Thinking Anglicans

Review of Jonathan Fletcher case published

Updated again Wednesday morning

The independent review commissioned by Emmanuel Church Wimbledon from thirtyone:eight has been published.

The full report is available here (146 pages).

Here is the response of Emmanuel Church.

Another response from the external members of the Independent Advisory Group is here.

Updates

The Diocese of Southwark has issued this statement:

“The Diocese of Southwark is committed to learning lessons from independent safeguarding reviews and in the light of this report will continue to work with Emmanuel Church Wimbledon and the National Safeguarding Team. The abuse of power and control by those in positions of trust is unacceptable and we commend those who contributed to this review for their resilience and courage in coming forward to disclose painful experiences. It is of the utmost importance that support is offered to those in need who have been affected by the abusive behaviours detailed in the review. The Diocese has contributed to the review and will study the report findings and recommendations in detail. We will seek to ensure that the learning from the review will be implemented.

For clarification, whilst recognised as a church within the Diocese, Emmanuel Church Wimbledon is an independent ‘Proprietary Chapel’, and as such does not have parish status. Emmanuel Church Wimbledon is fully self-supporting and appoints its own clergy under the guidance of an appointed group of patrons. It is a private limited company registered with the Charity Commission. Anglican clergy at Emmanuel Church Wimbledon officiate with licences issued by the Diocesan Bishop.”

The National Safeguarding Team has issued this statement:

A spokesperson for the National Safeguarding Team, NST, said: The Church is committed to learning lessons from all safeguarding situations and will continue to work together with Southwark Diocese on this case. The coercive and controlling behaviours described in the report are appalling and the priority must be to ensure support for those who have been brave enough to come forward. The NST has contributed to this review and does note the findings and recommendations which it will study in detail. The Team has developed over recent years and has seen a significant restructure including the commitment to move to independent oversight along with the development of the national casework management system. We fully welcome the learning and changes that will result from this report.”

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Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
6 months ago

The report concludes that,

‘It is the opinion of the Reviewers that the aspects of unhealthy culture at ECW and more broadly across the affected CE constituency might only be addressed fully by those having played a key role in the establishment and maintenance of that culture to no longer enjoy the influence they have had to date (i.e. considering their positions and stepping down).’

Dominic Barrington
Dominic Barrington
6 months ago

I’ve only skimmed the vast document, but it raises a question for me that I cannot immediately see properly answered. Surely, by some means – ideally a voluntary one – quite simply Emmanuel needs to relinquish or have removed from it the bizarre, antiquated proprietary chapel status. It needs to function as a ‘regular’ church in the parochial structure of the C of E and be properly accountable to diocesan/episcopal authority. That ought to be a given in these circumstances, and nothing less should be regarded as acceptable. It may be legally complicated – but it would be less so… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Dominic Barrington
6 months ago

In a conventional C of E church context, should there be ‘elders’ at all? They seem to have appeared in some C of E churches without, as far as I can see, any Canonical authority whereas Church wardens and sidesmen (or persons) have legal Canonical status. Doubtless I will be corrected if my understanding is not up to date.

Shamus
Shamus
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
6 months ago

I am no legal expert on proprietary chapels, but someone who is may care to advise. On the face of it I should think it might be good if they could all be regularised as parishes, daughter churches or chapels of ease, but perhaps there are legal difficulties in achieving that? How about bishops refusing to licence clergy to serve in them? That would end up in court, I suppose.

John Wallace
John Wallace
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
6 months ago

I agree with Rowland. ‘Elders’ is not an official Anglican concept, except for the presbyters (Greek for elders), who are priests in our ecclesiology. It is a non-episcopal concept. Many churches of all shades of churchmanship have ‘Ministry Teams’ who share with the presbyter in ministry, liturgical, pastoral and preaching. They do not have authority but, support under the authority of the priest.I am a member of such an animal in a liberal Catholic parish.

Helen King
Helen King
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
6 months ago

The elders, based on those named here, all seem to be chaps. Maybe I lead a sheltered life, but I’ve not yet encountered a PCC where that’s the case? I see they have a PCC as well, with women, so I wonder what the respective roles of those groups would be.

