By Lourdes Inapanta
Immediately after the confirmation at General Convention in Anaheim of the election of Bishop Luis Fernando Ruiz, the Diocese of Central Ecuador was full of joy and hope, anticipating better days and a renewed church. At least that is what one group in the diocese was experiencing. Before long, however, another group began experiencing pain, uncertainty, and sorrow. At a time when healing and reconciliation were most needed, several priests were soon inhibited for having challenged this election by asserting that the process had been canonically flawed from the beginning.
Unfortunately, division rather than reconciliation prevailed after the consecration of Bishop Ruiz. First came the inhibitions of five priests, followed six months later by their “release” from clerical duties and privileges, per Canon IV.10.2. Among these, some were accused of abandoning the communion of the Episcopal Church, and others of refusing to submit to the episcopal authority.
Eventually additional clergy were inhibited, among them some who had sympathized with the initial group of inhibited clergy. Others were forced out of their parishes in transfers that the diocese deemed necessary. Three priests were effectively pushed into retirement. In reaction, four mission congregations barred their doors to the bishop and his archdeacon.
During the past two years, the Diocese of Central Ecuador has been in chaos, and our worst fears have been realized. The standing committee and a majority of the clergy and lay leaders have closed their doors to Bishop Ruiz. The same deputies who defended and supported him at General Convention 2009 now say, “Basta! … Enough!”
In mid-May of this year, the following parties collectively participated in taking possession of the diocesan offices and mission congregations: 14 of our 17 congregations; 13 of our 18 priests; the standing committee; the administrative officers of the diocese; and the legal counsel of the diocese.
They also forwarded to the Presiding Bishop and her advisers a 25-page complaint that accused Bishop Ruiz of administrative as well as pastoral irregularities. Four distinct groups of clergy can be identified: those who have been released from their clerical duties and privileges; retired clergy; the five priests who still support the current bishop; and those who belong to the group that took control of the diocese away from the bishop.
The Diocese of Central Ecuador is now badly fractured, at a time when we need to heal and come together, when we ought to find peace through loving one another in Christ. Sadly, our recent past also includes 12 years of pain and suffering that were brought upon us by a bishop who eventually was disciplined and removed from office. How much longer will we have to wait for the promise of a hopeful future?
Our most fervent desire and prayer is that all parties within the diocese — bishop, clergy, laity, and all who support us in friendship and love — may come together to initiate a process of healing and reconciliation. With that objective in mind, we hope for and pledge ourselves to an integral reconstruction of the heart, mind, body, and soul of the diocese.
The level of dysfunction in which we now find ourselves has impoverished us in regard to the time, talent, and treasure that we could and should be investing in the proclamation of the good news of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. These lamentable circumstances now prompt us to pray most earnestly:
Oh Dios, tú nos has unido en una vida común. Ayúdanos para que en medio de nuestras luchas por la justicia y la verdad, nos confrontemos los unos a los otros sin odio ni amargura, y juntos trabajemos con paciencia y respeto mutuos; por Jesucristo nuestro Señor. Amén.
(Libro de Oración Común, p. 714)
O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 824)
The Rev. Lourdes Inapanta is vicar of Misión Emaús in the Diocese of Central Ecuador.