'Nepotism is one of the biggest problem affecting the Church'
PORT MARIA, St Mary:
Religious elders often accuse young people of rejecting the Church in favour of a more secular lifestyle, but few acknowledge the reasons why teenagers and young adults are less likely to attend church service than their forebears.
However, President of the North East Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Arlington Woodburn, is an exception to the rule.
With a master's degree in religion from Andrews University in Michigan, United States, and almost 40 years in ministry to his credit, Woodburn is an experienced religious leader who believes nepotism within the church is one of the biggest problems facing the people of St Mary and Portland.
He told Family and Religion: "Our churches have been suffering because some of our preachers have failed our young people morally and in other ways. They believe that because they're preaching, they are powerful. They can use the pulpit, but I call it doing Satan's work in God's arena.
"It's a challenge, and those who get involved in these things often refuse to admit and confess, even to themselves, but until we face our issues, we're not going to get anywhere. You cannot protect evil and expect good to come out of it. Some people use the Bible as an opiate to control people, and that's what many young people are rebelling against."
BECOME MORE HONEST
To counter the problem, Woodburn believes people, both church leaders and their congregations, must become more honest. He said: "We have to be truthful. The other day, a lady asked me to write a recommendation for her son, but he gives troubles and is not a person that you'd want to give a good recommendation without first reining him to see that he is restrained and has changed.
"I'm not saying I won't recommend him, but he must understand that I'm gonna speak the truth. [His mother] was insisting that I write something good for him and kept saying 'Give the boy a chance,' but if you give a criminal a chance, you make him into a worse criminal.
"These are the situations we face. We have to start exhibiting what is called tough love, which we have not been able to do up until this present time. We have not been able to exhibit the type of love that will solve our problems.
PREACHING WITHOUT BIAS
"The thief has to learn that if he continues stealing, then society will go down. And it's happening right now as we speak. Thieves and mendicants have robbed us of our heritage."
Although he holds one of the highest positions in the Church, Woodburn hopes that in the future, he will be given greater autonomy to preach the word of God without bias or prejudice.
He explained: "I wish I were allowed to apply the biblical principles without interference from the status quo. Politics within the Church is what I fear most. You're not allowed, in many instances to do what you know is right for the community and Church.
"Because of this the opposition to righteousness, people become very selfish and unfaithful to the call and their God. These are situations that really affect me as a person because I would really love to have a certain freedom to serve my God as He ought to be served. I don't want to serve him under duress (smiles)."