Following what could be regarded as a slow movement of the Anglican Church in Barbados towards a leadership that represents the racial majority of devotees that largest denomination on the island is about to see a relatively quick-fire change in the gender of its leaders.
So believes noted historian, Trevor Marshall, who said that in just over a decade women moved from being the silent faithful and are now poised to not only dominate top positions in the Diocese but also perhaps command the number one spot as Bishop of the Barbados Anglican Church.
“We have 20 ladies in the Anglican Church who have assumed the position of leaders of parishes,” Marshall observed earlier this month. “By 2029, it is likely that the cadre, the cabal, the group of ladies in charge of parishes will be about 50 per cent of the Anglican Church.”
Marshall made this declaration during the presentation of the Annual Dean’s Lecture in the Frank Collymore Hall on the topic, The Anglican Church in the 21st Century – Decline, Division and Re-dedication. Marshall reflected that not until 1993 did the Anglican Church in Barbados have a Black Bishop, some 170 years since having a Prelate appointed to the territory. He noted that the movement towards females taking up leadership positions was even slower and the furthest in that direction was what he sarcastically described as “a revolutionary step forward of appointing ladies as choir mistresses” in the 1950s.
“The notion of [women] ever becoming Deacons, Vicars, Lay Readers, Cross Carriers, Altar Servers, Heads of Choir, even priests, that was science fiction.”
Marshall said that full female leadership of the Anglican Church is long overdue because women comprise the majority of believers and contended that there was a 65 per cent female presence at the ordination and enthronement ceremonies for Bishop Maxwell at the end of January.
“Where are the men? Where are the boys? I’m not [someone who praises] times past. I’m not harking back to the good old days when the Church was a good old boys club. We don’t want that,” he said, adding, “We want the females to assume their rightful positions in the church.”
He spoke of a line of thinking that Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus’ disciples dressed as a man, and added, “You may not want to accept that but when we realize that women were pirates, women led armies… women did all kinds of things in the recent and archaic past and the credit went to men. Women are now flowering, now coming out and assuming their positions.”
Marshall, who is not one to shy away from controversial statements, said, “If you men are not comfortable with that I’m sorry for you because women will take over the church and it will be a revolutionary church. Men will be expected to come in church and keep quiet.
“In the decade after 2020, we men will be under siege in the church. Men who now occupy positions in the men’s fellowship as part of the elite will no longer have those positions.”
On the matter of the slow change of the Barbados Anglican Church to its leadership being representative of the black dominance of the membership, Marshall noted that the last of the England appointed Bishops, was Bishop Hughes, who left the island in 1951.
“Were Hughes to suddenly re-appear and see the Anglican church, he would be not just perplexed, he would be nonplussed… because the Anglican Church in Barbados has not only emancipated itself from England. It has been blackened. It has been browned.”
Saying that he observed only two white priests, believed to be non-nationals, at the ordination and enthronement ceremonies, the historian who a few years ago retired as a lecturer at Barbados Community College, said, “When I was a little boy in St John, every priest was white. Every other Caribbean country had indigenised and had blackened the priesthood. By the time I went to Mona [UWI Campus] in 1968, Jamaica had black bishops.”
He said that coming from his Barbados experience, “I could not believe it… We thought that God anointed all white people to be Bishops of Barbados and we did not see the possibility of a black person becoming Bishop. Every Caribbean country had a black Bishop by the 1960s. We had to wait until 1993, 25 years. The revolution reached us 25 years after it started in the rest of the Caribbean.”