Churches chastised for ‘neglecting the poor’

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— “We take large collection boxes and carry them around to collect offerings while the people among us are hungry. Shame on us,” says Bishop Sellee

Bishop of the Episcopal Church of Liberia, Dr. James B. Sellee, chastised churches for neglecting the “oppressed, disadvantaged and distressed,” many of whom are members of their congregations.

Bishop Sellee, speaking at the enthronement of Rev. Dr. Samuel B. Reeves as President of the Liberia Council of Churches (LCC) on June 3, reminded some of the country’s leading prelates present that the church as a body has failed to respond to the needy.

Sellee made the statement on June 5, just two days before his enthronement as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Liberia. He noted that while churches collect offerings from their members, including the poor, they do nothing to help those in need – many of whom do much to contribute to the church through offerings and donations. tithes.

“We take large collection boxes and carry them around to collect offerings while the people among us are hungry,” Bishop Sellee said. “Shame on us! It’s not about reading the scriptures to people, but about doing something for those in need. Shame on us, when we have hungry people among us and we can’t help them. to feed.

“Let us think of ordinary people. You are their representatives. You are the voice of the nation. You must be the voice of God in Liberia. You have the prophetic gift. The prophets were people who spoke the truth on all current issues. You are the voice of the oppressed. In your advocacy, take care of those in need. It is to serve those in need,” the Bishop said criticizing the churches.

Dr. Reeves is the Senior Pastor of Providence Baptist Church and President of the Liberia Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention. Providence Baptist Church is the oldest church in the Republic and celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2021.

The LCC is an ecumenical Christian organization in Liberia, founded in 1982.

Bishop Sellee meanwhile maintained that until there is love for one another in the Church and people learn to uphold the cause of God for the good of the nation, there will never be a collective success that could embody the spirit of unity.

Based on Romans 13 verse 7, he said that everyone should receive his due.

“Give everyone what you owe him: taxes, if you owe taxes; income, then income; respect, then respect; honor, then honor,” the bishop said. “I call on Dr. Reeves and his colleagues to be agents of change and to stand up for the poor and oppressed, and to ensure that people’s rights are defended and guaranteed.”

And addressing disagreements among religious leaders, Bishop Sellee noted that the act of criticizing without offering solutions is wrong and eats away at the fabric of the church and society as a whole.

“Paul tells us in Romans chapter 12 verse 10, ‘Be devoted to one another in love.’ Honor one another above yourselves. That’s what we want. A peaceful transfer of power is not only about politics, but also about the Church,” he said.

Bishop Sellee’s disapproving remarks come a week after the Pastoral Peace Network condemned the election of Dr Reeves as LCC President and called on the election committee to overturn the election results.

The group, among other things, is concerned that politics could influence LCC advocacy given Dr. Reeves’ political background, even though he is also a gospel preacher. If he is allowed to take the helm, they think, he might not be neutral.

In 2017, as a clergyman, Dr. Reeves stepped away from his pastoral duties and ran on the Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE) ticket as vice-porter to the former Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia, Dr. J. Mills Jones. After that election, he returned to office and it is unclear if he is still a member of the party, which has close ties to the ruling CDC.

Defending his group’s position, the head of the Pastoral Peace Network, Bishop Justice Nyonsiea, said political neutrality should be the hallmark of those who assume leadership at the LCC level – although he does not did not cite any particular clause of the Council’s constitution. of the Churches that denounces the political participation of any member or leader.

The pastoral group, sometimes referred to as the National Pastoral Peace Network, is known for endorsing the 2020 senatorial candidacy of Representative Thomas Fallah, Representative for Montserrado County District No. 5.

The group have been accused of being paid for political endorsement, a charge they have denied. “We are ready to make godly leaders through constitutional elections to strengthen the spiritual oversight of leaders,” the group said then in defense of its endorsement.

In 2017, they also endorsed the presidential candidacy of President George Weah. Last year, the president offered them a vehicle to “carry out regular spiritual warfare” and for their work helping Weah get elected.

Responding to the claims of his colleagues, Dr. Reeves indicated that he was no longer a politician and had pledged to uphold the statement of political neutrality and objectivity anchored in the preamble of the Council of Churches.

He added that no member of this administration will serve as a spokesperson or affiliate for any political party, as they stand ready to do God’s work and “the work of our people with neutrality and objectivity.”

Dr. Reeves noted that although the Church in Liberia has been divided for over 200 years, it is imperative that they come together in unity and strive in line with the words of the Apostle Paul in “Ephesians 4: 5-6, to clear the path and open it for the realization of unity.

“In the words of our preamble, — as the conscience of the nation and a force for reconciliation in times of strife and conscious of our role in the permanent maintenance of peace, and, because of the diversity of our ministry, of our ecumenical commitment and our unity, we the officers enthroned here today, hereby reaffirm our commitment to the following proposals: the declaration of political neutrality and objectivity rooted in divine integrity,” Dr. Reeves assured the public and its detractors.

Dr Reeves is known for speaking out against bad governance and said he would not be an enemy or friend of the Weah administration.

He added that despite his pledge not to be enemy or friend of, the Council of Churches under his leadership will partner with the government on national concerns, bringing wisdom and promoting freedom of expression and separation of state from religion – as well as resisting evil and corruption in Liberia at all levels – in government and church.

“We are committed to promoting freedom of religion, food security, better health, education, peace and justice, as well as the promotion of gender parity. We are committed to being a voice in promoting peace, good governance and human rights in Liberia,” he said. “We are committed to respecting gender equity in the allocation of our country’s resources; We oppose “get-rich-quick” activities through the misuse of government positions and powers. »

Dr Reeves added that there is an urgent need for the church to join in the fight against corruption as corruption has robbed the country of its full potential.

He promised not only to ensure that the LCC is gender- and youth-sensitive, but also regional, in order to shed an exclusive Monrovia-based organizational idea by acting “swiftly to strengthen our efforts to have a national presence. by setting up offices in the capital of each county in the country.

Meanwhile, Bishop Kortu Brown, the former president of the Council of Churches, said members may disagree and agree and may have different aspirations, but must always learn to celebrate each other at the same time. end.

Bishop Brown is the founder and general overseer of New Water in the Desert Apostolic Pentecostal Church.

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