KINGSTON, Jamaica –Jamaica church leaders have failed to adequately counsel and interface with homosexuals in their congregations because they fear unpopularity could trigger a membership exodus, gays have claimed.
Marcus Bryan, a member of Sunshine Cathedral Jamaica, a church formed for homosexuals, charged that most clerics were wary of guilt by association and, therefore, refrained from seriously addressing the issue.
“There are ministers who offer one-on-one counselling and other support, but will have to be careful, as it will result in fallout in their congregations,” Bryan told The Gleaner.
He said ministers who were prepared to deal with the situation were only aiming to change their sexual orientation.
Bryan is a former Roman Catholic but left that denomination because of the church’s doctrinal opposition to homosexuality.
“I couldn’t stay at the church because all they do is pray for changes in me and I didn’t want to worship in a place where I have to leave my sexuality outside.
“I love my sexuality and it plays a significant part of my life,” he stated.
The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), the island’s main sex-minority lobby, said the organisation has been concerned about the treatment of homosexuals by local churches.
“Our clients have over the years expressed their discomfort with many religious institutions which have and continue to make worshipping in that church uncomfortable, as they preach hatred towards gays and lesbians from the pulpit,” said Jason McFarlane, J-FLAG’s programmes manager.
Fearful of being labelled
He also claimed that clergy who were compassionate towards the gay and lesbian community have often been prevented from offering support because they were fearful of being labelled as homosexuals.
Prominent church leaders from various denominational groupings have called the gays’ claims disingenuous.
The Rev Peter Garth of Hope Gospel Assembly has rebuked the gay community, saying that part of the resistance to sex minorities was based on their open promotion of homosexuality and active recruitment of children.
“These persons don’t keep this to themselves, they flaunt their behaviour and set to put their lifestyle to others,” said Garth. “Even when you send your children to school, they are at risk because these persons will try to address them.”
He also argues that homosexuality was not natural, saying, “There is no such thing as gay genes and nobody was born attracted to the same sex,” he claimed.
Bishop Delford Davis, head of Power of Faith Ministries, acknowledged that homosexuals faced the possibility of ostracism by fellow congregants. He urged understanding that the same levels of stigmatisation which dogged society existed in the Church.
“It takes a lot of courage to reveal to the public who you are, based on narrow-minded persons in society. It’s the same in the Church, there are mature and immature Christians, so they are not motivated,” stated Davis.
The bishop said the Church had a policy to refer homosexuals to counsellors to address issues.
Karl Johnson, president of Jamaica Council of Churches, said homosexuality was an emerging concern in the modern church which denominations would have to face head-on.
“No church representative can say they don’t have the issue, it was always part of society but has become more rampant in modern society,” Johnson told The Gleaner.
No one is perfect
“We try to diffuse any activities which will make the person feel less of a human being. Moreover, if this person shows changes, things will go back to normality, as no one is perfect,” said Johnson, who is also general secretary of the Jamaica Baptist Union.
The Rev Al Miller, pastor of Fellowship Tabernacle, said homosexuality was inconsistent with fundamentalist biblical values. He said his church was involved in restorative therapy to alter their sexual urges.
“We try to redeem persons and restore them by establishing a personal relationship with them and God so they can overcome soon,” he said.
“A number of homosexuals recover, as the power of redemptive work can break free any barrier. It’s a reality and though it’s contrary to the word of God, persons have to accept it and deal with it,” he said.