By the Rev. Dina van Klaveren
Deputy, Diocese of Maryland
As we have thoughtfully and prayerfully considered various matters before Committee 06 (The Episcopal Church in Cuba), we have strived to understand the responsibilities of the institution that serves to bind us together as the Body of Christ. We have consulted with chancellors to understand what reunification requires, and we unanimously support an interpretation of the Constitution of the Episcopal Church that allows for us to reunify immediately with the Episcopal Church in Cuba, admitting the entire diocese to become a diocese of the Episcopal Church.
This process has been surrounded by expertise and Christian witness. Along the way we have explored the relationship of the Episcopal Church in Cuba and the the Episcopal Church.
A Brief History:
In 1966, the House of Bishops expelled the Diocese of Cuba from the Episcopal Church in, as some describe it, an action outside of our constitutional responsibilities. Under an oppressive regime, the Episcopal Church in Cuba survived in the living rooms of the grandmothers who maintained the practices and relationships. They continued to minister to one another in Christ’s name.
Twenty years ago, the Episcopal Church in Cuba was permitted to officially gather again, although church buildings were either destroyed or in deep disrepair.
Lay and ordained community members set out to preserve an Episcopal structure, tradition, and valued relationships with congregations outside of Cuba. In partnership with dioceses in the Episcopal Church, potable water was provided for struggling villages, churches rebuilt, and care was offered to vulnerable elderly and children.
Fifteen years ago, the Episcopal Church in Cuba expressed their desire to return to the Episcopal Church.
The Last Triennium (2015-2018):
The Episcopal Church convened a Task Force on Cuba to review the process for reintegration of the Episcopal Church in Cuba with the Episcopal Church.
Their work began with listening to the stories of both Cuban-American members of the Task Force and representatives from the Episcopal Church in Cuba, who shared their experiences and desires, their concerns and their hopes.
The Task Force and the Cuban representatives unanimously desired reunification, and were clear that they would work together to return to a reunified relationship at GC79.
To work toward this end, the Task Force and the folks in Cuba developed a plan, carefully gathering input from The Church Pension Fund, the Committee for Governance and Structure, the Anglican Church in Canada, Friends of Cuba, the Executive Council, and staff members from the Episcopal Church and General Convention.
The Cuban Church provided historical information and discussed plans for development and growth. The Anglican Church in Canada provided background information on the Church in Cuba, and the supportive role of the Anglican Church in Canada.
Some Task Force members visited Cuba and experienced firsthand the faithfulness of a church that was all but destroyed more than 50 years ago. Deputy Lucinda Ashby, Diocese of Idaho, traveled, worked and studied with others on this Task Force effort, and brought the fruits of this work to our committee at General Convention.
During the legislative committee hearings, the committee listened to the voices of members of communities in the Episcopal Church and Cuba, and every person who gave testimony was in favor of reconciliation with Cuba.
This afternoon, Tuesday, July 10, the House of Bishops voted unanimously to readmit Cuba as a Diocese of the Episcopal Church.
Tomorrow, the House of Deputies will consider reunification with the Episcopal Church in Cuba.
I believe it is our responsibility as the General Convention of the Episcopal Church to make a way for a just relationship with our siblings in Cuba, to return to a relationship of shared mission, and to leave GC79 as a reunified family. I also believe that the Episcopal Church will be enriched by the mission and resiliency of the Episcopal Church in Cuba, and that a restored relationship will be a source of joy and encouragement for the people in Cuba.
I encourage deputies to prayerfully consider supporting A238 – “Admit Episcopal Diocese of Cuba as a Diocese of The Episcopal Church.” And I give thanks to God for the grandmothers who kept the Episcopal Church in Cuba alive in their living rooms, these saints who prayed for strength in the face of isolation. I give thanks for the leadership of clergy and lay leaders, and the sacrifices they have made out of love for the Good News of Jesus Christ. And, I especially give thanks to God for the ministry, fortitude, and grace of the Rt. Rev. Maria Griselda Delgado del Carpio, Bishop of Cuba since 2010.
Featured photo banner credit: episcopalchurch.org.
van Klaveren photo credit: the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis