Thursday, 2 February 2017

Safeguarding at Iwerne Trust

Channel 4 News reported yesterday on allegations of abuse at the Iwerne Trust: Archbishop admits Church ‘failed terribly’ over abuse revelations

The Church of England has tonight apologised unreservedly after a Channel 4 News investigation revealed that a prominent Anglican evangelical and former colleague of the Archbishop of Canterbury is alleged to have severely assaulted boys and young men for decades…

Other news reports include:

Patrick Foster, Nicola Harley, and Lydia Willgress The Telegraph Archbishop of Canterbury issues ‘unreserved and unequivocal’ apology after links to ‘child abuser’ emerge
‘I could feel the blood spattering on my legs’: Victims tell of ‘horrific’ beatings at hands of Archbishop’s friend

Samuel Osborne The Independent Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby issues apology over Church of England links to ‘child abuser’

Kevin Rawlinson and Harriet Sherwood The Guardian Church ‘could have done more’ over John Smyth abuse claims

The Archbishop has issued this statement in response to the Channel 4 News report.

“The Archbishop of Canterbury was a Dormitory Officer at Iwerne holiday camp in the late 1970s, where boys from public schools learnt to develop life as Christians. The role was to be a mentor to the boys, as was that of his now wife at a similar camp for girls.

John Smyth was one of the main leaders at the camp and although the Archbishop worked with him, he was not part of the inner circle of friends; no one discussed allegations of abuse by John Smyth with him. The Archbishop left England to work in Paris for an oil company in 1978, where he remained for five years. He began training for ordination in 1989.

The Archbishop knew Mr Smyth had moved overseas but, apart from the occasional card, did not maintain contact with him.

In August 2013 the Bishop of Ely wrote to the Bishop of Cape Town, informing him of concerns expressed to his Diocese Safeguarding Adviser about Mr Smyth from an alleged survivor. The British Police had been notified. The Archbishop’s Chaplain at the time was forwarded this letter, and subsequently showed it to the Archbishop for information only.

The Archbishop has repeatedly said that he believes that the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults should be a principle priority in all parts of the Church, and that any failings in this area must be immediately reported to the police.

The Archbishop is on the record as saying that survivors must come first, not the Church’s own interests. This applies regardless of how important, distinguished or well-known the perpetrator is.”

There is also a statement from the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Adviser.

“The violent abuse of young men between 1978-82, as outlined in the Channel 4 programme, should never have happened and we utterly condemn this behaviour and abuse of power and trust. The report into these horrific activities, drawn up by those linked with the Iwerne Trust, a non-denominational Christian charity, should have been forwarded to the police at the time. When the Church of England was alerted by a survivor, through the diocese of Ely in 2013, the police were immediately informed as was the Anglican Church in South Africa where Mr Smyth was then living. The national safeguarding officer, which was a part time post, was informed and helped find support for the survivors. Clearly more could have been done at the time to look further into the case. We now have a dedicated central team made up of six full time posts - we will be reviewing all files making further enquiries as necessary. We echo the Archbishop’s unreserved and unequivocal apology to all the survivors and are committed to listen to anyone who comes forward and we would urge anyone with any further information to report it to the police “

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 2 February 2017 at 11:32am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

"The Archbishop has repeatedly said that he believes that the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults should be a principle (sic) priority"

A priority he cares about so much he can't even be bothered to spell it correctly. Which pretty much sums up Welby's approach to safeguarding.

ED NOTE: I corrected your other spelling error in this comment.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Thursday, 2 February 2017 at 12:02pm GMT

Oh, and while we're at it, what is Welby apologising for? This appalling stuff didn't happen in a CofE building, wasn't operated within a CofE management structure, and so far as we can tell no-one involved was a CofE cleric. The money was coming from a charity that had only the loosest of affiliations with the CofE, and the victims were recruited via schools, not churches. Welby himself claims he knew nothing about it, either at the time or afterwards, and in any event at the time at which it happened he was a nascent oil industry executive, not someone training for, working in, or otherwise anything other than a lay member of, the CofE.

And yet here he is, fulsomely (and I use that word very carefully, well aware of its ambiguous meaning) apologising for, well, what? For keeping quite about what he was shown? Presumably, that explains the repeated emphasis on "for information only."

One might almost think he has something of a guilty conscience. Yet again, we see that corruption flourishes where people are insufficiently curious about what is happening around them.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Thursday, 2 February 2017 at 12:19pm GMT

If you wrote this in a novel it would seem too far fetched. A story involving ++Cantuar, Mary Whitehouse (indirectly) and a whiff of an establishment cover up.

According to the Charity Commissioners the Trust no longer operates but Titus Trust continues the work. No mention of it all on the Titus Trust website. Perhaps they hope if they ignore it it will go away.

Posted by: Simon Bravery on Thursday, 2 February 2017 at 12:30pm GMT

Channel 4 is just 'muckraking'. Justin Welby had no knowledge of what is alleged to have happened over 40 years ago at VPS camp. He should not be compelled to comment on what he knew {he knows nothing} at that time.

Posted by: CofE member, layman on Thursday, 2 February 2017 at 2:22pm GMT

Simon, the Titus Trust front page,, currently reads:

"Channel 4 News and others have this week run stories about John Smyth QC, who was Chairman of the Iwerne Trust between 1974 and 1981. The allegations are very disturbing and our thoughts are with all those who have suffered, and their families." and continues in a measured way. No "may have suffered", "feel they have been harmed" and all the rest of the weasel words of past scandals: it's straightforward and direct.

I wasn't taking notes, but I'm pretty sure this was the case when I looked at it earlier today, which I think was before I made my previous comment at 12.19, so I suspect by the time you posted at 12.30 the page was up. Given they are a small charity, I don't think they can be faulted in the speed and comprehensiveness of their response; I doubt they have a full-time crisis-response team waiting to be nudged into action, and they have had less than 24 hours to respond.

Given these are events of more than thirty years ago, and the Titus Trust took over the activities of the Iwerne Trust twenty years ago (ie, ten or more years after the shocking events happened) records are going to be sparse in the extreme, and (for example) establishing who was present, both as adults and as children, in the relevant periods is going to be very hard, and isn't going to be a matter of printing out a spreadsheet.

It is a matter of shame for us as adults that these events happened to young people, but yet again, we will almost certainly see that evil flourishes in part because good people do not understand evil enough to look for it effectively. Today, sadly, we have almost reached the position that an adult who volunteers to work with young people is suspect by that fact alone, but in the 1970s and 1980s the bona fides of people doing "good works" went almost without saying. Moreover, these were not disadvantaged or obviously vulnerable victims, and our understanding has grown of the way in which charismatic abusers groom their victims into complaisance and how that constitutes abuse even when in strictly legalistic terms there is some sort of consent. There is a lot of debate to this day about the correctness of the judgement in R v Brown 1994 (which decided that there were some sado-masochistic sexual acts to which you could not give effective consent, even if you apparently consented) and this case asks even harder questions, because of the substantial power gradient and the involvement of religion. On the facts we have so far seen, it is straightforwardly abusive, and it defies belief that a prosecution was it appears never seriously considered.

I think the hard, hard questions are going to be asked of the people who when this matter came to the surface in 2013 opted not to take action. Probably even more worrying is the implication in several of the accounts that Smythe was known (to whom?) to be an abuser but was allowed to leave the country without charge in exchange for an unenforceable assurance he would not work with young people. That treads dangerously close to the naive and/or corrupt practices of the era in which clerics who were known to be a risk to children were moved on, perhaps to places where they had fewer opportunities to offend, in order to avoid the risk of scandal.

We have not heard the last of this case.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Thursday, 2 February 2017 at 3:14pm GMT

Were not these camps for public school boys often called colloquially the BASH camps (I believe after the name of the founder)? It would seem that the nickname of the camps was all too accurate.

Posted by: Marian on Thursday, 2 February 2017 at 3:54pm GMT

"Justin Welby had no knowledge of what is alleged to have happened over 40 years ago at VPS camp"

Yes he did: he was told in 2013. He says that quite clearly in his statement.

No-one, so far as I can tell, is accusing the young, pre-ministry Welby of anything other than being innocent of what was going on. There is not the slightest suggestion that in the 1970s or 1980s Welby knew, should have known, could have done things to find out, or anything else. He was present in the same postcode, no more. Once is happenstance, as Auric Goldfinger said.

