The Newest U.S. Bishop

May 9, 2007

If you hadn’t heard, the we got a new Bishop in the U.S. last weekend.  No, I’m not talking about the election in Oklahoma, I’m talking about an actual consecration, that of Martin Minns into CANA of course.  Read the full story from ENS here.

It never ceases to amaze me how, well, not smart Akinola seems to be.  Taking this action right now just doesn’t work in his favor at all.  Taking this action on October 1, and, well, that might have been an entirely different matter.  We just don’t know, because there is still a lot left to happen.

It is so hypocritical.  He wants to use authority to get his way and impose his view of tradition on the Episcopal Church by ignoring our cultural context and deciding how we should interpret scripture, but then he also ignores the authority of the Communion and the same authority which has asked him to refrain from interfering and moving outside of his geographic boundary.  As ++Katharine said, it violates the “ancient customs of the church,” to which he responded, “but you did it too!”  Now I don’t agree that we did it too, but if I did I hardly see how two wrongs make a right, or how his explanation justifies his action.

Rather, I think, the last few rounds with Akinola have revealed his true colors.  I get the sense, with not much that I can articulate, that the momentum may be shifting.  The Archbishop of Canterbury is finally spending some time in North America instead of in Africa.  He issued this statement, which is not (for once) completely anti-gay, and clarifies a passage in Romans that has been used against us repeatedly by those who don’t understand St. Paul very well.  I have also heard from one bishop in another non-North American province that the feeling going towards Lambeth is that the deck has been too heavily stacked against the U.S., and that needs to be corrected.  My sense is that while we may not yet be sailing downstream, we are at least not paddling quite so hard upstream.  I’m no expert in these matters as the big-hitter bloggers are and predictions are dangerous things.  Just for fun, I’m going to lay out a prediction of the next few years, knowing that it is just a wild guess and really more for fun than for “practical strategical planning” or anything else:

1)  +++Rowan will come in the fall and visit with the HOB.  There will be lots of media around the event, some on both sides will get upset about something or other, and predict the end of the world.  It won’t really change anything.  The September 30 deadline will come and go without any real change in Episcopal Church policy.

2)  After the September 30, Akinola and perhaps a few others will continue to make demands.  Perhaps they will even form a coalition and leave the Communion.  TEC will keep its focus on mission to avoid being swept up into the controversy and enable the continued work of Christ.

3)  Lambeth will happen as scheduled next year.  The real item to watch is the Covenant.  Its relevance will be determined by whether or not Akinola and company have the patience to wait it out.  If they pull out prior to Lambeth, its relevance will diminish.  If not, they will continue to demand a more confessional and central authoritarian church rather than a relational Communion.  (I reject the dichotomy of Communion and Federation presented by many Conservatives– that is language that represents very limited thinking.)

4)  If Akinola and co. pull out, then the churches in the U.S. willing to pull out and be non-Anglican in the U.S. will be far fewer and the schism will be far less dramatic.  How many will be willing separate if that means losing their Anglican identity?  But Akinola may be willing to leave the Communion if he can put together enough support in the Communion so that he is the Archbishop/Pope of that group.  Or maybe he’ll go to Rome.  Who knows.

In the end, TEC will maintain its authenticity in identity and allow the Communion to make its own judgments, trusting in the power of the Spirit to effect transformtion where needed, not that we won’t do our part to offer ourselves up in relationship along the way.  Ultimately that is what Christ did, and he was crucified for it– so there aren’t always happy endings.  But even from that death God created new life, so sometimes it is necessary to go through our own transformation in order to do what God calls us to do.  Who knows if this is one of those times.  As long as we hold ourselves up in our authentic faith, all we can do is say, “My father, let this cup pass away from me, yet not as I will but as you will.”  The rest is about trust in the very God we hold ourselves out to be serving.



24 Responses to “The Newest U.S. Bishop”

  1. obadiahslope Says:

    Actually the Archbishop of Canterbury is spending time in Asia. He gave a fascinating talk on the churches in china which is well woth a read.

