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Central America: New Province Formed

Posted on: May 11, 1998 12:33 PM
Related Categories: Central America, Costa Rica

(ENS) Bolstered by a strong show of support from their Anglican Communion family, lay and clergy deputies from five countries assembled April 17-19 in San Jose, Costa Rica, officially created a new province, adopted a constitution and canons, and elected and installed a Presiding Bishop for the Anglican Church in the Central American Region (IARCA).

The Most Revd Frank T. Griswold, Primate of the Episcopal Church USA, addressed the inaugural provincial synod in Spanish and presided over the Saturday morning installation of the region's new spiritual leader, Bishop Cornelius Wilson of Costa Rica.

Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Panama, until now member dioceses of Province 9 of the American Church, joined the already autonomous Diocese of Costa Rica to create the new autonomous province. Costa Rica gained its autonomy in 1977.

Additionally, the Diocese of Honduras, a potential future member of the province, will cooperate with IARCA in areas of program and mission. Approval for the creation of this separate province was given by the 1997 General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, following a recommendation from the Standing Commission on World Mission. The Central American dioceses had earlier sought approval at the 1994 General Convention, but it was denied because all the provisions for autonomy had not been met. The province will continue to receive financial aid from the Episcopal Church under a long-term plan that requires gradual reductions in the level of assistance.

Strong support from partners

"We give thanks to God for the growth and maturity in Anglican witness that has led to this moment and this day," said the Revd Canon John Peterson, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, who made the trip to Costa Rica as the official representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Canon Peterson sketched the history of Anglican involvement in Central America, beginning with the arrival of missionaries from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG) in 1742.

Transfer of jurisdiction over the region was made from the Church of England to the Episcopal Church after World War II. "Now Central America becomes the 37th autonomous province in the Anglican Communion," Canon Peterson said. "The diversity of races and cultures in this region will be one of the gifts of this province to the whole Church worldwide," he noted.

Among other Church leaders present were Bishop James Ottley, former Bishop of Panama who is now Anglican Communion Observer at the United Nations; the Most Revd David Crawley, Archbishop of British Columbia and the Yukon, representing the Primate of the Church of Canada; the Most Revd Maurice Sinclair, Presiding Bishop of the Province of the Southern Cone of America; Bishop Clara Huerta-Ramos, Acting Primate of the Church of the Province of Mexico; and the Rt Revd Neptali Larrea, President of Province 9 of the Episcopal Church.

The American delegation accompanying Presiding Bishop Griswold included his wife Phoebe; Dr. Pamela Chinnis, president of the U.S. Church's House of Deputies; the Revd D Canon Donald A. Nickerson Jr., Secretary of General Convention; the Revd Canon David W. Perry, Ecumenical Officer; Willeen Smith, United Thank Offering executive; and Sonia Francis, executive for program. Hopes for continued cooperation

Archbishop Cornelius Wilson, addressing a congregation of several hundred gathered for his colourful installation service, said that independence was a natural progression for the Church in Central America. "We do not, however, wish to separate ourselves from our friends and brothers and sisters in Christ. We desire to cooperate in this region for the future spread of the Kingdom of God in a spirit of mutual respect, remembering that we are all partners in our worldwide Anglican Communion."

Elected as vice-president of the Provincial Council was Bishop Martin Barahona of El Salvador. The Revd Rosa Brown of Costa Rica was elected president of the House of Presbyters, Deacons and Laity. The Revd Hector Monterroso of Guatemala will continue to serve as Secretary General of the province.