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Many are called but few are chosen – Matthew 14:22
The Anglican Church in Barbados faces a major challenge. The Synod, the parliament of the Diocese, which comprises two co-equal houses – the House of Laity and the House of Clergy – has effectively rejected the final two nominees.
The rules for the selection of a bishop state, inter alia, that the candidate must receive two-thirds of the vote in both houses. Since the second ballot on April 25 to the ninth on June 7, the House of Laity has made it clear that they wish Fr John Rogers, rector of St George’s Parish Church and Rural Dean for St John, to be the next bishop as he has received the required two-thirds at every count.
The House of Clergy appear divided as neither candidate – Rogers nor Dr Jeffrey Gibson, Dean of St Michael’s Cathedral – has received the required two-thirds from that house in any of the nine ballots.
It is notable that in the history of the selection of a bishop, this is the first time that a candidate has received two-thirds from one of the houses when there have been more than one person.
Commentators have suggested that the youthful Rogers should give way because he would have another chance at selection; that the House of Laity, though equal to the House of Clergy, cannot determine the selection of a bishop; and that Gibson, as the senior, should not be superseded by the young rector – as if the election were an office promotion.
There are many unChristian things being said that are just too ugly to be repeated here. We can learn a lot from Mark 13:22 – “For false Christs and false prophets shall arrive and shall show signs and wonders to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.”
The water under this bridge is similar to the water on the streets of our South Coast. Even if one candidate were to withdraw, it is unlikely that the remaining candidate would be endorsed by both houses.
It has been proposed that the elective Synod refer the matter to the House of Bishops. While this is an embarrassing and disappointing option, I hope that it is seriously considered at the next meeting.
Our church has to heal. How we address the distrust between the laity and the clergy and the deep divisions within the clergy will be our greatest challenge.
The Anglican Church is expected to be a leader in the Barbadian community. With a new Government and little Opposition in Parliament, it has an even more critical role to play as our country navigates the “precipice of peril” in which we find ourselves.
– SUSAN GILES