Honduran bishop calls on convention to better serve participants who do not speak English

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
Posted Jul 6, 2018

Members of the House of Bishops stand with Honduras Bishop Lloyd Allen as he speaks at the microphone to criticize what he said is convention’s lack of concern for participants who do not speak English. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] Diocese of Honduras Bishop Lloyd Allen continued July 6 to call critical attention to what he said was a lack of complete access to translation and interpretation services during General Convention.

His two points of personal privilege in the House of Bishops prompted Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to appoint a small committee to identify “specifically the issues and concerns that are being raised both short term and long term,” and how they can be addressed and by whom.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.[/perfectpullquote]

The day before, Allen told the legislative committee charged with considering changes to the Book of Common Prayer that the lack of an official translator for the hearing was symptomatic of the constant feeling he has of being unwelcome in the church. He criticized the fact that one of the resolutions the committee was considering had not yet been translated.

When the House of Bishops convened for its legislative session July 6, Allen went to a microphone to object to the fact that the proposed “Covenant for the Practice of Equity and Justice for All in The Episcopal Church” had not be translated. His objection came after the bishops had discussed the document at their tables. The covenant was proposed in response to the July 4 “Liturgy of Listening.”

Many non-English-speaking participants do not understand what is happening at convention because “there are legislative bodies where no one is translating,” said Allen, who is fully bilingual.

“It’s not fair what’s going on at convention with the Province IX delegation,” he said, despite its having “gone through thick and thin to get here because we considered ourselves as part to this church.” Allen asked why provisions were not made for “proper translation,” rather than what he said have been word-for-word translations.

All legislative sessions in both houses have interpreters, as does the daily worship, joint sessions and some but not all committee meetings. The two-volume set of reports to General Convention, known as the Blue Book, is available in Spanish. The Virtual Binder, with which anyone can track legislation, is available in English and Spanish. In the Spanish version, the resolution names are in English and some but not all resolutions have been translated. Those in English say “Por ahora no hay traducción al español,” meaning translation is pending.

During the July 5 hearing, Allen threatened to leave the Episcopal Church if it “continues to change the prayer book and to play with Scripture.” During the House of Bishops’ session, Allen said that if action were not taken to correct what he called an ongoing situation, “I will ask my delegation to get up and exit the convention.”

Diocese of Missouri Bishop Wayne Smith then moved to postpone the covenant pending translation.

The House of Bishops began to debate Resolution B014 on compensating the president of the House of Deputies when Allen again came to the microphone, this time calling on his fellow Province IX bishops, his Latino brothers and the bishops of African descent to stand with him. About 20 bishops did so.

“Tabling the matter is just brushing it off again,” he said. “Something needs to be done. No more.”

Other bishops slowly began to stand, and Allen then led the house in a long prayer in English and Spanish.

After a long time of silence, Curry asked for a recess for him, Allen and a few others to “put our heads and hearts together.”

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is the Episcopal News Service’s senior editor and reporter.


Comments (13)

  1. Mary Halverson Waldo says:

    Blessings on Bishop Lloyd Allen for his courage and persistence for equality.

  2. Roger Hamilton says:

    I heard that the person translating for the Honduran delegation left them when he found out that they would not accept the “gay agenda” … sadly, that sounds exactly like something a liberal would do!

    1. Matt Ouellette says:

      Right, because conservatives can’t be rude or condescending either.

    2. Deborah Matherne says:

      I sincerely doubt that the Honduran delegation had a problem with any “gay agenda”

    3. Rev. Dr. James Hargis says:

      I also heard (not through ENS, as they didn’t report it, maybe because it doesn’t fit their agenda and makes TEC look bad) that the official translator (who holds a high-ranking post at our church headquarters) abruptly walked away from his translating duties, when Bishop Lloyd began to espouse viewpoints at odds with the TEC agenda. If true, such behavior is scandalous, unacceptable, and hypocritical. How can Michel Curry preach about the Jesus Movement, welcoming all, and doing what Christ would do, while blocking access (as head of TEC and allowing this to happen) to the Good News?! OK, Curry can’t really block access to the Good News, as he doesn’t quite have that much power, and that’s “beyond his pay grade;” but he can block easy access to the “powers that be” in TEC’s hierarchy, and make it difficult to get things done, al la KJS. My prayers are that he (and we) won’t fall further into such a “death trap.” The fix for this aberrant behavior would have been very easy: get another translator. Surely this “official TEC translator isn’t the only qualified bilingual person available. My understanding is Bishop Lloyd is bilingual. At any rate, if this is true, it’s quite despicable, and a “black eye” on TEC, as a reconciling, Christian, loving church.