  2. Jeff Says:

    Didn’t mean to imply he wasn’t going other places – but he’s spent a lot of time in Africa the last few years and this is the first time he’s spent any time in North America since the whole “crisis” began– which seems fairly odd to me.

    Will take a look at the talk.


  3. John 2007 Says:

    That you don’t see the simplicity of his actions–probably b/c you see things only politically and not theologically–is amazing.+Akinola is seeing that pastoral care, episcopal oversight,and sound teaching (the mark of Bishops that we have jettisoned for the most part) are given to distressed members of the communion. It’s not that big of a deal, and certainly, hardly an affront to God. As for him ‘imposing’ or ignoring ‘cultural contexts’ . . .all of this is beside the point, apart from being silly. Go read CS Lewis’ Great Divorce, the chapter about the Bishop with, let’s say, an alternative theology. It might help.

  4. Jeff Says:

    John 2007,

    What an interesting comment: that I see things politically and not theologically.

    How are the “jettisoned bishops” giving appropriate pastoral care and oversight to the GLBT persons under their jurisdiction? How is Akinola giving appropriate pastoral care to GLBT persons in Nigeria when he recommends legislation that would incarcerate people just for talking about the issues?

    That, my friend, is theological. There was no distinction between the theological and the political in Jesus’ time and it is easy to see why. These kinds of peace and justice issues are so easily wrapped up into power dynamics, and in our society issues of power dynamics are called “political” — especially by those wielding the power. They are deeply theological. The gospel of Mark especially speaks to issues of power.

    The fact that you think the cultural context is beside the point or silly is particularly relevant if you don’t see the theological point I have made. Contextual theology is all about the context.

    In his book, Models of Contextual Theology (1992), Stephen B. Bevans defines contextual theology “as a way of doing theology in which one takes into account the spirit and message of the gospel; the tradition of the church; the culture in which one is theologizing; and social change within that culture, whether brought about by western technological process or the grass-roots struggle for equality, justice and liberation” (p.1).

    That’s the best way to do theology in a rapidly shrinking global, post-modern world.


  5. obadiahslope Says:

    If I were the ABofC I would spend my time with the poorer nations of the world. He’s following Jesus’ example, in giving little time to the centre of the empire.

  6. Jeff Says:

    Absolutely, no question.

    I haven’t heard him say that he thinks we ought to be focused on mission, though.

    And Jesus was focused on reconciliation, too. And relationships. It is hard to reconcile and be in relationship when you’ve never bothered to meet the people whom you are accusing of something. My point is that he may have figured that out now.


  7. obadiahslope Says:

    Somewhere I read, that the TEC’s General Convention vies with the Russian parliament as the largest legislative body in the world. Sooner or later the idea that the Archbishop of Canterbury has to connect with the whole of the extensive legislative aparatus of TEC in order to function comes up against the difficulty that it is impossible for him to know everyone. The same applies to the TEC house of bishops. The ABC simply cannot get to know all the 800 or so diocesan bishops in the communion. (And as a side note notice how overbishoped the TEC is in comparison with the communion.)
    I found it odd that the ABC was asked to visit only the TEC HoB when a lot of the argument within TEC has been that only the general convention can speak for TEC. Be that as it may, the ABC is going to visit your HoB, and for all i know members of your Executive Committee may be there as well. I hope that the TEC can put together an alternative to the DES PV scheme if it desires to have such a scheme, and an answer to the questions from DES which essentially asked what does B033 mean?

  8. Jeff Says:

    Come on obadiah, that’s a lot of fluff. Sometimes you and I just don’t seem to understand each other at all.

    You know I’m not asking him to come to 800 individual bishops houses for Sunday dinner after church, nor am I proposing that he must meet every deputy in the house of deputies at cocktail hour.

    But he is now going to spend time with the HOB– the only house of General Convention able to meet before the deadline– and that is entirely my point. Something has changed, because he didn’t want to for a long time. He refused to come here– he said his schedule was too full. The winds are shifting, though, and now an opening has suddenly come up on his schedule.

