Fri | Feb 23, 2018

Church hurting - Clergymen call for balance between compassion and punishment for minister on sexual offence charges

Published:Thursday | January 5, 2017 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Pastor Rupert Clarke is led from the St Elizabeth Parish Court yesterday after appearing on a charge of having sex with a minor.

Noting that the Church is currently going through a period of hurt after it was revealed that Rupert Clarke, a Moravian minister, was charged with having sexual intercourse with a minor, at least two members of the clergy have said that there has to be a balance between compassion and punishment.

Clarke, 64, was yesterday granted bail in the sum of $800,000 when he appeared in the St Elizabeth Parish Court. The police report that at about 9 o'clock on the night of December 28, a team was on patrol in a community near Santa Cruz when they observed a parked car that aroused their suspicion. They went to investigate, and, reportedly, found the pastor in a compromising position with a 15-year-old child.


Pray for pastor, victim


The Reverend Conrad Pitkin, president of the Jamaica Association of Full Gospel Churches, in an interview with The Gleaner, admitted that he was hurt by the alleged act but urged leaders to ensure that proper measures were in place to screen persons in authority, especially those who deal with children. He spoke to The Gleaner during the 12th staging of the Heal the Family, Heal the Nation national gathering at the National Arena yesterday.

"It's very sad. It is sad not just for the Moravian body, but for the Church as a whole. It is very unfortunate at a time when we are looking forward to healing the nation, to protecting our children, for this to have happened. But God is a merciful God. I reach out to my brother and I pray for him. I pray for his family. I pray for the victim and her family because it is a period of hurt," he said.

"However, what I have said to persons I lead is that every church or group that works with children must have a copy of the Childcare and Protection Act, not only in their files, but they must actively share it, whether in seminars or workshops, with the church workers. It is very important," he declared.

The Childcare and Protection Act was passed in 2004 with the objective of promoting the best interests, safety, and well-being of children across Jamaica.

Pitkin noted that while he was not dismissing the human element of pastors, an effort must be made to uphold ethical standards.

"I know that yes, it is somebody from the Church, and that should not be, but we are human. (However) we ought to have some level of ethics that we live by as pastors, ministers, and individuals. One of my encouragements to denominations, if they haven't put it in place, is to ensure that there is a set of ethical principles to which the ministers and the workers in the church must adhere, and failure to do that, they cannot serve."


Mandatory screening


Similarly, the Reverend Dr Lenworth Anglin, current pastor at the Rock Hall and the Caviliers Church of God in Jamaica, emphasised that the Church could not turn its backs on the embattled minister. He said, however, that churches should move towards making sure that screening becomes mandatory.

"The Church has always been actively opposed to any abuse of teenagers and children, or anyone, by men, even men of the cloth. Yes, we have had some malpractice. We have had some offenders, and we want to denounce the action, but be mindful that the offender needs help and we cannot now turn our backs," he said. "While not countenancing favourably the act, we have to make sure that we offer a helping hand to the offender, and it is not compromise, it is just compassion," he charged.