JAMAICA | Police yet to charge pastor of Pathways Ministries

JAMAICA |  Police yet to charge pastor of Pathways Ministries

MONTEGO BAY,  St. James, October 20, 2021 - The police are yet to lay charges against the leader of the religious organization in Albion, Montego Bay, where two persons died and several injured on Sunday night as a result of what was said to be a cult-like ritual.

Citizens of the tourist Capitol resort city of Montego Bay are still in a state of shock as they try to process the events following the discovery of the unusual religious body with its bizarre rituals where it seems persons are offered as sacrifice.

Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson says the police prevented a potential mass killing of women and children at the cult-like religious organisation identified as the Pathways International Restoration Ministries of Montego Bay.

He said that the two members of the congregation were killed in what is alleged to be human sacrifice, while another member was killed during the confrontation with the police.

We found that there were a couple of people who had been injured by other members of the church,” the police commissioner added.

General Anderson says a third congregant was killed when a police team stormed the church after coming under gunfire.Three others have been hospitalised.

The Police Commissioner on Monday afternoon informed the media  that the police were alerted by a congregant, who escaped after being injured, and reported to the police that "some form of ritualised killing was going to take place."

He commended the swift action by the Superintendent of Police  in charge of St. James Vernon Ellis, who dispatched a police team that stormed the church after coming under gunfire.

Forty-two members of the church, including the nine men, were arrested after the police, on their approach to the building in Albion, were fired upon.

Despite COVID-19 restrictions, the police say more than 100 people had been inside the building.

Thirty-one women and 14 children were rescued from the premises, while the pastor,  identified as Dr Kevin Ontoniel Smith  who described himself as  Bishop, and accords himself the title 'his excellency' was taken into custody.

According to a report in the Jamaica Observer newspaper, Church members were summoned to a three-day convention, told to turn their cellphones off and leave them at home, and attend dressed in white.

“One female member of the church, who had requested anonymity, told the Observer on Monday that she was getting ready to enter the church, to join her daughter and son, when she she saw a fellow congregant's throat being slashed.

“It was very intense. When I saw blood and the young lady fell, I said 'This is it for me,' and I walked away; I could not stay, I couldn't. What pushed me away, as a matter of fact, when I started to put one and one together, I saw two lady church members jump the fence, so I said, 'No, this can't be right,' and those two were normally close to [the pastor],” the woman said.

“She said she was adhering to the leader's no-cellphone policy for the convention. She was forced to beg a resident of the community for a phone call to request a ride home and helped a teenage member to also escape.

“Another female member of the church told the Observer that Smith's many Facebook messages instructing his congregants to leave their phones at home, and to ensure the “ark” doesn't leave them, was ''normal ”

“She said that the animals seen around the premises and were also alleged to be inside the building, were destined to be in the pastor's “ark”.

Pathways International Foundation Ltd. headquartersPathways International Foundation Ltd. headquartersAccording to their facebook page, Pathways International Foundation Ltd. of Kingston, Jamaica is a non profit subsidiary of The King’s Oracles International and is led by its “Chairman: His Excellency Bishop Dr. Kevin O.Smith D.D., D-C.P.C.”

A biography of Smith posted online  continuously refers to him as “His Excellency”. It also states that he is “the highly distinguished Jamaican-born child prodigy, former crown ambassador of the Throne of Nubia Sheba, globe traveller to over 100 countries worldwide and Yeshu'a Hamashiach end time prophet to the nations”.

Additionally, Smith's biography states that he is a sitting member of the International Council of Pentecostal Bishops of Canada (ICPB) serving as a regional bishop on the board of presbyters.

The ICPB explains that it was founded by Archbishop Battieste and Bishop Dr CA Reid in 2002 and incorporated in Ontario, Canada on March 7, 2002. Its international office is in Toronto and it comprises “all active bishops and/or senior pastors presiding over their respective denominations/ministries”.

It's code of ethics for members is divided into three standards — personal, pastoral, and partnership. Among the requirements are that bishops must be always conscious of their high and sacred calling; give diligent attention to their soul in prayer and devotion; give adequate time to study in preparation for their preaching ministry; maintain a high moral standard in both speech and conduct; always conduct their financial and business transactions above reproach; regard their services and ministry as primary and their remuneration and rewards as secondary; always retain high standards for their church/ministry in the community, realising that their conduct and statements are representatives; become engaged in only those community activities that have to do with their own ministerial duties; and refrain from inviting into their jurisdiction questionable methods of evangelism that would harm the standards of the ICBP and its affiliates or cause undue hardship to a neighbouring church.

ISmith has since been removed from the ICPB members' list posted on the organisation's website. In addition,  Smith's organisation is no longer listed as an affiliate of Redemption Faith Ministries International Inc in Ontario, Canada.

In the meantime,  President of the Jamaica Council of Churches, the Reverend Mr.  Newton Dixon, believes agreed ethical standards should be established for pastors in order to prevent a repeat of incidents like these.

The Reverend Mr. Dixon has asserted that the Church and State have matured to allow for the monitoring to take place without infringing religious freedom. 
"My call for this kind of 'ethical charter'...is made against the background that we have to find a way to say to each other, these are some of the basic standards that we'll agree on where protecting people in our religious spaces are concerned and how, in concert with government, how that is monitored."
He said churches must take responsibility for what occurs in their establishments since most of them have "very stringent measures for dealing with their own self regulation". 
However, he noted that, more importantly, what is needed is "a general approach that is open and transparent to the entire nation, where churches say together, these are the things we do to protect people from harm and danger".   
Kevin Smith, the leader of Pathways International Kingdom Restoration Ministries in Montego Bay, St. James, remains in police custody following Sunday night's incident. 
Assistant Commissioner of Police Clifford Chambers on Tuesday said Smith is being investigated for several offences.

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