Bishop Laish Boyd: “Legalising the numbers business would be further opening the floodgates to the lowering of standards and values”

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Anglican Bishop addresses Crime, the Economy and the Number Business in 111th Synod Charge…

Anglican Bishop Laish Boyd

Full Charge published:

THE DIOCESE OF THE BAHAMAS AND THE TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS

THE BISHOP’S CHARGE TO THE ONE-HUNDRED AND ELEVENTH SESSION OF SYNOD

AT THE SYNOD OPENING EUCHARIST IN CHRIST CHURCH CATHEDRAL, NASSAU

ON MONDAY, 15TH OCTOBER, 2012, AT 7:30 P.M.

Dear friends, we convene this 111th Session of Synod of the Anglican Diocese of The Bahamas and The Turks and Caicos Islands, and we declare it to be officially open, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

We welcome you all to our Cathedral Church, and I thank you for being here.

We welcome:

·      His Excellency, the Governor General, and Lady Foulkes

·      Lady Darling, Lady Pindling

·      Other distinguished guests and visitors

I take great joy in welcoming our diocesan family:

·     Our brother bishop, Bishop Gilbert Thompson. Archbishop Drexel Gomez is away assisting the Diocese of the Windward Islands with their annual clergy retreat. This was a commitment made a year ago and, due to some confusion about dates, there was a conflict. We have excused the Archbishop to assist the diocese in such an important area.

·     Archdeacons and Canons

·      Other members of the clergy

·      The clergy spouses here gathered

·      Diocesan officers and their spouses especially the Chancellor, Madame Justice Rubie Nottage, her husband, the Rev. Kendall Nottage, other members of their family.

·      Lay delegates from all over our diocese

·      Members of diocesan committees and their spouses

·      The hard working staff of our diocesan office and their spouses

·      Administrators and students of our four diocesan schools

·      Catechists, Lay Readers and members of the Guild of St. Ambrose

·      Anglicans

·      Friends

This service is not being broadcast live because all of the media resources are focused on election return programming.   It will be rebroadcast on Radio Bahamas ZNS 1 (1540 AM/104.5 FM/810 AM) and on this Thursday evening (18th October) at 7:30 p.m.  It will be rebroadcast on ZNS TV 13 this Sunday (21st October) at 1 p.m., at which time it will also be streamed live over the internet through the Diocesan website and be available to mobile customers as well. Spread the work and do plan to listen and to watch. We welcome those persons who will share in this service at those times, in The Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Caribbean and South Florida.

Finally, this service be put on the diocesan website from this Sunday, 21st October, for a minimum of one month.

Once again, I welcome you one and all.

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2 Corinthians 4:1, 5

Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart….For we do not proclaim ourselves, we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.

2 Corinthians was written by St. Paul to the Christians in Corinth around 55 – 58 A.D.  The Letter was written to present and affirm his ministry as an apostle and his authority as an apostle.  He reminds his readers of the relationship he has with them, he lets them know that he will visit them again, and he addresses false teachers.  Finally he reviews his ministry among them letting them know that it is from God and that they should hold to the truth with all of their might. The Apostle was not normally given to boasting, and is not doing that here. He is simply stating categorically the foundation upon which he stands in claiming the responsibility and authority of an apostle.

It is at this point that my text comes (Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. For we do not proclaim ourselves, we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake).  Paul’s ministry, and that of the Corinthians, was not about Paul or about them, but about God.  And since it was God ministry, St. Paul nor the saints in Corinth should be discouraged no matter what comes their way.

Every generation needs to hear this message as it faces the challenges of its day – and we are no different because we have our challenges.  Many people find the character, pace and pressure of modern life to be overwhelming:

·      Emphasis on materialism

·      Breakdown in community closeness

·      Breakdown in values

·      Weakness in the family unit

·      Crime

·      Increase in material wealth

·      Pace of the modern era

·      World financial crisis

This is not a Complain or Lament.  It is a Description of our Context, our Reality, the world we live in.

Despite all this all is not lost because there is still so much to celebrate:

·      There are beautiful countries

·      Relatively small societies

·      Relatively close family relationships

·      People are good natured and good willed

·      We live in peace and have less crime than most places

·      Christian values still prevail in most places and are highly regarded

·      Cultural values are still strong and distinct

There are still more people who stand for good and who want good things to happen than there are those who want bad.

When it comes to our beloved Church, there is still more to celebrate:

We believe that the Anglican Way is the best way to travel the Christian journey on earth.

(a)   We have the History

·      We have the framework to address everyday realities

·      We have mechanisms to help people cope with a challenging world.

(b)  The Church in The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands

·      In a good position

·      Is doing well

·      Is poised to make its greatest contribution to these two societies.

·      We have history here

·      We are known and respected

·      We are held in high regard as a denomination

·      We are widespread (96 congregations on 25 islands)

·      We are committed to this set-up

·      We have a strong pastoral ministry.

This gives us a moral authority that is almost unmatched.

Therefore my friends, we maintain our message of hope – we DO NOT lose heart because it is by God’s mercy that we belong to this Church and share in this ministry.

I hasten to add that there are a lot of challenges. There are things that make us unhappy, that challenge our principles, that trouble our peace of mind, that offend our morals, and that make us question our purpose. The Christian is called to face these issues head on, to trust God to guide, to exercise his/her best stewardship and to be victorious. Why? because being the Church in this world and in this age is the ministry that God has called us to.

1.     The economic recession continues to be a reality in The Bahamas and The Turks and Caicos Islands – many, many people feel a real pinch.  There is less job availability and less hiring, unemployment is up, excess and recreational funds are hard to come by in many families. Many cannot even find the money to cover the bare necessities.