Last edited 6 months ago by Helen King
Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Helen King
6 months ago

I didn’t mention PCCs but they also have a legal status. I simply don’t know how ‘elders’ are appointed, whether they are in fact legal (!) and what congregation members feel about them (I wasn’t, of course, referring to Emmanuel’s set-up as a proprietary chapel but other ‘conventional’ C of E parishes where this phenomenon has appeared).

Jonathan Jamal
Jonathan Jamal
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
6 months ago

I think Rowland Emmanuel Church has borrowed the idea of Elders both from Presbyterian and Baptist Churches, and it is certainly un-Anglican, where as in the Anglican Tradition the only Elder that is known about is an ordained Presbyter generally called a Priest in Anglicanism, but the way this church has transposed that word from other Protestant traditions into an Evangelical Anglican context is their own invention! Jonathan

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Jonathan Jamal
6 months ago

Thank you, Jonathan, but as stated in my reply to Helen King, this phenomenon has appeared in some C of E churches which are not proprietary chapels, and I have wondered how this has come about (are they elected?), and specifically whether they are treated as some kind of elite group without canonical or legal status, and whether the ‘ordinary’ congregation is happy to go along with this.

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
Reply to  Dominic Barrington
6 months ago

The rise and decline of the Proprietary Chapel is an historical PhD well worth someone taking on.

T Pott
T Pott
Reply to  Dominic Barrington
6 months ago

Does this mean all private denominations and independent churches should be brought under direct control of the state church? Is a proprietary chapel intrinsically riskier than an independent one?

jon
jon
Reply to  T Pott
6 months ago

Leaders of independent churches do seek to influence C of E ones. You only have to look back at the Lloyd Jones – Stott debate for that. However Jonathan Fletcher got credence from being an ordained minister in the C of E while simultaneously not being subject to the full oversight that comes with that.

Andrew
Andrew
Reply to  Dominic Barrington
6 months ago

If there were no dissenting churches in England, or even if the Church of England had a completely uniform structure, your proposal might gain easy assent. But there are so many other exceptions to the rule that the obvious response from the Trustees would be “why should we?”.

A different approach would be to ask whether the Diocesan Bishop should lend credibility to the organisation, in the form of a licence. But in an age of Evangelicals finding themselves missionary bishops ordained from outside these islands, therein lies a whole other can of worms.

Dave
Dave
Reply to  Dominic Barrington
6 months ago

The way the C of E is going there is little chance of what you propose, Dominic, – the reverse in fact. After all the C of E with a will is trying to create churches similar to this Wimbledon church in nature to this at present. (Albeit with a different polity). That is churches outside the parochial structure, not ‘regular,’ and in so doing encouraging the rise of martinet male ministers, as at Wimbledon. Nowadays many are called Mission order set ups. They function usually outside normal parochial structures with little oversight. In some cases one suspects so called… Read more »

Last edited 6 months ago by Dave
Jonathan
Jonathan
Reply to  Dave
6 months ago

I have been to a church where at least one of the Fletcher brothers has been on the ordained staff in a previous decade. I have been to an HTB resource church outside London supported by the Bishop in this decade. The similarity is the total concentration of all money and power in one person and the sending to Coventry of anyone who doesn’t fit in. There isn’t any homo-erotic public school type denial bullying here just ordinary exclusion and favouritism. No point complaining to anyone the Vicar has the complete support of the powers that be. The PCC are… Read more »

Kelvin Holdsworth
6 months ago

The sermon topics at Emmanuel Wimbledon for this Sunday are chilling.
“The Willing Sacrifice” and “Despised and rejected by men”
Are we really supposed to believe that this kind of theology has nothing to do with the abuse of Jonathan Fletcher?

It would appear that little has been learned from this review.

