BY DESMOND ALLEN Executive editor -- special assignment firstname.lastname@example.org
The umbrella Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC) has slapped down gay unions, saying marriage must be between a man and woman.
In formally adopting a long-awaited position paper on homosexuality, that has caused heated debate in church flocks, the JCC said it embraced the view that "God's perfect design, as expressed in Scripture, is for sexual intimacy to take place between one man and one woman within the context of the sanctity of marriage.
"The JCC will therefore advocate for the institution of marriage to be reserved for one man and one woman," the council said in the position paper that is bound to be seen as a setback for homosexuals hoping to tie the knot at home instead of going overseas.
At the same time, the JCC — which represents most of the established churches here — used compassionate language in urging Christians to recognise that while homosexuality might be a conscious choice that some persons have made, "for others within and outside of the church, their homosexuality represents an unwelcome struggle between their experience and their faith, the 'flesh and the Spirit', it is the basis of chronic guilt and depression; disappointment and unanswered questions within many families".
It said: "Fear of ridicule and isolation often causes them to suffer in silence. In view of this, the council appeals to members of the church, clergy and laity, to make church a welcoming and non-judgemental space; one that is sensitive to those who are dealing with issues of brokenness in their lives, which include homosexuality."
The position paper has been some time in the making as some denominations were uncomfortable with the original draft. The last attempt at adopting the paper came on June 19, 2013 when some members sent it back for further tweaking.
In an interview with the Jamaica Observer in July, new JCC President Rev Everald Galbraith promised the paper would be ready by September 2013. It was released at the end of September by JCC General Secretary Gary Hariott.
The paper acknowledged the differences, saying that "differing interpretations of Scripture have led to varying theological positions articulated by different parts of the Body of Christ — the Church".
The position also appeared to be much softer on homosexuals than previously, noting: "While the council affirms the prophetic role of the church, it also affirms its pastoral role and so appeals to the church, as well as the wider religious community, not to speak or act in ways that could ostracise, incite violence or any other treatment of indignity towards persons who are homosexuals, as they too are bearers of the 'image of God' and for whom Christ died. The church must also be ready to support families who have to cope with the implications of homosexuality within...
"The council further affirms that all of humanity shares in a common human brokenness (Romans 8:22) and therefore deserves to receive the love and pastoral care of the Church that is modelled off the love, compassion and grace that Jesus Christ demonstrated in His earthly ministry."
Giving the background to its formal position, the JCC acknowledged that the homosexuality debate had taken on religious, psychological, geo-political, economic and cultural significance, globally and locally.
"Within the Jamaican context, debates on the political front, with the promise to review the 'Buggery Law', and more recently, constitutional challenges in the courts, have heightened the dialogue. The so-called 'Homosexuality Agenda' and economic pressure from bilateral and multilateral partners have contributed to the anxiety being experienced by many.
"As a historical moral voice within the Jamaican society, the Jamaica Council of Churches brings its perspective to this debate, recognising the complexity of the matter and the need for divine wisdom in providing a possible direction to the Church, and indeed, to the wider society."
A Socio-Political Appeal
But the council said that those with a homosexual political agenda were placing much pressure on societies like Jamaica to change their cultural norms, values and mores.
"As a politically independent and sovereign state, we must resist such imposition and allow for our own people to determine what is in the best interest of Jamaica," the JCC said.
It added that as a non-negotiable, the JCC strongly believed that the practice of homosexuality must never be promoted as a normal and natural way of life and on par with heterosexual lifestyle; and that every effort must be made to protect children from being lured or forced into sexual activities, whether homosexual or heterosexual.
"The right to disagree with the homosexual lifestyle must be preserved, while treating individuals who are homosexuals with respect," the council said.