Anglican Bishop Claude Berkley

Rishard Khan

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The heads of other sectors of the Christian faith have disagreed with one bishop’s call for members to pay 10 per cent of COVID-19 relief grants and hampers as tithes to the church.

According to the head of the Anglican church, Bishop Claude Berkley, “I find it a difficult proposition. If there are members who have means, and they can of their own free will make a contribution of the upkeep of the church, that is still a factor to be reckoned with.”

“We would not get away with such a request of our members. The fact of the matter is there are needs at the time and we would put the needs of the members of the church first in terms of their comfort, food, their sustenance- actually their survival,” he said.

Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church Jason Gordon also held similar sentiments. He said that such a demand should not be made of a church’s membership, especially given the current economic climate being presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is not the time to be demanding from them to give out of what they do not have. People give out of what they have. To be demanding anything out of government assistance to support a church, I would find, very strange in this time,” Gordon told Guardian Media.

“When people are on the breadline, then the church should be helping them and the church then has a duty to ensure that they are giving to the people that are being struck down and the people who, because of everything that has happened in our society, are now in dire need.”

Moderator of Presbyterian Church of Trinidad and Tobago, Reverend Joy Evelyn Abdul-Mohan said it was “oppressive for any church or religious organisation to compel or demand its members to give from a social relief grant for the poor and needy.”

“In fact, the church should have a preference for the poor. The church should be giving to the needy and less fortunate and not store up treasures for itself at this time of crisis- albeit it has expenses of its own. We practice what one of our Reformers John Wesley says, give what you can without hurting either yourself or your neighbor in soul or body,” she said.

In a brief telephone interview with Guardian Media on Sunday, the Pentecostal Assembly of the West Indies head distanced the organisation from Narine’s call.

“De Van Narine and his church is not a part of the Pentecostal Assembly of the West Indies so we are distancing ourselves from his comments or statements of such,” he said.

“We believe and preach in tithes and offerings but tithes and offerings come as an expression from someone’s earnings. Any other source of income—it must be a free-will gift to not just the church but the work of the lord. To say to someone, almost like a command, that you have to take the benevolence of the government and pay your tithes, we would not consider that.”

Over the weekend, Narine, founder of The Prophetic & Apostolic Ministries International (PAMI), posted a series of messages on his Facebook profile to worshippers saying “Remember to pay your Tithes from your Grants and Hampers. 10 per cent belongs to the Lord’s Church.” Following heavy criticism from the public, he made subsequent posts defending his position, saying: “Those who object to believers giving tithes & offerings now are demonic! Our faith is not on lockdown!” and “Churches still have rents/stipends/helping others. Now is not the time to stop your tithes & offerings.”