The Church Contrite and Hurt

The Jamaica Observer
July 20, 2006

The excitement being generated around the case of the alleged sex deacon from the Church Dayton Diamond Ridge is entirely understandable.

It has all the ingredients that make for good copy: it is sensational; it is a perfect example of the man bites dog thing that drives media; it is ironic because it originates from quarters least expected - the church; it involves one who should be above reproach - a deacon; and it involves this perrenial three-letter word that always makes for stimulating discussion - sex.

But beyond all that, there is the serious issue of the image of the church in Jamaica and the beating that it is now taking as a result of the allegations which, and rightly so, are currently being tested in a court of law.

In the midst of the hullabaloo, we must be careful not to lose sight of the critical role that the church in general has played and continues to play in bolstering this still fledgling nation. Nobody who reads the slightest history can escape the fact that without the church, there would hardly be much to this Jamaica land we love.

It should not be necessary to rehash the untold blessings that have come to our little island through the untiring efforts of the church and the hordes of churchmen and women who have given lifetimes to building this rock, beginning with the hardy Baptist missionaries in earliest colonialism and slavery.

It is for this reason that we would want to advise caution on the part of Mayor Desmond McKenzie in how he uses the resources of the state to deal with the Church Dayton.

One can't help but notice that although the Church Dayton has been operating out of a residential building since 1973, nothing was done to stop them. Now that a popular issue has emerged, we would not want to feel that the City Father is using the opportunity to gain media attention. This would be sheer opportunism.

We have, of course, not forgotten the apparent attack on the media by people purporting to speak for the Church after the reports of alleged voyeurism on the part of the deacon and the sexual molestation of a teenaged girl by other teenagers were carried. That sounded like something we in media have come to expect: beat up the messenger when you don't like the message. And we believe that as spiritual people, the members of the Church Dayton must by now have donned sackcloth and ashes and prayed fervently for forgiveness.

However, we insist that this is not a moment for destroying what has so carefully been built up over many years. Rather, it is an occasion for prayer and contriteness.

As the church hurts, it is a time for reflection - on its role in 2006, on how it deals with modern issues that are not as clearly spelt out in Scripture, on how it handles things like communication.

Like the rest of the society, the church will confront the issues of sex and sexuality in the form of sexual abuse, homosexuality and lesbianism, even from among its own members. They must ready themselves to deal with it as servants of a God who has the answers. The commissioning of a sex-abuse manual by the Jamaica Council of Churches is an excellent point of departure.


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