Clare Amos
Clare Amos
Reply to  Kelvin Holdsworth
6 months ago

Actually Kevin – you may be correct in relation to the first of the sermon titles – but not I think re the 2nd. I checked up on the Emmanuel website – expecting to follow up on your comment with a snide one of my own re non-inclusive language. But the biblical text that ‘Despised and rejected of men’ is focusing on is Judges 11, which is the story of Jephthah’s daughter. Quite a few years ago Phyllis Trible in ‘Texts of Terror’ made links between that text and Isaiah 53. It would indeed be accurate to say the otherwise… Read more »

Jonathan Jamal
Jonathan Jamal
Reply to  Kelvin Holdsworth
6 months ago

Kelvin good afternoon! If the Theology of “Willing Sacrifice” has any hints of the preaching of Penal Substitution and the Satisfaction theory of the Atonement, I would feel it does not sit well with a Theology of the Holy Trinity, at its worst theologically, Substitutionary atonement divides the Trinity by setting the Father against the Son and at its worst and most bizarre can present God as a Highjacker who demands the ransom of his Son. It can be unintentionally blasphemous too. Even in the Old Book of Common Prayer, in the Prayer of Consecration at the Eucharist, we can… Read more »

peterpi -- Peter Gross
peterpi -- Peter Gross
Reply to  Jonathan Jamal
6 months ago

“God as a Hijacker who demands the ransom of his Son.” Thank you, Mr. Jamal for your comments on Substitutionary Theology — which I heard numerous times in my spiritual travels in conservative Christian Protestant churches.. According to the Gospel of John and standard Christian theology, the Son has been part of the Trinity from the beginning of time. Abrahamic monotheism (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) states God knows all time and is present in all time (simultaneously present in all time, in my opinion). Therefore, God the Father knew from the beginning that humankind would be imperfect and would fail (engage… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
6 months ago

The Church of England National Safeguarding Team:

“the commitment to move to independent oversight”

A “commitment to move” means nothing.

Move to independent oversight.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
6 months ago

I agree with Richard Symonds that the most interesting part of the main report, and the IAG’s sub-report, is the focus on fear of the consequences of speaking out as a major contributing factor to the safeguarding failure, and the subsequent recommendation: ‘It is the opinion of the Reviewers that the aspects of unhealthy culture at ECW and more broadly across the affected CE constituency might only be addressed fully by those having played a key role in the establishment and maintenance of that culture to no longer enjoy the influence they have had to date (i.e. considering their positions… Read more »

Last edited 6 months ago by Simon Dawson
Stanley Monkhouse
6 months ago

This is all about Fletcher’s narcissistic needs: me, me, me, dressed up as concern for the souls of others. Like Peter Ball. Like Chris Brain. Like fallen televangelists and megachurch pastors. It’s a trap that so easily ensnares all teachers and mentors. I repeat what I said in an earlier thread: I have no doubt that wanting to change others is a psychiatric disorder. As a friend has pointed out to me, Matthew 23:15 is never quoted in explorations of mission/evangelism. It should be. Fletcher, it seems to me, is addicted to wanting to control others rather than serve them.… Read more »

Michael
Michael
Reply to  Stanley Monkhouse
6 months ago

Stanley – I agree about narcisstic needs. Narcissists, in my experience, are impossible to reason with. Having skimmed through the report, I thought it was very striking that much of Fletcher’s abusive conduct was in the form of sexual encounters with men – the exact kind of sex which Evangelicals are certain is against Scripture.

Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
Reply to  Michael
6 months ago

There is something really creepy about this whole episode Michael, the abuse is terrible, but there seems to have been a homoerotic element to the conservative evangelical movement’s view of male headship, which as you rightly point out is contrary to their bete noire of male homosexuality.

