My brothers and sisters in Christ,
I write in response to the return of the Diocese of Cuba to The Episcopal Church after 52 years of lonely existence. When we debated the resolution that accomplished this at General Convention, I rose and challenged the House of Bishops to help fund the pension gap for clergy who have served in the Diocese of Cuba since they were pushed out of this Church.Clergy in Cuba have no access to state pensions or any equivalent of social security, for their service to the church is not recognized as employment, which is a function of the Cuban government. Their retirement requires enormous creativity and often means penury beyond what most Cubans already endure. In spite of the fiscal realities, the church in Cuba continues to be immensely resourceful and creative. Bishop Griselda has fostered a culture of strategic planning and missional engagement that will move and challenge anyone who has the opportunity to visit the diocese and her congregations. Gardens help to feed neighbors, the gospel is preached, clergy are trained in an ecumenical seminary, the diocese is effectively governed, and mission is engaged with baling wire and shoestrings. The famous old American cars of Havana, well-painted and maintained with hand-built parts, are an icon of Cuba’s resourcefulness. The cathedral and the local churches are similarly well-kept. The one resource missing is money, particularly dollars, for the local population either barters or uses highly devalued Cuban pesos (tourists must use convertible pesos which cost far more than the local currency).
The pension gap is approximately $800,000. Given the current census of Episcopalians, the need amounts to about $0.50 per member of this Church. I write to ask you to offer a mite to aid the aged and aging clergy of the church in Cuba. A couple of bishops of smaller dioceses shared their plans with us at General Convention to raise their offerings to $1 per member.
I am in conversation with Mr. Kurt Barnes, treasurer of the Episcopal Church, about an account dedicated to aiding the Episcopal Diocese of Cuba by underwriting the pension obligations. Our treasurer, the Rev. Kirby Smith, will be happy to receive the offerings of Episcopalians in the Diocese of San Diego and send them on together.
Let us rejoice at the return of Cuban Episcopalians to this body, and offer what we can for the well-being of those who have served so long and faithfully. I would also encourage you to visit Cuba and meet her people if you have the opportunity. The bridges of peace and healing so deeply needed in this world can be built piece by piece by people of good and godly will.
May God richly bless the givers and those whose lives in retirement will be eased by this offering.
Your servant in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
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