Monday, October 9, 2006

Pilgrimage to El Salvador: Day Three

Returning to my previous series on our recent mission trip to El Salvador, the third day of our trip began with a three hour drive from San Miguel to the capital, San Salvador, to meet with the Rt. Rev. Martin Barahona, Bishop of El Salvador and Primate of the Province of the Anglican Church of Central America.
We met at the diocesan office and were given a brief tour by Fr. Ramiro Chavez, with whom I would spend much of the next day as well.

The Anglican Church of El Salvador is comprised of 18 congregations and 12 clergy, two of whom are women. Along with the dioceses of Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Panama, it constitutes the Province of the Anglican Church of Central America, one of 38 Provinces of the world-wide Anglican Communion.

Fr. Tommy Dillon introduced our 11 member team to Bishop Barahona and several clergy of this diocese. We were warmly welcomed and made plans for the next day, Sunday. The three priests in our group, Fr. Tommy, Fr. Daniel, and myself would split up to visit various congregations and say mass there. I couldn't refuse such a gracious invititation, even though I've never studied a lick of Spanish! Fr. Daniel, who is fluent, provided a crash course later that evening!

Once business was concluded, Bishop Barahona and his lovely wife, Betty, hosted us for lunch at their home. It was a wonderful feast filled with laughter and conversation. We learned about the diocese's work for human rights and human dignity in El Salvador, the history of the civil war and its aftermath, and current ecumenical relations. The Bishop also provided an interesting perspective on the current challenges facing the Anglican Communion over issues of authority and human sexuality.

Bishop Barahona has been a strong supporter of our Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold, and attended Bishop Gene Robinson's consecration to stand in solidarity with Bishop Griswold, even though Griswold warned him that it might cause him trouble. Barahona said, "That is for me to worry about. I have to follow my conscience." Because Bishop Robinson is openly gay, many conservative U.S. Episcopal Churches withdrew support for Mission San Lucas when they learned that Bishop Barahona attended Robinson's consecration. My parish, St. John's, and the Louisiana Integrity chapter raised money to cover the gap. It was important for us to express our gratitude to Bishop Barahona for his support of the full inclusion of all of the baptized in the Church.

Bishop Barahona declared, "I am not part of the Global South [those Anglican Primates who opposed Gene Robinson's consecration], I'm part of the Global Center that seeks to keep everyone in communion despite our differences." He also expressed strong support for our Presiding Bishop-elect, Katharine Jefferts Schori, and promised to stand by her in the upcoming meeting of the Anglican Primates.

As our group from St. John's posed with Bishop Barahona for this picture on the roof of his home, I was struck by the fact that he was surrounded by gay men and lesbians who are committed, like him, to an inclusive church that refuses to pit justice for gay and lesbian people against the relief of global human suffering. We must struggle for both within and through the Anglican Communion. We do not have to choose one or the other in order to be faithful.

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