ALTHOUGH women parishioners in the Episcopal Church of Cuba form a clear majority, the church will remain a male-dominated institution until there is a sea-change in attitude.
There are, at present, few women priests and no women's voices in the church's decision-making bodies.
That is the opinion of the only two women Anglican priests in Cuba. Ordained together in 1986, they remain unique in that there were no further female ordinations after that initial flurry -- if you can call two a flurry.
The ordinations of Rev. Nerva Cot Aquilera, a 64-year-old who looks 10 years younger, and Rev. Griselda Delgado del Carpio, who managed to win over an arch-conservative rural parish, have not been repeated in 16 years.
The two, who say they feel isolated at times and lament that there haven't been any new women ordained, point out that only now are there three female students in the seminary who are considering ordination.
The reasons for this are rooted in culture and tradition, in spite of the Cuban revolution's modern overlay in doctrine and belief.
"Women see ordained ministry as not easy for them to follow," said Mrs. Delgado in an interview. "A pastor gets support from his wife. The woman might get support, but she still has to do two things -- the house and the vocation."
Both women say there is a double standard for female ordinands. "Typically we wait four years to be ordained, the men wait six months," said Mrs. Delgado.
Female priests in Cuba, as well as female parishioners, are battling a culturally inbred tradition of male supremacy, both at home and in the church. This makes the greater numbers of women in the pews almost irrelevant when it comes to decision-making, say the two women priests.
"There is a lack of sisterhood among the women," says Mrs. Cot, who is married to the dean of the Cathedral in Havana. "As long as women are not aware they will give the power to the men." She pointed to a day of voting at the 93rd synod, where although the majority of lay delegates were women, they were still not nominating other women to sit on key decision-making bodies within the church.
Her proposed solution would be a series of workshops to help women take more of a lead, and to point out their historical contributions to the life of the church.
"Some of our women wish to study theology but feel insecure and scared regarding their future in the church."
She also wants the bishop to promote women more actively than she feels he has in the past, and wants a "diocesan strategy" to encourage women serving in the church -- not only as lay readers but also as potential priests.
"At the last synod, the bishop did not act inclusively," Mrs. Cot said. The church hierarchy, she added, is guilty of recognizing the gifts of women clergy -- "they are always recognizing our gifts," she said with frustration, "and never giving us a chance to be decision-makers.
"In all of these years they have never thought of us as archdeacons or chairs of the standing committee or any other leading decision-making role." (The standing committee, in the Cuban church, is considered the seat of power after the bishop. …