    The earlier point is simply that if there is fighting on a couple of different sides of your family and you see it as your job to keep it together, then you’d better go and talk to at least some people on both sides if you think you’re going to be able to pull that off. Of course you don’t have to talk to every single person in the whole entire family, but it helps if you talk to the key players on both sides. For too long the conversation has been one sided. It seems that he’s going to finally establish a relationship with some more voices. It sure took a long time, but its going to happen. That’s all.

    I’m not sure why this is upsetting you so? Surely you agree that he changed his policy from not meeting with the U.S. church to meeting with it?


  9. obadiahslope Says:

    I think we agree that meeting with the HoB, in plenary, won’t be the solution, but meeting with some key representatives of TEC may help. Where we may disagree is your statement that the conversation has been one sided. I have no particular brief for the ABC in this matter but as far as am aware neither one of us has access to a list of who the ABC has met. Has he met more often with +Griswold and +Jefferts Schori than +Duncan? Almost certainly in my view as the two presiding bishops have been at all the Primates and ACC meetings and Duncan at best has been outside the gates. So unless you have evidence that US dissidents have been getting to see the ABC more than the leaders of TEC yiour accusation that the converstaion has been onesided totters.
    yes the ABC has decided to come to a meeting of the Us HoB. Hardly a matter of policy though -unless you have evidence he has been less diligent visiting the US than other provinces. He has not visited the Australian bishops as a HoB as far as I am aware. he has given a couple of lectures here and has met with various leaders from time to time – similar i suspect to most provinces.

  10. Jeff Says:

    Yes, we’re getting closer to agreement.

    The “two sides”, as I’ve put it (unfortunately very polemically), mean in my case not different parties within the TEC, but within the Anglican Communion. The ABC has already spent time in Africa with those Primates trying to cast out the Episcopal Church, but not spent time in the United States with the object of all the attention.

    As we’ve discussed, the parties in the U.S. who want to leave TEC and have legitimate cause to feel oppressed are small. Are they worthy of some attention? Yes. But they are getting much more attention then is proportionate to their number. I just attended a diocesan meeting yesterday, and there was one person present out of about sixty who wanted to talk only about schism. Everyone else wanted to talk about the mission of God. Should we have refocused all of our attention on his needs? I hope not. His needs are more appropriate to meet in a different setting.


  11. obadiahslope Says:

    Are you saying the ABC has not visited the US during his term of office? If you are referring to his attending a CAPA meeting in taliking about time with african primates, there were primates there arguing that TEC should not be cast out – for example the Primate of Southern Africa and the previous primate of the Middle East.
    In my diocese I could say – to borrow the way you cast things – that the one or two Liberal parishes want to talk about their discontent and the rest of us want to talk about the mission of God. I doubt that I would want to be that offensive though. And we give minorities time to raise things at diocesan meetings, because that is democratic.
    Yes, I take your point that dissidents should not hijack a meeting. But I would trust that your bishop or diocesan council will have good channels of communication with the minority faction. This takes time and effort – and the majority faction in either case whether conservative or progressive will feel that dissidents get more attention than they deserve.
    I observe that you have acknowledged in your post that there are those in TEC who have “legitimate cause to feel oppressed ” even though their numbers are small.
    What efforts do you think TEC, perhaps locally. should make to keep them in?

  12. D Hamilton Says:


    You seem to equate meeting with Primates and meeting with TEC Bishops. Two different animals, Primates have standing as …. well ….as Primates, Bishops do not. Primates pastor bishops and bishops pastor their dioceses. The good ABC has met with the North American Primates, probably talked with them even more (remember those phone calls during GC?). TEC Bishops seem to think a bit much of themselves, particularly considering the size of their flocks.


  13. Jeff Says:

    Obadiah –

    I don’t know whether +++Rowan has visited the U.S. since his term started, but I’m fairly sure he hasn’t visited since 2003.

