The Rev. Canon Ernle Gordon, one of the Anglican Church’s prominent and at times, controversial priests, has died at the age of 82. Ordained a priest in 1968, he spent most of his ministry as Rector of St. Mary the Virgin Church, Maverley, serving there from 1972 until his retirement in 2012. He was installed a Canon of the Cathedral of St. Jago de la Vega, Spanish Town, in 2002.
The Most Rev. Howard Gregory, Archbishop of the West Indies and Bishop of Jamaica and The Cayman Islands, in his Clergy Letter announcing the death, recalls that Canon Gordon “became a National figure through his preaching and public engagement of social and political issues during some of the most challenging decades of the post-Independence period. In this regard, he is identified with the Anglican tradition of socially active Clergy, such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the late Bishop Colin Winter.”
A prolific writer and one of the country’s foremost religious thinkers, Canon Gordon was the author of a number of works. One of his latest published in 2014 was entitled Liberation Theology – Articles and Essays. This is a compilation of his writings, and it tackles many controversial issues including homosexuality, partisan politics, and the role of the church. Over the years, his perceived left-wing views on a number of subjects affecting the Jamaican society earned him the title the ‘Red Priest’ in some sections of the media.
Canon Gordon was never afraid to state his views strongly and to criticize the leaders of Church and State. He once said that “too many preachers are concerned about the size of their congregations, and as the number of worshippers dwindles, they have resorted to using fear tactics to lure people to Heaven. You don’t frighten people into Heaven. You lead people into Heaven… You discuss with them their lives, and then you nurture them.”
The late Canon was a fervent nationalist; and during his tenure, St. Mary the Virgin Church became a member of the Churches Emancipation Committee which organizes the annul lecture series on the eve of the annual Emancipation observances.
Canon Gordon served a number of community and national organisations, especially those associated with social programmes and improvement of the quality of life for citizens. He was also Chaplain of the Melbourne Cricket Club for more than 30 years.