Former Moravian head quits as chairman of Teachers’ Service Commission

Sunday, January 15, 2017

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AS the sex scandal surrounding the Moravian church in Jamaica deepens, Dr Paul Gardner, who was head of the organisation up to Thursday, has also quit his chairmanship of the Teachers Service Commission (TSC).


Education Minister Senator Ruel Reid, in a release late Saturday night, said the resignation was immediate. Gardner was appointed chairman of the commission last year May.


Speaking with the Jamaica Observer yesterday, Reid indicated that the resignation was due to the scandal rocking the church organisation. "In discussions he recognised that there are some serious allegations against him which render his continuance untenable and he therefore, in principle, has agreed to step aside to clear his name and his integrity and, having tendered his resignation, I have to accept it. I thank him for his services to the TSC and Jamaica and I wish him the very best in his future endeavours," he said.


Dr Gardner and vice-president of the church, Rev Jermaine Gibson, quit the executive of the church on Thursday as allegations of sexual misconduct continued to rock the organisation.


The events unfolded after a minister of the church, Rev Rupert Clarke, was arrested on rape and carnal abuse charges in connection with a 15-year-old St Elizabeth girl. He was later charged and is now out on $800,000 bail. The police reported that during a patrol on December 28 in Austin, St Elizabeth, they discovered Clarke with the minor in his parked motor vehicle.


A former minister of the church, Dr Canute Thompson, has since made claims that the head of the church knew about a pattern of behaviour of sexual misconduct in relation to Clarke, and that Gardner himself had promised to address the concerns. Gardner has denied those allegations, but the circumstances surrounding the Clarke case have worsened, with the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse indicating that Clarke could be slapped with more charges in relation to a sister of the 15-year-old minor.


Acting president of the Moravian Church in Jamaica, Rev Phyllis Smith-Seymour has expressed regret at the circumstances leading to Clarke’s arrest.


"We expect that in this, and any other allegations that may arise, that the law must take its course, and we are committed to respecting and accepting the due process of the law and the course of justice," she said in a weekend statement, adding that the recent events and allegations have left the church "battered and wounded".


Smith-Seymour said the organisation had sought outside counselling as "we know that we cannot be completely objective about ourselves" and is open to criticism and corrections towards meaningful change.


She noted that the church is also re-examining its policies and processes as it deals with all the allegations. "At this time, the Moravian Church must assert our ongoing and unequivocal support for the rights of all people, and especially so of our children, to live free of abuse, and the threat thereof," the acting president said.


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