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Church must engage with IMF — Rev Dr Marjorie Lewis

BY BASIL WALTERS Observer writer waltersb@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, December 31, 2012    

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A leading church woman is suggesting that the Jamaican church should spend some time studying the policies of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as part of a greater engagement with the society.

"Do we as a church people know about these things (IMF negotiations)? Can we be part of the conversation of structural problems? This situation demands that the church goes a little deeper," said Rev Dr Marjorie Lewis, former moderator of the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands (UCJCI).

"We need to begin to reflect as Christians what are we going to do with structural injustices," charged Lewis, a pioneer among United Church women ministers.

Lewis gained national attention many years ago when, as a comely and articulate young woman, she was one of the first to be ordained a minister in the then United Church in Jamaica — a fusion of the Disciples of Christ and the Presbyterians — at a time when the Jamaican church was trumpeting liberating political thought.

Speaking on "The way forward in an enlightened church", Lewis told a recent banquet of the Spanish Town Seventh-day Adventist Church at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel, St Andrew: "The church needs to expand its horizon to get involved with the structure of society...We need to examine how the church exercises its mission. We need to expand the horizon of what we do at church. I would like to see the church more involved with the structure of society...

"We have to be part of the discussion (for structural changes) and we need to look again at what we need to be a pastor. There was a time when all we needed was faith. We need to do some house-cleaning in the way we train our ministers. For some denominations, part of the assessment is a psychological test."

Touching what she described as PMS, or power money and sex issues in the church, Rev Dr Lewis declared: "The really serious PMS problem we need to be responding to is in the church. And we cannot place people in authority who would do more harm than good. We need to train pastors.

"I want to suggest as church, that all our ministers receive the very best training and ministers, and their family must get support. We have to go beyond the normal things that church has been doing. The schools and disaster funding yes. But if the church is to be a place of hope it has to encourage critical thinking."

She recalled participating in a religious symposium attended by controversial Rastafarian Mutabaruka: "Muta was saying he has doubts and there was nobody to engage him with his questions and doubts. It is a sign of healthy religion when there is place for questions and doubts. Somebody needs to be able to help those with doubts and remember that Jesus wrestled with the religious leaders of the day, the scriptures of the day, The Sabbath, what God called him to do. Nothing is wrong with wrestling. It's a sign of healthy faith.

"If we are training Christians to be uncritical, we may set the stage for a dangerous path. In bringing hope we need to create the kind of space that allows for critical thinking.

"...A lot of young people go into alternative religious expressions, hooking up with various groups on the Internet, some of them related to our pop artistes and musicians. So where then is my hope, I feel, is the question a lot of young people are asking."

But Dr Lewis encouraged Jamaicans not to lose hope. "For those who feel a suh di ting set, is just a survival business, there is hope. For this is the season of hope. The birth of Jesus and its significance. What we are dealing with is neither slavery nor the cross, just a little recession. We are a people of hope."

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