WOODBRIDGE, Va. -- The Anglican archbishop of Nigeria, Peter J. Akinola, installed Bishop Martyn Minns of Virginia yesterday as the new leader of a diocese that would take in congregations around the country that want to leave the Episcopal Church, rejecting requests by leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church to refrain from taking part in the ceremony.
Akinola's role in the installation celebration for Minns forged another tie in an increasingly confident alliance between theological traditionalists in the United States and church leaders overseas who are opposed to the Episcopal Church's liberal stance on homosexuality. A decision by the Episcopal Church in 2003 to ordain an openly gay man, V. Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire, outraged traditionalists in the United States and abroad, who believe that the Bible condemns homosexuality.
Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the Anglican Communion, recently sent a letter to Akinola, urging him to cancel his plans to visit the United States. His letter repeated requests made by Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the American branch of Anglicanism. Jefferts Schori said that by attending the ceremony, Akinola would heighten tensions between the Episcopal Church and many in the 77 million-member Anglican Communion.
The hope among leaders of the new diocese, the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, is that it will eventually be recognized by the communion as its rightful representative in the United States, replacing an Episcopal Church they say has strayed from traditional Anglican teachings.