Minns to CCP: My way or the highway?

Last September, representatives of several Anglican organizations—continuing Anglican jurisdictions, organizations still technically within the Episcopal Church such as Forward in Faith and the Anglican Communion Network, the Reformed Episcopal Church, the AMiA, and CANA—came together to approve a statement and a set of articles for the Common Cause Partnership. This has been seen by many as the first step in creating a new, united North American Anglican province (jurisdiction, structure, organization, happy hour club, whatever) that would eventually displace the Episcopal Church, either through direct action or by default as TEC increasingly shrinks into insignificance.

The agreed statement included the following (emphasis mine):

4. Those presently-participating bodies which have not yet joined the Common Cause Partnership will decide at the next meeting of their legislative bodies, either to enter the Partnership or leave full membership in Common Cause, becoming observer bodies. It is expected that all presently-participating bodies will be able to enter the Partnership.
5. We will work together on the regional and local levels and avail ourselves of the various ministries of the Common Cause Partners. We will deploy clergy interchangeably as outlined in the Articles of the Partnership. We are free to invite our fellow bishops in this College to share episcopal acts and our sacramental life.

The articles of the partnership were followed by three appendices. The third, a list of outstanding problems to be addressed in the near future and entitled “Issues for the Lead Bishops Roundtable” included the following:

How we will live together with bishops and congregations and dioceses that do ordain women and others that do not ordain women, affirming that we will not violate anyone’s conscience on this matter.

The CCP, in other words, started out with a noble goal but immediately faced the 800 pound gorilla. All of the “presently-participating bodies” were “expected” to “be able to enter the partnership” and even “deploy clergy interchangeably” but did not, at that moment, know how that would be possible since some bodies “ordained” women, while others did not.

With unity as a goal, and knowing that as a matter of conscience and theological conviction some of those bodies participating would not, could not, ever “ordain” women, you would think that, at this early stage of formation, when the least bump could upset a very shaky apple-cart, caution would be the order of the day when it came to this contentious issue. In particular, you would think that CANA, representing itself as it does as a mission of the Church of Nigeria, which does not “ordain” women, would show restraint at this delicate moment.

You would be wrong. Enter +Martyn Minns, the leader of CANA.

Months ago, the CANA website had the following to say about its position on women’s “ordination”:

Q16. What is CANA’s position on women’s ordination?
CANA recognizes that there are differing theological positions in the Anglican Communion about women in ordained ministry. CANA acknowledges the integrity of those who understand Holy Scripture to permit the ordination of women to the priesthood and those who believe the Scripture prohibits women’s ordination. Because of the differing positions, CANA policies regarding the ordination of women will be developed from a biblical and pastoral perspective. This is a matter that is being actively pursued by the CANA clergy and lay leadership.

This statement is still on the CANA site, but it may have been rendered, in the immortal phrase of Ron Ziegler, “inoperative.”

In his “Pastoral Call to the CANA Council 2007” of December 6, Bishop Minns declared

• We will keep our promise to honor both integrities within CANA and fulfill our commitment to the full participation of women, in the life and leadership of the church. We will seek to do so in such a manner that both those who are unable to support the ordination of women and those who embrace it will know that their position has been honored.

• We will continue to accept applications from qualified congregations and female clergy with the expectation that women clergy will be licensed to continue their ministry within CANA. We will request permission of the Church of Nigeria to ordain appropriately qualified women candidates to the diaconate within CANA as soon as possible.

• We will continue to look to a task force to continue work on this issue. We will expect them to develop a unified recommendation regarding ways in which we maintain our commitment to both integrities and at the same time provide the necessary theological framework pastoral procedures and canonical provision for the ordination of qualified women to the presbyterate within CANA.

As I have written elsewhere, just substitute “pluriform truths” for “both integrities” and “LGBT people” for “women,” and there is not a word in this statement that could not have been written by, say, Frank Griswold.

