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Greet the newest bishop in the Episcopal Church
By the luck of a draw, I was one of the four members to represent
Executive Council at the consecration of our colleague on Council,
Francisco Duque-Gomez, as the Bishop Coadjutor of Colombia at a service in
Bogota on Saturday July 21st. Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold was the
chief consecrator, assisted by several other bishop from the USA and the
Caribbean. Other Council members present were Antony Guillen (Los
Angeles), Frank Oberly (Oklahoma), and Rita Redfield (Maine). Also,
Guadalupe Guillen (Los Angeles) represented George Werner, who was unable
Bishop Duque-Gomez will become the ordinary in May, 2002, when Rt. Rev.
Bernardo Merino retires. Bishop Merino preached for 58 minutes and used
Christ's temptations in the wilderness to warn of the ways bishops can go
bad. The Presiding Bishop acknowledged the warnings and added that the
office can be, as it has been for him, an experience of grace.
Rt. Rev. David Reed, the First Bishop of Colombia (and now the retired 6th
Bishop of Kentucky), passed along the crozier to the new Bishop Coadjutor.
I have long been an admirer of Francisco Duque, a 'tent-maker' priest who
has supported his ministry by secular employment. Bishop Merino is paid
the only full salary in this struggling diocese: all others work at
secular jobs to support their work. Francisco is a lawyer and has not
drawn any salary from the church, enabling his congregation to be the only
one in Colombia with full parish status.
In some ways this arrangement brings the clergy closer in education and
experience to those most drawn to the Episcopal Church in Colombia, namely
the middle class. Obviously Francisco hopes to strengthen the resources
for ministry to enable greater variety.
Bishop Duque's connections are extensive. Attending a private dinner at
his home after the consecration, I met the Colombia's Attorney General, a
classmate two decades ago. On the evening before the consecration, most
Episcopal clergy, many legal leaders, and ecumenical persons from all over
the country attended a reception in Francisco's honor at the home of
United States Ambassador Anne W. Patterson. Ambassador Patterson, a
Clinton appointee, is an Episcopalian and deeply committed to social
Francisco's wife Blanca is also very impressive. Much of her time she
spends living in the northern parts of Colombia among the native poor,
whom she represents as an attorney through the United Nations, in the many
cases in which their rights are abused by commercial exploitation of their
One of the most moving parts of the trip for me was our pilgrimage to the
Salt Cathedral Salt Cathedral in Zipaquira. Since our group was all
Anglican, we decided to walk the Stations of the Cross, not merely to view
them, connecting Jesus' journey with that which Francisco would begin the
next day. A different pilgrim led our prayers at each of the fourteen
You can view a picture from inside the Cathedral at
http://purcellteam.com/PhotoCDs/0192(ChinaDCCruises)/0192-20.htm and a
fine picture of the valley of the River Magdelena at
We experienced splendid hospitality. Having read grim travel advisories
from the U.S. State Department, even before I arrived I imagined an
assailant behind every tree or potted plant. I expected people to be
cowered and fearful. I was ashamed of these fears after I experienced the
reality. For only $75 per night rooms at the Radisson were as comfortable
as I have used at three times that price elsewhere. We moved freely among
the many pleasant people in the streets. Guards protect those who use ATM
machines day or night. I would welcome such protection in Newark.
Obviously it is wise to exercise reasonable caution, but people should
not stay away from this beautiful place out of fear.
Colombia is one of the only dioceses that does not have, and has never
had, a Companion Relationship, although it has long sought one. I do not
like what this says about our church. Blanca is so impressive that she
will soon win over the hearts of the spouses of our bishops. I hope at
least one diocese will accept this marvelous opportunity to be companions
in The Way.
Pray for Francisco Duque-Gomez, Colombia's new Bishop Coadjutor. Pray for
Blanca and his children. Pray for the Diocese and for Bishop Merino as he
prepares to retire.