The Moravian Church is today apologizing for its response to the conduct of one its pastors, Rupert Clarke, who’s serving an eight year prison sentence after pleading guilty to two counts of having sex with a minor.
The apology comes more than two years after Clarke was caught with a 15-year-old girl in what the police described as a “compromising position” on a secluded road in the rural community of Austin, St. Elizabeth.
It was also revealed at the time that he’d been sexually involved with two of the girl’s sisters, one of whom was also a minor, and that one of the teens had a baby for him.
The church’s apology comes a week after Nationwide News aired a special follow-up feature, “Surviving Rupert Clarke”, in which it was revealed that the Moravian Church had yet to reach out to, or apologize to the family.
President of the Moravian Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, Reverend Phyllis Seymour Smith, was scheduled to speak with Nationwide News yesterday, following the backlash the church has been receiving for its handling of the Rupert Clarke case and the family of victims left behind.
However, Reverend Smith abruptly canceled the interview at the last minute.
Instead, she and the church have today published a half-page ad in the Gleaner newspaper, in which they apologize.
It begins, “We write with a message that is long overdue.
“The Moravian Church has been rocked to its core by the conduct of a pastor of the church who pleaded guilty to a dastardly act. No one wants to believe the worst about someone who has always seemed to show their best – but silence is never an acceptable response.
“Facing the issue publicly is appropriate, particularly when as a Church you are held in high esteem… This is where we failed you and most regrettably, the victims.
“There are things we could have done differently, given a second opportunity to communicate our response to this tragedy. Unfortunately, we cannot. There is no satisfactory explanation for us not being publicly forthright in condemning it earlier than now. For this, we unreservedly apologize.”
It continues by saying they’ve been in touch with the family and are praying for their physical and spiritual healing.
It also says the Moravian Church considers exploitation of the most vulnerable as particularly heinous, and they support the punishment of the guilty to the fullest extent of the law.
The letter goes on to ask for forgiveness from the public, saying they know that their statement is two years late, but that they’ve learnt invaluable lessons.
It also outlines steps they’ve taken to prevent a recurrence.
These include a Child Care and Protection Policy, as well as an Independent Commission to investigate all allegations of inappropriate behaviour of past and current members of staff.
Additionally, it says they’ve added psychological and psychometric testing to their recruitment process, and developed compulsory training for all persons who’re slated to participate as counselors in their annual summer camps.
The letter ends by saying this has been a defining moment in the church’s history, and one that will shape their future.