Compiled by: The Right Reverend Gilbert A. Thompson
The presence of the Anglican Church can be traced from the early beginnings of Bahamian history. The Eleutherian Adventurers after 1647 made the first settlement of the English after these islands had been more or less abandoned by the Spaniards, who had eliminated the early Lucayan Indian population. It is said that the Eleutherian Adventurers included two Anglican priests who had left the Church. In 1670 the Bahamas was granted to the Lord Proprietors of Carolina by the English Crown. Among the requirements of this Grant was the establishment of Churches in the islands. Christ Church dates back from 1670.
The Anglican Church in The Bahamas can be traced to the earliest English settlements, but it was in 1729, with the arrival of the first Royal Governor, Woodes Rogers, that the Church was established by law. According to Rogers' Royal Instructions, the Bishop of London, Edmund Gibson (1723 - 1748) became technically Bishop of the Bahamas. On September 6, 1734, the entire Bahamas was erected into one parish that of Christ Church. In 1768, St. John's Parish was created as a second Parish, which was made up of Harbour Island and Eleuthera. The United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (formerly the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel) was in those early days generous in providing missionaries and priests especially from 1733 - 1807 and from 1836 until modern times. In addition the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge and Dr. Bray's associates contributed generously to the building up of the Church in The Bahamas. In 1824 the Diocese of Jamaica was created, and The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands were incorporated in this Diocese. An Act of The Bahamas Legislature of 30th January, 1826 recognized the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Jamaica, Christopher Lipscombe, over the clergy in the Bahamas. Bishop Lipscombe visited the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands four times in 1826, 1830, 1834 and 1839. The Bahamas was elevated to an Archdeaconry in 1844 by Bishop Aubrey George Spencer, second Bishop of Jamaica who also appointed the Rev. John McCammon Trew as Archdeacon of the Bahamas. The Archdeacon lived in The Bahamas from 1844 to 1857, when he returned home to Ireland. Bishop Spencer visited the Bahamas five times in 1845, 1847, 1848, 1850 and 1852. The Lord Bishop of Kingston, Reginald Courtney, was the last Bishop from Jamaica to visit The Bahamas.
The people in the Bahamas were not satisfied with the occasional visits of the Bishops from Jamaica, added to which was dissatisfaction over the decision of Bishop Spencer in 1850 as regards to the Burial Ground Controversy. Bahamians began to see the need for a bishop of their own. In 1848, The Turks and Caicos Islands seceded from the Bahamas and later came under the jurisdiction of Jamaica, although remaining under the Archdeaconry of the Bahamas. On 4th November 1861, the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands were erected into a separate diocese. Dr. Charles Caulfield, the successor of Archdeacon Trew was consecrated the first Bishop of Nassau, in Lambeth Palace (The London Residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury) on November 24, 1861. The new bishop arrived in Nassau in May, 1862 and the town of Nassau by the same Letters Patent, became a city. The Letters Patent were proclaimed with much ceremony on the steps of the public buildings by the Provost Marshall, and were read in Christ Church Cathedral in the presence of a large number of parishioners and government officials. On 17th June, 1862, in the Cathedral, six (6) priests took the oath of allegiance to their new bishop, unfortunately the first bishop of the Diocese died prematurely in September 1862 of yellow fever. He was succeeded by Addington Robert Peel Venables (nephew of Sir Robert Peel).
In spite of setbacks from time to time, The Church has continued to be a tower of strength to the Bahamian and Turks and Caicos Islands Communities.
Since its creation as a Diocese in 1861, The Diocese has intensified its ministries of pastoral care and education in conveying its mission in these islands. From its earliest years, the Church has established primary and secondary schools. The latter ones continued until the early years of the 1930's.
During the episcopacy of Bishop Spence Burton S.S.J.E., The Diocese returned to the field of secondary education after a lapse of many years. A Diocesan high school called St. John's College (After the Patron Saint of the Diocese, St. John the Baptist) was established in 1947. This was followed a few years later (1955) by St. Anne's High School which started out as a parochial venture under Canon John Pugh. There are two other Diocesan schools – The Bishop Michael Eldon School at Freeport, Grand Bahama & St. Andrew’s Anglican School at Georgetown, Exuma.
On 24th June 1971 Michael Hartley Eldon was consecrated Suffragan Bishop with the title, Bishop of New Providence. Less than a year later on April 20, 1972 the Diocesan Synod unanimously elected Michael H. Eldon as the 11th Bishop of Nassau and the Bahamas including the Turks and Caicos Islands and the first Bahamian Bishop of this Diocese. Similarly, on 1st September, 1996 the Rt. Reverend Drexel Gomez, former Bishop of Barbados, succeeded Bishop Eldon as Diocesan Bishop; Bishop Gomez had been Bishop Co-adjutor of the Diocese prior to his elevation.
Bishop Gomez became the first Bahamian to become Archbishop of The Province of The West Indies in 1998.
Bishop Laish Boyd was elected Co-adjutor on June 29, 2006 and became Diocesan Bishop on February 8, 2009.
To date this Diocese has had thirteen Diocesan Bishops. There have been two Suffragan Bishops, the Rt. Rev’d. Michael H. Eldon (1971) and the Rt. Rev’d. Gilbert A. Thompson (2000). Two other Bahamians have been elevated to the episcopacy; the late Rt. Rev’d Donald R. Knowles, Bishop of Antigua who actually was the first Bahamian ever to be made a Bishop & the Rt. Rev’d Cornell J. Moss who currently serves as Bishop of Guyana.
During these many years the clergy & missionaries of this scattered Diocese have ministered to all & sundry, high & low in all sorts of circumstances, & some have been in perils of the deep & even losing their lives providing the gospel to our Bahamian & Turks Island people.
We can rightly say that the Anglican Church in The Bahamas & in The Turks & Caicos
Islands has been true to its calling & mandate as given to us by our Lord and Saviour Himself: "Go therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptize them in the name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I give you". Matthew 28: 19-20