FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: 15 September 2016
Contact: Patricia Ebanks
Tel: (345) 938-2209
E-mail address: jointcommitteeCMS.CICSDA@gmail.com
Churches Unite in Signalling Commitment to Family Values
Following the mass rally of church and community members last Sunday (11 September), organizers thanked those who turned out and said their presence signalled that the church was not prepared to abandon the biblical values that have been, in their view, the “bedrock of these Islands.”
An important achievement of the rally, said Bishop Nicholas Sykes, immediate past chair of the Cayman Ministers’ Association (CMA) and a member of the initiative’s Joint Planning Committee, “is that for the first time the churches have united in taking a public stand and have “succeeded in starting a serious public conversation around the themes of law and values, how law can be corrupted, and from where values are derived.”
In line with that, in his remarks following the rally, Joint Planning Committee Chair, Pastor Shion O’Connor, said a significant achievement was the message that it sent to Government and the community that the church was committed to a position of biblical family values. It was encouraging, he said, to hear the Government’s stated position at the rally despite the concerns that had been raised by last month’s decision by the Immigration Appeals Tribunal.
Pastor Alson Ebanks, senior pastor of the Church of God Chapel, also identified the interplay between law and values in his presentation. The values espoused in our society, he said, determine “what laws our legislators make, how our courts interpret those laws, and how you and I determine what is right or wrong for us ethically and morally.”
And those values are the foundation of a strong society: “In a nutshell, we (the leaders and the people) determine how strong the overall structure of a nation is by how strong the foundation is—and values form that foundation. To strengthen these foundations, it will take us all working together.” He called upon all Christians to make “an all-out commitment to follow the Bible as the authoritative source of those values that contribute to the emotional, physical, spiritual and social well-being of individuals and nations.”
To set the stage for what is hoped to be a continuing public conversation about values and the law, three keynote speakers, Pastor Alson Ebanks, senior pastor of the Church of God Chapel, Walkers Road; Dr. Brendan Bain, public health specialist; and constitutional law specialist Mr. David Gibbs III presented to a capacity crowd at the Lions Centre. They focused on the broad topics of family values and the Christian ethic and the law. Making a brief presentation at the end of the rally along similar lines was Ms Philippa Davies, advocacy officer of the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society. The tone for the evening’s agenda was set by brief addresses by Pastor O’Connor as well as Pastor Torrance Bobb, who is the chair of the CMA and a member of the Joint Planning Committee.
Speaking following the rally on behalf of the Joint Planning Committee, Pastor O’Connor, President of the Cayman Islands Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, said: “I thank the thousands of Caymanians and residents of these islands who turned out in impressive numbers at the Lions Centre—and countless others who watched online—for their support and commitment to the cause of preserving biblical family values in the interest of our current and future generations.”
The unity of the churches in this initiative was symbolised throughout the evening by the various musical presentations. The opening praise and worship segment was led by the First Baptist Choir under the baton of Pastor David Jorge. That interdenominational tone continued throughout, with the Church of God Children’s Choir, spoken work and rap artistes Pauze Entertainment from the Baptist church, saxophonist Junior Hinds, the Adventist church’s Iserve youth group’s chorale, and junior and senior mass choirs composed of members from the various churches.
One highlight of the evening was Attorney Gibbs’ presentation in which he counselled the churches to set out a statement of faith clearly defining their position on biblical beliefs with respect to marriage, morality and human sexuality. He said that church and other leaders must hold themselves accountable to these standards.
Dr. Bain focused largely on positive parenting values, urging parents not to neglect their responsibilities to teach wholesome values to their children. He warned against promoting pleasure and fun of all kinds outside of the boundaries of a proper set of values.
The public health specialist warned, also, against the dangers of early sexual initiation and promiscuity, with their links to sexually transmitted diseases and certain cancers.
Meanwhile, in his presentation, Pastor Ebanks appealed to everyone to avoid a narrow view of the issues impacting the family and society:
“[This] very public agenda to re-define marriage, family and sexual morality [reflects] but one of the dangers facing the Caymanian family. Another very real danger is that our children are targets for the sex trade, pedophilia and child abuse. We must stand as one people and speak with one voice against all these attacks on the family. And we must do it now—because when it comes to our children, the future is now!” he said, referencing the slogan for the rally – “The future Is Now: Preserving Values for a Better Tomorrow.”
Pastor Alson Ebanks traced these threats to family and society to the Christian notion of the “fall” of man and the emergence of sin. He spoke of its impact on humanity, and stressed the Christian duty to extend love and compassion to everyone—all humanity— who all accordingly suffer from the ill-effects of the original sin.
“To model biblical family values,” Pastor Ebanks said, “means that we must show loving compassion to those who struggle in every area of their lives, including persons who are conflicted about their sexual identity and those who struggle to control their sexual desires and fail to live up to God’s moral standards.”
Pastor Ebanks continued: “Compassion does not condemn… but compassion provides practical solutions,” identifying some of the areas of need as “single parent families, abused spouses, neglected children, victims of sexual abuse and those in bondage to sexual sins.”
Shortly before the close of the rally, Ms Davies spoke briefly about initiatives of organizations such as hers in Jamaica in countering international efforts, including from US President Barak Obama and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, to undermine laws and policies protecting the family in that country. Ms Davies called upon the Cayman society to stand firm on God’s design for marriage, sex, and the family, and to align themselves with other regional agencies working to curb international influences.
She said that policies that are being changed in Jamaica due to incursions from international forces have included school’s sex education curriculum impacting values relating to sexuality.
Reflecting a concern to avoid similar occurrences here in Cayman, Pastor O’Connor said he was pleased about the public expression of commitment of both the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition to fight any international pressure to change Cayman Islands’ laws with respect to marriage. “We thank both leaders for their public stand and commitment to the values of the people of these islands,” he said.
In their guest presentations, Premier Alden McLaughlin and the Leader of the Opposition Mckeeva Bush both affirmed that, from the perspective of their political parties, marriage between a man and a woman would continue to be legally and constitutionally supported. The Premier said that he had been assured by Governor Helen Kilpatrick that the UK would not pressure for change.
The Premier nevertheless stressed an equal “obligation under the law and the constitution … to ensure that all people, but especially any minority group, regardless of differences, receive fair treatment and respect under the law and the constitution of our Islands.”
Commenting, Pastor O’Connor said that the community in general and the church in particular are fully committed to the Christian exhortation of “loving our neighbours as ourselves,” regardless of their religious, philosophical or identified sexual orientations.
“An important aspect of our rally was to communicate to all that we are all sinners and that Christ died that we should all have redemption,” Pastor O’Connor said.
Speaking following the rally, Pastor Bobb similarly underscored the importance of the guidance afforded by Christian teachings: “We are convinced that as we embrace the teachings of scripture as the final authority in matters of spirituality, morality and conduct, that we will individually and collectively have a better tomorrow.”