“To be an instrument of grace and hope is to be committed to the transformation of the personal, social, economic, political and religious conditions which keep our people captives and prevent them from attaining the potential which God intended for them,” Diocesan Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Howard Gregory, affirmed, as he delivered his Charge at the Opening Service of the Church’s 149th Synod recently.
The Service which was held at the St. James Parish Church in Montego Bay on Tuesday, April 23, was attended by clergy and lay representatives from churches across the Diocese, as well as civic leaders and members of the Ecumenical Fraternity.
Speaking on the Synod theme “Intentional Disciples: Instruments of Grace and Hope,” the Bishop stated that the Church could only be engaged in this way, if members had a clear sense of their identity as disciples of Christ.
Bishop Gregory who focussed on the Gospel reading from Luke 16:19-31 which deals with the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, commonly called Dives, said it portrayed the life of the wealthy who are blind to the existence of the poor. He pointed to the widening gap between the rich and the poor in Jamaica, despite improvements in the economy and the labour market. He quoted a 2018 report from OXFAM which indicated that, of 25 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, Jamaica ranked 21st in terms of income inequality.
The Bishop also criticised employment practices in the Business Processing Outsourcing (BPO) and Hospitality industries, as well as the Government Sector, which employ contract workers without the benefit of job entitlements, such as pension plans, health insurance and vacation leave.
“It must be the responsibility of this and any government in power to engage these dynamics, and for those who claim to be intentional disciples of Jesus Christ, to advocate on behalf of these workers, or is it to be the lot of these exploited workers to carry the burden for economic prosperity, however we define that,?” Bishop Gregory contended.
The Bishop challenged members of the Church to reflect on the absence of social justice in the society, which he said “is not of divine decree but, is of human construct, and maintained by those who stand to benefit by the status quo.”
He asserted that worship should lead members to question the high level of corruption by public officials; and to be equally vigilant in addressing acts of corruption and the violation of trust by the church.