Betrayed! - Disgruntled Pentab members charge that pastor John-Mark Bartlett was sold out by female 'Judas'
He bears the name of two of Jesus' disciples, and those who know the mild-mannered pastor John-Mark Bartlett said he was perfect for the position as head of the Wildman Street Pentecostal Tabernacle (Pentab).
"Having seen the victimisation of Rastafarians in Jamaica, he was best suited to exercise pardon and forgiveness. Now United Pentecostal Church Jamaica (UPCJ) has done to him what Jamaica has already done to him. Betrayed him, and one church sister and her band of followers are behind this takedown," said one of three Pentab members who met with The Sunday Gleaner last week.
Bartlett was recently ousted as pastor of the largest congregation under the UPCJ banner after he was given 14 days to resign as head of the central Kingston-based church he led for several years.
They Pentab members who spoke with our news team last week expressed surprise at the way UPCJ carried out the takeover of the church on Wednesday, October 4.
"They thought the community residents would disrupt the proceeding or damage the church because is Pentab people build that church with the help of Pastor (Windel) Rankine's construction company.
"This capture mentality by UPCJ is going to be the death of them. Remember what they did to Faith Chapel," said the Pentab member who moved with John-Mark and much of the congregation to worship at a new location last Sunday.
During the takeover, the leadership of the UPCJ faced probing questions from several church members who argued that the action against Bartlett was unconstitutional.
The UPCJ leaders stumbled when questioned on sections of the church's constitution and the legality of their action, and offered no answer to other questions.
Acting national superintendent Bishop John E. Smith told the meeting that on August 1, 2016 the national board of UPCJ received an anonymous letter alleging that there was a shift in doctrinal position of Bartlett.
According to one of the presenters, Steve Moncriffee, "in subsequent discussions it emerged that the (adverse doctrinal) teachings emerged at the Jesus Summit in North Miami."
Smith said a meeting was held with Harold Crooks, the chief presbyter for the region, after which a copy of the letter with the allegations was sent to Bartlett.
At a meeting involving Bartlett and selected members of the national board, he was further informed about the allegations of the doctrinal differences and a request was made for biblical support of his position.
In April, Bartlett met with the board and outlined the six doctrinal positions he had espoused and the supporting scriptures. This was followed by a mediation session with the board and Bartlett, at which point "Bartlett offered to walk away gracefully if there was no resolution."
There was no change in Bartlett's position and the board responded asking for his resignation in a letter dated September 21, and delivered during the annual September to Remember programme.
"It was indeed a September to Remember. John-Mark was betrayed and crucified by his own flock much like how Jesus was betrayed by Judas and crucified. At least Judas had the decency to hang himself. These Judases are women," said one church member who spoke with our news team.
The member said the leadership of UPCJ argued that they sacked John-Mark without communicating with the wider membership of the church, "out of a genuine desire not to remove Pastor Bartlett but to point out to him areas of discord between his teachings and those of the UPCJ articles of faith, and seek to engender a change on his part.
"We believe that the harmony of the body would have been best served if there was a resolution outside of the public domain ..."
A clearly fed up Pentab member said John-Mark was blamed for being too relaxed on standards, including a church sister's hair colour, and a church brother's tiny beard, even if he is otherwise well groomed.
More than half of the choir was reportedly absent from Pentab last Sunday, with some members of the band also missing. They were reportedly at a service with Bartlett metres away.