Last edited: November 21, 2004

‘Don’t Bow to Gay Pressure’

Bishop Noel Jones preaches at one of his church services.

Jamaica Gleaner, November 20, 2004

By Mark Dawes, Staff Reporter

BISHOP NOEL Jones believes that Jamaica should resist the pressures being placed on it by gay rights advocates. He said the nation should “stand its ground by simply allowing your laws to stay the way they are.”

He was responding to reports published earlier this week in which local and international human rights groups called for a relaxation of laws that curbs homosexual conduct.

Bishop Jones, who is the pastor of the City of Refuge church in Gardena, California, and an internationally renowned television preacher, said: “If you have laws and legislation that ban certain things based on the principles of the Scriptures and based on your Christian background, then let it stand there. Who is having big debates with the Islamic people about it (gay rights)? Who is telling them to bend their laws? If your laws are based on your Christian points of view, then you must stand your ground?”

The pressure being placed on Jamaica by United States homosexual interests, Bishop Jones hinted, is inconsistent with the best traditions of the United States. “The thing that bothers me about America is if they are so democratic, why don’t they allow the rest of the world to be what they are? Their democracy says a person has the freedom to do many things, so why won’t they leave Jamaica alone?” Bishop Jones said.

Bishop Jones, who hails from Spanish Town, was on a short visit to Jamaica earlier this week to address a conference of the Jamaica District of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World. Rev. Jones’ bishopric includes Jamaica. He comes to Jamaica about three times a year to oversee the local affairs of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World.

Brother to Grace Jones

Bishop Jones, whose broadcast ‘Fresh Oil’ is aired on the cable channel ­ BET on Wednesday mornings at 7:00 a.m, is also the brother to internationally famed actress and singer, Grace Jones. His sister, he said, visits his church whenever she is in the Los Angeles area, or when she is close to a venue where he is preaching. He acknowledged that he talks to her about her soul and salvation. But so far she has not surrendered her life to Christ.

Bishop Jones, 54, is also a close friend and ministry associate of Bishop T.D. Jakes, who is perhaps the most popular preacher in the United States at this time. He plans to bring Bishop Jakes to Jamaica next year to partner with him on a series of preaching engagements. Bishop Jakes, he described as a workaholic, who loves to have fun, and who is fiercely loyal to his friends.

“We knew from the very first day we met each other that we would be friends for life. He is very frank, very straightforward and so am I,” he said of his 15-year friendship with the man sometimes touted as the next Billy Graham.

While growing up in Jamaica, Bishop Jones attended St. Jago High School in St. Catherine. Among his teachers were Robert Pickersgill, the present minister of transport. He was also an athlete. He says with pride that he competed against Donald Quarrie and beat him in Boys Champs 1966 in the long jump with a leap of 21 feet 7 inches.

He has had much success as a pastor. He moved his church from a 1,300 seating capacity to 45,000. His church has a membership of 17,000 persons. Typically 45,000 persons attend, both Sunday morning services. About 25,000 attend the Sunday evening service.

Divorced for about 10 years, Bishop Jones is living out his Christianity as a single man. “The minus of being a single man is that often you want to be with someone, and you want to have someone. If you take a trip to Jamaica, for example, it would be nice to have someone to share all the delicacies with. The plus (of being a single man) is that I can be here (in Jamaica) and not have to worry about someone thinking I shouldn’t. So I am flexible. But at the same time I am running myself into the ground because of that freedom. I think it would be good to have someone within my house to say, you know what ­ you need rest. I think marriage preserves your life.

“The difference between being married or single is like going to a city for a vacation or going on a cruise. In a city you got to pick and choose what you gonna do. On a cruise you know what you are gonna eat. You are locked in. it is narrow and you get more done.”

A Fairly Wealthy Preacher

Is marriage on his agenda? “I think so; why? because I am getting older. Bishop Jakes put it to me like this. “When you are married, over a period of years, when things begin to change, as you get older, your spouse can always say, ‘it wasn’t always this way’.” So now if I get married, and in two to three weeks I am in a wheelchair, she can never say ‘it wasn’t always that way’. I should give a little time of a healthy Noel Jones before she got to be pushing a wheel chair. I would hate for my side of the bed to smell like the pharmaceutical department and for her side smell like the cosmetic department of a wonderful store. I am wearing Bengay and she is wearing perfume,” he said.

Pastor Jones, who lives across the road from the owner of the L.A. Lakers basketball team, is by most standards a fairly wealthy preacher. He said: “If you are going to put me in the standard of preachers and preaching and for what I do, I would be on the top level in terms of income.” He earns annually “on the north side of US$500,000,” and gives away about half of that each year. His altruism extends to paying the salary of a social worker/counsellor who works in a children’s hospital and who specialises in ministry to children who are dying. For speaking engagements outside of his church he usually receives a honorarium ranging between US$10,000 to US$35,000. He has a number of businesses, including a security company.

Many actors, actresses, singers, and other celebrities attend his church. He himself travels with armed bodyguards. On a typical Sunday morning there are several bodyguards present, two of whom are present on the church platform. The others are often discreetly positioned in the church building.

He acknowledges that he has his own extravagances, but in general he is quite down to earth and his wealth is often not a barrier to doing effective ministry to the hurting and downtrodden.

He stressed: “I am not a health and wealth and prosperity preacher. I do preach hard work, education, utilising your gifts and becoming all that you can be.”

We Have Our Flaws

Bishop Jones is careful to avoid the financial and other pitfalls that have plagued other high profile television preachers. He explains that there is transparency in his ministry. “If you listen to my material, you will find that I am extremely transparent. In fact I am doing a documentary now called ‘Transparent’—It shows the personal side of the preacher as opposed to his pulpiteering and his conference appearances—It deals with him as a man.

One of the things people don’t understand is that in this profession, you can be very good at your profession before you are perfected in your person. And often time we feel that if people understand that we have our flaws, that we have frailties, that we have proclivities and tendencies, that are private. Everybody’s got a secret. I don’t care who it is. The point is for people to understand that God is to be worshipped and not man.

But because we do our best to be authoritarianistic in our disposition we generally want to add authority with infallibility. I make mistakes and judgements. That is why I have counsellors. That is why I am accountable to my board. That is why I am accountable to my family. I make mistakes and judgements. I am a single man. If I am to get married again, somebody is going to see me out with a woman. I mean how are you going to assess that? How are you going to evaluate that? Because I got to get to know her. I don’t know if I were to do that again, but the point is, we are just as vulnerable.”

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