Last Thursday’s announcement by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart of a May 24 general election would have put paid to much of the national discussion on the race to electing a new Anglican Bishop of Barbados.
However, intense internal wrangling is still ongoing following last Wednesday’s inconclusive vote out of which the youthful Reverend John Rogers, 45, and his priestly senior Dean Jeffrey Gibson, 61, emerged as the two forerunners.
Ironically, however while Rev Rogers, who is the current Rector of St George Parish Church, currently enjoys the majority support of the Laity, which would in essence make him “the Bishop of the people”, Dean Gibson enjoys the majority support of the clergy. Therefore, it would be equally fair to label him “The Bishop of The Clergy”.
But alas! Neither will be allowed to prevail without two thirds support of both houses – the 91-member House of Clergy, which is made up of all the priests from the Anglican churches in Barbados and the 84-member House of Laity which is made up of two representatives of Synod from each of the Anglican churches. In fact, at this stage if the race were allowed to go the way of the House of Bishops both Rev. Rogers and Dean Gibson could be permanently excluded from the job and why? Just on the basis that the clergy and laity could not agree.
We feel that that would be an awful shame.
But with the church currently split on the way forward, there are those who would sooner suggest that Rev. Rogers should step aside and allow the more experienced Dean Gibson to go forward, but whither the voice of the people, is it not inimical to the voice of God?
We have no reason to doubt either man’s qualification for the job, but given the general out of touchness of many church leaders today, we believe that the Anglican Church would be better served to be guided at this time by what its own parishioners have been saying in terms of the kind of leader they want, which is always a good indicator of the future viability of any organization, especially one that is already faced with declining membership.
As Shakeem Howell, a member of the St Peter Deanery Youth Council and Deanery representative, said last week even before a single vote was cast for Bishop, they are hoping for someone who is youthful and energetic, or someone who will focus on the young people.
“My Bishop should really focus on putting his energies towards the youth within our church and the Sunday school . . . because at the rate when I look around, we have an ageing population within our churches and we would like a little more stability within our churches for our young people,” Howell said at the time.
Similar sentiments were shared by Movelle Jordan, who not only suggested that the church needed a revival, but someone “from among the youth” to breathe new life into the local Anglican faith.
“The Anglican Church need a bit of reviving . . . and to bring somebody more youthful from among the youth and encourage them to come back to church. And I think they are looking for someone to rejuvenate the Anglican Church, to bring new life and new ideas. I think that is what is needed at the moment in the Anglican Church,” Jordan contended.
She was supported by Margaret King, who would “like to see someone who is young that can bring in the young people into the church cause the young people right now, they are not coming especially in the Anglican Churches in Bridgetown”.
“When I was growing up, they had a lot of young people in the church but now they are gone. So we need somebody who can bring them back . . . we know they can come back . . . so someone younger would be wonderful,” King said.
However, for elderly member Gloria Oxley, all that is needed is “a good Bishop” who “loves the Lord and one that loves the congregation and preach nice to the congregation”.
Ironically, there seems to be just as much politics at play in the race for what has previously been called “Mandeville House” as there is in the current race for Bay Street. And while the Church has been in the forefront of calls for an orderly campaign devoid of bitter mudslinging and malevolence, its internal balloting process could equally do with a thorough cleansing.
In fact, all would do well to know and understand that God does not wear pajamas, and indeed that we must so conduct our affairs that, at the end of the day, we can make believers of all – especially those who were casually observing from the sidelines to see how we deal with issues of divisiveness.