by SHÂN ROSS Published on the 13 September 2013 11:00
TWO head teachers at a Scottish primary school who allowed members of a US creationist Christian religious sect into classrooms have been removed from their posts, it emerged last night.
Headteacher Alexandra MacKenzie and her deputy Elizabeth Mockus – who job-share at Kirktonholme Primary School in East Kilbride – are to be “redeployed” to backroom duties while South Lanarkshire Council carries out an investigation,
Education chiefs want to determine why the Church of Christ sect had been allowed into the school to work as classroom assistants for the last eight years.
South Lanarkshire Council last night issued a statement confirming both senior teachers had been removed from their posts and temporary headteachers put in their place.
Both Mrs MacKenzie and Mrs Mockus continue to work for the council in an education role, but the council did not say where they were working or what they were doing.
Jim Gilhooly, the council’s director of education, said: “A full investigation into the management practices within the school has been instigated.
“In order to assist with this, the current headteachers have been moved from the school and redeployed to other duties within education resources, with immediate effect. A temporary senior management team has been put in place.
“The council will continue to work with the parents to ensure that Kirktonholme Primary School now moves forward with educating and caring for the community’s children.”
The Alabama-based sect’s presence at the 400-pupil school came to light when pupils took home creationist books they had been given at assembly, as reported in Saturday’s Scotsman.
The creationist books given to pupils were How Do You Know God is Real? and Exposing the Myth of Evolution, denouncing the theory of evolution and warning about a world without God.
The sect does not believe in evolution and denounces homosexuality as sinful.
Alex Gear, from the Church of Christ, had been invited into the school by Mrs Mackenzie to take on the role as one of the school’s chaplains. He regularly spoke to pupils about beliefs as part of their religious education lessons.
After details about the sect came to light a number of parents complained to the council, while others threatened to take their children away from the school. Parents at the school were yesterday given a letter from Mr Gilhooly outlining why the teachers had been removed.
In it he said: “I have instructed that an investigation into aspects of the management practices within the school takes place. In order to assist with this process, I have decided to redeploy Mrs MacKenzie and Mrs Mockus to other duties elsewhere within education resources.”
He added that alternative arrangements would be made for the management of the school for the duration of the investigation and that Andrea Reid, who worked as a quality information officer, would take over for the “interim period.”
The director also told parents the East Kilbride school would no longer be used to hold a youth club which was run by Mr Gear on Monday evenings
A source close to the school said: “The majority of parents think Mrs Mackenzie and Mrs Mockus do great work, but have been naive about this business.
“The parents all knew there was an American or two in the school helping out, there was a constant stream of them, but most just thought they were teaching assistants undergoing training. The current ones are a young man and woman.
“They went on trips with the kids to things like cinemas and worked for a couple of days a week or just half days.”
Last night, Linda Fabiani, MSP for East Kilbride, revealed she had been contacted by parents whose children attend other schools in the area alarmed that their children may be exposed to a similar situation.
She added: “They (parents) should always be aware of who is dealing with their children on a regular basis, and of course what materials are being used in class and given as gifts.”
Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: “I very much welcome an investigation. But I hope it doesn’t just focus on one school, but take in other schools so that pupils aren’t exposed to this sort of extremism.”
Mr Gear also worked as chaplain at Greenburn Primary School, a special-needs school, also in South Lanarkshire.
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “Officials have been contacted by concerned parents in the school and have indicated their support for the actions being taken by the director of education.”
Church of Christ members pray, respond after Scottish tabloid calls congregation an extremist cult
Erik Tryggestad | The Christian Chronicle
September 06, 2013
Christians in Scotland and the U.S. are praying as they respond to a newspaper story that refers to Churches of Christ as an “extremist religious sect.”
The article also says that parents of elementary school students in Scotland are worried that church members are “trying to brainwash their kids.”
The front page of the Daily Record (VIA
DAILYRECORD.CO.UK) The headline “Parents’ outrage as extremist US religious cult hand out creationist books and preach to kids at Scottish school” appears on the website of the Daily Record and Sunday Mail, a tabloid newspaper based in Glasgow, Scotland. It was a front-page story in the paper’s print edition and details a controversy at a public school where church members distributed two religious books recently.
Underneath the headline is a blurry, ominous photo of Jared Blakeman — his face painted to resemble Captain Jack Sparrow in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.” The photo caption reads: “Face-painted Jared Blakeman is one of the ‘missionaries’ that has been in classrooms at the school.”
