Archbishop ready for challenge
December 18, 2009

Archbishop ready for challenge

NEW ANGLICAN ARCHBISHOP of the West Indies Dr John Holder says he is looking forward to the challenge of charting a new path for the diocese.{{more}}

“I have to sit down and look at where we are as a province and look at what we have achieved and where we should go,” he told the WEEKEND NATION last week, hours after he was elected to the highest Anglican position in the Caribbean.

Holder, who is Barbadian, got the nod over Bishop Alfred Reid of Jamaica.

The election took place at Guyana’s new Convention Hall in Georgetown on Thursday, December 10, during a meeting of the Provincial Synod of the Church of the Province of the West Indies.

Holder has been a priest for thirty-five years, having begun his ordained ministry here in St. Vincent in 1974.

“It is an honour to be elected. It’s a challenging task, but I am sure I would do my very best to carry on the good work of my predecessors,” added Holder, who replaces Archbishop Drexel Gomez who retired at the end of last year.

On Monday, shortly after his return from Guyana, Holder told persons gathered at the Grantley Adams International Airport that being head of the regional church was a “challenging task”.

He said the major issue in the church at this time was “to make the Gospel relevant to where we were as a world, as a people, especially in this part of the world”.

According to him, church people sometimes became sidetracked from their mandate by “side issues”.

“I think our focus at this time, in this province, must be on the kind of social issues that are challenges to the Gospel, the good news of the Gospel,” he added.

He listed poverty, prostitution, and the illicit drugs trade among the issues which the church needed to deal with.

But he said he was not keen on trying to rack up the numbers in churches in a response to reports of dwindling Anglican congregations.

“My understanding of the church is more than membership. The church is not about numbers; it is about influence . . . . It is not a head-count,” he stressed.

“If that is the case, then those of the larger head count could count themselves as successful.”

Archbishop Holder spent his first few years in ordained ministry in the Diocese of the Windward Islands. He was ordained Deacon on December 11, 1974, at St. George’s Cathedral by then Bishop of the Windward Islands Cuthbert Woodroffe. This was followed by his ordination as a priest on September 23, 1975.

Sir Cuthbert, who is now enjoying a quiet retirement after being elected Archbishop of the West Indies in 1980, told Searchlight on Tuesday that he was filled with “great, great joy,” at the elevation of the man whom he recommended for the ministry.

“He is every inch a good priest and a good Bishop,” he continued.

The former Archbishop said he first became acquainted with the man who has followed in his footsteps when he worked at St. John’s Parish Church in Barbados. “He was a parishioner, a teenager then,” Sir Cuthbert explained.

He described Holder as “a very quiet, disciplined person”.

“He spent three years in the Cathedral, then I released him to go to (Codrington) College to take up a teaching job there,” Sir Cuthbert added.

Reverend Jeffrey Gibson, rector of St Leonard’s Church and rural dean of St Michael, described the new West Indies archbishop as having “the intellectual capacity to provide leadership of the church at this time”.

Holder is the second Barbadian-born Archbishop of the West Indies. The first was the late W. P. Swaby, who was appointed in 1916.

Holder is married to Betty Lucas-Holder and has a son, Stuart.

The Anglican Province of the West Indies is made up of eight Dioceses: Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands; Barbados; Belize; Guyana; Jamaica and the Cayman Islands; North East Caribbean and Aruba; Trinidad and Tobago; Windward Islands.