Episcopal Presiding Bishop issues letter about the Diocese of Haiti
The Office of the Presiding Bishop announced today that it was releasing a letter from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to the Rt. Rev. Zache Duracin, the Rt. Rev. Oge Beauviour and The Rev. Dr. Kesner Ajax, President of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Haiti.
The letter follows:
Dear Bishop Duracin, Bishop Beauvoir, Dr. Ajax:
I greet you in Jesus Christ with the apostolic words of St. Paul:
“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)
As baptized disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Episcopal Church we have been summoned into being by him, to proclaim and to share his Gospel, to make disciples of all nations, and to be instruments of God’s reconciliation and healing for the hurts of the world.
I write now in a context in which there is hurt and brokenness in the church, the body of Christ. We are all a part of Christ’s body. The hurt and brokenness affects us all, and I include myself, as your Presiding Bishop, in that company. As St. Paul said in the epistle to the Romans, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But he goes on to say in Romans that where sin and brokenness increase, the grace of God in the Jesus Christ abounds all the more. God’s grace is greater and God’s Spirit is stronger than our deepest hurts and most profound wounds. So now let us fall on our knees before the Lord and call on that Grace, that Spirit, that power to help, to heal, to restore and renew, to save and to set us free!
The task before us now is to work together in the Holy Spirit to attain the greatest degree of healing and reconciliation that is possible in the Diocese of Haiti and our wider Episcopal Church. And this we do not for our sake alone, but for the sake of the people of Haiti, the ministry of the Diocese of Haiti, the wider Episcopal Church, and the very integrity of our witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ itself.
All that I say in what follows is with that goal in mind — to work toward the greatest degree of healing and reconciliation possible. There may be aspects in what I say below that some will disagree with. I accept that. But acknowledging that, it is important to remember that the goal is greater than all else. So, I am asking us all to commit ourselves to the goal of working toward the highest and greatest degree of healing and reconciliation possible! For God has entrusted us with the ministry of reconciliation, not only in the world, but in the church.
In numerous statements and conversations since I became Presiding Bishop, and more recently when I was meeting in Haiti with Bishop Duracin and the Standing Committee of your diocese in late August, I have stressed what may be obvious to some but bears repeating again and again: that the troubles that have faced and continue to face the Diocese of Haiti are of grave concern, not only to me and other bishops, but to countless others throughout the Church who have had and continue to have a strong interest in helping the Diocese do its crucial ministry. And so, it is troubling that on top of the burdens placed upon the Diocese from natural and economic forces, serious divisions have arisen in the Diocese – divisions between the two bishops and divisions among the clergy and, undoubtedly, the laity.
Sadly, as we discussed in Haiti, some of those divisions have led to the pending disciplinary proceeding under Title IV of the canons against the Bishop Diocesan, largely stimulated by allegations made by the Bishop Suffragan. Since our meeting, it has become even clearer that this proceeding will continue to move toward an unflattering public trial within the next few months — with painful allegations by both bishops against each other and testimony by clergy of the Diocese as witnesses on both sides — unless a way can be found to resolve it amicably. Moreover, since our meeting, divisions among the lay and clerical leadership of the Diocese embodied in both the Bishop Diocesan and the Standing Committee, on the one hand, and the Bishop Suffragan, on the other, have led to the recent filing by the Standing Committee of the petition under Title III of the Church’s canons requesting that I begin the canonical process by which the pastoral relation between the Diocese and the Bishop Suffragan may now be involuntarily dissolved.
I believe that my responsibilities as Presiding Bishop, both pastoral and canonical, direct me to exert every reasonable effort to find ways to make substantial progress in healing these divisions before further damage is done to the Diocese and the larger Church. As the most pressing and immediate challenge, I believe that all concerned must work together toward a prompt, amicable and pastorally acceptable resolution of both the foregoing canonical proceedings.
This effort now seems to me to be all the more crucial in the light of the fact that the Bishop Diocesan will be retiring within the next few years and, indeed, since our meeting, has called for the election of a Bishop Coadjutor. How important it is that that election be conducted by a diocese that is healthy and generous of spirit cannot be overstated.
At the Haiti meeting discussed above, I promised to help develop and implement two processes in the furtherance of reconciliation and restoration of the health of the Diocese. The first was to appoint representatives of DFMS to work with representatives of the Diocese in creating a new “memorandum of understanding” relating to the joint efforts of the Diocese and the DFMS in future development projects, with a focus on joint decision making and sound and responsible financial practices. I am pleased that, with good-faith efforts on the part of representatives of both the Diocese and the DFMS, agreement on such a memorandum was quickly reached and is now being implemented. That is a significant accomplishment that creates the basis for equal partnership in mission, for the sake of the Gospel and the people of Haiti. Thank you to all who worked to achieve this.
The second was to develop a process for new conversations that would focus directly and specifically on the divisions among the bishops and the Standing Committee and divisions among the clergy. After giving this matter considerable thought and prayer, I have determined to appoint a three-person panel to assist me in a series of in-depth conversations with the bishops and clerical and lay leaders of the Diocese in the weeks and months ahead. All three persons whom I have selected, and who have agreed to serve, have had substantial personal experience with the Diocese and are persons in whom I place considerable trust. They are the Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane, the Bishop of Maine, whose diocese, as you know, has for some years had a partner relationship with Haiti; the Rev. P. Roger Bowen, a former Headmaster of Episcopal schools who, as you also know, has fostered partner relationships of countless schools in Haiti with Church schools and parishes in our other dioceses; and Paul B. Nix, Jr., Esquire, In-house Counsel for the DFMS in New York, who has worked persistently on specific development projects in Haiti, including the design and legal issues relating to the projected construction of a new Cathedral, as well as on the memorandum of understanding referred to above.
As I told Bishops Duracin and Beauvoir by telephone last week, I have asked this panel to begin its efforts with discussions with each of the bishops separately in the Church Headquarters in New York by the end of this month. I shall ask the panel to arrange a meeting with members of the Standing Committee promptly thereafter. After the members of the panel have then met with me to reflect upon the issues raised by these discussions, I shall design the next phase of this process.
I am appreciative of and encouraged by the fact that in my recent conversations with both of my brother bishops each assured me that he wished to work toward reconciliation. I thank them and thank God for that willingness.
Pursuant to my canonical responsibilities referred to above and my defined role as Chief Pastor, I am asking all involved to give this process all strength of effort and good will. Ultimately, however, I ask this of us all, in obedience to our Lord who has, as St. Paul said, entrusted us with God’s ministry of reconciliation.
Allow me to offer the prayer of St. Francis.
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
Your brother in Christ,
The Most Reverend Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church