When Perkins Sought The Priesthood - Part 2
This article, written by Mark Dawes, was first published in The
Gleaner on Tuesday, March 4, 2003. It is being republished in two parts
on the death of veteran journalist Wilmot 'Motty' Perkins. Part One was
published in yesterday's Gleaner.
The controversial Wilmot 'Motty' Perkins said nobody chased him out of the now-defunct Anglican theological training school, St Peter's College. He came and left on his own accord. Prefacing his explanation of his departure, he asked: "Have you ever been doing anything and then got the impression that this isn't where you want to be?"
He explained that he found aspects of the history of the Church, Christian theology and denominationalism to be at best disconcerting.
Mr Perkins explained that he did not discuss these disconcerting thoughts with either faculty or his fellow students, but when he was thinking of leaving, he met with Bishop Percival Gibson who discouraged him from abandoning his studies. Mr Perkins left anyway in 1953.
"I have no regrets about having left St Peter's College. I am not sorry that I went there, not by any means. But I am neither sorry that I left," Mr Perkins said.
Gleaner: On account of your time at St Peter's, are you bitter towards the church?
Perkins: Of course not.
Mr Perkins' leaving of St Peter's has left many questions unanswered, including: "Would Wilmot Perkins have made a good pastor?"
Canon Weeville Gordon: "I think not necessarily a good parish pastor, but certainly an intellectual one who would do an excellent job in a seminary where he would teach.
Father James Murray: I don't think he would have made a successful pastor because he would always be at odds with the bishop. Diplomacy is not his forte. He didn't really show sufficient regard for authority figures unless they fitted in with his philosophy of life. To be a good pastor, you have to be flexible. You can have your views, but you can't really foist them on others.
Gleaner: Could you see Mr Perkins as a bishop?
Canon Gordon: Yes. I would not say I would vote for him as a bishop now, but then, certainly. I think he had the marks of a bishop. He had a very analytical and brilliant mind that I think would have helped the diocese at that particular time. It would have been interesting to see where he would have ended up. He might have become bishop of Jamaica. He had all the potential. I am quite convinced he would have made bishop.
Father Murray: "Motty couldn't be a bishop or a pastor. He would have to be a general in an army, or he would do well as a pope.
Gleaner: Could you have seen yourself as a bishop if you had completed your theological studies.
Perkins: My thoughts have not wandered in that direction. I have not thought about it.
So what does Mr Perkins think about God?
"My sense of God is derived from what I see around me, the natural environment. I like to think about God in the Garden. God is, in my view, a fantastic engineer and a really great artist. The impression that one gets is that Creation isn't a thing that occurred then God sat down idling. Scientists say that every time they put a telescope up there, they discover new galaxies, so He is very busy up there working," Mr Perkins said.
Gleaner: Are you suggesting that He has stopped taking an interest in what's happening on Earth and has thereby gone on to other things?
Perkins: I think one of the true things is that God created man in His own image, and the human brain does not have an equal. God has endowed man with creative power that is almost godlike. I think that God would rather see man using his brain to go out there and work and create things rather than bowing down and kneeling down and kowtowing.
Gleaner: You don't think God is worthy of worship?
Perkins: I would not want to be worshipped. I don't want people coming and telling me that what a wonderful fellow I am. I find it tedious. It is not of real significance or importance. It is not a question of whether He (God) is worthy of worship. It is a question of whether that is what He wants. I think He is bigger than that.
Gleaner: Don't you think the use of the brain can be complementary to the bowing down and the worshipping?
Perkins: No. I don't think that God needs that. I don't think He wants it. I think if you were to ask Him, he would say it is a colossal waste of time. I think that if I feel the way that I do about me (that I don't want to be worshipped) and God is so much more superior to me, then how much more must He feel that way. He doesn't need you to tell Him how great He is. He knows. It would be more worshipful if you imitate Him, and try and do useful things rather than clap hands and kneel down and all them kind of things.
Gleaner: Do you believe in eternal punishment?
Perkins: I don't know that happens after people die.
Gleaner: Does it concern you that Hell might be a reality and that Heaven might be a reality?