“That picture is totally unwarranted,” minister Alex Gear told The Christian Chronicle.
Recently, the church hosted an annual community day, which included games and crafts for children. Another AIM apprentice painted multiple eyes on Blakeman’s face — to resemble actor Johnny Depp’s character in the popular Disney film. Blakeman posted the out-of-focus photo on his Facebook page, which the Scottish newspaper lifted for its story.
Blakeman never entered the school wearing the face paint, Gear said. (Nor would the minister have allowed him to, he added.)
Gear said he has hosted students from the AIM program in East Kilbride for seven years — about the same amount of time that he, fellow church members and AIM workers have volunteered at Kirktonholme Primary School, where the controversy occurred.
On the Facebook page of Adventures in Missions, Christians ask for prayers for the AIM team and fellow Christians in Scotland. (PHOTO VIA FACEBOOK.COM/ AIMSUNSET)
Sandra McKenzie, head teacher at Kirktonholme, invited the West Mains Church of Christ into the school eight years ago, the Daily Record reports. Gear said he served as a chaplain for the school, occasionally teaching Bible lessons and speaking at school assemblies. Members of the church and AIM students volunteered in classrooms, hosted a Monday evening youth club for students and built wooden garden huts for the school’s agriculture projects.
On Sept. 2, with the school’s approval, Gear and Blakeman distributed copies of two books to students — “Exposing the Myth of Evolution” and “How Do You Know God is Real?” — produced by Alabama-based Apologetics Press, a publishing ministry associated with Churches of Christ.
Some of the students’ parents complained about the books. One parent told the Daily Record that they contained “crazy, right-wing nonsense about how evolution never happened — real flat-earth stuff.”
McKenzie sent a letter to parents and explained that, “whilst I appreciate that not every family in our school are practising Christians, I was only too happy to accept this generous gift on your behalf,” the Daily Record reports. “I hope you will all accept it in the spirit with which it was offered.”
The newspaper also claims that parents at the school were “furious to learn that cash raised by children, which they thought was intended for school funds, had been given to the sect to build a church nearby.”
Gear told the Chronicle that the school occasionally raises money for local charities and had selected the church as the recipient. School children donated their spare change over the course of a few months, and the school presented the church with 220 pounds (about $343 U.S.).
The school “sent a letter with all the children to let them know what was happening,” Gear said, and presented the money to the church at a ceremony attended by parents in June.
The recent controversy has forced Gear to resign from the chaplaincy at Kirktonholme and another school where he served, he said.
Truitt Adair, president of Sunset International Bible Institute, told the Chronicle that he had spoken with Gear to confirm that the AIM students were in no danger. He voiced support for the minister and said that he and the institute’s staff are praying for the congregation and the people of Scotland.
Bill McMurdo, a Scottish writer, speaker and consultant who blogs about football (soccer), was critical of the newspaper’s characterization of the church as an “extremist U.S. religious cult.”
“This is so typical of our media’s propensity to use smear and slogan to vilify people,” he wrote in a blog post. “The ‘cult’ in question is the Churches of Christ, a well-known denomination in Christianity and one considered fairly orthodox in the Protestant mainstream. The East Kilbride congregation sound a zealous lot and may have been a touch over-exuberant but this doesn’t make them a cult by any stretch.”
Since the article appeared, Gear said at least 20 church members and neighbors had stopped by his home to check on him and show support.
“I believe God’s got us here for a reason,” Gear said, “and that some good will come of this.”
EVELYN Galvan Gracianom describes teaching Spanish lessons at Kirktonholme Primary School where she works as an unpaid classroom assistant to help her spread the Church of Christ’s message to pupils.
A BLOG written by a Church of Christ disciple lays bare the sect’s attitude to Scotland – and how they attempt to foist their extremist views on to children.
The blog is written by Evelyn Galvan Gracianom – who the sect have based in East Kilbride 5000 miles from her home in the poverty-blighted Mexican city of Leon.
Her entries give a terrifying insight into the gulf in thinking between the right-wing, gay-hating, evangelical church and people in Scotland.
And it is clear that she herself may have been indoctrinated by the sect after one of their missionaries befriended her family in Leon, a teeming urban sprawl of 1.5million people, 200 miles north of Mexico City.
Statistics compiled in 2010 by Mexico’s council for the evaluation of social development Policy say an estimated 600,000 people in the city live in poverty.
So it’s not suprising that 22-year-old Evelyn has become so devoted to a sect which helped her travel the world.
