June 16, 2006
Pentecostal Church amends marriage laws

People who were divorced before they were converted to Christianity can now be remarried at Pentecostal Assemblies of the West Indies (PAWI) churches and by their pastors. This landmark amendment to the 97-year-old Caribbean Christian organization’s by-law was made in May at their 31st bi-annual General Conference held at the Sandals Grand Spa and Beach resort in St Lucia.

Based on the biblical premise that what was done while a person was unsaved has been “past away,” this new guideline gives hope to members for a second chance at a life of marriage without having to rebel against the organization. {{more}}In the past, members of PAWI churches in that condition who wanted to be remarried, had to go to another church and its minister for the ceremony to be performed.

PAWI has thirteen of its 250 plus churches in St Vincent and the Grenadines, the newest of the lot being the Belle View Pentecostal Church, launched last March. It is also the sponsor of the popular Monday night television programme Encounter.

When SEARCHLIGHT spoke to the local Presiding Bishop, Sonny Williams, he told SEARCHLIGHT that included in this amended by-law is the possibility for Christians who divorce to also be remarried under very special circumstances.

The organization contends that sexual immorality is the only ground for divorce. However because of the doctrines of longsuffering and forgiveness, every step should be taken by the offended party to seek reconciliation and be willing to forgive the offending spouse. Therefore it is only after all means have been used to save the marriage, and the pastor is so convinced, then will the remarriage of the offended party be blessed.

“Pastors have to do their ground work and try their best to investigate the matter so as to determine the facts of the individual case before entertaining such a request,” stated Williams who led a contingent of seventeen pastors and leaders from St Vincent and the Grenadines to the weeklong conference.

This amended by-law however doesn’t apply to pastors who are still not allowed to divorce and be remarried with PAWI’s blessing; and remarried persons would not be allowed to serve in major leadership positions like the deacon board or as a head of a church department.

In other news out of the conference, Rev. Dr. Turnell Nelson of Woodbrook, Trinidad who has long battled ongoing health concerns has been reelected to his 4th consecutive two-year term as the General Bishop of PAWI, the organization’s highest office by a landslide. Local pastor and TV host Noel Clarke was also elected to serve his 6th term as a Man-At-Large on the organization’s General Executive after serving as the local head for 11 years, totaling 21 years of service and counting in the organization’s top offices.