Wed | Jan 20, 2021

Mark Wignall | Why so cold, Moravian Church?

Published:Thursday | August 15, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Two dogs will get it on in the public square and, like the lower animals that they are, care little if at all if a few schoolboys stop to ridicule the crude sexual coupling.

We humans are significantly different when it comes to sexual matters. Privacy is an integral part of the arrangement and, if one of us just happens to be a trusted clergyman and has been driven to idiocy and criminality, one will be caught in a rush, in a parked car by the roadway, in a coupling with an underaged girl.

An excellent exposé was recently produced and reported on by Nationwide’s Tauna Thomas, which covered the social, economic and psychological aftermath of the family whose life was most affected. Just to recap: then Moravian pastor, Rupert Clarke, a man in his 60s who ought to have been held by a higher standard than other less religious men, was found to have sexually abused two young sisters from a poor family. It came to light in 2017.

It turned out that he had been trading sexual favours for groceries. Amazingly, no one in the church suspected anything. Surviving Rupert Clarke was essentially an exposé in an area that we hardly ever think of. What happens to victims of sexual abuse and their family? How does the community reach out? Did the government fulfil its political promise of a direct intervention to make the life of the victims significantly better than before?

At one part of Tauna Thomas’ interview with the head of the Moravian Church in Jamaica and Cayman, the Rev Phyllis Smith, I was momentarily buoyed in the hope that the church would finally apologise on behalf of the criminal – sins of one of its own. The reverend lady danced around the question and, in essence, implied that it took a committee to generate an apology.

Even worse than that, just when I thought Thomas was on the verge of working up an apology from the Rev Phyllis Smith, the clergywoman went out of her way to embrace the despicably fallen Rupert Clarke and wrap around him the redemptive powers of God. Through her own oration.


The most noble of the virtues are empathy and forgiveness. If the Rev Phyllis Smith were willing to religiously intercede by extending the hand of divine forgiveness to Rupert Clarke, where was that humanity inside of her to nudge her into appreciating the aftershock horrors of the victims and saying to them, “We are sorry for the hurt Pastor Clarke caused you. We ask your forgiveness even if we do not expect you to do so.”

Many of our people who serve in the administrative bodies of the church and the wider school community are little more than politicians, constantly weighing the ethically sound against an act of administrative expediency. The Rev Phyllis Smith, being obviously a woman, should have exercised more emotional intelligence in reaching out to the all-female household overburdened by poverty and destructive cultural behaviours.

The main lessons we have learned from surviving Rupert Clarke is that the ‘squaddie mentality’ exists even among those who claim a special relationship with a God who is also just and benevolent. Clarke walked in the holy cloth of the Moravian Church and many believed that automatically placed him in the category of ‘trustworthy’.

He was anything but. Not only did he surreptitiously indulge in sex with a minor, he used 30 pieces of silver to buy the favours. In the end, he was imprisoned but the victims are facing a lifetime of punishment. Why has the Moravian Church not also reached out to the victims with financial assistance?