Thinking Anglicans

Jonathan Fletcher latest

In the days immediately following Christmas Day, the Daily Telegraph published several articles by Gabriella Swerling and others about Jonathan Fletcher. They are all behind a paywall, but the Telegraph does allow you to read one a week if you register. Otherwise you are restricted to reading the first couple of paragraphs, but this will give a slight flavour of what they are all about.

Some other papers have reported on the Telegraph’s articles.

Mail Online Church of England vicar, 77, could face criminal probe after alleged abuse victims claim they endured naked ice baths, beatings and massages
Christian Today Criminal inquiry a possibility for vicar accused of spiritual abuse
Church Times Press: Jonathan Fletcher’s victims speak out
Church Times Lessons-learnt review is launched into Jonathan Fletcher
Patheos Victims of sadistic evangelical priest want police to investigate
Premier London vicar Rev Jonathan Fletcher could face criminal inquiry

And there has been comment.

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Peter Ball and Jonathan Fletcher. A toxic legacy?
Reacting to the Jonathan Fletcher story – the Great Silence
Martin Sewell Archbishop Cranmer Jonathan Fletcher presents the Church of England with a crisis of integrity

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Anthony Archer
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Anthony Archer

On matters Iwerne, that by the way have made be angry beyond measure, I was pleased to note the reference to Bash camps in the new magisterial biography of David Sheppard by Andrew Bradstock. ‘For several years [Sheppard] was heavily involved in [the Bash camps] and a close associate of Nash himself. Sheppard always acknowledged his debts to the man and his ministry, although he came to think there were limitations in an approach focused exclusively on the inner life, and that he should distance himself from Nash. In later life, Sheppard wrote quite dismissively of his old mentor’s ‘elitism’,… Read more »

Linda woodhead
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Linda woodhead

Much of the present leadership amongst Evangelicals comes from the ‘Bash camp’ movement, and an understanding of it is essential for the person wishing to know how the Evangelical mind works. Controversy is eschewed by ‘Bash campers’; it is held to be noisy and undignified – and potentially damaging. As a result many issues which ought to be faced are quietly avoided. Any practical decisions that must be made are taken discreetly by the leadership and passed down the line. The loyalty of the rank and file is such that decisions are respected; any who question are liable to find… Read more »

J Gibbs
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J Gibbs

When looking at the abuse allegations in the Evangelical church one keeps coming back to the same links: Bash/ Iwerne; “Conversion”/ Alpha; St Sepulchre’s Cambridge (the Round Church)/ Mark Ruston. The silence may be because of shame but is more likely because the Powers-that-Be are terrified that their Great Hope for renewal, Alpha and HTB, are fatally tainted. And the terror may also have a lot to do with the fact that the current Archbishop is tied into Bash-Iwerne-St Sepulchre’s-Mark Ruston all the way – and that links him to Jonathan Fletcher and John Smyth. And the supposedly “independent” review… Read more »

John Wallace
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John Wallace

I have worked professionally over many years with the Vice-Chair of Trustees of 38:1. She is a person of the utmost integrity and very prominent in the field of social work, social work management and social work education. This fact alone gives me confidence in the independence and rigour of the review

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

Playing devil’s advocate here, J Gibbs (sorry for the formality – I don’t know your first name): is there a reason to cite HTB in the context of the abuse allegations that have been made about these particular men? Conversion isn’t a crime. Alpha as a church activity isn’t a crime. It may not be the style and approach everyone favours, but really? Is it right to paint HTB with the same brush as Jonathan Fletcher or John Smyth, and the alleged quasi-erotic features of their activities? I received spiritual blessing from various weeks I attended which were mainly run… Read more »

Andrew Graystone
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Andrew Graystone

I don’t know what connection there might or might not be between Jonathan Fletcher and HTB. I do know that Nicky Gumbel has written about him “I am so grateful to Jonathan Fletcher. When I first encountered Jesus in 1974, he met with me for three hours every week for a year, and regularly thereafter until I left university. He became a great friend. He taught me the Christian faith. He explained to me how to read the Bible and how to pray. He recommended Christian books and answered my questions. Even though I had only just encountered Jesus myself,… Read more »