Too harsh, you say? Consider this from an interview with Griswold in 2004 (emphasis mine):

I’ve had the advantage of being able to travel to other parts of the world. I’ve been to Nigeria, where I gave a retreat to the bishops of Nigeria and visited a number of dioceses and saw the work and understood some of the complexities of life there. And the same is true also in Uganda. And therefore, I’m very aware of how different the contexts are in which, let’s say, the Anglican Church in Nigeria or Uganda is seeking to interpret and live the Gospel. And then in contrast, I’m very aware of different realities that are present here in the United States. And in fact, one of the primates, not from a Western country, said to me, “I think the Holy Spirit can do different things in different places.”

Now compare that with this from Bishop Minns’ Pastoral Call, coming just a few paragraphs before his “proposal”:

Ordination is not only a response to God’s call on an individual but it is also an action of the church. At this time the Church of Nigeria, to which we owe canonical obedience, has no provision for the ordination of women although there has been acceptance of women in the order of deacons. At their most recent gathering the Church of Nigeria’s General Synod tabled discussion about ordination of women to a future date. Archbishop Peter Akinola has stated that while he supports this action he recognizes that there needs to be freedom for CANA to take a different direction because of its North American context. In light of this commitment to embrace both integrities we have received applications from congregations and female clergy with the expectation that women clergy will be licensed to continue their ministry.

Ah, yes. It all depends on “context.” Sound familiar?

The next meeting, in fact, of the Common Cause Partnership is December 18. I find it impossible to believe that the timing of Bishop Minns’ proposal, coming less than two weeks before the CCP gathers to examine, among other things, how to deal with this problem, is just a coincidence. It has all the smell of a pre-emptive strike. And calls to “honor” “both integrities” ought to ring hollow to anyone familiar with the last thirty-plus years of the Episcopal Church. The honest thing for Bishop Minns to have said would be “I have decided [ed. note—moved by the Spirit, no doubt] that women can be ordained as priests and that’s what I am recommending. Don’t like it? Join the AMiA or the REC or someone else.” But no, we get the same old dreary song and dance. We’ll “honor” you, so long as you accept priestesses and die off while everyone else wises up.

But it isn’t only the Common Cause that Bishop Minns is betraying. How about his own church? In the same Pastoral Call, he writes

In anticipation of this Council I appointed a task force under the leadership of Archdeacon Adedokun Adewunmi and the Rev’d Bill Haley to prepare recommendations as to next steps. The members of the task force included advocates of widely differing perspectives. They are working on a number of possible ways in which we can move forward as a united community while recognizing both integrities. I have asked that they be available to discuss their deliberations with members of this Council. They acknowledge that while they have not yet come to one mind as to a recommended direction they have made enormous progress in the time that they have worked together.

So even CANA has not come to a common mind, but hey, let’s “ordain” women anyway?

Sounds to me like CANA should have stayed in Diocese of Virginia. It would have saved everyone a lot of pain and trouble.


15 Responses to “Minns to CCP: My way or the highway?”

  1. Katherine Says:

    It does look like a preemptive move. What I’m hoping for is that, in this new body with people who, presumably, all accept the Creeds as true in more than just the philosophical sense, but actually true, and who all have a high view of the authority of Scripture, that the arguments traditionalists make against the ordination of women will carry more weight. In fact, what I’m hoping is that Our Side will win in the long run, not only in Common Cause North America, but in the Anglican Communion or whatever portion of it survives.

    What other choices do we have?

  2. Truth Unites...and Divides Says:

    “But it isn’t only the Common Cause that Bishop Minns is betraying. How about his own church?”

    Yikes!! That’s pretty strong stuff there IRNS! It wasn’t that long ago that +Minns had a big bishopric consecration with ++Akinola and other Anglican luminaries in attendance that was widely celebrated.

    And yet months later, you take him to the back of the woodshed! As you know, I fully agree with your stance regarding WO. And I’d also have to agree with you that +Minns’ statements are deeply troubling.

    Yet I wonder if it is possible for you to express your serious reservations without reference to a double betrayal by Minns? That seems rather harsh and bruising.

