- Michael Sloley
The Rev. Dr. Donald Stewart, pastor of Portmore Covenant Community Church and well-known demonologist.
Mark Dawes, Staff Reporter
IT IS the afternoon of May 18, 1996. Hundreds of persons are assembled at the Karram-Speid Auditorium, Merl Grove High School in St. Andrew, to pay final respects to Gene Denham, renowned counsellor and staff worker of the Students Christian Fellowship and Scripture Union (SCFSU). Sharon Reid, principal of St. Andrew High School for Girls, beckons the Rev. Dr. Donald Stewart to leave his seat to attend to something urgent.
Donald follows Sharon to a nearby classroom. Outside the classroom, a gathering of boys are gripped in fear. Their knees are knocking. Inside is a restless fourth-form boy who is trying to kill himself. The youth, a 'born again' Christian, was part of the Inter-School Christian Fellowship (ISCF) chorale that had a few minutes earlier performed a musical selection. He is demon-possessed. Rev. Stewart was summoned because he is renowned for his ability to cast out demons.
When he gets inside the classroom, Rev. Stewart sees a female colleague skilled in the basics of casting out demons who was taking charge of the situation. Together they command the demons to flee. The demons eventually go. That's a typical day in the life of the Rev. Dr. Donald Stewart, pastor of the Portmore Covenant Community Church.
Exorcism, which in recent times is often called deliverance ministry, has become a major vocation for Rev. Stewart. He doesn't like the word 'exorcist' because its common usage and semantic history pose problems with how he defines his ministry. He has been 'majoring' in deliverance ministry since 1988. The Bible, he argues, does not say that a Christian cannot be demon-possessed, neither does he. Nor does he speak of 'demon possession' (often used of non-Christians who are controlled by demons) or 'demon oppression' (which is often used of Christians who are haunted by demons). He deliberately speaks of 'demonisation' to encapsulate the two terms.
He says, "If I did not put some strict discipline on myself, I would be handling about four-five deliverance cases per day. At present, I would say I have about three per day."
Within the Christian community, he is a 119 for help in spiritual warfare. But he is not happy being so much in demand. For, he maintains, any Christian in a right relationship with God can cast out demons, and that is what God expects of believers. Furthermore, casting out demons has eaten up much of the time he would prefer to devote to the task of pastoring.
A graduate of the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology, he will soon graduate with a doctorate from Colombia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, having written a thesis entitled 'Towards a strategy for responding to the demonisation in our churches and the wider society'.
DELIVERANCE MINISTRY AND THE CHURCH TODAY
Rev. Stewart is a widely sought after authority on deliverance ministry. To this end, he has been making himself available to churches and Bible schools that seek his expertise. However, he laments that many of "our church training institutions and seminaries have fallen sadly short in training pastors and counsellors." Those being graduated from such institutions, he said, "are being set up for frustration because they are going to be confronted with demonic activity and they will not know how to deal with it."
Ironically, he claims, "The hardest people to deal with when it comes to this thing (deliverance ministry) are pastors, who often exude a simplistic approach to dealing with demonic cases brought to their attention.
"There are too many Christians and, worse, Christian leaders who have tunnel vision, who have been brought up to think a certain way, and even when the evidence (of demonisation) is there staring them full-blown in the face, they refuse to believe." He explained that he has had to deal with several persons from several churches who have been demonised who can't mention any of it to their pastors for fear they will be ignored or referred to the Bellevue Hospital .
This naturally forces him to straddle a delicate balance. He has to help those who come to him for deliverance, yet he cannot undercut the pastoral leadership under which his counselees are subject. This is particularly agonising, he said, when persons whom he has helped to deliver, return to a church setting "that embraces certain doorways to demonisation such as the occult, freemasonry, other lodges and nine-nights for the dead. Very soon, such a person becomes demonised again."
A 'doorway' is an opening in one's life that can allow demons to step in. Sometimes, these doorways are unwittingly opened, i.e., a person unknowingly does something which results in them being taken over by demons. In the course of the interview, Donald served up his sternest venom for lodges. He maintains lodges are occultic in origin and have served to dupe many, including pastors. It is common practice among exorcists to ask the demons their name. This is in keeping with the pattern set by Jesus in St. Mark chapter 5 verse 9 (Then Jesus asked him, "What is your name?"
