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BRAZIL: Recife Bishop calls on Williams for Alternative Episcopal Oversight


Special Report

By David W. Virtue

RECIFE, BR. (12/5/2004)--The orthodox Anglican Diocese of Recife has declared itself in a state of emergency and has called on the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates of the Anglican Communion to provide alternative adequate episcopal supervision from another Primate.

A letter was sent out from the diocese's recent convention by Bishop Robinson Cavilcanti and the Venerable Mauricio R. F. Coelho, Chairman of the Standing Committee requesting urgent action as they are under siege from the Primate of Brazil Dom. Orlando Santos Oliveira.

In a note to VirtueOnline, a priest of the diocese Miguel Uchoa wrote saying, "we are standing and by God's grace we will prevail in this struggle with the liberal Primate of Brazil."

The letter accuses the Primate of Brazil of an "arbitrary use of its power, in a discriminatory and oppressive manner" thus bringing on the crisis forcing the diocese to look for protection from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Cavilcanti accused the Brazilian Primate of repeatedly, in a unilateral, authoritarian, illegal and illegitimate fashion, with no basis either in the Constitution or in the General Canons of discriminating against him and the diocese. He said the Primate was "disconnected from Scripture".

The evangelical bishop said the Primate was trying to impose a strange form of “Alternative Episcopal Supervision” on certain clerics and parish communities, despite the fact that this had no canonical basis. "This measure was taken without the approval of one single diocesan or parish organ, and has resulted in divisions, provocations, and the creation, de facto, of a “parallel diocese”, promoting, in authoritarian fashion, a schism; under the direction of the Primate and the House of Bishops.

Cavilcanti said financial resources had been suspended to the Diocese of Recife by the National Commission for Theological Education (JUNET), with grave consequences for missionary activities.

In an exclusive interview with VirtueOnline in London last October Bishop Cavilcanti said the relationship between the province and his diocese had been tense for 29 years but it had deteriorated sharply over the last year. "Last month the Primate took action against me personally and tried to take several of my parishes away from me and give them to a liberal bishop Mauricio Andrade (diocesan bishop of Brasilia). I now face an ecclesiastical trial," he said.

For years the largely liberal (and ECUSA financed) Province of Brazil has struggled to accept the existence within it of a vibrant, committed, and mission oriented evangelical contingent based in the North East of the country. The Primate recently tried to take a number of his parishes out from under him and give them to liberal bishop, as a disciplinary action against Bishop Cavilcanti because he appeared in Ohio at the confirmation of ordinands by orthodox bishops in a liberal ECUSA diocese. The bishop has resisted efforts to remove him completely from the Province and was thought to be negotiating to bring his entire diocese under the ecclesiastical authority of the Archbishop of the Southern Cone, the Most. Rev. Gregory Venables.

"The liberals want to put me up for an Ecclesiastical Trial to throw me out of the church. Even if they succeed we will take our diocese out from under the Province of Brazil and seek ecclesiastical safety elsewhere. I am not the first bishop to suffer for defending sound doctrine in Church History and I won't be the last."

Despite their problems, the Rev. Uchoa wrote VirtueOnline to say that their recent diocesan convention was complete with five new ordinations of faithful priests, the atmosphere was calm with much harmony and common goals, he said.

But this unprecedented move by the Brazilian bishop has rocked the Anglican world, and puts Dr. Williams in the hot seat of having to cross diocesan boundaries himself, actions he has publicly condemned.

The Diocese of Recife continues to be an extreme case of harassment of an orthodox bishop by a liberal Province. Just two days before it was schedule to meet (with the convocation made one year ago), the Primate of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, Archbishop Orlando Oliveira sent a letter to the diocesan bishop Robinson Cavalcanti; communicating a “Decree” suspending the Recife Diocese's next Convention.

Dr Philip Giddings, UK convenor of Anglican Mainstream International expressed his dismay in learning of the continuing harassment of the Diocese of Recifé by the Primate of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil and in particular of the attempt by Archbishop Oliveira to ‘suspend’ the duly constituted Diocesan Convention.

"Anglican Mainstream strongly supports the call from the Bishop of Recifé, the Rt. Revd Robinson Cavalcanti, to the Archbishop of Canterbury and his fellow primates for immediate primatial oversight for the period of this emergency. The bishop, clergy and lay people of the diocese, who are faithful to orthodox Anglican teaching and practice, are feeling abandoned and looking for help from the leadership of the Communion. They are paying the price of faithfulness. They need our support and prayers. We stand with them as they ask the Archbishop of Canterbury to respond to their plea for help."


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