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Politicians must share the pain, bishop declares: The Church of England Newspaper, May 2, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of the West Indies.
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The Jamaican government’s call for the country to make sacrifices to see the nation through the economic depression that has gripped the Caribbean, must also be borne by the nation’s leaders, the Bishop of the Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands told the 144th meeting of the diocese’s synod on 22 April 2014. The Rt. Rev. Howard Gregory welcomed the recent statement by the Governor General, Prime Minister and leader of the Opposition that the country was in need of a moral reawakening, but Jamaica’s leaders must set an example. The situation facing the country was analogous to that Israeli faced with during the time of the Prophet Nehemiah, the bishop said.  “Nehemiah, having challenged the people to make sacrifices for the common good by redeeming their debt, recognised that he, too, had to send a positive signal as to what he was prepared to do on his part,” he said. “It was not enough for him to be the leader of this mission. So Nehemiah took the decision to forgo his allowance as governor because of the heavy tax burden which the people were already being asked to bear,” Dr. Gregory said, adding Jamaica’s “need to send a signal which says that they, too, are part of the sacrifice, part of the project – not from somewhere up there, but on the ground where it hurts.”

Crime concerns dominate Jamaican synod: The Church of England Newspaper, April 14, 2013, p 7. April 16, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of the West Indies, Corruption, Crime, Gambling.
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The Bishop of Jamaica has denounced his government’s slow response to a lottery scam that has defrauded thousands of elderly Americans, saying it was symptomatic of the breakdown of law and order in the West Indies.

In his presidential address to the Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands at the 143rd annual meeting of Synod held at St Ann’s Bay parish church, Bishop Howard Gregory said the “system of justice needs to become a primary focus of attention.”

“As a nation we are being called to repentance with a consequent change of action in relation to the blood of our young men and our women and children which is being shed daily in our country by criminal elements, but just as significant in the resolution of domestic disputes.”

The Bishop condemned the government for permitting the sale of lottery tickets on Sunday. He noted that the legislation passed during holy week led him to ask “whether this is an expression of gross insensitivity or a statement concerning the way forward for the relationship between church and society”.

He also took the government to task for not moving to stop the “Jamaican lottery scam” until the U.S. Senate began hearings on the crimes.

A report by CBS reported that in 2012 over 29,000 lottery scam complaints were filed with American police agencies. Posing as representatives of Publishers Clearinghouse and other lottery and sweepstakes firms, the scammers would tell elderly Americans that they had won a cash prize but first needed to make a tax payment before the money would be released. The Jamaican-based fraud had taken in tens of millions of dollars, prosecutors have alleged.

“After seven years of public awareness of the lottery scam, our Government has only managed to table anti-scamming legislation and talk tough at the very moment when the United States Senate was holding a [Senate] hearing on the scam in Jamaica,” Bishop Gregory said.

The government’s failure to act did nothing to combat Jamaica’s reputation as a den of crime and corruption. “The way we are presenting ourselves to the world in terms of our moral values as a nation calls for serious repentance on the part of citizens and political leaders as a whole,” he said.

The willingness also of ordinary Jamaicans to countenance the lottery scam told the world “we have some very skewed moral values.”

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

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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.

Think twice about a republic, Jamaican bishop warns: The Church of England Newspaper, June 17, 2012 p 6. June 15, 2012

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Dr. Howard Gregory

The Bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands has urged Jamaicans to think carefully before backing the Caribbean island government’s plans for a republic.

In a service at St. Andrew’s Parish Church in Kingston marking the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen on 10 June 2012, the Rt. Rev. & Hon. Howard Gregory stated the “zeal” to become a republic would not solve the country’s political problems.

“Today, our nation now finds itself at the crossroads as we seek to continue the historical process of self-identity and self-definition, which was consolidated in our attainment of Independence in 1962. Fifty years later, we now seek to take a further step by taking the inevitable step towards becoming a republic.”

“I believe that in our zeal, we run the real risk of discrediting the monarchical system of governance which has brought us thus far. While we do so in a political culture, which is increasingly cynical and despairing of political leadership and governance, we need to be extremely careful that we do not evaluate the system which has brought us thus far with such negativity, if not impoliteness and ungraciousness,” the bishop said.

Drawing upon middle class fiscal discontent the People’s National Party (PNP) led by Portia Miller-Simpson trounced the ruling 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.

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.

Speaking at a beacon lighting ceremony in downtown Kingston last week in celebration of the Jubilee, Mrs. Simpson-Miller affirmed her government’s desire to become a republic.  But she added that Jamaica will always hold the monarchy in high esteem and valued its membership in the Commonwealth.

However, in his Jubilee sermon Bishop Gregory questioned the moves toward a republic, and lauded the Queen’s service to her subjects.

“Having assumed the throne, which was thrust upon her by circumstances that were not of her making, … she has brought to the monarchy … singleness of purpose, dedication and sensitivity to her people, often a resounding theme in her Christmas messages and on the occasion of her visit to various nations. She has also brought a level of humanity and public engagement as much as the office has allowed as head of a royal household and of a realm,” the bishop said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Keep drug money out of church, bishop pleads: The Church of England Newspaper, May 31, 2012 May 31, 2012

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

The Bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, the Rt. Rev. & Hon. Howard Gregory called upon Anglicans to stand fast against the tide of corruption racing through the West Indian nation.

In his 18 May 2012 sermon at his service of institution as 14th bishop of Jamaica held at the Cathedral of St. Jago de la Vega in Spanish Town, Dr. Gregory said the church must recommit itself to preaching the Gospel with “power and effectiveness” to a “world that is desperately in need of the good news, even as it is being bombarded by secularism which, while seeking to undermine religious faith, has nothing to offer in filling the void it is creating in the life of persons seeking to find a sense of meaning and purpose.”

Christians are a “people called out and yet in the world,” the bishops said.  And “this calls for an act of consecration of the self to God and to God’s service if this is to be realised.”

In Jamaica this consecration of the self must include a rejection of the culture of corruption that was ravaging the country.

“We live in a society which is permeated at every level by corruption, and in which we benefit co-operatively from ill-gotten gain, and not just the acts of corruption, supposedly restricted to politicians and those in the public service,” the bishop said.

“For example, the inflows into this country from the lotto scam has wide circulation within the economy, and there is not only a culture of silence around it among some persons, but there are many who would suggest that there is nothing wrong with it. When parents can accept the gift of a home from a 15-year-old who is not working, and be contented with it, and when teachers in our schools can tell us of the high school students who own their own substantial three-bedroom house, and multiple taxis plying routes, you know that things have gone terribly wrong in this country, where our values and morality are concerned,” the bishop said.

It was no good pointing the finger at others, Dr. Gregory said, as the church was caught up in this web also.  “We, members of the Church, are caught up in the corruption or are benefiting from it.”

Church fundraising activities “need to be subjected to closer scrutiny, as they run the risk of bringing drug and other tainted money into the coffers of the Church. Likewise, while the Church seeks to minister to the spiritual needs of all people, we must be careful how we bend over backward to charge fees and to accommodate some funerals that are bashment affairs funded by money of dubious origin,” Dr. Gregory said.

The bishop also challenged Anglicans to “re-think the excesses and vulgarity which are attending many weddings and funerals, even as those making such expenditures and displays claim to have nothing to assist needy children and young people in our congregations and society.”

Some cultures believe that “nothing goes into the ground with the dead which cannot be of use to the next generation. We would do well to take a leaf out of their book so that we can invest in the creation of a community of love” and for a better Jamaica, the bishop 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.