The non-election of a Barbadian Anglican bishop

Almighty God,
Giver of all good gifts,
look on your church with grace,
and guide the minds of those who shall choose a
coadjutor bishop for this diocese,
that we may receive a faithful servant who will
care for your people and equip us for ministries, –
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
– Election Prayer, Anglican Diocese of Toronto

Perhaps owed more to a sentiment of nationalism, most Barbadians, even if not members of the Anglican congregation, would have felt a pang of disappointment at the failure of the local synod to elect one of the two suitably qualified Barbadian nominees as the next Anglican Bishop of Barbados. It is true that the position has suffered a diminution in national prestige with the disestablishment of the Church over six decades ago, but the likelihood of a non-national being appointed as Bishop of Barbados, especially arising out of the recent failure of the local body, will understandably gall some members.

History will record that this outcome was owed principally to the failure of the members of the two Houses, Clergy and Laity, to find sufficient commonality among and between them so as to be unanimous or even consensual in their selection. While the Laity appeared to be clear as to the individual they wanted to assume the bishopric, the House of Clergy, although not as definitively, ostensibly favoured the other candidate.

Arguably, the nationality of the leader of a denomination of the Christian faith ought to matter as little as his race, weight or, one day soon, hopefully, his or her sex. Further, Anglicanism is by no means a parochial denomination of Christianity nor is its origins Barbadian. Indeed, its appellation as the Church of England or English Catholic (EC), as it is known elsewhere, serves to indicate its non-Barbadian origins. At an even higher level of abstraction, the message of the Church is generally accepted to be universal and therefore to seek to restrict the leadership of the evangelization of that message to narrow concerns such as place of origin, nationality or citizenship would appear to be contrary to the very basic norm of Christianity.

Still, much of the now expressed regret by some arises from the rigidity of the electoral process itself. Bearing an uncanny resemblance to the procedure required for the alteration of constitutionally entrenched clauses locally, it is ordained that there must be a two-thirds majority of those present and voting in both Houses. While this serves to ensure the election of a prelate that is at least equally acceptable to both of his constituencies, it bears remarking that not even the leader of the nation is obliged to enjoy such a level of acceptance.

The members of the local Anglican Communion will now be bound to reconsider, if they are so minded, whether such a rigid form of determination for its Bishop is in the best interest of the Church itself. We do not consider that compliance with existing regulations irreparably harms the image of the Anglican Church as purported by some nor, as argued above, do we agree that the choice of a non-Barbadian by the regional House of Bishops would equate to a “punishment” of the local denomination as some others have asserted.

It is simply an upshot of the currently accepted process, a process that we have learnt is not mandatory in the diocese. For example, the election of a Bishop in the Anglican Diocese of Toronto requires that in order to be elected, a nominee for Bishop must receive “a simple majority in each house”.

Barbados Advocate

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