GENERAL CONVENTION 2003


 

 


Venezuela granted full membership in
EPISCOPAL CHURCH

by Giovanni Figueredo

August 7[ENS] The House of Bishops unanimously approved resolution A142 Wednesday,
which recommends the admission of the Anglican Diocese of Venezuela in
Province IX of the Episcopal Church.

Bishops of several dioceses, led by William Smalley of Kansas and Barry
Howe of West Missouri, voiced their support for the South American
diocese and highlighted its missionary labor among Venezuelan indigenous
peoples, disregarded by most denominations.

After a resounding "Yes" by the bishops, the room burst into laughter as
Bishop Julio Holguin of the Dominican Republic sang "Alma Llanera"
(Flatland's Soul), considered the second Venezuelan national anthem, and
Orlando Guerrero, Bishop of Venezuela, was granted a seat in the floor.

"It is a great joy for me and my diocese to be a full member of the
Episcopal Church after waiting for so many years. For a long time we
were isolated, and in 1982 we were given the status of extraprovincial
diocese. Being fully admitted in ECUSA will be of support for the
missionary work we are doing among native peoples. It is important for
us to be members of a province, not to be alone. Being full members of
ECUSA will make our companionship relations with other dioceses easier
and will boost our missionary work," he said.

Guerrero expressed his gratitude to the members of the Committee on
Structure and the Committee on World Mission, with whom he worked for
more than a year to put together the resolution.

"I must voice my thankfulness to Canon Gene Robinson of New Hampshire;
he always supported us and took part in the process. Because we have
many small congregations, he was always interested in our joining since
that will help us grow," he added.

Asked about the ramifications of the consent for Robinson, the
Venezuelan prelate explained that homosexuality is a difficult topic in
Latin American, "but we know that there have always been gay people
everywhere, and there will always be. It is not a foreign reality for us
either. We don't believe that it is the product of a certain culture,
and we are aware that it is a complex topic with many variables. Our
clergy are open to discussions, and they are not scandalized by it, and
I believe that our congregations share this view. Our ecumenical
relations won't be affected because other denominations are struggling
with similar issues, so they know what is going on. We will debate those
topics when we have to."

According to data from the diocese, there are 10 permanent
congregations, 14 missionary churches and a Sunday attendance of more
than 1,300 people. The clergy is made up of seven priests, including a
woman, three deacons and seven lay readers. Thus far, there are 20
people interested in ordained ministry.

One of the ongoing projects is the creation of a center for theological
studies where people can get a bachelor of arts degree in theology;
normally local clergy are trained in either Ecuador or England.

The Anglican presence in Venezuela dates to 1830, when the government
allowed the opening of an Anglican chaplaincy by the British consul, Sir
Robert Kerr Potter. Before then, Protestants and Jews were banned in the
Spanish colonies. In 1872, the chaplaincy was put under the authority of
the Bishop of Trinidad. In 1967 the diocese was established and
supervised by English bishops. Guerrero, the first Venezuela-born
bishop, was elected in 1985.

 

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