Tue | Dec 12, 2017

Tufton not so bright on Church

Published:Thursday | September 25, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Recently, Dr Christopher Tufton, co-executive director of a research unit, despite half-hearted disclaimers, spoiled his address to the Rotary Club of Portmore by propagating perceptions such as: "The Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC) is said to be a closer associate of the PNP than the JLP".

He gave the impression that the JCC, Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA), and The University of the West Indies (UWI) are associates of the People's National Party (PNP); and that the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) is an associate of the JLP. He suggested that some of these groups have lost credibility.

One expected that Tufton would offer evidence for repeating that the JCC is the "PNP at prayer". When last has anyone heard any statement from the JCC? In 1999, the JCC enunciated a policy shift through its then general secretary Norman Mills, who said: "The JCC took a decision that, instead of making frequent public statements on developments of public interest, it would, from time to time, seek opportunity for direct dialogue with the parties concerned" (Voicing Concern ix-x).

For the past 15 years, the JCC has gone largely silent. It appears that the JCC felt it needed to muzzle itself because of the harsh criticisms of being politically biased.

The JCC was established n 1941 with 10 denominations and is comprised mainly of traditional churches, known for the prophetic witness and concern for the whole person. Neville Callam, now general secretary of Baptist World Alliance, in Voicing Concern, analysed a selection of JCC statements from 1941-2003. The issues that received the most public statements were:

1) Governance (mainly electoral matters);

2) Crime and violence;

3) Gambling.

These matters are of national importance and Dr Tufton needs to show which ones were politically partisan.

If an atheist condemned a killing which the JCC also condemned, does it mean the atheist is supportive of the Church? Similar statements of two organisations are not a foundation on which to claim association between the institutions. In fact, the statement on the Jamaica Urban Transit Company by the umbrella group in part resembles what the JLP said!

Why did Dr Tufton smear the JTA as supportive of the PNP? Is it because a former JTA president, Michael Stewart ,has offered himself as a candidate for the PNP? However, another former president of the JTA, Ruel Reid, is a JLP senator. Additionally, Reid is principal of Jamaica College. Does it mean that JC is supportive of the JLP? It is better to realise that the JCC and JTA are independent organisations with members who are diverse in their support of political parties.

Furthermore, earlier this year, two JTA presidents issued caustic statements against Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites, with words such as 'mongrel' and 'cocaine' coming into play. And after a biting statement by Doran Dixon, Dixon was elected by approximately 10,000 members to become president. That alone should demonstrate that the JTA does not appear to be an associate of the PNP.

As to the issue of the credibility of the Church and teachers, Dr Tufton should consult a leadership and governance survey carried out by Lawrence Powell, Paul Bourne and Lloyd Waller which showed that only 7.4 per cent of respondents trust people in government. Six per cent of Jamaicans had a lot of confidence in political parties, 9 per cent in the judiciary, 7 per cent in the police, and 10 per cent in the private sector. These compared poorly with the more trusted institutions of society - families (58 per cent), schools (52 per cent), universities (50 per cent), and churches (47 per cent) (The Gleaner, July 22, 2012).

This is indicative of the high levels of credibility associated with churches and teachers, as perceived by our fellow Jamaicans. It appears that Dr Tufton nuh so bright on the Church.

Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.