The Jamaica Council of Churches on Homosexuality thus far …….
JCC’s General Secretary Gary Harriot
Exactly one month ago May 28th after a previous interview alongside the Executive Director of Jamaica Forum for Lesbians Allsexuals and Gays, JFLAG Dane Lewis on George Davis Live on Nationwide where a clear position was not really established by the JCC a follow-up report came in print media suggesting the Jamaica Council of Churches, JCC had not put a formal position on homosexuality given the hotly debated issue with court challenges in full effect. General Secretary of the JCC Gary Harriot in that interview said the conversations need to continue as other Caribbean church leaders expressed the pressure that their societies are under to repeal laws supposedly against the “homosexual lifestyle.” Gen Sec Harriot seems unaware or a slip of the tongue that homosexuality is not illegal and buggery is not synonymous with gay men only.
The issue of church members being homosexuals came up for mention as well to which the Gen Sec said the council is yet to finalize an official position although they have a draft in place as a work in progress document, he said whichever church one may go one is bound to find someone struggling with homosexual tendencies or relationship matters not in keeping with the teachings of the church. Dane Lewis at the time spoke to the questions posed to him on the opposition from the anti gay groups. For the most part it was a slow interview and lacked a more robust feel to peak the public’s interest. Reverend Harriot spoke to the possible changes on the law following the court cases filed and that of those awaiting deliberations (tolerance advert). He said “I can express two basic points, there is a side of the church that sees homosexuality as a moral issue …… legalizing such action may not be the way to deal with it but to deal with it from a moral perspective, the other side of the coin when you look what is happening elsewhere it looks like a strategic political move and that if you were to remove the law then what you are doing is that you are opening a flood gate that you are going into directions where your whole social fabric would be changed”
He said also that there is some tension and that the JCC has not come to a formal position which they hope to do in a few weeks if they are able to arrive at a consensus.
As far as I am concerned they seem limp wristed overall, they are silent on most matters and other societal ills especially when the Peoples National Party, PNP are in power and have been accused of being politically aligned to the party hence their docility. This cautious treading is far different when compared to the other more radical evangelical bodies and voices. Fast forward to today on Love 101FM with host Theologian Reverend Clinton Chisholm, the interview had a different tone when compared to the Nationwide radio George Davis Live session as aforementioned, Reverend Harriot reiterated his point of the JCC not having an official statement yet on their position towards homosexuality but he mentioned what the members have put forward thus far:
Some members did not see homosexuality as natural or normal
For the pastoral side persons who are engaged in a homosexual lifestyle their humanity must be regarded
They must benefit from the pastoral care from the church to which he included reparative therapy as a solution to the “lifestyle”
Marriage must remain as is between a male and a female
They are unsure and do not have a consensus on whether the buggery law should be repealed; some are of the view it should be kept while others if the act takes place in private between two consenting adults in private then while not supporting the behaviour it should not be a matter for a person should be held for a criminal act.
Should buggery be treated as a legal matter or a moral issue?
He lamented the selectivity of the church on issues and tied into that is the ministry of healing that must take precedence
Policing sex laws he agreed with Reverend Chisholm is a challenge and examples such as adultery, incest and child abuse were offered. He mentioned psycho social skills in spotting a possible abuse victims but the problem of police actually having to intrude to see what suspects are doing is an issue.
The pseudo scientific component was brought in the exchange as proving some aspects of sex crimes including buggery would involve DNA evidence and the individual subjecting themselves to clinical examination.
Discussions with groups like JFLAG and the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition on the issues and also with major church leaders not JCC as a group but committees that one or all the groups are apart. The JCC sat with the group JFLAG during the high moments of the homeless MSM issue in New Kingston.
Homosexuality is not in the plan and design of God
The church must become proactive in teaching persons about sex and sexuality and the consequences of unhealthy practices he however highlighted that the buggery law does not only apply to same gender sex.
General Secretary Harriot spent a great deal emphasizing reparative therapy and counselling for persons supposedly damaged by homosexuality. He said persons are in the church struggling he tried to prove causation as from an abuse standpoint or persons were forced into the “lifestyle” and a struggle with the flesh. He also suggested psychotherapy but the pastor who is close to the issue should allow another professional to handle the case as a counselling officer in the church usually a preacher should not also preach to that client who may be in the congregation on any given service date. Conflicts of interest may occur as an illustration while behind pulpit may cause the client to withdraw.
Reverend Clinton Chisholm again proving his ignorance on sexuality committed another infraction this time towards asexual where he made the following comment “If you have never felt a strong pull for sexual intercourse, you are either abnormal, too old, too young or too lie.” Clearly both Reverend needs to be brought up to speed on Asexuality (persons who engage in emotional relations more so than sexual ones) or Demisexuals (persons who only develop sexual interest in someone after a protracted period where an emotional attachment has been formed) for Reverend Clinton to suggest such persons are abnormal is a misnomer as both forms are not considered a disorder by the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, DSM, the guide for all psychological professionals. The training of pastors in counselling was discussed at length and pin pointing sexual problems.
Reverend Harriot also said the church should also get the family of the reparative therapy client and they repeated refer to homosexuality as a lifestyle more so than an innate orientation. He however cautioned that pastors need to know their weakness and if they have strong feelings towards the issue then they should refrain possibly from direct handling of a particular client as it may impact the work.
The “Repentant” homosexual was also examined from an official office standpoint in any church as if they genuinely showed remorse or change then that individual should be restored to their previously held position however Reverend Chisholm expressed reservations as the general membership may not concur with such a decision.
Gay clergy was not officially addressed by the JCC’s draft paper but some churches suggest once persons express homosexual tendencies or desire a need for some redress then reparative work should be done. As long as also there is not an open expression of the lifestyle so in other words keep it to yourself and we may look the other way, without saying it in some many words. A disturbing line from the General Secretary had me stunned for a few second when he said: “As long as the person does not engage in sex and remains celibate then they could be considered for the position.” Strange to me as I thought aloud while listening the interview that in the absence of everyone how would the clergy or pastoral staff know or prove this officer is celibate are they going to monitor the officer’s movement so much? Denominations under the JCC established their own protocols under some guidance for now.
A rather roundabout and unclear set of positions in some sense from the JCC’s standpoint as the leading interfaith body. Even in the face of reparative or conversion therapy proving a failure or agencies that offer such closing case in point Ex-Gay Ministries in the United States there is still this belief that orientation can be changed without disastrous consequences. Just this week the UK and New Jersey have moved to ban conversion therapy and California had done so last year.
See what you make of this.
UPDATE July 8, 2013 New President says Government will bow to gays:
Buggery law: Government will bow
New church head expects pressure from int’l community, gays on Simpson Miller administration
Peace and tolerance