Our Anglican Family feels this pain as we see our income decline in many of our parishes, while requests increase for help with basic things like food, personal items and basic utilities like water and electricity.

I commend clergy and parishes for seeking to do their part.  Much is done by our churches and their members in the area of social outreach that is not widely known or publicised.  I call us all to our best stewardship of all of our resources.

I challenge the government to do all it can to level the playing field, to help those who cannot help themselves, and to provide opportunity for self sufficiency across the board.

I hasten to conclude that the present economic realities are but a phase, a cycle.  Things will get better.  This too will pass.  We must therefore look at them with vigilance, with concern, employing our best stewardship, but with hopefulness in our hearts and triumph in our eyes.

2.     In our prayers, we must continue to remember The Turks and Caicos Islands.  That country holds General Elections on Friday, 9th November, 2012.  This is a step in the right direction, and we urge the Interim Administration, and citizens and residents alike, to work for free, fair, smooth-running and peaceful elections.

There is no question that the last elected government of The Turks and Caicos Islands made some serious mistakes, for which the British Government – ultimately in charge in the person of a resident Governor – must accept some ultimate culpability. That is the past.

The present Interim Administration had a job to do and has performed well in many respects.  However there were areas of serious concern, which I, Archdeacon Keith Cartwright, area archdeacon, and the clergy in The Turks and Caicos Islands – Canon Mark Kendall, Father Bernard Been and Canon Lamuel Been – addressed with Governor Damien Todd.  Both my commendations and the concerns were addressed in a I Statement released in The Turks and Caicos Islands on 4th June of this year.

Despite all of the above, I am hopeful for these beautiful Islands.  They have a promising future given the goodwill and the strong faith of the people, given the promising economy and with so many gifted and hard-working persons dwelling there.

We pray for the upcoming elections.

3.     Crime continues to be a concern in The Bahamas and in The Turks and Caicos Islands.  I commend both governments, police forces and other law enforcement agencies for their untiring efforts in this regard.

I hasten to add that the government needs to ensure that the police, the judiciary and other key components have the freedom, facility and resources to do their work.

Similarly, we must never forget that dealing with crime continues to be an endeavour which the citizenry must take part in with the police.

People demand that any number of entities should “deal with” and “stop” crime.  They demand it of the government, the police, the church, the Ministry of Education and others.  Now all of the above entities have a part to play, and all of the above can do better than they are doing, but these entities cannot solve crime by themselves.  They all need people, ordinary Bahamians and Turks and Caicos Islanders, to help them:  because it is people who commit crime, people who know about crimes, people who turn a blind eye to crime, people who cloak their children, friends and loved ones who commit crime, people who are prepared to be dishonest, people who use fighting words and encourage revenge rather than encouraging someone to take the high road and to walk away,  to “let it go” rather than to follow it up.  No government, police force, church or government ministry can overcome this unless the PEOPLE want it to be better.  And that is the responsibility of every citizen.

So parents, siblings, relatives, neighbours, teachers, priests, pastors, youth leaders – ALL need to chip in.   All of us in here need to hear this message.  Unfortunately, some persons who really need to hear this message are not here tonight, they won’t be listening to radio or watching TV, they won’t hear sermons or read the papers.  We need to catch them in those places we meet them and tell them the message.

All of us know some individual(s) whom we can touch and challenge to make a change … every single one of us.  So stop saying that crime is someone else’s problem.  It is the problem and it CAN be overcome.

4.     The issue of gambling continues to be in the forefront of discussion in The Bahamas.  The present government has indicated that it will go to referendum to determine whether a majority of Bahamians would like to expand legalised gambling in The Bahamas. We understand this to include the legalisation of the “numbers business” and the introduction of a lottery.  The former government had already indicated that it would also settle the question via a referendum.  Several forms of gambling are already legal in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Gambling is a complex issue that raises many moral questions.

Presently, there is no lottery in the Bahamas, and it is against the law to buy or sell Numbers in The Bahamas, although many persons do it – even openly.  Additionally, the number of “web shops” has exploded over the last few years.  Successive governments, in the last two decades, have not taken steps to curb this activity or expansion.

The matter has certainly gotten “way out of hand” because the situation has been allowed to go unchecked for too long.  Many question successive governments’ desire, willingness, political will or ability to deal with the matter, and argue that the only thing that can be done is to legalise and to regulate and tax the “industry.”  I certainly realise that the government is in a most invidious position.  Governments are not moral agents – although they have some moral responsibilities – but they are required to deal with or to solve everything that relates to their jurisdiction.

I sympathise entirely with the dilemma of the government, however, I still disagree with legalisation because such would be harmful to the moral fibre of this country in the long run – although there are many short term advantages that are attractive and of some benefit now.  Legalising the numbers business would be further opening the floodgates to the lowering of standards and values.

We will be looking at this matter more closely in our working session this week.

Conclusion

These are only some of the issues that confront us as two nations.  There are so many others that we could discuss.  However, my brothers and sisters, we must face all of the challenges of living as we celebrate the many, many blessings of life.

God has blessed us as a church. We have worked and ministered well. He gives us the grace to work today and, by His grace and His Holy Spirit, he will carry us forward into tomorrow.

God calls us into his new and wonderful room, a place where He is Lord and victorious of all things.  Therefore, we must not lose heart. We must not lose hope. We must not be discouraged, because God gives us the grace to serve Him in this world.  We must face the issues. Speak to them and help people to cope with them. Let them know that God is alive. Let them know that Jesus is the answer. Tell them that there is a solace at the cross that can be found nowhere else.

God empowers us to work under the banner of the cross and to touch lives.  God keeps us. We serve Him.  It is by His grace alone that we engage in this ministry.  We call on that grace, and we do not lose heart.

15th October, 2012