The Cuba Partners Network
The following timeline does not chronicle the efforts of individual presbyteries and congregations from the mid-1980s or the history of individual presbytery, local congregational or organizational relationships within the Network. It rather seeks to summarize the history of self-conscious organized cooperative structure and effort.
Beginning in 1985
Officials of the two Presbyterian Churches that had reunited in 1983 to form the PC (USA) traveled to Cuba for a consultation with officials of the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba (IPRC). A Joint Mission Agreement was drafted and later approved by the General Assemblies of both the PC (USA) and the IPRC.
- The joint Mutual Mission Agreement provided for the creation of partner relationships between presbyteries of the two denominations and the development of guidelines to that end
- Subsequently partnership agreements were established between the Presbytery of South Louisiana with Matanzas Presbytery, the Presbytery of Long Island with Havana Presbytery, the Presbytery of Transylvania with Centro Presbytery, and the Presbytery of Santa Fe with the Synod.
- In this period, partnership relations and activities were bi-lateral, between the US and Cuban partner entities. There was no “network” – no links among the PC (USA) Cuba partners.
A Partnership Consultation in Havana brought together for the first time Cuban Church leaders with denominational officials and representatives of the then four PC (USA) Partner Presbyteries named above. This was the first time that the PC (USA) Partner Presbyteries had been invited to participate in an official Partnership Consultation, as observers. Thus, it was the first time that persons responsible for those partnerships met each other face to face. There was, at least symbolically, the intimation of a “Cuba Partners Network”.
Participants from the four partner presbyteries that had been involved in the June 1995 Havana Consultation organized the Presbyterian Cuba Connection and chartered it as a not-for-profit charitable corporation in the State of New Mexico. The purposes were: to maintain communication and cooperation among themselves; to raise awareness in the PC (USA) of the life and mission of the IPRC; to publish an occasional newsletter; and to gather contributions from members to support the mission and ministry of the IPRC. This was the first “partnership” endeavor of the PC (USA) Cuba partners. Some 400 individual Presbyterians and Mission Committees of presbyteries and congregations have become members of the Presbyterian Cuba Connection.
A “Partnership Consultation” was held in Louisville to review progress toward the goals of the 1985 Mutual Mission Agreement. Though representatives of some of the partner presbyteries asked to be included at their own expense, the Consultation was limited to officials of the two denominations. Among the issues and agreements dealt with at that time were:
The IPRC representatives requested that all PC (USA) contacts with the Christian Center for Reflection and Dialogue in Cárdenas be through the IPRC Synod Council.
- Recognizing the growing number of relationships between congregations of the two denominations, it was agreed that the Mission Agreement would include the recognition of such partnerships
- In a discussion of the transfer of monetary support from the PC (USA) to the IPRC, the issue of what entities would be entitled to use the Treasury Department license held by PC (USA) and how funds from entities other that PC (USA) General Assembly should be transferred and reported was a major item
- Recognizing that the PC (USA) insistence on only one PC (USA) partner for each IPRC presbytery and the termination of partnership agreements after 5 years had created both ill will and misunderstandings, it was agreed that both these policies would be changed.
A Cuba Presbytery Partnerships Consultation was convened by the Worldwide Ministries Division in Louisville March 19-20, 1999. Under the rules then in place for “consultations,” travel was subsidized! Representatives from Cascades, Chicago, Monmouth, Santa Fe, South Louisiana and the Presbytery of the Southwest in the Synod of Puerto Rico participated. No representative of the IPRC was present.
This was in reality the first self-conscious gathering of PC (USA) Cuba Partners, an implicit recognition of a “network.” Leaders of the presbytery Cuba Partnerships had not been together since 1995. The agenda included:
- An update on the IPRC and a report on the recent IPRC Synod Assembly by Julia Ann Moffett, Worldwide Ministries Division staff.
- A session on planning exchange visits and travel issues by Bill McAtee, mission volunteer leading travel-study seminars to Cuba.
- A report on the US Treasury License for sending funds to Cuba held by PC (USA).
- A report on the “Gladfelter Project” being planned for the Presbyterian Cuba Connection and the Presbytery of Santa Fe by Dean Lewis, volunteer executive of Presbyterian Cuba Connection.