The much deeper question is why, when the matter was raised in 2013, was nothing done. And why, when the matter was raised at some earlier point, or perhaps when rumours circulated (it doesn't sound like it was terribly secret) was the perpetrator, to use a phrase of the racing world, "warned off" rather than prosecuted? Post 1994, ie post R v Brown, the defence of consent would not have availed him. Post Peter Ball, this is even more worrying.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Thursday, 2 February 2017 at 5:36pm GMT

As the product of the “Bash” camps at Iwerne Minster might I be permitted to comment? I happen to have some sympathy with ++Justin on this. I think he instinctively feels sorry for the survivors, but he cannot possibly be blamed for the physical punishment between 1977-1982, which it appears may not have taken place either at the camps or at Winchester College. The question of whether the Church has dealt correctly with the survivor who reported to the Bishop of Ely in 2013 is separate, but there is no suggestion that it has not. On a guilt by association basis, lots of us knew John Smyth as campers and I feel sick at the thought of the emotional and physical scars inflicted on, it seems, quite a few, some of whom went on to be ordained as priests, as many who attended the camps did. I was there between 1969 - 1971. Smyth was a prominent, though young, “officer” at the time, slightly older than the other “officers”, most of whom were at university or theological college. He had been called to the Bar and it seems he soon went on to chair the Iwerne Trust, which was the fundraising charity for the work, later folded into the Titus Trust. In its early days it produced church leaders such as David Sheppard, Dick Lucas and John Stott. Its list of bishops includes, as we know, ++Cantuar, and from my Iwerne days alone (some seven years earlier) +Dorchester, and the recently retired +Peter Lee, Bishop of Christ the King. Many went into the City, including Andrew Dalton, some into teaching. Their influence was significant, central to Revd EJH Nash’s vision. The Iwerne camp was run at the time by David Fletcher, later Rector of St Ebbe’s. Looking back, it was of course the most muscular form of evangelical Christianity, thought best suited to public schoolboys. Many found faith there, including me, but we now know there was a dark side. Winchester College, the Titus Trust and of course the CofE have all put statements on their websites in the last 24 hours, following the Channel 4 investigation. Winchester’s is the most forthright. It deeply regrets Smyth went on to abuse following investigations it carried out in 1982. However, the culture at the time, of which we are now so aware, was ‘to move the offender on’. I recall over 25 years ago being told he had left for South Africa ‘for reasons unconnected with his law practice.’ The whole episode is deeply shocking.

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Thursday, 2 February 2017 at 5:45pm GMT

Simon.... It didn't involve Welby or Whitehouse... The Titus trust has information on its website.

You did make it all up... to no good end...why?

Posted by: Ian on Thursday, 2 February 2017 at 7:24pm GMT

I certainly agree that it seems to unfair to hold ++Welby responsible for this though the Church is culpable in not responding sooner to this. What this episode does do is to remind us how deeply class-ridden the Church of England was and, I think, continues to be. The original 'Bash' Camps were targeted at the top 30 British Public Schools as these provided the ruling class and influence. At some point in the fifties camps were set up on the same lines for oiks from minor public schools and grammar schoolboys of whom I was one. I was sent to such a camp about 1957 - heaven knows why as my father, a clergyman ordained by Temple, was hostile to evangelicalism. I date my life-long antipathy to evangelicalism from then. As Anthony Archer says, it was muscular Christianity in capital letters. It was run on military lines with a Commandant, an Adjutant and officers in charge of each tent. Of course this was the 1950s when we expected to have to do National Service and I had recently emerged from a with a particularly brutal head so at 15, I accepted this side of it, if not the faith side. I did however have the sense that we were not quite the top class but the subalterns. My point is that that there is still a residue of that class superiority in some quarters of the CofE now and with it that public school evangelical male oriented Christianity. ++Welby surely embodies it. My memory is that there was an interesting discussion about this on this site in about 2008 in connections with the difficulties at Wycliffe College.

Daniel Lamont

Posted by: Daniel Lamont on Thursday, 2 February 2017 at 7:41pm GMT

@Anthony Archer

Thank you for your very personal and informative comment.

Rather than comment on this case specifically, I think we need to start considering in general whether those who perhaps should have known of abuse happening in various situations years ago didn't "know" because they were truly innocent and could not comprehend that such things might happen or whether they now claim they don't "know" anything because they took a conscious decision not to investigate or find out. Morally at least the two are quite different.

Posted by: Kate on Thursday, 2 February 2017 at 7:47pm GMT

Paragraph 160 of the Faith and Order Board's report on leadership, written by Loveday Alexander and Mike Higton, says: "These movements are often led by Christian businesspeople who are more at home with the language and operating methods of business ‘leadership’ than with the traditional categories of the church. They have been highly successful in training generations of Christian leaders. Yet, for all the biblical teaching and discipleship training they offer, it is still noticeable that they sometimes operate with a relatively uncritical acceptance of secular hierarchy and power. In this sense, they are prone to similar hermeneutical criticism as might be levelled at unfiltered application of secular management, business or civic paradigms of leadership - or at the ‘worldliness’ of the medieval bishops." I think that this is spot on. These people have all come into prominence under ++Welby's watch and they are virtually all public-school educated. This episode with Iwerne Minster is bound up with class.

Daniel Lamont

Posted by: Daniel Lamont on Thursday, 2 February 2017 at 8:03pm GMT

I apologise for saying there was nothing on the Titus trust website about this. There was nothing when I looked this morning but I have since read the statement.

Channel 4 News is certainly making a big story of this with more revelations promised tomorrow- this time involving Zimbabwe and " a death in mysterious circumstances."

Looking at the list of prominent "Bash "camp alumni helpfully provided by Anthony, David Watson could be added to the list.

Posted by: Simon Bravery on Thursday, 2 February 2017 at 8:42pm GMT


There was nothing about this on the Titus Trust website when I looked this morning but I have since read the statement. Mary Whitehouse's involvement was as I have said indirect as John Smyth was instructed by her to prosecute Gay News. I do agree that Justin Welby's connection is actually pretty peripheral. Certainly it is unfair to suggest he should have known about the abuse , particularly as it took place (assuming the allegations are true) at John Smyth's home in Winchester and not at the camps themselves. However these are the angles the media have seized on.

Posted by: Simon Bravery on Friday, 3 February 2017 at 12:26am GMT

Kate, I am conflicted about whether people in general knew that there were men who enjoyed hurting children in schools. I think they did, but I think they just didn't see it as wrong.

Today, you don't need to be doing a PhD in hidden subtexts to realise that under the humour Searle and Willans' Molesworth books point to some pretty seedy activities by some pretty seedy people. Those books had been published in the early 1950s, long before both the Chatterley Trial and the Beatles' First LP (to co-opt Larkin). But how were they read at the time?

The problem is not so much that people did not know, or believe, that such things happened: they clearly did. No, the problem is that they did not see them as worthy of significant attention. If children are being caned in schools routinely (corporal punishment in state schools continues well into the 1980s) then the instinctive reaction we have today that it is (a) clearly abusive and (b) clearly sexual vanishes,. It is replaced by some vague sense of there being an ill-defined boundary one side of which lies reasonable chastisement and the other side of which lies something unspeakable, and that is a line which a charismatic abuser can move.

It is one thing to try to convince a head teacher today, who would no more formally cane a child in their office than mug pensioners in the street, that repeatedly caning teenage boys is acceptable. But if you are used to, and indeed expected to, every now and again cane a child's bare buttocks as part of your job description, it's now a matter of degree rather than of fact, and you can see how the boundaries of outrage become blurred. Crossing the bright line of "thou shalt not strike a child" is very different to crossing the thin grey line from six strokes to seven to twenty, and trousers down to naked, and so on. The moral absolutes have gone, and we're now just arguing degree.

Sexual abuse is about power and humiliation. Smythe was able to engage in one form of power and humiliation because up and down the land, people were employed to do it. He was just volunteering to do what the head was doing anyway, and perhaps (or perhaps not) enjoying it more. Had he engaged in other sexual abuse, he would have probably not been able to get away with it, because by 1975 was no world in which a little bit of buggery was OK. But if he was content with just terrifying boys with a cane rather than with his penis, he was able to pass his activities off as, at worst, a regrettable over-zealousness in something basically acceptable.

It should be pointed out that there was, and is, a massive pornographic literature around corporal punishment, and magazines depicting the corporal punishment of young women, often in school uniform, were sold in newsagents well into the 1990s. The problem was not that people didn't know that it happened. They just didn't notice that it was evil.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Friday, 3 February 2017 at 12:36am GMT

I wonder whether such actions and attitudes ran wider through the history of the Bash Camps. For interest I have been reading the wikipedia account of Rev Nash (the founder) and I came across the following comment by John Stott (himself a graduate of the Bash Camps).
"Nash wrote many letters. John Stott reports: "His letters to me often contained a rebuke, for I was a wayward young Christian and needed to be disciplined. In fact, so frequent were his admonitions at one period, that whenever I saw his familiar writing on an envelope, I needed to pray and prepare myself for half an hour before I felt ready to open it."

Given what we now know about the Bash Camps at a later period - this remark could be understood in quite a sinister way.

