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Churches want offering from Gov't - Pastors suggest they be given money to assist needy

Published:Sunday | December 25, 2016 | 12:00 AMRyon Jones

Some of the island's major religious leaders are calling on the Government to provide more financial support for churches to enable them to do more within the communities they serve.

The churchmen argue that the faith-based institutions are more in touch with the needs of the people than any politician, and are more equipped to attend to the needs of residents in the areas in which they operate.

Pastor Errol Bolt of the Kencot Christian Fellowship believes taxpayers' dollars would be better spent if placed in the hands of the churches.

"The best way the Government could spend the taxpayers' dollar is to assign it to certain churches with responsibilities and accountability so that they have more resources to use to meet the needs of the people," Bolt told The Sunday Gleaner.

"Because we are more in touch with the needs of the people and know who those people are because they come to us.

"The majority of pastors have integrity and would use the money to get work done, and you would see a lot more being done on the ground for the

people that are there because of the additional resources that the Church would have to work with. So that would be a fantastic partnership," added Bolt.


Wants to do more


Head of the Lighthouse Assembly Ministries, Bishop Rohan Edwards, lamented that there is more he would like to do in Spanish Town, St Catherine, but is hampered by the lack of resources and, therefore, think it would be great if the Government would come on board.

"We are trying to get a halfway house here in Spanish Town, but we don't have the kind of support from the Government to help us in that regard. So even if we take a man off the streets and clean him up, we have to release him back out there, because we don't have the kind of housing to keep somebody like that," argued Edwards.

He opined that the Church has a larger reach than any politician and, therefore, the Government should identify those that are actively involved and provide assistance.

"What I think the Government should do is to reach out to the Church and help the Church with funding, because the Church has the biggest platform; bigger than any politician, and we reach out to more people than any other institution," said Edwards.

While the Reverend Dr Stevenson Samuels shares the view that the Government should in fact pump more money into the work of the churches across the island, he does not think it should be a case where the funds are solicited.

"The Government should see it as a good opportunity to support the Church, because the Church is really helping in the socio-economic development of the nation," said Samuels.

"How can you look on an institution and they are doing tremendous things in the economy and then you are going to make all kind of stipulations on them, controls on them, and not give them any help?

"I think the Government should offer, and if they offer we should take, but we should not aggressively go after, because then we would have to become very subject to the agenda of the Government, which we can't promise anybody that we will be."


Denied support


According to Samuels, he sought the assistance of his local political representative in the past to pay one additional teacher at the church-operated basic school, so as to keep his highly trained staff intact, but that help was not forthcoming, resulting in the teacher leaving for a preparatory school.

Samuels charged that requests for support for other initiatives to benefit the community were also denied by the political leadership.

But president of the Jamaica Association of Full Gospel Churches, the Reverend Conrad Pitkin, who heads the Montego Bay-based Faith Temple Assembly of God, is not singing from the same hymn book as his fellow clergymen.

Pitkin argued that getting direct funds from the Government might result in the Church being compromised.

"When you begin to receive money from certain quarters there are demands that you don't want to become entangled with," said Pitkin.

"What I would recommend is if there is any incentive that can be given. The Church is not taxed, and that's one good thing, because if we were we could not do the work that we do. But for the Government to give the Church money, I wouldn't support that."