Bishops vote unanimously to admit Cuba as a diocese

By Lynette Wilson
Posted Jul 10, 2018
Curry, Griselda and Gray-Reeves

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves of the Diocese of El Camino Real congratulate Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio of Cuba, center, after the House of Bishops’ unanimous vote July 10 to welcome Cuba back into the Episcopal Church. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops voted unanimously on July 10 to admit – or readmit, really – the Episcopal Church of Cuba as a diocese of the Episcopal Church. The Diocese of Cuba will become part of Province II.

“I feel the breath of the Holy Spirit. Thank you, everyone, for the support right now, but really for the support all these years,” Cuba Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio said in Spanish through an interpreter. She took a moment to remember generations past who’d longed for reunification, “those who’d suffered but always hoped we’d return to the church.”

Delgado received a standing ovation, and many hugs were shared as Presiding Bishop Michael Curry asked her to take her seat at table No. 7.

Reunification was a long time coming. In response to the geopolitics of the time, the House of Bishops in 1966 voted unilaterally to separate from the Episcopal Church in Cuba.

Cuba bishop

Western North Carolina Bishop José McLoughlin escorts Cuba Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio to the front of the House of Bishops after the vote to readmit the Diocese of Cuba to the Episcopal Church. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The House of Bishops “stabbed Cuba in the heart, and it refused to die,” said retired Southeast Florida Bishop Leo Frade, a Cuban who was 23 years old when the house voted to expel Cuba.

“House of Deputies did nothing, the House of Bishops acted. … It was an unconstitutional action by a House of Bishops that had no authority to kick us out,” said a tearful Frade. “As Cubans, Cubans refuse to die. The reality is that the Church of Cuba is still alive, and it belongs here.”

At the start of the 79th General Convention, the Episcopal Church in Cuba Committee struggled with constitutional and canonical questions regarding whether convention could act now to admit Cuba, or if it would require a constitutional change be made over two consecutive conventions.

In the end, convention acted as it did similarly in 2003 when it readmitted the Diocese of Puerto Rico into the Episcopal Church. The Diocese of Puerto Rico had been since 1979 an extraprovincial diocese under Province IX’s authority. In the 1970s, it was expected that Puerto Rico, Cuba and other dioceses in the Caribbean would form their own province, though that never came to pass.

Formerly a missionary district, the Episcopal Church of Cuba has functioned as an autonomous diocese of the Anglican Communion under the authority of the Metropolitan Council of Cuba since it separated from the U.S.-based Episcopal Church in 1967.

New Jersey Bishop William “Chip” Stokes, bishop chair of the Episcopal Church in Cuba Committee, impressed a sense of urgency on bishops to adopt Resolution A238 as amended.

“Cuba’s government is in a time less restrictive toward churches,” he said, adding that U.S. policies are unpredictable.

A238 lays out the terms for reunification; it now moves to the House of Deputies.

The House of Bishops took its action in 1966 in response to the effects of the Cuban Revolution and the United States’ response. The Cuban Revolution, led by Fidel Castro, began in 1953 and lasted until President Fulgencio Batista was forced from power in 1959. Batista’s anti-communist, authoritarian government was replaced with a socialist state, which in 1965 aligned itself with the communist party.

In 1961, Episcopal schools in Cuba had been closed and appropriated, and many clergy and their families were displaced. Some remained in Cuba; some either returned or immigrated to the United States. Some clergy who remained in Cuba were imprisoned, executed or disappeared. Church buildings were closed and left to deteriorate. The church was polarized politically, and its clergy and lay leaders suffered. But the church continued in the living rooms of the grandmothers, who held prayer services and Bible studies in their homes. Through them is transmitted a story of pain, and of faith.

The Episcopal Church of Cuba traces its origins back to an Anglican presence beginning in 1871. Today, there are some 46 congregations and missions serving 10,000 members and the wider communities. During the 1960s, Castro’s government began cracking down on religion, jailing religious leaders and believers, and it wasn’t until Pope John Paul II’s 1998 visit to Cuba, the first ever visit by a Roman Catholic pope to the island, that the government began a move back toward tolerance of religion.

– Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of Episcopal News Service.


Comments (13)

  1. Anthony Price says:

    Bravo! Bravo! It is so encouraging to hear that Cuba is following Puerto Rico back into the Episcopal Church. Gracias, Obispo Frade y otros por su diligencia con este proyecto.

    Well, we can’t really fault the House of Bishops for their action in 1966, as that era of McCarthyism made it almost a criminal offense for any person or any institution to be “soft” on communism. Well, here we are, doing business with China, Russia, and Vietnam as if the Cold War had never happened. Let us continue to help the world seek solutions (e.g. Palestine/Israel, North/South Korea, Democrats/Republicans), and learn from our mistakes of the past.

    1. Charles Pierce says:

      The return of Cuba as a Diocese is a very good thing. The present government is still very autocratic and authoritarian, any people to people contact can only strengthen the Church in Cuba and weaken the Communist Government. Cuba Libra.

  2. Michael Norris says:

    Que bueno! The Church in Cuba has much to teach the rest of us about commitment and perseverance. Bienvenidos, herman@s cuban@s.

  3. Minnie Steele says:

    As a first time Lay Deputy who attended hearings and strategized with other Deputies, I am overjoyed and eagerly await the House of Deputities concurrence. Welcome Home Cuba!

  4. Jon Spangler says:

    The repair of the House of Bishop’s unconscionable 1966 action was long overdue. ¡Gracias a Dîos!

  5. Shane Patrick Connolly says:

    It’s wonderful that our Cuban brothers and sisters can be brought back into fellowship with the Episcopal Church. Notwithstanding, I find the construction of this sentence to be rather odd: “Batista’s anti-communist, authoritarian government was replaced with a socialist state, which in 1965 aligned itself with the communist party.” It would be more accurate to say it was replaced by an authoritarian socialist (or Stalinist) state, which later aligned with the Soviet Communist Party. While the article points out the evils of the murderous and repressive Castro regime, this sentence seemed constructed to downplay the evils of his regime – especially at a time when some on the political left – including some of our Episcopal brothers and sisters – are glorifying the supposed virtues of socialism.

  6. ¡Por fin la injusticia hecha en 1966 ha sido anulada! ¡Gracias a Dios!

  7. Jean Fils says:

    Estoy muy contento por el esfuerzo de la cámara de los obispos y por los de la obispa de cuba 🇨🇺 con quien tuve el privilegio de trabajar mientras estudiando en Cuba. Que Dios les bendiga siempre.

  8. Charmaine Kathmann says:

    Gracias a Dios. Alleluia!

  9. Charmaine Kathmann says:

    Alleluia! Gracias a Dios.

  10. Flory Dunigan says:

    A most joyful welcoming back to my sisters and brothers from my native country. Thanks be to God!

  11. The Rev. James M. Bimbi says:

    Could someone please help me out and clarify exactly why the House of Bishops took the action in 1966 to separate Cuba from the Episcopal Church? Please don’t give me generalities of anti-communism or sweeping statements of heartlessness. Can anyone provide what the factual arguments were? Of course, if there were none, some documentation of that would be helpful.

  12. Paulette Hammond says:

    I visited Cuba in 1995, under the auspices of Pastors for Peace. Our Diocesan Peace and Justice Committee was invited by the then Anglican bishop of Cuba and we stayed at the Cathedral. We learned that Fidel was not so hard on some of the churches in Cuba then. For instance, it appeared that Pastors for Peace and the Anglican Church received special favors from the government (i.e., gasoline for the van we traveled in, donated by the Diocese of Southern Florida). Life was very hard during that “Special Time” after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, but I am happy to report that life is much better now, having returned from a trip last year. I am overjoyed that they are now a part of us again! Thank you, General Convention!

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