Province II of The Episcopal Church
Resolution Regarding the Diocese of Puerto Rico
Submitted by Yvonne O'Neal
Be it resolved, that The International Atlantic Province – the Second Province of The Episcopal Church – under Canon I.9.3(b) of The Episcopal Church, hereby mutually agrees with the Ninth Province of The Episcopal Church, that the Diocese of Puerto Rico be transferred from the Ninth Province of The Episcopal Church to the Second Province, subject to the approval of the General Convention for such transfer.
Episcopal Church Canon I.9.3(b), relating to Provinces, provides in relevant part: "By mutual agreement between the Synods of two adjoining Provinces, a Diocese . . . may transfer itself from one of such Provinces to the other, such transfer to be considered complete upon approval thereof by the General Convention." The Diocese of Puerto Rico has been a member of Province IX, which by its location adjoins all Episcopal Church Provinces other than V and VI.
General Convention Resolution 2018-A072 invited dioceses to review the province they are currently in and consider changing to another one. In response to this invitation, the Diocesan Convention of the Diocese of Puerto Rico adopted a resolution in 2019 to begin the formalities for the change of province. On April 24, 2021, the twenty-second Synod of the Ninth Province of The Episcopal Church approved the Diocese's request to terminate its membership in such province and to seek affiliation with a different one.
The Diocese of Puerto Rico convened a Special Convention on July 31, 2021 for the sole purpose of determining the change of province. After faithful deliberation, on the sixth ballot, on a vote by orders, the Special Convention elected to request membership in Province II.
In response, the Synod of Province II will now vote on whether or not to affirm Puerto Rico's discernment to join Province II. If the Synod approves, the proposed change will be presented to the 80th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in July 2022 for approval and implementation. If the Synod does not, then the Diocese of Puerto Rico will need to deliberate on a different choice.
Description of the Diocese of Puerto Rico
The Diocese of Puerto Rico is a vibrant community of the people of God. Describing itself as Dynamic, Missionary, and Evangelizing, the Diocese comprises 55 congregations and two new emerging missions. The Diocese provides theological education at St. Peter and St. Paul Diocesan Seminary, where part of the training is community engagement. St. Luke’s Episcopal Medical Center in Ponce is one of the best on the island. In addition, the island-wide in-home patient care program run by St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System (Sistema de Salud Episcopal San Lucas) delivers the best healthcare on the island.
The Diocese provides funeral services, owns one cemetery, and is building another. Parents desire to place their children in schools run by the Diocese. Episcopal Social Services provides a network of social services and operates the San Miguel Home for Children. Episcopal Media Group owns Radio Leo 1170 AM, broadcasting from Ponce and San Juan studios. With an Internet connection, Radio Leo has a global following. This entrepreneurial Diocese proclaims the love of Christ by strengthening the mind, body, and soul of the people in this part of God's vineyard.
Lay leadership is vital. The Anglican Center for Lay Formation provides lay formation on diverse theological, biblical, liturgical, and ministry topics. Programs for the laity include ECW, UTO, Daughters of the King, Marriage Encounter, Associates of the Order of the Transfiguration, Cursillo, Youth Ministry, and Campus Ministry. The Youth Ministry has a presence on Radio Leo. In addition, the Diocese has a long-term disaster plan known as REDES; it provides help to all, and it is a way of evangelizing and bringing people into the Episcopal Church. The Diocese was ready to give aid to Haiti after the recent devastating earthquake.
Worship services are lively, with an authentic Puerto Rican flavor, making a joyful noise unto the Lord. One gets a sense that this is genuinely the Beloved Community fully entrenched in the Jesus Movement. This joyfulness of worship is visible in the broadcast of the Ordination Service of ten deacons and four priests on July 24. In addition, the Diocese of Puerto Rico engages in Digital Evangelization (Evangelización Digital) and would engage fully with the Dioceses of Province II.
As the International Atlantic Province, there is a natural fit for Puerto Rico to officially join our Caribbean Dioceses of Cuba, Haiti, and the Virgin Islands. When the U.S. acquired the Virgin Islands (St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. John) in 1917, the Bishop of Puerto Rico served these islands. This arrangement lasted until 1962, when the Diocese of the Virgin Islands was formed. However, the Dioceses of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands still maintain a good relationship. It is also worth noting that there existed an Episcopal Caribbean regional organization of the Dioceses of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Cuba, agreed upon by the General Convention of 1988, for the feasibility of a new Anglican Communion province. The Diocese of Puerto Rico never abandoned Cuba and has been a friend to that Diocese throughout the years when the Episcopal Church cut off Cuba. The sixth Bishop of Puerto Rico, the Rt. Rev. Bishop David Álvarez, was Provisional Bishop in Cuba from July 1993 to November 1994.
Known since 1952 as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico — el Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico — the island is an unincorporated territory of the United States. Puerto Ricans, — puertorriqueños — are American citizens; they have an intermingled Spanish, U.S., and Afro-Caribbean culture. The island’s social and economic conditions are generally advanced by Latin American standards, partly because of its ties with the United States (including U.S.-owned manufacturing plants and military bases).
In 2022, the Diocese will be celebrating 150 years of Anglicanism on the island. Anglicanism arrived in Puerto Rico on June 4, 1872, when the Bishop of Antigua established Holy Trinity Church in Ponce to serve the English-speaking people. The bell of Holy Trinity rang for the first time on July 28, 1898, after the U.S. invaded Puerto Rico, ending the religious restrictions of the Spanish government. The bell is affectionately known as the “Second Liberty Bell.”
In 1901, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church established the Mission District of Puerto Rico. Until 1987, Episcopalians in Puerto Rico were ruled by five successive Diocesan Bishops selected by the United States-based Episcopal Church, the last of which was a native-born Puerto Rican, the Rt. Rev. Francisco Reus-Froylán. In 1987, the diocese's Diocesan Assembly was allowed to elect retiring bishop Reus-Froylán’s successor, resulting in the Rt. Rev. David Álvarez as Puerto Rico's first elected Episcopal Bishop.
Under Bishop Reus-Froylán, the Episcopal Diocese of Puerto Rico separated from the Episcopal Church in the USA (ECUSA) in 1978. The Diocese was reinstated in 2003 under Bishop Álvarez, returning to Province IX. Bishop Álvarez amassed an endowment of 26 million dollars during his episcopacy. The current bishop is the Rt. Rev. Rafael Morales, who has led the Diocese since 2017.
Of historical note, a Suffragan Bishop for Puerto Rico, Manuel Ferrando, was consecrated in New York’s Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in 1923. The third bishop, the Rt. Rev. Charles F. Boynton, resigned his episcopacy in 1951 after being elected as a Suffragan Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York.
Considerations Supporting the Transfer of the Diocese of Puerto Rico into the Second Province