Cubans want to return to ECUSA

Published April 1, 2002

Special on Cuba

In February, the primate, Archbishop Michael Peers, went to Havana for the 93rd synod of the Episcopal Church of Cuba. He attended in his capacity as president of the church’s metropolitan council, a body that has overseen the Cuban church since 1967. Anglican Journal staff writer Jane Davidson accompanied him. Her articles appear this month and next. Havana The search for a clergy pension fund has led the Cuban Episcopal church to swallow some pride and seek a return to the fold within the Episcopal Church of the United States, but only as a temporary measure. Although a Cuban diocesan synod in February voted unanimously to seek re-admission to the Episcopal Church of the United States (ECUSA) as a constituent diocese, the decision was hotly debated. The decision was fraught with ambiguity among delegates, who insisted that the expulsion of their church from ECUSA in 1967 was immoral in the first place. The Cuban church was part of ECUSA until 1967, when the house of bishops voted it out because of the hostile political climate between Cuba and the United States. The recent diocesan motion had its origins at a meeting last October at Camp Washington, Conn., to discuss the formation of an Episcopal Province of the Caribbean. The countries represented at the meeting were Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. The motion to rejoin ECUSA was introduced at the Havana synod by Cuban bishop Jorge Perera Hurtado. In his opening address, Bishop Perera said the Camp Washington discussion “was based on the unjust decision of the house of bishops of the U.S. church to expel us from its membership.” He added that the proposal for re-admission could be considered at the General Convention of ECUSA in 2003. The Episcopal church in Puerto Rico also wants re-admission to ECUSA. Since 1967, the Cuban church has been “extra-provincial,” mostly running its own affairs but with special oversight from the Metropolitan Council of Cuba, which is chaired by the Canadian primate, Archbishop Michael Peers. It has also been without a pension fund for its clergy. The council also includes Archbishop Drexel Wellington Gomez, primate of the Province of the West Indies, and one bishop, Julio Cesar Holguin Khoury of the Dominican Republic. (Both Archbishop Peers and Bishop Holguin attended all of the three-day synod. Archbishop Gomez flew in for the special meeting of the Metropolitan council and for the closing eucharist.) Bishop Perera said that Puerto Rico and Cuba have struck a deal to support one another in their petitions for re-admittance to ECUSA. He said the Puerto Rican church has agreed to decline re-admission to ECUSA even if it is accepted, unless the Cuban church is also welcome. This, he said, is “an expression of brotherhood and solidarity.” Bishop Perera urged the Cuban synod to return the favour and not accept admittance to ECUSA if Puerto Rico were refused. During the debate, Rev. Oden Marichal Rodriguez, vicar-general of the diocese, and a member of the Cuban parliament, said that the idea of returning to ECUSA is transitional, “while we work toward establishing the Province of the Caribbean.” The hoped-for province has been under discussion for about 20 years, and Cuban clergy want a retirement fund in place now. “Neither the government (of Cuba) nor the (Communist) party will try to intervene (in the process of rejoining ECUSA,” Mr. Marichal said. One concern if Cuba returned to ECUSA, he added, would involve the position ECUSA would then take on the U.S. blockade of Cuba, first imposed in 1963. Cuban clergy presently have no retirement fund and are hoping for access to the cash-rich ECUSA pension fund, which has $6 billion U.S. in assets. According to an ECUSA spokesperson, the fund has additional reserves “over and above what is needed to cover the benefits committed,” following investment returns, which at one time in the year 2000 were 49.6 per cent.


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