Church Called to Engage, Challenge and Confront Power Structures – Says Archbishop Gregory

The call and mission entrusted to the prophetic voice (in the Church) is to engage, challenge and confront rulers, institutions and power structures; and their mode of operation. “So those in contemporary society who believe that the Church of God is about entertainment, emotional highs and prosperity, better go back again and engage the Scriptures of the faith.”

This challenge was issued by Archbishop Howard Gregory, as he delivered the Sermon on December 8 at the Mass of the Resurrection for the late Canon Ernle Gordon, at The St. Andrew Parish Church.

The Archbishop continued: “And those who believe that the Judeo-Christian tradition has nothing to do with matters of state, including politics, economics, social justice and freedom, do not know the tradition.” He suggested that to do otherwise would confine religion to “quarantine.”

Quoting from the prophet Amos, who called to the religious community of his day to reject corruption, amend its ways and adopt a moral lifestyle that leads to right relationships with other human beings, including those who are denied justice, Archbishop Gregory said this message was equally relevant today. 

“He is reminding us who today belong to a nation that we glibly speak of as Christian, and in which we boast more churches per square mile than any other nation, that far too often, religious people, as is true of a nation that claims to be Christian, get lost in the ritual and formalities of worship and neglect acting in just ways.”

Archbishop Gregory said that the life of Canon Gordon who served as a priest and social advocate for more than 40 years, bore a striking resemblance to that of the prophet Amos. Ironically, he noted that the late Canon died during the liturgical period regarded as the pre-Advent Season when the Church focuses on the endtime and the call to accountability, moral agency, justice and watchfulness before the return of the Lord. And he was being buried during the Season of Advent in which these themes, around which he built his ministry, are brought to a climax.

He noted that Canon Gordon, the late Anglican Bishop Neville deSouza and The Rev. Ashley Smith were among the prophetic voices agitating for reform and justice through the 1970s to the 1990s when Jamaica was experiencing significant social turmoil. However, they were branded as political liberals who did not represent the gospel.

By contrast, he said United Methodist Bishop, William Willimon argues in his book entitled: Pastor: The Theologyy and Practice of Ordained Ministry, that: “too many of us contemporary pastors are far too easily pleased with present arrangements, less critical than we ought to be, too deferential to Caesar and his accomplices.” 

Ultimately, Archbishop Gregory asserted that, the outcome of the exercise of the prophetic calling is that of a transformed reality for the people of God and the system of governance under which they live.   Above all, he concluded that, The Rev. Canon Gordon lived faithfully to the vow taken at his ordination that “the priest must have as his/her pattern our Lord, the Good Shepherd and must stand alongside the people of the community of faith in the witness to the world.”

The Service was streamed live, and in keeping with the COVID-19 health regulations, was attended by members of Canon Gordon’s family, select representatives of the clergy and St. Mary The Virgin Church, where he served for most of his pastoral ministry.