FROM ¡CUBA SI! to ¡CUBA AHORA!
From Isolation to Communion
Now the whole group of those who believe were of one heart and soul…With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. (Acts 4:32-33, NRSV)
The Deputies and Bishops gathered together in Austin, TX for the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church will have the unique and holy opportunity to engage the difficult process of reconciling Episcopalian with Episcopalian in the reunion of the Diocese of Cuba with the larger Episcopal Church. While this process has been ongoing for several years, we sit poised in 2018 to take the final and definitive step in the direction of healing, justice, and reconciliation.
In 1871 the Rt. Rev’d Henry Benjamin Whipple, first Bishop of Minnesota, landed in Havana and began a long and eventually tragic relationship with the people of God in Cuba. This relationship became severed on October 27, 1966 when the House of Bishops voted to expel the Diocese of Cuba from the Episcopal Church in response to the Cuban Revolution.
The General Convention Committee on the Episcopal Church in Cuba has faithfully responded to the Holy Spirit and started the process of reconciliation by preparing A238: Admit Episcopal Diocese of Cuba as a Diocese of the Episcopal Church. The resolution acknowledges the painful history of forced isolation and calls us all together to move toward communion.
Our canon lawyers have argued that the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church do not permit the incorporation of an entire extra-provincial church into the life, mission, and ministry of the Episcopal Church. It is the expert opinion of our canon lawyers that “¡Cuba Si!; Cuba, yes!” is well and good, but that it must properly be “¡Cuba luego!; Cuba later!”
Introduction is possible, they opine, but only after General Convention has gone through the necessary steps to make a clear constitutional and canonical entrypoint, maintaining the decency and order which are beautiful hallmarks of our Anglican heritage.
In the midst of testimony and deliberation, however, the Committee on the Episcopal Church in Cuba has prayerfully committed itself to “¡Cuba Si!” and, more importantly, to “¡Cuba ahora!; Cuba now!”
The Episcopal Church is at a crossroads presently. We worry about the future of the institution that has been given to us, an institution which blesses us and, sometimes, an institution which binds us. This is the case with Cuba. The Constitution and Canons of this church provide us with a container for our life together as Episcopalians. They set the parameters of our identity and work in the world. Our call is to use the Constitution and Canons for the direct purpose of God’s mission, namely “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ” (BCP, 855).
As the Acts of the Apostles show us, the first Christians were “one in mind and spirit.” There was surely differences of opinion among them: whose interpretation of Jesus’ words was more accurate, who amongst them should be in leadership, where was the most need? And yet, our ancestors in faith were able to set aside their differences for the glory of Christ, the one whose life, death, resurrection, and ascension reconciles all people with one another.
Important as it truly is, we cannot rely solely on the opinion of canon lawyers. Reconciliation requires a commitment to truth, no matter how much pain it brings. History is clear: the Episcopal Church in Cuba is a diocese of this church which, through the manifold sins of imperialism, classism, and racism, has been expelled from this church.
The 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church will not vote this week to admit an entire extra-provincial church into this church. It will vote on whether or not to receive back into its fold a diocese which, through no fault of its own, has been isolated and subjected to second-class status among the people of God. History is clear: what was once one has been turned into two. Reconciliation – the process of sewing back together a frayed church ripped at the seems – cannot begin until the wounds of yesterday are treated with urgency, care, and an abiding commitment God’s vision of justice.
With the help of God, we, together, can begin the good, holy, and difficult work of bringing back into the fold the beloved people of God in Cuba…¡ahora! now!
Cody Maynus is the Community Engagement Coordinator at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, Minneapolis, MN and is in formation for priesthood in the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. He is a Delegate of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship.
The Rev. Rena Turnham is the Deacon for Community Engagement at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, Minneapolis, MN and is a member of the Cuban Ministry Commission of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. She is a Clergy Deputy from Minnesota.