7/17/2018

The Contested Episcopal Election in Haiti

The Diocese of Haiti has elected The Ven. Kerwin Delicat bishop coadjutor. I have previously posted comments on the process HERE.

That election has been contested by some members of the diocese who have forwarded their objections to Province II officials with the request that the election be voided. The Living Church has reported on the whole matter HERE. Included here is a copy of the letter contesting the election. The letter itself is a hodge-podge of charges, only a very few concerning discrepancies in voting processes or delegate seating. The rest concern left over charges against Bishop Duracin, a charge against Delicat, and a wider charge of corruption in the Diocese.  Since the concern is the validity of the election, I hope most of the extraneous material will be set aside. 

It is my understanding that there will be a meeting on July 21st in the US to address the concerns raised in the letter. 

According to the Living Church, the matter of the election in Haiti, and the letter, were taken up by the House of Bishops in closed session. I can find no report about the content of that conversation.

The closed session of the House of Bishops on this matter is very strange to say the least. In the past elections within 90 days of General Convention were considered by the Convention itself, so issues that might affect the voting by dioceses would be raised in an open hearing on the election. Because no Bishop election is presented to the General Convention it is quite odd to have one house consider matters pertaining to the election. Moreover, since the dioceses must individually give assent to the election it is quite possible for information not shared with members of a Standing Committee to influence the bishop’s vote. For the HoB to take this matter up has the appearance of continuing the pattern of missionary paternalism that often colors the relation between “established” dioceses of this church and those that are still seen as “missionary” dioceses (although that name no longer is used in reference to international dioceses or formerly domestic missionary dioceses.)  That may not be the case at all, but we can’t know that, can we, if the discussion was done in closed session and there is no report on its content or conclusions if any.

The letter is quite long and includes a variety of accusations. Some of these have been addressed by The Venerable Dr. J. Fritz Bazin, Archdeacon for Immigration and Social Justice, Diocese of Southeast Florida, in an email sent by him to several diocesan and provincial officials.  I have Archdeacon Bazin’s permission to quote from his note. I will occasionally add to these notes

Archdeacon Bazin begins his commentary on the letter and its accusations by stating:

“After careful reading of a June 6,2018 letter of contestation of the June 2 Bishop's election of the Diocese of Haiti, I feel it necessary to submit the following analysis in the hope of shedding some light on this very important event in the life of the church of Haiti.

The text relates certain allegations that need to be fully investigated yet many other statements are unsubstantiated accusations. 

The first statement that could be considered a canonical violation is in iv section b, under Canonical violation. The local canons, however, make it clear that a representative of Diocesan institution such as The Theological Seminary have voting rights even if canonically residents of another diocese of the Episcopal Church. (The assumption is that the priest in question was one of those representatives.)

"On the other hand alleged arbitrary revocation of voting rights of delegates must be investigated.

On the matter of Police presence on the site of convention: This needs to be looked into in the actual Haiti context.

Bishop Duracin and Bishop Beauvoir both drive cars equipped with sirens an official license plates for security reasons. Their offices are guarded  by armed guards for their personal protection.

When therefore before the holding of elections, tracts are distributed and notes are sent to the media inviting protesters to come and express their opposition, it became unfortunately necessary to have means of ensuring that those who are on the site of the election were the electors only.”

(I would note that at general convention agents of the convention make sure that only voting members of the house are on the floor of convention, and at Delaware’s recent Episcopal election only voting representatives of parishes were allowed on the floor. There were no armed guards, but then again there was no suggestion of major disruption either.) 

Bazin continues, “There probably were  between some delegates and security agents who were sometimes unnecessarily zealous. On the other hand, some delegates might have been provoking these unfortunate reactions.”

(The question is if all those present who were legitimate electors were admitted to the election area and were able to vote.)

