Photo Credit: David Paulsen / Episcopal News Service
The Presiding Bishop of the US-based Episcopal Church has launched a one-off $800,000 USD (approximately £601,400 GBP) appeal to fund pensions for clergy in the Diocese of Cuba. The General Convention of The Episcopal Church (TEC) voted last year to readmit Cuba into membership following a separation of 52 years caused by the Cuban revolution. The average stipend for Cuba’s 23 serving clergy is $55 USD (approximately £41 GBP) per month. Clergy in the diocese are not entitled to state pensions or social security because the Cuban government does not recognise their service as employment.
The Episcopal Church is seeking to reach its target by 9 June. The funds will be placed in the province’s Church Pension Fund to make pension benefits for the 23 active clergy, three retired clergy, and one surviving spouse. The appeal, “Together Again / Juntos de Nuevo”, is being carried out “in the spirit of welcome and reconciliation”.
“This is part of the work of reconciliation, bringing us together across historic divides”, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said. “This is not just fundraising; it’s following Jesus and finding our way back to each other.”
The former Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, also backed the appeal, urging the Church “to rejoice at the return of Cuban Episcopalians to this body and offer what we can for the well-being of those who have served so long and faithfully.”
The Episcopal Church of Cuba (ECC) traces its origins to 1901, when the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church established the Missionary District of Cuba under the jurisdiction of the Presiding Bishop. During the 1960s, the government led by Fidel Castro began cracking down on religion, jailing religious leaders and believers.
Because most interaction between Cuba and the US was embargoed, in 1966 the ECC was made an autonomous extra-provincial diocese within the Anglican Communion, under the oversight of a Metropolitan Council comprising the Primates of the Anglican Church of Canada, the Church in the Province of the West Indies, and The Episcopal Church.
Today, led by Bishop Griselda Delgado Del Carpio, the Diocese of Cuba is a growing church which is increasingly having an impact on communities throughout Cuba. With 46 congregations and missions led by 23 priests, along with an active lay leadership, it serves 10,000 Cuban Episcopalians and their neighbours.
Once the necessary processes have been completed, Cuba will join TEC’s Province II, which includes two other Caribbean dioceses – Haiti and the Virgin Islands.