Posted by: Marian on Friday, 3 February 2017 at 10:30am GMT

The whole of the current abuse issue must be horribly unsettling for any who had connections with Bash camps, but it impacts also those like myself who worked with Scripture Union camps. I was certainly unaware of any violence or abuse, but the coercive intent of our Christian agenda is in retrospect clear. What right had we to seek to 'convert' the unformed young we shared time, activity and friendship with?

Other comments here have been illuminating. The class-related nature of Bash camps wasn't shared in their relatively down-market equivalents run by SU, but interpenetrating them all was a particular version of conservative evangelicalism. Has anyone really properly yet explored the link between a core doctrine of penal substitution and the punitive mind-set which in the present dreadful case emerged as sadistic violence? The father inflicts torture and death upon the beloved son... 'this hurts me more than it hurts you'.... And then there is the further question of conservative evangelical 'use' of biblical texts; only in a deeply flawed hermeneutic could Hebrews 12:4 (quoted in the C4 News yesterday) be used to justify punishment beatings. But what other texts are being similarly employed to impose upon others what is deeply wrong? This case raises huge doctrinal and interpretive questions for the Church... and for its - our - integrity.

Posted by: John Caperon on Friday, 3 February 2017 at 11:36am GMT

The comments of Interested Observer are acute. I think that there were teachers who enjoyed beating children and, of course, the children didn't go home at night so parents, while generally accepting that corporal punishment was used, didn't know the detail. There was also a curious kind of omerta about admitting to having been caned. The problem is the pyschological damage that boarding schools did. I see that the evangelical Mark Stibbe, himself reportedly a victim of Smythe, has recently published a book about his school experiences and there is an excellent blog, which explores the consequences of boarding schools, one of which is that its products suffer, for example, from lack of empathy and understanding. But most boarding schools of that era had daily chapel and twice on Sundays so that the harshness of the regime was linked to Christianity.The man who would cane you later in the day was the man who took the service. My concern is that the whole HTB nexus has been dominated by public school boys, often from Eton, but HTB is now being held up a good model. Surely the recent House of Bishops' report on same-sex marriage displays an astounding lack of empathy and understanding. Thus I do maintain that the CofE is to some extent being shaped by upper class attitudes and that the baleful influence of the 'Bash' camps lives on. Marian's quotation from John Stott is telling.

Posted by: Daniel Lamont on Friday, 3 February 2017 at 12:05pm GMT

"Has anyone really properly yet explored the link between a core doctrine of penal substitution and the punitive mind-set which in the present dreadful case emerged as sadistic violence?"

I think you are crediting Smythe with a theological depth he doesn't deserve. Le Vice Anglaise has a long and horrible history, sufficient to explain his actions without other factors. He was presumably sexually attracted to young men (one of the accusations in the C4 report was that he only picked the pretty ones) and particularly to exerting power over them and humiliating them. Most if not all of them were below the then-current age of consent. What he was doing was not explicitly illegal in the way that directly sexual activity would have been, and pre RvBrown the consent he would have claimed to have had meant it wasn't (by the laws of the time) assault. He was a clever lawyer, and had found a way to get sexual pleasure which was not explicitly illegal. This wasn't theological argument gone awry, this was a planned strategy to obtain a sexual end without breaking the law.

I was also, if I might divert for a moment, fascinated by the body language and facial expression of his wife on the TV last night. His reaction was what one might expect, but she was apparently unsurprised, showing no particular reaction as a TV camera crew asked some pretty shocking questions. That's not a woman who is shocked and stunned to learn that her husband is being accused of hideous offences of which he is clearly innocent: that's a woman who knew exactly what the allegations were, and has spoken of them at length before. She might have been told an exculpatory story and believed it, but that was not someone hearing the story de novo.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Friday, 3 February 2017 at 12:56pm GMT

"My concern is that the whole HTB nexus has been dominated by public school boys"

It seems lazy to blame the obsession with homosexuality displayed by parts of the church on tired old tropes about boys' boarding schools. But it's hard to avoid the thought that much of the obsessive worry about homosexuality is essentially teenage boys giggling about "poofs", and it would be interesting to know who, if any, in the senior ranks of Anglican opposition to equality had a mixed education.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Friday, 3 February 2017 at 4:15pm GMT

Any system which invites participants to see their participation as a privilege is open to this kind of manipulation. Selecting from a social elite, indeed "the key boys from the key schools" as Nash described it, is a recipe for cult-formation (and, by the way, profoundly unchristian : the first shall be first and the last shall be last?). All those invited would see their position as in the gift of the leadership - by the way, where's the grace in that? - and as easily as one was identified as a "key boy", one could equally be rejected with just an unfavourable word. How much sickness does this instill in the church or reinforce in society?

I can't say I find the Archbishop's protestations of ignorance terribly compelling. As a boarding school survivor myself, I remember teenage boys being generally very aware of which authority figures to trust, which to avoid (though we were largely at the mercy of both). Is the archbishop claiming that at the age of 19 (that is to say as a well educated adult) he had not even a nascent charism of intuition or shrewdness, let alone episkope?

I also remember various holiday camps: one of which was benevolent, open, simply welcoming young people to see Christian hospitality and enjoyment of life (with no small print for those who felt the religious commitment wasn't for them). Another I attended, aged 19 as it happens, where an atmosphere of emotional manipulation was utterly blatant: prayer laden with militaristic language, intimidating preaching regarding sexuality and many other kinds of "not belonging", psychological blackmail to encourage attendees to part with large amounts of money or goods (one left their car), and spiritual abuse (including the amateur exorcism I witnessed to help a man with learning difficulties give up smoking). God knows what else was going on. God knows. But the only way you could believe that nothing was going on was to utterly immersed in it.

By the way: the first of those camps was run by an Elim Pentecostal church. The latter? You guessed it, the CofE.

Posted by: ExRevd on Friday, 3 February 2017 at 5:15pm GMT

This is all very sad and very interesting. It encourages me that someone on this thread mentions that very questionable doctrine, 'penal substitution' - perhaps the Evangelical church should revisit it and work out why it is wrong! The concept of God the Father doing any such thing is ridiculous but it is also an evil distortion. I will add that on 'people knowing' what went on or could go on, I can say that actually children raised in the 1960s were not knowledgable about odd sexual practices, and so as parents in the 1980 and 1990s we did not expect to encounter it. Only if we had some terrible reason to know ... we even didn't realise how common paedophiles apparently were ... so it would have been hard to believe, and very shocking, and truly so, for people surrounding perpetrators, to discover such things. Of course, that doesn't mean that once heard of they should not have immediately set about informing the police, children's services, etc.

Posted by: M on Friday, 3 February 2017 at 6:46pm GMT

I tried to investigate Iwerne some twenty years ago when researching for a book on fundamentalism. It was hard to get information apart from rumour and anecdote. No one had done any research on who went to these camps and even now it is being suggested that records from the late 70s are missing. The camps started in the 30s so there seems never to have been concern to hold on to important historical archive material by the Iwerne Trust.
Two published accounts eventually did come my way. One concerned the falling out between David Watson and Bash in the early 60s over the former wanting to embrace charismatic practice as recorded by Watson’s biographer. ‘My headmasters will never stand for this charismatic stuff’, Bash was heard to say. The biographer suggests that Bash had become a substitute father to Watson so this split was painful and may have contributed to Watson’s life-long asthma. The camps upheld strict Calvinistic theology and Harriet Harris quotes an unknown source that suggests the Bash based all his teaching on a single book by Reuben Torrey, What the Bible Teaches. I have written up these fragments of information on my blog There have been subsequently two contributions from actual participants. I have also speculated on the influence of these Iwerne camps in helping to create a particular strand of upper-middle class evangelicalism which is to be found in Parliament and elsewhere. It is once again hard to research these things.
I concur with the judgements that link God punishing his Son language into cruel beatings on earnest young Christians who think in this way. If Bash tried to be a father figure to Watson (and Stott) perhaps that tradition carried on in the next regime of Smythe over Mark Stibbe. In the latter case the father punishing the son was taken a little too literally!

Posted by: Stephen Parsons on Friday, 3 February 2017 at 7:56pm GMT

This is a long way from my experience, since I am Scottish and female and never even went to an SU camp. But it may be worthwhile to remember that corporal punishment in schools persisted into the 1970s. I recall being at a parents' meeting at a Scottish school probably in the late 1970s, when the head teacher was explaining that there was to be no more corporal punishment. The distressing thing about that meeting was several fathers, with upper-class English voices, expressing anger that this punishment was to be discontinued, saying that it had never done them any harm.

