Synodality and Trust

Writing in The Sunday Gleaner, September 25, 2022, Cedric Stephens remarks on the trust deficit as a big problem in Caribbean and Latin American societies. His source is the 2022 book published by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) entitled Trust: The Key to Social Cohesion and Growth in Latin America and The Caribbean.  Quoting the co-editors, he writes, “‘trust is the most pressing and yet least discussed problem confronting Latin America and the Caribbean’, given that it is lower in the region than anywhere else in the world.” His takeaway from the IDB study in relation to the digitization of the judiciary and the banking sector, is “By making trust and digitalization . . .  goals of public policy, and not simply by-products, countries can accelerate growth and employment.”

The AEC synodal synthesis also highlights experiences of the trust deficit in the Caribbean Church. The synthesis states, “We have lost the ability to listen with the heart and be non-judgmental. Parishioners have felt shut out and powerless to hold anyone accountable.” In addition, the synthesis mentions the following experiences of the People of God:

  • “The Church is experienced as rigid (with rules and regulations), uncaring, inconsistent and authoritarian.”
  • “The Church has covered up some abuses and has not stood up for some victims.”
  • “The child abuse scandal has resulted in a deficit of trust and is a major barrier to the mission of the church. It has injured the Church’s reputation.”
  • “There is no perceived safe space within the Church for socially excluded persons e.g.homosexuals, drug addicts and the divorced.”

As the Caribbean Church nurtures the People of God in the pastoral approach to listening and discernment towards decision-making, attention needs to be paid to heal the wounds of mistrust plaguing us. Trust is fundamentally a belief in the honesty, integrity and reliability of others and us. Trust begins with us, being comfortable with ourselves, to tell others “who we are and what we’ve done, or what we’d like to do or what we can’t pretend any longer” (Joan Chittister, The Monastic Heart). Refusing to live in perpetual hiding. 

On one hand, there’s need to relinquish the armour of religious, social, and academic status quo behind which we hide. On the other hand, we need confidence and trust that our self-revelation will be handled delicately, sensitively, and treated with mercy. On the synodal journey, trust is the chain that holds together the beads of listening, discerning, decision-making and implementation. 

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