'Not pleasing to man, God, or even the devil!'
Church leaders express outrage over bizarre ritual at St James religious organisationThursday, October 21, 2021
BY BRITTNY HUTCHINSON
A number of church leaders yesterday denounced the gruesome acts committed at Pathways International Kingdom Restoration Ministries in St James on Sunday and urged Jamaicans to be mindful of demonic strongholds and put their faith in God.
“It is outrageous, disgraceful, disgusting. It is neither pleasing to man, to God, not even to the devil himself. It is unbelievable, but the reality is there. Normally, you find that even within the religious, faith-based movement, people are extreme and, while it may not happen very often, you will find that now and then experiences like these come to the fore. The whole thing is revolting, distasteful, heart-rending to think of or to see,” Nathan Jackson, pastor at the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Spanish Town, told the Jamaica Observer
“It is sad. People need to be more aware. When it comes to salvation and your faith, you cannot just base it on individuals. You have to be able to have entrenchment in God's word and how He maps out the path in order for you to be in harmony with him. You can't blindly follow people who are leaders, you have to know personally what you believe, why you believe, and what you look forward to receiving from your commitment to Christ,” said Jackson.
The throats of two members of the religious organisation were cut during the ritual and a third person was killed in a confrontation with the police, who said they were fired upon as they approached the premises.
Forty-two members of the congregation — 31 women and 11 men — as well as 14 children were taken into custody. The children were placed in State care, while the women and seven of the men were charged with breaches of the Disaster Risk Management Act and granted bail. Four of the men, including the organisation's pastor, Kevin Smith, remain in custody. The other two were released.
Jackson further argued that the gruesome incident is a poor reflection of our morals, values and, to some extent, our belief system.
“It is really appalling to see how we have denigrated ourselves and our nation to this kind of level. But people have to go back to the word, know what God expects from us and what He has for us, rather than following men or people. But I am glad the police intervened when they did,” he said.
Another clergyman, Merrick “Al” Miller, shunned the cultish behaviour, noting that it goes against the fundamentals of the Christian faith.
“Cultist behaviour does happen, and we see it all the time, and there are signs and indicators of where this is present, and maybe what we need to be doing much more, as Christian leaders, is to teach society more about what to look out for and what could happen. It is a very sad, disappointing, and grieving, certainly to my own heart. But we have to learn from it and do better,” he said.
Miller, the head of Fellowship Tabernacle, pointed out that cultism is not only practised in the Church, but also in other organisations.
“Control leadership, manipulation, and not allowing freedom of choice and so on, are dangerous signs, whether it is church leadership, political leadership… so that's why some of us are so strong on the issue of freedom and liberties because those who try manipulate people do not allow them to make choices, especially personal choices concerning their lives. These are signals of problems,” he said.
Also weighing in on the matter, the Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC) said in a release that it condemns killings and defends true Christianity.
“The JCC is outraged at the loss of life and injury connected with the recently reported religious tragedy in Montego Bay, St James. The council offers comfort to those who mourn the loss of loved ones and associates and prays for the recovery of those who have suffered injuries,” the JCC said, noting that it commends the security forces for their alert and expeditious intervention.
“We denounce and condemn all forms of religious practices which exploit and endanger persons and expose them to harm or distress, as this is wholly inimical to the gospel of love whose progenitor and exemplar is Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace,” the JCC said.
It called on Jamaicans to exercise critical discernment in all spheres of life, especially in spiritual and religious endeavours, and encouraged Christians to continue demonstrating the value of faith in God in their daily lives as they bear witness to God's goodness, grace, and transforming power.