Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The case of fallen pastors

ALMOST every year we have cases of pastors coming before the courts usually accused of sexual impropriety. In this article, I go behind the scenes to explain why this happens and ways in which the services of those who preach can be better regulated.

It should be pointed out at the outset that the vast majority of preachers, church workers and Christian leaders do their work selflessly according to biblical teachings and are not involved in any way in anti-social behaviour.
They work in their mission fields with great integrity, compassion and honesty. It is only a handful that come before the courts.

Global scene
The scandalous behaviour of pastors is not confined to Fiji but is a worldwide phenomenon.
I googled about pastors and their scandals globally and instantly got a list of Christian icons of morality being reported shoplifting for condoms, soliciting prostitutes in red light districts, molesting minors, masturbating in public, participating in bloody sexual assaults, cruising red light districts, exposing genitals to cleaning staff, seeking male sexual services from outlets and buying ridiculously high priced goods from church offerings.
One even sent fake soil from the tomb of Jesus to church members who gave generously. There is no dirt/soil around the tomb. One would not normally associate these activities with God-fearing leaders.
Many wayward pastors, who are clearly in the wrong, have a cult-like hold on their congregations and argue that those who criticise them are agents of the devil.

Fiji situation
In Fiji it is very easy to set up a prayer group operating from one's home, which in a short time can be transformed into a home church (with the leader calling himself "Reverend" or "Bishop").
There are no shortage of people ready to attend such gatherings.
I remember about nine years ago, I had walked into an evangelical church and after a very short time I was appointed a pastor.
I did not go through any training program apart from the occasional short workshop. I also attended a number of conferences and noted that almost all other evangelical pastors were untrained.
Most of us googled our sermons. Without proper training and clear guidelines, we were susceptible to the mistakes of operating in an atmosphere of uncertainty.
Model posing for this image is in no way connected with this article

Congregations
The congregation received most things I said without questioning it. I remember my daughter expressing reservations on first seeing me in a suit.
She thought I looked like a gangster. My son thought I looked like a faded rap musician who belted out fertile lyrics. But to the congregation I was all this and more.
I was someone who had walked on the road to Damascus and had been changed. I remember going to the supermarket or walking the street and meeting people, many of whom were women, who treated me with so much reverence that I began to have an inflated view of myself. One women I tapped good naturedly on the shoulder as we passed each other on the shopping aisle almost fainted. To her, it was like the touch of a saint.
Congregations should be encouraged to think critically and to see if actions by pastors are in line with biblical teachings.
Early this year, a youth (he had innocent eyes and looked cherubic) at a retreat I organised showed me a text message from a pastor telling him that he had booked a hotel room for them.
The pastor was dressed formally in a suit and had delicate features that reminded me of a cute zombie.
The youth told me that he had reported this particular pastor to his parents and church leaders. The point I am trying to make is that people should also use their common sense and resist actions they know to be wrong.
There is clearly something wrong if a pastor comes over and asks to explore someone's faculties.

Transparency needed
It is important that all churches in Fiji should operate within the organisational structures of major Christian denominational groupings.
They have to be transparent in their operations. There should be standards to regulate the training of pastors, financial accountability so that church teachings do not stray from the scripture.
I believe a number of wayward pastors are from small fringe churches although some are from mainline churches. Most preach about living Holy Spirit filled lives and find that they cannot live by the principles they preach.
Their sermons tend to be based on emotions and passions without clear moral thinking and accountability.
This is where the public should be discerning and resists sexual overtures or report incidents that are clearly wrong.
* Joseph Veramu is a policy analyst consultant and can be contacted on joseph.veramu@outlook.com or twitter @VeramuJoseph.

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