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Bishop backs bus preaching ban: The Church of England Newspaper, December 13, 2012 December 19, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of the West Indies.
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The Bishop of Jamaica has backed the Jamaica Urban Transit Company’s (JUTC’s) ban on bus preachers, saying that proselytizing passengers on public transport was “boorish.” Writing in last week’s Kingston Sunday Observer, Bishop Howard Gregory said that while Christians were called to “go and make disciples of all nations”, that did not mean Christians should harangue people to accept Jesus Christ as their saviour.

The bishop objected to a culture of “noise-making” adopted by some Christian groups that had led to harangues on public transport and proselytizing in hospitals. “I am aware of situations in which such persons attempt to take very sick patients out of hospital beds in order to get them baptised by immersion. The situation has become unbearable,” Bishop Gregory said.

Last month the managing director of the JUTC, Hardley Lewin, banned bus preachers following complaints of aggressive proselytizing on the country’s public transport. Several Pentecostal pastors have denounced the ban and called Admiral Lewin the “anti-Christ” for regulating when and where they can preach.

However Bishop Gregory wrote that bus preachers had misconstrued the Gospel. While Matthew 28:18-20 proclaims the Christian imperative to evangelize, “unfortunately, there have been many instances in history when the church has understood this to mean the coercion and mandatory conversion of persons to the faith,” the bishop wrote.

“These are sad chapters in the life of the church and to which the church in this age should not lend its support,” he wrote, adding that this “approach to the exercise of the mission of the church is inconsistent” with the model of ministry presented in the Gospels and the Book of Acts.

“There was never any attempt to corral an audience and then present the Gospel to them, but rather, a recognition that the appeal of the gospel is voluntary and must not be presented to people in ways that are boorish and an imposition.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Bishop weeps for Kingston: The Church of England Newspaper, November 11, 2012 p 7. November 13, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of the West Indies, Development/Economics/Govt Finances.
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The Bishop of Jamaica has called upon the government to take action to halt the physical and social decay of Kingston.

In a 28 Oct 2012 service marking the 140th anniversary of the city’s being made capital of the island, the Rt. Rev. Howard Gregory said the “decay of Kingston is in evidence all around and is reflected both in the physical environment as well as in the social life of many of its residents. Every time I travel to cities abroad and see what the renewal of cities can look like, I weep over my city.”

The city had been built on a “well-laid out” grid with “good infrastructure” that had been allowed to slide into decay he said.  Founded in 1692, Kingston is the commercial hub and capital of Jamaica and has an estimated population of almost 1 million.  In recent years the city has been the scene of widespread gang violence that has led to a flight to the suburbs of the professional and middle classes.

“The lack of adequate planning for the city is obvious for all to see,” the bishop said, noting that zoning laws were not enforced, garbage not collected, and the roads not maintained.

He denounced the indifference the government displayed towards the provision of basic public services.  “In our city, a garage can begin operation on your street, and there is no agent of state, which will respond with any measure of effectiveness. And the sad thing about it all is that the residents can complain from now to eternity and they are not receiving a response from those individuals and institutions charged with governance that would allow people to foster a sense of ownership of their communities, and partnership with municipal authorities.”

State neglect combined with a lack of civic pride meant that “all the older residential communities falling to pieces,” he said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Crime is killing the Caribbean, bishop warns: The Church of England Newspaper, April 6, 2012 p 6. April 9, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of the West Indies, Crime.
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Bishop Howard Gregory

Corruption and crime are the most immediate evils facing Caribbean society the new Bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands has warned.  There has been a breakdown of trust in society that was reflected in rising social tensions, voter apathy and greed, Bishop Howard Gregory said in his first interview following his election on 27 March 2012.

The new bishop’s warning follows the publication of a report by the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) that the region’s rising crime rates were threatening the economies of the Caribbean.  The Caribbean Human Development Report 2012, reported that with the exception of Barbados and Suriname, homicide rates – including gang-related killings – have increased substantially in the last 12 years across the Caribbean, while they have been falling or stabilizing in other parts of the world.

Latin America and the Caribbean are home to 8.5 per cent of the world population, yet the region accounts for some 27 per cent of the world’s homicides, according to the UNDP report. While the total number of murders in Jamaica dropped to 1,124 in 2011 – a seven-year low – the country has the highest homicide rate in the Caribbean and the third-highest murder rate worldwide in recent years, with about 60 murders per 100,000 inhabitants.  Only El Salvador and Honduras have higher rates, with 66 and 82.1 murders respectively per 100,000 people.

