(Jamaica Observer) – The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamaica has moved to distance itself from one of its former pastors accused of sexually grooming, before sodomising, a teenaged boy in St Ann.
The pastor, who was initially based at the Adventist church in Claremont, St Ann, before being assigned to the church in Little London, Westmoreland, has since resigned and emigrated, claiming that allegations of immorality against him and threats on his life had forced him to leave Jamaica.
Late last week the leadership of the Adventist church confirmed that they were aware of the allegations against the pastor and that he had resigned.
But the church, in response to questions from the Jamaica Observer, made it clear that there would be no shielding of persons accused of child abuse in its ranks and that the pastor was not transferred because of the allegations.
“The Jamaica Union Conference’s Child Protection protocols are based on the Seventh-day Adventist World Church’s overarching child protection policies and practices, outlined by Adventist Risk Management as well local Jamaican laws and attendant procedures required by such laws,” said the church leadership.
“Through education and sensitisation, leaders and members are advised to adhere to the tenets of the Child Care and Protection Act 2004, and all other related amendments and laws. If there is an allegation of abuse, parents, guardians or caregivers are expected to immediately report the matter to the relevant authorities, which include the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences & Child Abuse (CISOCA), the police or The Children’s Registry.
“If this is not done and it was made known to a pastor, leader or member, the parents should be advised that the matter will be reported. We advocate for an approach which seeks to protect our children,” added the church leadership.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church also underscored its commitment to spiritually assisting abused and abusive individuals and their families in their healing and recovery process, “and to holding church professionals and church lay leaders accountable for maintaining their personal behaviour as is appropriate for persons in positions of spiritual leadership and trust”.
In addition the church noted that: “The Bible condemns child sexual abuse in the strongest possible terms. It sees any attempt to confuse, blur, or denigrate personal, generational, or gender boundaries through sexually abusive behaviour as an act of betrayal and a gross violation of personhood.
“It openly condemns abuses of power, authority, and responsibility because these strike at the very heart of the victims’ deepest feelings about themselves, others, and God, and shatter their capacity to love and trust.”
In the meantime the child protection group, Hear the Children’s Cry, which is offering support to the boy who was allegedly buggered by the pastor, and his family, has vowed to pursue this case vigorously to send a message to paedophiles to stay away from children.
“The mother of the child reached out to us at Hear the Children’s Cry for help and we are prepared to give this family as much help as is necessary to bring the alleged perpetrator of this cruel crime to justice,” said Betty-Ann Blaine, founder of the group.
“Too often cases like these fall apart and our children and families are never able to get the help and the resolution they need to move forward with their lives. The pain and trauma of sexual molestation is a heavy burden for children to bear, and to see the molester walk free is even more painful for them,” added Blaine.
“Church leaders are trained annually in modules related to child protection. The Northern Caribbean University up to last year had a crisis team that would go to churches and communities, if needed,” the response noted.