  3. William Kaufman says:

    If our charge is to bring the Good News to all people as the Bible says, the least we can do is do it in their native languages. (Although the first time it happened, Christ’s followers were accused of being drunk early in the morning.)

    1. Deborah Matherne says:

      Well said William 🙂 +Lloyd is certainly bilingual; in fact English was his family’s language of choice growing up. But I’m pretty sure that most of his delegation has little or no command of our English. I know some of the members of previous delegations and I know they do not. And that is just one diocese. Province IX has 7: Colombia, Dominican Republic, Central Ecuador, Litoral Ecuador, Honduras, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. It is extremely difficult for those dear people to get to Convention at all. It is unconscionable that we can’t provide appropriate translations of ALL the business of the Convention for ALL delegates. We are all equal in this Church; English-speaking or not.

  4. T Vincent Jang says:

    I also want to call to attention that other languages are not available or haphazardly available. If we are to be evangelists to all we need to do better on translation both verbally and resources. For example, I just been made aware of the fact that Rite Stuff is not available for new features for translation other than Spanish. I feel that a step took place backwards in spreading this word. I keep bringing that up in an ethnic convocations to no avail. That is why I am no longer interested in working in a lingual ministry.

  5. Keith Gardner says:

    I’m saying this with love. First, you are all right, we as a Church should do as much as we cam to provide all material in the language of the delegation. But, the delegation had three years to prepare for this General convention, and should have provided for their needs, and not expected perfection were man is involved.

    It’s like ” they serve meals on the flight but maybe you should bring a snack, it’s a long flight”. That type of thinking. Secondly, as far as cost, TEC should provide funding for local interpreters just as a to fulfill its mission to all the people.

    It seems much better when both sides of a problem work together rather than shaking fingers and giving ultimatums if they don’t get what they want right then and there.

    As for the reason they lost their interpreter that really shouldn’t matter. If they had bought their interpreter with them that person would be dialed in to the delegations mission, and could when at home be available if any questions were to come up.

    Less complaining more working together.

    1. T Vincent Jang says:

      Of course and I agree with you. Now I need to not to be so nice. I feel that when I asked at other occasions, I felt like I was talking to a wall. So when that happens and no answer is given except for an acknowledgment, it left much to not working together but a one way dialogue and a lot of bureaucracy that needs to take place, some done and some not done. And then I will perceive that there is no interest in a follow up. Now I don’t even know who would take up the question and follow it through to completion. Even the UN does a better job and there is a lot of people who need translation services there. If we can just get some of the basic things done it would be good start. I will be glad to talk to someone about that to whom can be the action person in completing even the basic stuff and following it through. When you talk to people in another language, you need to be able to hand out materials in their language or suspicion may arise and then there will be no interest. Truest me, I’ve been through that even trying to make the first step in contacting those who aspire learning about the Episcopal Church and even Christianity as we convey even the thoughts on the Jesus Movement too. The print is still powerful, but it has to be around.

  6. Anthony Price says:

    I think Bishop Allen is right, that we should adopt Spanish as an official language of the Episcopal Church, even though there are other languages in use within our overseas churches, such as Mandarin Chinese in the Diocese of Taiwan (part of Province VIII) and French, German, Dutch and Italian in the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe (part of Province II). But adopting Spanish at least would be of great benefit – not just to Province IX – but to the entire USA in terms of evangelism.

  7. Tobias Hamberger, Germany says:

    Episcopalians se sorprenderan, cuando se dan cuenta, que el español se habla en el cielo
    [Episcopalians will be surprised when they realize that only Spanish is spoken in heaven 😉 ]

  8. Rev. Dr. Miguel A. Hernandez says:

    I am in agreement with Bishop Lloyd Allen. The Episcopal Church (TEC) must provide translation materials or translators at Convention. This is a difficult task. In my view, the TEC is not responding to the needs of people who speak other languages: How are they going to be evangelized? In the USA, there are pockets of people in our communities in which Spanish is spoken, for example. If we are honest and real in following Jesus’ teaching of Justice, Love, and Compassion for all, then we must speak in the language of the heart and in the language that people understand; otherwise, we are going to be the church of the few.

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