Trinidad: Anglican Bishop begs forgiveness over fashion show held in church

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Trinidad: Anglican Bishop begs forgiveness over fashion show held in church
Models display designs from Designs by Sade Ellis Collection entitled “Noir et Blanc” during the Styleweek 2019 at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Port-of-Spain, on Saturday

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) —  Bish­op of the An­gli­can Dio­cese of T&T Rev Claude Berkley has ‘strong­ly con­demned’ the de­pic­tion of scant­i­ly-clad mod­els in the Trin­i­ty Cathe­dral over the past week­end, say­ing it was out of or­der.

He has is­sued a public apol­o­gy to the An­gli­can com­mu­ni­ty, all re­li­gious or­gan­i­sa­tions, faith groups and the gen­er­al pub­lic over the em­bar­rass­ing three-night fash­ion show host­ed by Style­week Port-of-Spain.

“On this oc­ca­sion, we clear­ly missed the mark and we are deeply sor­ry! We, there­fore, seek your for­give­ness as we move for­ward in pro­claim­ing the good news of the King­dom of God,” he said.

Anglican Bishop Claude Berkley walks up the aisle in the Holy Trinity Cathederal for his enthronement ceremony in 2012

“In­deed, the de­pic­tion of scant­i­ly clad mod­els parad­ing along the aisle of the church of­fend­ed in­di­vid­ual and col­lec­tive sen­si­bil­i­ties lo­cal­ly and in­ter­na­tion­al­ly. Let me state cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly that such a pa­rade is com­plete­ly out of or­der, in­ap­pro­pri­ate and is strong­ly con­demned. Our church has host­ed fash­ion shows in the past and we have nev­er come to this sad de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of re­spect and mod­esty,” he said in a state­ment yes­ter­day.

Bish­op Berkley, who has head­ed the lo­cal dio­cese since 2011, chas­tised those who rep­re­sent­ed the An­gli­can church at the event for not stop­ping it when guide­lines were breached.

“At the first sight of this de­vi­a­tion, the show should have been shut down. This has been a bla­tant breach of the guide­lines and a breach of trust, to the detri­ment of the church and its com­mu­ni­ty. We must take full re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for the lax­i­ty in reg­u­lat­ing the use of the church’s space. The church ad­vo­cates and ex­horts its mem­bers to mod­esty in dress and de­port­ment, and it is a di­rect con­tra­dic­tion and af­front, that this dis­play of im­mod­esty took place,” he said.

Church to in­ves­ti­gate

He has promised an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to the event and said ap­pro­pri­ate mea­sures will be tak­en to en­sure it does not hap­pen again.

A model displays a design from Designs by Sade Ellis Collection entitled “Noir et Blanc” during the Styleweek 2019 at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Port-of-Spain, on Saturday.

Speak­ing to Guardian Me­dia af­ter is­su­ing the state­ment, Berkley said he “did not know the church was in the busi­ness of sell­ing souls for any giv­en pur­pose.”

Bish­op Berkley said he did not have any knowl­edge or in­for­ma­tion that the fash­ion show was be­ing host­ed to raise funds to help re­cov­er from the ef­fects of a pow­er­ful earth­quake in Au­gust last year.

He said if that dis­cus­sion was held, he was not a part of it and was not made aware of it.

Pressed on how he could not have known giv­en his au­thor­i­ty, Berkley said each parish in the An­gli­can sys­tem is se­mi-au­tonomous and can make its own de­ci­sions.

He said the vestry ex­am­ines things and make de­ci­sions and he would not be cog­nisant of what each parish’s guide­lines are to man­age whichev­er event they are deal­ing with.

Some might leave the church

Ad­mit­ting the fash­ion show did not on­ly hurt the im­age of the An­gli­can church but more so the hearts of mem­bers, Berkley said he ex­pects to see some peo­ple leave the church al­to­geth­er or just with­draw for some time.

Holy Trinity Cathedral

How­ev­er, he be­lieves the pub­lic apol­o­gy was a first step in the right di­rec­tion to re­in­state trust and loy­al­ty among mem­bers.

“Peo­ple are com­fort­ed, at least this was not some­thing that was con­doned by the church and this is not what we’re about and what we will do,” he said.

He said the cler­gy is ex­pect­ed to meet soon to dis­cuss plans go­ing for­ward on how it will treat with mem­bers in their re­spec­tive con­gre­ga­tions.