  3. a visitor Says:

    Amen, IRNS. It’s incredibly saddening and frustrating that +Minns seems intent on a course of action that can only lead to the breakup of Common Cause before it ever gets off the ground. How can he denounce ECUSA’s unilateralism in the Anglican Communion while doing the same thing in Common Cause?

  4. Moot Says:

    I’m no fan of WO. But I think we have to recognize that we have pro-WO brothers and sisters suffering for the sake of Christ, and it behooves us to jump in their foxholes, and fight along side of them.

    Look – I’ll say it: The -original- battle over WO was lost a long time ago. The battle lines have shifted to other issues – antinomianism, the authority of Scripture, and creedal subscription, to name a few. The best that can be hoped for, is to fight the battles that we have now, win them decicively, and return to the WO thing later.

    Yes, it will still be there. Oh boy, will it still be there.

    In the meantime, what do we do as parishoners? You draw a line in the sand, and don’t cross it. That line for me, personally, stops at the gender of my rector.

    CANA too soft? Then, go AMiA.
    Still too soft? Go REC or Continuing.
    Still too ..something or other? Then, consider Lutheran, or Reformed, or Baptist, or Rome, or Antioch.

    I know it sucks. But sometimes, that’s part of life in the Church-Militant.

    It’s a war. We’re at war.

  5. tired Says:

    I vaguely remember some commentary at the time that the CCP cross deployment would only apply to recognizable clergy for the jurisdiction.

    According to CCP Article 10.3:

    “The Clergy of the several Partners shall be entitled to officiate transiently in the congregations of other Partners, subject to the canonical requirements of these Partners, and shall also be eligible to hold a cure of souls in them, subject to the respective regulations of said entities.”

    Thus, a jurisdiction would not be obligated to accept female priests from CANA.

    CANA’s embrace of WO ensures that CCP can never coalesce all the entities into a single body – it would likely coalesce into at least two bodies. Of course, female bishops would cause further problems – though, for the time being, it would be unlikely as the bishops are supposed to be members of the Nigerian HoB.

  6. Phil Says:

    There’s one thing that’s indisputable: the validity of orders of male priests is not questioned by anyone; the validity of orders of female priests is questioned by many. The former is inherently unifying; the latter is inherently divisive.

    The only way I can explain the motivation of those that pursue the divisive path anyway is that they have a secular agenda that trumps all else, just as Integrity, etc. have a secular agenda that trumps all else. As this philosophy has proven to be highly corrosive to even a two-hundred-year-old, once-mainline ecclesial institution, it seems positively reckless to inject it into a newborn organization that hasn’t matured to the point of putting a parish listing on its website.

  7. David Mathus+ Says:

    WO raises so many questions–biblical, theological, historical, and so on–and, for those of us who oppose it, questions of vaidity of sacraments and all things necessary for salvation, that it is absolutely impossible for many to submit to Bp. Minns’ ‘shock and awe’ tactics. Whatever happened to the idea from subapostolic times that the bishop is a symbol of the unity of the Church? If Bp Minns is an example of the unity of the new Anglican province in North America, then that province is already doomed.

  8. Chris Jones Says:


    The -original- battle over WO was lost a long time ago.

    Pardon me for being blunt, but this is a rather silly thing to say. If a body of Christians makes a wrong decision, are they forever barred from repenting of that wrong decision? Just because a mistake was made “a long time ago,” does that make it anything other than a mistake?

    Yes, the battle over WO was lost; but the instructive question is, why was it lost? It was lost because ECUSA decided the issue based on secular political considerations, treating it as a so-called “justice issue.” It was not decided by recourse to the Holy Scriptures, understood according to the interpretive framework provided by the Apostolic Tradition. If it had been decided on that basis, the decision surely would have gone the other way.

