16 March 2004
The Most Revd Frank Griswold Presiding Bishop of The ECUSA
Episcopal Church Centre 815 Second Avenue
New York 10017, NY.
United States of America
My Dear Brother,
It was with surprise, sadness and concern that we received the news about the participation – without permission from the diocesan bishop of Ohio – of the Brazilian Bishop Robinson Cavalcanti, diocesan Bishop of Recife of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, in a confirmation service of 110 people in the state of Ohio, together with five retired bishops of ECUSA, as his participation has been stated in the press “as illustrating international support for the measures.”
We want to express to your Grace our strong disapproval of this action taken by this bishop, the Right Revd Cavalcanti, who, apart from showing himself through this gesture to be both impolite and disrespectful, has violated the constitution and the canons of ECUSA, by performing an Episcopal and sacramental act in the Diocese of Ohio without the permission from the bishop of that Diocese.
With regard to the above-referenced act and also with reference to any others he may have participated in during his presence in the USA, Bishop Cavalcanti was neither an official nor a sanctioned representative of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil. His participation in all and any events while in the USA was a purely personal initiative and not in any way as an envoy from our Brazilian province. He did not and would never have obtained permission for such action; furthermore, at no stage were we informed as to his intentions with regards to such a visit. Within our Brazilian province, such an act constitutes a blatant violation of our constitution and canons, in the most basic context of the traditions of the Church.
As one of the Primates who attended the Primates` meeting of October 15th and 16th, 2003, I can also state that the fact of some bishops arrogating for themselves the right to perform sacramental and Episcopal acts, without permission from the diocesan bishop, and at the same time proclaiming such acts to be in accordance with the mandate of the Archbishop of Canterbury and with the Primates, is neither true nor correct. The declaration arising from this meeting states that all provision for Episcopal oversight of “dissident minorities” is a matter to be resolved by the province in question and, as such, restates that “whilst we reaffirm the teaching of successive Lambeth Conferences that bishops must respect the autonomy and territorial integrity of dioceses and provinces other than their own, we call on the provinces concerned to make adequate provision for Episcopal oversight of dissenting minorities within their own area of pastoral care in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury on behalf of the Primates.”
Thus, on behalf of the Bishops’ Chamber, of the clergy and of the people of the Province of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, I would like to offer to your Grace our most sincere apologies for such a disrespectful and impolite act as done by one of our bishops. Similarly, I would like to reaffirm that in no way do we agree with nor would we sanction such a canonical violation, done in total disrespect for the autonomy of your province and for the Diocese of Ohio. Further, I take this opportunity to inform you that this matter will be taken up and examined in the next meeting of the Bishops’ Chamber, 22-23 March, 2004.
I also wish to reaffirm our respect for the decisions of the General Convention in Minneapolis, thus recognising the autonomy of our brothers and sisters of ECUSA, who, in their own cultural and ecclesiastical context, and through regular and democratic canonical process, confirmed the election of Bishop Gene Robinson.
Last but not least, I also wish to reaffirm our communion and companionship with our sister Church ECUSA. We believe that the family we belong to, the Family of the Anglican Communion around the world, has to be an instrument of God’s love for the world and that means, that in seeking to hold together as a Communion, we have to be seeking to serve that purpose and no other. So, it is my belief that by attempting to work through differences within our family we may come to a better perception of the calling of our mission.
We reaffirm that we are Partners in Mission with ECUSA. Be assured of our prayers for your well-being, for the pastoral ministry that God has entrusted to you, and also for all the clergy and people of ECUSA.
“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8.28
With every good wish and blessing,
Most Revd Orlando Santos de Oliveira
Primate of the Province of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil