Diocese of Recife Celebrates its Rebirth

The history of Anglicanism in the northeast of Brazil started with the English chaplaincies under the jurisdiction of the Church of England in 19th century. An agreement reached in 1955 opened the way to a handover between the English and the Brazilians. In Recife, as in Salvador, half a century has passed since the departure of the last English chaplain who attended a dwindling English-speaking congregation. The work undertaken by the English speaking community and their descendents in Recife, Salvador and Belem, was fundamental to the expansion of the Church in a region in which Anglican Brazilians were practically absent.

In Recife, the original church was situated where the current Cinema São Luiz is located until 1946, subsequently moving to the Rua Carneiro Vilela where the building remains until today, although in the hands of the Episcopal Charismatic Church. The minister who attended the community resided in “Beco do Pe. Inglês” (Alley of the English Priest), in Boa Vista.

In 1968 bishop Edmund Knox Sherill, of the Central Diocese – Rio de Janeiro transferred the Revd. Alfredo Rocha Fonesca to Recife, as the first Brazilian chaplain of the Parish of Holy Trinity, commencing a slow process of integration. Up until that point the work of the church was focused on the pastoral care of the English-speaking community.

In 1975, the Revd. Paulo Ruiz Garcia arrived to assume the Parish of Holy Trinity, finding the parish with a reduced number of members. In June of the same year, the synod created the Diocese Setentrional, having Recife, the capital of Pernambuco, as her seat, and also including the states of Pará, Amazonas, Bahia, Maranhão, Piauí, Ceará, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraíba, Alagoas and Bahia, with Sherill as their first bishop, who chose to leave the Central Diocese.

In Salvador, the English chaplaincy was established in 1815 with services in homes, and in 1851 the chaplain Edward George Parker led a movement to urbanize the suburb of Campo Grande, turning the Ladeira da Barra (today Av. Sete de Setembro) passable, permitting better access to the English cemetery. The inauguration took place in October 1853 in the land bought by Parker in the name of the Society of St. George. Parker was the chaplain until 1860.

In Salvador, the chaplaincy passed to the jurisdiction of the Central Diocese under the pastoral care of the missionaries Roger Blankley and Stuart Broughton. The English community adopted the name Christ Church, and the mission of the Brazilians, was called the Mission of Christ the Redeemer. Two apartments were constructed below the chapel alongside the English cemetery, forming an “Anglican House” for guests.

In 1976, a constructor offered a new site in the suburb of Pituba and an apartment in the Edifício Morada da Pituba, given the poor state of the old church building. The building in Campo Grande was the second non-Roman Catholic Church in Brazil and probably in South America. The inauguration of the new temple took place on 30th October 1976, by Bishop Sherrill integrating the community into the Central Diocese.

In 1977 Bishop Sherrill instituted the Revd. Lauro Borba da Silva as priest-in-charge of the Mission of Christ the Redeemer, while the Revd. Broughton continued attending the English-speaking community. The Brazilian community became known as the Good Shepherd, due to the stained glass window dating to 1860 and brought from Campo Grande. The Preaching Point that was located in the “Anglican House” became known as Christ the Redeemer.

Her first Diocesan Council took place in 1976. The diocese had only four clerics, three missionaries, a Lay Worker and three parishes. By the end of Sherrill’s episcopacy, these numbers had changed to nine clerics, six parishes and two missions.

In 1984 Bishop Sherrill announced his retirement by the end of 1985, which made possible the election of the Revd. Clovis Erly Rodrigues, Dean of the Cathedral of Santa Maria, at the General Synod of the IEAB in July 1984, as successor to the Diocese Sententrional.

This election was contrary to the wishes of Bishop Sherrill and the clergy and laity of the delegation of Diocese of Recife, who desired the election of the Revd. Paulo Ruiz Garcia as Sherrill’s successor. It is in this period, as well, that some clergy and laity founded the ABAE (The Brazilian Association of Anglican Evangelicals) and affiliated themselves to EFAC (Evangelical Fellowships in the Anglican Communion), in a clear demonstration of the theological tendencies of the Diocese Setentrional.

During the episcopate of D. Clovis Erly Rodrigues, there was a great increase of Anglicanism in the northeast, particularly through events such as “Meetings of Married Couples”, Seminaries of Life in the Spirit and Cursillos that gravitated around the Parish of Holy Trinity. There was also an expansion of theological education in the diocese with the foundation of the Nuclear of Anglican Theological Studies (NAET) through the work of the Revd. Francisco de Assis da Silva, her first rector. Clovis’s succession was planned with plenty of debates involving the clergy of the diocese elaborating a profile and mission plan for the Northeast. From this debate was elected the Revd. Edward Robinson de Barros Cavalcanti at the Diocesan Council of 1997 in Bahia. During this time various new communities were created, such as Caruaru (Reconciliação), Piedade (Espírito Santo), and Maceió (Filadélfia).

In 1997, Edward Robinson de Barros Cavalcanti assumed the episcopacy of the Diocese of Recife. A well known professor and writer in evangelical circles, Bishop Robinson immediately attracted around him a large group of people interested in joining the Anglican Church. The majority were from the Presbyterian Church, with some Baptists, Pentecostals and Roman Catholics. There are some notable marks of his administration of the diocese. While there was a numerical increase in members and an expansion of theological education with an emphasis on a brand of Anglican identity, on the other hand, his episcopacy was marked by schisms and personal conflicts. In 2002, the diocese suffered two schisms, first by Paulo Garcia, taking with him the community and the building that historically belonged to the English and afterwards to the IEAB, the Missions of the Beatitudes and the Living Rock, as well as the Revd. Célio Spineli, Edgar B. Ferreira Neto, Frederico Carneiro Rego Bastos. In the second schism, the Revd. Leonides Menezes Ferreira, Revda. Karla Patriota, the Revd. Adonias Ramos de Souza and the Parishes of Bethany and Calavary left the diocese.

The episcopacy of Robinson saw the consecration as suffragan bishop of Filadelfo Oliveira Neto in 2002. Originating from a Presbyterian background, Filadelfo headed the administrative department of the diocese and dealt with pastoral problems in the Archdeanery of Paraíba and Rio Grande do Norte, and afterwards in the southern region of the Diocese, which extended from Boa Viagem in Recife to Ilha de Itaparica in Bahia.

2004 was a difficult year for Anglicanism in the northeast and consequently for the whole of the IEAB. Bishop Cavalcanti demonstrated a lack of pastoral sensitivity, a great difficulty to relate in collegiality with his fellow bishops, committing acts of indiscipline against the IEAB. This unleashed the greatest crisis known to the church in recent times, which culminated in his separation from the province and the withdrawal of his episcopal jurisdiction, as a result of an ecclesiastical tribunal.

With the installation in the crisis, Maurício Andrade, bishop of the Diocese of Brasília, was nominated by the province to offer special episcopal supervision, to help Filadelfo in the pastoral and administrative work of the diocese. Later, Bishops Sebastião Armando Gameleira Soares and Glauco Soares de Lima also played a supporting role.

In 2005, a notable number of clergy continued in full communion and obedience to the deposed bishop, suspending their relationship with the IEAB, in a clear display of the desertion of the doctrine, worship and discipline of the Church. Thirty-two clergy and their respective communities left.
During this time, Bishop Filadelfo assumed temporarily the ecclesiastical authority of the diocese, nominated by the Primate. Eight deacons were ordained.

The Missions of Christ the Good Shepherd, Jesus of Nazareth, Mount Sinai, St. Francis of Assis, came into being, a demonstration of the will to overcome the crisis.

During the General Synod in Curitiba in 2006, Sebastião Armando Gameleira Soares was elected the new diocesan bishop, with Bishop Filadelfo as suffragan, and was installed on 11th October in a celebration that brought hope for the future of Anglicanism in the northeast.

In December the XXV Diocesan Council took place with a strong turnout of clergy, and in which it was possible to outline new directions for the future of the Church in the northeast, under the leadership of Bishop Sebastião.
In 2007, the new building of the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity was consecrated in the suburb of Espinheiro with a festive spirit, demonstrating that the crisis, was surmounted, and would not prevent the continuity of the ministry of the church.

The Revds. Elias Leôncio de Brito Filho and César Romero Leal Vieira, who had followed the deposed bishop returned to the diocese.

Currently the diocese has eleven active priests, one licensed, one retired and eight deacons. The geographical area of the diocese extends through the whole of the northeast of Brazil, with seven parishes, two missions, five missionary points in all: two parishes, one mission and three missionary points in the state of Pernambuco; two parishes and one missionary point in the state of Bahia; one parish and one mission in the state of Paraíba and one mission in the state of Ceará.

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The Rev. Francisco de Assis da Silva

Secretary General of IEAB