[ACNS, by Rachel Farmer and staff writer] Discipleship for a Church in transition will be a key focus for the new Primate of the Church of the Province of the West Indies, Archbishop Howard Gregory. The Bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, Archbishop Howard, is the first Jamaican-born Archbishop of the West Indies to hold the post. He said: “It’s overwhelming; one still has to get accustomed to the thought, but I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the province in this way.”
Aged 69, he has a wealth of experience to bring to his new role and said: “I’m conscious of the fact that I’m not a youngster. I also believe there are some things I can, with the assistance of my colleagues, achieve in the province at this time. Among them, my experience in theological education, and in different fields are things I hope to bring to bear on the life of the province.”
Speaking to the Anglican Communion News Service about his vision for the future, he said, “Like most places, we are living in a time of change, and we have to see what vision we have for this province and what difference we are going to make. Having said that, it’s not just bishops that will make things happen. Hopefully the outcomes of this provincial synod will give shape to what I will be able to achieve, because we are hoping to have some kind of action plan which is structured around discipleship. So, this will be the thrust.”
He hopes the new plan will help motivate and engage people around discipleship with a focus that reaches across the family, multicultural relationships, the community and all areas of life. He said, “I’m hoping that we can at least make a difference. We are a church in transition because of demographic and other changes. Although we are regarded as being in the developing or the majority world, we are still impacted by some of those issues that the so-called western societies face, such as secularism and materialism, which we have to confront as well. In my own diocese we are dealing with issues of viability and sustainability and we have begun to undertake projects to address that. I hope that we will be able to, collectively, look at how we address that across the province.”
Archbishop Howard’s first post was as a chaplain to the University of the West Indies where he had studied. He moved from there to become a chaplain at an Anglican teacher training college in Mandeville. Two years later he moved back to Kingston and took up a post in the ecumenical seminary United Theological College of the West Indies as lecturer and active warden of Anglican students. He said, “I ended up spending about 22 years at that place, and for the last 12 years I served as the President of that Institution until I was elected Bishop of Montego Bay, the suffragan bishop of Montego Bay.” He was Bishop of Montego Bay for 10 years and was then elected Bishop of Jamaica & The Cayman Islands in 2012.
Talking about his relationship with the Anglican Communion going forward he said although he is aware of being ‘a new kid on the block’ in terms of the Primates meetings, he believes he has some experience to offer. “I have been privileged to be a part of IASCUFO already, representing the province, but I also have been asked to chair the International Reformed Anglican dialogue,” he said. “So we, in a sense, are present there and I have some experience of being a part of this wider communion. I will do my best to work along with my colleagues to see how we can contribute to the promotion of this communion, and I will try to bring to bear our perspective as people from the Caribbean, which doesn’t always ‘sync in’ with what may be affirmed in other parts of the Communion.”
Archbishop Howard is married and has one daughter. He said his family had been overjoyed about his new post.