Martin Sewell
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Martin Sewell

We ought to remember that there is a very clear and unexplained link between Smyth Fletcher and HTB. When Smyth was revealed as an abuser within the Iwerne project of which Fletcher was very much a part ( his bother, David, chaired it) Smyth was disappeared to Southern Africa. Whilst there, he allegedly continued to abuse many other youngsters. The evidence is credible and well evidenced. He was facilitated in his “ Ministry” via the financial support afforded to him by Lord Jamie Colman who has confirmed that he did so knowing of Smyth’s history of abuse within the Iwerne… Read more »

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

Thank you for this, Martin, which was covered by the Daily Telegraph. It seems to me that the issue with Jamie Colman is whether, in his capacities with the Zambesi Trust, he failed (disastrously?) in his safeguarding responsibilities. I agree that one would expect the whole Smyth affair to have been shared with close associates informally, leading to the possibility that there was wider knowledge of the abuse that had happened, but I’m not clear about that, or whether a respected Christian’s actions were sanitised and portrayed to others as playful fun etc. If Jamie had access to the various… Read more »

James
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James

I don’t know Sue Colman well, but she has always struck me as a measured and responsible individual – having said that, if a review of her decisions is needed, then it should obviously take place. As to whether Sue links HTB to all of this, I would suggest not. She was one of 32 members of the clergy team, and was far from the decision making bodies, principally fulfilling important (but peripheral) pastoral functions (e.g. visiting the sick). I have never seen her: lead a service, preside or assist at Eucharist, preach, baptise, marry or even lead public prayers.… Read more »

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

If Sue Colman was not involved in decision making and exercised no liturgical function at all, why was she ordained? And how were HTB permitted to have on their staff (even though non stipendiary) a priest who was not permitted to function as an ordained person?

James
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James

I am sure she did occasionally take part in services – but not that I personally witnessed. She would have been an ex-officio member of PCC – but that has 80+ people on it (30 clergy, 25 members, 25 deanery synod). But why wouldn’t giving communion to a sick person or leading the last rites not be a function of a priest? I can think of several chaplaincy roles where liturgical function is minimal.

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

But HTB is not a chaplaincy. Of course sick visiting, home communions, and the last rites are important functions of a priest. But many churches are without a priest at all, and some priests have 10 or more parishes to minister to. So if HTB has so many clergy that some of them hardly ever take part in leading services or preaching, it does raise questions about allocation of human resources.

James
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James

What has Alpha got to do with Jonathan Fletcher? He disagreed with it so much that he, and his friends, launched Christianity Explored to compete with it! Alpha and HTB couldn’t be further removed from this nonsense – absolutely minimal interaction or alignment. Alpha is far far more popular in the Roman Catholic Church than the conservative evangelical church!

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

The link is that Nicky Gumbel was a Iwerne man and knew Jonathan Fletcher very well. I knew Nicky at college (Wycliffe) and he was a nice chap.

As I understand it the question is not whether Alpha is abusive, but what Nicky Gumbel may have known about Smyth’s and Fletcher’s activities years ago. There does seem to have been a parting of the ways since.

Marian Birch
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Marian Birch

Having worked for a number of years for an Anglican evangelical mission organisation I can certainly recognise and relate to the idea that controversy must be avoided, as you say Linda. I suspect that there were indeed people in that organisation who acknowledged that my complaints about discrimination (and ultimately abusive behaviour) in the organisation were real and justified, but that it was felt more important not to scare the troops – and loyal supporters. I suspect that that ‘spirit’ is still very much alive and kicking in that particular organisation.

David Runcorn
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David Runcorn

Like Anthony Archer I take the issues being raised by the Bash/Iwerne legacy very seriously. It is appalling and without excuse. But I am puzzled that Professor Woodhead, as a professional academic researcher, thinks that the broad, evolving and complex world of today’s Anglican evangelicalism is accurately summarised by digging out a quote from an ‘in house’ church newspaper editorial in the 1960’s! This betrays a lack of actual engagement and informed understanding of this tradition, let alone its leadership. And that was one of the criticisms of her book.

