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False gospel - Pastor scolds preachers of prosperity doctrine

BY KARYL WALKER Observer staff reporter walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, February 01, 2010    

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PASTORS who preach what is commonly known as prosperity gospel received a scolding yesterday from the Reverend Roderick Hewitt who accused them of imparting a false interpretation of God's word to their flock.

In a sermon to mark his Hope United Church's 50th anniversary celebrations, Rev Hewitt reminded his congregants that obedience to God is costly, demanding and involves submissive living, and urged church leaders to refrain from leading their flock astray by preaching that Christianity will bring economic well-being.

"Prosperity gospel is a false interpretation of the gospel," said Rev Hewitt. "To say that if you are faithful to God you are going to prosper is not correct. This is not teaching the gospel that follows the examples of Jesus."

Prosperity gospel has been a source of contention in Christianity for many years and some Christians have argued that it infiltrated the early church in the form of destructive greed sects.

Some theologians have pointed to Scripture, specifically the Apostle Paul's warning to Timothy to stay away from men of corrupt minds who argue that gain is godliness. They also point to Paul's advice to Timothy that "the love of money is the root of all evil; which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows".

Some American televangelists whose sermons, and sometimes controversial appeals for money, reach millions of people worldwide have also been accused of preaching prosperity gospel, as they often instil in their flock the importance of money.

One of the more prominent was the American pastor known as Reverend Ike, who preached the gospel of material prosperity.

Known for his flashy homes in New York and Hollywood, high-end motor cars, expensive jewellery, and a Liberace-style wardrobe that was said to have cost his flock US$1,000 a week, Rev Frederick J Eikerenkoetter II is reported to have used Jesus' advice to His disciples on the possibility of a rich man entering the kingdom of heaven to tell an audience: "If it's that difficult for a rich man to get into heaven, think how terrible it must be for a poor man to get in. He doesn't even have a bribe for the gatekeeper."

Yesterday, Rev Hewitt was also critical of pastors who preach populist messages to fill church pews.

"We are seeing persons who are trying to be popular by giving the people what they want," he said. "If we ever compromise numbers for faithfulness, then we are barking up the wrong tree."

The pastor also called on his congregation to usher in new members who might not fit the regular profile of a church-goer.

"There are boys who we administer to that might not dress or talk like you," he said. "Don't watch the hairstyle or dress; these are the very boys we need to reach. We must be more inclusive and widen the arc of love."

After the service, a tree-planting ceremony was held in the church yard. It was one of many activities planned for the 50th anniversary celebration of the Old Hope Road church.

A lap-a-thon, a trip to Bath (mineral) Fountain in St Thomas, an anniversary musical event, a jazz concert, sports day and the unveiling of a columbarium -- a place where the urns containing the cremated remains of church members are to be stored -- are some of the activities planned to celebrate the milestone.

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