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Disestablishment of the Church

The Church continued to be state owned in that not only did the clergy receive their stipends from the government, but Church property was owned by the state as well. However, out of a population of approximately 400,000, only about 48,000 persons claimed membership in the Church of England. Nevertheless, the Church received over £40,000 a year from the Government. The Government could no longer afford to maintain the Church and in 1870 it passed Law 30 of 1870 which provided for the “gradual disendowment of the Church of England in Jamaica” and the establishment of the Incorporated Lay Body of the Church. The first Synod under Law 30 was held between Sept 29 and Oct 10, 1870 and a Constitution and Canons of the Church were passed. (This was actually the Second Synod held that year as in January a Synod had met but the Governor refused to recognize its legality as he said that the laymen had been selected, not elected, and he could not hand over the property of the Church to such a body).

The Church now became self-governing and self-supporting, but the first few years were difficult. The laity now had to provide the funds, to maintain the clergy and the churches. They were assisted by friends and societies in England who were generous in their help. Nevertheless, from 1870 to 1880 the number of priests rose from 55 to 75.

Bishop Courtenay, who had retained the title of Bishop of Kingston and Co-Adjutor Bishop after the death of Bishop Spencer in England in 1872 resigned in 1879. Synod failed to elect a new bishop and the English Committee of Reference composed of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishop of London selected Bishop William Tozer. He had resigned his appointment as Missionary Bishop of Central Africa because of ill heath. He arrived in Jamaica in October but resigned and left the country in April 1880.

Rev. Enos Nuttall, who had come to Jamaica in 1862 as a missionary in the Methodist Church and was ordained a priest in the Anglican Church in 1866, was elected Bishop at a special Synod in July 1880. He was consecrated in St Paul’s Cathedral, London, in October of the same year. He was only 38 years old at his consecration and was to dominate the life of the Church for the next 36 years serving as Bishop of Jamaica as well as Primate and Archbishop of the West Indies.

Rt. Rev. Enos Nuttall, Bishop of Jamaica 1880 -1916; first Archbishop of the West Indies 1893-1916

In an appeal to the Synod, in 1888, for assistance he itemized his work over the preceding 8 years. This included 8 diocesan synods, 2 provincial synods, 28 ordinations, 20,000 persons confirmed, 11churches consecrated, most of the churches visited three times each, 3,000 sermons, 1,400 meetings, 40,000 letters and several pamphlets. In order to assist him, Synod agreed to the appointment of an Assistant Bishop and Archdeacon Frederick Douet was elected and consecrated in 1888. He thus became the first Bishop who had been born in Jamaica and he served until 1904 when he retired on account of ill health.

Archbishop Nuttall continued to make outstanding contributions both to the Diocese and to the Province. It was by his efforts that the Church was placed on a sound footing after disestablishment. There was a rapid expansion in the number of churches founded especially in Kingston and St Andrew. Churches such as St Jude’s, St Matthews, St Luke’s, St Patrick’s and All Saints, all date from this period.

In 1890, the Deaconess Order was established with the arrival in Jamaica of Sister Isabel and Sister Kate Vick. The Deaconesses were very involved in education and in 1897 the Cathedral High School for Girls was founded in Spanish Town. This was the parent school of subsequent Deaconess and Diocesan schools. The most noteworthy of these schools (apart from Cathedral High School which in 1954 merged with Beckford and Smith’s to form St Jago High School) were St Hilda’s and St Hugh’s High Schools.

Bishop’s Lodge - first used as Bishop’s residence by Enos Nuttall in 1880. This was later used for church offices and then became Deaconess House in 1957.
Bishop’s Lodge – first used as Bishop’s residence by Enos Nuttall in 1880. This was later used for church offices and then became Deaconess House in 1957.

In 1876 the Diocese began efforts to establish a local Church of England Training College. After initial difficulties, a new building to house this college was opened n 1893 on Church lands near Cross Roads in Kingston. In 1917 D.W. Bentley on his appointment as Warden of the College wrote in the log book “St Peter is the patron Saint of the College.” The authority on which this statement was based is lost to history, but the following year Synod unanimously agreed to accept the name ‘St Peter’s College’.

In 1883, during Nuttall’s era, the Province of the West Indies was established with the dioceses of Jamaica, Barbados, Antigua and Guyana (both established in 1842), Nassau and the Bahamas (separated from Jamaica to form a separate diocese in 1861), Trinidad and Tobago (1872) the Windward Islands (1869) and British Honduras (1891). In 1893 Bishop Nuttall became Primate, a title which was changed to Archbishop in 1897.

