In her opening remarks to Executive Council yesterday the Presiding Bishop gave some good news regarding the challenge to support the Episcopal Church of Haiti. ENS reports from her statement:
"Four years ago this month, Executive Council passed a resolution expressing its deep concern for our Haitian sisters and brothers following the devastating earthquake on January 12. That resolution challenged “The Episcopal Church to raise an extrabudgetary sum of at least $10,000,000 for the long term rebuilding of the Diocese of Haiti.” I am absolutely overjoyed to tell you that we have received a written pledge of $5 million to assist the Diocese of Haiti in its recovery and rebuilding efforts. We are grateful beyond measure for this expression of generosity and faith in the Church’s work in Haiti. This pledge will be received by The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society and disbursed as the work is completed. We’ll be able to make further details public in about a month, but I wanted this Council to learn of it first. This is the fruit of the quiet and dedicated work of our Development Office, under the faithful and creative leadership of Elizabeth Lowell."
This is very good news indeed. The Presiding Bishop has been wonderfully faithful in her support of the Church in Haiti. She has been to Haiti several times since the earthquake and has made recovery and renewal in Haiti a central concern of her ministry. So in addition to the donor and Ms. Lowell, the Presiding Bishop deserves recognition for her untiring efforts in support of Haiti.
The Synod of the Episcopal Church of Haiti met last Wednesday (January 29, 2014). This annual synod meeting was of particular importance because of the decision made there to ask General Convention to divide the single Diocese of the Episcopal Church of Haiti, the new Diocese to be The Diocese of North Haiti.
The following is a report of that Synod gleaned from my notes, those of others who were there, and from the preliminary draft of the minutes of the Synod. The formal record, of course, waits for the final minutes of Synod. I did ask Bishop Duracin to review this and he finds my report true to the sense of the meeting and the specifics of resolutions. Here is what I wrote:
The Challenge of Mission and Autonomy: The 117th Synod of the Episcopal Church of Haiti.
The Synod Meeting:
The Episcopal Church of Haiti held its 117th Synod on January 29th, 2014, at Holy Trinity Cathedral. The Cathedral, destroyed in the 2010 earthquake, is in its present incarnation housed in a temporary structure behind the ruins of the old Cathedral.
But there is nothing temporary about the cathedral as the central focus of the life of the Episcopal Church of Haiti. The 161 clergy and lay delegates, twenty seminarians and a large number of guests from every deanery of the Church, were there to participate in planning for the future.
In his address to the delegates at the Eucharist, Bishop Jean Zache Duracin set the theme for the day’s deliberations, calling the delegates to understand mission as the participation in God’s mission. He reminded delegates that Bishop James Theodor Holly’s vision, a vision whose end was service to God’s mission, was of a “Orthodox Apostolic Church” in Haiti. He said that the work of the Church is guided by both the conviction that God calls the Church to mission and that God’s call to the Episcopal Church of Haiti requires it becoming a church of Haiti. Concerns for mission and autonomy were at the core of the issues facing this Synod.
In his address Bishop Duracin announced that a new mission initiative, long in the planning, was now ready to begin – the training, ordaining and deploying of persons called to the Deaconate. Deacon training will begin as soon as possible following Synod.
Bishop Duracin called for the positive consideration of the resolution to create the Diocese of North Haiti and to seek consent from the General Convention to do so. This move is both a missionary strategy and a step towards greater autonomy.
Division into two dioceses requires that parishes throughout the Church be strengthened to be autonomous parishes and pushes the whole Church to consider its autonomy. The call does not assume any additional support from The Episcopal Church, but rather greater support from the parishes and missions of the Church of Haiti. He stressed that the Cathedral was to be considered the cathedral for the whole of the Episcopal Church of Haiti.
In the Eucharist Bishop Duracin also installed Fr. Gasner Damus of the Diocese of Long Island and the Ven. Fritz Bazin of the Diocese of South-East Florida as honorary canons of Holy Trinity Cathedral, and received The Rev. Roldano Auguste, a Lutheran pastor, to exercise priestly ministry in The Episcopal Church of Haiti.
The morning session organized the Synod by electing officers and heard from several guests. They received a power point report on the progress in design for Holy Trinity Cathedral from Mr. Tom Kerns of The Kerns Group who then answered questions from the delegates. The hope is to begin work in 2015-6 following approval of the final plans.
The Synod then broke up into five deanery meetings to discuss the theme, “Autonomy.”
Following Lunch the resolution to create a Diocese of North Haiti was introduced. Following an explanation of it by Bishop Beauvoir, the matter was put to a vote. 73 delegates voted for, none against, and one abstained.
A second resolution, to consider organization of the remaining deanery areas in the light of the first resolution, was discussed and passed.
The Synod voted unanimously to enter a companion relationship with the Diocese of South East Florida.
After considerable discussion the Synod rejected a resolution growing from the report from the Committee on Constitution and Canons on the work of a suffragan bishop.
Synod then opened to general discussion of issues and concerns of the delegates. There is some desire to expand again the time given to Convention, beginning with a session on Tuesday afternoons. A concern was raised that the Music School prepare musicians for the whole diocese. The Committee on New missions and parishes needs better communications from the clergy.
Bishop Beauvoir announced that he will be representing Haiti as a meeting at the White House and has been asked by the Presiding Bishop to serve in mediation role in a conflict in Africa.
Bishop Duracin closed with hopes for safe travels and gave his Episcopal Blessing to the assembly.
Following the great earthquake of 2010, Bishop Duracin proclaimed that the church and the country had to “get up and walk” – that it had to rise from this terrible catastrophe and work out its future. Both civil society and the church have struggled with the need to not only build again, but to do so in ways that work for Haitian self-reliance and self-governance. This has meant that reconstruction must mirror resurrection and transformation, not resuscitation and transaction only.
The mission established by The Rev. James Theodore Holly had as its goal the formation of an autonomous “Orthodox Apostolic Church of Haiti,” part of the wider Anglican Communion of churches but genuinely Haitian and self reliant. After a half century of leadership by Holly, and after hundred years of sustained ministry as a mission diocese of The Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Church of Haiti has set its course to become once again an autonomous and at the same time interdependent church within the Anglican family of churches.
This move will require new thinking about almost all work by the Church as it works to respond to God’s mission. The roles and functions of all ministers of the church – laity, bishops, priests and deacons - will have to be reconsidered in the context of ministry in and to Haiti. The function of a national cathedral – Holy Trinity – and other national institutions will have to be re- envisioned in the light of growing autonomy for the Church in Haiti. The Haiti UTO ingathering has already begun to envision its role in an autonomous and interconnected Anglican world.
This Synod marks a turning point in the development of a twenty-first century Episcopal Church of Haiti.