- An extensive group session on “How can we partner or network better in the US”, that dealt with Partnership Agreements, and the new issue of congregational partnerships within but also apart from Presbytery Partnerships.
- A session in which the US presbyteries with the same Cuba presbytery partner met to share experience and plans.
A Celebration of Mission Partnership for the New Millennium was held in Cuba in memory of Katherine Gladfelter who had died not long before. She was the great jefa of the Board of National Missions, responsible for Educational and Medical work in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Hispanic Southwest. The Gladfelter Project included a challenge to other partners to join together in funding a large project in Cuba, building on a grant to the Presbytery of Santa Fe from Miss Gladfelter’s estate. Though this was not very successful, it represents the first attempt at cooperative support for an IPRC project.
Some 28 representatives of PC (USA) partner presbyteries and denominational offices participated. There was a deliberate attempt to broaden the base to include entities other than those: Daniel Rodríguez represented McCormick Seminary and two from a Houston congregation, in addition to Jerry VanMarter of Presbyterian News Service were included.
- All the participants met together at the Synod Camp, CANIP with a roughly equal number of Cuban partners, and then divided into three groups to visit the partner Cuban presbyteries.
- A good report of this experience exists in the stories of the Presbyterian News Service and an article in the Presbyterian Cuba Connection Newsletter.
- Carlos Emilio Ham, then the General Secretary of the IPRC, commented that “It will never be the same again, that it will be just denominational officials getting together.”
- The concept of “a partnership of partners” was articulated for the first time to describe the emerging reality of a more self-conscious cooperative entity among the partners.
- There was a recognition that this new reality led to the need for new patterns of communication, new lines of financial accountability, new commitment to transparency and cooperation.
The first US based Cuba Partners Gathering was held in Washington DC in order to have a focus on public policy issues. There were good briefings from the religious organizations in Washington that work on public policy education and advocacy, but participants were disappointed when a promised visit to the Cuba Interests Section was canceled by the Interests Section. Dora Arce represented the IPRC in this Gathering of the PC (USA) Partners. Emphases included:
- Welcome to the Rev. Tricia Lloyd-Sidle as Mission Co-Worker for Cuba.
- The Biblical grounding and practical implications of “mutuality in mission”.
- Financial relations as both a blessing and a threat to such mutuality.
- Implications of the “partnership of partners” for mutual communication and cooperation.
The PC (USA) Cuba Partners met in Chicago with a mix of experienced and new partners present, which presented new requirements for planning and content for Partnership Gatherings. Dora Arce met with us again. The meeting included:
- The presentation of a Partnership Resource Packet prepared by Tricia Lloyd Sidle and Dean Lewis.
- The preliminary organization of the Yahoo-based Cuba Partners Communication and Resource System.
- More discussion about money contributions and transfers, with the plea that all partner contributions go to Cuba (1) under the authority of the PC (USA) license; (2) through the IPRC Synod Council; and (3) with communication to other PC (USA) Cuba Partners.
- Discussion of a proposal that the Cuba Partners Network consider the cooperative support of larger projects of the IPRC and Seminary from time to time.
A Symposium on the Biblical-Theological-Pastoral Bases of Partnership was held at the Bucaranao resort hotel east of Havana. This was planned in response to a suggestion made by representatives of the IPRC in earlier gatherings. Seven papers by participants from both the PC (USA) and IPRC were prepared and circulated in advance, with response to each also prepared in advance, followed by group discussion.
The Symposium was punctuated by periods of worship led alternately by PC (USA) and IPRC representatives.
- The Symposium was conducted entirely in Spanish, without translation: a first.
- The papers and responses were published later, both in the original Spanish and in English translation.
- A quantity of the Symposium publication still exists, and the issue of how this important bi-lingual resource can be used is an important one.
A Partnership Gathering met at the Evangelical Theological Seminary (SET) in Matanzas, with over thirty representatives of PC (USA) partners meeting with a similar number of IPRC members.
- The presence of a number of Cuban representatives who had not participated in previous partnership gatherings broadened the exposure of Cuban partners to some of the complexities and issues of partnership.
- There was a significant focus on issues of equity in the PC (USA)-IPRC partnership system: some of the Cuban congregations get overwhelmed while some get few if any partnership commitments or visits. While this has some relationship to issues of equitable access to financial resources, the dimensions of the problem were seen to be as much in matters of solidarity as in relation to resources.
