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The Crucifixion of Recife [Brazil]
titusonenine ^ | 7/29/2005 | The Rev. Dr. Peter Moore

Posted on 07/30/2005 8:06:16 AM PDT by sionnsar

Nothing has aroused my ire more in recent months than the effort of the Province of Brazil to oust the Rt. Rev. Robinson Cavalcanti, Bishop of the Diocese of Recife, from his job and denigrate one of the most vibrant parts of the Anglican Communion in this Hemisphere. Well-funded with U.S. dollars from 815 Second Avenue, the Primate of Brazil has swooped in and tried to take over this bustling diocese and in the meantime rid himself of the only bishop in his Province who has had the guts to say that the Emperor has no clothes.

Bishop Cavalcanti did the unspeakable. He participated in a confirmation service in Akron, Ohio with a number of other retired Episcopal and courageous Anglican bishops because the solidly revisionist Diocese of Ohio has been resolutely determined to support V. Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire and to brook no opposition to its fierce loyalty to the Episcopal status quo post G.C. 2003.

More than that Cavalcanti has been clear in his open criticism of his Primate’s attempt to depose him - breaking that Anglican gentleman’s agreement that high-placed prelates must be credited with being innocent before shown to be guilty.

Archbishop Orlando Santos de Oliveira presides over a Province that is morally and spiritually bankrupt. Liberal, stuffy, and dying, The Province of Brazil is utterly dependent upon financial bail-outs from ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada. Despite its long history originating with Episcopal missionaries from the United States, it now caters to a small well-heeled, Anglofile, remnant of the Brazilian population that wouldn’t recognize the Gospel if - by chance – it heard it preached from its pulpits.

By contrast the Diocese of Recife is a moving force for the Gospel in a sophisticated corner of the country (the Easternmost promontory that juts out into the Atlantic near the Equator). Recife is headed by a learned, clear-thinking bishop who has the warm support of his people. My visit there in ‘04 introduced me to a cadre of clergy (both women and men) who love and support their bishop, and who are reaching out to every corner of the populace including both the educated middle classes and the poor. One of the largest Anglican churches in South America, The Church of the Holy Spirit, just a block away from Recife hotel-strewn beach front, draws 700+ every Sunday. It meets in a former nightclub and is pastored by a 6 foot 6 inch ex surfer, Rev. Miguel Uchoa. Holy Spirit has 90 ministries involving hundreds of laity in various caring ministries that include day care for street kids, computer labs to help train unemployed youth, and basic medical care. It is also filled with young people on Sunday.

When Archbishop Oliveira moved in and appointed another bishop as the true overseer of Recife, and then took over the Provincial seminary that was located on the outskirts of the city, people ignored his intrusions. They pledged their allegiance to Cavalcanti and moved the seminarians into town. I spoke to 35 eager students one evening, and chatted with a bright young couple who were headed off to Trinity Seminary in Ambridge, PA to do an M.Div.

What angers Oliveira and his cabal of sycophants in San Paulo is that Cavalcanti is bright, has a Ph.D., speaks English well, and is theologically orthodox with a solid evangelical orientation. More a liberal than a conservative politically, he has nonetheless taken a firm stand against the consecration of an actively gay bishop in the Anglican Communion, and for that - plus his outspoken support of Gospel renewal within the Communion - he has been defrocked by his Primate. He has appealed the sentence, knowing that there is no way his dioceses, which supports and loves him, will permit the liberal who reflects the increasingly moribund Province of Brazil. to take his place.

Thankfully, there is a chorus of outrage around the Communion over this mockery of justice in the name of Christ, and the newly-constituted troubleshooting Panel of Reference created by the Archbishop of Canterbury doubtless has this high on its agenda. Another newly-formed group, the Pan American Conference of orthodox Communion-committed Anglicans, consisting of two South American Primates and representatives of more than a dozen Anglican organizations has come out solidly in support of Cavalcanti and his right to direct his diocese unhindered.

My question is what right does a Brazilian prelate who can’t get his own relatively well-off province to support itself (40% of its revenue still comes from ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada) have to try to pull the rug out from under one of the most successful parts of the Anglican Communion? The fact that ECUSA has rushed to support of Archbishop Oliveira should give every American Episcopalian pause: why should a church like Brazil that claims an ancient missionary heritage try to squash a movement that clearly has the blessing of God on it? Note the hypocrisy of ECUSA’s claim to have the guidance of the Holy Spirit in recognizing gay unions and supporting gay bishops while failing to see the Holy Spirit as the inspiration for a dynamic, Christ-centered, diocese and her deeply respected bishop? Unfortunately, the founding bishop of Recife, The Rt. Rev. Edmund Knox Sherrill, a man who helped introduce Recife to charismatic renewal, has now come out saying that gay bishops and blessings should not be a communion-breaking issue, and that we should live and let live - an indication, I think, of the weakness of charismatic Christianity when combined with a lack of clear theological thinking.

But it is precisely a lack of fuzzy theological thinking that has gotten Bishop Cavalcanti into hot water, and put in jeopardy the entire ministry of one of the brightest spots on the South American landscape. I found his seminarians to be thoughtful, articulate (albeit in Portuguese), communicators of the Faith. The dean of his diocesan seminary is a gifted young scholar from England and the raft of students pouring into his program testifies to the strength of the future of the church in that area.

Let there, then, be a chorus of support for Recife, Brazil and its duly-called and gifted bishop. Let money flow into this engine of renewal to help cover the shortfall since Archbishop Oliveira has cut off all provincial funding. Let prayers be said for wisdom to prevail at this hour - especially for the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Panel of Reference as it considers this egregious breech of justice. And let letters of support be written to Bishop Cavalcanti (bispolinda [at]uol [dot]com [dot]br) encouraging him to stand firm and be filled with the wisdom, understanding, and the fear of the Lord.

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant

1 posted on 07/30/2005 8:06:16 AM PDT by sionnsar
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