GRACE Report Exposes Tenth Presbyterian Church’s Mishandling of Paul Jones Abuse Allegations

On December 1, Senior Pastor Liam Goligher resigned from Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania after legal documents exposing a 2014 citation for "personal misconduct" were published online. Just weeks earlier GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) published a report of its investigation into abuse allegations at Tenth. Goligher was not named in the report, but ten others were.

"Spanking" Naked Students

Paul S. Jones was the organist and music director for Tenth Presbyterian Church from 1998 to 2014. In 2001, church leaders became aware of allegations of sexual misconduct in Jones' previous role as a music teacher at Temple University. These allegations and his subsequent confession to them led to his release from his role at Temple.

A staff member at Temple said, "[We] received word that Dr. Jones had been involved with a treatment of students that was, in our view, inappropriate. It involved physical discipline with students, male students ... they were at least in their underwear if not naked."

GRACE adds, "It should be noted that reference to Paul Jones' abusive behavior as 'spanking' minimizes the severity of the abusive acts disclosed. One reported victim described the abuse as beatings. Another recalled having pain for days after he was required by Jones to strip naked and accept an excruciating 30 batterings with a paddle."

A former leader of Tenth Presbyterian later described Jones' response to the allegations. "Paul Jones said that that this was done at the student's request. Paul Jones said this was a homeschooled student and this was the discipline practiced in the home. He said that the student requested that Paul discipline him likewise."

GRACE identified seven victims of Paul Jones' sexual misconduct, all whom appeared to have reached the age of majority before the misconduct occurred. GRACE also reported "At this time, Jones had multiple young men residing with him as tenants, many of whom were either students at the university, interns at Tenth, or both."

Based upon Jones' own assertion that these were not sexual acts, and the fact that the university was not treating this issue as sexual misconduct, the 2001 session of Tenth decided to retain Jones in full-time employment.

Second Investigation in 2011

When a new leader began working at Tenth Presbyterian in 2011, he discovered that Temple University had indefinitely barred Paul Jones from university property and also prohibited university students from participating in internships at Tenth Presbyterian.

The university leader stated,

I was very concerned about what was going on at the church, and... because the church did not remove him, we no longer allowed students to serve in internships or be involved in church. Now, the dilemma was, because Paul was continuing in that position... some students were assuming, "Well, [the local university is] just overreacting as a fundamentalist school, and [Tenth is] taking a more restorative approach and trying to help him, and what he must have done couldn't have been that bad, because he's still down here."

The new leader Tenth leader initiated a committee to investigate Jones again in 2011. Witnesses identified concerns about Jones' leadership and his treatment of interns and students. One member of the investigative committee recalled, "Paul had taken an intern with him to Florida for a conference, as well as 'parties' at Paul's house in which young men were running around shirtless as well as extensive levels of massage."

The 2011 session committee delivered the following report to the full session:

There were no accounts of physical abuse like what we had heard about the 2001 incident; the majority had more to do with 'emotionally' related instances (threats or bargains, etc.) as well as fear that prevented them from speaking to a higher authority. No specific instance was reported at that time that credibly reached the level of impropriety of 2001.

The session determined to retain Jones in full-time employment and appoint a "Review Committee" to "offer counsel and accountability for the work of the Music Director [Jones] ... for the spiritual maturing and growth of Dr. Jones."

Violation of Restrictions Reported in 2013

Despite the session's requirements that Jones refrain from entertaining young men in his home or taking them on vacation, Tenth leadership received a complaint from parents. While they were out of town, Jones invited their son to a meal. Upon questioning Jones, the session discovered that Jones had a young man stay overnight at his home on multiple occasions and given him a key to his apartment.

A timeline prepared for the session in late 2013 states, "Therefore, for the honor of the church of Jesus Christ, the commission recommended Paul Jones' termination from Tenth which was accomplished on November 18, 2013."

Delayed Termination and Celebration

Despite the documentation from the session commission dating Jones' termination on November 18, 2013, Jones continued in employment at Tenth until February 2014.

