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ECUADOR CENTRAL: Episcopal Diocese is in "Complete Meltdown," says Latin Bishop

ECUADOR CENTRAL: Episcopal Diocese is in "Complete Meltdown," says Latin Bishop

By David W. Virtue
June 22, 2011

A seven-year conflict in the Episcopal Church's Ecuador Central diocese has resulted in the presiding bishop sending a team to that nation to investigate. The conflict has resulted in the breakdown of relationships between the Standing Committee and Bishop Luis Fernando Ruiz, who has served as diocesan bishop since August 2009.

In May, the Standing Committee declared itself as the ecclesiastical authority in the diocese during a special convention after it could no longer accept the bishop's authority. In her letter, the presiding bishop called that action "irregular" adding that Ruiz will continue as the ecclesiastical authority "until a canonical process decides otherwise."

Given the Standing Committee's continued refusal to recognize the bishop's authority, Jefferts Schori has requested that Ruiz postpone a scheduled visitation and confirmations at the diocese's Catedral de El Senor in Quito June 19. Instead, she has asked the Rev. Glenda McQueen, the Episcopal Church's officer for Latin America and the Caribbean, to attend as her delegate and observer.

"I urge all concerned to step back from the threat of violence," Jefferts Schori said. "This is never an appropriate Christian response to conflict ... Reconciliation will be difficult or impossible if persons fear for their safety. I pray that all may recover a spirit of peace."

The conflict in Central Ecuador dates to at least 2005 when then Bishop Jose Neptali Larrea Moreno was deposed for abandoning the communion of the church. Bishop Wilfrido Ramos-Orench, who had been suffragan bishop in Connecticut, became the diocese's provisional bishop in 2006.

The diocese was scheduled to elect a new bishop in December 2008, but Ramos-Orench cancelled the election and began the process of referring the matter to the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops. In February 2009, delegates to the Ecuador Central diocesan convention authorized the House of Bishops to elect a successor to Ramos-Orench. Ruiz was elected bishop in March 2009 by the bishops.

In July 2009 at General Convention, following a morning of passionate debate, the House of Deputies gave its consent to Ruiz's election by a margin of 594-228. Deputies from the Diocese of Ecuador Central criticized the process that led to the election and called on the House of Deputies to refuse to give consent, saying that their diocese had not been given the chance to elect its own bishop.

A bishop who resides in Latin America told VOL that there have been seven or more years of disastrous activities and choices. "Ramos-Orench was probably OK, but there are no internal positives to preach the Gospel. Ruiz, another disastrous choice, came in with a heavy hand but after a bad general convention in which he was appointed, he split the diocese again, that is, what was left of it. There is no unity, no desire to work together.

"There are lots of little continuing Anglican groups. There is an entire contingent of 10,000 Quechuas in Riobamba searching for somewhere to land. It is really bad. But the report is comprehensive in the decisions taken. Overall, each decision has been in error. The diocese is in complete meltdown."

The bishop said this is what happens when "do-gooder" Northerners believe it's more important to have indigenous leadership than capable leadership. "This has or is happening in more Latin Dioceses than you can count. Where have we seen similar difficulties? Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, Costa Rica (awhile ago), etc. Even in the Southern Cone. Most have a history of this kind."

The bishop said it's a typical Hispanic cultural issue, where the leadership does not trust the followers nor do the followers trust their leaders. "We have had 500 years of familial authoritarian rule. Democracy overnight does not fix it in Latin America or the Middle East."

"The reality is this: all Anglican Hispanic ministry hangs by a thread. The cultural factors are sometimes too overwhelming. Consistent oversight is needed, but is lacking. These ministries have at most 35-40 years of existence, but are unable to stand alone."

The source said sexuality issues in TEC have very little to do with it, though Hispanics, by and large, have no use for homosexuality and do not see it as their issue. It is being foisted on them by an aggressive Episcopal Church thus exacerbating an already tense situation making it worse.

Diocesan statistics

Congregations: 23
Active Baptized Members: 2,153
Communicants in Good Standing: 1,555
Others Active in Congregations: 868
Average Sunday Attendance ASA: 1,323
Church School Pupils: 386
Total Baptisms: 256
Adult: 222
Children: 34

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