Anglican Glebe land sale ‘right move’

Several Bajan Anglican priests in North America, including a retired Bishop, are backing the Barbados’ Anglican Diocese plans to transform more Glebe land tenants into property owners.

And some of the clerics are describing the move as anything from an important social and economic “step” and a “tremendous” idea to a “responsible” action considering that the church was being firmly led by Black priests, a dramatic change from the days when the Glebe Lands in St George, St Philip and elsewhere in Barbados were acquired centuries ago during slavery and British colonial domination by an exclusively white clergy.

Bishop Peter Fenty, the first Black elected bishop in the 200-plus year existence of Canada’s Anglican church told Nation news that the Diocese and Bishop Michael Maxwell, were “going in the right direction” but suggested the church “exercise (even) better stewardship of its properties” going forward.

As Fenty saw it, church properties should be put to more productive use and he complained that Bishop’s Court, once the residence of the Diocesan leader, should not have fallen into its current state of disrepair.

The Diocese, he added, “had a lot of idle land languishing in the country and that represented poor stewardship”.

The cleric, an ordained priest in Barbados and Canada for decades, said that any sale of Glebe land today should be beneficial to the Diocese as a whole and not “any individual” in the country.

“It is good that (the sale of Glebe land) can benefit the church as an entity. The Anglican church in Barbados, even with the reality of slavery and colonisation et cetera, Barbadians have benefited from the contribution that the Anglican church has made to education,” said Fenty. “The church belongs to the people of Barbados and the people of the Anglican Church.”

As he saw it, the church should not seek to make “extreme profit” (from any future sale of the Glebe land to tenants) because the latter should be the chief beneficiaries.

Like Bishop Fenty, Canon Stephen Fields, sub-dean of the Toronto Diocese and Vicar of the historic St James Anglican Cathedral in downtown Toronto, endorsed the sale of more Glebe land, saying it was important for Barbadians who have been renting Glebe lands for decades to “own a piece of the rock”.

The move to sell more Glebe land to tenants, added Dr Fields, was “another example” of the Barbados church’s contribution to the country’s human development and its upward economic and social mobility, particularly black people who were now fully responsible for the management of the church, including its properties.

Interestingly, Canon Dr Fields complained that some Barbadians were suffering from “ecclesiastical Alzheimer’s”, a malady which manifests itself in people remembering the negative role of the church during slavery and the plantocracy, but often forgetting the crucial part it played in the education of young people.

“They choose to remember the bad things of the church, but that same church provided education for Barbadians, especially the offspring of the working class,” he said.

In making the announcement about the proposed sale of more Glebe lands to tenants, Bishop Maxwell said it was yet another step to address the wrongs and the legacy of slavery.

Another Bajan Anglican, Father Eddie-Alleyne, sub-dean of the sprawling and wealthy Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation on Long Island in New York, called the proposed sale of more Glebe land a “tremendous” and bold move at a time when there was so much discussion about slavery reparations.

“This is a tremendous move, and it is part of the church’s history of looking after each other in the country,” said Alleyne.

“The church was moving to boost individual land ownership at a time of great need,” said Alleyne, who has been serving in New York for about 20 years.

“The church means community and we are seeing that more and more with its current leadership. It is a further step forward. Decades ago, a former Prime Minister, the late Tom Adams, pioneered the sale of plantation tenantry land at affordable peppercorn rates and the Anglican church should use that model in its proposed sale of Glebe land.”

The Rev. Trevor Babb, rector of the Christ Church New Brighton Episcopal Church on Staten Island welcomed the decision of the Diocese because “after so many years of not (fully) addressing the issue of the Glebe land”, the plan to sell more of it was “the noble thing to do” at this time.

“When completed, it would give people a sense of ownership, improve their economic and social status,” insisted Father Babb.

The Rev. Ryan Boyce, rector of St Gabriel’s Episcopal Church in Queens, described the Glebe sale as “a case of leading by example” while fulfilling the biblical standard of Jesus, the Great Commission.

“Jesus said when you do it for the least of those, you do it for Me,” added Father Boyce. (TB)

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