HEAD of Fellowship Tabernacle Bishop Dr Merrick “Al” Miller has welcomed the public apology from the leader of a local church group whose members had shunned him after he was charged and convicted with perverting the course of justice for his role in the case involving drug lord Christopher “Dudus” Coke.

“Let’s just say I am humbled and certainly grateful to God that it has come, and for that it’s really where we have to give God thanks,” Miller told the Jamaica Observer on Monday.

“You have to bear in mind some of the reasons why things happen and when we don’t understand everything, and the Church and all of us are seeing things differently, things get clearer with the passage of time,” added Miller.

He pointed out that his church ministry has always been one of engagement in society and not disengagement from society.

“We are here to transform society and not to engage the negatives of society, but to help to make change, and sometimes it does create misunderstandings, so some see the ministry differently. So we just have to be grateful and give thanks because it shows we are moving in the right direction,” he said.

“It is just a blessing for me and my family because the pain that they have carried, this [apology] has helped in the healing process of internal wounds,” said Miller, who was speaking with the Observer one day after president of the Independent Churches of Jamaica Bishop Dr Neville Owens issued an apology for the way Miller was treated by the religious community at the time of the Dudus débâcle.

“We have hurt you, as a church. We have said and done things [and] in your absence we have made utterances, we have broken covenant, we have violated trust [and] we have left you exposed when we should have galvanised you and undergirded you and supported you,” Owens said to rousing applause during a service on Sunday at Fellowship Tabernacle.

“We have left you wounded and scared on the Samaritan way. Sons and daughters have even left when they couldn’t wait because they couldn’t see the vision in their time. They did that to Jesus,” added Owens as he described Miller as “wounded within and wounded without”.

“This day could not end without a public apology,” said Owens to even louder applause during the service in which Fellowship Tabernacle was proclaimed as a model church of the Kingdom of God for the 21st century with 21st century relevance.

“So the Lord said He would wave away the reproach of Egypt [and] may the Lord roll away the reproach from Al Miller — accusations, insinuations — and may the Lord lift all burdens from your shoulder,” Owens added to thunderous applause from members of the main church at Fairfield Avenue in St Andrew and those visiting from its sister churches in Portmore, Mandeville, and Fort Lauderdale in the United States.

As part of his prayer for Miller and his wife Jasmine, Owens said, “We embrace him, and the Kingdom of God within him. May it rise, may it come alive, may it multiply, may is spread like water.”

Owens, who is the founder of Love and Faith World Outreach Ministries, pledged his support — financial and otherwise — to move Fellowship Tabernacle and its theology, which underpins its initiative to become the “manifestation of a model of God’s Kingdom-Nation in Jamaica and the Caribbean Province”.

Fellowship Tabernacle started 37 years ago, birthed as a church for the kingdom of God for the nation and called to become a model church for the 21st century.

Miller found himself in trouble with the law in June 2010 when he was charged after he was found in a car with Coke who was then Jamaica’s most wanted. The police claimed Miller tried to elude them with Coke, who was wearing a wig.

In his defence, Miller insisted that he was taking Coke to the US Embassy for him to surrender to American authorities who had wanted him on several drug charges.

According to Miller, his actions were in the interest of the country after a failed attempt by the security forces to arrest Coke in his Tivoli Gardens stronghold failed but left more than 70 people, including members of the security forces, dead.

Miller argued that the situation was a crisis that had enveloped Jamaica, resulting in the loss of multiple lives, the country losing millions of dollars, and the destruction of Jamaica’s image.

The court did not accept his arguments and he was found guilty and fined $1 million or 12 months in prison.