As I write this afternoon, the sun is shining and, though it’s still very cold outside, I feel the hope of spring in the air. One colleague at lunch even remarked delightedly that he had heard the song of three different songbirds while he walked to campus this morning. Yes, we may have more snow and cold temps, but there is hope.
This week, my newsfeed grabbed my attention with an article from the Episcopal News Service (ENS) reporting on the recent meeting in Salt Lake City of the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church. First, I saw that the location of the 2024 General Convention will be Louisville, KY, a city I have been eager to visit and explore. I was somewhat disappointed to read that Detroit had not been selected but I am always glad to become acquainted with new places.
After looking ahead to 2024, I noticed that Executive Council also formally affirmed the readmission of the Episcopal Church of Cuba as a diocese of The Episcopal Church. This action came about as a result of Resolution A238 passed at the 2018 General Convention. At the Executive Council meeting, Secretary of General Convention, Michael Barlowe certified that the Diocese of Cuba had met the requirements stated in the resolution. From the article in ENS:
“Our friends from the Episcopal Church in Cuba have been exemplary,” Barlowe told council, “not only in their extraordinary ministries undertaken in such difficult circumstances over the years, but in all of our conversations over the last five or six years as we’ve moved toward this moment.”
After a unanimous vote of “sí,” it was official: The Episcopal Church of Cuba became the Episcopal Church in Cuba, to a round of joyful applause.
Her voice breaking with emotion, Cuba Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio addressed council in Spanish through an interpreter.
“Each one of us has been living [through] a very emotional time in our life in the Diocese of Cuba,” Delgado said, “because the church lived for more than 50 years all by itself.
“I want to express my gratitude to each one of you … who has worked so arduously to achieve this moment. … We will continue serving our people, our country – however, we will do it in your company.”
To refresh your memory, in 1966 the House of Bishops had voted to separate the Diocese of Cuba from The Episcopal Church because of the results of the Cuban Revolution and the response of the United States. This left the diocese on its own without a provincial home. The explanation that accompanied Resolution A238 explains:
Prior to that time, in 1961, Episcopal Schools in Cuba had been closed and appropriated, and many clergy and their families were displaced. Some remained in Cuba; some either returned or immigrated to the United States. Some clergy who remained in Cuba were imprisoned, executed, or disappeared. Church buildings were closed and left to deteriorate. The church was polarized politically, and its clergy and lay leaders suffered.
But the Church continued, in the living rooms of the grandmothers, who held prayer services and Bible Studies in their homes. Through them is transmitted a story of pain, and of faith.
Under the leadership of more recent Cuban Bishops, including Bishop María Griselda Delgado del Carpio, the people have devoted themselves to the vision of a missional church. Innovative projects are evolving that benefit the need of the local communities: creating day care centers, inventing irrigation systems that help with sustainable farming, developing animal husbandry to raise and tend to animals to help feed communities.
Below is the Resolution that precipitated this happy day for The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Cuba:
A238: Admit Episcopal Diocese of Cuba as a Diocese of The Episcopal Church
Resolved, 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 a time in which we are witnessing so much divisiveness in our nation, the actions of General Convention and Executive Council provide us with another glimmer of hope – perhaps a bit like the sunshine and bird calls offer hope of the spring to come.
Let us pray –
O God, by your grace you have called the Diocese of Cuba to a goodly fellowship of faith within The Episcopal Church. Bless Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio, the other clergy of the diocese, and your people who have waited patiently for this reunion. Grant that your Word may be truly preached and truly heard, your Sacraments faithfully administered and faithfully received. By your Spirit, fashion all our lives according to the example of your Son, and grant that we may show the power of your love to all among whom we live; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council