Suspicion of the church likely to rise following convictions, says Christian Council
The level of suspicion towards the church was likely raised “several notches” as a result of the criminal convictions against two pastors, the Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) acknowledged yesterday.
However, the religious group said Bahamians should not paint all pastors with a broad brush.
Earlier this week, Bishop Earl Randolph Fraser, the head of Pilgrim Baptist Temple, was convicted of having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl he was counselling. Fraser was sentenced to three years. A week prior to his incarceration, Albert Alexander Whyley, an elder at the Freeport Voice of Deliverance Church, was sentenced to life in prison for raping a nine-year-old girl.
“We want to say unequivocally that the vast majority of our men and women – if we say at least 10,000 to 12,000 pastors – are doing their utmost and will learn from this experience,” said Bishop Simeon Hall during a BCC press conference at Cousin McPhee AME Church. “We wouldn’t want the preaching fraternity to be dismissed because of the behavior of two persons. This could open the door for suspicion.
You make a choice with the pastor you follow. We as pastors must avoid where the personality of the man is deified. We are men and women of clay feet and we ought not be worshipped. We must point people to Jesus Christ and away from ourselves.”
BCC President Dr. Ranford Patterson offered sympathy to the victims and their families.
“We want them not to lose hope and faith in us,” Patterson said. “The chuch is here for all of us. We are asking the families and people in general that they ought not to lose faith in us. I’ve always said in most statements I’ve made there are more good than there are bad,” he pointed out.
“We have to be the church at all times. We have to speak out against what we don’t believe is right,” he added.
Bishop Hall said the convictions against the two pastors give all religious leaders the opportunity to do a moral inventory of their lives.
“It’s not so much an attack but a moral failure. Because I wear a collar does not diminish the fact that I am human, I am a man. This is a time for the church to do an inventory so that we can best serve our community,” Hall said.
Adding his take on the matter, Rev. Phillip McPhee said pastors across the country share the pain of the victims.
“We are hurting every time we go to our own personal home. Our children feel because they are pastors’ kids. The affect is on our colleagues’ children as well as the child molested. We feel it. [This isn’t] a one-way street. This thing has invaded our privacy; it has invaded our church, or personal families. It has a psychological affect on all of our lives.”
Dr. Patterson said pastors should not expose themselves to anything that will come back to haunt them.
McPhee added that during counselling sessions with females, pastors or any male in a position of trust should call in his wife or a responsible female to join the session.
“That’s a key ingredient,” he said, adding that not only should the pastor protect himself, but he should also protect the person receiving counseling.
“It is unwise to counsel by themselves,” he added.