Dean Leads his flock out of Church of Brazil

The largest Anglican church in Latin America — Holy Trinity Cathedral in Recife, in the Province of Brazil — has broken away from its diocese and become part of a Charismatic Church in the USA.

The move, one of the biggest splits in the South American Church, has been called a breach of communion by the Bishop of Recife, the Rt Revd Edward Robinson de Barros Cavalcanti.

The breakaway congregation, said to number about 3000, is led by the Dean, the Very Revd Paulo Garcia, who cited “liturgical and ethical divergences” from the positions taken by Anglican leaders.

He has publicly criticised the diocese’s decision to allow blessings for divorcees in the Church, as well as the views of some Churches within the Anglican Communion, and of the Archbishop of Canterbury designate, Dr Rowan Williams, on the subject of homosexuality.

A statement released by the Anglican Communion News Service says that the Charismatic worship style at the cathedral, where the Dean has been in office for 27 years, has been a source of friction between the Dean and the past two bishops. The Episcopal News Service quotes Bishop Cavalcanti as saying “Paulo never adjusted to Anglicanism. He always had difficulty coexisting in a plural Church.”

This week the bishops of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil sent a pastoral letter to clerics and congregations, deploring the action of the Dean and his congregation, and describing them as “breaking the unity of the Church by division and schism”.

Bishop Cavalcanti has appointed a new acting Dean of the cathedral. But Dean Garcia says he has a legal right to the property of the congregation, and that he will not be leaving the cathedral. Bishop Cavalcanti says the building belongs to the Anglican Church, and that he will take legal action if the Dean refuses to go.

Before producing their pastoral letter, the bishops of Brazil had met to pray and reflect on the situation. The letter said that the Primate of Brazil, the Most Revd Glauco Saures had visited the Recife diocese, and would be continuing to do so, to help the healing process.

On Tuesday, Bishop Onell Soto, the acting director of communications for the Anglican Communion Office, said that the situation was of serious concern to the Anglican Church worldwide.

On the same day, the General Secretary of the South American Mission Society (SAMS), the Rt Revd David Evans, said the breakaway move had “enormous consequences” for the region.

“It is a very worrying situation, and raises serious questions about loyalty and relationships between bishops and deans. At SAMS, we have tried not to take sides. The situation is not new; there have been problems for a long while.”

Dean Garcia and his congregation have joined the Charismatic Episcopal Church group, established in 1977 in Chicago, and the Dean is expected to become its bishop. A date for his consecration date, says Bishop Evans, is expected later this month.