On May 31, 1916, Archbishop Nuttall died and was succeeded by Bishop George Frederick deCarteret who had been Assistant Bishop. During his episcopacy he established as a private venture, Kingston College, a secondary school for boys with Rev. Percival Gibson as headmaster. In 1933 this became a diocesan school. During this period also, a boy’s preparatory school, which was later named after Bishop DeCarteret, was founded in Mandeville.

St. Peter’s College – building opened in 1893; destroyed by fire in 1970.
St. Peter’s College – building opened in 1893; destroyed by fire in 1970.

Bishop DeCarteret resigned as bishop of Jamaica in March 1931 and on 19 May Bishop William Hardy who had been Assistant Bishop since 1927 was elected as his successor.  In 1947 Canon Percival Gibson, who had been the headmaster of Kingston College since its establishment in 1925, was elected Suffragan Bishop of Kingston, the first coloured West Indian to have been elected a bishop.  He was also the first Suffragan Bishop in the history of the Diocese as opposed to Co-adjutor or Assistant Bishop.

In 1949 Archbishop Hardie resigned as Diocesan and as a result of the refusal by Bishop Gibson to accept nomination on the grounds of ill-health, the Rev Basil Dale was elected Bishop. He was consecrated in January 1950 and arrived in Jamaica in March.  He served until 1955 when he resigned and was succeeded by Bishop Gibson.  On his enthronement as Diocesan on February 6, 1956, he relinquished the position of headmaster of Kingston College, a position he had held for over 30 years.

The Church in Jamaica

Rt. Rev. Percival Gibson, Bishop of Jamaica 1956-1967
Rt. Rev. Percival Gibson, Bishop of Jamaica 1956-1967

Bishop Gibson’s episcopacy covered the significant period in Jamaican history when the country moved from being a colony to an independent nation. The Church also reflected this development as in 1964 Synod passed a resolution which changed the name of the Diocese to “The Church in Jamaica in the Province of the West Indies”. The Church’s involvement in education and social work increased during this period and in 1965 Church Teachers College in Mandeville opened as a tertiary level teaching institution.

A number of new schools such as Glenmuir in May Pen and Bishops’ (later named after Bishop Gibson) in Mandeville were founded. A major development also occurred in theological education, as in 1966 St Peters Theological College closed and the Anglican Church joined several other denominations in establishing the United Theological College of the West Indies which was affiliated to the University of the West Indies at Mona. Bishop Gibson retired in 1967 and was succeeded as diocesan by Bishop Cyril Swaby, the Suffragan Bishop of Kingston

The work of ensuring that the Church remained relevant to the needs of the Jamaican society was continued by Bishop Gibson’s successors. Today, the church owns and operates nine (9) secondary schools which are grant aided in that the Government provides funds for the salaries of the staff and for the upkeep of the schools. Although all primary schools are run by the Government, the Church still owns a hundred and one (101) of the total number. Twenty nine (29) of these schools are regarded as church schools while the remainder are regarded as leased schools in that the Government is fully responsible for their upkeep. The Church however still retains certain rights. The only schools completely owned and controlled by the Church are eight preparatory schools.

The Church has an active outreach programme with many churches funding special projects in depressed or inner city areas. The largest of these is the St Andrew Settlement in Majesty Gardens sponsored by the St. Andrew Parish Church. At the Diocesan level, the Church operates three (3) children’s homes and four (4) homes for the aged. The Church also operates a private hospital.

Bishop Swaby died in 1975 and was succeeded by Bishop Herbert Edmondson who had been Suffragan Bishop of Mandeville. He resigned in 1979 and was succeeded by Bishop Neville de Souza who had been Suffragan Bishop of Montego Bay. One of the most controversial issues faced by the Church during the episcopacy of Bishop de Souza was the question of the ordination of women to the Ministry. Although Synod in 1979 passed a resolution calling for the ordination of women it had to receive the required approval of the Provincial Synod and it was not until February 6th 1994 that Deaconesses Sybil Morris, Patricia Johnson and Judith Daniel on February 6th were ordained to the Order of Deacons. Two years later, on December 22, 1996, these Deacons along with the Revd. Vivette Jennings became the first women to be ordained priests in a historic ceremony at the Cathedral of St Jago de la Vega. Rev. Judith Daniel created history again in 2001 when she was appointed a Canon of the Cathedral, the first female to achieve this rank in the Province.

