By Kirk Petersen
Years of frustration from Spanish-speaking Episcopal leaders boiled over July 6 in the House of Bishops, as the Bishop of Honduras twice interrupted the scheduled order of business to express anger over the lack of Spanish translations in a committee hearing the previous day.
The Rt. Rev. Lloyd Allen told the bishops that although the convention discussed racial reconciliation earlier in the day, there was “a lot of wording and nothing of truth in it.” He said he and other Episcopalians in Province IX, which encompasses Latin America and the, Caribbean, have tried for years to play a larger role in the church, but said they had been made to feel unwelcome.
Allen reiterated his testimony from a committee hearing the prior day that people at the table who had turned in annoyance as he translated quietly to a member of his delegation. He said that at one point he was asked, “Would you please shut up?”
He said if the issue is not resolved, he will lead his deputation out of General Convention.
After a few minutes of stunned silence, the bishops began to move back to the matter they had been discussing, which is a “covenant” to respond to testimony about sexual abuse that they had heard in a special session July 5. The first draft of the covenant was on a screen and had been distributed electronically — but it too was not available in Spanish, having been written the previous evening.
After another bishop protested that the house was moving on so quickly, Bishop Wayne Smith of Missouri rose to ask that discussion be tabled until the covenant had been translated into all of the official languages — Spanish, French, and Haitian Creole. The motion carried on a unanimous voice vote.
The House moved on to yet a third provocative issue — whether the President of the House of Deputies should be compensated, a proposal that the bishops have rejected three times since 1997.
After Bishop Sean Rowe of Northwestern Pennsylvania described and recommended passage of a new proposal drafted by bishops, Allen approached a microphone again and asked all of the bishops from Province IX to come stand with him. He then asked all Hispanic bishops from any diocese to come to stand, and ended up with more than a dozen colleagues behind him.
He then began making his case again, and as he did, other bishops around the room stood, until it appeared that every bishop was standing.
After hearing Allen’s further testimony, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry declared a recess, and asked Allen to come to the podium with one or more colleagues “to try to find a way forward.” After the recess, Curry told the group that Allen and three other bishops had adjourned to another location to “identify next steps.”
The House then again moved on to other matters.