A recent letter from Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola to the Nigerian clergy – which appeared to express his personal anguish about attending the Lambeth Conference and a call for the Episcopal Church to be disciplined, if not ejected from the Anglican Communion – received a great deal of blog-attention this week. The letter was released on the Nigerian website in a difficult format, more readily available from Thinking Anglicans.
Father Jake did a fine job of analyzing the Archbishop's letter and some of its "more bizarre statements." So did Mark Harris here and here and here.
Now, the Episcopal Café reports, "The voice of the Global South apparently emanates not from Abuja, Nigeria, but from Fairfax, Virginia. The Church Times reports that Bishop Martyn Minns, not Archbishop Peter Akinola is the principal author of the recent letter from the Church of Nigeria that bears Akinola's name."
Some Episcopalians will recall that the British-born Reverend Martyn Minns was frequently nominated, but never elected, to be a bishop in the Episcopal Church. Finally, Archbishop Akinola this year came to Virginia and consecrated him a bishop for the Church of Nigeria, where no laity have a vote in episcopal elections.
The Church Times reveals:
A BISHOP in the United States has been revealed as the principal author of a seminal letter to the Church of Nigeria from its Archbishop, the Most Revd Peter Akinola, which was published on Sunday.
The letter includes a suggestion that the Archbishop of Canterbury’s status as a focus of unity is "highly questionable." It also refers to a "moment of decision" for the Anglican Communion, which is on the "brink of destruction."
The document, "A Most Agonising Journey towards Lambeth 2008", appears to express to Nigerian synods the personal anguish of Archbishop Akinola over his attendance at the Lambeth Conference.
But computer tracking software suggests that the letter was extensively edited and revised over a four-day period by the Rt Revd Martyn Minns, who was consecrated last year by Archbishop Akinola to lead the secessionist Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). Bishop Minns, along with the Rt Revd Gene Robinson, has not been invited to Lambeth.
Close examination of the document, tracing the authorship, editing history, and timing of changes, reveals about 600 insertions made by Bishop Minns, including whole new sections amounting to two-thirds of the final text. There is also a sprinkling of minor amendments made by Canon Chris Sugden of the conservative group Anglican Mainstream.
Writing for the Episcopal Café, Jim Naughton says:
We have contended that powerful, ideological forces in the U.S. are manipulating the effort to undermine the Episcopal Church and create a global schism in the Anglican Communion. This revelation from the Church Times merely underscores our contention.
The significance of this development lies less in the fact that Akinola has a ghostwriter--The leaders of many organizations, ecclesial and secular have staff members who handle writing assignments for them.--than that what has long been portrayed as the authentic voice of African Anglicanism is, manifestly, not African, and perhaps never has been.
This revelation is likely to damage Akinola's already sagging prestige in Nigeria, where he may now be perceived as a mouthpiece for wealthy Westerners. And it is likely to damage his credibility with his fellow Primates, who were already weary of his practice of interrupting their meetings to take counsel from Minns and Sugden.
Update: Father Jake has now picked up this story, and the active discussion seems to be occuring in his "comments" section. StandFirm is bending over backwards to insist the story is entirely irrelevant ... notwithstanding the Church Times discovery that Minns wrote two-thirds of Archbishop Akinola's letter of "personal anguish."