SOUTHERN CONE: Chile Bishop Hector 'Tito' Zavala elected as primate; clergy reject women's ordination

November 5, 2010

The Anglican Province of the Southern Cone has elected Bishop Hector "Tito" Zavala of the Diocese of Chile to serve as its next presiding bishop and primate.

Zavala will succeed the Most Rev. Gregory Venables, who has served as primate since 2002. Venables will continue to serve as bishop of Argentina and interim bishop of Northern Argentina.

The election took place Nov. 4 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in the context of the province's 10th triennial synod. The synod is made up of bishops, clergy and laity from Southern Cone's seven dioceses throughout Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.

Zavala was installed during the synod's closing Eucharist. He becomes the province's first Chilean and the first Anglican of Spanish heritage to serve as primate, according to the Rev. Thomas Mansella, dean of the Anglican cathedral in Buenos Aires. The role of primate is a three-year renewable term.

Zavala has served as bishop of Chile since 2000. In recent months, Zavala has been leading his diocese in its response to the magnitude-8.8 earthquake that shook the central part of Chile on Feb. 27, leaving about 800 people dead and damaging some 1.5 million homes. The earthquake was the strongest to hit Chile in 50 years.

Speaking with ENS three weeks after the earthquake struck, Zavala said he was overwhelmed by the generous response from Anglicans worldwide. "I knew from the beginning that I belonged to a big family and I can see now the wider Anglican family is united," Zavala said in a March 22 telephone interview from his home in Santiago. "It is good that our theological differences can be put aside when we are concerned with helping people."

The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, recently informed Zavala that his membership on the Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order had been withdrawn and invited him instead to serve as a consultant to that body.

That decision was made because Venables -- under whose jurisdiction Zavala's diocese falls -- failed to respond to Kearon's request for clarification about his involvement in cross-border interventions.

Venables has offered oversight to conservative members of parishes and dioceses breaking away from the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.

In other business, the Southern Cone synod rejected the canonical changes required to allow for the ordination of women to the priesthood. The changes, which required a two-thirds majority in all three houses, were approved by the bishops and laity, but not by the clergy.

The synod also discussed issues of mission strategy and church growth in the province, the strengthening of inter-diocesan relationships, evangelism, and youth work, Mansella told ENS.

The province, known locally as Iglesia Anglicana del Cono Sur de America, officially was formed in 1981 following decades of Anglican missionary work in South America. Today, the Southern Cone includes about 22,000 members, making it one of the smallest provinces in the Anglican Communion in terms of numbers, yet it is one of the largest geographically.