 “In reference to the accusation made by Guerline Charles (VII)  against Fr Kerwin Delicat as witness to an act of brutality perpetrated on her by Fr Vil, Fr Delicat has produced proof that he was in France at the time of the alleged act. That act should have been reported to the police if not by her alone but with the assistance of other clergy who know her.” 

(If Fr. Delicat was not there the whole of section VII falls apart.)

“Regarding Fr Amirold Lazare referred to in the last paragraph, I  am told that he is not an active clergy person in the Diocese. If he is in Haiti, why has not he been arrested.?

The problems of the church in Haiti are serious yet not without solution. They are peculiar to the situation,  yet many Christian communities have gone through great difficulties. Haitians must solve their own problems even if facilitated by other members of the family. 

There must be good faith and a true desire to bring reconciliation, not a"winner takes all'power game in reflecting that of Haiti Politics.

Again it is time for a cease fire and and effort to come together in sincere prayer and meditation. There cannot be any winner if it remains a war between two camps. That will only lead to a divided church with very little prospect of healing and to a loss of  credibility in the eyes of the people of Haiti.”

Archdeacon Bazin has made three initial observations: 

(i) The Canons of the Diocese allow for voice and vote for directors of some diocesan institutions, even when these persons are members of another Diocese. This makes it possible for some missionary or appointed personnel to take part in the governance of the Diocese. It has been a long-standing rule.

(ii) The report of armed guards is true. Bazin has commented on this before. While unusual, it is an extension of the often used practice of ensuring that only delegates are seated and disruptions avoided. 

(iii) the charge that Dean Delicat acted inappropriately is countered by his claim that he was not in Haiti at the time of the incident.

As to the other charges in the letter, a number of them concern the seating of delegates, the feelings of some that they were pressed to elect a preferred candidate, and wider charges about the influence of the current Bishop in the process. 

The charges related to irregularities need examination, of course, but it would appear that those do not finally change the outcome of the vote. 

The charges against the Bishop as too controlling are basically a rehash of older charges, ones that led to the intervention of the Presiding Bishop in the conflict between the Bishop and his Suffragan Bishop, and between clergy and lay people supporting one or the other of the bishops. I believe these are signs that the Suffragan Bishop continues a political campaign to unseat the Bishop and ultimately to take his place. (That is my read, not anyone else's.)

But the most important observation of Archdeacon Bazin is his plea that "Haitians must solve their own problems even if facilitated by other members of the family." 

In this and many conflicts in the Church in Haiti, outside forces - primarily Provincial and National Church offices - have intervened rather than facilitated, and worked with the assumption that "Poor Haiti" (with the echo..."the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.") is too poor in its wisdom and maturity as a church community to handle its own affairs. 

No doubt it was helpful to have the Presiding Bishop facilitate a way for the Diocese to move forward in spite of the conflict between the two bishops. That exceptional intervention was very helpful. Yet Archdeacon Bazin is right: "Haitians must solve their own problems..."  It is high time that the Church in Haiti be acknowledged as different from, but equal in stature to, other dioceses in The Episcopal Church. Whatever else happens in this review process we cannot return to a paternalistic relationship with the Diocese of Haiti.

In examining the charges in the letter contesting the election, those taking council for review of the election process must clearly examine their own level of bias. If those receiving the letter immediately conclude that Haiti cannot handle its own affairs, they do a disservice to a vibrant, large and mostly healthy church. If they, on the other hand, are able to facilitate a real review of the election they will help the Church in Haiti do its work with greater clarity.




5 comments:

  1. Dear Fr. Harris,

    We met briefly a couple of times, very recently at Cecile François’ celebration of life in what has become now the place of worship known as Cathédrale Ste Trinité. I am really perplexed that you have all the facts and have the authority to speak on behalf of HAITIANS or the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti. Maybe your friendship with Fr. François and Archdeacon Bazin can explain your stand. But the “mostly healthy” church that you seem to advocate for IS NOT healthy for the majority of oppressed Haitian Episcopalians.