    And I haven’t done a thorough analysis, but I’m pretty sure that he has made several trips to Nigeria and other Provinces who are “unhappy” with the U.S.

    On the diocesan stuff within the U.S., this was a Diocese of Texas affair– a pretty moderate to conservative diocese. The meeting was a strategic planning meeting, and the person I referenced was focused on preventing liberals from making any headway as opposed to the “mission of God,” so he was in the minority. Of course, this was not the full diocese but the Austin Convocation of the Diocese, which is more liberal than the rest of the Diocese. Perhaps I will write a post on the whole affair, but the way you are representing it is not indicative of the way I experienced the event. He certainly was more intent on using the event for political gain than I would say the others were on ensuring that he didn’t have a place to be heard. He was given airtime. There just weren’t many there who agreed with him that the vision needed to focus exclusively on same-sex marriage and the Anglican Communion. That frustrated him. But that doesn’t mean that his parish isn’t free to support his views anyway. And I’m positive that the Diocese of Texas will support him in that.


  14. Jeff Says:

    D –

    I’m not quite sure what to make of your comments.

    I’m glad the ABC is coming here, not primarily because he is meeting with the HOB but because he will put his feet on the ground in the very place of the “dispute.” The HOB meeting is important, but one of many factors that will bring attention to the context of our situation.

    Just as he spoke at a theological institution in Canada when he went, a trip of this magnitude introduces him to much more than just the prescribed agenda, and that gives everyone a broader view than just the prescribed interaction.

    I don’t agree with your characterization of the bishops thinking a bit much of themselves, and descriptions of roles which fit far too much of ancient patriarchy and authority/power structures which are not applicable in our polity. The HOB made this quite clear in their statement from Camp Allen, particularly with references to our formation out of the British Revolution– our own post-colonial formation, which broke the tradition of governmental power and authority placed in unchecked episcopal power, and the separation of the episcopate from the government and the crown.

    Our polity does not give bishops nor the primate the authority to unilaterally “shepard” the flock in the way I think you imply. The bishop shares that responsibility with the standing committee, although too many dioceses let the old patriarchal system stand.

    Our primate does not shepard the bishops; she is not an archbishop. As has been discussed in many places and at many times, our polity is a big part of this cultural disconnect, and even within our own province there are those who are largely invested in maintaining the power structures of old.


  15. D Hamilton Says:

    Hmmmmm …… with your description, TEC Bishops are even less relevant. They’re sort of like chearleaders who think the football game was created to have something to watch in between their cheers.

    Interesting how you expanded my comment to mean something I didn’t say. TEC’s primate is the chief pastor of the HOB and Bishops are the chief pastor of their dioceses. If this is not true, then what’s the deal with all the alternative oversight?

    My word ‘flock’ is a reference to the size of the dioceses, particularly the anemic ASA many bishops tell us means little, all is well, and only a few are disgruntled.

  16. obadiahslope Says:

    here’s a transcript from a BBC radio program posted on the ABC’s official website:
    “Transcript of Archbishop’s interview on climate change with the Today programme

    29th March 2006

    “The debate over climate change has moved sharply over the years – it began with a relatively small group of scientists saying the world was getting dangerously hot, and the sceptics saying that there was nothing to worry about. …. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who happens to be in the United States at the moment, has been talking to our environment correspondent Roger Harrabin”.”

    And here is the begining of a speech given in Washington.

    “‘Analysing Atheism; Unbelief and the world of Faiths’
    Georgetown University, Washington DC

    Monday 29 March 2004

    In the year 156 of the Christian era, Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, was arrested and brought before the magistrate, charged with being a Christian… …”

    You can get a fair picture of where he has been looking at the record of his speeches and statement. So two visits to the US since 2003. I would say the US has done a lot better than many other provinces in terms of visits from the ABC.

  17. Jeff Says:

    Obadiah –

    That’s great, and good to know.

    I wonder why it was so hard, then, for him to accept the invitation to meet with the HOB?


