Bishop Delton Fernander, President of the Christian Council. Photo: Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff
By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
THE head of the Bahamas Christian Council Bishop Delton Fernander said Bahamians must be careful of forming a “sermon censoring” society.
His comment came after popular pastor Bishop Neil Ellis unleashed a scathing sermon from his pulpit on Sunday, chastising Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis for extending the country’s state of emergency.
In an excerpt from his sermon, Bishop Ellis of Mt Tabor Baptist Church, referred to the biblical King Nebuchadnezzar who developed a God mentality. He said the King put himself on the level of God, adding that Prime Ministers and Presidents should be careful when they “set themselves up in an undemocratic fashion because sooner or later you become so big-headed that you begin to act like a God.”
Bishop Ellis also expressed displeasure on parliamentarians “spinelessly” grumbling on the outside, but sitting in Parliament and “allowing” Dr Minnis since March to extend COVID-19 Emergency Pandemic Orders.
He also hit out at the “dangerous” power that Dr Minnis held as the competent authority under the emergency orders and appeared to suggest the Killarney MP did not believe in God.
When contacted yesterday, Bishop Fernander had no concern with Bishop Ellis voicing his opinions from the pulpit, but took issue with the reference to Dr Minnis’ religious beliefs.
“Well, the only concern I had, which was clarified, was the conversation about someone’s state with God and salvation, which was attributed to the Prime Minister,” Bishop Fernander said. “Bishop (Ellis) has clarified that he has not attributed non-Christianity to the Prime Minister. I realise that sometimes when sermons are hard, there is a need or feeling of a need to censor the voices of God.
“But we must be reminded that sometimes all sermons won’t fit into the nice packages that we would like for them to fit into and then when they don’t speak the way we want them to speak. The Bible says the prophet is answerable to the prophet. We need to be careful that we don’t become a sermon censoring society. If it is that you don’t agree with the sermon, then you don’t agree with the sermon. If you don’t accept it, then you should just leave it alone.”
After Bishop Ellis’ sermon was circulated on social media on Sunday, Free National Movement Chairman Carl Culmer called the remarks “out of order”. Mr Culmer later sent out an official statement from the party calling Bishop Ellis’ sermon a vicious, mean-spirited, political attack on the nation’s leader.
“When we get to a place where we are going to have politicians writing to say what they liked or didn’t like about a sermon, it’s a dangerous place,” Bishop Fernander continued. “The interpretation – prophets will always speak to powers that be and preachers will always come against one or all governments and we must be grown enough to accept that if it isn’t for you then, just let it go.”
Bishop Fernander also touched on Dr Minnis’ recent statements on marijuana, reiterating that his organisation does not support the decriminalisation of the drug. He questioned if that was all the government could come up with while there are so many issues in the country.
“We were very surprised to see that everything that was recommended as a paper; that from the House of Assembly, the prime minister would have highlighted something that he has been advocating for seemingly his whole tenure. The minister of agriculture said he was interested in growing hemp, but the prime minister said something completely different, that he was interested in the decriminalisation, expungement (of criminal records) and legalising marijuana.
“. . .If you decriminalise marijuana, what would be the result of that on Bahamian society? Is that what we want right now? With all that we are wrestling with right now, is this the best you can come up with? The church stands against it and if it is that it will go to a referendum, the church will go wholeheartedly against it.”