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Buggery splits Church! - Rift over anal sex law forces Council of Churches to call for special sitting

Published:Friday | July 28, 2017 | 12:00 AMRyon Jones

The 13-member Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC) will be holding a special sitting in the coming weeks to hopefully arrive at a uniformed position on the repeal or retention of the buggery law.

The special sitting was deemed necessary after The Sunday Gleaner brought to public attention a submission by head of the Anglican Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, Bishop Howard Gregory, to the parliamentary committee examining the Sexual Offences Act and related laws.

Gregory, in what he underscored was a personal position, recommended the removal of the offence of buggery from the law books, the widening of the definition of rape, and recognition of marital rape.

But it is Gregory's position that Section 61 of the Offences Against the Person Act of 1864 which criminalises the 'abominable' anal sex - consensual or otherwise - should be struck from the law books which has sparked a firestorm.


Deepening rift


Already the Jamaica Evangelical Alliance has withdrawn an invitation it issued to the Reverend Garnett Roper, president of the Jamaica Theological Seminary, from a breakfast meeting held last Thursday to discuss the organisation's upcoming conference in November, where he was scheduled to be a presenter.

The body has also indicated that it will be looking into asking Roper to disassociate himself from it as a chasm develops in the local Christian community.

The deepening rift is what has prompted the Council of Churches to act.

"We will be having a special sitting of the JCC and we are hoping that we can get most people together sometime in the coming weeks," the Reverend Dr Gordon Evans told The Sunday Gleaner.

"We really want to discuss the particular issue and sit together and share on it to see where we are together. We need to have the input of as many of our member denominations as possible, and as we share on it I am sure that we will be helping each other in terms of enlightenment, and we will see where we are and at that point we can share with the wider public how we view it," added Evans.

He said Gregory's contribution will play a critical part in the discussions, and noted that while the denominations making up the JCC are united in Christ they have different views on different issues.

According to Evans, he would have preferred if Gregory had engaged in discussions with the council before making his personal views on the buggery law public.

"It would have been good for the rest of us if we had been given the privilege to share the thought, and perhaps we would have learnt something that we need to learn. But then, we can't deny him the right to do that (speak on the buggery law) because he is the head of a particular denomination."


Buggery concerns


Evans, who conceded that the controversy surrounding Gregory's submission was unfortunately timed, with the organisation having kicked off its 76th anniversary celebrations last Sunday, wants some concerns addressed before taking a personal position on the repeal or retention of the buggery law.

"On that particular issue (the buggery law) I am not at the point of comfort. And my comfort is being satisfied that we are doing right to God and right to our fellow human beings," said Evans.

"There are some questions that need to be answered. The first question is, what happens after the repeal of the buggery law? What will it lead to? It is not enough to say just take it off the books and it will finish there. We would be making a serious assumption because that is not how it has been unfolding in different parts of the world," added Evans.