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Support and caution for Hewitt

Carol Martindale

Support and caution for Hewitt

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Anglican priest Guy Hewitt’s move to enter the political fray has some support from Nation online readers, but others have cautioned him to stop and rethink his plan.
Some said that as a citizen he should have the constitutional right to follow his passion, even if it is for politics. Others, however, said he should refrain from any political plan that compromises his role as a priest with pastoral duties for those in the church.
Readers’ were responding to the Nation Talkback on the issue of priests getting involved in elective politics after it was reported that Hewitt had indicated his interest in contesting the Christ Church West constituency on a Democratic Labour Party ticket.
Hewitt is the assistant priest at Christ Church Parish Church and chairman of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
According to the laws of Barbados, there is no legal barrier prohibiting a priest from being involved in elective politics.
The original Constitution under  44 (1C), priests were prohibited from being elected members of the House of Assembly. However, that was changed in 1981.
In 1999 Reverend Joseph Atherley was elected to the House of Assembly after winning the St Michael West constituency for the Barbados Labour Party.
Nation readers were of the view that just like Atherley, who is not Anglican, Hewitt had every right as a citizen of Barbados to enter elective politics.
This is what some online readers had to say on the issue.
Ashantia Howard: “It was done before with Joseph Atherley so I don’t see why he can’t run if he wishes.  
Patrick Porter:  “Why not? They are citizens, are they not and therefore entitled to run in an election is they so desire.
Alan Yearwood: “They’re entitled like any other citizen. But they must operate within the framework of the Constitution”.
Chulang Searles:  “We need more men that truly serve God in that place”.
Clarence Fields:  “If he wins the contest he should resign his church duties. There is very little he can compromise on and politics can be dirty.
Stephen Fields, an Anglican priest, said while it was  Hewitt’s Guy’s right to contest elective politics, he had some fundamental problems with the idea of a parish priest who has the pastoral responsibility for all members in his/her parish to go that route.
His extensive comments on the issue, he said, were based on what he deemed the appropriate involvement of an Anglican diocesan clergy in the political life of Barbados.
“It is my view that no Anglican priest in Barbados who has the “cure of souls of the people of God” has any place in adversarial partisan electoral politics. “At the outset, I would hope that if, as reported in the media, Fr. Guy is seeking a nomination that (1) he would have informed his bishop and (2) resigned his current position on diocesan staff. This is what I would expect of any cleric. It is the right and proper thing to do. He is not part of an independent outfit nor is he a lone ranger. He is under the authority of his bishop and is part of a community of priests, all of whom are accountable to the bishop. In that regard, he is subject to the customs and polity of a wider body. To that end, there is a lot at stake here. The matter brings into sharp focus the customs and polity of the Anglican Church in Barbados. “The Anglican priest in Barbados is appointed and licensed by the Bishop and authorized to care for the people in a particular area, called a “parish”. He/she is the pastor of all the people and he must exercise this pastoral role in the context of the vitriolic political tribalism that wreaks havoc on our national landscape. Let no one be fooled, Barbados is a deeply polarised society when it comes to politics. It is in this context that the church and her priests must rise above that tribalism and must be like Ezekiel, serving in the role of “Watchman”. The former Dean (Harold Crichlow) used this idea in at the time of the debates in 1974. A priest, by aligning him/herself to a political party compromises his/her role as a “watchman” and the integrity of the leaders of faith community. The lay members of the community may choose to enter electoral politics. The cleric should not. If he/she understands his/her sacred call then he/she knows that we can, without fear or favour and without being accused of favouring one side against the other, say “thus says the Lord” to B, D or P. “If my brother desires to serve the people of Barbados in another way, perhaps he can say that the bishop has given him “permission” to go in this direction. If that is so, then that is another issue, a major problem, as far as I am concerned. Or, he may say that he has resigned his position as a priest on diocesan synod staff and is entering this process in his own right at a Barbadian. He ought not to seek political office and at the same time speak of himself as an active cleric in the diocese”.
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