilmarnock itself is not much to shout about, but if you drive down the roads that lead to the Bay, you find mansions of breathtaking size, all of them new. Apparently there is a lot of old money in Kilmarnock, or else folks in D.C. and Richmond who weekend down there. These homes are unbelievable, sitting right on the Bay with no neighbors to speak of. Trust me, these folks aren’t working in town. It never ceases to amaze me how no matter where you go in this country there are loads of rich people (or massively indebted people).

We ate lunch in the parking lot of the local Episcopal parish which is gorgeous. It looked like a small version of Truro in Fairfax. I looked it up on the web and of course it is in the revisionist camp and will probably vanish within a generation.

The entire drive led me to think about the AMiA and ACNA in general with regard to church planting. For obvious reasons the AMiA has focused most of its church planting activities on cities and urban centers. I favor this and think AMiA should have a 50-state strategy of hitting key urban areas. My question is how do the rural areas get served in any new evangelization? In some sense it is much easier to plant churches in urban areas because you have so many more people to potentially draw from, whereas in a small town there are only a limited number of people.

So do entire swaths of the country stay unserved by a Medieval Protestant alternative to unbelief? Can we reach small towns as well as urban areas? How many guys would we need in the pipeline of ministerial training in order to reach these places? What kind of resources would it require? I imagine that in the old days most of these churches rose from within the ethnic communities that were pioneering these new towns, but that pattern is gone now. What is the new method of reaching the rural parts of America with a liturgical, Bible-centered church?