By Matthew Townsend
Additional deliberations within the Episcopal Church in Cuba committee suggest reunification of the Cuban church with the Episcopal Church may happen — but not anytime soon.
On July 6 Committee 6 set aside two resolutions discussed the day before — A052 from the Task Force on the Episcopal Church in Cuba and D060, which would have established a covenanted relationship — in favor of a committee-crafted resolution that addresses the heart of the matter: the Episcopal Church would like to welcome the Cuban church as a diocese, but it is not sure how.
Resolution A180, proposed by the Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution, and Canons and under review by the Governance and Structure committee, sheds light on the problem.
“The Constitution does not clearly allow for the creation of a diocese by admission of an extra-provincial Diocese of the Anglican Communion such as The Episcopal Church of Cuba (Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba) or of a diocese of another Province of the Anglican Communion or even another Church (Province) of the Communion,” the resolution’s explanation says.
“While some have argued that admission of such a diocese or dioceses is within the authority of General Convention even in the absence of a Constitutional or canonical provision on the subject, since the Constitution does deal with how new dioceses are created, it would be in the interests of good order and predictability to have such explicit authority.”
Resolution A214, drafted in the afternoon of July 6 by Committee 6, reflects this advice. “That while the 79th General Convention desires an immediate reunification,” the second resolved says, “it recognizes that TEC has yet to attend to the structural and canonical requirements necessary and pledges to complete the following actions to welcome IEC as a Diocese of TEC at the 80th General Convention: addressing any constitutional and canonical issues presented in order to officially name IEC as a diocese of TEC, inviting the Bishop of Cuba to participate in the House of Bishops consistent with its rules of order, continuing to establish relationships with dioceses and congregations of TEC, and designating $400,000 for the ongoing work of ministry and mission for IEC.”
As with A052 and D060, A214 allows for immediate eligibility of Cuban clergy in the International Clergy Pension Plan and would support a three-year interim body to accompany both churches through unification. The resolution asks for the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget, and Finance to consider allocating $400,000 for ministry and mission of the Cuban church and $50,000 for the interim body’s work.
The first resolved, along with Resolution A209 (drafted that morning), also acknowledges the substantial work the Cuban church has gone through in hopes of a timely reunification — which was widely anticipated. Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio and the Rev. Glenda McQueen, the church center’s staff officer for Latin America and the Caribbean, remained locked in quiet conversation during and after the committee meeting. McQueen told TLC that the assertion of A180 came as a surprise to the delegation.
Marilyn Peterson — who is a member of the Friends of the Episcopal Church of Cuba, has visited Cuba since 2009 as an Episcopalian in the Diocese of Florida, and who translates for Delgado — said the same.
“We were surprised on the very first night that we got here when an issue came in to broadside the entire request of bringing Cuba into the Episcopal Church, to rejoin it after 60 years of separation,” she said. “That surprise had to do with the opinion of several of the attorneys regarding the Constitution of the Episcopal Church, that there was no provision to bring a diocese back into the provinces of the Episcopal Church.”
Peterson said July 4 testimony suggested previous unions, such as that between Puerto Rico and the Episcopal Church, “was thought to be in error, that they did not do it constitutionally correctly. Therefore, if they brought Cuba in, they wanted to do it correctly so that it would not become a constitutional issue. So, that was a blindside.”
Constitutional changes require approval by not just one General Convention but two General Conventions, which means after a first reading in Austin, the amendment would have to pass a second reading in 2021. This raised concern among Cubans, she said, who have already done three years of work — and are aware that Cuba never wanted to leave the Episcopal Church in the first place.
In light of this surprise, Peterson praised the level of work done by the committee since July 4 and its efforts to allay concerns about the postponement.