'We're no cult'

Gedaliah's tribe defends its name

The Jamaica Observer/December 24, 2009

Greenwood, St James - They've replaced their surnames with that of their leader, Dr Bithiah Gedaliah; they celebrate her birthday -even in her absence- with great gusto and they're more closely knit than many biological families.

However members of the Biblical Truth Tabernacle, also known as the Tribe of Gedaliah, insist that they are not a cult.

"We are no cult we are a family and are proud to be Gedalians and today we give God thanks for a woman that He has given to us. To God be all the praise, all the honour, all the glory," said Bishop Ozem Gedaliah, the officiating minister at a special thanksgiving service to celebrate their leader's 43rd birthday last week.

The bishop headlined a long line of speakers who heaped mountains of praise on the Jamaican-born founder of the church, who has been dubbed Prophetess Bithiah.

"I have been around this woman and I see her type of prayer. I have seen the way she gives her heart out to other people; I see her cry for people and pray for people who don't even know that she was doing it," he said.

"In all my walks I have never come across a woman who is as precise, as definite and as accurate when she speaks.... she is able to speak about things that will happen weeks ahead," he added.

Secretary of the Biblical Truth Tabernacle Salome Gedaliah in bringing greeting at the start of the two-hour service said that although Dr Bithiah was not present at the celebrations, it did not matter,

"...because she is an international woman her mind is with us and we ask God to continue to strengthen an d anoint her so that she will be able to continue the work that she has been called upon to do."

The Biblical Truth Tabernacle came to public notice nearly three years ago after some members of the Falmouth-based Assemblies of Holiness broke away from that congregation to form it.

Since then 24 members, among them professionals have legally relinquished their original names and have replaced their surnames with Gedaliah.

Members of the tribe however have faced harsh criticism from several quarters.

But during Saturday's service Bishop Ozem fired back at the critics, saying that the day will come when many people will want to be a part of the tribe.

"We have taken on the name Gedaliah which sounds very unorthodox and at this time people will criticise but the day will come when people will want to be a part of it. I am ready to be criticised; I am ready to be laughed at but I am seeing what eyes can't; I am see seeing only what God is seeing at this moment," the Bishop said, much to the approval of the church members.

An exhibition showcasing the work of their leader, a dinner and a concert featuring the Slap Drum Skin, a drumming band from Negril, completed the day's activities to commemorate Dr Bithiah's birthday.

Dr Bithiah is also the founder of Priscilla's Preparatory School and High School located in Greenwood, St James.

The institution which will be three years old next month was named after Dr Gedaliah's five-year-old daughter, Priscilla.

The school currently has 57 students on roll and six teachers.

According to acting school principal Josiphiah Gedaliah the institution depicts "an uncommon high standard in teaching, cleanliness of environment and complete care for all students regardless of race, colour or status." The teaching of the English Language and conversational Spanish, she added, is also emphasised at the school.

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