“Violence limits people’s choices, threatens their physical integrity, and disrupts their daily lives,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, urging Caribbean governments to tackle crime head on.

The reported estimated that gang-related crime cost between 2.8 and 4 per cent of gross domestic product in the region, due to reduced tourism and higher policing and jailing costs.   Crime costs Jamaica over $529 million a year in lost income, the report found, while in Trinidad and Tobago, a one per cent reduction in youth crime would boost tourism revenue by $35 million per year.

Gang-related crime was only part of the problem, Bishop Gregory said.  “I am concerned that those in governance are not doing enough to deal with issues of corruption,” he told the Gleaner.  This had led to a breakdown of trust between the people and the state.

He further said that there was a breakdown of trust in society which needs to be addressed and he would not shy away from taking on the challenge.

“What we have seen in terms of voter turnout is indicative of something happening in the society. I believe that is finding its way into the church as well. People are feeling frustrated, they want to see things happening,” he said, adding that there was a “general mistrust of people in authority and leadership and people want to feel that they can trust those who are in leadership so that is one of the issues that I think I need to deal with.”

The Rt. Rev. Howard Gregory was elected bishop at a special meeting of synod on the second ballot by the 131 clergy and 200 lay delegates to the Elective Assembly held at St Luke’s Church Hall in Cross Roads. On the first round of voting, the Suffragan Bishop of Kingston, the Rt. Rev. Robert Thompson, led in the balloting but fell short of the two thirds majority required. However, Bishop Thompson withdrew following the first ballot and Bishop Howard received two-thirds of the vote on the second round.  Elected Suffragan Bishop of Montego Bay in 2002, Bishop Howard has been serving as the administrator of the diocese since Bishop Alfred Reid retired in December.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Bishop calls on Jamaica to honour people power pledge: The Church of England Newspaper, January 13, 2012 p 6. January 12, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of the West Indies, Politics.
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Bishop Robert Thompson

The Bishop of Kingston has called upon the newly elected government of Prime Minister Portia Miller-Simpson to honour its “people power” pledge and not turn its back on the poor now that it has returned to office.

At an invocation delivered at the first meeting of the cabinet on 9 January, Bishop Robert Thompson, the suffragan bishop of Kingston, reminded the government of its pledge not to treat the poor as objects, but to include them in the life of the nation.

Drawing upon middle class fiscal discontent Mrs.  Miller-Simpson’s People’s National Party (PNP) expanded upon its working class base to return to office for the first time since 2007.  Among its campaign pledges, the PNP promised to break its current ties with the UK and establish a republic in time for the 50th anniversary of independence celebration this June, and to repeal Jamaica’s “Buggery Laws”, de-criminalizing homosexual conduct.

The liberal PNP trounced the rule conservative Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) of Prime Minister Andrew Holness at the 29 December 2011 election.  While the swing toward the PNP was only 3.7 per cent, with only 60,000 votes separating the parties out of 800,000 cast, the PNP won the majority of closely contested districts, giving it 42 seats to the JLP’s 21 in parliament.

Unemployment is presently running at 13 per cent in Jamaica, and in the poorer neighborhoods of Kingston it climbs to 60 per cent among the young.  Approximately 43 per cent of the population lives on below the poverty line of $2.50 a day, the IMF reports, while Jamaica’s state debt has ballooned to $18.6 billion – accounting for a third of the country’s GDP.

The JLP was also hurt by its purported links to organized crime.  The former government of had opposed the extradition to the U.S. on narcotic charges of criminal kingpin Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, leader of the Shower Posse gang.  Coke was arrested in May 2010 after a combined police/army raid on his headquarters in Kingston left 70 dead.

In a widely reported sermon preached on 1 Jan 2012 at the Kingston Parish Church, Bishop Thompson noted that successive governments had courted the votes of the poor, but ignored them after taking office.

“It never fails to amaze me, that when successive governments speak about a social contract, the poor are usually excluded from the equation,” said the bishop. “We make a terrible mistake when we assume that the poor have nothing to contribute to the social capital.”

“History teaches us that when the gap grows between the rich and the poor, when the middle gets increasingly squeezed, and those at the bottom are almost completely forgotten, social bonds begin to unravel and resentment sets in,” the bishop said.

“The poor must not be seen as the subject of our benevolence, but as part of the social capital for national development,” he argued.

“When you don’t believe you belong, you are not likely to make sacrifices for the greater good. I hope our new prime minister will be someone who promotes the [common good] by being open and available to others while, at the same time, affirming their self-worth. Nothing short of that will work in the Jamaica of today,” Bishop Thompson said.