In recent months all eyes have been on Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, with critics seeking to analyse his every move in anticipation of his announcement of a date for fresh elections.
But alas! This is not the only important election that is scheduled within the next few weeks.
As a sign of the waning influence of the Anglican Church on the day-to-day affairs of Barbados, very little has been said nationally about the departure of Bishop Dr John Holder at the end of February, and the current race to Mandeville House – as robustly as it is seemingly taking place behind the scenes – to choose a viable replacement.
Could it be that Barbadians have so lost their spiritual and religious grounding that it matters not who will eventually rise to the top of the biggest religious sect in this country to be ultimately responsible for protecting the moral compass of this nation?
We sincerely hope not! For, as Proverbs 29:18 reminds, “A nation without God’s guidance is a nation without order” and “happy are those who keep God’s law!”
It has to be said though, that the traditional Church has over the past two decades or more been apparently losing its relevance within the community, as a number of fly-by-night religious groupings have sought to prey on the young and the restless in particular, who have been attracted to the more upbeat and missionary format of their sermons and church services as a whole, while the Anglican Church holds slavishly onto it Anglo Catholic tradition of cassock and robe with incense – loads of incense – largely administered by priests who are seemingly more at home in their lofty pulpits than on the very street corners and blocks where the souls exist that need to be won for Christ.
And should any of these so-called sinners dare to approach the high altar in their rags or unsanctified garments, they would not survive the nasty stares of the so-called “initiated”, many of whom would quicker remind that they are Christian, than to actually practice Christianity, which calls for us all to be our brother’s keeper, and to rend one’s heart and not one’s ‘unholy” garment.
Indeed, the Church as a whole has become quite superficial with leadership that at best seems frail in the midst of deepening economic, political and social challenges that cry out for religious and spiritual intervention at the highest level.
Take for instance the current debate about homosexuality – a practice that has hitherto been roundly condemned by the Church, but is now surprising the subject of compromise.
In fact, just recently at the start of the Intimate Conviction International Conference in Kingston, Jamaica, it was Dr Holder, who is also the outgoing archbishop of the West Indies, that sought to argue that the use of Sodom and Gomorrah, the main scriptural reference for people opposed to the gay lifestyle, was fraught with the danger of imposing our convictions and understanding, prejudices, biases, and bigotry about this story when it is not there.
“My argument is that using the story of Sodom and Gomorrah to support the sodomy law has no basis, none whatsoever,” he said.
Citing scripture after scripture in his attempt to explain the Bible’s take on the controversial, and still criminal, offence in Barbados and elsewhere in the Commonwealth, the Anglican Bishop argued that the practice of homosexuality had long been part of the human sexual experience, predating the modern concepts of sexuality.
He also said that the Bible has been used as a tool to condemn people of differing sexual orientations and as a tool to retain the laws against same-sex unions 50 years after said law was repealed in England and Wales.
“As soon as the word homosexuality is mentioned in biblical studies, they want to make a beeline straight to the Sodom and Gomorrah story. Here is one of the favourite hunting grounds for those who want to use the Bible to condemn homosexual behaviour and find support for the retention of the sodomy law,” said Dr Holder.
However, using the Book of Ruth, chapters three and four as examples, he explained that it was instructive that the writer in this case “did not use one word condemning Ruth’s behaviour after she was persuaded by her mother-in-law, Naomi, to seduce Boaz, the King”.
“All this leaves us with the story that has been used as a platform for the rejection of another non-traditional sexual relationship, homosexuality,” he added.
In an immediate response, President of the Jamaica Evangelical Alliance Bishop Alvin Bailey had sought to distance himself from the conference of church leaders on the anti-buggery law, telling The Jamaica Gleaner at the time that there seemed to be a clear modus operandi among some to quickly have the law repealed.
“They are individuals that at best, are intellectual apostates – persons who are allowed to own their own views on matters but who do not speak for their denominations. They cannot speak for Christianity. They are inauthentic as it relates to biblical references,” he said.
“Their aim is the decriminalizing of buggery. It is their last bastion of hope to legalize homosexuality, and we will continue dissociating ourselves from them and their stance,” Bailey added, while questioning the archbishop’s understanding of the Sodom and Gomorrah story.
“This is the kind of irrationality of the argument that these persons are presenting why I think they cannot speak fully for their denominations and the wider Christian community,” Bailey had said.
Whether it is on homosexuality or matters to do with politics and the economy, we believe the Church needs to speak with one clear and decisive voice.
In fact, it should not so align itself with political parties that it cannot tell any future political leader what it feels to be the case or better still, what is undoubtedly God’s way.
Already we are hearing rumblings of one candidate being too young to fit the bill as Anglican Bishop, but we would hope that foremost on the minds of those in the Synod Council when it actually gets around to vote will be on choosing the person who best can proclaim the message of God to a weary and wayward people and whose message actually resonates most with the people, instead of just seeking to maintain the status quo, which simply will get us nowhere and leave the Church in the proverbial wilderness for years and years to come.