Cuban electoral synod ends in stalemate

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The Episcopal Diocese of Cuba held a special electoral synod on June 19 and 20 but after 10 rounds of voting, no new bishop was elected to replace Bishop Miguel Tamayo Zaldivar who has served as interim bishop for six years and plans to retire.The Cuban church has not elected its own bishop for more than 20 years because of internal divisions within the diocese. Bishop Tamayo was appointed by the Metropolitan Council of Cuba – composed of the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, the U.S. presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church and the primate of the West Indies – which has overseen the church in Cuba since it separated from The Episcopal Church in 1967.When he visited Canada in May, Bishop Tamayo told the Anglican Journal he thought the problems were partially generational and that the church was now more unified. “Some people belong to my generation and the new generation coming [is] in a different way of thinking. This was the main problem,” he said. “But we’ve worked hard throughout these six years to try to put them together to work together and I think that, thank God, we achieved that. The diocese is much more faithful, hopeful and you can notice that in the results of the diocesan programs,” he said, mentioning that 48 people had just graduated from a training program for lay ministers and permanent deacons. But divisions were still evident in the election. Four candidates accepted their nominations, and the youngest candidate withdrew before the first ballot, said Archdeacon Michael Pollesel, general secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada, who was at the Cuban synod to oversee the election on behalf of the Metropolitan Council. The three remaining candidates were Rev. Emilio Martin, Rev. Ivan Gonzalez and Rev. Jose Angel Guiterrez.”There was a clear leader from the first ballot to the last one, but he didn’t have enough votes,” said Archdeacon Pollesel, referring to Rev. Martin. “The requirement is a 66 per cent majority in both the clergy and the laity, and none of them could achieve that. Had the bottom one dropped off, there probably would have been an election, but he didn’t. Apparently, they don’t have any provisions for taking the bottom name out at some point as some of our dioceses do.” Since none of the candidates voluntarily dropped out of the running or gained enough votes, electing a new bishop was not possible.”It’s really difficult to know how people voted, but there were clearly two camps,” said Archdeacon Pollesel. “I guess one would be considered more moderate and middle of the road, the other might be considered a little more traditional.”What happens next for the Cuban church remains to be seen. Archdeacon Pollesel said that Bishop Tamayo is willing to stay on as interim bishop a while longer and could do so with appropriate permissions. “The Metropolitan Council would have to make a formal request of the primate, which is Archbishop Gregory Venables,” presiding (national) bishop of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone (the southern part of South America). “Or the council could simply appoint a new bishop and not extend Bishop Tamayo’s tenure there, but I don’t think that is likely to happen. He’s been a great source of healing for the whole thing and has brought a lot of peace there,” said Archdeacon Pollesel.Bishop Tamayo has asked the Metropolitan Council for its advice on a way forward.

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Leigh Anne Williams
Leigh Anne Williams joined the Anglican Journal in 2008 as a part-time staff writer. She also works as the Canadian correspondent for Publishers Weekly, a New York-based trade magazine for the book publishing. Prior to this, Williams worked as a reporter for the Canadian bureau of TIME Magazine, news editor of Quill & Quire, and a copy editor at The Halifax Herald, The Globe and Mail and The Bay Street Bull.

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