Posted by: Flora Alexander on Friday, 3 February 2017 at 8:01pm GMT

John Richardson RIP is interesting:

Posted by: Fr William on Friday, 3 February 2017 at 8:14pm GMT

The Church endorsed beating for over 1500 years, beginning with the Rule of Benedict. From the reformation through the Victorian age to the late C20th the public schools set up by or for the CofE encouraged it. Archbishop Fisher was said to be a ferocious beater as headmaster of Repton (even taking into account Roald Dahl's mistaken recollection of one event). And the judge in sentencing Bishop Peter Ball in 2015 made clear that his abuse included beatings. An Archbishop seems to have intervened on Ball's behalf. Now this evangelical beating scandal brings more Archiepiscopal equivocation and reassurances. Of course with 'safeguarding' this sort of thing cannot happen any more. Really? Is there not something institutional about mortification of the flesh in the Church? Give it a few more years and the zealous floggers will be back. Perhaps they have never gone away.

Posted by: Andrew Partridge on Friday, 3 February 2017 at 11:00pm GMT

I was routinely (almost nightly) beaten at a top boarding school. The effects on me were harmful and distressing, and I even ran away three times and suffer flashbacks periodically to this day. So this whole topic is quite hard reading for me (and maybe for others too). But Interested Observer has it right: it was routine public school culture in the 1960s. It was known about, though in the case of boarders, when exeats were fewer, parents lacked day to day insight and oversight of a lot of what was going on. But certainly in my experience it was very very sick and weird. It really wasn't about education at all: it was pretty obviously about sexual arousal or power or both. Because it was pretty much recognised socially, the subtle abuser could manipulate around the grey line boundaries between 'establishment mores' and sexual/domination arousal.

What is far far more weird is that these British Empire mores could get translated into Christian youth development. I find these accounts really sick and disgusting. What kind of Christian could possibly and prayerfully think this was okay, unless they had a really stunted concept of Christianity?

As someone who participated in HTB-populated summer house parties, there is obviously a 'birds of a feather' sense in which the higher classes of society choose to socialise (and proselytise) together. To be fair, I always found people in this circle decent, faithful and well-intentioned, but it's fair to say there has been a bit of a sense of assumed leadership in the C of E, perhaps inherited from the public school mindset of preparing higher class pupils for leadership in the world and the Empire.

To be honest, I find the tone of the Church of England to this day rather 'comfortable middle class' with obvious exceptions. There is a sense in which 'the establishment' can flourish within the Church, lending itself to a sense of empowerment, and top-down mentality.

A question to anyone who can answer: What proportion of our bishops were educated at Private Schools, and how does that compare with the actual percentage of people in England who do?

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Friday, 3 February 2017 at 11:09pm GMT

Interested Obsverver in his comment on my remark "My concern is that the whole HTB nexus has been dominated by public school boys" does me an injustice. I was not commenting specifically on homosexuality, to which I do not refer in my post, but the predilection for beating and above all the nature of the public school ethos and its sense of class superiority. It is this latter which seems to dominate the HTB leadership and by extension some aspects of the CofE hierarchy. I see this as pernicious. I am sorry that I did not make myself clearer. I am very happy that I now live in Scotland and am a member of the SEC.

Daniel Lamont

Posted by: Daniel Lamont on Saturday, 4 February 2017 at 3:44pm GMT

I was a member to HTB in the early 80s. Many of the leaders there had come out of Eton and Cambridge. They all went off every summer to help at Iwerne or Motcombe. The camps were and I think still are only run for public school children and even then the top ones go to Iwerne, the next rung go Rushmore etc. When I asked where the comprehensive schoolchildren can go, I was told that another organisation runs 'go -kart camps' for them! I was and remain very disturbed at the way independent school children only are allowed at the Titus Trust camps. The elitism sticks in the throat and should have no place in modern society.Thinking about it now the comp school kids probably had a lucky escape going to go kart camps and not to Iwerne etc! Titus Trust should be wound up - let all kids of whatever background all go on SU holidays

Posted by: Anne on Saturday, 4 February 2017 at 5:53pm GMT

@susannah clark

Re your question, according to the Church Times in September 2014 exactly half of bishops were educated privately compared with 7% of the general population.

Posted by: T Pott on Saturday, 4 February 2017 at 6:25pm GMT

"What proportion of our bishops were educated at Private Schools, and how does that compare with the actual percentage of people in England who do?"

Massively higher, but for reasons not unique to the church: the incidence of private education at Cambridge has dropped below 50% for the first time in living memory, but only just, and at all ancient universities the rate is around or over 50%. That rate has been up and down a bit since the war, but not by much. The rate of private education is above the general rate in the population for all the redbricks and most of the plate glass universities, even today. You need to be looking at ex-CATs and the post-92s before you see rates of state education comparable with the population at large. The reasons for this are immensely complex, and as an academic with a strong interest in access I could talk about it all day. But "white middle class men in the professions are disproportionately privately educated" is a universal truth, particularly if the required qualification is (usually) a humanities degree from a top university: those courses are _massively_ non-state.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Saturday, 4 February 2017 at 9:06pm GMT

Maybe I can contribute a little to Stephen Parsons’ request for more background to the 60s evangelical scene, as I was a public school/Oxbridge ordinand (sorry about that) and a contemporary of David Watson’s at Ridley.

In those days, David was no more than a typical public school product – Wellington, in his case – where belief in God was all of a piece with playing with a straight bat (he and I were in the college cricket, football, hockey and rugger teams together) and being kind to those down on their luck. He was certainly not one of the group of humourless evangelicals there at the time. His was the “come on, chaps” style. And he was just that – a thoroughly good chap.

I remember someone using the word ‘artless’ in conversation once, and his remarking: “that’s a good word; I must think of ways of using it.” Whether he was “trying God out” on people and found it worked, we shall never know, but don’t underestimate the upper middle class bubble many ordinands lived in, despite having done National Service – that is, the uncomfortable prospect of having to speak in church to ‘ordinary people’. Better stick to talking about God – or “Gudd” as he pronounced it. And it worked! Rows of shining upturned faces! An evocons nirvana. A cynical reason for their obsession with numbers? Maybe. It’s also the rationale of the shaving cream adverts: “four million people can’t be wrong!”

The history of 1930s Germany would suggest “yes, they can”.

Posted by: Michael Skliros on Sunday, 5 February 2017 at 11:54am GMT

Kate raised the question – and others have voiced similar amazement – about why abuses of corporal punishment in the ‘good old days’, even the practice itself, were not reported as criminal acts.

At my public school in the 40s, a midlands one more noted for its toughness than its empire-building record, beating was administered by house prefects. Yes, undertones of sexual gratification and sadism (not seen as sexually flavoured in those days) were acknowledged, but they were thought to be an acceptable risk, outweighed by the advantage of being able to run our own house and not have the housemaster micromanaging everything.

No doubt they are ridiculed today, like Freud, but when Kinsey, and Masters & Johnson, used proper research to reveal the sexual nature of corporal punishment, we immediately knew they were right and that was the end of it. That rape is a misuse of power, and nothing to do with sex, was a surprise – at least to those who had not had first or second hand experience if it. But it made sense, as did the clinical findings that same-sex attractions are perfectly normal for a small proportion of the animal kingdom, which of course includes humans. It also made us open to researchers’ observations that there are indeed many genders.

So acceptance of same-sex attractions need not be a reluctant acknowledgment of an inherently sinful activity, under pressure from “secular society”, as the bishops seem to imply, but the result of proper research by “small ‘s’ science”. There is no slam-dunk proof for it. But neither is there for global warming. The difference is that whereas GWPF keeps pegging away with pictures of icebergs crashing into the ocean, the “small ‘s’ science” nature of the wholesomeness of same-sex relationships is silenced by (i) instincts of self-preservation (“what would other parts of the communion think?”) and (ii) selective literalism (“bible says no”).

So, as well as continually presenting the findings of professionals engaged in research into human sexuality, let us examine *much more closely* the opposition to same-sex attraction. My view, supported by various anthropologists, is that whatever you call homophobia, it has more in common with our deep-seated fear of snakes, also of the mentally damaged (there is no fear of the physically damaged), and male unease over female menstruation – that is, deep-seated aversions that are buried many thousands of years in our psyche.

Posted by: Michael Skliros on Sunday, 5 February 2017 at 12:37pm GMT

I went to a Iwerne ‘camp’ just once - I think it was in 1965. I went with doubts and questions about the conservative evangelical faith I had grown up with, and I soon realised that asking questions was not welcomed. They dealt in certainties. It was all about ‘authority’ – which I experienced even then as authoritarian. It was very masculine, the officers were all bachelors, and girls were not mentioned. For me, Iwerne marked the beginning of my disenchantment with evangelicalism.

My subsequent search path took me to India, to Cuddesdon and ordination, and then medicine, psychiatry, academia. As a psychiatrist, these revelations about John Smyth invite reflections about how the culture of Iwerne provided fertile soil for such abuse of power - with its unquestionable authority, the cult of the leader, the enforcement of ‘sound doctrine’ and imposed spiritual discipline, and warped views on sexuality. Iwerne was about control; and control readily leads to abuse.

