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Moravian Church elects woman president

Thursday, July 27, 2017

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A woman has been elected president of the Moravian Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, which made unflattering headlines recently, after three of its senior members were accused of being sexually involved with underage girls.

In fact, President-elect Rev Phyllis Smith Seymour will replace Dr Paul Gardner, who resigned earlier this year after he was charged with carnal abuse and indecent assault.

Former vice-president Jermaine Gibson also resigned, after he, too, was slapped with similar charges.

They were both charged after another member, Pastor Rupert Clarke, was arrested after he was accused of having sex with a 15-year-old girl.

Smith Seymour, the first woman to ever head the church in Jamaica according to a release from the church, was elected at the 75th Provincial Synod at Bethlehem Moravian College in Malvern, St Elizabeth, which also saw delegates passing a Child Care and Protection Policy.

Described in the release as a “key piece of legislation”, the policy was one of the major documents agreed upon by the Synod.

“The policy outlines specific ground rules to be followed by church leaders and workers as well as volunteers in their care and who interact with minors. The guidelines set out in the policy are to be supported by a programme of training and sensitisation of church leaders, staff and laity, and are in accordance with the Child Care and Protection Act of Jamaica,” the release said.

Delegates to the Synod also agreed on other wide-ranging policies that the release said will direct the Moravian Church's ecclesiastical efforts.

Among them is a five-year strategic plan, set to be implemented from 2017 to 2022, that was accepted as the blueprint for the work of the church. The plan's vision, according to the release, is: “Through the power of God, by the year 2022, we will be a most caring, vibrant and effective church, attracting and transforming lives and communities.”

The church also sought to draft policies to address a number of social ills plaguing the communities from which its congregants are drawn and the society as a whole, formulating an outreach plan to reach at-risk boys and young men, while also ratifying proposals directed at buttressing their programmes to support people living with HIV/AIDS and aimed at eliminating discrimination targeted at people living with HIV/AIDS.

At the opening ceremony of the synod, which convened July 9-14 under the theme: 'The Church on a Mission: Empowering our People for Evangelism', while preaching on the theme 'Prisoners of Hope', Rev Smith Seymour encouraged those in attendance to rejoice and hope in God who will always make a way through whatever crisis life presents.

Referencing the record number of violent deaths in Jamaica for the year so far, Rev Smith Seymour was strong in her condemnation of murders and admonished the church to stand firm, and face and treat with the ill effects and negative fallout from criminal and other socially crippling activities.

Rev Smith Seymour will lead an executive comprised of Rt Rev Devon Anglin; Rev Dr Kofi N'Krumah-Young; Rev Kevin Marshall; Rev Sacha Lambert; and two laypersons Bro Lowel Morgan and Bro Anthony Tomlinson.

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