Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Property Battle in the Diocese of Haiti Strains Relationships Between the Diocese of Upper South Carolina and Bishop of Haiti

Curious events have been occurring in Haiti centering around the community of Cange. Since 1979, the Diocese of Upper South Carolina has been very supportive of missionary work there, and has provided much-needed engineering and medical assistance largely through the efforts of the parishioners of Christ Church Greenville (see their web pages).

Episcopal priest Père Lafontant, who for many years was the spiritual leader at Cange and who along with his daughter visited our parish in Upper South Carolina in the past, retired four years ago and things apparently have not been the same there since.

Bishop Waldo has only provided cryptic and carefully guarded remarks about the problems in Cange, but he opens his "Pastoral Letter" on the subject by saying,
"the World Missions Committee, with my support, has temporarily suspended all aid and all trips to Haiti." 
We all know that Haiti is one of the poorest nations in our hemisphere, so what could be so bad that a a Church would cut them off?

As Bishop Waldo explains, it sounds like a church property dispute, and that is something that people in the Episcopal church should be familiar with.

"Over the course of the fall of 2015, the Diocese of Haiti has made it clear that they intend to manage all of the buildings on land purchased in their name by Père Lafontant in the early years of our shared ministry. These buildings include:
École Bon Sauveur and Église Bon Sauveur.
The Zanmi Lasante (Partners in Health’s Haitian sister organization) administrative compound, Artisan Center, Friendship House, hospital, and TB/HIV sanatorium.
Further complicating matters is the fact that many of Zanmi Lasante’s buildings are constructed on this property belonging to the Diocese of Haiti.  For years we have hoped to have a signed MOU (memorandum of understanding) between Zanmi Lasante and the Diocese of Haiti, for the use of the property. The World Missions Committee and I know that having the MOU is imperative both for security reasons and for us to be able to continue our work without choosing sides in this transitional struggle. We have attempted to promote the process of getting an MOU without success. "
Security for aid workers is also an issue in Haiti as evidenced by an attack on a Zanmi Lasante bus in October 2015.
"On Monday morning, a bus carrying 32 employees (doctors, nurses and technicians) of the humanitarian organization 'Zanmi Lasante' was attacked in Arcahaie by 4 heavily armed individuals, who have not hesitated to fire on the vehicle before set fire to it, according to the testimony of passengers. Fortunately no victim is to deplored, except employees strongly traumatized by this savage aggression." (Haiti Libre)
We are left to speculate as to the reasons why the Diocese of Haiti and the Diocese of South Carolina cannot agree on this matter, but this is not the only disagreement that exists between our two bishops.

Hint: Same-sex marriage.

Bishop Waldo of Upper South Carolina is totally in favor of "marriage equality" and is allowing the blessings of same-sex marriages in his diocese.

Bishop Duracin of Haiti was a signatory to the minority report on marriage equality at the last General Convention of the Episcopal church which read,
The nature, purpose, and meaning of marriage, as traditionally understood by Christians, are summed up in the words of the Book of Common Prayer:“The bond and covenant of marriage was established by God in creation, and our Lord Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life by his presence and first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. It signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and Holy Scripture commends it to be honored by all people.The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord” (BCP, p. 423)The nature, purpose, and meaning of marriage are linked to the relationship of man and woman. The promises and vows of marriage presuppose husband and wife as the partners who are made one flesh in marriage. This understanding is a reasonable one, as well as in accord with Holy Scripture and Christian tradition in their teaching about marriage.When we were ordained as bishops in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, we vowed to “guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church of God” (BCP, p. 518). We renew that promise; and in light of the actions of General Convention, and of our own deep pastoral and theological convictions, we pledge ourselves to “Maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). The bonds created in baptism are indissoluble, and we share one bread and one cup in the Eucharist. We are committed to the Church and its people, even in the midst of painful disagreement.“Speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). When we disagree with the Church’s actions, we will do so openly and transparently and – with the Spirit’s help – charitably. We are grateful that Resolution A054 includes provision for bishops and priests to exercise their conscience; but we realize at the same time that we have entered a season in which the tensions over these difficult matters may grow. We pray for the grace to be clear about our convictions and, at the same time, to love brothers and sisters with whom we disagree.“Welcome one another . . . just as Christ has welcomed [us]” (Rom. 15:7). Our commitment to the Church includes a commitment to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. We will walk with them, pray with and for them, and seek ways to engage in pastoral conversation. We rejoice that Jesus’ embrace includes all of us.We are mindful that the decisions of the 78th General Convention do not take place in isolation. The Episcopal Church is part of a larger whole, the Anglican Communion. We remain committed to that Communion and to the historic See of Canterbury, and we will continue to honor the three moratoria requested in the Windsor Report and affirmed by the Instruments of Communion.We invite bishops and any Episcopalians who share these commitments to join us in this statement, and to affirm with us our love for our Lord Jesus Christ, our commitment to The Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Communion, and our dissent from these actions.Communion Partner signatories:The Rt. Rev’d John C. Bauerschmidt, Bishop of TennesseeThe Rt. Rev’d Gregory O. Brewer, Bishop of Central FloridaThe Rt. Rev’d Daniel W. Herzog, Bishop of Albany, resignedThe Rt. Rev’d Paul E. Lambert, Bishop Pro Tem of DallasThe Rt. Rev’d Edward S. Little II, Bishop of Northern IndianaThe Rt. Rev’d William H. Love, Bishop of AlbanyThe Rt. Rev. Bruce MacPherson, Bishop of Western Louisiana, resignedThe Rt. Rev’d Daniel H. Martins, Bishop of SpringfieldThe Rt. Rev’d Edward L. Salmon, Bishop of South Carolina, resignedThe Rt. Rev’d William J. Skilton, Assistant Bishop of Dominican Republic, resignedThe Rt. Rev’d Michael G. Smith, Bishop of North DakotaThe Rt. Rev’d Don A. Wimberly, Bishop of Texas, resignedOther signatories:The Rt. Rev. Lloyd Allen, Bishop of HondurasThe Rt. Rev. Jean Zache Duracin, Bishop of HaitiThe Rt. Rev. Francisco José Duque Gómez, Bishop of ColombiaThe Rt. Rev. Orlando Guerrero, VenezuelaThe Rt. Rev. E. Ambrose Gumbs, Bishop of Virgin IslandsThe Rt. Rev. Samuel Johnson Howard, Bishop of FloridaThe Rt. Rev. Julio Holguin, Bishop of Dominican RepublicThe Rt. Rev. Alfredo Morante, Bishop of Ecuador Litoral
After General Convention 2015, there was speculation as to what effect the Episcopal church's actions might have on its missionary efforts in other countries. The party line in TEc circles was that the same-sex marriage issue would not have any impact on mission and outreach. In fact, Bishop Waldo recently said exactly that as I posted here a few weeks ago,
 "In fact, the vast majority of connections remain intact between the Episcopal Church and many of the provinces, dioceses and congregations who dissent from the General Convention 2015's decisions on marriage-through mission partnerships, companion diocese relationships, friendships and, especially, shared faith in the Lordship of Jesus Christ."
Are we beginning to see some cracks in that argument?

Without a face to face interview with Bishop Duracin of Haiti, I cannot be sure.

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