I would not presume to comment on Smyth’s individual psychopathology (to do so would be unethical without having met him and interviewed him), but is likely to be complex. I am concerned rather with Iwerne’s group psychology, a close-knit hierarchy with no room for dissent, allied with a theology that emphasised justice over love, punishment rather than compassion, and strict rules of behaviour over Christian freedom.

Posted by: David Mumford on Sunday, 5 February 2017 at 12:52pm GMT

Like David, I can look back on a time when the first cracks were formed in my strongly evangelical faith and world view.

I had recently lost my father. He had died in my arms. He was the gentlest, loving, selfless person I have probably ever known. He made huge sacrifices for his family. He was kind.

Being programmed with evangelical teaching, the horror for me was that he was not a professing Christian. I think he'd been put off by ardent Christians and the camps he himself had been sent on.

Yet he epitomised the Christian imperative of loving kindness.

So I reached a stand-off with myself. It seemed intolerable that my daddy had been sent to Hell by God. And it seemed unthinkable that I should disbelieve what I'd been taught about Hell. This came to a head at a summer house party, organised by upper middle class Christians from HTB. Lovely people. But when I turned to one of the organisers in distress, he told me that if my father did not believe in Jesus, yes he would go to Hell. It was sugar-coated with 'Perhaps he turned to Jesus in his last moments' but in my heart I was sobbing, 'Even if... what about someone else's daddy? And the next one? And the next?' How could God send people like my daddy to eternal punishment?

Although my evangelical framework survived on the surface another decade, that moment (and the floods of tears I shed when I left the room) was the first crack in the dam.

God is a deeply comforting God. In those following years, in all sorts of ways, I came to learn about grace and the openness of the love of God. The next pivotal point was a time of contemplation when I was on a pre-ordination retreat at Launde Abbey. It drew me back to the wonder and gaze I'd known in childhood, before the bolt-on systems of evangelicalism constrained my views.

I liken my experience to a small child, trying to find her way along a narrow path in a dark and thick forest. There is fear of straying from that path. Fear and tension. Then all suddenly, I am out, and running down a wide sunlit meadow, lovely and open and shining with beauty, running, running, then being picked up, running and picked up in the arms of God.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Sunday, 5 February 2017 at 3:42pm GMT

Susannah, in my experience far, far more people believe in Jesus than admit to doing so even - or, perhaps, especially - to themselves. It is one of the underlying weaknesses of the sort of Christianity that HTB teaches - they only see belief if it is professed in words, if people proclaim Jesus. Many people express their belief in different ways, perhaps alongside a large dollop of doubt.

In fact, I think it is possible to argue that everyone believes in Jesus, even those born before His incarnation.

Posted by: Kate on Sunday, 5 February 2017 at 5:59pm GMT

"the underlying weaknesses of the sort of Christianity that HTB teaches"

HTB style Christianity appeals to affluent, educated, middle class people. They aren't looking for sophisticated theology, but a certain amount of certainty and a great deal of community.

Amongst those aged, say, 40+ there is a plentiful supply of actual homophobes, and even greater supply of people to whom homophobia is a matter of supreme indifference. But as you look at younger cohorts, the willingness to throw their LGBTQI brothers and sisters under the bus diminishes. And diminishes not only in society in general in those cohorts, but particularly amongst the precise affluent, educated, middle class demographic HTB fishes in.

Steve Chalke's much discussed shift in position is undoubtedly genuine and heartfelt. But we can expect some of his fellow evangelicals to make similar moves for more venal motives, as they realise that gay hatred is bad for business. In twenty years, the market for homophobic evangelicalism is going to not only be much smaller, but also rather less agreeable for people who want congregations of nice couples in Boden who can be counted on to make substantial financial contributions.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Monday, 6 February 2017 at 12:03am GMT

I attended Iwerne holidays two or three times in the early 1970’s. It had its shortcomings but I appreciated my times there, and will always be grateful to those times for introducing me to the Christian Faith, even though my theology has moved on considerably since then. It was successful at what it aimed to do: I remember being told one time that ‘everyone had become a Christian’ and it would take a strong person to stand out against the level of group think that developed.

I did not know John Smyth well, though I recollect a charming, confident and clever man. I would not presume to know what went on for him, but perhaps there is a lesson for all of us that in taking the speck out of someone else’s eye we do not ignore the log in our own.

It is often said that when we judge others we are really judging ourselves; and that what we find most difficult in others is what we find most difficult in ourselves. It makes me wonder how often crusades against particular groups of people – LGBT, for example – are, deep down, motivated by an unconscious projection of our own unacknowledged and un-integrated shadows onto others.

Posted by: Chris Bemrose on Monday, 6 February 2017 at 2:54pm GMT

Varsity & Public Schools summer holidays (Iwerne Trust) Hired the School and grounds of Clayesmore,
a well known west country public school and a member OF HMC. No boys from Clayesmore would have been invited, as it was not one of the top thirty and would have been thought of by the directors as being part of the great unwashed!
However even if they had, it would have induced severe culture shock. The chaplain of the time at Clayesmore was Father Norris Scadding, a charismatic liberal Anglo Catholic. He did however offer the use of the Chapel to V.P.S. and showed it to them. They took one whiff of the incense and ran a mile!

Posted by: David Evans on Monday, 6 February 2017 at 5:06pm GMT

My response to Chris Bemrose's last sentence is: always.

Posted by: Fr William on Monday, 6 February 2017 at 5:09pm GMT

As this scandal, for scandal it is, unfolds there are a number of questions and issues that need to be raised/addressed. The moving and honest revelation today by the Bishop of Guildford that he is one of the survivors merely adds poignancy to the ramifications. He is in no different a position than any other survivor, but his current role as a diocesan bishop highlights the scandal still further. As my earlier post made clear, I write inter alia as a former Bash camper (later senior camper) and am truly shocked and saddened by what has been revealed and what still may be revealed. How foolish of the Titus Trust not to take the advice of Revd Andrew Atherstone when he first offered it.

1. Why did the trustees of Iwerne Trust not go to the police in 1982? One reason may be that they worked together with the Governors of Winchester College who, having consulted survivors and their parents, decided not to, a decision today’s Governors now regret. But Iwerne Trust was in a completely different position. The abuser was one of them (I would normally say the ‘alleged abuser’, but the Winchester press release is frank, as are other public statements), whereas the school was faced with abuse of pupils other than by a member of staff or person formally connected with the school, and from all accounts the abuse was perpetrated off the school premises.

2. Surely it is disingenuous of the trustees of Titus Trust to disclaim responsibility? They assumed the responsibilities of the Iwerne Trust, a charity only recently removed from the Charity Commission register (Feb 2016). Iwerne Trust and Titus Trust appear to have had common trustees. Revd David Fletcher, who ran the Iwerne camps until 1986, only stepped down as a trustee of Titus Trust in the last two years, according to filings (Jan 2015). The accounts of Titus Trust appear to reveal unrestricted funds far in excess of requirements. It is in a position to compensate survivors, not that financial compensation would be any way of turning the clock back.

3. For the National Church to be saying that the Titus Trust (and Iwerne Trust before it) is a non-denominational charity is also disingenuous. The whole enterprise (both its trustees and operations) was distinctively Anglican. How accountable are ordained priests in the CofE when they are engaged in Christian work which does not, for whatever reason, carry a stipend?

4. Did the Church of England handle the survivor correctly in 2013 when he approached the Bishop of Ely? I make no comment on this, but it will clearly be the subject of further analysis and disclosure. The important point here is that, based on the silence of the Iwerne Trust and the decision of Winchester, the suggestion that the current Archbishop knew anything about these events before 2013 is fanciful in the extreme. I had almost as much contact with John Smyth as countless other Iwerne officers and boys (albeit a few years before) and there is no evidence to suggest that these sadistic activities were carried out at the Iwerne camps themselves.

5. What other bodies need to be approached in this matter? Scripture Union would appear to have had a connection, if only because the camps bear its imprimatur and Revd David Fletcher undertook his duties leading the Iwerne camps as a Scripture Union Field Worker, according to his Crockford's entry.

The ramifications of this may stretch far and wide. Yet again an independent inquiry is required.

PS Re David Evans, Sunday services were conducted in the Clayesmore School chapel!!

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Monday, 6 February 2017 at 11:28pm GMT

Is there any information available about who the Iwerne Trustees were who, with their Chair consulted with Winchester College in 1982? They may have acted on the advice of Winchester staff (and parents) but they must have taken their own responsible and accountable view, too.

Their decision may also have been due to no clear law having been broken which could have led to all kinds of legal difficulties which we no longer understand.

A problem that I have perceived since I became an evangelical in my 20s, is that in some otherwise highly theological church leaders (also in wider Christian churches), there is a myopic understanding of the concept of mercy. Mercy does not include letting secret abusers, with open access to unsuspecting Christians (or anyone) off the hook to go on and seriously damage their lives and faith.