In September 2000, Bishop DeSouza retired after serving as Diocesan for twenty-one years, the longest incumbency since Archbishop Nuttall. Bishop Alfred Reid, who had been Suffragan Bishop of Montego Bay since 1980, was elected the 13th Bishop of Jamaica at a special Synod held in November 2000. He was enthroned as the Lord Bishop of Jamaica in the Cathedral on January 25, 2001. Under his watch, there was a quantum leap in the Music Ministry with the integration of Caribbean rhythms in the worship of the Church. Bishop Reid chaired the Provincial Commission on Liturgy and Music which was responsible for reproducing the Book of Common Prayer in 2007 and publishing the new CPWI Hymnal in June 2010. He was also instrumental in preserving several historic buildings in the Diocese.

Bishop Reid retired on December 31, 2011 and was succeeded by the Rt. Rev. Howard Gregory, who had been the Suffragan Bishop of Montego Bay since 2002.  He was elected the Diocesan at a Special Synod of the Church on March 27, 2012 and enthroned as the  14th Bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands in the Cathedral on May 17, 2012.   Bishop Gregory has been a strong voice on issues of governance and corruption in the society. As he seeks to re-position the Church as an agent of renewal in a challenging social and economic environment, his main priority is the development of a strategic vision that will focus members on their Christian responsibility to lead a life that is oriented to mission.

Over the past forty (40) years the Church has been streamlining its administrative structure to keep pace with the growing population and the development of new towns and communities. In addition to Kingston, the large urban centres of Montego Bay and Mandeville have Suffragan Bishops who are responsible for the churches in their respective regions. In 2005, a fourth region was formed – the Eastern Jamaica Region – with the Diocesan Bishop as the regional bishop. Each region also has an Archdeacon and a regional council.  However in 2014 the decision was taken to redraw the boundary lines and to return to three regions – Kingston, Mandeville and Montego Bay.

According to the Synod Handbook 2014 the Church has 29,945 registered members (excluding children not yet confirmed). The breakdown is as follows:

Kingston and former Eastern Jamaica Regions: 5,938 in 42 Cures

Mandeville Region: 7,396 in 18 Cures

Montego Bay Region: 6,611 in 17 Cures

Full time Clergy: 105

Supplementary Ministers: 45

Church Army Officers: 11

Hospital Chaplains: 4

Deaconesses: 3

The Church in the Cayman Islands

The presence of the Anglican Church in the Cayman Islands dates back to the 1820’s when a church was established in Bodden Town, the then capital of the Cayman Islands. The hurricane of 1837 destroyed the church building and although plans were drawn up for rebuilding, this never materialized and after 1839 the work of the Anglican Church in the islands lapsed.

It was not until the 1960’s that organized Anglican worship was revived when a number of Anglicans asked the Bishop of Jamaica for assistance. A mission was established and ministers from Jamaica visited on a regular basis. In 1970 the Cayman Islands became part of the Deanery of Kingston and were represented for the first time at Synod. In April 1979 a new church, St Georges, was dedicated and in 1984 a full time priest appointed. Prior to that, the church was under the oversight of the Rev. Canon Weeville Gordon, Rector of St Matthews in Kingston. By 1987 when St Georges was consecrated, the congregation had increased to the extent that the Synod could approve a resolution elevating the Mission of St George to the status of a ‘Settled Congregation”.

Provincial Matters

The Diocese has continued to be very involved in provincial matters. The Provincial Synod became fully representative in 1959. It then began to be comprised of three ‘Houses’ – the Houses of Bishops, clergy and laity. All the bishops of the Province are members of the Provincial Synod which meets every 3 years. Each Diocese is also represented by two priests and two lay delegates who are elected by their Diocesan Synods. There is a standing committee which continues the work of Synod between meetings.


Anglican Church Cemeteries in Jamaica contain a wealth of information recorded on the gravestones. The Cemetery of St. Andrew Parish Church which is the largest private cemetery in continual use in the island takes up some 8 ¼ acres. It has in excess of 7,000 graves. It is an historic site and the inscriptions provide valuable insights to personalities, customs and culture over the past 350 years. While the inscriptions are remarkable for their content, the designs on the memorial stones also provide clues to the occupations of the deceased. The Cemetery has therefore long been a focal point of interest to genealogists, historians, researchers and archaeologists. This research potential is shared by several other older churches in the island including, but not limited to, St. Thomas, ye-vale – Bog Walk, St. Saviour’s – Harewood, St. Peter’s – Alley and St. Mary’s – Port Maria to name a few.


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