EL PASO, TX: St. Francis pastor elected bishop
By David Crowder
March 14, 2011
For the Rev. Canon Felix Orji, pastor of St. Francis on the Hill on El Paso’s Westside, the news that he had been elected bishop for the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, or CANA, came as a big surprise.
He didn’t even know he was a candidate.
The last time he learned he was a candidate for bishop, he removed his name from consideration.
“I’ve not been a contender for the position,” Orji told El Paso Inc. “My interest in ministry is to serve the church and to preach the gospel, not to become a big shot. I’ve not really been interested in being a bishop.
“However, this time they did not want to talk to me because they didn’t want me to wriggle out of it again. But I’m delighted.”
The CANA network of congregations was the founding member of the new Anglican Church of North America, an umbrella organization for orthodox (sic) Anglicans in the United States and Canada with about 900 affiliated congregations.
“I think one of the gifts Dr. Orji brings is that he has been a global citizen,” said the Rev. Harry Zeiders, CANA’s chief of staff. “He grew up in Nigeria. He spent much of his young, academic and professional life as a priest in Canada, and now for several years he’s been leading St. Francis.
“He’s proven himself to be a person who can cross many different cultural boundaries, and that’s one of the things that both CANA and the Anglican Church of North America need to do to grow because we live in a multi-ethnic world.”
Orji, 48, holds four degrees from universities in Nigeria, Canada and the United States, including his doctorate from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Lillian, have four children.
Hired by St. Francis as a curate in 2005, Orji became rector in 2008 as the church and its parishioners were in crisis over whether to remain with the Episcopal Church USA or join other conservative congregations across the country in separating from the 230-year-old American denomination.
St. Francis’ congregation voted to disassociate itself from the Episcopal Church and has filed suit in El Paso to keep the church property that the congregation paid for.
El Paso’s Church of St. Clement was the first local congregation to leave the Episcopal Church and align itself with the Anglican Church of North America.
Four churches in the El Paso area remain Episcopalian: All Saints, St. Alban’s, St. Christopher’s and St. Luke’s in La Union, N.M.
The Church of Nigeria established CANA as a mission in 2005 to provide Episcopalians and congregations with a way out and a vehicle for the denominational reorganization.
Orji was elected as a CANA bishop by the Church of Nigeria on March 4 and will be consecrated in Nigeria later this year.
He will have pastoral oversight of CANA congregations in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming.
“What it means for St. Francis on the Hill is it’s going to take care of a bishop,” Orji said. “They will give me the support that I need – the financial support and the spiritual, prayer and emotional support that every bishop needs.
“It’s also going to mean some time away from St. Francis for me … and that St. Francis becomes an important place in the Anglican Communion.”
“The Church of Nigeria established CANA as a mission in 2005 to provide Episcopalians and congregations with a way out and a vehicle for the denominational reorganization.” – quote
This item from the ‘Orthodox Anglican’ blog-site – virtueonline – tells us of another Bishop-elect for CANA – except that he didn’t even know his Nigerian sponsors had elected him! Does this show some lack of policy organisation by Nigeria-in CANA-in America? Or was it that this Bishop-elect – unlike the recent Kiwi one – had actually been unaware that his name had been put up for election in the Nigerian Church of CANA in the U.S.A?
Whatever the reason for this, it must be obvious that the right hand of the ACNA Archbishop Robert Duncan (Head of that schismatic Church which now claims CANA as part of it’s dual jurisdiction – together with the Anglican Church of Nigeria) does not know what the left hand of the Nigerian Archbishop Okoh is doing at any one time. Let’s hope their quasi-Anglican status is soon made very clear by the ACO. We can do without such ad hoc episcopal appointments being part of the official Anglican Communion
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch