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The election of the 14th Bishop of Barbados is a topic for much discussion on our island and commentators have been giving their spin on this event. I have listened and read with much interest the various opinions on what the role of the Bishop should be.
I have participated in four elective synods, the first as a Lay Representative in 1971 and then as a member of the House of Clergy in 1993, 2000 and now 2018. The 1971 event was the first after Barbados’ independence, and the call was for a black Barbadian to be elected to this office of Bishop.
Failed to elect Bishop
In 1971, the atmosphere was full of expectancy as the elective synod held two sessions and failed to elect a Bishop. In the first session, seven nominees were presented and through a process of elimination the number was reduced to five initially and then four and in the second session, the late Venerable Frederick Evelyn Layne and the Rev. Ivor McKenly Jones were the two who remained in the process. The House of Bishops selected the Rev Drexel Gomez, a Bahamian, to be the Bishop of Barbados at age 35.
I was at the time aware of the campaign to prevent a black Barbadian from being elected and I was also aware of the opposition to the choice of the selected Bishop, by some priests. The then Prime Minister, the late Errol Walton Barrow, refused the request to deny the granting of a work permit to the selected Bishop.
Bishop Gomez served for 20 years, resigned and returned to his native land to a prominent secular position before being elected as Bishop of Nassau, the Bahamas, with the Turks and Caicos Islands and eventually Archbishop of the Province of the West Indies.
The elective Synod of 1993 was determined not to have a deadlock like 1971. Three candidates were nominated, one candidate eventually withdrew and the other two faced the Synod. I was informed that the candidate who withdrew requested that those who supported him support the eventual successful nominee. Venerable Archdeacon Rufus Theophilius Brome was elected as the twelfth Bishop and he led the See for seven years.
The Elective Synod of 2000 produced five nominees and the process eliminated three. The balloting which followed did not produce the mandated result for the election of a Bishop and the result was that one candidate withdrew and the Rev Canon Dr John Walder Dunlop Holder was elected. He became Archbishop of the Province of the West Indies during his seventeen and half years as Bishop of Barbados.
The current Elective Synod met in two sessions – on St Mark’s Day, Wednesday, April 25, 2018, and on Monday, May 14, 2018. After seven ballots, two candidates withdrew in the process while the remaining two did not obtain the required majority to be elected. I have never seen the print and social media so involved in the election of a Bishop for the Diocese of Barbados. The call-in programmes accommodate callers and I have heard three moderators expressing very strong views on this matter. As a priest of 42-plus years I am duty bound to comment on this important development.
The office of Bishop is critical in the threefold Order of the Sacred Ministry. The Bishop is the chief pastor to the clergy, who on ordination take oaths; one such is to obey the Bishop in all things lawful and right.
My estimation of the present situation is that there is not a clear understanding of the office and work of a Bishop in the Church of God by some of the participants in the process in which we are engaged. It is not a dispute between the clergy and the laity; neither is it a popularity contest between the two nominees.
There is no place for canvassing and promises to influence members of the Elective Synod to support your preferred candidate. What is now required is fervent prayer for God’s Holy Spirit to direct those entrusted to select the next Bishop of Barbados.
– The Very Rev. Canon William Dixon, CBE, Dean Emeritus