- The IPRC representatives emphasized a matter of concern voiced on earlier occasions: too many of the visitors from the PC (USA) arrive with little preparation to understand either the history of Cuban Presbyterianism, the present issues they face, or the Cuban reality in which they minister.
- Issues of mutuality were addressed in many ways: the importance of transparency and trust; the danger of missionary paternalism; the possibility of a new Cuban dependency, etc.
The PC (USA) Cuba Partners gathered in Louisville with three Cuban representatives, who later visited partners in the PC (USA). The three were: Daniel Izquierdo (Havana), Xiomara Arenas (Centro) and Carlos Camps (Matanzas). It was recognized that the presence of IPRC officials from each of the three Cuban presbyteries was exceptionally important, though the increasing restrictions on visas for Cuban visitors makes such representation difficult to secure. In light of the increasing number of congregational members of the PC (USA) Cuba Partners Network, it was noted that people in the congregational partnerships often do not understand “partnership” in terms beyond their congregational involvement; they don’t have a sense of the larger church partnership system, both as related to the PC (USA) and the IPRC, or commitment to it. This was noted as the “Lone Ranger Syndrome.”
- Deepening of partnership relationships was deemed an important priority.
- The Cuba Partners Gathering heard a report about the emergence of many other Mission Networks in the life of the PC (USA). An official of the Worldwide Ministries Division had recently declared that “mission networks are the new face of world mission for the Presbyterian Church (USA).”
- Recognizing that this new reality called for new intentionality and coherence on the part of the mission networks in relation to the PC (USA), the Cuba Partners Gathering was challenged to a new Vision for the Network: “a healthy, wholistic and coherent system; an integrated partnership of partners in connectional relationship to the Presbyterian Church (USA)”.
- As a step toward implementing that vision, the 2006 Partners Gathering named a Cuba Network Steering Committee, composed of Lucy Fetterolf, Glenn Dickson, Dean Lewis, Muriel Miller and Tricia Lloyd-Sidle to consider agenda for Partners’ Gatherings and make recommendations for cooperative work and structures to serve the new vision.
- A recommendation was made that each member of the PC (USA) Cuba Partners’ Network make an annual contribution to the budget of the IPRC Synod. The Synod has important responsibilities, but most PC (USA)-IPRC partnerships are between presbyteries and congregations so the Synod receives little financial support.
- An offering for the Presbyterian Cuba Connection was received at the closing worship service as a symbol of the connectional unity of the PC (USA) Cuba Partners’ Network.
The Cuba Network Steering Group that had been named in the 2006 Gathering met face-to-face in Chicago to plan the 2007 Partners’ Gathering. They agreed to recommend to the full gathering:
- That each member of the Network make an annual contribution to PC (USA) to support Mission Co-worker Tricia Lloyd-Sidle.
- That a Network Partnership Gathering be planned for the year 2008 in Cuba.
- That the Cuba Network Steering Group be augmented and requested to make recommendations for an organizational future of the Cuba Partners’ Network that would flesh out the Vision adopted in the 2006 Gathering.
- That Lois Kroehler would be invited to the 2007 Partners’ Gathering to lead us in song and share her memories of her 40 year ministry in Cuba.
- That areas of focus in the 2007 Partners’ Gathering would include: strengthening partnerships and starting new ones; working on continuity of partnership leadership, especially in congregational partnerships as leadership changes; logistical issues concerning visits and funding; and exploration of the future of the Network as a more coherent entity.
The 2007 Cuba Partners’ Gathering was held in Louisville, October 4-6, in conjunction with the PC (USA) Mission Conference. The Rev. Dora Arce was with us once again from Cuba. In her presentation, Dora put heavy emphasis on the shortage of funds at the Synod level, since so many of the partnerships are between presbyteries and congregations. Her list of Synod responsibilities needs always to be kept in mind:
- The Synod budget covers meetings, specifically travel expenses; publications, including the weekly all-age Bible lessons distributed to all churches, six issues a year of the Heraldo Cristiano, and a journal of the youth, JUPRECU. It also is responsible for the salaries of pastors serving churches not self-sustaining; salaries of two synod staff persons (secretary, and DEPROM officer); the upkeep and program of CANIP; and, as possible, salary supplements for the pastors.
