Thinking Anglicans

What happened to the Nigerian chaplaincy?

On the CANA website, Martyn Minns says the following:

…It’s a little known fact that Nigerians have a significant presence in the US-many are doctors, communications professionals, and successful business people-and a large segment of these Nigerians are Anglican Christians. For a while, the Anglican Church of Nigeria attempted to work with Presiding Bishop Griswold and ECUSA dioceses to meet the pastoral needs of these Anglican Nigerians in the US.

But, ECUSA proved over and over again that it was unwilling to respect the faith of Anglican Nigerians by its divisive actions. One of these actions was that ECUSA unilateraly sacked the former Nigerian chaplain appointed to care for Anglican Nigerians in this country, the Rev. Canon Gordon Okunsanya. So, we can really say that ECUSA itself made the creation of CANA necessary. Necessity is truly the mother of invention.

Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria attempted to meet the needs of Anglican Nigerians in this country himself. But, he soon realized that maintaining a vital mission in the US could not be sustained without the presence of a domestic church structure and a local bishop. Thus, my election as CANA’s missionary bishop.

Archbishop Akinola is also well aware of the pastoral crisis that ECUSA has caused for Anglicans of all races and ethnicities in the US. And so, he is committed to seeing that CANA is welcoming of everyone-whether they’re from Nigeria or not-who believe in the uniqueness of Jesus the Messiah, the authority of the Bible in our lives, and the historic faith of the Anglican tradition…

Also Archbishop Peter Akinola himself says this elsewhere on the site:

Several of our Nigerian clergy in America have been informed they can no longer work in an Episcopal diocese or have had their funding cut. Finally, the unilateral dismissal by the Presiding Bishop of the Chaplain we had jointly appointed to minister to Nigerian congregations illustrates the extent of the brokenness of our relationship and underlines the need to provide alternative structures for episcopal and pastoral care.

Last night, Patrick Mauney who was formerly ECUSA’s director of Anglican and global relations commented here on TA, as follows:

I cannot let pass unchallenged the statement on the CANA website by Canon Minns that TEC “unilaterally sacked the former Nigerian chaplain” who had been appointed to look after Nigerian Anglican expats in the U.S., and that by this action had made the formation of CANA necessary. This is untrue. I know, because until my retirement the end of 2004, I was the Presiding Bishop’s deputy for Anglican relations and responsible for oversight of TEC’s share of the Nigerian Anglican chaplaincy jointly established by Bishop Griswold and Abp Akinola.

The truth is that the chaplain had overspent his budget and further expenses on his part were disallowed until income was sufficient. The chaplain chose to interpret this as a sacking, but he was clearly informed that he was not being terminated and that he could resume his work once sufficient funds were on hand. Abp Akinola was kept fully abreast of this development, but by this time (2004) I think he clearly had intended to cease cooperating in the joint chaplaincy and to establish CANA, although he never informed the Presiding Bishop of these plans.

For the record, tens of thousands of dollars were raised for the joint chaplaincy, with major grants coming from the dioceses of Southern Ohio and Texas. Numerous TEC bishops had indicated their support and facilitated the work of the former chaplain. Abp Akinola, for his part, pledged US$5,000 to the effort, but had not made good on his pledge by the time I departed the end of 2004.

Subsequently Patrick Mauney wrote to me with additional information:

Gordon Okunsanya (the former chaplain, an American priest of Nigerian birth), was resident in the diocese of Atlanta and used a business credit card issued by the diocese. (The chaplaincy was deliberately not a national church-funded “program” but a partnership of the PB’s office, individual dioceses with large African expat populations, and, ostensibly at least, the Primate of Nigeria. Gordon charged his expenses on his diocesan card, then we reimbursed Atlanta, as we (815) were the reception point for the contributions from TEC dioceses.)

I have written to both CANA and to Martyn Minns personally inviting them to reply. So far nothing has been received here. I have also asked for a response from 815 Second Avenue and received this:

ENS contacted the Presiding Bishop’s Office and the accuracy of Canon Mauney’s recollections was confirmed.

