In 1966, in light of the Cuban Revolution and the political response of the United States, the House of Bishops voted to separate from the Diocese of Cuba from the Episcopal Church, leaving it an autonomous diocese without a provincial home. The clergy scattered, some returning or immigrating to the US, but some who remained in Cuba were imprisoned, executed, or disappeared; priests lost their pensions, and they operated in isolation from the Church. Cuba officially requested to be reaffiliated with the Episcopal Church and was given a list of requirements before admission. As of GC79, all of those conditions had been met. However, leading up to the resolution coming to the floor of both the Deputies and Bishops, there was controversy on what it would mean, how this admission might impact the admission of other Dioceses (or their exit), how to affirm already elected bishops (assuming they had not followed the current practices of approval for bishops in the Episcopal Church), among other concerns. In other words, there was a desire to right the wrong done 52 years ago, but some anxiety about the implications of the decision.
As an alternate deputy, I had the leisure of observing either House. On Tuesday, I happened to be observing the House of Bishops when resolution A238 came to the floor. Each testimony pleaded for righting the wrong done by the House of Bishops in 1966. Retired bishop Leo Frade from the Diocese of Southeast Florida spoke passionately about the resolution. As a Cuban American who had been a part of the Church in Cuba, he got quite emotional in his plea for the bishops to do the right thing. When it came time for the vote, the vote was a unanimous approval for readmittance. The entire house – bishops and visitors – exploded. Cheers and clapping filled the room, and the standing ovation lasted several minutes. Unbeknownst to me, the Bishop of Cuba was present and was invited to approach the platform to address the House. Bishop Curry embraced her. The House broke into singing the Doxology.
Bishop Griselda Delgado’s speech was the most humbling. Despite every reason to feel resentful or hurt, Bishop Delgado communicated nothing but forgiveness and reconciliation. “We are family,” she insisted. And although we severed the relationship so many years ago, she insisted, “Cuba never left.” Her sentiments struck me as the exact way that God sees us. When we reject God, God never leaves us. When we abandon God, we do not abandon our familial ties with God. Bishop Delgado’s profound sense of right relationship, reconciliation, and forgiveness brought the House to tears. We did not deserve her mercy, and yet there she was, offering mercy. When Bishop Delgado said, “The Holy Spirit is here,” I knew she was right. In response, Presiding Bishop Curry said, “The Bishop may take her seat at Table 7.” Those words were words of righting a wrong – fully, completely, unconditionally.
The experience the next day was equally powerful in the House of Deputies. They too needed to approve the resolution, and it also passed unanimously. Bishop Delgado spoke there too, but equally powerful was the triangular sign with the word, “Cuba” written on it. It was processed to a table, and the deputies from Cuba were seated in the House of Deputies. “Welcome home,” pronounced President Jennings.
What I loved about the approval of this resolution was seeing how legislation can powerfully effect change. Sometimes, in the weeds of parliamentary procedure, and canonical revisions, one can wonder if all we are doing is navel gazing. But on these days, we watched first-hand the commitment to change, the willingness to boldly repent, and the receiving of mercy. Surely the presence of this Lord has been in this place!