Today in Belize City, the majority of pastors forming the executive team of the National Evangelical Association of Belize (NEAB) spoke to the press concerning the schism with the Belize Association of Evangelical Churches (BAEC) which began in September. The new Association, which represents thousands of congregants in over 240 churches nationwide, still wants to reconcile with the BAEC, which has been reduced to a group of 13 pastors and evangelists led by Howell Longsworth after the NEAB members were suspended for requesting a meeting with the BAEC concerning the new Constitution, which had been in development for the last four years and was nearly complete. But was that suspension grounded in established constitutional procedure? The new association’s vice president, Pastor Scott Stirm, says it is moot now, but secretary George Ferrar defined what the procedure is.
George Ferrar, Secretary of BAEC: There is a procedure that was outlined in both constitutions, the old constitution which the Belize district leaders went back to and the new constitution. The only provision in the constitution for eliminating members is for what they call inveigling and that person who is accused of inveigling needs to come before the plenary session of the Evangelical Association and undergo a trial with at least 2 witnesses, and then if they do not agree with that process, they are then considered no longer members. That is the only stipulation in the articles or any bylaws by which a member can be excluded, and that member is welcomed back at any time if they’re willing to again cooperate with the process.
The NEAB says it had no choice but to go its own way for now after being denied a meeting and arbitration on the issue over the last three months. They will not go to court, as that is against their understanding of the Bible. However, because politicians and ordinary Belizeans “speak the language of numbers”, Association president Lance Lewis says they hope to convince both the Government and their former partners to reconcile – with the NEAB absorbing the BAEC.
Pastor Lance Lewis, President, National Evangelical Association Bze: We know that the BAEC is officially recognized by the government along with the council of churches, so they are still the people that the government would talk with. We are hoping that with our Prada base and that was the plan given the present interim president who has now declared himself president that he will realize that we have gone the wrong way and come back in. We are open to them becoming fully involved in us. Right now we present the vast majority of the Evangelical churches and pastors of the Nation of Belize. And we were following the constitution that was now being put in place so we did no wrong as far as we saw. They put us out but we are willing to take them in.
The internal struggle in the former Association began in the teeth of election season, and Pastor Ashley Rocke was appointed to serve as Senator for the entire church body, without approval of the dissidents but with concurrence from the Belize Council of Churches, as it is established that the two bodies take turns nominating Senators in each Government term of office. The new body wants to meet with Senator Rocke concerning outstanding issues including the Revised National Gender Policy and LGBT rights. President Lewis told us those views have not changed.
Pastor Lance Lewis, President, National Evangelical Association Bze: It is a very serious issue and so we cannot drop it. We will work with the senator to see that it is kept in the focus and along the lines of biblical understanding on man/woman relationship. We are not into agreeing with despising or getting rid of the sodomy laws. We still believe that it should be kept on the boat. It is unfortunate that for over 2 years that case came up, and nothing has been issued on it and we feel like that they are just waiting for time to do what they have to do, but we are standing strong against any idea of repealing the sodomy laws and the gender policy. We stay firm as we did before we had this new group, what we believe then we believe now.
The first meeting of the national executive of the new Association took place last night and they will meet on a quarterly basis countrywide beginning in January.