Replacing Archbishop Dr. John Holder
Submitted as a comment by BMcDonald to the The Grenville Phillips Column – I Know Who Helped Me
The well intentioned rule, that the candidates for the office of Bishop of Barbados are only known on the morning of the election, has clearly not prevented commentary and speculation about prospective candidates in the mass media, even in the Anglican newspaper. The rule is also being exploited by those who want to drive discussion of the contribution to the development of this country by Christians and the Diocese of Barbados from the public square. Much of the mass media contributions is thinly veiled support of a young candidate. Much of the reasoning in support of the young man is flawed, because:
(1) The regulations governing the process of choosing a Bishop impose a minimum age, which clearly says that age is a factor. The imposition of a minimum age in the regulations supports the view that age brings maturity, experience, wisdom and patience, attributes needed in the Bishop, as opposed to popularity, which is ephemeral. One may also ask, if the young man is so popular, why the coordinated and relentless effort to project him as the preferred candidate at the expense of the rules.
(2) Until the election of Bishop Rufus T. Broome, it cannot be said that the local Synod freely elected the Bishop of Barbados. Initially Bishops were appointed from London at a time when Barbados was a much larger Diocese, including the Leeward Islands and the Windward Islands and there was no air travel at that time and the preference for younger appointees was natural. Thereafter, the government of Barbados had an important role in the selection of the Bishop and finally, the local Synod, free to choose for itself in 1969, failed in its first attempt and a choice was imposed on the divided house by the Provincial House of Bishops.
(3) There is ample evidence that a long reign by any administrator can end with loss of enthusiasm, often described as burnout. The prospect of a twenty-five year reign for a Bishop, in light of the history of the Diocese, must make every Barbadian concerned.
As the Friday 6, 2018 article in the Nation newspaper shows, three of the five bishops appointed under age fifty were the first three Bishops of Barbados. Even among these, as early as the appointment of the second bishop, Thomas Parry, there was already a preference for experience as he had already served as a senior member of the administration of Bishop Coleridge for 16 years. Among the 10 bishops of Barbados, after Bishop Herbert Bree established the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral as the Guardian of the Spiritualities, only two were under fifty years of age. The first, Bishop Bentley, was already Bishop in Jamaica before he was translated to Barbados at age 45 and the second, Bishop Gomez was selected by the Provincial House of Bishops at age 35 when Barbadians in Synod could not choose one of their own as Bishop. Co-incidentally, the present Bishop of Belize, to whom the article referred, was also selected for that office by the Provincial House of Bishops.
Although personally popular, the young Bishop Gomez presided over the Diocese of Barbados during the Sintra Construction debacle and the Rev. Edward Gatherer affair which together cost the Diocese of Barbados hundreds of thousands of dollars. Money better spent on the mission of the church and the welfare of Barbadians.
The Sintra Construction debacle refers to the litigation that was pursued when it was claimed that the foundation of the Diocesan House at St. Michael’s row, Bridgetown had been the only structure in the area compromised by the construction activity of the Sintra Construction Company. The relatively new Diocesan house was condemned and demolished. The Gomez administration refused to compromise with the defendant construction company, went to trial and lost. Asquith Phillips Q.C., and his legal team for the defendant construction company were awarded significant costs.
In 1992. attorney at Law, Chezley Boyce took the case of Gomez v Gatherer all the way to the Privy Council in London and won a decision for Rev. Gatherer when the Privy Council reversed the Barbados Court of Appeal in a matter which turned on the age of the rector of St. Andrew’s Parish. Rev. Gatherer was restored as rector of St Andrew’s Parish Church by the court and awarded damages plus costs.
The above are included as a reminder that being Bishop of Barbados includes significantly more than preaching and ceremonials. Decisions have consequences. The 14th Bishop of Barbados must not only be a person of prayer, deep intellect and a track record of helping the poor, but also have demonstrable leadership, social and administrative skills and resolve. Flexible when compromise benefits the church, but not one who simply bends to the dictates of money and power. There is an urgent need for the Anglican Church, recently identified as one of the twin pillars upon which this country is built, to reclaim its rightful place amid the discourse in the public square and the leadership of that effort falls to the next Bishop of Barbados.