So swayed is she by the sect that she is convinced that only 600 people in Scotland are proper Christians – out of our 5million strong population.
Worryingly, she nonchantly describes teaching Spanish lessons at Kirktonholme Primary School where she works as an unpaid classroom assistant to help her spread the sect’s message to pupils.
Talking of living in East Kilbride, Evelyn writes: “Even though they are very friendly and nice, they have a really closed minded way to think or at least about God.
“This country was funded as a Christian nation but today the reality is other, most of the people don’t have a firm belief and most of them are either atheist or agnostic.
“There are Catholics, Presbyterians, Mormons, Jehovah witnesses, Baptist, between others.
“But I know thanks to some friends’ research that out of 5.1million people only around 600 are actual Christians or at least Church of Christ members, which is tragic.
“Because a nation that claimed to be Christian a few centuries ago, today is a place full of darkness and emptiness that is in a big need of Jesus.”
She goes into great detail about her routine at the school. Evelyn writes: “Every Monday and Wednesday some of my teammates and I volunteer in Kirktonholme Primary School, we are in different classes.
“On Monday I am usually in the morning with primary four. After lunch I am in a therapy class where I take some kids from different classes so they can learn how to interact with other kids.
“On Wednesday I have a busier day. I start with the kids in primary seven then again I help in language class.”
It appears from the blog that she and a colleague, called Rafael, are left alone with pupils to teach them Spanish – and preach about their extremist religious beliefs.
She says: “I have a Spanish class for the primary four kids, and we have around 30 kids; that’s not all, actually there were about 60 kids wanting to join the class but we only could take 30.
“They all are very receptive and willing to listen and learn. Hopefully at least we can let the kids know who Jesus is, and maybe someday that seed that we have planted can be grown by God.”
Evelyn also talks about a church-led Monday night kids’ club which aims to get children into the sect’s beliefs through football and game-playing.
She says: “We get together in the community hall where we usually gather to worship on Sundays, to have a night where older teens and young adults can come to hang out.
“The purpose to this club is to get to know younger folk and be able to bring new members to the church.
“We just started but we got a couple people already coming, please pray for us and that God blesses this new ministry. We usually have a craft club on Tuesdays at 6:30 pm, along with free guitar classes that one of our church members gives.
“Basically we have some kids and we make some crafts with them, just like the youth club and seventy times 7 club, it’s to give kids a place to go – also it gives us the chance to influence them.”
Also online is her account of how she came to be in Scotland – which will many will find disturbing reading.
She says: “I grew up and studied most of my life in a Catholic school.
“But thanks to God, and for what he had planned for me and my family, we got to the Church of Christ in 2006.”
She reveals her family were recruited by one of the “missionaries” whose ranks she has now joined.
Evelyn writes: “This guy later came back to Leon as an AIMer (Adventures in Mission worker) to work with the church.
“My sister and I started taking Biblical classes in English with some of the AIMers, and after a few months I got more involved in the church and with the members in the congregation.
“After several months, I took the decision to give my life to Christ. And since then I have been a part of the Church of Christ.”
Evelyn was initially reluctant to commit to travelling on the church’s behalf – but she was talked into it and was sent to the city of Lubbock in Texas to be “trained”.
She says: “I started to work and spend time with the AIMers and missionaries that came to Leon, and they encouraged me to think about AIM.
“We talked about it, prayed, saw the possibilities and opportunities that I had, because I wasn’t sure about my decision.
“But as always, God intervened. Through the missionaries and their contacts, I got the support that is required for living in Lubbock during our training time.
“In that moment I saw that God is in control of all situations, so I decided to go to AIM.
“Now I am serving faithfully in East Kilbride, Scotland, with the Church of Christ here.”
Jesus says that we should be rich in God’s sight? How do we do that? Well, mainly by investing in other people’s lives and making a real difference to them.
Here’s a story I rather like….
There once was a Primary School teacher, a Miss Thompson. In her class was a lad, Terry Jones who was not very likeable. Terry was one of those youngsters that Miss Thompson did not care for.
He was unkempt. His hair was dishevelled. He stared blankly at you, and uttered one syllable answers to the questions that he was asked. Miss Thompson took special delight in marking an X in red pencil beside wrong answers.
She should have known better. She had the records.. First Year, Terry is an average pupil but is not working to his potential, a bad home situation. Year Two, Terry is distracted and is not working well. His mother has terminal cancer. Year 3, Teddy is getting worse. He is not keeping up with the rest of the class, His mother died this year. His Dad seems disinterested.
