Wed | Feb 8, 2023

Continue fight for reparatory justice under King Charles III

Father Sean Major-Campbell wants Monarch to atone for slavery

Published:Sunday | September 11, 2022 | 12:10 AMErica Virtue - Senior Gleaner Writer
Father Sean Major Campbell shepherds the flock at Christ Church in Vineyard Town, St Andrew.
Father Sean Major Campbell shepherds the flock at Christ Church in Vineyard Town, St Andrew.

“I do not believe the Queen’s passing should matter to Jamaica’s long-overdue quest to become a Republic”: Father Sean.
“I do not believe the Queen’s passing should matter to Jamaica’s long-overdue quest to become a Republic”: Father Sean.
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Love him or hate him, Father Sean Major-Campbell says what he means and owns what he says.

Considered among the most controversial clergymen in Jamaica, some even call him the “gay people preacher” because he has invited to church those society views as the worst of the worst.

In between blessing pet snakes and washing the feet of gays and lesbians, he believes that life and fellowship have become harder because the world has found it difficult to love, and encourages the sexually wounded to share their stories.

In a social media description of himself, he said, “My heart’s desire is to serve the common good to the glory of God. I do not wish to be anyone’s judge. I only wish to be an agent of love, mercy, peace, and justice.”

Not known to shutter his views, Father Sean, who shepherds the flock at Christ Church in Vineyard Town, St Andrew, said Thursday’s death of the world’s longest-serving Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, should not stop Jamaica’s fight for reparatory justice from Britain, whose economy was built by the exploitation of slave labour. Nor should it hinder Jamaica’s quest to become a republic.

But in due time.

“This is a time for mourning, for which space should be given to the royal family, a nation, and a Commonwealth. Later, there will be time to advance advocacy in furtherance of reparatory justice and the necessity for a Jamaican republic,” he said in an interview with The Sunday Gleaner.

“I do not believe the Queen’s passing should matter to Jamaica’s long-overdue quest to become a republic. I also see no reason why the call and process for reparatory justice should die with the accession of King Charles III. If anything, his reign after his mom’s 70 years of silence should motivate a change towards a true expression of remorse for the genocide and holocaust of slavery.”

Noting that slavery was one of the worst cases of human rights abuse, the unrepentant clergyman said, “Understandably, we are haunted by the cruelty, the heartless and merciless history of a ruthless system on which the Crown’s jewels were amassed at the cost of countless lives in the transatlantic slave trade. Today we continue to pay with our state of landlessness, indebtedness, poor health outcomes and social decay.”

Acknowledging that King Charles’ persona will not add shine to the monarchy, he added, “Charles was never blessed with an inspiring persona. That he now holds the crown will not add shine where lustre was lacking.”

STRONG STANCE ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND ADVOCACY

Born in Jamaica, Sean Major-Campbell grew up in Linstead, St Catherine, where his mother, a nurse administrator, served as matron of the Spanish Town Hospital.

A young Sean experienced migration from early, though internal, and recalled all his neighbours being from India, whose multi-syllabic surnames flew off his tongue with ease.

At an early age, he believed he had a calling both for ministry and culinary arts. He became one of the first graduates in culinary arts from the Runaway Bay HEART Academy, but went on to become a trained minister of religion at the United Theological College (UTC) in Mona.

He shared regretting not having the skills of a mechanic or a barber, which, along with his culinary skills, would suit him just fine.

A trip to the mechanic nowadays, he views, is similar to seeing a specialist doctor whose first request after hearing one’s symptoms is a “mechanical MRI”.

Ordained in 1993 in the Anglican Church, he was curate in several churches; a religious education teacher; and rector for the Anglican Diocese in Grand Cayman. He returned to Jamaica briefly to Westmoreland, before heading off to the Diocese of the North Eastern Caribbean, causing him to reside in Anguilla, serving different territories there. He later returned to Jamaica and is now in his ninth year at Christ Church.

A staunch believer in social justice and equality, today Father Sean’s Gleaner Silver Pen Award hangs proudly on the wall of his office.

He continually addresses the issue of societal values and the calls for greater partnership with the church to impart values.

