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NEW YORK, NEW YORK: Region bridging the religious gap


TONY BEST

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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.

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