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.

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.