Wake up, Church! - Baptist president calls for compassionate leadership in social and ethical crises
President of the Jamaica Baptist Union (JBU), the Reverend Michael Shim-Hue, is calling for "patient, tolerant, firm, risk-taking, mature, spiritual, selfless, servant-type and compassionate leadership", to address a plethora of social and ethical issues now facing the country.
Delivering the presidential address, titled 'Mission without Boasting', at the opening ceremony of the 165th Annual General Assembly and 4th Believers Annual Convention of the Jamaica Baptist Union last Wednesday at the Calvary Baptist Church in Montego Bay, St James, Shim-Hue argued that Jamaica is struggling to cope with "issues after issues" with no obvious solutions.
"Those issues include safety and security, inadequate protection for children and poor public health care and facilities, coupled with the need for a redefinition of social constructs such as marriage, personhood and gender," said Shim-Hue.
The JBU president charged that national security was under threat and had been so for a very long time despite the reported reductions in crime in 2014.
He said there is still an urgent need to reduce the high incidence of crime and violence, particularly domestic violence.
Shim-Hue called on National Security Minister Peter Bunting to resort to a model of community policing as an evidence-based effective alternative to what he described as "hard or traditional policing", which he contended had not worked.
"Let's get back to community policing - not community policing relations, not putting up a sign with community policing on it, but the true philosophy of community policing," said Shim-Hue.
Turning to the issue of child care and protection, Shim-Hue declared that Jamaica is not protecting its children sufficiently, and "material poverty has a big role to play in that dilemma, but so too does unemployment and the society's values and attitudes".
Lamenting the poor state of the health care system, Shim-Hue insisted that, "we must start treating patients as business partners. If people don't come to the health centres and hospital then we would have to close them like how we closing schools which are way below capacity."
Definition of marriage
In relation to marriage, the JBU president stopped short of condemning same-sex marriage, avowing that the "Church would not sit idly by and allow others to define marriage for them", because any redefinition of marriage would also call into question a redefinition of personhood, sex and gender.
But it was not all gloom and doom for the Baptist president who enumerated the several growth indicators, which he explained had positive implications for Jamaica.
"... Agriculture is rebounding; the price of oil is trending down; public transport is clearly on a path of significant improvement; the Jamaican economy is doing well with the International Monetary Fund tests and Haiti is recovering; not to mention the renewed diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States; West Africa and the Ebola epidemic is no more at crisis point," he noted.
Shin-Hue argued that it is in the midst of the ethical dilemmas that the church is called to provide leadership and to make the world a better place.
"Everything that the church does must be considered as a mission of God," he argued.
"But the Church has become self-centred, boasting about its accomplishments rather than extending a compassionate and welcoming hand to those, including persons in common-law relationships and homeless gays, who were ostensibly different, marginalised and/or on the periphery of society."
Shim-Hue urged his colleague ministers not to engage in mission for self-praise, but to do mission "prayerfully, selflessly and under the power of the Holy Spirit".