Founder apol­o­gis­es

Mean­while, the man­age­ment of Co­co Vel­vet In­ter­na­tion­al (CVI) has apol­o­gised to “the Bish­op, Dean and parish­ioners of the An­gli­can Dio­cese” for what they deem to be “gross in­sen­si­tiv­i­ty by the new fran­chise own­ers of Style­week Port-of-Spain”.

“While we re­spect the need for artis­tic free­dom on the part of fash­ion de­sign­ers to show­case their full col­lec­tions at a fash­ion week, we be­lieve overt­ly re­veal­ing looks should have been edit­ed by Style­week’s fash­ion di­rec­tor,” CVI said in a state­ment yes­ter­day.

Style­week Port-of-Spain was launched by CVI in 2014.

CVI said the new man­age­ment team at Zetick Caribbean Lim­it­ed held sev­er­al pro­duc­tion meet­ings with the Dean of the An­gli­can church Shel­ley Ann Tenia and its CEO and cre­ative di­rec­tor Christo­pher Nathan, dur­ing which Nathan promised that if swimwear col­lec­tions were be­ing show­cased in the Cathe­dral, sarong wraps, scarves and oth­er beach ac­ces­sories would have been used to en­sure all mod­els were ful­ly cov­ered.

“See­ing skimpi­ly clad mod­els parad­ing in front of the Trin­i­ty Cathe­dral’s al­tar on the cov­er of Mon­day’s dai­ly news­pa­pers was high­ly of­fen­sive to him,” the state­ment said.

Chair­man of Zetick Caribbean Lim­it­ed, and or­gan­is­er of Style­week El­lis Brig­gs, has said that “the hu­man body was noth­ing to be ashamed of.”

Asked what he thought of that state­ment, Berkley re­spond­ed: “I will re­frain from com­ment­ing on the or­gan­is­er’s com­ment ex­cept to say, as a church our guide­lines, fo­cus and pur­pose are clear, and a part of that pur­pose has to do with putting things in their time and place. Ad­di­tion­al­ly, we ad­vo­cate mod­esty, good de­port­ment and pro­pri­ety and there­fore if those things are not aligned, we are go­ing out­side of our re­mit and tra­di­tion and our ex­pres­sion of faith. There are prin­ci­ples and prin­ci­ples would have to be ad­hered to.”

Bish­op Berkley’s full let­ter of apol­o­gy

“The An­gli­can Church in the Dio­cese of Trinidad and To­ba­go sin­cere­ly apol­o­gis­es to all mem­bers of the An­gli­can com­mu­ni­ty, every Re­li­gious Or­ga­ni­za­tion, Faith Group and to the gen­er­al pub­lic, for the mis­use of the con­se­crat­ed space with­in the Holy Trin­i­ty Cathe­dral, at a re­cent­ly host­ed fash­ion show.

In­deed, the de­pic­tion of scant­i­ly clad mod­els parad­ing along the aisle of the church of­fend­ed in­di­vid­ual and col­lec­tive sen­si­bil­i­ties lo­cal­ly and in­ter­na­tion­al­ly. Let me state cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly that such a pa­rade is com­plete­ly out of or­der, in­ap­pro­pri­ate and is strong­ly con­demned. Our church has host­ed fash­ion shows in the past and we have nev­er come to this sad de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of re­spect and mod­esty. I am re­li­ably in­formed that firm guide­lines were in ef­fect with the pri­ma­ry or­ga­niz­er, but that there was a de­vi­a­tion from the agreed guide­lines. At the first sight of this de­vi­a­tion, the show should have been shut down.

This has been a bla­tant breach of the guide­lines and a breach of trust, to the detri­ment of the church and its com­mu­ni­ty. We must take full re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for the lax­i­ty in reg­u­lat­ing the use of the church’s space. The church ad­vo­cates and ex­horts its mem­bers to mod­esty in dress and de­port­ment, and it is a di­rect con­tra­dic­tion and af­front, that this dis­play of im­mod­esty took place.

Fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the is­sue will fol­low and ap­pro­pri­ate mea­sures tak­en to pre­vent any re­cur­rence of this kind of ex­po­sure. Be as­sured that what took place is not the prac­tice of the An­gli­can Church. Even though the church might pro­mote the pos­i­tive as­pects of the cul­ture in which it wit­ness­es, due care must be tak­en to en­sure that par­tic­i­pants do not cross the line in­to neg­a­tiv­i­ty and im­pro­pri­ety.

On this oc­ca­sion we clear­ly missed the mark and we are deeply sor­ry! We there­fore seek your for­give­ness as we move for­ward in pro­claim­ing the good news of the King­dom of God.”

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