Friday, September 29, 2006

Bp. Minns to be Licensed by Bp. Lee

We have previously discussed the unusual situation regarding Martyn Minns, the rector of Truro Episcopal Church in the diocese of Virginia, who was consecrated a bishop in the Church of Nigeria on Aug. 20. His intention to be both a Nigerian bishop and the Rector of a parish in TEC seemed outrageous to some of us, including Bp. Lee of Virginia:

...Virginia Bishop Peter J. Lee, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, has called Mr. Minns' election "an affront," adding that it would be "impossible" for Mr. Minns to act simultaneously as rector of Truro and as a bishop for the Nigerian church's Convocation of Anglican Churches in North America (CANA)...
It appears the impossible has happened. Martyn Minns has sent out the following letter to the members of Truro Church:

For the past month we have been in conversation with Bishop Lee regarding my ministry here at Truro during this critical time of transition. Our goal has been to find a way to both honor the Vestry’s desire for me to continue to exercise the duties of Rector and the Bishop’s understandable concerns about the canonical challenge that this presents. I am delighted to let you know that we have agreed on a way forward.

As you all know, Truro has been engaged in a search process for a new Rector with the goal of issuing a call by the first quarter of 2007. On August 20, when I was consecrated as Bishop of the Church of Nigeria to serve as a missionary bishop for CANA (Convocation of Anglicans in North America) I ceased to have canonical residence in the Diocese of Virginia. In order to allow me to continue to exercise the duties of Rector I now require a license from the Bishop of Virginia. This has been granted and so will allow me to continue my ministry among you during this critical phase of our life together.

As part of the agreement, I have assured Bishop Lee that I will not perform any “episcopal acts” within the boundaries of the Diocese of Virginia through January 1, 2007. In other words, I will respect his jurisdiction and not conduct confirmations or ordinations in Virginia during this time.

I am very grateful for Bishop Lee’s generosity in making these rather unusual arrangements and pleased that we have found a way forward that brings glory to God and honors His Church.

Your brother in Christ,
At first glance, this seems like a mistake to me. But, Bishop Lee is the authority in Virginia. He is the one who knows the pastoral needs and canonical necessities of the situation the best. He can license whomever he chooses. I will certainly honor his decision, and commend him for a graceful response to a difficult situation.

Martyn Minns' promise to respect Bp. Lee's jurisdiction through the end of the year is also commendable, although one does wonder why this grace period was extended for only 90 days. Will Truro have a new rector by then, meaning that the license will no longer be in effect? Does this mean that as of January, 2007 Minns will no longer feel obligated to honor Bp. Lee's jurisdiction?

I hope the positive aspects of this arrangement are not lost on us. To be honest, I had not expected Minns to request to be licensed by Lee. It is not unusual for priests or bishops from other dioceses, or other provinces, to be licensed to serve. The particular situation is rather unique, but the solution is not setting any new precedents.

I caution us all to avoid the temptation to slip into a modern form of Donatism. The validity of the sacrament does not depend on the moral character of the priest or bishop. If we consider Holy Orders a sacrament, then regardless of our opinions of the moral character of Abp. Peter Akinola or Martyn Minns, we have no choice but to recognize Minns as a Bishop in the Anglican Church of Nigeria.

I have been remiss in this, making the same error that Bonnie Anderson chastized the Global South for in regards to Bp. Jefferts Schori. From this point on, I will attempt to honor the office by referring to the Rector of Truro as Bishop Martyn Minns.

Pray for the Diocese of Virginia. Pray for the Church.


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