  18. Jeff Says:

    D –

    The deal with the alternative oversight is twofold:

    1) there are many dioceses which haven’t made it out of the patriarchal power system, and truly do have vestiges of the client/patron system with the Bishop at the center of the power hierarchy. Those may have legitimate concerns– but even than more likely not because the more progressive the diocese the more likely power is to be decentralized; and

    2) there are those who are grumbling about alternative oversight who are unhappy with the theological direction of TEC who have not had any real impact on their daily worship but would seize any opportunity they can to grab power and upset the apple cart


  19. obadiahslope Says:

    Bishop Paul Marshall might say ithat in your words it was ‘so hard’ for hime to accept the HoB’s invitation, but that is not how the ABC has described the interaction.
    Setting up the meeting was never going to be instant because TEc and the ABC needed to iron out some issues. Not difficult in themselves, but would have required discussion.
    a) was the ABC to come to a special meeting of the HoB or a regularly scheduled one?
    b)did the HoB want to have the ABCs input late in their discussions towards the September deadline or earlier?
    c) what sort of a meeting would work best – observing the HoB in session or holding a retreat with them as with the Canadians?
    d) Should the meeting include the Exec Committee of TEC GC, to better reflect the polity of TEC?
    e) Would the bishops be telling the ABC in advance about any proposals so he could give considered feedback?
    f)Exactly who did the HoB request should come with the ABC, and when wre they available?
    It took a few weeks to sort these sort of things out. I am sure there were more that I have not thought of.

  20. Jeff Says:

    Yes, yes, but that’s too specific.

    Again, the ABC sent many representatives to official meetings earlier. Why didn’t he come to an executive meeting before, or invite the executive committee to Lambeth?

    I understand that at times some meetings are better left carried out “under the radar.”

    But the lack of publicity about any meetings he may have had on the trips you mentioned leaves one with the impression that he wasn’t trying very hard– while the publicity around the African trips was centered more around the “crisis” and official press releases were made.

    It just doesn’t leave a very balanced feel.

    Nonetheless, all of this digresses from the point, which is that my take– which I acknoweldge is only a take and one which you very well probably disagree with– is that momentum is changing.


  21. obadiahslope Says:

    Oh Jeff,
    I quoted his official press releases about the visits he made to the states. He has clearly visited the US more often than many other provinces. He had +NH to visit at Lambeth and put out a press release. If I sat and googled all the members of the Executive council I am sure some will have visited Lambeth in the last few years. And now you want him at executive council meetings as well as the House of Bishops. While I am very distant from the ABC theologically as well as geographically i am starting to feel very sorry for him.
    On the issue of momentum, and the future of the communion I am clear about only one thing: that i don’t know what is going to happen. Call it epistemological humility, call it living a long way away or invincible ignorance, but I just don’t know.
    You may be right about momentum, but i don’t have the tools to measure it. I am a nortoriously bad predictor of this stuff. I hope your track record is better than mine it could hardly be worse.

  22. Jeff Says:

    You know, its funny. I said as explicitly as I could in my post my predictions were “just for fun” and that they were not based on “anything I could articulate.”

    But here we are arguing about them anyway.

    I will concede that there is really nothing to argue about.

    It is just a gut feeling. They’ve been wrong before. They’ve been right before. I can’t quantify it. But my ear to the ground just is picking up less anti-TEC rhetoric in the broader communion. And, as I’ve said, there are folks who are far better at it than me.

    That satisfies me, but in the end it makes no difference. What the Spirit does, she will do. So I think we’ve both been a bit argumentative about something that really makes little difference, agree?


  23. obadiahslope Says:

    Yep, I agree. Your gut feelings, my lack-of-gut-feelings don’t amount to much do they?

  24. Chip Says:


    A consecration did *not* occur earlier this month. Bishop Minns was consecrated in Nigeria last August. He already has been acting as missionary bishop for CANA in America. He was *installed* this month.

    Peace of Christ,

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