- In answer to a question as to how PC (USA) partners could help, Dora responded: “Help us to achieve some stability in our budget” and urged continuing contributions to the “Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba” Permanent Fund (#51059076) in the Presbyterian Foundation.
The recommendation to hold a Cuba Partnership Gathering in Cuba in 2008 was approved by the 2007 Gathering, as were the other recommendations of the Steering Group.
- The Steering Committee was augmented by the addition of: Jack Barrett (since resigned); Kitty Clark Manson; Marilyn Seiber; John Walter and Linda Eastwood (since resigned). The Steering Committee was asked to continue to reflect on the evolution needed by the Network to embody the Vision, and the need to strengthen communication, cooperation and coordination among Network members.
Twenty-seven representatives of PC (USA) Cuba Partners met 31 representatives of IPRC mission partners at the Evangelical Seminary in Matanzas, Cuba to celebrate and review partnership relations and renew their commitment to continuing solidarity. For three days, they prayed and worshiped together, heard presentations about both the Cuban and US contexts as background for their partnership, reflected on visions of the meaning of partnership, and huddled in small groups to discuss problems and possibilities. Following the close of the formal gathering, most of the PC (USA) participants traveled to visit partners in the three Cuban presbyteries.
Some points in the analysis of partnership presented by Cuban Moderator Daniel Izquierdo outline the realities and challenges of PC (USA)-IPRC partnership today. His suggestions are background for the October 2009 Cuba Partners’ Gathering in Cincinnati. They are included rather extensively here because of their great importance to the understanding and practice of PC (USA)-IPRC mission partnership.
- “Today in general, the mission of the Church has been more outstanding at the congregational level than at the denominational one…..The partnerships with the Cuban Church do not escape this reality. More and more the office in Louisville is an agent of contacts and agglutination, but the financial contributions and the coordination of visits and plans are directly made by the presbyteries and the partner congregations.”
- “This reality brings dangers that…may diminish the purpose of mission in a relationship:
- “We have churches that are able to establish more contacts with churches abroad. The number of their relationships increases every year, while there are humble churches that are left without effective relationships or no relationships at all.
- “Our churches feel free to apply for their own projects, but many times this freedom leaves out others, whose needs should be prioritized but are simply ignored. We have a synod structure looking after the well-being of the whole Church, but in terms of funding, nobody wants to be questioned.
- “The Synod is expected to facilitate everything having to do with relationships, but many times is overloaded with administrative expenses while the other governing bodies have much bigger funds for programs. It is necessary to revise this dependence structure.
- “It is difficult to avoid the repeated problem of paternalism. The biggest difficulty is when this tendency takes place at a personal level. It tends to become “every man for himself” and stops being for mission, turning into a harmful influence.”
- “It is interesting to note that while the American word “partners” is more related to association for business purposes, in Cuba the use of the term “sister churches” is more related to a filial relationship. It can be said that while the “partners” have moved more in the direction of the family relationship, some people in Cuba have seen the relationship more from a lucrative point of view. This is, of course, the result of our people’s difficult economic situation.”
- “Probably our biggest challenge is to constantly try to see these tendencies and avert them in time.”The American society derives its sense of “manifest destiny” from that feeling of superiority coming from a powerful nation: “the one who has the money rules!” Our communities can be misled by the false belief that the most important thing in a relationship is getting the funds needed. And most of the time, the sense of need is local; we should look beyond the walls. The Synod and the presbyteries can be a bridge for this. However up to now the partnerships at the congregational level have tended to be seen as game preserves in which no interference is permitted.”
- “When there is the will to financial support, it is useful to understand the wide spectrum of the complex Cuban situation. Our churches, on the other hand, should make serious efforts to define the scope of their mission, rather than getting support for fashionable programs that many times are just a waste of money, rendering no concrete results.”
- “If partnership is for mission, and I believe we have unanimously agreed on this, then we should see the mission in a more integrated way, not as isolated groups but as a true body. We have a big challenge. We must not be content with always doing the same in a partnership. We should rather plan longer term strategies and try new ways and forms of relationship. That means that we listen to one another and get to know one another in greater depth and with more responsibility, so that we can mutually achieve greater trust and commitment.”
Daniel closed his provocative presentation with “some suggestions,” while noting that our social contexts are undergoing processes of change and the structures of power are in transition:
- “We should work with more zeal in the exchange of information. Despite the difficulties in communication, both sides must try to have a greater exchange flow.”