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

I think we need to be scrupulous about issues of this kind. The perverted practices alleged and reported are too serious not to be. If people were witness to any such practices, then they should clearly be open about that. There is insinuation that people like Justin knew that such weirdo things were going on, either through direct involvement in camps or by word-of-mouth. He has stated that he does not. If we are to be scrupulous (which we owe to victims) we need to avoid insinuation and slur, or pronouncements of guilt by association. What’s needed is hard facts.… Read more »

Martin Sewell
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Martin Sewell

There is a time when people can act.

Sometimes an intervention is very sound but will not take off and vice versa.

I think the reflections of Evangelicals at this point will prove decisive. Each of us contributes differently, I can do/say things which Anthony and other cannot, and similarly his insights will carry to places I cannot reach.

Fr. Dean Henley
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Fr. Dean Henley

I must confess that I’m not entirely sure what the role of a dormitory officer was at Iwerne but wouldn’t such a person not fail to notice the blood stained clothing and bed linen of these poor boys? This scandal has opened a grisly window into another facet of the seedy world of abuse but also of the hubris of the men who ran the Church. I had not fully appreciated that Iwerne was only for the poshest of public school boys; they were not interested in those attending minor public schools and certainly not grammar school boys. How did… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

I’m not sure that Iwerne is necessarily the place, certainly not the only one, (in fact initially we were told it didn’t happen there) but this very obvious subject has been glossed over. Blood stains, from whatever cause, would have to be laundered; bodily wounds would have needed, at the least, first aid treatment. But it also happened in the wider ‘civilian’ world. A colleague related to me that he had been beaten at a minor public school in the West of England – it seems it was an accepted part of school life there – and one of his… Read more »

Pete Broadbent
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Pete Broadbent

It’s my understanding that the Smyth abuse took place at his house and not at Iwerne. Or that’s certainly the account that’s online. I have no personal knowledge.

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

A Smyth survivor has told me that while most of the beatings occurred in Smyth’s garden shed, one of the most brutal took place at Iwerne itself.

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

Bishop Pete, even if the boys were being beaten off site, their injuries were so severe that their physical wounds wouldn’t have healed quickly and may have been evident during their time at Iwerne to a dormitory officer. The psychological wounds have still not healed and would have been as raw as the physical wounds at the time; surely they ought to have been observed by those with a pastoral responsibility at Iwerne. I genuinely don’t understand the power dynamic at play. In these male only camps was the culture of manly larks, all chaps together etc or was there… Read more »

Pete Broadbent
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Pete Broadbent

No idea. The undercurrent of homo-eroticism was clearly there – it would be naive to pretend otherwise. Public schools were like that. It was part of the culture, along with promoting self-confidence and all the other things that go with Bullingdonism. I didn’t go to one of the “top” places and learn the entitlement of people who are “born to rule” and are above accountability. What I learned fairly quickly was (a) what homosexuality was and that I wasn’t gay and (b) why I didn’t like the school system and how to be become a convinced socialist. The homoerotic and… Read more »

Anthony Archer
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Anthony Archer

Before we get too far down the road of speculating about ‘blood stained clothing and bed linen of these poor boys’, perhaps I can offer a reflection on these camps. This was public school culture writ large. It is not true that only the poshest of public-school boys attended. There were plenty of minor schools represented, including Repton, Gresham’s and Canford. These tended to have ‘evangelical’ chaplains, unlike Eton, Harrow and Winchester. My own school, St Edward’s Oxford, had never sent any boys until I went, courtesy of a suggestion by the school doctor, a noted local evangelical (David Mullins).… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

“Before we get too far down the road of speculating about ‘blood stained clothing and bed linen of these poor boys’“. Anthony Archer: Without speculating where they happened, the reality and relevance of blood stains and the need for medical treatment seem to have been largely overlooked both in press reports and discussion here on TA. I also have fond memories of summer camps – now almost 70 years ago! – organised by the Diocese of Guildford, and two of them led by their Diocesan Youth Worker (I think that was the title, and surely an admirable early example of… Read more »

John Swanson
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John Swanson

“There were never any ‘irregularities’ of any kind.” Might it be safer to add “… that I was aware of”?

