NEW YORK, NEW YORK: Region bridging the religious gap
After the highly contentious church battle over homosexuality that threatened to split the worldwide Anglican Communion, a spirit of compromise may be setting in.And if the lowering of voices prevents the Episcopalians in the United States on the one hand and the Anglicans in Barbados, Jamaica, Ghana, the Bahamas, Britain, Australia, South Africa, Canada and elsewhere on the other from going their separate ways, then the West Indies Province of the Church can take some credit for being a “bridge,” beginning with former Archbishop Drexel Gomez and continuing with his successor the Most Reverend John Holder, who is also Bishop of Barbados.“One of the valuable contributions we can make in the Caribbean, in our Province is to be bridge-builder,” said Archbishop Holder in New York City recently.“Archbishop Gomez was there as well. He was the one who pushed and worked very, very hard on the Covenant Document, which is a bridge. I support the Covenant 100 per cent because I think it is the type of bridge we need to hold the factions together that they can begin to speak to each other in a creative and positive way.”At the opposing sides of the “bridge” are the Episcopalians, the Americans whose leadership believes human sexuality, love and marriage shouldn’t have barriers erected by gender.The upshot, a male Episcopal Bishop has married his male partner and the two are living openly together. In parishes in New York and other parts of the country, male priests are following suit, all with the blessing of Episcopal Church leaders.But, as Archbishop Holder said in Brooklyn during his recent visit to the City as the guest of St Mark’s Episcopal Church, the Anglicans in the Caribbean don’t accept that lifestyle. “The traditional position of the (Anglican) Church for a very long time, and we can go back to the 1998 Lambeth Conference which said ‘this church accepts all human beings, regardless of their orientation, class or creed.’ But it stops short in saying it will bless or accept active homosexuals in leadership positions,” Holder explained. “I don’t think I am at the stage where I can say that I support that (gay) lifestyle to the extent that I will bless or encourage or whatever persons involved in that as prominent leaders” of the church.As a matter of fact, he strongly opposes any such ordination or marriage.How then can the West Indies and its Archbishop act as a bridge between the opposing factions when like the African primates, they believe in the same thing?The difference between them is that the West Indians are talking with the American Episcopalians while African leaders believe the time for talking is over.Archbishop Holder thinks time is a great healer.“I think part of the problem in this world and the church especially, is that we are running out of time to do certain things,” he argued. “We all want things to be done within our lifetime or within our time of being in charge. I don’t think that way. I think if there is a problem, if there is a challenge we have to work on it. And it will take longer than my lifetime.“I can’t say there will not be a time in the church when we will be thinking in a way that it will happen,” he said.Some Anglicans in and out of Barbados would obviously prefer a much stronger statement in opposition to homosexuality in the clergy. But they should remember there was a time when the Anglican Church in Barbados, for instance, supported slavery from the pulpit and owned slaves. As a matter of fact some of the most brutal act against slaves took place on church owned plantations on the island.All of that is behind the church.In more recent times, the ordination of women almost split Anglicans between those who didn’t believe that women should be in the pulpit as priests and supporters of the ordination of females. Today, we accept it as a normal fact of life and the change has occurred in our lifetime, so much so that the Archbishop has predicted that sooner or later the Province would elect a female bishop, not simply because she is a woman but due to her capabilities as a religious minister. That’s how it should be.Clearly, the church has come a long way since slavery and the quarrels over the ordination of women. Eventually the Anglican Communion and the West Indies Province may accept the “gay” policy of the Episcopalians in America.