…Bishop Gregory Warns
The Rt. Rev. Howard Gregory, Bishop of Jamaica & The Cayman Islands, has cautioned the government against broadening the definition of public institutions whose surplus funds they intend to manage to include churches, trusts and government-owned educational institutions. He explains that the monies being targeted for budgetary support were accumulated through various fundraising activities and were intended specifically for developmental projects.
Delivering his Charge at the Opening Service of the 147th Synod of the Anglican Church on Tuesday, April 18 at the St. James Parish Church in Montego Bay, the Bishop noted that: “The history of governance does not generate confidence in initiatives that may be presented as being in the interest of the national good.”
“For example, those of us who have connections to Pension Schemes recall the promises of the 90 day turn-around windows that were supposed to allow for a quick refund of withholding taxes; and are still waiting several years and several governments later for the refunds to take place,” he added.
Bishop Gregory’s call comes in the wake of government’s recent controversial decision to channel funds from the National Housing Trust (NHT) into the public coffers – a move which he said had been pursued by various governments. He pointed out that the Trust was established to facilitate housing solutions.
To change the rules governing the operation of the institution “is not only a violation of the trust which people invested in governance in the past to fulfill the intent of the Fund, but it leads to a deepening skepticism and loss of trust in governance on the part of citizens,” he asserted.
The Bishop’s wide-ranging Charge addressed several areas of concern in the life and ministry of the Church and the nation, which he said demanded urgent action. These include the widening economic and social gulf between different segments of the society; the high level of abuse and domestic violence against women and children; the devaluing of human life and the deepening level of decadence.
“The dehumanization of our people is not just what criminals do; it is also what our frustrating bureaucratic system of governance and business does to those citizens who in their contact with public and private institutions are treated with disrespect… or who are denied justice.”
Bishop Gregory also took issue with the practice by some leading business institutions to employ contract workers without basic benefits such as pension, health insurance and vacation, while their managers receive excessive salaries and profits grow dramatically. And, he challenged Trade Unions “not to allow this violation of the workforce.”
He argued that the Church must respond to these contemporary challenges in order to demonstrate to its members and the world that it is the community of love, compassion and reconciliation that it claims to be.
Business Sessions of the Synod, which ended on April 21, were held at the Holiday Inn Resort under the theme “The People of God: Called to Transformational Mission.” It was attended by just over 200 clergy and lay representatives from churches in Jamaica and The Cayman Islands.