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

Well, Mr Swanson, I was a young teenager – even younger at the earliest camps – so perhaps I shouldn’t have offered this comment at all – slipping into the error of applying hindsight as an adult (I’m now 78) to a childhood experience. If anything was amiss, I would not have known, of course. But my clear recollection is of a happy and fulfilling experience for everyone involved. It was a wholly admirable and healthy Church activity in the 1950s (dare I say, a less neurotic era than the present one), a great credit to the Diocese of Guildford… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

It was a fair comment because, however positive our own memories, we cannot know everything that happened. Too many of us survivors, speaking about the abuse we received, have been told, ‘I know X very well and he isn’t capable of that’ or ‘I went to that school/camp and never saw anything wrong, so I don’t believe you.’ It’s a common misconception that children who have been/are being abused will be seen crying. Very often they just go into shock and retreat into themselves, becoming very quiet, or misbehave and become naughty. Having said all that, I hope you are… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Janet: I really, and strongly, feel that you and John Swanson have introduced a totally unnecessary and negative ‘slant’ on my post which I frankly now regret ever having made on TA. You have added (at least in my eyes) an unwarranted slur on the Diocese of Guildford. I am very disappointed that you and John Swanson made these comments. They seem to have served no purpose other than to refute my memories which were in contrast to the much later happenings at Iwerne. And my use of the word ‘neurotic’ wasn’t unintentional.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Roland, I meant no slur on the Diocese of Guildford and I’m sorry you’re upset. My comments, and I suspect John Swanson’s, were not aimed at those camps in particular. It’s a more general reflection on the sad truth of human nature; that it’s seldom, if ever, possible to say ‘there were no irregularities of any kind’. I don’t think the 50s were less neurotic. I do know, from bitter experience, that in the 50s there was a lot of sexual abuse that was covered up and never spoken of, and so it flourished. And many children didn’t. I frequently… Read more »

Linda woodhead
Guest
Linda woodhead

It’s clear that group or institution, religious or secular (from churches to universities), is prone to the temptation of thinking that it is uniquely special, shiny, and worthy of respect. This quickly becomes dangerous if it implies any of the following: -forgetting and denying that amongst my group and ‘people like us’ there will be some who enjoy hurting, demeaning, controlling and abusing others -elevating such people into positions of power where these tendencies develop and can be indulged -turning a blind eye to the problem and condemning those who raise it as uncharitable gossips ( ‘we are all sinners’,… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Regarding Stephen Parsons’ article on Peter Ball and Jonathan Fletcher, I’m just curious as to why it is that the entire Anglo-Catholic tradition isn’t being excoriated on this thread for Ball’s abusive behaviour with the same sweeping enthusiasm as the entire Evangelical tradition is being damned for Fletcher and Smyth? Or, for that matter, why the Prince of Wales is not being enthusiastically condemned for his support of Ball in the same way that Nicky Gumbel is being condemned for his long-ago stated admiration for Fletcher?

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

I just think we should seek answers to specific issues – who was personally active in carrying out abuse? and who, specifically, knew about this abuse, and when? The ‘when’ is significant, because the secondary failure must be if people knew about the earlier abuse during the time that John Smyth was still ‘exercising ministry’ overseas, and did not raise questions about his previous activities, and the safeguarding duties of care that raised for anyone who knew it could still be going on (at least the duty of raising it with the Trustees of his operations). It seems clear that… Read more »

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

Peter Ball was charged, convicted and imprisoned largely because of the tenacity of his presumably anglo-catholic victims (at least one of whom waived his right to anonymity) and the Sussex Police. Lord Carey (an evangelical) withheld correspondence from the Police in Ball’s case. Smyth it seems was helped to move to South Africa by leading figures in the evangelical movement. Fletcher was allowed to minister and preach in evangelical churches long after his authority to do so had been withdrawn by the Church. Abuse happens in every section and sub-section of society. As Prof. Woodhead makes clear if we believe… Read more »

John Swanson
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John Swanson

I agree that some people (quite possibly including myself) have taken the opportunity provided by Smyth/Fletcher gleefully to lay into the whole evangelical tradition, or at least a significant strand of it. Presumably, though, it is legitimate to ask whether any particular aspects of the evangelical tradition made it more prone to the abuse that took place? As others have said before, the emphasis on punishment in at least some evangelical theology seems unlikely to have no relevance when the abuse centres on punishment, and, again as others have pointed out, the operating within the British Public School context with… Read more »