To whom much is given, much is expected
Since the beginning of the year, several pastors have been accused of molesting young children. Among them is an elder from the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Haywood Hall, St Mary, Narry Hudson, who recently appeared in court charged with three counts of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl.
While many of the parish's religious leaders are reluctant to talk about sexual abuse in the Church, ministers such as Claude Williams of the Oracabessa Circuit of Baptist Churches understand the problem must be aired, shared, and discussed.
Speaking to Family and Religion earlier this week, the veteran youth and evangelism director said: "I try to stay away from the court of public opinion, but at the same time, you cannot hide your head in the sand and pretend there aren't issues floating out there. My thing is, to whom much is given, much is expected.
ABUSE OF POWER
"It is unfortunate that children, who are among the vulnerable in our society, would have gone to those of us who claim to be the moral authority of the nation and we are found to be abusing our powers. In terms of denominations where you have established churches with stricter regulations, I believe great care must be given to the recruitment of our pastors.
"There should be a system of accountability so we can dispose of the pastors found to be in violation of that trust. It is very shameful and scandalous, and I believe it forces the Church to take another look at the way we have been operating and conducting ourselves."
Williams, who has served in St Elizabeth, St Thomas, and Clarendon believes one of the biggest problems facing the Church in St Mary is a high level of interfaith divergence.
"I think the division and disunity that exists between churches is a big problem," he explained. "It seems to me that people focus on denomination, rituals, and all kinds of isms and schisms, and pastors and churches are bent on building up their so-called kingdoms.
"There are churches and street meetings, and we are building, establishing, and expanding concrete structures, but how have we been building the lives of individuals? For me, that has always been the challenge, I believe you can't just proclaim the gospel because it's not all about talking or preaching, it's all about doing."
Williams added: "I think there are enough resources scattered across churches that if they had been working together, we would have been more effective. For me, it is not just about the proclamation of the gospel, there must also be practice, so we preach and we do.
"And that's not to say the church is not doing. But while I stay in my little corner and do my little thing, the effort is scattered. If it is that we are to harness the collective resources of the churches, I think the result would have been more pronounced, and I believe the Church still has a role to play, in terms of the development of the nation."