Jamaica’s population of women outnumbers men. As a result, women have become key leaders in three different Christian denominations in Jamaica: the Methodist Church, the Moravian Church, and the Jamaica Baptist Union.
Despite the growth in female leadership, some remain opposed, but others celebrated this progress. In an article by Jamaica Gleaner titled Women Take Lead – Females To Head Three Of Jamaica’s Larger Christian Denominations, Reverend Dr. Stevenson Samuels explains how the elevation of women to leadership roles demonstrates an unprecedented move within the Jamaican Christian community.
“I think it speaks volumes for women and also speaks a lot for the Christian community, which has put forward these women to provide leadership. I must acknowledge this bold and big move by the Christian community which is unlike many institutions in Jamaica,” said Samuels.
Karen Kirlew, who serves as the pastor for St. Ann Bay’s Circuit of Baptist Churches, became the first female Jamaica Baptist Union president on February 25th during the 168th general assembly. She is also the first clergy woman to serve as the Union’s vice president.
Several different groups responded to the original Jamaica Gleaner article. Women’s Empowerment for Change (WE-Change) believes woman pastors can help address key societal issues, such as sexual abuse.
“As the church leadership starts to become more diverse, WE are hopeful that issues that primarily affect women, such as sexual violence, domestic and other forms of gender-based violence, are taken up by said leadership and initiatives developed within churches to end these practices,” said WE-Change.
After objections of her new title, Gooden-Benguche told the Jamaica Gleaner that she believes her country suffers from a culture of impatience and wants to implement programs that can help shift the people’s impatient mindset.
“What has happened is that we have given our children far more freedom, and the idea is that because we (parents) have gone through challenges.There is no way we are going to allow our child to go through hardship,” she said. “What has happened, however, is that there is a lack of appreciation for the hard work.”
In 2017, The Moravian Church appointed Reverend Phyllis Smith-Seymour after Reverend Dr. Paul Gardner and Reverend Jermaine Gibson resigned from their positions after being accused of sexual assault. As a result, Smith-Seymour took a leadership position during a tumultuous time and knows she must correct the mistakes her predecessors made.
“At this time, we of the Moravian Church must assert our ongoing and unequivocal support for the rights of all people, and especially so of our children, to live free of abuse, and the threat thereof,” said Smith-Seymour.
These women have helped bring change to Jamaica through their leadership roles in their religious institutions. Some may oppose their leadership due to traditional standards, but these women have carried out their duties well and are helping empower women in the church and the broader society.
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