Church leaders deny being silent on clergy sex abuse

By Reverend Gary Harriott And Reverend Peter Garth
RJR News
July 31, 2019

[with audio]

Some church leaders are disputing claims that they have not been vocal enough in speaking out against members of the clergy who have been proven to be involved in sexual abuse.

The Jamaica Council of Churches and the Jamaica Evangelical Alliance are asserting that the church has been vocal, but the public may not have been paying enough attention to their efforts.

This issue took on greater prominence this week following the entering of a guilty plea by Kenneth Blake, pastor of  Harvest Temple Apostolic Church in Kingston.

Blake was charged in 2017 with rape, forcible abduction, grievous sexual assault, having sex with a person under 16 years old, and sexual touching.

He initially denied the charges but pleaded guilty to two counts of having sex with a person under 16 years old, and one count of sexual touching.

The case has again ignited debate about whether the church adequately addresses the issue of  members of  the clergy being involved in these types of  offences.

Reverend Gary Harriott, General Secretary of the Jamaica Council of  Churches, addressed the matter Wednesday on RJR’s Beyond the Headlines, acknowledging that  incidents involving members of  the clergy are uncomfortable.

He asserted however that the church has been making efforts to properly address the matter internally and externally, with “more churches sensitising their membership, their leaders on how important the matter of your conduct is, especially (regarding) the abuse of children.”

He said some churches have been renewing their policies, and where others did not have a stated policy, they are now developing one.

While conceding that “we need to be doing more,” he asserted that “the status quo is not the same”.


Reverend Dr Peter Garth, President of the Jamaica Evangelical Alliance, also asserted that the church has been speaking out and has been seeking to address the issue through training.

He recalled that when a prominent clergyman was convicted of similar crimes “a few years ago” the church went into retreat to discuss a collective approach, and also issued a public apology in Half-Way-Tree.

Regarding the Evangelical Alliance, he said members had met in conference to discuss the issue and arrive at a common approach.

In his own denomination – The Associated Gospel Assemblies – “we have looked at the leadership; we have looked at camps, youth meetings, and persons who are going to lead those meetings, they have to go through training and approval before they can be appointed an elder and as a pastor.”


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