Richard Ashby
Richard Ashby
6 months ago

Watching the BBC television examination of abuse in football I was struck time and again at the extraordinary parallels with the abuse of Smyth, Fletcher and Ball. The same elements of charismatic leadership, power and control, favouritism, the threat of exclusion and the use of fear. And fear raises its head in the report in Sheffield Cathedral too. How much of Christian theology and practice is predicated on fear? Fear of eternal damnation, fear of rejection, of not believing correctly, of the consequences of doubting Christian ‘leaders’ or failing to show absolute commitment. Or just plain fear of the wrath… Read more »

Paul
Paul
6 months ago

Coming from the con-evo world I only ever heard him preach once at a diocesan event. I never made a ‘career’ in that world almost entirely due to class and a little bit of challenging established ways of thinking and communicating. I was and am as conservative, but a poor secondary school meant the chaps would never allow you a significant church and am very thankful to not have fallen in with such a repressed abuser. I would say that the thing that strikes me most is my different experience of being in st ebbes for years and the culture… Read more »

Charles Read
Reply to  Paul
6 months ago

Thanks Paul. That pretty much expresses my experience of the conservative evangelical world. I have been involved in evangelical churches that were not really in the same orbit as Emmanuel Wimbledon and Co , partly because they were in the Midlands and the North. I can certainly see even in them that if you stepped out of line in terms of teaching you would be regarded with suspicion. As a young Reader I once preached a sermon which resulted in me being told off by the vicar and two curates . All I had done was to suggest that different sorts of… Read more »

Last edited 6 months ago by Charles Read
Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
Reply to  Paul
6 months ago

Paul, given that Jesus’ ministry was focussed on the dregs of society, why is class such a determinant for getting on in ConEvo circles? If adherence to Scripture is so totemic why should you be overlooked for having attended what you describe as a ‘poor secondary school’? The Apostles were a rag, tag and bobtail of working men handpicked by Jesus. I have no knowledge of the ConEvo mindset so I’m genuinely puzzled.

Michael
Michael
Reply to  Fr. Dean Henley
6 months ago

Father Dean – ‘poor secondary school’ (where I got my education) sums up the gulf in modern society. White working class children, particularly those from a deprived home environment, do not have the same opportunities in life even if they have the same abilities. I am not surprised at the social snobbery of Fletcher and his ilk. It seems to be inbred from an early age and they genuinely cannot see the problem.

Paul
Paul
Reply to  Michael
6 months ago

I think it’s class because of the school system that has produced those leaders. If you look through the Emmanuel orbit leaders they are almost always public school then oxbridge, the best being an elite public school, degree at Cambridge and then theological training at Wycliffe. The congregations are more diverse, but dependant on area still have a very middle class feel. The programmes that are pushed through the con-evo network and likewise New Wine also presuppose a middle class lifestyle and educational ability. I don’t have a problem with middle class churches because ultimately churches are incarnate of their… Read more »

Marian
Marian
Reply to  Fr. Dean Henley
6 months ago

Ordinary vicar

We had a new charismatic evangelical vicar and it was obvious from the moment that he came that my face didn’t fit. I was asked to stand down from the Standing Committee and then reinstated when he decided that I was well connected. Everyone he appointed was professional middle class and well connected and he had little time for the ordinary members of the congregation. I didn’t last long

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Paul
6 months ago

Paul, I was born in inner city Leicester. My dad was a working class boy who served as a lay reader for ten years and then went to theological college in Birkenhead in the 60s (when he was 32). He was strongly evangelical (and later charismatic), but definitely did not fit into this upper class old boys’ network evangelicalism. In fact, I had no idea it even existed until many years later.

Charles Read
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
6 months ago

My experience is similar to Tim’s too – though for some of the Iwerne folk Leicester is the north! I was not aware of the elitist tribe of conevos until after I was ordained in 1988 – though I had heard of Iwerne camps. Looking back, I can see some of the tribal behaviour of the Iwerne lot mirrored in the evangelical circles I moved in even though they were not Iwerne circles- my vicar vetted my sermons as a Reader because he thought I was unsound (as I asked awkward questions) – sounds like Paul’s experience too! When I… Read more »

Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
6 months ago

I last spoke to Jonathan Fletcher (JF) in about the summer of 1976. I was working in the City and was occasionally attending the St Helen’s Bishopsgate (SHB) Tuesday lunchtime services when I could, but had not really settled on a ‘church for Sunday’.  I came to a SHB Sunday evening service and Jonathan ‘followed up’ by inviting me to supper. It did seem a little unusual and as I reflect back I realise that I was being checked out (query groomed).  Might I be one for the club?  It was a newcomers’ supper with only one guest. He had first met me… Read more »

