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EDITORIAL - Now for Caribbean Anglicans

Published:Tuesday | July 15, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Perhaps yesterday's vote by the English Anglicans in favour of the consecration of female bishops will inspire the church in the Caribbean to do likewise. This newspaper hopes it does.

We can perceive no logic in doctrine, but for tradition, why the Anglicans of this region, who have long been at the forefront of progressive social developments, should be among the last holdouts against the irresistible good sense of full gender equality.

Indeed, as the British Labour MP, Diana Johnson, observed 18 months ago, when the ordination of women was narrowly defeated in the General Synod of the Church of England, the implication of that vote was that institutions, including the Church, were not deserving of leadership "by the very best, not just those who happen to be men".

Yesterday's vote, therefore, is a substantial step in putting right a historical wrong and conceptual fallacy by opening the leadership of the Church, the majority of whose worshippers are women, to the best available talent - including women. In that respect, they will join the brothers in the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Ireland, who already ordain women.

First to ordain women

Ironically, the Church in the Province of the West Indies, of which the Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands is part, was among the first in the global congregation to ordain female priests. That, for instance, happened in Jamaica nearly 20 years ago, a decade before women were first ordained in England.

Indeed, in Jamaica, as well as in some other Caribbean provinces, women in the Anglican Church have assumed administrative posts - middle-management positions. But like women in other spheres of life, especially in industry and commerce, those in the Anglican priesthood have bumped against a doctrinal glass ceiling: if Jesus wanted female leaders of the church, He would have had women among his disciples. Except that there is no specific declaration against women donning mitre, or carrying staff.

To be fair, the obstacle against gender equality in the Church does not reside in the Jamaican diocese, which more than a decade ago signalled its willingness to vote in favour of the ordination of female bishops. But when that vote takes place by the Church in the Province of the West Indies, for it to carry it will require a two-third majority in each of the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy and the House of Laity. A handful of conservative holdouts, primarily, it appears, among the province's bishops make that a difficult hurdle to scale.

Time for a new engagement

Perhaps, in the face of the vote by the English Church, it is time for a new engagement on the issue by the West Indian church, led by those of calm voice, embracing love, but armed with the logic of the rightness of change.

Some members of the English church will be left sore by the vote. But it's unlikely that there will be schisms, especially if the victors follow the suggested approach of John Sentamu, the Bishop of York: "... There will be those within our body who will be hurting as a result of this decision. Our answer to the hurting should not be, 'Get over it', but rather, 'We will not let go until you have blessed us.'" Bishop Sentamu's posture should be part of the framing of the arguments by the proponents of the cause in the Caribbean.

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