I’m always excited about ordinations – new servants of God ready to live out their ministry among us prompting all of us to go deeper with our walk with the Lord. In the sermon at Saturday’s ordination of two new transitional deacons, the Rev. Deacon Mitch Yudasz and the Rev. Deacon Anthony Estes, the Rev. Deacon Tim Spannaus reminded us that, while traditionally deacons are called to exercise their prophetic voice and priests their pastoral voice, we are all called to servant ministry and expected to use our voices for God’s work in the world. Tim shared with us the words of Lutheran Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber who once spoke at an ordination telling the ordinands that they are never really prepared for the ministry they are entering but fortunately, their God is. Well, that’s true for all of us. It’s time for us to use our voices – and our pens or computers – to further God’s work.
This past summer at General Convention, we welcomed the diocese of Cuba back into the household with great joy! According to an article from the Episcopal News Service on November 28, Bishop Griselda Delgado Del Carpio has high hopes for building strong relationships and fostering healthy change:
For 30 years, we have learned to love each other, to work together, to respect each other and to share gifts that each community has to offer the other….For us, a partnership means for two communities to work together, receiving and giving and valuing each other’s journey in the process, and valuing each other’s gifts….We have much to learn from each other. We want to do all of that while reaffirming the identity of the people of Cuba. This is what Cubans have to give to the world – their own experience and journey of faith in the church.
Bishop Griselda, as she is affectionately called, has the intent of the resolution in mind with her desires for a relationship with Cuba’s US family. One of the resolves calls “upon the dioceses, congregations and members of The Episcopal Church to acquaint themselves with the ministries of La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba, to work in harmony and companionship with La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba for evangelism, mutual understanding, and the full expression of God’s mission, and to consider ways in which they can be in relationship and partnership with La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba going forward. It’s time for us to get involved and work on our side to foster these relationships, too.
One way to get started is to respond to the Episcopal Public Policy Network’s (EPPN) call to urge our Congress to lift trade restrictions with Cuba. According to EPPN, our trade with Cuba has been difficult at best for the last 60 years. Back in 1962, the US instituted a trade embargo and associated travel restrictions which have made it difficult for Cuba to interact both economically and diplomatically. In the General Conventions of both 2000 and 2009, the Episcopal Church passed resolutions that should have ended both the embargo and travel restrictions by now. Obviously, that hasn’t happened. Here are the resolutions:
Resolution 2000-C045 Request Restoration of Diplomatic Relations between the US and Cuba
Resolved, That the 73rd General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America ask the Congress of the United States and the President of the United States to restore full diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba; and be it further
Resolved, To ask that in the process of establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, issues of human rights, freedom of speech and movement be taken in consideration along with freedom of political prisoners; and be it further
Resolved, That the Secretary of General Convention send a copy of this resolution to the President of the United States, the Secretary of State, the Chairs of the House Foreign Affairs and of the Senate Foreign Relations Committees, and to all Senators and Members of the House of Representatives who are Episcopalians.
Resolution 2009-A034 Urge Advocacy and Prayer to End the US Embargo of Cuba
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention urge continued advocacy and prayer from Episcopalians for an end to the United States embargo against Cuba, particularly provisions that hamper the mission of the Church in Cuba, including the restrictions on U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba, stringent limits on financial remittances from the U.S. to Cubans and severe restrictions on the ability of Cuban citizens to visit the United States.
As always, EPPN has made it very easy to contact our legislators. Just go to this link and fill in your contact information. You will then have an opportunity to read the letter they have written. All you have to do then is click “submit” and it’s on its way to your representatives. EPPN has taken all the hard work out of this process for us!
This is a good start but we still need to do more if we’re going to take relationship-building seriously. The ENS article tells the stories of a couple of initiatives that are making a difference. The first is a relationship between St Luke’s Church in Darien, CT, and Christ Church in Bronxville, NY, with Santa Cruz del Norte Episcopal Church outside Havana. Together they have worked to build a water filtration system that is expected to supply clean water to more than 100 people a day.
The other initiative is designed to provide support for retired Episcopal clergy in the country. Cuba has no pension fund or social security for clergy since their service is not considered employment. Last summer at General Convention, former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori asked the bishops of each diocese to consider asking their congregants to give $0.50 to set up a fund that might provide relief to these retired clergy. She said that the total need is about $800,000 or just about $0.50 per Episcopalian. Many dioceses have already responded to this call for funding. Bishop Katharine put it this way:
Our brothers and sisters in Christ in Cuba have much to show and teach and offer. What they don’t have is much in the way of dollars. Think of this as something like Paul’s collection for the poor in Jerusalem. We have welcomed the Diocese of Cuba back into the Episcopal Church – this is a way of bridging the divide between the U.S. and Cuba.
Finally, Bishop Griselda, with some of her partners in the US, has created a group called Friends of the Episcopal Church of Cuba which is a “one-stop resource for everything related to the Episcopal Church of Cuba.” The very practical “How You Can Help” tab on the website lists the projects needing our assistance from partnering with one of the 43 congregations in Cuba to supporting the pension fund for Cuban clergy. We can make our commitment to the Church in Cuba more than mere words adopted at a convention.
