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Editorial: Bishop deSouza called it as he saw it

Published:Sunday | December 20, 2015 | 12:00 AM

 

NEVILLE WORDSWORTH deSouza, 12th Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, whose passing is being mourned, following his death at the age of 87, was one of the church's most interesting proclaimers of the Word and, more often than not, a figure of controversy.

The decade of the 1970s was a time of political dissension, of war and tumult of war. In such an atmosphere, it was expected that a Bishop of Jamaica would tread softly, toeing the line, as it were, delivering soft, innocuous homilies. Not so for Neville deSouza.

Like a John the Baptist crying in the wilderness, he told it as he saw it. Not surprisingly, he was criticised within the church and without, but like one of his predecessors, Percival Gibson, spoke as the gospel dictated and did not shy away from responsibility. Bishop deSouza, like him, refused to remain silent.

Bishop deSouza was known as a voracious reader not only of Holy Writ, but global affairs of the times at home and abroad. He did not hesitate to expound on the relevance of issues of the day, which he never failed to place in a biblical context. As an executive member of the Jamaica Council of Churches, there was much on which to comment, even when the council's proclamations were dismissed by a political leader as "the PNP at prayer". Despite the antagonism, Bishop deSouza preached on.

 

Prestigious appointment

 

He was elected to the board of the prestigious World Conference of Churches where he was assigned the portfolios of justice and service, which he repeated here at home. He was also a leader in the interdenominational Caribbean Conference of Churches at a time when not Jamaica alone, but the wider Caribbean, was wrestling with global and local challenges. It was the time of Liberation Theology and the accompanying ministry kept everyone occupied.

Born in Trelawny, Neville deSouza entered the world of work in what was then referred to as the civil service. When the call came to serve a higher purpose, he was accepted for training at St Peter's Theological College, and in time entered the priesthood, which led to him serving in several areas of Jamaica.

He was the first to be elected Suffragan Bishop of Montego Bay in 1973 and by 1979 he was enthroned as Lord Bishop. He led the Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands until 2000, having reached the age of retirement, before deciding to reside in Mandeville, where he took his exit on December 12.

History will remember Neville Wordsworth deSouza as one who did not hesitate to speak in the name of the gospel. He did not seek popularity either, nor did he flinch from criticism. Where the scripture led, he went, speaking not for himself, but in response to a higher calling to which he was dedicated.