Perkins: I am not into the realm of metaphysics. I am inclined to be, I hope, a rational person. I believe there are limitations in the power of knowing. I deal with what it is possible to know. What I cannot know, I leave alone.
Gleaner: Is there value in the study of theology.
Perkins: There is value, I suppose, in study of any kind. Concerning theology, I don't know. I haven't thought of that. I suppose so.
Gleaner: What do you think about Jesus?
Perkins: I think he was a great historical asset. I am not sure that I endorse the theology of Jesus.
Gleaner: Do you think He was a historical figure?
Perkins: Yes, I think he was.
Gleaner: Do you believe in the resurrection of Jesus?
Perkins: There you are getting into the realm of fancy.
Gleaner: There was no resurrection?
Perkins: I don't think so.
Gleaner: Do you think the Bible is God's guaranteed revelation of Himself?
Perkins: I don't think so. I think the Bible contains the writings of thoughtful men who tried to come to terms with their situations. I read the Bible the way one reads Shakespeare. I think the Authorised Version (King James Version) is one of the great works of the English language. Regarding it (the Bible) as the authoritative source of what God has to say, - I don't believe that.
Gleaner: Do you think there are shortcomings in the Bible?
Perkins: I don't look to identify shortcomings in the Bible. This is a literary work and I think much of it makes great reading. In fact, I have long wanted to do a programme in which there are readings from the Bible and hymns. I like church music.
Gleaner: Why haven't you pursued that programme idea?
Perkins: I don't know. I would do it, not for the religious value, but for the aesthetic value of it.
not a religious person
Mr Perkins does not regard himself as religious person by any ordinary definition of the word. He does not go to church regularly. In fact, such attendance tends to be confined to weddings and funerals.
Mr Perkins is also disappointed in general at the calibre of leadership churches today give to the nation, especially as such relate to getting justice for citizens.
Perkins: If the claims of the church are to be taken seriously, then one would expect the church to offer moral leadership to the society. I don't see that happening.
Gleaner: How do you expect this moral leadership to manifest itself?
Perkins: Look at what happened with Omar (Davies) and what he said he had done. Where is the voice of the church in this? This is corruption by any adequate definition of that word. Bishop Herro Blair is saying he will have dialogue with people who are corrupt,what would Herro Blair have said if he was by the temple and saw Jesus walking in with his whip? Would he say, "No, Saviour, that is not the way to go. You are doing a wrong thing, what you should do is have some dialogue."
To find that churchmen are willing to consort with people who are corrupt is disappointing. When the first nude wedding took place, the church got very riled up, churchmen came from the United States to say, 'This is a horrible thing that is happening'. When they kicked Michael Gayle to death, did you hear the church making a commotion about it? They are party to the corruption, or maybe they are cowardly - which is a form of corruption!
Gleaner: What comes to your mind when you hear Mr Perkins on radio?
Canon Gordon: What goes through my mind is: "What is Motty going to say?" What he is going to say is very intriguing for me, for right away I go back to college and think of him opposing a person, and Motty believes he is always right. He is never wrong.
Father Murray: I don't like him as a talk-show host, for, you see, people who call have different views. You, as host, even if you feel the person is talking nonsense, give persons their due time and say at the end, 'Well, I don't agree with you, but so and so.' I am disappointed in Motty because I know he has the ability to be a tremendous force in Jamaica to help mould the thinking of Jamaicans, especially young Jamaicans.
Both Canon Gordon and Father Murray believe that Mr Perkins was searching when he entered St Peter's and is still searching today.
Canon Gordon: Motty was searching, even today he is still searching. He is the kind of person who is always searching, never satisfied with what is there, always trying to go further.
Father Murray: He can't change again. The only way Motty could change is if he were to surrender to Jesus and become a converted man.
Today, Mr Perkins is not overly concerned with what a lot people say about him. "People have said all kinds of things about me. I don't really care. If the things said are true, then I have to deal with them. If they are not true then I can shrug them off. I am quite content with what I do, content in the sense that I think it is a worthwhile activity."