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Seventh Day Adventist Church under scrutiny

The late Phyllis Chase and her son Rev. Terrence Griffith who is a leading pastor in a Black Baptist Church in the United States

Family Members of a staunch member of the religious sect who died three weeks ago are upset and accused the church of discrimination over the handling of a request made by the deceased to allow her son who is a qualified Minister of Religion in the United States from preaching the Homily at the funeral service at the Archibald Avenue location of their church

It is so despicable.

These were the words of Reverend Terence Griffith in describing the lukewarm response given by the Seventh Day Adventist church to honour a request made by his mother Phyllis Chase, a longstanding and prominent member of the religious sect for him to deliver the homily at her funeral service at its Archibald Avenue church in St George.

In an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY, Rev. Griffith who is head of the largest African/American Baptist church in Pennsylvania in the United States, accused the local church of “stalling” on the request in keeping with his mother’s wishes which forced them to rent the chapel at La Qua Funeral home to facilitate the funeral service on Tuesday.

He said it is clear that the Seventh Day Adventist church wanted to engage in some form of censorship to determine who can speak on the pulpit.

“It is their right to determine who speaks in their pulpit but if their belief is that they’re the only ones that’s authorised to preach the gospel and this kind of stuff …. and just demonising other churches, I think they are very foolish. We have gotten past thus,” he said.

Speculation is rife that some persons in the Adventist church are unhappy with Rev. Griffith who grew up in his younger days as an Adventist but left the church to join the Baptist faith in the United States.

His mother – Phyllis Chase – was a prominent Seventh Day Adventist and served as a Sunday school teacher, as well as head of the Deaconesses and also ran the Church bookstore on Church Street in the city.

According to Rev. Griffith, the norm is that when a stalwart of the Seventh Day Adventist church dies, the church on notification will reach out to family members.

He said the family did notify the church of the passing of their mother and expected the Adventist Leadership to extend their condolences and discuss the arrangements for the funeral and burial.

“That wasn’t done. My family made several attempts to reach out to Leadership. Leadership took a while to respond and when they finally did, they said they had to get permission from the Church Board.

The request was for Rev. Griffith to deliver the Homily at the funeral service at the church.

He said after a long delay, the response came that the church board had authorised the funeral service but they needed to find out who was preaching the Homily.

“Once they found out it was me who was preaching, these folks wanted to like censor what I had to say – pretty much wanted to find out what I was preaching. So, I was pretty much like I had to give them a script.

Rev. Griffith found this response rather distasteful given his position at his own church in Pennsylvania.

“I Pastor the oldest African/American Baptist church in Pennsylvania. I serve nationally at the National Baptist Convention which has a population larger than Grenada and I wasn’t going to subject myself to that type of stuff,” he said.

The religious leader pointed out that other family members expressed similar sentiments and the decision was taken to approach La Qua Chapel to facilitate the Funeral Service for their mother.

Rev. Griffith chastised the Seventh Day Adventist Church for deliberately adopting a policy of seeking to demonise other religious sects.

He said he grew up in the church as a little boy and the enemy was always the other denominations such as the Catholics and Pentecostals who are considered as a group that always “speak in tongues”,

As regards the Catholic religion, he stated that the Pope was considered by the Adventists as “the anti-Christ”.

Rev. Griffith stressed that the Seventh Day Adventists have been engaged in years of indoctrination of their members to see themselves as “we are the only ones that are right.”

He said it is time for the Seventh Day Adventist Church to realise that their members “are not the only ones going to Heaven.”

The cleric also called on all religious denominations to get out of the practice of attacking other churches “and just preach the gospel.”

“The important thing is leading people to Christ but if you consume your time talking about other denominations rather than preaching the straight up gospel … you are really wasting time.

“I have evolved from that type of stuff about the Catholic Church being the Beast – it is time that they move beyond this and start preaching the gospel.

According to Rev. Griffith, the other side of the coin is that if a religious leader wants to win people to his thinking “you can’t demonise them.”

He said he hopes that other families like the Chase and Griffith do not suffer “the same indignities” from the Seventh Day Adventist Church on the passing of a loved one.

He admitted that some of the family members have left the church, others are considered as “marginal members” of the Seventh Day Adventist church.

“The family is still a strong Seventh Day Adventist family,” he quickly added.

When contacted on the issue, the national head of the church Pastor Enoch Isaac told THE NEW TODAY that he was not aware of the issue as it was never brought to his attention.

He said the decision on any such request for an outside Pastor or clergyman to preach a homily at a funeral at one of their churches is left entirely in the hands of that local Church Board and not the national body.

Pastor Isaac pointed out that the Seventh Day Adventist Church has allowed persons of other denominations to preach on their compound for weddings, funerals and other events.

However, he said the church will not allow an outside clergyman to preside over worship sessions of the Seventh Day Adventist church.

“That is a no-no,” he quipped.

A prominent member of the church confirmed that this is the policy of the church and suspected that the decision to prevent Pastor Griffith to deliver the Homily at his mother’s funeral at the church in Archibald Avenue was done “by someone who has a beef” with the U.S-based preacher.

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