One elder shared,

The session agreed that we would terminate him, but then the problem was, when would he go? We were all over the place. I had talked to an employment attorney, our attorney in Philadelphia, and she pretty well said, "He needed to go then, right away, it just needed to be clean," she advised. I reported that to the session. Not all session agreed that it should be immediate. We had the Christmas Program coming up ... It was just very difficult.

During the session's deliberations, Pat Canavan and another elder submitted a letter of commendation for Jones, expounding his achievements at Tenth and elsewhere, concluding, "We commend Dr. Jones' gifts and skills as a musician and director of our church's music ministry and pray for the Lord's blessing on his future service in His Kingdom."

In January, the session of Tenth sent a letter to Jones which included a non-disparagement agreement. A concert at the end of January celebrated Jones' contributions to the church. In addition, at both the morning and evening services on February 2, the church held "special farewell services with major receptions."

Telling the Congregation the (Partial) Truth

On March 30, 2014, the session of Tenth issued a public statement to the congregation regarding Jones' dismissal. A portion of the statement follows.

13 years ago Paul was terminated from his position on the faculty of... [local university] because of personal misconduct.... We looked into the situation and decided to keep Paul on staff.
Three years ago Paul's situation came up for review and, again, he was found fit to continue, but was required to be accountable to a special three person committee which would shepherd him and monitor his personal conduct.
This past fall, the committee received information indicating that Paul was not adhering to the committee's guidelines. The committee reported this to the Session and the Session voted to terminate Paul's employment. Subsequently, with the help of an advocate (a former Tenth elder) Session permitted him to resign instead of being fired and extended the effective date of his departure until after the Christmas season. Paul's last date as organist and music director was February 2.
You should know that, at his request, Paul has participated in the preparation of this statement and concurs in making it public to you today. He acknowledges that his failure to comply with the committee's guidelines is a major factor in Tenth's current troubles and he humbly seeks your forgiveness."

One of the ported victims stated that he did not approve or support the statement made to the congregation. He felt it was weak and did not disclose the full nature of the problem. At the time, however, he was unaware that Tenth had already signed a non-disparagement agreement with Jones.

Civil and Ecclesiastical Trials

In April of 2014, Jones filed a lawsuit for defamation against Tenth Presbyterian. The suit was later settled through a mediation process that involved financial compensation.

In September of 2015, a reported victim filed charges with the Philadelphia Presbytery against the session of Tenth Presbyterian with regard to their handling of the abuse allegations.

In October of 2015, the session of Tenth decided to make certain information about the termination of Jones available to the congregation under limited circumstances. Only registered members were permitted to see the documentation in person at Tenth Presbyterian after signing a confidentiality agreement. Viewers were not allowed to take notes, make copies, or even bring an electronic device to the viewing.

Philadelphia Presbytery Admonishes Tenth in 2017

In February of 2017, the Philadelphia Presbytery admonished both the 2001 session and the 2011 session of Tenth for negligence in protecting the congregation and properly investigating abuse allegations.

Tenth Presbyterian was charged with violating the fifth and ninth commandments and encouraged to "foster an environment of trust, honesty, and genuine concern for the well-being of its members."

Where is Paul Jones Now?

According to the biographical information on his website, Paul Jones is a "conductor, pianist, university professor, church musician, composer, author".

Dr. Jones is Associate Professor of Music and Director of the Concert Choir at the University of The Bahamas. He is also Organist of the Church of St. Christopher (Anglican), Lyford Cay, accompanist for the Bel Canto Singers, choral coach for the Bahamas National Youth Choir, Vice-President of the Bahamas Music Educators Association, and President of Paul Jones Music, Inc.

A 2022 Facebook post from the University of the Bahamas states, "Dr. Jones was invited to give a solo organ recital at the church but, instead, chose to collaborate with colleagues and students." 

About the author 

Lynna Sutherland

Lynna has been in the PCA since 1982. Four generations of her family have participated in PCA church planting. Lynna has been around long enough to see the good, the bad, and the ugly and her particular calling is to equip the people in the pew to understand their church government and to advocate for victims of abuse in the PCA.

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