He has no apologies for his strong stance on human rights and advocacy, especially for those he considers vulnerable, whether individuals or nations.

Nowadays, the political, natural, cultural and criminal disaster-hit Haiti – the hemisphere’s poorest country – is troubling the spirit of the clergyman.

RELIGION, PARTNERSHIP AND VALUES

“We have to recognise that it is not how often you go to church, or which church you go to, or to which religion you belong, but what matters most is how you live with people. Too many people lift up church attendance record, their church involvement and how often they pray as a badge of honour.”

Professed Christians, he said, were among those who cite alternative facts to justify their actions, however unjust it may be.

“We see it happening in Jamaica where people set themselves up as prophets, apostles and judges of other people. And they are quick to condemn others, but they are actually not persons of compassion,” Father Sean stated.

Addressing the ills plaguing today’s youth, he said, “Much of the help that is required in schools for children require more specialised training, and not necessarily religious education teachers. I don’t think our children are short of religion, what they are short of is a broader approach to life. If we are preparing our children for the real world, we can’t be just telling them about our church and our Christianity.”

He continued, “Our children are not short of singing endless choruses at school, and sometimes shortly after the chorus singing, one of those same children stabs another one. And the teacher says, ‘But we just come out of devotions! What is this?’ What we do not realise is that we are not getting to the heart of the matter, reaching the youth in terms of enhancing a value system.

“Using devotions to show how their denomination is holier than the others and endless choruses to pass time until the guest speaker arrives do not contribute to changed behaviour.

“Assembly time should be used to discuss the things young people are themselves discussing, sometimes behind closed doors, such as issues of human rights; sensitising the conscience and guided meditation to help individuals to be more reflective, calmer, and develop skills around conflict resolution. Schools must talk to children about life. We are not short on what to talk about, but we are missing the moment.”

The clergyman said videos of sexualised children on social media should be teachable moments about what not to do and how these actions can and will impact their future.

BUGGERY LAW, MIGRATION REALITIES, GENDER DIVERSITY

Commenting on recent poll findings that a majority of Jamaicans want the buggery laws retained, Father Sean said the duty of the State is not to make the teaching of any religion influence the law, as Jamaica is not a theocracy, but rather a secular democracy – “one where we do not seek to select leaders on the basis of their religious affiliations”.

He said many of those seeking to migrate to greener pastures will find that no one cares about their religious beliefs and cautions those who “behave as if their religion makes them entitled to anything”. He admitted, however, that many see the advantage because their religion lines up with the seat of power.

On the issues of gender, sexual diversity and LGBTQ+, Father Sean said interesting days are ahead. He noted that one of the realities that will face many migrating Jamaicans is that they may discover that their boss is gay and many persons with whom they must interface are also gay. Many parents, he said, were now quietly facing the reality that their children are returning from overseas with same-sex spouses.

Pointing to several Old Testament stories, Father Sean said the Bible has been used to create discord in religion worldwide.

“There are all these conversations that we are not having, but we get carried away with the Sodom and Gomorrah story and nobody stops to ask themselves about others things in that story, like how Lot’s daughters raped him,” he reasoned.

“Something is wrong with a story that a man is so intoxicated that he holds an erection and impregnates two women. A lot of things are wrong with this story, including the fact that earlier, Lot also offered up his virgin daughters to be raped.”

According to Father Sean, if the story was about sexual orientation, then heterosexuality should have been condemned.

“A crime was committed in breach of the hospitality code when the men went to Lot’s house. It did not even make sense that all the men had same-sex tendencies,” he said.

Fundamentally, he said, it was a story about rape, which is wrong irrespective of the sexes involved. Rape was used as a demeaning tool, he said, and today persons continue to be raped in order to demean them.

The buggery law was also a demeaning tool, said the pastor, as it was one of the vestiges of the Empire enacted largely to protect the white men for the women back in England. A shortage of women in the colonies saw the men turning to their own sex, “but the law was used to demean the black slaves”.

Father Sean wishes that Jamaica was a humbler society which cared about its most vulnerable and stopped the constant abuse.

“Love, humility, and respect for each other will go a long way in making life better,” he stated, stressing that too much of the country’s priorities were misplaced.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com