"My name is Legion," he replied, "for we are many." (NIV).
Rev. Stewart tells the story of casting out demons out of a Christian girl and when he asked the demons "What is your name?" a loud coarse male voice answered saying: "My name is Masonic Lodge."
"Of course, women are not allowed to become Masons in Jamaica, but her father was," Rev. Stewart explained. However, by some means, the evil spirits were transferred to the daughter in the form of a generational curse, he said.
I asked: How should the church respond to the lodge?
Rev. Stewart: "If I were in a church where the leaders worshipped the devil tacitly or encouraged it, that is not a church for me. Freemasonry and other lodges are no different from Satan worship."
He spoke too about having counselled several persons who are members of the Church of Satan in Jamaica. He gleaned from these counselling/exorcising sessions that there is at least one such church in every parish. Delivered persons hardly ever seem to remember the actual locations of these churches, as there seems to be a built-in amnesia within those delivered from Satanism.
In the case of the youngster who was possessed at the Gene Denham funeral, Rev. Stewart explained that the boy had been viewing 'Days of Our Lives' and he saw a woman in the show who had psychic powers, and he said "I wish I had powers like that," and instantly the demons came on him and he became suicidal.
WITCHCRAFT, MARTIAL ARTS AND ANIMAL SPIRITS
He stressed, "Anyone who is going to communicate with a psychic has opened himself/herself up to demonic spirits." To further emphasise his point, he quotes Deuteronomy 18: 9-14, verse 10 of which reads: "Let not one be found among you who sacrifices his son and daughter in the fire, who practises divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead." (NIV)
Rev. Stewart decries tarots, Harry Potter, and Ouija (which he says has a 10 out of 10 rate of demonisation).
He cites the martial arts as one of the subtlest doorways for demon possession. "Zen Buddhism, Taoism and Shintoism are built into the meditation of karate. The spirits of the animals often cited in the martial arts are euphemisms for Satan. To say that I am discouraging persons becoming involved in martial arts is putting it mildly. I have had cases where I asked the demons "What is your name" and the reply was "karate".
Martial arts, he continued, "is based on religious systems which are counter to the teachings of Christianity with respect to God. By that, I mean they fit more in the framework of the New Age concept of God, which is basically that God is an impersonal force without any moral attributes.
"Christianity teaches that we must relate peaceably and to curb aggression. Whereas the martial arts promotes the storing up of aggression before unleashing it on whosoever.
"The Eastern martial arts movement has its origins with Oriental monks who learnt by observing animals and desiring the spirits perceived to be in these animals. Hence we have the snake-style of martial arts, the tiger-style, etc."
The Bible, he stressed, teaches that there is one God and one Mediator between God and man, who is the Lord Jesus Christ. Hence, all other religions are ultimately serving the purposes of the devil, some to a greater extent than others.
Persons who practise the martial arts and who are themselves demonised often take on the character of the animal the spirit represents during the deliverance process. Accordingly, possessed persons will move on the floor like a snake, others will bark like dogs, still others will behave like wild cats. Similarly, a possessed person's face is often contorted during the deliverance process and made to resemble the animals. Persons who practise the martial arts are the hardest to deliver as they sometimes use their fighting skills to hinder those casting out the demons. Rev. Stewart acknowledged being given devastating karate kicks, on one such occasion his nose was broken. This pales in comparison to the bites and thumps that he often receives from those whom he delivers.
As he engages Satan, he will shortly be seeking meetings with pastors to sensitise them about the extent of demonisation on the spiritual landscape, an area he addressed in his thesis. At present, he is helping to raise up an army of deliverance ministers. At his church, he has formed a group called WAR, which is short for 'We Are Radical for Christ.' They follow him and support him on various missions to cast out demons.
He is not fearful of what the devil and his minions might do to him, for, he explains, "My life is in God's hands." He is hoping that more Christians will avail themselves of training in spiritual warfare. But as it stands now, he laments that there are too many cowards in the Kingdom.
Mark Dawes is a senior staff reporter. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.