Christ does not have mercy on us and then turn His face from our further wrongdoing. Instead, He acts 'preventatively' and changes our hearts to stop our further abuse of others (if our conversion is genuine). Christian leaders must learn to act more preventatively - in a theological context. It is the only moral and theological thing to do and we should expect it from them. It may be that some are actually abusing this wrong sense of 'mercy' in the church too. In others words, they have been banking on a merciful cover-up from the church.

Posted by: Annis on Tuesday, 7 February 2017 at 9:24am GMT

This discussion on the experience of Iwerne has been very informative, especially the contributions of the people who were actually there. There is, however, one aspect that that has not been discussed. That is the theological pretext that was used to justify the beatings. Here the Channel 4 programme was helpful. It mentioned the quoting of Hebrews 12 where the passage speaks about the resisting of sin in the same sentence as the shedding of blood. The Hebrews author then quotes a passage from Proverbs which speaks about the Lord disciplining those whom he loves and laying the rod on every son whom he acknowledges. This uncomfortable passage reminds us of a common-place of Old Testament teaching that a father will be expected to use violence to enforce his will and compel obedience. This is also the way that God is believed to treat us. There is a complete genre of child-rearing books, mostly published in the States, which commend the use of violence in the treatment of children. They have titles like Dare to Discipline, What the Bible says about Child Training and How to rear Children. Whether we like it or not there are families that read these books and consume their poison. We cannot pretend that these attitudes don’t exist. Rather we have to engage with them and challenge the crude use of Scripture that exists. One commentator on the Radio 4 discussion spoke about another view alive in some parts of the evangelical sub-culture. He claimed that some accept deliberately imposed pain because it allows us to identify with Christ in his suffering. If these ideas exist, they need to be exorcised from Christian thinking. Bishop Andrew Watson declared that there is no theological justification for the ideas of John Smyth. Sadly there are these biblical and theological pretexts. There cannot be defeated by pretending that they do not exist. I felt moved to write on all this a couple of days ago, again in my blog.

Posted by: Stephen Parsons on Tuesday, 7 February 2017 at 9:41am GMT

I attended VPS only once, in the early 1960s at the invitation of J R "Johnnie" Bridger, the school chaplain at Uppingham. (Anyone know what became of him?). So some time before John Smyth's tenure. I have one thing to thank the camp for. This was the time I realised these were all fairy stories and became an atheist. The rituals, mysteries and secrecy in all religions provide an environment in which the sort of practices referred to can thrive.

Posted by: Rob Tresidder on Tuesday, 7 February 2017 at 10:17am GMT

As well as deploring the undoubted damage the HTB ethos has done to the Christian faith in this country, as this thread is doing, should we not also seek to show exactly *where* it is flawed?

I suggest the first task is to establish that certainty is not ‘faith ++’, but those two are at opposite ends of the spectrum, as Anne Lamott pointed out: “The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.”

Faith and doubt are two sides of the same coin, as Alfred Lord Tennyson said: “There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.” This will be a difficult point to establish, bearing in mind that many people come to churches in this bewildering world expecting certainty, also remembering Margaret Thatcher’s populist success being due to her being *certain*. What she was certain about didn’t matter in the slightest.

Another is not only the elevation of literal truth to be the highest form of it, which is bad enough, but its use *selectively* – what Rachel Evans describes as “the tendency to elevate certain biblical principles over others in order to best accommodate one’s personal opinions.”

Others are also important: the need to rescue ‘myth’ from its current meaning of baseless nonsense is one.

I also believe (though no one else on this site seems to!) that we should gently ease our understanding of the faith from its pre-Enlightenment, supernatural basis, with strong echoes of superstition, to a more naturalist understanding. This does not require a deity, separate and distinct, to fire silver bullets of wisdom into a naughty and uncomprehending human race from outside. The vision of a God, in whom we live and move and have our being, as part of this created world (though greater than it) is not in collision with the findings of all the various sciences. A deeper understanding of just how this wonderful world works, with its ruthless impartiality, would enlarge – rather than dilute – our faith.

Not least of the problems of rewriting the wording of our creeds, though, would be the stubborn belief that it is always somehow more ‘faithful’ to look backwards.

Posted by: Michael Skliros on Tuesday, 7 February 2017 at 1:33pm GMT

Giles Fraser's comments on Channel4 last night were moving and insightful. The strong association of corporal punishment in public schools with evangelical Christianity and the residue of the ethos of empire is hard to argue with. It is also to the shame of the CofE that it has not rooted out those in its leadership who inflicted corporal punishment (in schools or elsewhere) or who protected those who did, and it is becoming increasingly hard to believe the protestations of senior figures that they knew or suspected nothing. It is time to start asking hard questions which get to the root of the malaise that Giles Fraser identified. For example, I would like to know whether Archbishop Welby has ever inflicted corporal punishment whether at school, or elsewhere and, if he has, to understand the circumstances in which he did so. Did he initiate any punishment on his own authority e.g. as a school prefect, or was he obeying orders, some institutional rule or a perceived religious mandate? Finally I think we need his assurance that he did not inflict any corporal punishment in connection with Iwerne camps, for example when he was responsible for discipline in a dormitory. Archbishop Welby is a man who has suffered much in his life and he is deserving of compassion for that. And we owe him an open mind. At the same time, as an exponent of Christian morality (and I remember how he sat in judgement on the bankers) he owes us a fuller account of his involvement or non-involvement.

Posted by: Andrew Partridge on Tuesday, 7 February 2017 at 2:03pm GMT

Anthony Archer -- do you mean Andrew Atherstone who wrote a biography of Welby, or Andrew Graystone who was asked by the Iwerne Trust what they should do and whose advice was ignored.

Posted by: Andrew Brown on Tuesday, 7 February 2017 at 3:25pm GMT

This piece from yesterday's Telegraph is worth reading:

It asks searching questions of the trustees of the Iwerne and Titus trusts.

I also saw the moving statement by the Bishop of Guildford. What a brave man.

Posted by: Pete on Tuesday, 7 February 2017 at 6:07pm GMT

My response to Fr. William's response to my last sentence:

I think you are right. But out of that comes two further questions:
1. Is there a way to engage people undertaking morality crusades or witch-hunts in a dialogue to suggest that they may be motivated by their own unintegrated shadows?
2. Does the same logic apply in the reverse direction: ie that in crusading against Trump, Brexit or fundamentalism that we are also motivated by our shadows?

Posted by: Chris Bemrose on Tuesday, 7 February 2017 at 7:51pm GMT

Anthony Archer: A very helpful, measured post. But I understood the Andrew mentioned in your first paragraph is Andrew Graystone, not Andrew Atherstone, though of course I may be wrong.

At last we are beginning to realise that abuse is an umbrella term for a wide variety of behaviours. Physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, bullying and harassment. The damage done by all types of abuse is incalculable and life-long. Please God may we express gratitude to those brave people who have dared to put their heads above the parapet. Our prayers are with them as they learn to live with their disclosures.

I should like to recommend that TA readers go to the Archbishops' Council's 2006 report on domestic violence: Responding to domestic abuse. It has a very helpful Appendix on Harmful Theology.

Posted by: Anne on Tuesday, 7 February 2017 at 8:38pm GMT

"Responding to domestic abuse" can be downloaded here:

Posted by: Peter Owen on Tuesday, 7 February 2017 at 10:43pm GMT

I was employed by the Iwerne Trust in the late 80s as a staff worker. Though based in the North of England and responsible for the Northern camps, I visited an Iwerne camp at Clayesmore in my first year and was disturbed by what I saw there. When I mentioned "brainwashing" to a board member I was told in no uncertain terms never to use that word again. 
I had been converted in a fundamentalist Evangelical church and was at that time moving into a more liberal space (a similar journey to that of Susannah, who posted here earlier). My first meeting with the board of trustees was at a weekend retreat, this would have been around 1986 or 7, so most if not all of the trustees would have been aware of the John Smyth affair. Certainly Mark Ruston and David Fletcher were still involved. I distinctly remember the then chairman of the trustees saying, with great seriousness, "I really believe this is the greatest work of this century". I had a terrible sense of deja vu - I had just escaped from another group who were convinced they were doing the greatest work of this century! 
Smyth and the beatings were never mentioned then or at any other time. We received no training or instruction in child protection. There were no background checks for volunteers. 
Why did the trustees not go to the police in 1982? Did they have the idea that they must protect "The Work”, just as Winchester were protecting the “good name of the school”? Their silence had, I suspect, very little to do with the feelings of the victims and their families. Like Caiaphas, they felt it was expedient that one man suffer, rather than the whole institution perish. So the victims would spend the next 35 years hanging on the cross and Barabbas would escape to Zimbabwe.
I was never comfortable with Bash’s elitist philosophy. It seemed so completely contrary to the way Christ worked. It was effective in a way: it produced results in terms of "decisions for Christ", but what sort of decisions, and at what cost to the soul of the convert? I believe it has helped promote the strange cult of Conservative Evangelicalism, which seems to be largely based on authoritarianism, alienation, fear, and the image of an angry, implacable God.

