Leigh Anne Williams
Jun 25, 2009
The Episcopal Diocese of Cuba held a special electoral synod on June 19
and 20 but after 10 rounds of voting, no new bishop was elected to
replace Bishop Miguel Tamayo Zaldívar who has served as interim bishop
for six years and plans to retire.
The Cuban church has not elected its own bishop for more than 20 years
because of internal divisions within the diocese. Bishop Tamayo was
appointed by the Metropolitan Council of Cuba – composed of the primate
of the Anglican Church of Canada, the U.S. presiding bishop of The
Episcopal Church and the primate of the West Indies – which has overseen
the church in Cuba since it separated from The Episcopal Church in 1967.
When he visited Canada in May, Bishop Tamayo told the Anglican Journal
he thought the problems were partially generational and that the church
was now more unified. "Some people belong to my generation and the new
generation coming [is] in a different way of thinking. This was the main
problem," he said. "But we've worked hard throughout these six years to
try to put them together to work together and I think that, thank God,
we achieved that. The diocese is much more faithful, hopeful and you can
notice that in the results of the diocesan programs," he said,
mentioning that 48 people had just graduated from a training program for
lay ministers and permanent deacons.
But divisions were still evident in the election. Four candidates
accepted their nominations, and the youngest candidate withdrew before
the first ballot, said Archdeacon Michael Pollesel, general secretary of
the Anglican Church of Canada, who was at the Cuban synod to oversee the
election on behalf of the Metropolitan Council. The three remaining
candidates were Rev. Emilio Martin, Rev. Ivan Gonzalez and Rev. José
"There was a clear leader from the first ballot to the last one, but he
didn't have enough votes," said Archdeacon Pollesel, referring to Rev.
Martin. "The requirement is a 66 per cent majority in both the clergy
and the laity, and none of them could achieve that. Had the bottom one
dropped off, there probably would have been an election, but he didn't.
Apparently, they don't have any provisions for taking the bottom name
out at some point as some of our dioceses do." Since none of the
candidates voluntarily dropped out of the running or gained enough
votes, electing a new bishop was not possible.
"It's really difficult to know how people voted, but there were clearly
two camps," said Archdeacon Pollesel. "I guess one would be considered
more moderate and middle of the road, the other might be considered a
little more traditional."
What happens next for the Cuban church remains to be seen. Archdeacon
Pollesel said that Bishop Tamayo is willing to stay on as interim bishop
a while longer and could do so with appropriate permissions. "The
Metropolitan Council would have to make a formal request of the primate,
which is Archbishop Gregory Venables," presiding (national) bishop of
the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone (the southern part of South
America). "Or the council could simply appoint a new bishop and not
extend Bishop Tamayo's tenure there, but I don't think that is likely to
happen. He's been a great source of healing for the whole thing and has
brought a lot of peace there," said Archdeacon Pollesel.
Bishop Tamayo has asked the Metropolitan Council for its advice on a way
Anglican Journal: Cuban electoral synod ends in stalemate (25 June 2009)