Destiny scandal prompts inquiry

Last updated 05:00 31/03/2010

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Allegations of sexual contact between fostered young people and the children of Destiny Church pastors in New Plymouth have prompted an official investigation into all children under the care of the Open Home Foundation in the city.

The Open Home Foundation, which places children in foster homes, has said it was aware of an allegedly "inappropriate relationship" between a 16-year-old boy and Rebekah Noble, the adult daughter of ministers Lee and Robyn Edmonds.

The Taranaki Daily News revealed on Monday that the Edmonds' son, Joshua, 29, had been charged with the indecent assault of a 13-year-old girl who had been in foster care.

Child, Youth and Family head Ray Smith announced yesterday that all 21 children in the care of Open Homes in New Plymouth would be investigated to ensure the young people were safe and well cared for.

If the investigation uncovered any indication of criminal behaviour it would be immediately referred to the police.

The investigation comes in the wake of Robyn Edmonds resignation from both her role as a pastor at Destiny Church and as practice manager of Open Homes Foundation New Plymouth.

In a statement released to the Taranaki Daily News yesterday the Edmonds said the boy was not a minor at the time of the alleged sexual relationship.

"This incident was immediately disclosed to the Open Home Foundation National Office who notified CYFS.

"As this was an Open Home Investigation I was not involved with the process nor was Bishop Brian Tamaki ever involved or notified, but in hindsight regret that we did not inform him directly," the statement said.

Due to the situation the couple said they felt it was appropriate to stand down as pastors.

"We wish to express our sincerest apologies to Bishop Tamaki, the Destiny movement and those who have been affected, for the adverse affect this situation has had on them. And wish to emphasise that this situation in no way reflects on the professionalism or integrity of the Destiny movement."

Destiny spokesman Richard Lewis said the couple's stand down was appropriate and necessary in light of the allegations of sexual offending by their son and the allegations relating to their daughter.

"One case involves an allegation of indecency against Joshua Edmonds, which is currently before the courts. The other case involves their adult daughter Rebekah," Mr Lewis said.

He will investigate the allegations on behalf of the church.

Open Home Foundation chief executive Russell Martin said yesterday that he was working with CYFS on the investigation.

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Currently, there were nine Destiny families approved as carers with Open Homes, but only one family had children in care with them at present. There were four children placed with that family.

The foundation was made aware of allegations that Ms Noble had an inappropriate relationship with the 16-year-old boy in September 2007 and had investigated at that time, Mr Martin said.

Mrs Edmonds (Rebekah's mother) had not known about the alleged relationship prior to September 2007.

The Open Home Foundation is a Christian-based child support service which provides social work and foster care services to families in need of support. In the last financial year it received $10,767,000 in government funding for contracted services.

- By LEIGHTON KEITH and KIRSTY JOHNSTON

- © Fairfax NZ News

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