- “Isolated projects should be replaced by bigger projects of joint cooperation. A clear and appropriate example is the CANIP enlargement. Our vision of the prospects for these facilities will demand the joint effort of many friendly hands committed to give financial help for this ambitious plan. The partner presbyteries can have initiatives to support the collection of funds so that this dream may come true. The same thing can be done by the congregations involved in local partnerships.”
- “We should also make plans of greater scope, so that what we are doing today may serve as a base for bigger endeavors tomorrow. We should also ensure the appropriate and rational use of resources. This point in time demands austerity and precise administration.”
- “We cannot fall into the temptation of looking for relationships based only on the money they can contribute. An important part of this kind of exchange is the experience of receiving hospitality. We have to avoid the temptation of receiving certain visits on the presupposition that they leave us money, while others do not and so are considered as a “loss”.”
- “It is necessary to multiply the efforts to increase visits, despite the obstacles imposed by both sides, and to raise our voice before those who can help solve these problems. There is nothing that can replace first-hand knowledge of the real situations we live in. That also contributes to help change opinions created by a biased press and mass media.”
- “Let us listen to the voices of the humble people. They can make us see things that we have left unattended while being in charge of what we have considered as priorities, or as things of greater importance.”
The PC (USA) Cuba Partners Network met in Cincinncati OH October 20-22 in conjunction with the Global Mission Conference. There were 24 US participants, representing 18 partnerships; IPRC Moderator Reinerio Arce represented the Cuban Church. Gathering highlights include:
- A report from Moderator Reinerio Arce, announcing a new official congregation, La Fernanda in Havana Presbytery and the extension of mission efforts to Pinar del Rio and Camaguey. He also reflected on the pastoral difficulties posed by the recent defection or removal of young pastors – six in the past three years. He once again urged the PC (USA) partners to channel all contributions for programs and projects through the IPRC Synod. In response to a question, he named the ten congregations in Matanzas and El Centro presbyteries that do not have PC (USA) partners.
- A Celebration of the Life and Ministry of Miriam Albán, the gracious and efficient Tramitadora for the IPRC who had facilitated partnership visits so lovingly and for so long, led by Jack Kern.
- An extensive analysis of “communication with Cuba” emerged from one workshop, summarized in three points: Be patient; Be persistent; Remember that things don’t function in Cuba the way they do in the U.S. (A version of this excellent analysis will be included in the Partnership Resources).
- A workshop on the Cuban Pension problems, highlighting the recent efforts of Westminster Church in Minneapolis.
- Sharing of partnership models and a workshop on Partnership led by Marilyn Seiber.
- Affirmation of the need to have a Partnership Gathering in 2010.
The PC (USA) Cuba Partners Network met at the Cenacle Retreat Center in Chicago IL September 23-25. There were 55 U.S. participants, representing 31 partnerships. The IPRC was represented by Daniel Izquierdo of Havana Presbytery, Miriam Naranjo and Dalia Valdés of Presbiterio del Centro. Highlights of the Gathering include:
- The introduction of Jo Ella Holman, who begins her ministry as Mission Co-worker for Cuba and the Caribbean on October 1.
- A report from Daniel Izquierdo on the life and mission of the IPRC, emphasizing the continuing pastoral needs and the major project for the renovation of CANIP, the Synod camp. Participation of Daniel, Dalia and Miriam as they met with those having partnerships in each of the IPRC presbyteries.
- A workshop on water projects in Cuba by Verniece and Jerry Goode of Living Waters for the World.
- An introduction to the PC (USA) Mission Crossroads website and its Cuba Partners page by Jack Kern.
- Bible studies on the IPRC annual theme, also the theme of the Gathering, “Practice Justice With Mercy; Trust Always in God” by Daniel Izquierdo and Jo Ella Holman.
- Adoption of a “Covenant of Cooperation” for the Cuba Partners Network; affirmation of Conveners and Steering Group, with the addition of Manuel Silva; adoption of annual partnership dues and the election of Jack Kern as Treasurer.
- A fiesta celebrating the 1985 Joint Mission Agreement and honoring two Cuba Partnership pioneers: Nell Johnston and Lucy Fetterolf.
For thoughts on the future of the Network from Dean Lewis, click here.