Posted by: Richard on Tuesday, 7 February 2017 at 10:55pm GMT

Re Anthony Archer's very illuminating post, it's worth noting that the governing body of Winchester in 1982 (the warden and fellows) was led by Lord Aldington who, of course, was famously accused (fairly or unfairly) by Count Nikolai Tolstoy-Miloslavsky of having sanctioned and covered up the deportation of Cossack POWs held by the Germans to the Soviets, who then executed them. I suppose that, when faced with a problem of the type presented by Smyth, the first instinct of Aldington (deputy chairman of the Tory party during the Vassall and Profumo affairs) and his urbane headmaster, John Thorn, would be to clean things up, make sure everyone did not start blabbing, close ranks and move on. Perhaps I am being unfair.

These days the first instinct of a warden like Charles Sinclair (a newspaper executive of long experience) and a formidably intelligent and savvy headmaster like Tim Hands would be to make a decisive move by issuing a firm, direct and unambiguous public statement in order to clear the air. They will be very much alive to the deplorable impact a festering scandal can have on even a great school in a highly competitive market. This attitude should be contrasted with some of the more timorous and equivocal approaches adopted by other parties to this saga.

I have read many of these posts with interest. There is something slightly offensive about a system of camps devoted to the indoctrination of impressionable youths from the 'right sort' of schools (as the product of an aggressively irreligious family I would never have been allowed to attend such camps had the opportunity presented itself; nor would I have wished to go). The comment by the ever-apt Interested Observer about Boden congregations is all too true of some of the more successful churches in some of the more affluent parts of London and the home counties, places which I tend to find deeply alienating. If such churches are the poster-boys for 'growth' it is little wonder that the Church is making a negligible impact on people from less privileged backgrounds.

I suggest the Titus Trust amends its trust deed quickly to cater for children from all backgrounds, or else deploys its resources for charitable purposes that are far more worthwhile than the spiritual development of the offspring of the well-to-do (what about homeless children?).

Posted by: Froghole on Wednesday, 8 February 2017 at 12:58am GMT

Until this story broke I had never heard of the Iwerne Trust, despite more than 25 years' involvement in the Church of England. The idea of camps for boys from the top 30 public schools seems bizarre and unchristian. I grew up in a liberal Anglo-Catholic parish where boys and girls from local housing estates were encouraged to sing in the choir, become servers, etc., alongside children from more privileged backgrounds. The Gospels portray Jesus as having a special mission to those occupying the lowest positions in society. I imagine that Jesus would have been more likely to establish camps for the children of tax collectors and sinners than for the sons of Pharisees. In Christ, there is neither slave nor free, the most fundamental distinction in social status in the ancient world. Yet these Christians make fine distinctions between the top 30 public schools, the remaining public schools, grammar schools, comprehensive schools, etc.

At university (Oxford) I encountered evangelical theology for the first time. As Jeffrey John later said, God now seemed to be a psychopath. He killed Jesus so that he wouldn't have to kill us. I attended one college Christian Union meeting, but resolved never to go back when I learned that men and women were required to attend separate Bible study groups. I now see how this may have had its origins in the activities of the Iwerne Trust. The CU once held an emergency meeting to pray for a student who was considering reception into the Catholic Church. On another occasion the CU prayed for members of the Senior Common Room whose biblical scholarship was considered liberal.

Posted by: Alexander on Wednesday, 8 February 2017 at 5:12am GMT

To Michael Skliros: if I understand you correctly, you are not alone on the TA board. For what it's worth, as a medic and zoologist by training, my view is that theology must fit biology, not the other way round. If theology and biology conflict, then it's theology that needs to be ditched or reworked. After all, theology is a product of the human brain, which is itself evolving. I've said all this from the pulpit, and to my bishops. I am greatly sustained in my own spirituality by the Fathers, and by the theology of the Orthodox Church, and therefore Wesley hymns, which it seems to me moves beyond mere bibliolatry to the human condition. And knows nothing of penal substitution whose baleful influence is being exposed.

Posted by: Fr William on Wednesday, 8 February 2017 at 5:13am GMT

To Chris Bemrose: don't know. It's difficult. Patience and prayer and persistence I suppose, but the lightbulb has to want to change. Monbourquette has written about the shadow from his catholic perspective. Very interesting. I say to anyone who asks, and to many that don't including my bishops, that what keeps me in this strange job of parochial ministry is the psychological authenticity of the gospel, and of the liturgy. I don't think this is necessarily what parishioners want to hear: they seem more concerned about getting brownie points for a seat in club class in an afterlife.

Posted by: Fr William on Wednesday, 8 February 2017 at 5:23am GMT

Bash camps, and the patrician evangelicalism they spawned, looks like an English version of the Fellowship, the secretive evangelical organization that organizes the National Prayer Breakfast. Both fetishize power, and view Jesus as the ultimate hardass. As the literally muscular Christian Mark Driscoll put it, he couldn't worship a god he could beat up.

Thanks to all who posted such brave and revealing comments on this. They serve to emphasize just why authoritarian religion is so wrongheaded, and does so much harm.

Posted by: James Byron on Wednesday, 8 February 2017 at 6:31am GMT

Andrew Graystone not Andrew Atherstone. Thanks for spotting the error and apologies to both.

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Wednesday, 8 February 2017 at 7:05am GMT

I was seriously emotionally manipulated in an Iwerne-led Church (not by Iwerne people, but they did not care) in my 20s. As a new Christian, and struggling even to survive the damage, I had to make the decision that either God's word was Truth or the whole thing was a fabrication. I saw the Bible's promises as separate to leaders and lived as if He was Truth, entirely relying on Him rather than any church. God never failed me - and rescued me to wholeness and ministry.

If these male-led camps vainly thought they were doing "the work of the century" they might have wanted to keep potential rivals for this crown in their place? I have often thought that some leaders manipulate in order to "neutralise" those who could rival or even take their own stage. It's human nature (at least in the 'self-focused').

Posted by: Annis on Wednesday, 8 February 2017 at 8:12am GMT

As well as feeling the same discomfort about camps that others have described here so well, my abiding memory of a camp at Lee Abbey in the 50s was the bus drive to the station when it ended. I vividly remember all of us looking out of the windows with a mixture of condescension and pity at all the ‘Muggles’ going about their shopping – poor creatures who had not accepted Jesus as their Saviour and were never likely to, unless we evangelised as uncompromisingly and with as much certainty as those who had been leading us.

Then my normal mindset kicked in, which admittedly was not much in the way of deep theology – simply that wherever we “go” after death, if my decent, cricket-playing, non-churchgoing friends weren’t there, I wasn’t interested.

Posted by: Michael Skliros on Wednesday, 8 February 2017 at 10:34am GMT

Thank you for kind comments, Fr William. I would greatly value your pointing us to current research that reveals the *normality* of same-sex relationships. There still seems to be the feeling “we all know same-sex relationships are sinful, but the general population seems to accept them, so we’d better fall in line”. Not good enough! Can we spell it out more positively?

More even than that, though, I would love to hear your comments about the reasons for opposition to same. Am I right in saying that the old idea of reason guiding our emotions has been reversed to one where we make our decisions mostly on instinct, and then invent reasons to support them, the most popular being “the Bible says . .”? It would go without saying that the Bible passage itself would be the product of a similar instinctual aversion – particularly male aversion to aggressive male gay activity.

(I know this sounds like PMQs: “would the PM agree with me that . . .”! But I’m sure we’d all value what you have to say.)

Posted by: Michael Skliros on Wednesday, 8 February 2017 at 10:51am GMT

I went to one of the camps at Iwerne in 1978 for a week or so. At the time I was trying to escape a homosexual predator who had power over me. I was 27 at the time, so older than most of the boys there. I found a genuinely loving and understanding environment, with clear biblical guidance to help me find away out of my situation.

Of course now mainstream media and liberal clerics would tell me to stop resisting and accept that I was 'gay'.

I managed to go flying in a single engine plane for the first time in my life, which began my lifelong career in aviation.

For a brief moment I re-experienced the familiar public school life of a boarder, saw what I had lost, and was able to move on. My boarding experience started in deepest Africa at age 8 and, although I got slippered there by a dormitory matron once or twice, I was never beaten in England at both my preparatory and public schools. The 'scraps' I had with other children were far more traumatic.

About nine months after I attended Iwerne, I received the Holy Spirit and became a true believer. My very first prayer request was to be shown the person I should marry. Shortly afterwards I met my wife in London (at my church), got married and am still married!

I will always be indebted to the teachings of Dick Lucas and his team, and to Iwerne Minster for the impetus it gave me on my path to redemption.

