Soul Searching by Anglicans

Two recent programmes, presented on social media, on the relevance and role of the Anglican Church, have generated much thoughtful discussion.  The first, in two parts, was a Symposium on Disestablishment, presented by the Diocese as one of the observances to mark the 150th Anniversary of the separation of the Church from the control of the colonial government in 1870.  The first session on July 1, examined the meaning of the term ‘Disestablishment’ and its implications for the mission and ministry of the Diocese, while the second part on July 8 concentrated on areas of progress and challenges over the past 150 years.[1]

 By coincidence, on July 7, ‘We Are the Church’ (WATC), a non-Diocesan initiative by a group comprising mainly young Anglican clergy, explored the topic, ‘Is the Anglican Church Still Relevant’,  in its monthly series ‘Conversations Around the Diocese’.[2] This series is intended to provide among other things, informed discussion and understanding of pertinent issues relating to the Church and its role in a rapidly changing society.

The panelists on both programmes spoke against a troubling background which showed that according to national census data, membership in the Anglican Church over the past 50 years has declined by 76% while the local Pentecostal churches have grown by more than 2000% and the Seventh Day Adventists have expanded by more than 300%.  It was noted, however, that this decline in membership is not unique to the Anglican denomination, as other traditional churches have been affected similarly.

The discussions revealed that the past history of the Anglican Church, as an ally of the governing elite and a supporter of the system of enslavement, still casts a shadow over the church today.    The Rev. Prof. Veront Satchell, an Anglican priest and economic historian recounted that a country lady to whom he had recently offered a drive, said, ‘Pastor, the Anglican Church is a backra man church’.  The Rev. Annett Brown, retired priest, said that in an informal survey she had conducted, there was some ambivalence among Anglicans regarding the Church. Nevertheless, there was general agreement by the panelists that the Anglican Church had contributed, and still contributes, much to the society in areas such as education and social services.

In spite of this, several areas were identified in which the Church could become more effective in its ministry and therefore more relevant. These included placing more emphasis on missionary activity, greater involvement by groups such as the Mothers’ Union and the Brotherhood of Saint Andrew among their target audiences, increased use of local language (patois) and cultural expressions in worship, greater recognition of the contribution of young people and increased focus on issues impacting the lives of the dispossessed and marginalized.

(See links to the Symposium below – while   the WATC programme may be viewed on their YouTube channel)

Contributed by
John A. Aarons

[1] The Panelists were: Part 1:  Dr. Las Newman (Moderator), Archbishop Howard Gregory, Professor Patrick Bryan, Rev Professor Veront Satchell, Mrs. Sasha Wright, Dr. Trevor Hope.  Part 2:  Dr. Las Newman (Moderator), Professor Bryan, Rev. Professor Satchell, Bishop Robert Thompson, Rev Natalie Blake, Ms. Shameika Harris, Rev Deacon Bertram Gayle

[2] The Panelists were: Ms. Monique Castle (Moderator), Bishop Laish Boyd, Mrs. Sasha Wright, Rev Annett Brown,
Ms. Zahra Henry.

Symposium 1
Symposium 2

Symposium 2 – COMING SOON