Toast by Bishop Howard Gregory to Archbishop John Holder

Toast delivered by The Rt. Rev. Dr. Howard Gregory, Bishop of Jamaica & The Cayman Islands, on behalf of the Province of the West Indies to The Most Rev. Dr. The Hon. John Holder on the occasion of his retirement as Archbishop of the West Indies, February 9, 2018


It is for me a pleasure and honour to offer words of appreciation to retiring Archbishop John Holder, my colleague, on behalf of the Province and my brothers of the House of Bishops, and of course, my own.

Although we are here to mark his retirement, nevertheless, in a strange way, Archbishop John has represented a generational change in the office of Archbishop of the West Indies and in the House of Bishops. His predecessors represented those who were a part of the transitional generation from the episcopal leadership of expatriate bishops to native Caribbean Bishops. They all were under the leadership of Archbishop Allan Knight. That transition was not an easy one, as these leaders had to bring to bear on the office a Caribbean dimension in terms of episcopal leadership and theological reflection. They exercised that pioneering role with diligence and, not withstanding, received their share of criticism from clergy and laity alike.

The generation which John represented in the House of Bishops and the office of Archbishop, is of a second generation, that generation which offered its share of criticism of the previous generation, and of course, always convinced that we could do better than the previous one. We are now receiving our fair share of criticism and scrutiny, and history will tell whether we will have left the episcopal leadership of this Province in any better shape than we inherited it.

Archbishop John has had the unique privilege of presiding over a House of Bishops in which half of the diocesan bishops were his former students. Whether this made life easier for John and his administration any easier, is yours to guess, and our secret to keep. Nevertheless, it points to one important reality, and it is that our retiring Archbishop has contributed to the shaping of the episcopal and clerical leadership of this Province in a way that will shape the life of the church in this Province for generations to come.

In this regard, if the level of biblical scholarship and teaching among the clergy of the Province is found to be wanting, it is not for trying on the part of Archbishop John. His biblical scholarship has been recognized, not just in the Caribbean, but in the wider Anglican Communion, where his reflections can be found in various publications. Of course, not without controversial reception at times, as John does not evade controversy.

One of the privileges which I enjoy is that of being appointed a member of one of the Commissions of the Anglican Communion. Here I have an opportunity to meet Archbishops, Bishops, Clergy and Laity from across the Communion. In that context, I have been pleased to receive affirmative comments from persons who have sat in the same councils as Archbishop John regarding his contribution to their deliberations, including the Primates Meetings.

Archbishop John, I believe that I can speak on behalf of all of my brothers of the House when I say that it has been a pleasure sharing collegiality with you as a member of the House of Bishops, as well as to share personal friendship and to hear your signature laughter as you guided our deliberations and shared in moments of fellowship. And, although the written remit is for me to speak on behalf of the House of Bishops, it would be remiss of me if I did not make mention of your leadership of bishops, clergy and laity, especially young people, through the successful gatherings of Provincial Synod, Provincial Congress, Provincial Clergy Gathering, and Provincial Youth Gathering. History will recall your contribution to all of these events.

We are conscious of the fact that you were able to be present with us and with the Province and wider Communion because of the support of your wife, Betty, and your son, Stuart, and so we thank them for their contribution to the mission you have accomplished as Archbishop, Primate and Metropolitan of the Province of the West Indies.

So now, my brother John, as you enter into a phase of life known as retirement, I would like to deposit the notion that retirement is not just about leaving a job, moving into a sphere of “roleless existence” while sitting in the departure lounge. Indeed, as one of my former professors would express it:

to show that every stage of life, in its temporal passage, can be imbued with meaning and value becomes a special responsibility for the elderly and the retired”.

Archbishop John we, therefore, wish you every blessing in your retirement and look forward to your further contribution to the life of this Province through additional publications and the use of other channels of ministry and mission.