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Pastor laments pain of sex offences allegations against church leaders

BY JEDIAEL CARTER
Observer staff reporter
carterj@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, August 27, 2017

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The spate of revelations that clergy leaders are involved in sexual misconduct has sharpened the divide between the church and the state.

That is the view of Napoleon Black, founder of Pastors According to His Heart (PATHH) — a church ministry dedicated to the care of pastors and their families.

“The reputation of the church has been hit hard within the society by these ongoing revelations. It is fuel to the perception of those who see pastors and church leaders as philandering exploiters,” Black stated.

“Some see much of the church in a cynical light — a relic of the colonial era with outdated modes and concepts; while others see the church as essential to the moral fabric of a well-ordered society, even though it is led by fallen men and women in need of grace, but not without responsibility and accountability,” he explained.

The church's reputation continues to tank with the most recent allegation that pastor of Harvest Temple Apostolic Church on Slipe Pen Road in St Andrew, Kenneth Blake, 56, was charged for allegedly raping and impregnating his ex-lover's 12-year-old daughter.

Blake was granted $1.5 million bail last week in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court.

It is also alleged that Blake gave the teen cash and other gifts in an effort to buy her silence. He is charged with rape, grievous sexual assault, forcible abduction, sexual touching, and sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16 years old.

Last Wednesday Blake, through his attorney Abel-Don Foote, denied the allegations and consented to undergo a DNA test to prove his innocence. Foote, in his client's bail application, argued that the allegations against the pastor were born out of malice and ill will from the minor's mother, who he alleged stole $300,000 from the church.

Earlier this year, three senior members of the Moravian Church were taken before the court for sex offences charges.

Black, who is also leader of Maverley Gospel Hall in St Andrew, reasoned that the impact on the church as an institution and the particular church headed by any embroiled pastor is great. He said that in addition to forcing churches to demand greater accountability from their pastors, the damning allegations have caused churches to implement or review policies related to sexual misconduct and the management and care of children and youth, and have led to a greater interest in the Child Care and Protection Act.

“It is bringing to awareness the deep and serious problem that, as a social support institution, the church has within its ranks a percentage of leaders who are disposed to act in ways opposed to its core values,” he said.

“Regrettably, some studies indicate that within the faith communities sexual abuse tends to be higher. We are told that about 37 per cent of church leaders see cyber-pornography as a present struggle and 23 per cent of church leaders have admitted to some form of sexual misconduct with some member of the congregation,” he noted.

In February, head of the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA) Superintendent of Police Enid Ross-Stewart revealed that members of the clergy and policemen were regular culprits arrested for having sex with girls under the age of 16.

“Having arrested these ministers, really it is not the first time. We are constantly arresting high-profile members of the society, particularly churchmen and policemen. Yes, churchmen and policemen are really our two highest high-profile arrests,” the superintendent told a joint select committee of Parliament created to review the sexual Offences Act.

“It is painful for any church leader to have heard minister with responsibility for gender affairs Olivia Grange quoted as saying that “it's distressing but not surprising” that according to the head of CISOCA, pastors and policemen — two groups in which the nation places great trust — are among the main 'high-profile' perpetrators of sex offences against children. This obviously means that the church's reputation as the bastion for the protection of the weak and most vulnerable has to be re-evaluated in light of the degree and extent of misconduct coming to light,” Black told the Jamaica Observer.

“In a sense, the public outrage has served to heighten the expectation that the church is still regarded as a place where high moral standards are expected to be maintained. It would be a horrifying tragedy indeed, if these things were happening in the church and the society had simply accepted it as normative,” he added.

But despite a tarnished reputation, Black maintained that pastors can still be trusted.

“The great majority of pastors and church leaders are men and women of integrity who have placed safeguards around themselves and their families and ministries to ensure that they do not end up in disgrace,” he said. “Indeed, there can be no meaningful relationship without trust. A doctor must be trusted to diagnose a medical condition, and a pharmacist must be trusted to dispense the correct medication, as prescribed. What perhaps is needed more than ever is ensuring that pastors are delivering what they are called to fulfil.”

While pointing out that placing people on pedestals is “risky and dangerous”, Black encouraged congregations and their leaders to establish “clear ministry expectations”.

“Congregations must know what to expect of their leaders and leaders are to know what to expect of their congregations. Where these are not clearly delineated, abuse can occur on either side,” he said. “But it is very important to be respectful of the persons given the charge to lead or offer guidance. This, however, is not in a carte blanche manner. Accountability is critical. Congregations and church leaders must keep this adage in mind — trust, but verify.”

He explained that a church leader should be known for his character, gift, skill set, as well as have clear knowledge of what it means to function, based on the biblical model of leadership.

When a church leader is accused, Black said that the congregation goes through a series of stages — shock/resignation, anger/disappointment, followed by the stages of wait-and-see, the spiritual examination, the questioning the future stage, the acceptance, and the resolution.

“Each stage helps the congregation to process some aspect of the experience, until the church settles and returns either to a different level of ministry, or returns to the continuation of things as they were,” explained Black. “A congregation, though, may see this as an opportunity to correct some fundamental institutional and relational challenges within the community and end up more informed, more sensitive, and deeper in its ministry delivery.”


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