•Simon is a young Bahamian with things on his mind who wishes to remain anonymous. His column 'Front Porch' is published every Tuesday in the Nassau Guardian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fixated on finding a Bahamian Obama in the political arena, we have neglected like figures in other areas of national life. As previously argued, while admiring the new President, we should not be searching for his clone here at home.
Alternatively, we should encourage leaders who exhibit many of Mr. Obama’s finer qualities while being authentic to their own human journey and our national story. One such leader is newly-enthroned Anglican Bishop Laish Boyd.
Bishop Boyd and President Obama are not only around the same age, they also share a progressive spirit while being rooted in age-old traditions which they seek to renew for a new age. Their primary instrument of renewal: the audacity of hope!
Both men come to office during a period of uncertainty and a loss of faith. The U.S. leader confronts a loss of faith by many Americans in their national institutions and a similar lack of faith by the world community in America.
The Anglican leader faces a loss of faith by many Bahamians in religious leaders, many of who seem more motivated by riches and honours, bread and circuses, and pomp and circumstance.
In the midst of doubt and a hunger for more authentic leaders the American President and the Bahamian Bishop similarly exemplify and are demonstrating a quality of leadership that offers genuine hope over stock answers, faltering ideologies and false choices.
The substance of what they believe is complemented by a more open style of leadership, which was articulated in their inaugural addresses, just weeks apart.
Briefly, before revisiting their calls to renewal, we might recall why they were chosen to give those addresses: the qualities, values and styles that compelled others to ask these not yet 50-year-olds to lead.
Both men evidence a refreshing humility and accessibility. They are inclusive by nature and seek to heal divisions and promote unity where possible. Despite the difficult times, they also offer a genuine hope and eschew the negativity into which we can all sometimes too easily slip.
In his enthronement homily Bishop Boyd uplifts: “There is no doubt that mistakes have been made, individually and collectively, that things are not as they should be in all quarters and in all of our relationships.
“As countries [Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands], our national consciousness and our national mentalities have not always been as elevated, loving and uplifting as they ought to have been. But all is not lost, for God cleanses, revives, restores and rehabilitates. We are God’s agents, so with God we can make it happen.”
He also celebrates: “We have our challenges, yes, like anyone else, but I would not want to live anywhere else. The good still far outweighs the bad, and we must not forget that and never stop reminding each other of that fact.”
In his own inaugural address, the 44th US President similarly uplifts: “Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real, they are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this America: They will be met.
“On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.
“We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.”
One of the central chords of Bishop Boyd’s uplifting sermon was a call to respect the dignity of all human beings. He did so by calling for conversion regarding the prejudices and discrimination which often seek to deny this dignity.
Like Obama, Bishop Boyd did not cast aspersions, and avoided the condescending and patronizing attitudes of many leaders who often seem removed from the people they lead:
“God’s plan is for the church to be the agent of bringing people – ALL PEOPLE – together. God’s plan is that the Church be the catalyst that helps ALL of us in these two countries, and within them, to work together more effectively. Who better to lead the way in doing this but the church, to whom Jesus entrusted the Gospel?
“But sometimes we Church people ‘drop the ball’ – I mean, ‘drop the Gospel’. We, by our attitudes and words and actions, become a part of the problem. We let Jesus down by being poor representatives of Him.”
The new President and the new Bishop promise to be exceptional leaders who will seek to move us beyond the narrow partisanship which unnecessarily divides. Both men have a deep understanding of the human condition, including the nature of sin and tragedy as well as the possibility for redemption and restoration.
Because they appreciate the reality of paradox and irony in all human striving, they are loathe to simplistically divide the world into us versus them. This suggests that Bishop Boyd will be a moral leader who, while adhering to certain values and traditions, will be a man of great compassion and fairness.
These men of hope will also be called on to heal certain wounds and repair breaches that have often created chasms between people of goodwill who now seek common ground.
In presenting himself to the Anglican community as its new leader, Bishop Boyd indicated that he came to them as chief servant, chief shepherd and spiritual friend. If he remains true to this animating spirit and his convictions, he promises to be one of the more significant and influential leaders -- not just religious -- of his generation.