By Kirk Petersen
La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba on February 15 officially became the Diocese of Cuba, rejoining the Episcopal Church after more than half a century of separation.
The Executive Council, gathered in Salt Lake City for its regular thrice-yearly meeting, unanimously and joyfully voted to welcome the new diocese after hearing that the Cuban church had met all the requirements of Resolution A238, through which the 2018 General Convention voted to reinstate Cuba.
“It’s my happy responsibility to inform you everything that is required by that resolution has been met,” said the Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe, Secretary of the General Convention, said in a committee hearing.
Barlowe said the 2018 resolution required, among other things, a rewriting of the canons of the Cuban church to ensure that they are compatible with the canons of the Episcopal Church (TEC); a commitment by the Cuban church to financially contribute to TEC; and that all of the Cuban clergy take an “oath of conformity” with the canons of TEC.
Former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori helped lead a successful effort to raise $800,000 to cover the pension requirements of Cuban clergy.
“It gives us a sense of strength, of joy, to know that we are part of something that is global,” Cuban Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio told TLC, speaking through an interpreter. “One of the things that we have been experiencing for a long time is that loneliness.”
“We’re not one of the biggest churches in Cuba,” she said, explaining that the Roman Catholic, Methodist and Pentecostal churches all are much larger. Delgado oversees 46 churches and five mission stations, served by 28 priests and deacons. Total membership is about 6,000, she said.
Cuba’s readmission has occurred despite the absence of a canonical process for the action. Barlowe said the officials working on the project had agreed that “this is a one-off, anomalous situation not anticipated by the canons, that there is absolutely no intention of creating a precedent.”
This echoed the spirit of the General Convention, where at first it appeared Cuba could not be readmitted until at least 2021, as a canonical process would have to be approved by two successive General Conventions.
The House of Bishops and House of Deputies resolved the issue essentially by ignoring it, bulldozing over all objections to exuberantly pass A238 by unanimous votes.
In the wake of the Cuban revolution of 1958, the House of Bishops unilaterally voted in 1966 to expel Cuba from the Episcopal Church. The fact that the expulsion was never ratified by the House of Deputies was one of the rationales offered at General Convention for voting to welcome Cuba back despite the canonical roadblocks.
In the words of Bishop Delgado after the 2018 vote: “¡Cuba nunca se fue! Cuba never left. It has always been part of the Episcopal Church.”