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AME pastor: Don’t use the Bible in that way

A leading pastor of the African Methodist Episcopal church has condemned the use of the Bible to justify discrimination.

Rev Nicholas Tweed, pastor of the St Paul AME Church on Court Street, told his congregation in a sermon on Sunday morning that it is unchristian to deny people their rights as human beings.

“The last time I checked, I don’t recall Jesus saying that some sin is better or more acceptable than other sin,” said Rev Tweed.

“I don’t recall Jesus saying it’s okay to lie but for heaven’s sake, don’t be lesbian.

“I don’t recall a text saying it’s okay to drink and be a whoremonger, just don’t be gay.”

One member of St Paul, who was present for the sermon, said Sunday represented a “watershed day in this historic pulpit”. The AME church has a legacy of social justice activism but has vocally opposed moves to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

It is now unclear where the church currently stands officially on the sexual orientation amendment, but the sermon does reveal substantial differences in opinion among senior clergy of the AME.

Rev Tweed’s views contradict a press release issued on Friday, which purported to represent the church’s official stance on Government’s proposed amendment which would prohibit sexual orientation discrimination.

But this newspaper now

understands that the press release, which clearly states that the church opposes the amendment, was unauthorised and did not in fact represent the position of the AME church.

Rev Tweed is the son of Kingsley Tweed, best known in Bermuda as one of the leaders of the 1959 theatre boycott which ended formal segregation in public places in Bermuda.

His sermon, which urged congregants to venture beyond their comfort zones, also contained some pointed criticisms of last Thursday’s national gathering for prayer.

That gathering heard Bishop Lloyd Duncan, of the New Testament Church of God, implore the Government “to exercise biblical caution, and spiritual restraint,” referring to its intention to prohibit sexual orientation discrimination saying it would be a “lethal mistake.”

Rev Tweed said: “We can see the irony of our discomfort. For example this past week, we saw celebrated a great gathering which declared to Bermuda that we were united in prayer. But the irony is that everybody wasn’t invited. I didn’t see no Muslims there, I didn’t see any Buddhists there or folks that may practice other religions that have an equal place in the social fabric of Bermuda

“In other words, it was a loose conglomerate of folk that at least in theory share the same point of view. And then the same folk that gathered together to declare the sins of their fragmentation and disunity were the same folk that used the opportunity designed to bring us together, to drive the nails and wedges of deeper fractures in our community by sending a message to say that we don’t believe that everybody ought to be included or protected by the Human Rights bill.

“The criteria for being protected is not really whether you are black, white, gay, straight, transgender, crossdresser; the criteria is if you are human, you ought to be protected and as folks that have been the victims of over 300 years of discrimination, it's a strange irony that we cannot get together even with the folks that was discriminating against us and talk about who shouldn’t be in.”

He said: “We as a church have to be forced beyond our comfort zone. Every once in a while you ought to sit in a different seat, you ought to sit with someone you don’t ordinarily sit with just so you can see things from a different perspective.

“Sometimes the reason we legitimise all of our prejudices and stereotypes is because we surround ourselves with the same narrow, closed folks and therefore we are unable to reach beyond our limits.

“That’s why we create communities made up of elite folks where even when we don’t say it, there is an unspoken declaration which lets some folk know you ain’t welcome in here.”

We contacted Presiding Elder Rev Betty Furbert-Woolridge but she declined to comment, saying official comment would come from Bishop Ingram who is off the Island.

The AME crafts its positions on social issues at a conference every four years.

Rev Nicholas Tweed, Pastor at St Paul AME Church, Hamilton has spoken out against the use of the Bible to justify discrimination.
An open letter to Bishop Lloyd Duncan

Dear Bishop Duncan, The Royal Gazette — as “a not so subtle reference to the Government’s intention to amend the Human Rights Act..”

I’m writing to you respectfully, to express my concern over remarks that I heard you make at the “National Gathering of Prayer” on Thursday, May 16, 2013. Those comments, paraphrased by

To be clear, I’m not questioning your right to express your views about anything. However, I question your use of the” National Gathering” to make your point. The invitation that the community received for May 16th, had a clearly published and packed agenda on Gang Violence, the Hurting Economy and Unemployment from a diverse coalition of churches which has slowly evolved.

That evolution arguably began after the 2008 murder at Elbow Beach when Bishop Lambe took much of the leadership in developing a response. Rev Nick Dill took up the mantle the next year, following the Harford murder. Fostering collaboration among the Denominations has been a long and arduous process, given the diverse perspectives.

My concern comes as one of the many who have been engaged in this process along with you. The evolution of the coalition is based on a social contract involving Spiritual Leaders and others in the community working together, fostering a synergy. Adherence to the published agenda speaks to promoting trust which is vital for the renewal of community.

In John Chapter 8 Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees with a woman who is accused of adultery and they point out that Moses required that a person in that situation should be stoned. Jesus suggested ‘He that is without sin among you, cast the first stone’. It was that spirit of inclusion that seems to be at the core of the National Gathering.

I’m sure that all the other speakers at the Gathering had additional issues that they feel passionate about, but they resisted the temptation, since they did not wish to ‘trespass’ on the published agenda. They were clued in on the matter of trust. That said, the Lord’s Prayer reminds us to ‘forgive those that trespass against us’. I’m fully aware that we all make errors from time to time, and I’m reminded to ‘judge not..’

In the spirit of forgiveness,

Glenn Fubler

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Published May 21, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated May 21, 2013 at 12:14 am)

AME pastor: Don’t use the Bible in that way

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