As Canterbury Turns: A bishop at Truro

stjohndiv sootcover lg(Musical cue: swelling chord on a pipe organ) Ouch. As best I can tell online, here is the Washington Post story of the day -- care of the Associated Press -- on the national and global developments in the Anglican World War.

The only problem is that the biggest Anglican story out there is a local story, one centered in some of the most powerful Anglican parishes in the United States, parishes that are located in the Washington suburbs, in the Diocese of Virginia, which is the nation's largest Episcopal diocese. This story can be found here, on page one of The Washington Times, and here, in what appears to be a blend of Google hits and a press release from The Episcopal Church (formerly the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America).

Here is the top of the story by veteran religion writer Julia Duin at The Washington Times. I should mention that Duin has been a friend of mine since she broke onto the religion beat back in the 1980s at a Scripps Howard newspaper down in South Florida. This is one reason that I don't cite her work on this blog as much as I might otherwise. Her story is basic hard news, and you can see signs that this has been percolating for some time.

Two of Northern Virginia's largest and most historic Episcopal churches -- Truro and the Falls Church -- informed Virginia Bishop Peter J. Lee yesterday that they plan to leave the diocese and that as many as two dozen other parishes may follow suit.

And the Rev. Martyn Minns, rector of Truro Church, was elected a bishop yesterday by the Anglican province of Nigeria with the mandate to oversee a cluster of U.S. parishes that minister to expatriate Nigerians. Mr. Minns was driving north on Interstate 95 from Richmond when he got the news on his cell phone from Anglican Archbishop Peter J. Akinola. The archbishop then put him on a speaker phone to address a gathering of Anglicans in Abuja, the country's capital.

"I said I was honored by their willingness to place their trust in me," said Mr. Minns, 63, who earlier this year had announced plans to retire.

Instead he will oversee the Convocation for Anglicans in North America, which includes more than 20 Anglican churches that cater to Nigerian immigrants in the U.S. but could be enlarged to include Episcopal congregations fleeing the 2.2-million-member denomination.

For years, Episcopal insiders have jokingly referred to tensions between the Diocese of Virginia and what some started calling the Diocese of Truro. People could just as easily call it the Diocese of Falls Church. These are giant, multicultural parishes that in recent decades have been linked to the charismatic and low-church evangelical renewal movements in mainline Protestantism.

Another interesting element of this story is that the Falls Church is also rich in another important Beltway resource -- scribes. The megachurch may as well open a side chapel for all of the journalists and think-tank writers who attend.

But, as Duin notes, these two parishes sit at the top of a pyramid of other parishes in the region that are, to one degree or another, now looking for a way out of the modern Episcopal Church.

Truro and the Falls Church have a combined $27 million in assets. Situated on some of Northern Virginia's most valuable real estate, both churches are having 40-day "discernment" periods of prayer, fasting and debate, starting in September and ending just before Thanksgiving, before announcing a final decision.

Officially, the 40-day period has "no predetermined outcome," said the Rev. John W. Yates, rector of the Falls Church, but it's clear that "the growing crisis and dysfunction in the Episcopal Church" is pushing the orthodox toward the exit doors.

"It's certainly a step no church -- especially one with a history we've had -- takes without the greatest humility," he said in an interview at the parish where George Washington once worshipped. "But so many Episcopalians in the pews are so irate over what's happened, and it's harder and harder to call on people to wait."

The Falls Church and Truro Church presented their plan in Fairfax on Saturday to a meeting of officials representing 20 to 30 Episcopal churches around Virginia. Thirteen to 14 churches already have agreed to have their own 40-day period, he said.

There are other major Episcopal and Anglican developments, of course, including an openly gay candidate to be the next bishop of -- surprise -- the Diocese of Newark. This link takes you to a conservative blog, but one with more links to other sources. Or click here for Thinking Anglicans or click here for a London Times story.

I think Ruth Gledhill of the Times spoke for many when she wrote yesterday:

I've been getting a little tired of this whole story, and want to start writing again about Hindus, Muslims, Catholics and the Jewish community.

Well, the story isn't going to go away for a while -- at least a decade, I would say. The only people who are laughing are the lawyers. Please let us know the best stories and websites -- on both sides -- that you see online.

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