In early January Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori visited the Anglican Church of Mexico, making stops in three of its five dioceses.
"It was a great privilege and a blessing to welcome the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts-Schori," said Bishop Carlos Touché-Porter, primate and Diocese of Mexico bishop, in an e-mail message. "Her visit was a visible sign of the close relationship and full communion between the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Mexico."
Jefferts Schori's visit marked the first time the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church has visited the church in Mexico since it became an autonomous province in 1995, Touché-Porter added.
There are some 50,000 Episcopal/Anglican members of the church in Mexico, and one of the particular things that stood out, Jefferts Schori said, was the uniquely Mexican experience of being Anglican in a predominately Roman Catholic nation.
"Their experience of being Anglican challenges us. Identity is an issue everywhere: 'Who are we as Episcopalians and Anglicans?' The church in Mexico is so overwhelmed by the Roman Church and the Roman tradition … they distinguish themselves from the Roman Catholic church through their liturgical practices and how and which saints they venerate," she said during an interview with ENS.
For instance, she said, in Mexico, Our Lady of Guadalupe is closely associated with the Roman Catholic Church, whereas abroad, she is seen as a national symbol.
Touché-Porter has spoken in the past of the difficulties of being Anglican in Mexico, where more than 75 percent of the 112 million residents count themselves as Roman Catholic, and the need to develop a "sense of unity and identity as a national church."
During her Jan. 2-9 visit, Jefferts Schori visited the dioceses of Cuernavaca, Mexico and Southeastern Mexico, and was accompanied by the Rev. Glenda McQueen, the Episcopal Church's officer for Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Rev. Christopher Johnson, the church's officer for social and economic justice.
Each of the diocesan visits was distinctly different and offered a window into the church's mission and work, said McQueen in an interview with ENS.
The Diocese of Southeastern Mexico is on the "frontier" where there is a large indigenous population, the focus is on basic needs and spiritual needs. Cuernavaca, on the other hand, is semi-urban and what stood out, McQueen said, was a more "structured conversation on theology and identity." In Mexico City, where the Diocese of Mexico is centered, the group met with ordained women.
"So you go from mission frontier to more established diocese and including everyone in ministry," she said. "Each diocese offers different things; each moving mission forward."
Companion relationships and partnerships -- their importance, practical implications and diversity, from micro-loans to clean water to Spanish language immersion and theological learning opportunities – were also part of the visit.
One companion relationship, said Jefferts Schori, illustrated the differences in approach to raising cattle south of the border.
The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas, the presiding bishop said, partners with the Southeastern Diocese on a livestock program. Rather than raising steers, as is done in Texas, Mexican ranchers raise bulls, which they say provide a better-quality meat.