By Matthew Townsend, with reporting by Kirk Petersen
La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba will soon be a diocese of the Episcopal Church. On July 11 the House of Deputies unanimously passed Resolution A238, which calls for the diocese to be admitted to the church as soon as Executive Council acknowledges receipt of routine paperwork by the secretary of General Convention.
The House of Bishops having approved the resolution the night before, Cuba’s reentry into the church is now a foregone conclusion — so much so that official Cuban visitors were seated and offered voice in the House of Deputies, with a Cuba placard prepared for their table.
It is also safe to assume that the Cuban church’s paperwork is in the mail, as it were.
The path to admission was far more winding than initially thought. Concerns about canon law — or the lack thereof — threw the Episcopal Church in Cuba committee into days of extra work. Because there was no canonical mechanism to readmit an extra-provincial diocese into the Episcopal Church, the committee considered waiting for canonical changes to be completed before proposing reintegration. That would have meant a three-year wait.
However, after lengthy testimony from Cuban visitors, moving comments from committee members that they could not in conscience make Cuba wait, and reassurances from member Canon Paul Ambos that a course could be charted, the committee proceeded with A238.
After the vote, Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio was invited to address the House of Deputies.
“Right now, I know that the Holy Spirit is blowing upon this entire Convention and that it is moving here for all of us to work with it in this very difficult world,” Delgado said through a translator. “We meet like this, at convention, to put the family in order.
“I know that we have experienced many things outside of the houses. And the Spirit is moving everywhere, in the testimony and the plans you’ve all been expressing about the future. Right now, it’s so exciting not just for me but for my whole diocese. I want to thank the Lord and the Trinity for this prophetic moment that we’re experiencing. I want to express my love and my gratitude to each one of you, because you have opened the doors.”
Delgado said two churches were becoming one.
Three deputies spoke in favor of the resolution, with none opposing. “This is a mission issue, a moral issue,” said Benjamin Hill of Florida. “Let’s do what our heart is calling us to do and welcome the prodigal child back into the family; not a child that left, however, one that was cast from our family five decades ago. … For years they’ve asked to come home, out of isolation.”
“The Jesus Movement is based on respect, diversity, solidarity, inclusivity, and love,” Pragedes Coromoto Jimenez de Salazar of Venezuela said through a translator. “Most of all, we must put into practice what Matthew 22:36-40 states: to love God with all our heart, and mind, and soul, and love each other like we love ourselves.”
Dianne Audrick Smith also spoke in favor of the resolution. “We do well to follow [the House of Bishops’] example of doing the just and right thing of being inclusive of our brothers and sisters in Cuba, of recognizing that the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement is inclusive, just, and gracious,” she said.
Deputies voted in Spanish — shouting “¡Sí!” — and broke into spontaneous chanting of “¡Cuba Sí!” after Delgado and those from the Cuban church were invited onto the floor.
The previous day’s proceedings in the House of Bishops were similar. The bishops, with boisterous expressions of gratitude and joy, unanimously welcomed La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba back into the church.
“Bishop Griselda may take her seat at Table 7,” declared Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, drawing whoops and cheers from the bishops and the audience.
Technically it was a tad premature to seat Delgado, as the House of Deputies had not yet acted. Concern about technicalities, however, had seemingly receded by then. In approving Resolution A238, the bishops bulldozed over concerns that readmission might be impermissible.
A parade of bishops offered a variety of justifications for taking the step:
- While the canons spell out a number of circumstances under which a new diocese may be created, they do not explicitly state that those are the only circumstances.
- The 1966 expulsion was an action of the House of Bishops, never ratified by the House of Deputies, and thus Cuba technically never left TEC.
- The dioceses of Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, and Venezuela were admitted under the current canons, so Cuba should not pay the price for the church’s newfound canonical fastidiousness.
By the time the bishops finished speaking for the measure in English and Spanish, the outcome was not in doubt — only the margin. After there was no dissent during the voice vote, Curry said, “Let the record show that this house has unanimously voted” to readmit Cuba to the Episcopal Church.
Shortly after the vote in the House of Deputies, Delgado told TLC in Spanish that the vote had been an historical justice — especially for those that “suffered through the separation [in the ’60s and ’70s] and lived even then with pain, but also with hope. Everything that was done today is not what I have done. Almost all of the work was sustained by the many generations who came before now.”
It was those generations, she said, who helped bring the churches to reunification, to the “possibility of being a family.”