    You are asking your readers that TECUSA stay away from what is going on in the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti. All other dioceses in TEC are required to adhere to the rules and regulations so why should The Diocese of Haiti be an exception? Last time I looked, you are not HAITIAN. Who and what is your personal motivation not to consider other sources besides Bazin? What should be expected from Archdeacon Bazin, who was made a canon by the current bishop (Fr Lafontant must be turning upside down in his tomb)? I wonder if the “Council of Archdeacons” of the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti will send you a letter asking you to mind your own business, the same way they did for Fr. Duvert, a Haitian born Episcopal priest of the Diocese of New York who wrote to denounce the corruption he saw? I wonder what privileged information you have to find a Diocese healthy when the diocesan bishop himself signed an acknowledgment of mismanagement, corruption and violations of canon law? A diocese not trusted by any serious contributors and is still not funded for post earthquake rebuilding due to the lack of credibility of its leadership?

    It appears that your writing talents have been hired by one side to discredit the valid points of the other and it’s about time you understand that if the church of Haiti is different, the church of Haiti should be held accountable to up-to-date business practices and standards. Your solidarity with your friends is admirable, but your behavior in itself is tinted with the same paternalistic behavior that you seek to denounce.

    The Episcopal Diocese of Haiti, under the leadership of the current bishop, have shown to the world an inability to conduct business with competence, ethics and savoir faire. The solutions are clear ahead. We will not pretend to be nationalistic when the church is seeking a provisional bishop, probably white, probably not Haitian, when we are not nationalistic for every project financed by TECUSA, a budget supported by TECUSA, so many parishes sponsored by parishes in USA. We just have to survey the many school, church and healthcare facility buildings owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti to understand that the money, squandered by this administration, belongs to the American taxpayers and church donors. The nationalism you defend is just false and fake.

    If you really want to allow us to be masters of our destiny, stay away from this process and don’t try to be a White messiah rescuing a crew in their sinking boat. You can’t walk on water. You’re not our savior.

    Peace be with you

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  2. Dear Fr. Nathanael: First, I am glad we were present together at Cecile's celebration of life. Perhaps that is a sign of a greater unity than our words apparently show...

    You are quite right: I am not Haitian, not part of the Church in Haiti. So I don't speak for the church. I am committed to the church and people of the church in Haiti and write from that standpoint.

    I resent the suggestions of your last two paragraphs. I am not defending a false and fake nationalism. I am certainly not a White messiah. I don't walk on water. And I certainly am not your savior.

    Archdeacon Fritz Bazin has written several observations that I though needed to be included in the wider conversations about the election. I am glad to have published them, putting them in the context of the election news that was available in the US.

    Obviously we see these matters very differently. You might know that you are not likely to change my view by using words like "false", "fake" and by throwing out the bait of the phrase "White messiah."

    M

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    1. In your response to Fr. Nathanael you claim to speak because you are committed to the church and people of Haiti. I wonder which church and which people of Haiti! Although I have lived outside of Haiti for the greater part of my life, and although I have exercised my ministry outside of my native land, I remain concerned about what is happening in my homeland. I deplore the fact that some with hidden agendas dare to speak on behalf of Haitians when they know they are lying. It is a shocking and sad reality when we as church leaders refuse to condemn corruption, abuse of power, injustice, and evil in general. I know you are well aware that leaders at the highest level of the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti have consented to the fact that they have submitted our church to a great deal of fraud and corruption. This is something that is well documented and of which you should be aware. You claim that Fr. Bazin presented a rebuttal to every article in the contestation document. I do not know the true reason why you decide to write about the recent events in the diocese of Haiti. I do not know why you decide to accept falsehood as truth. I do not know the true reason why you decide to get involved and why you have committed yourself to pass lies as truths. One thing I need you to remember: this is God’s church. We are only the stewards. One day, we will have to give account. I do hope and pray that at the end you can say with a clear conscience “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8, NIV).

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  4. Jesus will clear the church. I’m certain.

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