John Wallace
John Wallace
Reply to  Anthony Archer
6 months ago

Although being at least 10 years older than you, Anthony, I can see where you are coming from. At Cambridge in CICCU in the mid sixties, there was a very strong Iwerne element in its leadership as Bash would have expected and planned. I met him once in a friend’s room over tea, but was very unimpressed. Perhaps my minor public school was actually minimus in his eyes. As a physical wimp, who loathed sport – especially rugby – I obviously didn’t fit in as a muscular Christian. His underlying influence was there and reflected in the’evangelical heroes’, especially David… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
6 months ago

Emmanuel Church Wimbledon is to be commended for facing this with guts. They must have had some idea of what the report would reveal. Is it possible that they saw it as the means of finally getting rid of a lingering stench? The Minister Mr Weekes, when asked on Channel 4 news  (https://www.channel4.com/news/exclusive-church-abuse-victim-waives-his-anonymity-to-speak-out) if he thought the church had inadvertently facilitated an abuser, said “yes”. No wriggling. I hope he is not ostracized by his colleagues – the old guard as it were – for his candour.  I am watching the BBC programme about football abuse. I doubt there will be… Read more »

Savi Hensman
Savi Hensman
6 months ago

A highly disconcerting picture is emerging about a C of E leadership largely afraid of challenging a subculture based on upper/upper middle class men’s dominance and a brutally hierarchical theology, in total contradiction to Gospel values. Even those given power in this set-up often pay a heavy psychological and spiritual price. Meanwhile the human rights of the rest of the population are under threat, with harsh penalties for dissent, and greed is extolled as a key virtue, yet leaders of the established church are largely silent.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Savi Hensman
6 months ago

Very much agree, Savi. If social class was able to police itself inside insulated social cliques, that kind of reflects the obsession with ‘correctness’ and endless bible studies in cosy sitting rooms, to fine-tune dogma, as if that is where Christianity has its primary locus. A church community that’s given to its local community, and seeks to serve it, will soon find that class is an inhibitor if anything, and what’s actually needed is sleeves-rolled-up practical commitment, living alongside people’s sorrows, and efforts to support the poor, the sick, the neglected, the marginalised day by day, and year on year.… Read more »

Michael
Michael
Reply to  Savi Hensman
6 months ago

The leaders of the established church are silent because they agree with the continued lockdown. Don’t forget that the Church of England ordered churches to be closed more than a week before National Lockdown, even threatened disciplinary action against clergy who entered their own churches. There has been no proper apology and no ministry to those who have been denied entry into a church locally ever since. No apology for the callous cruelty locally or nationally. Last July I counted the Sundays up to Easter Day 2021, wrongly thinking I would be back in church receiving communion, and in both… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Michael
6 months ago

Sorry, but what does the John Smyth case and the Conservative Evangelical subculture he came from have to do with the Covid lockdown?

Michael
Michael
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
6 months ago

Tim Chesterton – apart from giving you another opportunity to kick me, the connection with lockdown was correctly made by Savi Hensman – that just as the C of E leadership is largely afraid of challenging a ConEvo subculture, so there is nothing said about human rights of the rest of the population coming under threat, with harsh penalties for dissent, and greed extolled as a key virtue. Nobody would expect someone in faraway lands to understand or even to know about the significant continued erosion of the right to protest in England. Covid is the excuse and bishops remain… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Michael
6 months ago

Michael, I’m very sorry. I’ve obviously made you feel as if I’ve got some sort of vendetta against you. That’s not the case.

