What is it like being an Anglican in the context of a Latin American communist state-one that was, until 1992, officially atheist?
At a July 11 lunch and learn, members and guests at the Anglican Church of Canada’s 41st General Synod in Richmond Hill, Ont., were given an opportunity to learn more about one of the church’s most unique international relationships: its partnership with the Episcopal Church of Cuba.
Speaking through an interpreter, Canon Stuart Pike, of the diocese of Niagara, Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio-head of the roughly 6,000-strong Cuban church-explained that the relationship has come a long way since the revolution.
While the early years of communist rule saw a crackdown on churches and a number of restrictions place on the rights of Christians (at times, they were even denied access to education), the government has come to see the church as being, in some respects, a useful partner.
“[The government] is understanding now that the churches are actually giving value to their societies,” she said. “So they might not understand the faith aspect, but they do understand that there is value in it.”
However, the legacy of secularism has left the church with a difficult task: many Cubans know next to nothing about Christianity.
“[Cubans] have been educated in secularism very, very strongly,” Delgado said. “One of the biggest challenges of the church is to confront the indifference that the people have regarding faith.”
Evangelizing the youth is much easier than trying to reach those who were raised in the heyday of Cuban secularism, she said.
“There is a generation between the ages of 30 and 50 that has never had any kind of an experience, or any kind of a dynamic with faith at all-it is unknown,” she said. “And so, for this reason, it is the younger generations that are more able to understand and learn about the faith.”
The lunch and learn was also an opportunity for Canadian Anglicans to get to know Delgado herself a little better.
Born in Bolivia, Delgado moved to Cuba in 1981 to study at the Anglican seminary, which was just beginning to open itself up to women’s ordination. Despite the fact that the Cuban government’s attitudes toward religion were still quite rigid at that time, Delgado explained that she was drawn to Cuba’s progressive education and health-care policies.
“Cuba was still a place where there had been some changes that were helping the people,” she said, noting that many other Latin American countries at the time were suffering under brutal military dictatorships.
“In Cuba, on Monday morning, every kid gets in their uniform and goes to school, and no one is left outside because of not enough money-whereas in the rest of Latin America, it is not like that,” she added. “Neglected, abandoned kids are all over the place.”
Delgado’s presence at synod is part of an ongoing relationship that has existed between the Anglican church in Canada and Cuba since the revolution severed direct ties between the Episcopal Church of Cuba and its U.S.-based parent, The Episcopal Church (TEC).
The Cuban church, originally a missionary diocese of TEC, has been governed since 1967 by a Metropolitan Council, which includes representatives from the Canadian church, TEC and the Anglican Church of the West Indies.