ECUADOR CENTRAL: Diocesan conflict must be resolved through canonical processes, presiding bishop says

June 16, 2011

An ongoing conflict between the bishop and Standing Committee of the Diocese of Ecuador Central must be resolved by following procedures laid out in the church's canons, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in a June 17 letter to the people of the diocese.

The presiding bishop sent a team to Central Ecuador to inquire about the conflict and to hear the concerns from the Standing Committee and Bishop Luis Fernando Ruiz, who has served as diocesan bishop since August 2009.

In May, the Standing Committee declared itself as the ecclesiastical authority in the diocese during a special convention after it said it could no longer accept the bishop's authority. In her letter, the presiding bishop called that action "irregular" and said that Ruiz continues as the ecclesiastical authority "until a canonical process decides otherwise." The presiding bishop explained how complaints may be filed in order to set such a process in motion.

"If and when this formal process begins, I will initiate an investigation," she said. "It would include the receipt of formal complaints and a determination of whether or not they constitute canonical offenses."

Given the Standing Committee's continued refusal to recognize the bishop's authority, Jefferts Schori requested that Ruiz postpone a scheduled visitation and confirmations at the diocese's Catedral de El Senor in Quito June 19. Instead, she said that she asked the Rev. Glenda McQueen, the Episcopal Church's officer for Latin America and the Caribbean, to attend as her delegate and observer.

"I urge all concerned to step back from the threat of violence," Jefferts Schori said. "This is never an appropriate Christian response to conflict ... Reconciliation will be difficult or impossible if persons fear for their safety. I pray that all may recover a spirit of peace.”

The conflict in Central Ecuador dates to at least 2005 when then-Bishop Jose Neptali Larrea Moreno was deposed for abandoning the communion of the church. Bishop Wilfrido Ramos-Orench, who had been suffragan bishop in Connecticut, was made the diocese's provisional bishop in 2006.

The diocese was scheduled to elect a new bishop in December 2008, but Ramos-Orench cancelled the election and began the process to refer the matter to the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops. In February 2009, delegates to the Ecuador Central diocesan convention authorized the House of Bishops to elect a successor to Ramos-Orench and Ruiz was elected bishop in March 2009 by the bishops.

In July 2009 at General Convention, following a morning of passionate debate, the House of Deputies gave its consent to Ruiz's election by a margin of 594-228. Deputies from the Diocese of Ecuador Central criticized the process that led to the election and called on the House of Deputies to refuse to give consent, saying that their diocese had not been given the chance to elect its own bishop.