Ainsley Davis: Churches need to unite
PORT MARIA, St Mary:
Ainsley Davis of the Port Maria Circuit of Baptist Churches is a worldly and welcoming pastor who believes the proliferation of Christian breakaway churches in St Mary is confusing and ultimately counterproductive.
Speaking to Family and Religion earlier this week, Davis, who became a minister 15 years ago and has worked for the parish's Department of Corrections for the last decade, claimed that eventually churches from all denominations would have to unite for the benefit of their members.
He said: "One of the main issues in St Mary is the Church isn't growing. You have a lot of different denominations, but when you look at the numbers, there isn't any real growth.
"There's a lot of what I call swapping of sheep where members move from one church to another, with mainline churches such as the United, Baptist, Anglican, Roman Catholic, Gospel Chapel and, to a lesser extent, the Adventists, suffering the most.
"It's confusing because everybody seems to be saying they are right, but the truth of the matter is we serve a God of infinity variety. The scripture (Ephesians 4:5) speaks of 'One, God, one faith, one baptism, and one Father of all.'
"We are waking up to the reality now, so more church men and women are coming together and saying: 'Listen, for the sake of our nation, we have to work together. Some churches differ over just one thing (laughs). But if a marriage with two completely different people can work for 20, 30, and 40 years, why can't the Church do something like that under one God?"
Although the concept initially seems far-fetched, Davis insists it would take only a little "humility and some forgiveness" to bring the churches together.
He explained: "Some of these younger denominations are born out of rebellion or infighting, and so people have up each other. I think some people need to just 'fess up, get humble, forgive, and go and seek their brother or sister's hand and say: 'I offended you, I'm sorry.' If we are true Christians, we will forgive."
Looking ahead, Davis hopes for a return to traditional family values, but acknowledges that for this to happen, the church must lead the way and become a catalyst for change.
He said: "When I was growing up, we used to put up fences and walls to make our homes look good, but now the walls we put up between our neighbours and ourselves are real. We're now living in a 21st century society with things like pluralism and modernity, which have brought about a selfishness that parades itself as prosperity and progress, but it's really every man and woman for themselves.
"The change has to come from the Church. The Church ought to become one family. We have our differences, and we all think differently, but we ought to be and live as a family. It makes no sense saying it unless we're all doing it."