WE-Change would like to congratulate Reverend Karen Kirlew on her appointment as first female President of the Jamaica Baptists Union and WE are elated that she stands beside Reverend Christine Gooden Benguche and Reverend Phyllis Smith Seymour as denomination leaders within the Jamaica Church Community. As noted in the Gleaner article, “Women Take Lead – Females To Head Three Of Jamaica’s Larger Christian Denominations”, there has been a dearth of female leadership within the local Church community notwithstanding their majority membership of churches across the length and breadth of Jamaica.
While basking in the magnanimity of the moment, WE are cognizant of the adage that “heavy lies the head that wears the crown” and WE expect much from these women as leaders within the church. In recent years, the Church has been exposed as a hotbed of sexual abuse and exploitation of our nation’s children. Leaders of churches have been found out to be prime perpetrators and many of the church constituents have either turned a blind eye or formed a protective barrier around errant pastors rather than support minors who have been scarred by these interactions.
As the Church leadership starts to become more diverse, WE are hopeful that issues that primarily affect women such as sexual violence, domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence are taken up by said leadership and initiatives developed within churches to end these practices.
Key components of these initiatives MUST include:
- Only invoking the “bring shame on the church” narrative to describe when leaders and members abuse, exploit and otherwise fail to protect children and other vulnerable members, and not when church leaders are being publicly held to account.
- Ensuring that churches are a safe space for children and encouraging open discussions about sex and sexuality, including sensitization to different forms of abuse.
WE are always welcoming of symbols and signs of women advancing, especially in traditional spaces, however, they now have an even greater duty to care. WE recognise women as change agents, and are calling on them.