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BRAZIL: "Primate Is Suffocating Us," Says Orthodox Rector

Funds being withheld from Recife Diocese by national church

By David W. Virtue

RECIFE, BRL. (10/5/2004)--An evangelical rector in the Diocese of Recife has written an impassioned letter to Virtuosity saying that his orthodox bishop, the Rt. Rev. Robinson Cavilcanti is being openly persecuted by the revisionist leaders of the Province, and that funds are being withheld from the diocese by the national church to punish him for his orthodoxy.

"We are in hard times, we need help. We are being suffocated. We need the orthodox bishops of the world and the Episcopal Church to show their power to support us," said the Rev. Miguel Uchoa, a Recife parish rector.

On September 16, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil (IEAB), met in an extraordinary session in Porto Alegre, under the presidency of the Primate to discuss the future of the majority evangelical diocese of Recife. This came as unexpected news to Recife evangelical bishop, Robinson Cavalcanti who had just completed a 36-hour return journey from a conference in Malaysia and received the news with less than a day's notice.

On the basis of the testimony of a small minority of largely inexperienced clerics from the diocese of Recife (who disagree with Bishop Robinson's theologically evangelical convictions), a decree was issued that, in effect, turned over certain parishes of the Recife diocese into the control of the diocesan bishop of Brasilia, Mauricio Andrade.

Neither Bishop Cavalcanti, nor any of the majority of evangelical Anglicans who serve and worship in the Diocese of Recife, were invited to speak. A "special episcopal supervision" was decreed, formulated on extremely innovative and unspecific grounds, said Bishop Cavalcanti.

For many 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. As storm clouds gather over the Anglican Communion as a whole, it appears that the liberal HOB, is bent on coercing Dom. Robinson Cavalcanti and the evangelical diocese of Recife out into the storm.

"This first step was to send an alternative Episcopal oversight to the diocese without consulting the diocesan bishop and hearing only a small group of 14 clergy, two of them retired and two licensed. Ten clergy and four churches... two of those churches voted to stay with the diocese under Bishop Cavalcanti´s authority, with one of them being fired because the priest lied to him," said Uchoa.

Now a second step is being taken by the liberal HOB and the provincial office of Brazil.

"The cathedral in Recife is in crises because most of the people do not want to be under the authority of a bishop sent by the HOB. Ninety percent of the Diocese is united, yet the House of Bishops has acted decisively against our bishop," said the evangelical priest.

"Last Friday an illegal resolution was passed and Bishop Hiroshi Ito the president of the provincial Educational administrative council who holds a big part of the money sent to all the dioceses, (this bishop is a gay supporter and has install some of them in church positions) approved a resolution to pull the money out of the Recife diocesan office and give it to the Suffragan Bishop Filadelfo Oliveira," he said.

When he was elected he was thought to be the "perfect person" to help Bishop Cavalcanti, but now he is against him and allied with the liberals, said Uchoa.

"Our diocese is now without almost any money to pay bills, and function with the minimum structure. We urgently need $3.000 (US) monthly to run the diocese."

"The province leaders are trying to suffocate the diocese if they can.

Things are getting harder and we will need the help of the brothers and sisters around the globe. Realignment is a possibility, we don't know yet, but until then we need to survive. The parishes are helping the diocese but we are talking about a poor context, small parishes that have not enough money to develop their own projects," said Uchoa.

"The province leadership is acting in an illegal way, but they do not care. They are forcing us to leave the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil before the Lambeth Commission issues their report. They know that the report will be orthodox and against ECUSA to whom they are allied and who finances the Church in Brazil," he said.

"We await the third step, but who knows what will come. We will stand until the end," said the priest.

Robinson is now looking for ecclesiastical support from the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone and its archbishop Greg Venables. "I am deeply concerned that Robinson wasn't advised of the meeting (if that is the case) and that the meeting was held in his absence," wrote Venables to Virtuosity.

A major rupture is clearly underway between the liberal Primate Oliveira, and Bishop Robinson Cavilcanti.

There are reports out of Recife that the Brazilian Primate has called on Primate Venables and asked him not to accept the orthodox diocese in any realignment.

Other reports say Bishop Cavalcanti is calling Venables seeking protection.


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