THE DEPENDENCY QUESTION


CHAPTER SEVEN

THE CAYMANAS CHURCH AND OUR TIME


In 1983 some attempts to make reforms to the government of the Anglican Mission in the Cayman Islands uncovered the apparent anomaly that the Diocesan jurisdiction that had been offered by the Anglican Church in Jamaica in 1970 and accepted by the Cayman congregation at that time was in conflict with principles of ecclesiastical order that formed part of historic Anglicanism. Though this was an outcome wholly unsought by the original reforming efforts, it became the key factor in the recovery of the Church of England in the Cayman Islands in late 1983. The radical nature of this discovery and its practical consequences were difficult for many, both within and outside the Cayman Islands. As a result, from 1983 Anglicanism in the Cayman Islands has been represented by two Anglican organisations independent of one another, one looking to the current Church in Jamaica in the Province of the West Indies and the other looking to the historic Church of England. The Church looking to Jamaica (the 20th century St. George's) continued to receive the pastoral oversight from the Bishop of Jamaica that had begun in 1970, while the Church claiming a historic Church of England polity (St. Alban's in Grand Cayman with St. Mary's in Cayman Brac) in spite of years of effort continuing up to 1992 did not receive the oversight from the Bishop of London or the Church of England to which it laid title. It is instructive that through those years the Church of England in the Cayman Islands always utterly resisted any suggestion that it should renounce its identity, which was determined not by a Bishop's oversight but by its fundamental polity supported by history and law.

In November 1992 the General Synod of the Church of England agreed to the idea of the ordination of women to the Presbyterate, an idea which conflicts dangerously with the historic and catholic order of the Church of England and, it has been successfully shown7.1, with the scriptural foundations of the priestly ministry of the Church. After that time, therefore, no further attempts by the Church of England in the Cayman Islands to receive oversight from the Bishop of London or the Established Church of England were made, in spite of the continuing claim by the Cayman Church to such entitlement.

Very soon afterwards, the episcopal needs of the Cayman Church began to be met by Dr. A. Donald Davies, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Missionary Church, which had become independent of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. as a direct result of the 1992 Church of England General Synod decision.

The 1992 Church of England General Synod decision seemed inevitably to lead sooner or later to a condition of there being two organisations in England each claiming to be the Church of England, one by virtue of continuity of establishment and local episcopal succession, the other by virtue of continuity with the traditional norms of doctrine, order and polity of the Church of England, which the other party arguably abandoned. For the time being, however, the major parts of these two divisions function rather like a "Church within a Church"; perhaps, with the English genius for compromise and making do, this arrangement will last.

The effect of Cayman's history has been to produce in Cayman Islands Anglicanism one particular version of things to come throughout the Anglican world beginning in England: our example of accepting the oversight of a soundly traditional Bishop in the course of attempting to adhere to our God-given and fundamental polity can be compared with the use in England of the Provincial Episcopal Visitors. These so-called "flying bishops" are allowed and expected to be an episcopal resource throughout the two Provinces of the Church of England for traditional Anglicans who have been alienated from bishops hitherto uniquely established in their own areas. Anglican churches throughout the world will be wise to follow this example of the Church of England at least, by allowing to their traditionalists the structures they need to be a blessing and a leaven to their churches.

In the Cayman Islands such a structure is provided by adhering to the constitutional character of the Church, which descends to us from the very heart of the history of the Islands; however, our understanding of Cayman Islands history hinges upon our understanding of the burning question that exercised and vexed the minds of successive governors and their peers, the dependency question. It is contended that this matter has been shut away for years, largely unconsciously, into an amnesiacal closet. Its recovery in the pages of this book may be for some people like the disclosure of the proverbial skeleton; be that as it may, the exercise is entirely necessary.

The character of the Church of the Islands is derived indelibly from the original nature of the Caymanas Church, which first emerged into the historical record no later than 1802. The Caymanas Church was quite simply the Island expression of the Church of England, just as the Church of England itself originated quite simply as the English expression of the "true and apostolic Church of Christ".7.2 For the first four decades of its life, the Caymanas Church, though gravely deficient in many ways, was unchallenged by any sectarian presence.

Later, with the advent of the Wesleyan mission, which failed after six years, and then of the Scottish Presbyterian mission, which prevailed, the original character of the Caymanas Church became obscured. The pastoral oversight provided in the last seven years of the Caymanas Church's unchallenged existence had been entwined with a degree of anomaly shown in the preceding chapters of this work, and this was the principal cause of the cessation of the oversight. The ecclesiastical anomaly, however, was rooted in the dependency question at the heart of the history of the Islands, and throughout the years of the Caymanas Church's existence, from its emergence into history until the present time, ecclesiastical jurisdiction has continued to be provided for by law received in the Islands.

The 1830's oversight afforded to the Caymanas Church by the first Bishop of Jamaica and ending in 1839 was anomalous to the extent that it may have purported to originate an ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the Islands that was independent of law received in the Cayman Islands. Today also, any pastoral oversight afforded to a congregation in the Cayman Islands that purports to originate an ecclesiastical jurisdiction will still be anomalous in respect of being independent of received law, excepting the case of such oversight being afforded by the Bishop of London. For the time being the Church of the Islands will continue to exist in several "integrities" or "prelatures", a situation which, while the manner of its formation has been unique to a degree, parallels the current and differently-structured situation obtaining in the Church of the mother-country herself. From this situation may the Cayman Church be raised, with its inherited character forged, tried and strengthened, a testimony to the character of Christ Himself, with the scars of its many wounds and the glory of His power to surmount them.