The dean of the African-American Catholic Congregation, a breakaway black Catholic denomination, resigned his position last week and plans to announce today that he will form a new denomination.
Bishop Carlos E. Harvin said yesterday that he will announce his departure in Stanton Park, across the street from Imani Temple/National Cathedral on Capitol Hill, where he was pastor until his resignation Thursday. Imani Temple is the seat of the congregation formed by Archbishop George Augustus Stallings Jr., the Anacostia priest who broke off from the Roman Catholic Church in 1989.
Harvin, 39, said he decided to make a public announcement because Stallings refused to allow Harvin to say farewell from the pulpit. Harvin said Stallings was inflexible and did not give parishioners enough of a role in determining the church's vision. "The Roman virus has crept into the African-American Catholic Congregation," Harvin said.
"Leadership must listen before it speaks," Harvin said, "and it must listen in a spirit of mutual respect, and that is what I find lacking."
The new schism is a setback for Stallings, who formally renounced the Roman Catholic Church in 1990 and was excommunicated. That same year, the Rev. Bruce Edward Greening, now a bishop, and 300 members of Umoja Temple broke away, saying that they wanted to "remain in communion" with the Roman Catholic Church. Since then, they have organized another denomination, the Independent African-American Catholic Rite, based at St. Martin de Porres Church on Butternut Street NW. Greening said yesterday that the group has about 250 members.
Harvin said he still acknowledges Stallings as the divinely inspired leader of the independent African American Catholic church, and he hopes to continue its rituals and doctrines. Stallings's church recognizes the Roman Catholic Church's sacraments but also emphasizes African American history and culture, holding that God is of color and celebrating Kwanzaa, a secular African American holiday. Harvin said he will call his denomination the Kwanzaa Ministries African-American Catholic Church.
Stallings did not return a call for comment. William E. Marshall Jr., a spokesman for the African-American Catholic Congregation, said that Harvin had performed poorly as a pastor and that "his decision-making was not the best." Harvin said that he had helped to gain followers for Stallings in Louisiana and in the District.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington has 80,000 African American parishioners, said Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for Cardinal James A. Hickey. Many of the original followers of Stallings later returned to the Roman Catholic fold, she said.