Meanwhile, the following earlier reports relating to all this can be found on the web:

March 2003
ENS Chaplaincy to expatriate Nigerian Anglicans launched in US

October 2004
Washington Times Nigerian bishop forms U.S. denomination
Voice of America Nigerian Anglicans Consider US Gay Bishop Controversy (with audio interview of Canon Gordon Okunsanya)

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Tobias S Haller BSGDaveFord ElmsDavid HeusdensFord Elms Recent comment authors
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Cheryl Clough
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The unknown God of money and power. I’d love to know how they are funding these ventures, particularly the sources of start up revenue. I wonder if it is a uniquely Anglican sponsorship?

Cynthia Gilliatt
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Cynthia Gilliatt

I shall be interested to see if you get a reply from either Martyn or CANA. If they will lie about something like this, how can they and their friends be trusted about anything else? I appreicate your making this known.

Tobias S Haller BSG
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Tobias S Haller BSG

I would welcome seeing a list of all of the CANA congregations and the clergy affiliated with them. The map of the US at the CANA website with an odd assortment of cities named (Los Angeles, Washington DC, New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, and Oklahoma City…) is intriguing. Are these the only cities with CANA congregations in them? Is that what their being singled out on the map of the world — along with Abjua, Lagod and Jos — represents? If CANA is a reality, surely a list should be available, if only for Nigerians travelling from city to city… Read more »

Dave
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Dave

There is a CANA parish in Irvington, NJ (Dio. of Newark). It had originally been an Episcopal parish that closed due to lack of interest. A Nigerian Anglican tent-maker priest (full time job is as an engineer/planner in NYC) received permission to start a parish in the old building. Soon had about 150 or 200 in worship at which time, he was told the parish need a full-time priest and he got the boot by the Diocese. A new priest was appointed and inside of several weeks, virtually the entire congregation left the parish. They now worship together again in… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

Dave,
So a group of people like what one priest says and start going to church. They get a new rector and don’t like him. So they stop going to church. Now you might see this as people being drven away, or expressing their disapproval of “unorthodox” teaching. Others might see it as people who don’t wish to be challenged in their faith. Some might also be tempted to question the faith of this particular congregation since, after all, God didn’t change, the priest did, and we don’t go to church to worship the priest, surely.

Dave
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Dave

I will forgive the errors in your comment, Ford, since you can’t expect to be knowledgeable about the specifics. But I will give you a few so that you can process them in your thinking. 1. The new congregation was largely African immigrants and in their part-time priest, they had someone who understood their culture, traditions, beliefs and style of worship. 2. Unlike what happens when a vestry calls a new rector, the new priest was imposed upon the congregation. They had no choice in his selection. Moreover, they were quite satisfied with the job being done by their priest… Read more »

David Heusdens
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David Heusdens

Tobias,

FWIW, back in April the listing of CANA parishes below appeared through Virtue Online:

http://listserv.episcopalian.org/scripts/wa.exe?A2=ind0604a&L=virtueonline&T=0&P=367

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

Thanks. One would have to ask why a new priest was imposed on a congregation that already had one with whom they were happy. Was it some sort of liberal conspiracy, or just ineptitude on the part of the bishop/diocesan heirarchy? Putting a gay man as rector of a congregation of expat Nigerians, regardless of his ability, would seem more than a little inept, and could be expected to be taken as provocation, whether it was or not. Much like putting an Evangelical in an Anglo-catholic parish, something our little piece of the Kingdom would have big problems with, though… Read more »

Dave
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Dave

I suspect that it was a combination of errors. First, I think there was fear of a growing parish led by an evangelical, Nigerian priest. Second, folks in Newark are so arrogant, they think that the entire diocese supports their “progressive” agenda. Third, I think there was a touch of colonialism/paternalism – “the diocese knows better than Africans what is good for them.” Yes – this was Jack Spong’s diocese. His successor is a lovely and kindly man – but very much a product of an ultra-liberal theology. Unlike his predecessor, however, he has not declared war on evangelicals or… Read more »

Tobias S Haller BSG
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Tobias S Haller BSG

Dear David, Thanks for pointing me to this list, which is most informative. It is I would also hazard an example of the kind of “half truths” at which the Church of Nigeria seems to be coming adept. First, ask yourself why this list does not appear on the CANA website itself? Is it not perhaps because these are “old CANA” parishes from back when it was a cooperative venture with the Episcopal Church, rather than “new CANA” parishes that have to sign a statement of affiliation? Then note the heading of the list of churches shown: it says, “FOLLOWING… Read more »