Haiti missionary asked to end service to diocese as recovery transitions

June 22, 2010

As the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti enters a new phase of post-earthquake rebuilding, the Rev. Lauren Stanley, the Episcopal Church-appointed missionary who has been Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin's liaison in the United States, is no longer to be involved in those efforts.

The Haiti recovery situation is "a constantly changing picture and a different skill set is needed," the Rev. David Copley, Episcopal Church mission personnel officer, told Episcopal News Service June 22. "She works exceptionally well in that emergency situation," Copley said of Stanley.

The diocese is transitioning into a new phase of long-term development work and part of that work involves empowering the diocese, Copley and the Rev. Margaret Rose, co-director of the church's mission program, said.

Stanley, a priest in the Diocese of Virginia, told ENS via e-mail June 22, that she has "been informed that, because of the changing circumstances in Haiti, a request has been made for a different skill set in the position that I held. I am deeply saddened by this, but as I have said from the moment I arrived in Haiti, long before the earthquake, Bishop Duracin is in charge, and I truly believe that we need to let the Haitians be in charge of their own future."

"All missionaries serve at the pleasure of the inviting bishop, and I want to honor that principle," Stanley continued. "I leave Haiti with great sorrow, because I fell in love with that country and with the people. I have many friends there, and I remain deeply concerned about their well-being amid the devastation that wreaked havoc in their lives. I will continue to help them and their country recover and rebuild, and will continue to pray for them daily."

"I hope and pray that local parishes and the entire Episcopal Church continue to support the people of Haiti, so that the Diocese of Haiti can continue to faithfully care for those most in need," Stanley concluded.

Word of Stanley's departure came June 16 at the opening session of the Episcopal Church's Executive Council meeting when Chief Operating Officer Linda Watt briefed the members on the current situation in the Haitian diocese.

Watt said that Duracin had recently given church center staff an assessment of damage to diocesan facilities in and around the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. Watt said the assessment, which is the first part of the diocese's master plan for rebuilding, is "partial, it's incomplete, it's rough" and it carries a $60 million price tag. The cost of rebuilding Holy Trinity Cathedral is estimated at $10 million.

She said that conversations with Duracin have led to the conclusion that the diocese needs a reconstruction coordinator to help finish and then implement the master plan. An Episcopal Church missionary will be hired for that job, Watt said, as will a second missionary to continue the work of coordinating the diocese's many partnerships in the church, which "was so ably done by Lauren Stanley" in the months after the quake.

Watt said that she and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori have met several times with Duracin "to listen to his needs, to think through how all of us can support the Diocese of Haiti as they rebuild the facilities that nurture their spirits."

Rose said that Stanley must be thanked "for her energy and willingness to take some reins in a time when there was a vacuum and the future may require something different."

"We're in a different phase and Lauren's role in that first phase was vital," Rose said. She added "this is not about anything anybody did wrong."

Copley said that his office and the church center are trying to respond to "the continually changing needs in Haiti … in terms of personnel."

Stanley was home in Virginia when the magnitude-7 earthquake struck just before 5 p.m. local time and soon established contact with Duracin and others, and began relaying news of the diocese to the rest of the church. Duracin then asked Stanley to help the diocese coordinate offers of relief and recovery made by others in the Episcopal Church, and to tell the diocese's story.

Stanley accompanied Jefferts Schori on her visit to Duracin in Haiti on Feb. 8. The next day Jefferts Schori told ENS that Stanley, who had begun her appointment the previous September, "understands very clearly the challenges and the systemic complications, so she is an immensely effective witness both here [in the U.S.] and in Haiti for the ongoing challenges and needs."

In March 2009 Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul terminated Stanley's appointment as an Episcopal Church missionary to the Sudanese Diocese of Renk, where she had served for nearly four years, after he heard that she suggested during Virginia's diocesan convention that January that a proposed amendment to a resolution -- that affirmed the "blessedness" of committed Christian relationships between two adult persons -- "would not be problematic for the Sudani people because they are more concerned with trying to stay alive."

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