Speaking of Convention, here is the full wording of the resolution we passed this summer bringing Cuba back into our family:
A238 Admit Episcopal Diocese of Cuba as a Diocese of The Episcopal Church
Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 79th General Convention, accepting with joy the request of the sisters and brothers of La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba, and welcoming the prospect of restoring the relationship between The Episcopal Church and La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba, admit it to The Episcopal Church and recognize it as a Diocese in union with General Convention, to be effective as set forth in this resolution; and be it further
Resolved, That the General Convention acknowledges that, while Article V, Section 1 of the Constitution does not expressly provide for creation of a new Diocese from an existing Anglican Communion Diocese, neither does it expressly limit or forbid General Convention from doing so; and be it further
Resolved, That the General Convention laments the actions of the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church in 1966 that led to the precipitous and painful separation of The Episcopal Church and La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba; and be it further
Resolved, That the General Convention commends the diligence of La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba in completing the following actions set forth by The Episcopal Church Task Force on Cuba,established by Resolution 2015-B003: drafted changes to the Constitution and Canons of La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba; sent the changed Constitution and Canons to the Metropolitan Council; pledged in writing to conform with these expectations (submit an annual Diocesan Parochial Report to the Office of The Episcopal Church, pay an Assessment to The Episcopal Church, and provide a complete accounting of the financial assistance received from The Episcopal Church); provided education for clergy and laity about The Episcopal Church, Constitution and Canons, and the workings of General Convention; provided a proposed annual budget to The Episcopal Church; provided Church Pension Fund with accurate reporting about active clergy and years of service, and retired clergy who are already in the Pension Fund; convened an Extraordinary Synod on May 11, 2018 to designate the choice of a province; and sent members to visit at the 79th General Convention; and be it further
Resolved, That the General Convention recognize that La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba has agreed to undertake all responsibilities pertaining to diocesan membership in The Episcopal Church as provided in the Constitution and Canons, including, but not limited to, fully conforming its constitution and canons to the provisions of the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church; submitting annual diocesan parochial reports; contributing annually to the assessment for the budget of The Episcopal Church; and reporting fully on any financial assistance it receives from the such budget; and be it further
Resolved, That the General Convention express its deep gratitude to the Anglican Church of Canada for its long and continuing support for La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba; and be it further
Resolved, That the General Convention call upon the dioceses, congregations and members of The Episcopal Church to acquaint themselves with the ministries of La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba, to work in harmony and companionship with La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba for evangelism, mutual understanding, and the full expression of God’s mission, and to consider ways in which they can be in relationship and partnership with La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba going forward; and be it further
Resolved, That the acceptance of the Diocese of Cuba into union with the General Convention shall become effective on such date as the Executive Council adopts a resolution accepting and approving a certification to it by the Secretary of the General Convention that he has received from the Diocese of Cuba the following:
(1) A certified copy of the Constitution of the Diocese that contains an unqualified accession to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church and otherwise conforms in essential part to such Constitution and Canons;
(2) A certified copy of the Canons of the Diocese that conform in essential part to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church;
(3) An annual diocesan parochial report as required by Canon I.6 for the last full year prior to compliance with this resolution;
(4) A commitment by the Diocese to a contribution to the budget of The Episcopal Church for the year in which the Diocese is to come into union with the General Convention;
(5) An accounting of any funds received by the Diocese from the General Convention budget in the last full year prior to compliance with this resolution; and
(6) Evidence that all clergy in the Diocese have complied with the requirements of Canon III.10 and Article IX of the Constitution;
And be it further
Resolved, That, following such effective date,
(1) The Diocese of Cuba shall take such steps as shall be required by the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church for the Bishop Diocesan of the Diocese of Cuba to be received as a Bishop of The Episcopal Church;
(2) The General Convention designates the Diocese of Cuba to be added to the Second Province of The Episcopal Church;
(3) The Diocese of Cuba shall be entitled to all rights pertaining to membership in The Episcopal Church as provided in the Constitution and Canons, including, but not limited to, seat, voice, and vote in the House of Bishops and in the House of Deputies, in accordance with the rules of those Houses;
And be it further
Resolved, That the Bishop Diocesan of La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba upon passage of this Resolution be eligible to participate in the House of Bishops consistent with its rules of order; and be it further
Resolved, That immediately upon the close of business of the 79th General Convention, the active clergy of La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba shall become eligible to participate going forward in the International Clergy Pension Plan (ICPP) and its related plans, which will be administered by The Church Pension Fund (CPF) consistent with the terms of the ICPP, an administration agreement between La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba and CPF, and applicable law, including the receipt of any necessary licenses from the Office of Foreign Assets Control or any other applicable governmental authority; and be it further
Resolved, That the General Convention direct The Episcopal Church, together with La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba and other potential ministry partners, in consultation with CPF, to collaborate on a plan to fund the past service liability accrued by the active clergy of La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba; and be it further
Resolved, That the General Convention support the formation of a 3-year interim body to accompany La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba and The Episcopal Church as they fully reunify; said body would consist of eight members, four from La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba and four from The Episcopal Church jointly appointed by the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies, to facilitate complete reunification of life, ministry, and mission; and be it further
Resolved, That the General Convention reaffirm the principle that dioceses of this church that are not located within the United States may seek autonomy according to the procedures set forth in Resolution A235 of the 1991 General Convention or may join other provinces of the Anglican Communion; and be it further
Resolved, That the General Convention request the Joint Standing Committee on Program Budget and Finance to consider a Budget allocation of $400,000 for ministry and mission of La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba and $50,000 for the interim body’s work for the implementation of this resolution.
In this holy season of Advent as we call out “Come, Lord Jesus” let us remember that we are not powerless to extend the love of God to our brothers and sisters in Cuba. We are the very hands and feet of our Lord! May we be instruments of Christ’s peace for those that need to know the love of God.
Let us pray –
Gracious and loving God, we welcomed our Cuban brothers and sisters back into our family last summer with joy; grant us the wisdom to know how to make practical our desires for relationship that we might ease their challenges and bring assistance where it is needed. Let us not be so caught up in our own lives that we forget our commitment to help them. Show us, Lord, how we might be your servants that others might know of your saving love this holiday season; in Christ’s holy name we pray. Amen.
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council