Posted by: Anon on Thursday, 9 February 2017 at 1:46pm GMT

Among many thoughtful posts here, Anthony Archer’s of 6 February stands out for its sober analysis of the questions that need answers, hopefully by an independent enquiry.

Any enquiry must focus on the response of the Iwerne Trust in 1982-83. John Smyth was its chairman, and evidently used his position to groom a group of Winchester boys whom he physically abused at his home. Although none of the abuse took place at Iwerne camps, his central role in the Trust and at the camps, puts the spotlight on the leadership of the Trust and especially the then Trustees.

The Trustees knew very well the extent of John Smyth’s behaviour and its profound impact on his victims, thanks to Canon Mark Ruston’s report, parts of which have appeared on Channel 4 and in the Daily Telegraph. I am not clear whether Mark Ruston was himself a Trustee at this point, or merely acting on their behalf. Given his graphic descriptions of the abuse and the trenchancy of his commentary (eg the ‘cult’ around Smyth), it is surprising that he did not insist the matter be reported to the police; but he may have been constrained by the collective view of the Trustees. One wonders what minutes or correspondence survive from this period: it will important for any enquiry to get statements from the surviving Trustees and those Iwerne leaders ‘in the know’.

Also there are questions about what the Trustees knew of Smyth’s subsequent activities in Zimbabwe, after they had banished him from this country, and whether they could have done anything to prevent the catalogue of further abuse. Smyth seems have been keen to stay in touch with his erstwhile colleagues in Iwerne circles.

Fast forward 30 years, when the Bishop of Ely was informed by a survivor of what had taken place, the whole affair was brought to the attention of Archbishop Justin Welby. I do think that the pointed attacks on him in the media are somewhat unfair. By then the police had been notified. Although Justin Welby himself had been involved in Iwerne camps many years previously, he had never occupied a senior position. Did he have any remit to put the affair in the public domain? Or to try to trace the survivors to enquire after their well-being? Or to hold the Trustees of the Iwerne/Titus Trust to account? The Iwerne Trust has had no official status within the Church of England; the Trust was not accountable to the Church, and likewise the Church surely cannot be held responsible for its actions (or inaction).

Posted by: David Mumford on Thursday, 9 February 2017 at 2:50pm GMT

"Did he have any remit to put the affair in the public domain?"

I think anyone who encounters evil is charged to do something about it if they possibly can, are they not?

For all Welby knew, Smythe was still abusing; indeed, it appears quite likely that he was. The Archbishop of Canterbury may not have quite the power he once did, but his anathema is still quite powerful had he approached Anglican organisations in Africa and said "John Smythe is an abuser, avoid dealings with him and organisations that he operates". Finding legalistic arguments as to why Welby did not _have_ to do anything rather misses the point; the questions, surely are whether he _could_ and whether he _should_ have done.

The report from the Iwerne Trust, which it appears Welby either saw or could have seen had he asked, and the testimony of the victims as adults, would have provided an impenetrable defence in a slander action had Smythe been stupid enough to contemplate one; such an action would have also required him to attend court in London, which would remove the police's concerns about their ability to secure an extradition warrant for historical offences. There was therefore no bar to Welby speaking formally to Anglican organisations in the rest of the world to warn them of Smythe's activities.

No guilt or shame attaches to Welby's behaviour as a member of the laity in the 1970s: he didn't know, he had no reason to know, he was just in the same postcode. His actions in recent years as Archbishop acting in an official capacity are rather more contestable.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Thursday, 9 February 2017 at 5:33pm GMT

The Guardian today reports his church in Cape Town has disbarred him from any formal ministry and suggested he returns to the UK to deal with the issue. There have been allegations of inappropriate behaviour in South Africa to do with inappropriate questions to young men in the congregation.

Posted by: Simon Bravery on Friday, 10 February 2017 at 3:34pm GMT

I welcome the post by Interested Observer, arguing a different point of view about what Justin Welby might have done in 2013: it is useful to have a discussion about it.

He comments that ‘there was no bar to Welby speaking formally to Anglican organisations in the rest of the world to warn them of Smythe's activities’. In fact, in 2013 the Bishop of Ely had already written a letter to the Bishop of Cape Town highlighting concerns about John Smyth expressed by “an alleged survivor” who had reported the abuse to him.

Within clinical practice, when cases of historical physical or sexual abuse come to light, the first priority is to identify anyone who may be at risk now, and report the matter to the police and social services. (This overrides issues of medical confidentiality.) It appears that the Diocese of Ely did just that. And the Archbishop was subsequently shown the correspondence.

Posted by: David Mumford on Friday, 10 February 2017 at 9:19pm GMT

Michael Skliros: I was interested in your questions to Fr William (8 Feb), though largely outside the Iwerne issues.

I think we should be wary of any attempt to divide the world into ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’.

Most social, political and religious reformers were originally seen as abnormal – and advocated the rights of ‘abnormal’ others. I’ve spent many years living and working with people with learning disabilities - abnormal to most of the world – and discovered in them a gift of openness, acceptance and inspiration.

Who can truly claim to be normal? What is normal for one person may be abnormal for another.

I agree that we often follow our instincts and then look to the Bible to back us up. Much Christian material (eg focuses almost entirely on the Biblical arguments against gay relationships. This cuts little ice amongst those who question the literal interpretation of the Bible. Perhaps, instead, we need to look behind the Biblical injunctions and go deeper into those instincts and the comparative experience of gay and straight people.

You say that everyone knows same-sex relationships are sinful. But let’s be honest: how many of us, as children, had an initial aversion to the idea of heterosexual sex when we first imagined it between our parents? How much are we affected by social conditioning? How much do people – gay and straight -think of sex as ‘naughty’ (if not sinful) well into their adult lives?

The research or conversations that interests me would be on the nexus between spirituality and sexuality, and how gay and straight experience compares. Questions such as:
• How the process of ‘coming out’ as a Christian, as gay, as abused or ‘abnormal’ in other ways compares.
• The respective nature of spiritual and sexual ecstasy.
• How sex (and abstinence) impacts on people. Is it seen as purely physical, or mystical and transformational, and if so, in what ways? In other words, what are its fruits?
• What is the potential gift of gay (and straight) people to the Church and faith at this time – and what are the fears?

I’d also suggest that sticking with simple labels of gay or straight risks a simplistic, dualist approach, where the reality may be more of a spectrum.

Posted by: Chris Bemrose on Saturday, 11 February 2017 at 12:11pm GMT

Chris Bemrose, I think you read my post in a bit of a hurry. My words “There still seems to be the feeling ‘we all know same-sex relationships are sinful, but the general population seems to accept them, so we’d better fall in line’” were a satire on what seems to be the bishops’ position and were followed by “Not good enough!”

Also, though saying “my normal mindset” kicked in, after it had been distorted (imo) by a week at Lee Abbey, perhaps “my *default* mindset” would have been a better phrase. On that topic, I stand by Jung’s alleged saying: “show me someone who is normal . . . and I’ll cure him.”

Yes, I was a bit off-topic. The linkage was: (i) beating is wrong, (ii) it is possibly linked to the evangelical brand, (iii) evangelicalism is notably anti-gay, because (iv) they claim the high moral ground of “*we* believe in the Bible.”

The riposte to that, namely “but we (gays) want to be accepted” is not nearly enough. It’s that apparently high moral ground that must be targeted, and in two ways: One is that professionals in the human sexuality field show, with as much chapter and verse as possible, how same-sex attractions (and many, many other grey areas) have been shown to be perfectly normal for small sections of humanity. The other is that whatever one calls homophobia has no *moral* basis whatsoever and can be traced back to other, very primitive aversions. The problem there is that any suggestion that the causes of anti-same-sex attraction date from the caveman era would make the Great Schism seem like a mild disagreement.

Posted by: Michael Skliros on Saturday, 11 February 2017 at 8:36pm GMT

'they claim the high moral ground of “*we* believe in the Bible'
What 'we' try to do (often failing) is to confront ourselves with all that the Bible says however difficult or unpopular it is, and however much, in our natural selves, we wish the truth was different. No one, including 'we' want to believe that our non-Christian friends and family are facing the condemnation and wrath of God, but we are constrained to believe that terrible truth because that is what the Bible plainly says, and, like Luther, our conscience is subject to the word of God.
Phil Almond

Posted by: Philip Almond on Sunday, 12 February 2017 at 4:49pm GMT

This is a fascinating and helpful thread. I would be glad if anyone with direct experience of abuse around this network would contact me in confidence, via my email address, which is

Posted by: Andrew Graystone on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 at 1:53pm GMT

Hi all,
Many thanks for writing about the John Smyth abuse and taking part in the discussion. We (John Smyth survivors) think you might be interested to see the messages and short videos we have posted on Twitter @AndyMorseUK which reflect some of our opinions on the Church and Justin Welby.
Best wishes,
Andy (Morse)

Posted by: Andy Morse on Friday, 25 August 2017 at 6:16am BST
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