THE Archbishop of Nigeria, the Most Revd Peter Akinola, said in
2005 that non-Nigerians would be welcome in what is now the
Convocation of Anglicans in North America. Now he has just over
7000 new members, mostly non-Nigerians, after nine churches in the
diocese of Virginia announced that they had voted to leave the
Episcopal Church in the United States and align with CANA
Another two churches will vote in January. Four others left the
diocese earlier this year and aligned themselves with other
Anglican provinces. The 15 churches account for 11 per cent of
baptised members and 18 per cent of average Sunday attendance, the
Most of the nine congregations have fewer than 300 members, but
three of them have megachurch numbers by Episcopalian standards:
The Apostles, Fairfax (1050 members); Truro, Fairfax (2500); and
The Falls Church (2800), which meets in a city of the same
The nine voted on two proposals: to disaffiliate from the
Episcopal Church, and to contend with the diocese for property
rights. Truro and The Falls Church, both founded in the colonial
era, are worth a combined $25 million.
No parish reported a vote of lower than 75 per cent in favour of
leaving the Episcopal Church. Mostly, the proposal to contend for
property rights gathered a higher percentage of support than the
proposal to depart.
The Bishop of Virginia, the Rt Revd Peter Lee, writing a public
letter to vestry members at Truro and The Falls Church, said that
the diocese would contend vigorously for the properties, and would
consider suing individual vestry members.
Most of the earlier relations between the Bishop and the
departing congregations had been characterised by patience and
grace. A special commission, composed of the Bishop's supporters
and of leaders from both Truro and The Falls Church, has spent the
past year discussing how to preserve the deepest possible
That commission recommended a protocol for congregations that
were considering separation. As the nine congregations moved
steadily toward their voting days, which came after "40 Days of
Discernment", the diocese and the parishes bickered about whether
the protocol bound the diocese.
The Rt Revd Martyn Minns, consecrated by the Church of Nigeria
as CANA's missionary bishop in America, said that he believed the
congregations and diocese could work through their property
disputes. But both sides have used language in public letters which
indicates a willingness to go to court if that is what it
After the Bishop's letter to vestry members of Truro and The
Falls Church, the vestries fired back in a joint letter: "Any
attempt by the Episcopal Church or the diocese to interfere with
our interests . . . will be met with the strongest possible
response, including legal defense."
On the evening after the nine-congregation vote, the diocese
announced a "standstill agreement" that will delay any legal
actions from either side for 30 days.
The diocese also established a property commission, which will
make case-by-case recommendations to diocesan leaders.