The underground church in Jamaica

The Rev. Irene Monroe writes in Bay Windows about the measures Jamaican gay and lesbian Christians must take to be sure that they can worship in safety.

Sometime in the late hours of Saturday night the call will come in. Philbert (not his real name,) like many of his Christian lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) buddies, waits anxiously for the call in order to know the time and place of the van pickup, and where it’ll drop them off to a safe and secluded place for Sunday worship. Last week’s worship service was in Montego Bay, just 50 miles from Negril’s Grand Lido, one of the flagship resorts in Jamaica, where Philbert works the night shift at the bar. This week Philbert hopes for a closer worshipping space, perhaps a safe space in Gales Valley, just 40 miles from work.

Every Sunday Philbert and his friends have to worship in a different space. The risk is too high if it’s discovered that they’re queer….

In 2007 a pastor’s church was attacked by an angry mob on Easter Sunday because of the presence of people accused of being homosexuals were at a funeral service he performed earlier in the week.

And in November 2008, Rev. Richard Johnson, one of the leading Anglican priests on the island, was found nude and stabbed 25 times, in the rectory of St. Jude’s Anglican Church in Kingston, because he was thought to be gay.

Homophobia is so intense in Jamaica and so consistently goes unchallenged that people who speculate about who’s LGBTQ can easily plot to kill them, and unabashedly announce their intent with impunity, because the police won’t protect Jamaica’s LGBTQ citizens from mob led murders and violence; they instead incite the country’s homophobic frenzy by either being present and inactive during these assaults, or by following and watching them all the time.

In 2010, nothing has changed. When the van arrives on Sunday morning before the island has risen, Philbert and friends stealthily pack into it and off they go.

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Category : The Lead

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  1. Jeffrey L. Shy, M.D.

    One cannot help but be humbled by the faith of individuals like Philbert and his fellows in Jamaica.

    To know that there is such persecution without condemnation from the Anglican church authorities renders their “moral” authority null and void, yet it is those voices of hate that we are asked to treat with “gracious restraint.” To Hell, I say, with gracious restraint and the whitewashed sepulchers to whom we are asked to defer. No I do NOT respect a culture that fosters intolerance, violence and hatred. It is not racism, it is good, old-fashioned Christian conviction that not everything is culturally relativistic. I am intolerant only of intolerance.

    I am not sure what I and TEC can personally do to help these poor souls suffering in Jamaica and places like it, but we can at least be the “city on the hill” as a witness for them and the rest of the world. Would that ++Rowan Cantuar and +Gomez, archbishop of the West Indies were as quick to react to the true abominations of murder and cruelty that are daily experiences for our persecuted brethren, the “least of these” as they are to threaten us with “consequences” for electing holy men and women to the episcopacy, regardless of the views of so many bigots in the church.

    +Gomez said in May 2009 that “The Episcopal Church has its own agenda, and that agenda does not have much accommodation with the rest of the communion.” I have to agree. Justice, compassion, mercy – “our agenda” – seem to be singularly lacking in many of our global Anglican brothers and sisters.

  2. Gregory

    “We see little difference between watching a man being put to death and killing him,” said Athenagoras of Athens (133-190), a Greek philosopher who converted to Christianity.

    How can anyone in his/her right mind imagine that he/she is right with God and doing his will when he/she inflicts hate, violence, harm and death on fellow human beings, made in his image and likeness?

    There’s no two ways about it. Those who are so deluded and act on such inner demons have parted company with Christ Jesus, trampled his gospel underfoot and set themselves against God.

    Lord, have mercy. Lead us from falsehood to truth, from darkness to light, from hate to love, from violence to peace, God of unsurpassed mercy.

    Gregory Orloff

  3. tgflux

    What we doing about this?

    For CHRIST’S sake, WHAT are we doing about this? What WILL we do about this?!

    How can WE celebrate Easter in a couple of weeks, and NOT have done something?!

    Almighty God, have mercy!

    Christ, bring justice!

    Holy Spirit, FIRE UP YOUR Sleeping CHURCH! Maranatha!

    JC Fisher

  4. Gregory – it is unclear who you see as deluded.

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