Savi Hensman
Savi Hensman
Reply to  Michael
6 months ago

Michael, I think in communities where many people have died or been left with long COVID, there may be arguments for temporary restrictions, painful as these may be. But throwing people in jail for years or deporting them to a country they do not know for protesting peacefully, even when the pandemic risk is over – there is no rationale for this, other than the desire of the powerful not to have their power challenged

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Savi Hensman
6 months ago

The right of protest is something we should guard fiercely. When you reflect on Myanmar, and there are countless regimes in the world where that right is crushed, it is fairly critical that this freedom is championed, and each step towards unravelling it is challenged. . The Church of England should be championing dissent, on the principle that human dignity should afford people the right to speak truth to power. It should call out oppression of minorities, it should call out governments where expression of opinion (and access to information) is curtailed. In this country, it should watch out for… Read more »

Last edited 6 months ago by Susannah Clark
James
James
6 months ago

I have taken time to reflect on what I have read of the Fletcher report and the comments around it, and have taken some time to digest it. I am grateful for the reviewers’ work as it has allowed me to place what happened to me in the discernment process of a CofE diocese into the framework of spiritual abuse. I raised concerns after being asked sexually explicit questions alone at night in the interviewer’s vicarage. Being asked with no prior warning, I thought that this questioning was a warning sign of grooming tactics, and it appears that the asking… Read more »

Savi Hensman
Savi Hensman
6 months ago

I have also been wondering what would have happened if, in 2005-6, the C of E leadership had backed the then Bishop of Southwark when he challenged the church-within-a-church ethos at Emmanuel Church Wimbledon (see e.g. https://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/1781-2/, https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2006/jun/07/religion.world)? If dioceses had been supported at that time in ensuring greater accountability, would this clique still exercise so much power locally and internationally?

Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
6 months ago

As a clerk in Holy Orders Mr Fletcher is still subject to the Clergy Discipline Measure. It will be interesting to see if proceedings will now begin.

M Evans
M Evans
Reply to  Fr. Dean Henley
6 months ago

They began, and have ended. He agreed to be prohibited from ministry for ten years, which compared to other CDM decisions seems bizarrely short, regardless of the fact that he’ll be 87 by then.

This is referred to on pp 77 and 78 of the report, and in the timeline on p142. It’s not clear how exactly the CDM was resolved, and who was involved, only that there wasn’t a tribunal and therefore no public record (which feels something of a non sequitur but never mind).

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  M Evans
6 months ago

I think we have previously covered this point somewhere. If it was acceptance of a penalty by consent that obviates further formal steps in the CDM.

Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
Reply to  M Evans
6 months ago

Thank you for clarifying that, I confess I only skim read the lengthy report. As you say it seems a rather short prohibition when one considers that clergy for far less sinister misconduct receive the penalty of a lifetime prohibition.

Simon W
Simon W
6 months ago

There’s a young church history lecturer at St Mellitus College in London currently completing a PhD on this whole world.

The college website says his PhD research “focuses on the summer camps run by EJH Nash at Iwerne Minster in the interwar years and mid-twentieth century. He is considering the links between Nash’s ministry to the public schools and evangelical leadership formation, in particular conservative evangelical attitudes to class, masculinity and holiness.”

That could be an interesting read and I wonder whether he writes as an ‘insider’, from the fringes or outside the network.

Last edited 6 months ago by Simon W
Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
Reply to  Simon W
6 months ago

It will be completely fascinating (and instructive) to see this piece of PhD research when completed. I have often wondered whether the Bash vision succeeded, picking future leaders from the top public schools and expounding the gospel to them. My Iwerne years were quite short (1969 -1971/2). Few Officers (that I recall) went on to positions of influence in wider society. The culture was very ‘churchy’. Lots went on to Ridley and Wycliffe and were ordained. But few (to my knowledge) ended up as leaders in the City, industry, education, Government and the Third Sector. The star would of course… Read more »

Last edited 6 months ago by Anthony Archer
Charles Read
6 months ago

I found this video on YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCHXQysBoyo
which rather indicates no change of culture has actually happened at ECW – at least not deep enough.
There is a video statement by Robin Weekes here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOCJ8bQJPmM

Are those leaders in this world ever going to get it?

M Evans
M Evans
Reply to  Charles Read
6 months ago

“I hope the thirtyone:eight review will confirm what I’ve just said…” Wow.

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