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Stabroek News

Pentecostal group gets new bishop
published: Saturday | November 22, 2008

Mark Dawes, Religion Editor

The Rev Dr Barrington Brown addresses the congregation that witnessed his consecration to the office of bishop at the Waltham Park New Testament Church of God in Kingston on Sunday, October 5.- Contributed photos

After years of serving the New Testament Church of God in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands in various capacities, the Rev Dr Barrington Brown has been elevated to the post of administrative bishop.

Bishop Brown succeeds the Rev Dr W. A. Blair, whose term had expired and who has since resumed his role as senior pastor at the Faith New Testament Church of God in Bayside, Portmore.

Brown, 47, is one of the younger persons to be appointed administrative bishop of what is one of the largest denominations which enjoys membership in both the Jamaica Association of Full Gospel Churches and the Jamaica Association of Evangelicals.

He comes to the bishopric of his denomination mindful of persons who have mentored him throughout the years. These include the Reverends Lindsay Arscott, Ronald Blair and Fedlyn A. Beason.

another opportunity

He feels particularly indebted to Bishop Fedlyn A. Beason, as he worked closely with him as the denomination's national youth and Christian education director.

His elevation to the office of bishop, he believes, is another opportunity to give back to the denomination which has invested considerably in his educational and leadership development.

Asked why he accepted the nomination to become the administrative bishop of this Pentecostal church group, Brown said, "We have a process that we follow over the years. We go to prayer. Then we meet in ministers' conference. And then we take a vote. The person who comes out with the most votes is regarded as God's choice. I embraced that process, and have accepted it. I feel deeply honoured to be given the opportunity to offer service at this level. It is an awesome responsibility. It is a mammoth job and I trust God to guide me."

His term is for two years. However, the denomination's constitution allows for him to be re-elected two more times in succession.

doctrinal issues

High on his priorities is to give keen attention to doctrinal issues. For, he explained, people ought to have a clear understanding of their faith. "I am emphasising the importance of understanding the doctrines of the New Testament Church of God. I will put a lot of emphasis on teaching and living out what we embrace as our faith. For me that is the evidence that you have learnt, that is, when you live out your faith."

The teaching and instructions in doctrine, he said, would be communicated largely through seminars, workshops and teaching conferences.

Another priority for this new bishop is to promote evangelism and discipleship while strengthening the social outreach arm of the church to deal with eventualities, such as natural disasters.

A son of Cascade in Hanover, he became a born-again Christian at 17 shortly after graduating from Rusea's High School in the parish.

Shortly after leaving high school, he was employed as a poor relief officer with the Hanover Parish Council. While there, he noticed that an indigent man did not show up two paydays in a row to pick up his subsistence cheques from the parish council. He went in search of the man and took with him the cheques and some food. He found that the man was ill. He handed the man the food and cheques. As he was walking away from the man, young Barrington Brown felt the need to pray for him.

defining moment

So he turned back and asked the man for permission to pray for him right there. The man consented and Brown prayed. It was a defining moment. "When I opened my eyes, he had a glee that he did not have when I gave him the food and the money earlier. When I left again, I sensed a voice saying, 'You could commit your life to doing that for people'. I felt that God was speaking to me," said Brown.

About two weeks later during a missions service at his home church in Cascade, he responded to the challenge issued by the preacher for persons to commit themselves to serve God in full-time ministry if He so leads.

Shortly after, he enrolled for a programme of study at the Bethel Bible College in Mandeville.

Years later, he returned to Bethel to be its president. On his watch, the school received accreditation for both its bachelor's degree in theology and its diploma in theology programmes from the University Council of Jamaica, the nation's post-secondary quality assurance body. While at Bethel, he started a programme for pastors who would not have had an opportunity for formal ministerial training to come in and do some summer classes. He also helped to create a mature entrance programme, which allowed pastors who did not have formal high-school education to enrol in the institution as 'special students'. He recalled that it was always a joy to shake their hands during graduation exercises and tell them "congratulations".

Having left Bethel to become administrative bishop of the denomination, he believes the school is poised to continue in its pursuit of excellence under its new president, the Rev Dr Roy Notice.

Brown explained, "As I learnt the Christian faith, and learnt about the gifts that I have, and how they should be used, I discerned where God wanted me to be."

As administrative bishop, he has responsibility for 361 churches in Jamaica and an active membership of 92,136. This translates to 200,000 members and adherents worshipping on a typical Sunday. He hopes to see an increase of the registered membership rising to 100,000 within two years. These 361 churches are served by 289 pastors - 26 of whom are women. Also in Cayman, he has responsibility for four churches there.

Last year, 2,232 converts were baptised into the denomination - up from 2,021 for 2006.

High on his agenda is creating a climate where persons, especially men, can become influenced to consider a call to pastoral ministry. The denomination has an active men's membership of 16,750. He said the denomination would be intentionally seeking to disciple men. In this regard, he said, he would be working with the denomination's youth department, various men's fellowships and even at the ministerial level to reach out to young males.

Some churches, he acknowledged, are so small that they cannot pay a full-time pastor. Accordingly, he is hoping to devise an arrangement to help the smaller churches to become self-sustaining. As it is now, these smaller churches are served by pastors who derive their income from secular sources. Also, there is an existing arrangement, Bishop Brown said, where stronger churches adopt the smaller congregations.

The bishop acknowledged that the principal source of funding for the denomination has been tithes and offerings. But because the financial needs are great, the denomination has been forced to explore various investment options. The New Testament Church of God, he said, "Has bought a few properties and is waiting for their values go up so it can earn some money." He is also anticipating that its newly acquired convention centre in Old Harbour will become a major money earner for the denomination.

electronic media

Though there are a number of ministers within the New Testament Church of God in Jamaica, who have broadcasts on the electronic media, there is no radio or television voice of the denomination per se. Accordingly, Bishop Brown said he would be working to ensure that the denomination has its own voice in the electronic media. This, no doubt, will complement this church group as it seeks to step up the frequency with which it speaks to national issues.

His leadership style is a marked contrast to that of his predecessor who was extroverted and exuberant. Bishop Brown tends to be more introverted and calculating. He describes himself as a systematic thinker.

The new bishop was consecrated to that office on Sunday, October 5, during a service held at the Waltham Park New Testament Church of God in Kingston.

He is married to Patricia, who complements him in ministry by her involvement in the leadership of the denomination's women's ministry. She is a trained teacher with advanced skills in teaching those with reading disability. She holds a master's degree in education and is a guidance counsellor at the Villa Road Primary and Junior School in Mandeville.

The Browns are the parents of two girls.

The Rev Dr Fedlyn A. Beason (foreground), Caribbean field director of the World Mission Board of the New Testament Church of God, leads the consecration of the Rev Dr Barrington Brown as the new administrative bishop of the church's Jamaica and Cayman Islands branches. Kneeling beside the bishop is his wife, Patricia. The service was held at the Waltham Park Road New Testament Church of God in Kingston on October 5.

The Rev Dr Barrington Brown (second right) receives a copy of the Bible from Rev Dr W. A. Blair, the outgoing administrative bishop of the New Testament Church of God in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. The occasion was the service of consecration for Dr Brown to the office of bishop which was held at the Waltham Park New Testament Church of God on October 5. Others from left are Bishop Fedlyn A. Beason, Carribbean field director of the World Mission Board of the New Testament Church of God; the Rev Donald Roberts, pastor of the Clifton New Testament Church, and Patricia Brown, wife of the new bishop.

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