‘For the church in Cuba, it’s a happy day’: Hiltz

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Supporters of the Episcopal Church in Cuba follow proceedings of a legislative committee dealing with a resolution on the Cuban church at The Episcopal Church’s General Convention in Austin, Texas July 9. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

A resolution to admit the Episcopal Church of Cuba into The Episcopal Church (TEC) has been approved by TEC’s General Convention. General Convention’s House of Bishops voted unanimously in favour of the resolution July 10. The General Convention’s clergy and lay member body, the House of Deputies, followed suit the next day.

These votes end more than five decades the Cuban church has spent as a diocese without a province.

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, says he’s very pleased by the General Convention’s unanimous votes.

“I’m glad that that was the outcome…It sends a strong signal from The Episcopal Church in terms of its welcome,” Hiltz told the Anglican Journal Friday, July 13. “I think for the church in Cuba, it’s a happy day.”

The Anglican Church of Canada has continued to have a close relationship with the Episcopal Church in Cuba, whose diocesan council once compared it to a mother who held the Cuban church in her arms. It budgets about $65,000 CDN a year to fund activities in the Episcopal Church in Cuba, and occasionally provides extra money in response to special requests.

The resolution passed by TEC’s General Convention includes a clause “that the General Convention express its deep gratitude to the Anglican Church of Canada for its long and continuing support” to the Cuban church.

After the Cuban Revolution of 1959, relations between Cuba and the United States worsened, straining travel and communications between the two countries. In 1967, the Cuban church became an autonomous diocese, and a new body, the Metropolitan Council of Cuba—consisting of the primate of the West Indies, the presiding bishop of TEC and the primate of the Canadian church (the chairperson of the council)—was formed to support and guide it.

In 2015, the United States and Cuba agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations, and two months later, the Episcopal Church of Cuba’s synod passed a resolution calling on it to take steps to return to TEC.

Hiltz also said he felt the General Convention’s unanimous votes were due in great measure to the leadership of Griselda Delgado del Carpio, who is bishop of the Episcopal Church of Cuba, and the way she and her synod had communicated with TEC leading up to and including the vote.

Hiltz said he had attended a meeting of the General Convention’s legislative committee dealing with the resolution on the Cuban church, and was impressed by the testimony Delgado gave the committee.

“She was very well organized and passionate about the hope of reintegration,” Hiltz said. “Obviously, that was well received.”

The Cuban church’s next synod in February 2019 promises to be a “historic, holy and happy time,” he said, as it celebrates its reintegration with TEC, expresses thanks for the work of the metropolitan council, and marks the transition to a different kind of relationship with the Anglican Church of Canada.

Once the Cuban church formally joins TEC, a number of ways that the Anglican Church of Canada has traditionally funded it will fall to TEC. These include the topping up stipends to Cuban clergy; helping the Cuban church support an ecumenical seminary in Matanzas; and youth Christian education, Hiltz said.

However, he added, the Canadian church will continue to provide some funding for theological education to Cuban Anglicans and other special projects from time to time.

Hiltz said he had found it very satisfying to watch the Cuban church grow, and he admires its sense of purpose and mission.

“The diocese of Cuba is spiritually quite a healthy diocese, and I think there are a number of us that have said that to The Episcopal Church—‘You know, you’re receiving a diocese that knows what it’s about as a church’,” he said. “It has a sense of purpose, direction, strategic plan, vision, and it’s very missionally minded.”

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Tali Folkins
Tali Folkins has worked as a staff reporter for the Law Times and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. His writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail and The United Church Observer.

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