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Bermuda leaders in row over clergy: CEN 11.16.07 p 9. November 19, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Bermuda, Church of England Newspaper, Politics.

ewan-ratteray.jpegThe Bishop of Bermuda has charged the island’s government with playing politics in the licensing of overseas clergy.

Writing in his November diocesan newsletter, Bishop Ewan Rattray stated the Bermudian government’s “interference in the affairs of the Church” over the granting of residency permits had been “entirely inappropriate. Despite complying with the law at all times, we still seem unable to make significant progress,” he said.

The diocese’s difficulties stretched back over two decades, he noted, and involved the United Bermuda Party and Progressive Labour Party governments. While relations with the government were now cordial, “the way forward is still not absolutely clear.”

The government’s “decisions sometimes have had the appearance of being arbitrarily taken,” and were politically motivated, he charged. In 2003 the government refused to issue a work permit for a Canadian priest engaged as rector of St. Paul’s Church in Paget, ordering the diocese to employ a native Bermudan instead.

Bermuda law states that if there is a Bermudian ready and able to do the job, an employer may not hire a non-Bermudian. Work permits are strictly controlled, and are issued for periods ranging between one and three years, and renewal, while possible, is not certain.

Overseas clergy who ran afoul of some of their parishioners had been forced to leave the island after their residency permits were not renewed. Bishop Rattray said the actions of some Anglicans to rid themselves of troublesome priests by feeding “the Government with misinformation” was “reprehensible” and “sinister.”

These “persons who utilize the Government for their own selfish purposes are walking on extremely dangerous ground both for themselves and for the wellbeing of the Church,” he charged.

Bishop Rattray told his diocese that upon retirement in March 2008 he would leave the diocese and move to York, England where he has an apartment. “A number of people seem to view our plans as somewhat strange, especially as our children and grandchildren live here,” he said. “But the fact of the matter is that we neither own nor can afford to buy property in Bermuda; it is just too expensive.”

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