The leadership of the Episcopalian Church of the United States is upset over the pending installation this weekend of a bishop to head a parallel conservative denomination.
The presiding bishop of the Episcopalian Church, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, has demanded that Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola not install the new bishop to head the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA).
Archbishop Akinola is scheduled to install Bishop Martyn Minns, 64, on May 5 as the head of CANA. However, in an attempt to downplay his presence, Archbishop Akinola is neither giving the main sermon nor appearing at any press conferences, reported The Washington Times.
CANA is considered to be an offshoot of the Nigerian church and a conservative alternative for Episcopalians who still want to remain in the worldwide Anglican Communion but not in the more liberal Episcopalian Church of the United States.
The Episcopalian Diocese of Virginia alone lost 11 parishes — about 9,000 people — to CANA last winter. Currently, CANA consists of about 30 to 35 churches.
Archbishop Akinola will be accompanied by four other Nigerian bishops for the installation. Bishop Minns was already consecrated as a bishop Aug. 20 in Abuja, Nigeria.
The installation will be at the Hylton Memorial Chapel in Woodbridge, Virginia. According to Bishop Minns, the nondenominational 3,500-seat chapel was selected as the venue for Saturday's ceremony so as not to antagonize the diocese, but the Episcopalian leadership remains riled.
"Such action [the installation] would violate the ancient customs of the church" in terms of the sacrosanct boundaries of individual bishops,” Bishop Jefferts Schori wrote in the letter to Archbishop Akinola. The latter does not have permission to minister within the geographical boundaries that are not his own, she noted.
Furthermore, wrote Bishop Jefferts Schori, "such action would not help the efforts of reconciliation that are taking place in the Episcopal Church and in the Anglican Communion as a whole. Such action would display to the world division and disunity that are not part of the mind of Christ, which we must strive to display to all."
Some Episcopal leaders say Bishop Minns' installation is the beginning of an effort by the Nigerian Church to replace the Episcopal Church with a conservative alternative.
The Nigerian bishops have announced that they will name more CANA bishops in September.