Why Virginia is SO important

Many of you who read this will know of the votes that were declared this weekend in several churches in Virginia. Ruth Gledhill has some good coverage here and you can see a video of the CANA Press Conference here. The guy on the still of the video is Martyn Minns, the new CANA Bishop and, as somebody who has had the privilege of working alongside him, I can tell you all that he rocks. Even when wearing purple.

The reason why the Virginia votes are so important is the following. Whether you agreed with the consecration as a Bishop of Martyn or whether you disagreed, he is a totally valid Bishop in the Anglican Communion. To reject his consecration as a Bishop of Nigeria would be to, at the same time, reject the consecration of Sandy Millar by Orombi of Uganda. They have both been consecrated by Primates and their consecration is valid.

What is interesting though about Martyn Minns’ role is that, as a Bishop of CANA, with the “breakaway votes” we have seen this weekend the collapse of the claim of TEC to represent the historic Anglican Church in the USA has begun. Let me explain. In the Anglican Church we have these things called dioceses. Each diocese covers a specific geographic area and has a specific bishop. No square inch of the world can belong to two separate dioceses OR have two bishops. If you are the rector of the Parish of Greater Lessing in the Diocese of Middleshire, you can’t suddenly decide that you don’t like your bishop and you’re going to move to a different diocese. All the parishes around you still belong to the diocese of Middleshire and so do you.

And that’s pretty much the argument that TEC have been using (and legally threatening as well) against parishes and dioceses that aren’t terribly happy that their national leadership are a bunch of apostate men and women. And it’s a pretty good argument because the Episcopal structures of the Church are pretty much at the heart of what it means to be Anglican (as I argued only yesterday).

So……. What’s going on in Virginia. Well, there are three logical ways to view what’s behind the formation of CANA and the role of Martyn Minns (have I mentioned yet that he rocks? For the record, Martyn rocks).

  1. You could argue that Martyn isn’t a proper Bishop and in that case we can disregard him in terms of diocesan boundaries and episcopal authority. That’s a nice simple solution, but it kinda avoids the fact that he is a proper bishop ‘cos he got consecrated by a proper Archbishop and several bishops who knew what they were doing, that Martyn’s lifestyle adheres to the call of Paul to Timothy for overseers to set good examples, AND that the Archbishop and Bishops who consecrated him were orthodox chaps so everything’s kosher.
  2. You could therefore alternatively view Martyn as setting up a new diocese (CANA at the moment) which will be formed from part of the current Diocese of Virginia. That would mean that we wouldn’t have a messy problem of two bishops for one geographical location. The problem with this perspective is that Virginia and the leadership of TEC will have none of it, because if they allow a small part of the East Coast of the USA to become a new Diocese it opens the floodgates for everybody who is dissatisfied with TEC to do the same. Ouch!!!! That’s so not going to happen.
  3. Which leaves one final possibility, namely that given that you can’t have two bishops covering the same ground, and given that Bishops act collegiately, one of the two Bishops on the ground in Virginia is at some point going to have to be told by the other bishops of the Worldwide Communion (or, let’s say for convenience’s sake, the other Bishops’ bosses, the Primates, as they tend to meet more often) “We don’t recognise you as the Bishop of this part of Virginia”, (or words to that effect). I mean, you can’t have two bishops covering the same ground and fudging the issue with “flying bishops” only temporarily puts off the issue of having proper historic Episcopal authority in place.

Do you see where I’m going with this? CANA is the beginning of the end for TEC, and they know it. It is the rump, but seeded and growing rump, of a movement that will provide a framework for orthodox bishops and ecclesiastical structures to be put in place in the USA where the current bishops and structures have apostatised. While some TEC Dioceses will join the new orthodox framework as a whole, in other places parishes will need to be transferred into the emerging, Communion recognised, structures in order to maintain Episcopal polity. I think Bob Duncan of the Anglican Communion Network recognised as much when he writes:

“There is no question that the clergy and people of The Falls Church, Truro Church, Church of the Apostles, Christ the Redeemer, St. Stephen’s, Church of the Word, St. Margaret’s and Potomac Falls remain fully and faithfully Anglican. Their deliberate decision-making process and patient efforts over the last two years to chart a peaceful and prayerful course forward should be an example to all those contemplating their future relationship with The Episcopal Church. It is now up to the leadership of the Diocese of Virginia to choose between embracing a charitable parting of ways or pursuing destructive litigation. I pray they can see their way to selecting the first course.”

But that isn’t the clincher. The clincher is the first sentence of the following paragraph:

Led by Bishop Martyn Minns of Truro Church and the Rev. John Yates of The Falls Church, a number of Virginia parishes began a 40–day process of discernment this fall.

Not, “Led by the Rev. Martyn Minns…”, not, “Led by Missionary Bishop Martyn Minns” or “Assistant Bishop Martyn Minns”. Oh no. The Anglican Communion Network simply calls him “Bishop Martyn Minns”. At the same time, can you see any reference to Peter Lee, the current Bishop of Virginia? No, the only reference in Bob Duncan’s statement is to “the leadership of the Diocese of Virginia”.

So, you might have missed it, but Sunday was possibly the most important day in US Anglican history for decades and what’s going on leaves me, and I hope you, terribly excited about what God is doing for those who trust in his power. Amen!!!!!!

Update : This post is being discussed over at Stand Firm.

3 Comments on “Why Virginia is SO important

  1. Peter:

    Help me out. What’s the deal with the Church of England’s Diocese of Europe and ECUSA’s Diocese of Europe being coterminous IF there cannot be two bishops on the same square inch of soil? What gives?

  2. Also missing from your analysis is the situation in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia where nine pakeha bishops cover exactly the same territory as five Maori bishops (and in one part, Auckland, there is a Polynesian bishop making for a third bishop operating in one area). In nearly all cases clergy operating in these territories are licensed by only one of the bishops for their area; but in a few cases clergy operate under dual licenses. Of course there is a difference between the situation in the USA and in Europe in that all these bishops are bound by a single set of canons and all meet at the one General Synod (though local synods are normally separate events). Did I mention that we have three Archbishops attempting to share one primacy?

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