A Timeline of the Jamaica Moravian Church Sex Scandal 2016-2017

From the end of December 2016 to January 2017, the Jamaican church community was rocked by what has come to be termed the #MoravianSexScandal. Here’s a timeline of how the events unfolded, as reported by Jamaican newspapers The Gleaner and THE STAR.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

64-year-old Rupert Clarke, pastor at the Nazareth Moravian Church in Manchester, is arrested after he was allegedly caught having sex with a minor in a motor vehicle in St Elizabeth.

Friday, December 30, 2017

Clarke is suspended from the church with immediate effect pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The St Elizabeth police charge Clarke with having sex with a minor.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Speaking at a post-Cabinet press briefing, Minister of Education and Information Ruel Reid, says the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA) intends to charge Clarke with carnal abuse resulting from an alleged sexual relationship with one of the minor’s sisters.

The bail hearing for Rupert Clarke takes place at the St Elizabeth Parish Court. He is granted bail in the sum of $800,000. The hearing is attended by Hampton School principal, Heather Murray, who faces backlash on social media for trying, at one stage, to block The Gleaner‘s photographer from taking a photograph of the Moravian minister.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Gleaner publishes the first of a two-part article by Dr Canute Thompson, a former Moravian minister, on the church and moral leadership.

Hampton School principal Heather Murray issues a statement seeking to explain why she decided to attend the bail hearing of Rupert Clarke.

Friday, January 6, 2017

President of the Moravian Church Rev Dr Paul Gardner responds to former Moravian Minister Dr Canute Thompson, who raised concerns about the church and moral leadership.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A group of 14 women stage a peaceful protest at the Nazareth Moravian Church in Manchester, rallying support for the 15-year-old St Elizabeth girl allegedly abused by Rupert Clarke, the pastor of the congregation.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Dr Canute Thompson produces emails dating back to 2014 which prove that leadership of the Moravian Church, including Dr Paul Gardner, were aware of the allegations against Clarke. Thompson said he was “constrained to release the private email with the church president because he was left uncomfortable following Gardner’s denial on Friday that there were previous adverse reports against Clarke”.

Women who were allegedly abused by Moravian ministers while in their teens begin to speak out. Social commentator and gender specialist Nadeen Spence, who grew up in the Moravian Church, is among the people seeking to help the victims.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Hampton Principal Heather Murray is sent on two weeks’ leave.The Education Ministry says Murray is also expected to go for professional counselling services given what was described as her recent emotional stress. She issues an apology for her behaviour at Clarke’s bail hearing.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Dr Paul Gardner, the president of the Moravian Church in Jamaica, and Jermaine Gibson, vice-president of the church, both resign from their respective posts.

The bishops of the Moravian Church in Jamaica and The Grand Cayman indicate that an independent committee will be set up to investigate allegations brought against president Dr Paul Gardner and vice-president Jermaine Gibson.

Moravian Bishop Stanley Clarke, who was scheduled to give the keynote address at the National Leadership Prayer Breakfast, withdraws.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Reverend Phyllis Smith-Seymour, who has assumed the role of acting president of the Moravian Church of Jamaica, issues a statement saying that the Moravian Church has been left “battered” and “wounded”.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sections of a letter detailing one woman’s ordeal after getting sexually involved with a Moravian minister is reported in The Sunday Gleaner stating, among other things, that the minister’s wife was aware of the illicit affair.

Former President of the Moravian Church in Jamaica, Dr Paul Gardner, resigns as chairman of the Teacher Services Commission (TSC).

Monday, January 16, 2017

A new speaker, Dr Burchell Taylor, Pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Half-Way Tree, St Andrew, is confirmed for the National Prayer Breakfast, following the withdrawal of Bishop Stanley Clarke of the Moravian Church, who was originally slated to be guest speaker.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Acting president of the Moravian Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands Reverend Phyllis Smith says the members of an independent committee have now been identified to probe complaints against Dr Paul Gardner and Jermaine Gibson.

Heather Murray challenges the education ministry’s decision to send her on two weeks’ leave.

Wednesday, Janaury 18, 2017

Dr Paul Gardner, former president of the Moravian Church in Jamaica, has issued a statement indicating that he will be working assiduously to clear his name.

The Hampton School Board backs principal Heather Murray’s decision not to go on two weeks’ leave, in a direct challenge to the education ministry’s decision to send her on leave.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Dr Paul Gardner and Jermaine Gibson are charged following investigations by detectives from the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA).

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Lambert Johnson, the attorney for the Moravian ministers charged with sex offences, describes the arrest and charge of his clients as vile, malicious and tenuous.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Moravian ministers Dr Paul Gardner and Jermaine Gibson appear in the Manchester Parish Court. Their bails are extended and they are to return to court on Wednesday, February 8. Prosecutors indicated that a copy of the preliminary report in the case would be made available to their attorneys and that a date would be set for a committal hearing to determine whether the case would be transferred to the Circuit Court.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Gardner’s new attorney, Peter Champagnie, tellsThe Gleaner that he advised his client against bringing civil action against the woman at the centre of the case to avoid the appearance of intimidation.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The scandal-hit Moravian Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands has postponed its biennial Synod that was scheduled for April.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Moravian pastor Rupert Clarke pleads guilty to two counts of having sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16 years old. Clarke was released on bail and will be sentenced on March 8 next year when the St Elizabeth Circuit Court will again be in session.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Moravian pastor Rupert Clarke has been sentenced to eight years in prison on two counts of having sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16 years old.

Please note that this post will be updated as the story continues to unfold.