    With the Common Cause partnership, the players are different now. The participants in Common Cause are precisely those who have left ECUSA because they can no longer tolerate politics trumping the Gospel. They are those who claim the mantle of Christian orthodoxy, who are unwilling to use the Scriptures as a prop to a political agenda, but instead find in the Scriptures the message and the teaching that the Apostolic Church has always found there.

    If ever there was a time when a Christian body could revisit and repent of a wrong decision, this is it. There is no basis in Scripture, understood in the context of Tradition, for the ordination of women. There was no such basis in 1976 and there is not now. I hope that Bp Minns and others involved with Common Cause will have the wisdom to see that they were wrong and the courage to admit it and repent of it. Otherwise they are allowing the politics of the 1970s to trump the Gospel, even if they are unwilling to do the same with the politics of the 2000s.

  9. Alice C. Linsley Says:

    Until people better understand the Priesthood from its origins, they will not understand why women can’t be priests. The priesthood of Christ’s Church emerges out of the Afro-Asiatic worldview. Indeed Messiah’s appearing, death and resurrection makes no sense historically, symbolically or in any other way without the priesthood.

    Where there are priests there is sacred law. The priest is to be an embodiment of sacred law. Jesus, our great high Priest, fulfills all sacred law. The oldest sacred law involves gender roles. I imagine God planned this to avoid the soul-destroying unisex approach advocated by TEC.

  10. a visitor Says:

    Another consideration: Isn’t CANA subject to the Church of Nigeria’s canon law? If so, it seems that +Minns is in blatant violation of it.

  11. Davis Says:

    “As I have written elsewhere, just substitute “pluriform truths” for “both integrities” and “LGBT people” for “women,” and there is not a word in this statement that could not have been written by, say, Frank Griswold.”

    I actually posted a spoof of the speech with substitutions similar to what you suggest on my blog Apologetics Galore. I have been out of the posting business for some time so I am sure no one has seen it. If you would like to look it is here:

    As an APA layman most people I’ve talked with are almost ready to throw in the towel on the CCP if it cannot begin to take on a truly united and substantive approach to unity.
    The APA is small but growing but I doubt it will continue to do so if it were give up its clarity and stability for the permanent ambiguity that the CANA and other CCP partners seem hell bent on maintaining.

  12. Phil Says:

    IRNS, have you tried the internet archive as a way of recovering at least some articles:
    http://web.archive.org/ (and enter your old URL)

  13. Moot Says:

    Hi Chris,

    I agree that it must be open again, at some point. However, I’d have to say that I agree with the ‘Dolphinatrix’ that the present generation of Pro-WO folks aren’t going to accept a flat-out moratorium. While you and I might see WO as divisive, they see rejection of WO the exact same way.

    I do think that ++Minns would do well to consider a course of action that is most attractive (as opposed to least repugnant), and tractable to both sides. To that end, I’ve submitted an amateurish proposal over on SF.

    At some point, this debate will have to be raised, again. Think about it – it’s an innovation that occurred between Pike, and the Present. It’s in everyone’s interest (Pro-WO folks, most of all) to have the question settled, once and for all.

    The nice thing about the present crisis, is that those castigated by TEC (both pro and against WO), have had to take another hard look exegetical practices, the authority of Scripture, the Fall, and (last but not least) Creational distinctives. All of these factors also enter into the debate on WO. All of them – and the debate is going to be different than it was before, since the ‘conservatives’ who are also pro-WO, have laid claim to the authority of Scripture. They reason differently than Robinson, Spong et al.

    I really have no more power over my pro-WO brothers than I do needy family members not of my household. The best I can do for both groups, is lend my support when they need it, and pray that God will change them.

    But like I said, I have to draw the line, somewhere. As do you.

    The rest is in God’s capable Hands.

    Peace and Favor,
    – Moot

  14. Idetrorce Says:

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

  15. Allen Lewis Says:

    I was very disappointed with +Minss statement. It does seems that it was in the manner of a pre-emptive strike. Whether +Iker and +Ackerman can get +Martyn to see the error of his ways remains to be seen. We can only hope and pray.

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