At Christmas all the children brought presents for the teacher and piled them on her desk. Terry brought a present. It was wrapped in brown paper with masking tape.
Miss Thompson opened it. An old bracelet with some of the stones missing fell out, and there was a bottle of cheap perfume half empty.
The other children laughed. Miss Thompson had the sense to put the bracelet on and dabbed the perfume on her wrist. Then she lifted her arm up for all the children to see. Due to the example of the teacher, all agreed that it was a wonderful gift.
Terry stayed after school that day. He said, “Miss Thompson, when you put that perfume on you smell like my mother…..and her bracelet looked nice on you too.”
When the new term started, Miss Thompson was a changed person because she was determined not just to impart information but to make a difference in the lives of her pupils
She was going to truly invest herself in their lives. She started with Terry. She gave him extra classes, and by the end of the year, he had caught up to the rest of the class and was ahead of many.
Years later she got a letter:
Dear Miss Thompson, I’m doing fine. I am second in my class. I wanted you to be the first to know. Signed: Terry Jones
Few years later, she got another letter:
Dear Miss Thompson, I have just been informed that I will graduate with Honours, 1st class. I thought that you would like to know. University has been hard, but I have enjoyed it. Signed: Terry Jones
Some years later she got another letter,
Dear Miss Thompson, I have finished my course, and as of June 30th will be Dr. Terry Jones, Doctor of Medicine. How about that? I am going to be married on July 27th. I want you to come to the wedding and sit where my mother would have sat. You are all the family I have left. Dad died last year. I surely hope that you can make it. Signed Terry Jones.
Miss Thompson went, and she sat where Terry’s mother would have sat. She deserved it because she had given herself in such a way that a student was brought alive and it made all the difference in the world
What’s really important? It is in giving ourselves in such a way that others could say we made a difference. That also is being rich in God’s sight
I was a probationer assistant (like an apprentice or curate) in the then new housing estate of Wester Hailes in the west of Edinburgh.
Helen and I had got married in 1973, soon after I got this position, and after a few months in furlough houses belonging to the (then) Overseas Council of the C of S (for whom I was to work for later), we ended up in an empty manse in Juniper Green in Edinburgh …. with next to no money, apart from the small stipend I got from the Church (do you know what the Church of Scotland’s tartan is? …. small cheques).
We moved in with two deckchairs, an old dining room suite given to us by a friend of my parents, loads of books and a large collection of LPs and a record player.
I bought a “Baby Belling” cooker, which probably cost £20/£30 and was so skint that I had to pay for it on H.P.
We got a bed from my dear mentor, the Rev Bob Whyte, and he and his sons and I pushed it up Lanark Road from his manse to our humble abode. It must have given passing motorists and pedestrians a bit of a laugh.
There was no heating as such, and Helen and I sort of squatted in one room. The rest of this big and beautiful Manse remained empty (apart from the somewhat creepy creaking noises in one of the empty bedrooms upstairs and on the staircase!)
She went back to University in the October and I seem to recall that every lunchtime I went down to the local wee shop and bought Birds Eye battered sausages for lunch (I wonder if they still make them).
It was so cold that sometimes in the morning I’d put my trousers on over my pj pants!
And this especially when I had to walk to the local Primary School in Wester Hailes. Just as well, as the first time I went to take Morning Assembly, my zipper on my trousers was undone!
I remember one particular occasion that I was there. The address was something about competition, I think. And I unbuttoned my shirt to reveal a Hearts tee-shirt, by way of illustration.
Apparently, there was a riot in the playground thereafter between Hibs and Hearts supporters… and these were only young kids.
The headmaster complained to my boss and I didn’t visit that school much thereafter!
The folks in the congregation were a delight, but some of the natives were less than impressed with the clergy.
I had intended to stay for two years, but one evening while waiting at a bus stop some yobs started throwing bricks at me. That decided me to seek my own Charge after a year.
I ended up in a lovely village as minister in 1974. And guess what? I was beaten up on the steps of my kirk on Christmas Eve!
(but for that tale, you’ll have to dig back in this Blog to the very first entry……..)
A blog dedicated to the thoughts, opinions, ideas and random madness of Edward W. Raby, Sr. - Pastor, Theologian, Philosopher, Writer, Bodybuilder and Football Fan. "Yes, the dog is foaming at the mouth. Don't worry, He just had pint of beer and is trying to scare you." This is a Theology Pub so drink your theology responsibly or have a designated driver to get you home as theology can be as intoxicating as alcohol.