By Benjamin Flowers
After months of contention, the leaders and members of some 200 churches have broken away from the Belize Association of Evangelical Churches (BAEC) and formed their own association.
The national executive for the newly-formed National Evangelical Association of Belize (NEAB), held its official launch on Wednesday in Belize City.
The group explained that amidst the many complaints under the interim presidency of Pastor Howell Longsworth, were major issues which contravened the spirit of the Association’s work.
Those issues included the suspension of all chapters of the BAEC, with the exception of Belize City, without any justification.
Pastor Scott Stirm, vice president of the NEAB, explained that suspended chapters had requested a meeting for justification for the suspension for over three months but have not been given an audience.
During the suspension the BEAC nominated Ashley Rocke to be the senator representing the churches; however, with only the Belize chapter having the ability to vote, Rocke was appointed senator by minority vote.
Pastor Lance Lewis, president of NEAB, explained despite the manner in which he was elected, NEAB is prepared to work with Rocke to ensure that he adequately represents all churches in Belize.
“We will meet with him, but we are not going to try to get rid of him. We want to meet with him because he was elected on very small numbers, so we would have to now find out how he will represent the churches, having only a small number of Belize City persons present when his nomination was solidified”, Lewis said.
Lewis added that another incident which prompted the break away was the fact that the BEAC registered a constitution for the Association which is different from the original which was agreed upon before the suspension.
“Nothing has changed for us. We are working with the same constitution that we all agreed upon before the BAEC made the changes”, Lewis said, “they put us out, but we are willing to take them in.
However, the BAEC, which now represents only a handful of Belize City pastors and churches is still the legally recognized entity which will deal with the government of Belize, and Pastor Rocke represents all churches in the senate, even those now excluded form the BAEC.
It has yet to be seen what effect the division among the churches will have on issues which the church has actively been involved in, such as the National Gender Policy and the constitutional challenge of Belize’s sodomy laws.
The NEAB has gone public to say that as an association it maintains the same level of opposition to those issues as previously held as members of the BEAC.