With criticisms leveled at the Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) in recent times that it is not as effective as it should be and that the Council is just “lip service”, former council vice president Reverend Dr. J. Emmette Weir is calling for unity among denominations. He said unity leads to a certain amount of strength.
“In the trade union movement, it is said that in unity is strength – the same can be said of the church,” said Weir.
“If it [BCC] is to continue to be a dynamic spiritual force in our nation, then those who lead should speak with one voice, or at least be perceived to be on the same page. If it is perceived by the powers that be that only a few of the major groups are represented by the Council, then, those in authority will give lip loyalty to the church, while continuing to govern without taking seriously its statements, and this is a matter of grave concern.”
While Weir said he has found the criticisms “disturbing” – he admitted he believes the Council and the church is not as effective as it should be.
“To be truthful, I don’t feel it is.”
Weir said the BCC was set up as the moral authority of the country and as such should speak to the issues, as well as constantly seek to provide moral guidance for the community.
“It is not enough for the Council to be vocal when a particular issue – gambling or numbers arises – and then to go silent until the next burning issue arises. Rather, it is essential for the church to be providing guidance constantly and consistently on all issues in society.”
Weir also encouraged the use of mass media communication in this digital era as well as all other means of communication to reach as many people as possible.
The director of The Bethany Bible & Training Institute said he believes what he said is most important as the Christian body is at a “crossroads”.
He said the BCC which has a glorious past can overcome its present challenges and continue to be a dynamic force for the shaping of Bahamian society if it moves forward with unity and confidence, proclaiming, in word and deed, the transforming power of the gospel of Christ.
“The many members of the church must speak and work together, in accord with the prayer of Christ.”
The BCC was established during the 1930s with most notably at the forefront, Rev. William Makepeace, a Methodist missionary, Rev. T. Almadge Sands, Rev. Dr. H.W. Brown of the Baptist church, Rev. J. Herbert Poole of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk and others of that era.
According to Weir, the BCC’s most active and effective period was the decade leading up to Bahamian independence and years following it. He said the council played an active role in promoting the concept of independence for The Bahamas.
“It was precisely for this reason that the concept of Christian nation building remains enshrined in the preamble to our constitution,” he said.
The Methodist minister said what made the Council effective at that crucial juncture in the development of an independent nation was unity.
There are five major groups comprising the vast majority of Christians within the Bahamian church today: main line Protestant denominations – Baptists, Methodists, Church of God, Salvation Army, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Brethren; The Anglican diocese of the Bahamas Turks and Caicos islands; the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of the Bahamas Turks and Caicos islands; the Evangelical-Pentecostal denominations; and the Bahamas Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist. Weir said in order to be most effective the BCC needs the participation of all parts of the local Christian body which he said is what transpired when the Council was most effective during the pre-and post-independence period.
He recalled on the eve of independence, on July 9, 1973, then president Rev. Dr. Reuben Cooper delivered a powerful sermon, “To save a nation based on the text, ye are a chosen people” – and that all the country’s spiritual and administrative leaders – Rev. Dr. Edwin Taylor, a Methodist; Catholic Bishop Paul Leonard Hagarty; Rev. Joseph Perna and Bishop Michael Eldon of the Anglican Communion were present and participated in the service marking the beginning of The Bahamas as a sovereign state in charge of its own destiny under God.
During the decade following independence, Weir said the church continued to be a dynamic and influential body.
“That was an era of tremendous influence of the church upon the Bahamian community.”
During the decade after independence, Weir said ecclesiastical leadership gravitated from the main line protestant groups to the Anglican and Catholic communions. Amongst the clergy most active and vocal was the rector of St. Agnes parish, the late Archdeacon William Thompson who gained the respect and affection of Bahamians in all walks of life. He described him as a fierce Bahamian nationalist, who loved his native land and its people.
Weir also recalled himself and Bishop Simeon Hall calling for a Bahamian national youth service. It was an idea to which many had reservations and dared not express their positions, but he said outspoken Catholic Archbishop Lawrence Burke criticized the idea and others supported him. He said he still believes there is reason to establish a national youth service.
“In the years that followed, there was a gradual decline in the influence of the church. The ecumenical movement lost much of its steam. The Council has since operated much like a volcano, erupting occasionally when a special issue such as gambling arises, then going into a long slumber, exerting little influence upon the Bahamian community.”
As the BCC looks to the future, Weir said unity is the answer to the Council continuing to be a dynamic force in a nation that claims to be a Christian country. He said achieving unity should be a priority for the Bahamian church and the BCC.
Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.
Education: Saint Augustine’s College, BA in Mass Communication