Press Briefing Sunday, December 17th, 2006
Statement by the Rt. Rev’d Martyn Minns, Bishop of CANA
This is a day of very mixed emotions for me. Yesterday I saw Sadie Eller come to cast her vote. Sadie is an elderly lady who has cancer of the mouth. She is under hospice care. Sadie is so weak that she can hardly stand but she was determined to come and take part in this historic occasion. Her daughter drove her to Church and we took a ballot to her at the sidewalk. She was thrilled to be able to cast her vote for the future of her church. There are lots of people like Sadie who make up Truro Church.
I have been a member of the Episcopal Church for almost forty years. It is the church where my wife Angela and I have raised our family. We now have one son-in-law serving as an ordained Episcopal priest in South Carolina and a son who is at Seminary preparing for ordination. This has been our spiritual home and separating from it is very hard. But there is also the promise of a new day. A burden is being lifted. There are new possibilities breaking through. I am getting excited about all of the new ways in which we can do mission and ministry. So there are these two conflicting emotions.
It feels very much like a pastoral situation that I confronted around this time last year. The daughter of one of our members gave birth to twin baby girls. There were complications and one baby died within months but the other lived and Rebecca is now a very healthy little girl. Conducting the funeral for Abigail, the baby who died, was hard – they always are – but there in the front row was Rebecca, the baby who lived, and she was full of smiles as she began her new life. I felt a profound mixture of sadness and joy and that is how I feel today. This isn’t really a day to celebrate … that will come later … today is a day to give thanks.
First of all I want to give thanks for those intrepid Anglicans who came to this Commonwealth almost 400 years ago. They came for any number of reasons but they brought with them a faith that was newly formed as both catholic and protestant. They held their first Anglican Worship in 1607 … interestingly there were no clergy present … they came later. It is also worth noting that for more than a hundred years they existed as a missionary outpost under the Bishop of London. I am grateful that they persisted and helped shape the life and faith of this great nation.
I am thankful for the people who established Truro Parish more than 270 years ago and since then built all the various churches that continue to be beacons of hope. I am especially grateful for the people of Truro Church today who have shown remarkable faith, courage and resilience during times of enormous stress. I am particularly thankful for the Truro Vestry and the Wardens and Staff who have invested enormous amounts of time and sacrificial effort to bring us to this point this afternoon. There are no words that can adequately express my gratitude for the love and support that they have shown to my family and me.
I also want to give thanks for our friends, bishops and archbishops, in the Global South who have prayed for us and stood with us as we have struggled to find a way forward during these challenging times. They were the recipients of missionary zeal in earlier years but now they are returning the favor. They are reminding us of a Gospel in which there is abiding truth and real power to transform lives. It is a Gospel for which they are willing to give their lives. I am very thankful for their faithful witness and robust faith.
I am also thankful for our many friends here in the Diocese of Virginia. This is a family struggle, no question about that, and it is a very painful one, but we have managed to conduct the struggle in a way that has sought to honor those with whom we disagree. That hasn’t always been easy because there is a lot of passion around the central issues –
• What does it mean to be Church?
• How do we understand Truth and the exclusive claims of Jesus?
• How do we best love and care for homosexual persons?
• How do we appropriate the power of God to transform lives?
I am thankful that we have been able to wrestle with these essential questions with grace and mutual respect.
I am also very thankful for Peter Lee, Episcopal Bishop of Virginia. This has been a very difficult time for him. I know that these past three and a half years have been very costly. Until some of the more recent exchanges Bishop Lee has always been gracious and has left space for those who can no longer follow his lead. I am especially thankful that he found a creative way for me to continue to provide pastoral leadership here at Truro during this transition time after I was consecrated as a Bishop of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). I am hopeful that this attitude of civility and creativity will be present as we enter into more detailed negotiations for a way forward.
I am also very thankful for the founders of CANA (the Convocation of Anglicans in North America) – for Chief Delano and the other trustees. I am grateful for Archbishop Peter Akinola and all those who have provided insight and counsel. CANA was birthed as a pastoral response to the crisis in The Episcopal Church. It was designed to provide safe harbor for those who could no longer find their spiritual home there. But now it is much more. CANA allows us to get on with the work of mission without apology. CANA is not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ and the unchanging truth of the Scriptures. CANA is a gift for all orthodox Anglicans in America and it comes with no strings attached. It is a gift that allows us to stay firmly connected to the rest of the Anglican Communion, and the heritage that we treasure, while responding to the particular challenges of mission and ministry in our own context.
CANA allows us to be Church and build gospel communities that reflect the radical inclusion and profound transformation that are the hallmarks of God’s love for the world today.
CANA has a clear Gospel to present and will seek to do it in gracious and loving way so that many will be brought into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
CANA is not interested in maintaining the status quo but will plant new churches so that we might reach and disciple a new generation for Christ.
CANA is a place where we can celebrate an equal partnership with our friends in the Global South – we have a great deal to learn from them as we share something of our own lives and experience.
CANA is a vision for a church where people of diverse backgrounds can show the world that true unity is possible when we are connected by ONE LORD, ONE FAITH, and ONE BAPTISM.
I am very thankful to be able to serve CANA at this time and also to take your questions…