Calls for background checks for fly-by-night pastors
Certification proposed to make known unofficial preachers
While preaching is often described as a higher calling and not a profession, there are calls for pastors to be trained, certified and background checks carried out where necessary to guard against the damage which moral failings could have on the reputation of the clergy and the wider Church.
“As pastors, we have a responsibility to be [prime examples] of morality, and when we fail, society loses its compass,” said Pastor Charles Brevitt, who leads the congregation at the King’s Seventh-day Adventist Church in Mount Salem, St James.
Brevitt was speaking to The Gleaner in the wake of a recent spate of incidents in which so-called pastors have been implicated in immoral activities, including sexually assaulting children.
He believes the Church has fallen prey to persons who are calling themselves pastors, but, in reality, are no more than lay preachers.
“Pastors should be properly certified because I hear them calling people ‘pastors’ who are just lay leaders in the church who perform a pastoral role and do it long enough, but they are not officially pastors,” said Brevitt.
While most of the traditional churches have clearly defined structures, where pastors are trained and assigned to churches, the emergence of numerous small evangelical-style churches has somewhat changed the dynamics, some surfacing with very little known about their history and doctrine.
“What we now have are situations where a man will get up and declared that he has gotten a call from wherever and just builds a church in his yard and start ministering,” a deacon of a Montego Bay church told The Gleaner. “What is lacking is that some of these persons are scamps who are more about profit than being prophetic, their actions are making the church look bad.”
Pastor Phillip Scott, who showed up in Hanover a few years ago and started a small community church, recently pleaded guilty to having sex with an underage member of his congregation and is to be sentenced next month. He was accused of molesting seven other girls in Hanover and also has a sex-related case against him pending in St James.
With a St James pastor now in custody after he was accused by a 15-year-old girl of raping her on the church compound, the no-nonsense Brevitt, while not prematurely passing judgement on the accused, said people in certain positions are expected to exhibit acceptable moral standards.
“Any concerned person will become very concerned about that kind of development in our society,” said Brevitt. “It is reasonable to presume, for example, that police officers, pastors and lawyers are above reproach, especially when that reproach is in their area of speciality.”
Brevitt believes persons who just show up, declaring themselves as pastors, should be properly investigated, and also wants the vulnerable, including children, to be taught how to protect themselves from potential predators.