Exercise vigilance when seeking the word of God, says St James custosThursday, October 21, 2021
BY ROCHELLE CLAYTON
MONTEGO BAY, St James - In the wake of Sunday's bloody stand-off between members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and a religious group in Albion, St James, which left three people dead and many others traumatised, custos of St James Bishop Conrad Pitkin is urging churchgoers to exercise vigilance when seeking the word of God.
“Learn how to read the signs and know how to separate the Christian churches from cults, or cultish behaviour and organisations—they're not the same —though people mix them and sometimes they start here [as a Christian organisation], and then deviate somewhere else,” Bishop Pitkin told the Jamaica Observer West at the Faith Temple Assemblies of God on Tuesday, where he is a senior pastor.
He also pointed out that there are always telltale signs and indications of cult-like behaviours that people should look out for, as the leaders of these organisations cannot resist making themselves into “some sort of figure of worship”.
“There are always signs that you can see. If the [leader] speaks about prophetic words, you look in the scripture to see what was said, does it tie in with the scriptures? Are they inviting worship to themselves or to God? Is there humility in the [individual] as opposed to pomp and pride? Are they making themselves into some sort of figure of worship?” the church leader questioned.
“These are things that you look for when you're looking for a cult. A cult has to do with a leader who is either popular or influential and, oftentimes, it's a charismatic [individual] who ends up being the leader of a cult because he or she is able to influence others along a certain direction, and people just follow without thinking for themselves. Look out for the signs and know where to draw the line,” he stressed.
Sunday night's chaotic end to what was said to be a three-day convention at the Pathways International Kingdom Restoration Ministries, where some 42 congregants were arrested after police forced their way onto the premises following a report of human sacrifice rituals being carried out, was no surprised, said Bishop Pitkin.
“I can't say that I was shocked. But yes, I had a sense of deep concern. When I say I wasn't shocked it's because from time to time you hear and you know these things. You know it's going to happen, though you wouldn't want it to happen anywhere near to you or in your parish. And, as custos, I wouldn't want it to have happened in my parish and, as a pastor, it is my deep concern and I'm saddened because people have lost their lives, and I express my condolences to the families,” he told the Observer West.
When asked if his lack of surprise was a result of his knowledge of the happenings of the religious group, Bishop Pitkin said, “No.”
“No, I didn't. I had no inclination, I knew nothing about it. For me, I am a student of the Bible, so I try to understand scriptures and I like to look at the signs of the time and prophecy tells you that in the latter days, the last days, things are going to happen such as the rise of false teachers, the rise of persons pretending to be Christ. And so, based on scriptures, you know they will happen, you just don't want it to be fulfilled in your geographical area,” Bishop Pitkin argued.
Outrageous requests by religious leaders, like the ones made by the leader of the Pathway International Kingdom Ministries, should be rejected, Bishop Pitkin urged.
“Why should I leave my phone at home? That would be my first question. What's the purpose of me leaving my phone at home? Why should I wrap my phone in foil paper? What's the significance of that?” the bishop questioned.
“It comes back to the prophetic words and the declaration. Are they in line with the scripture? If they're not, then they should be rejected,” he added.
Understandably, the senior pastor said, Sunday night's incident has cast a shadow of doubt over the Christian Church.
“It is without question that it has cast a shadow over the Church, anything like this that happened within the Christian religion, the Christian Church, will certainly cast a shadow over the Church. People will have questions and become doubtful. They will be apprehensive. And to say the least, some will be afraid,” he said.
But, he told Observer West, “These leaders are not of God.”
“When these things happen, they are not of God. It is man's deviation from scripture, man's deviation from moral standing, and many times, most times, it's because of pride. Proverbs says, 'Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall,” the bishop noted.
Thirty-one women, who were taken into custody following the incident on Sunday, were charged with breaches of the Disaster Risk Management Act and given bail, while 14 children, who were at the church, are being held in State custody.
Eight male members and the head of Pathway International Kingdom Restoration Ministries, Dr Kevin Otoniel Smith, remained in police custody yesterday.