Thinking Anglicans

Scripture Union review of John Smyth case

The Scripture Union has published the Executive Summary of its review into the case of John Smyth. There is also an FAQ to explain it.

Note that this is one of three separate reviews being conducted in parallel. The others are organised by Winchester College and the Church of England. The FAQ document explains why the SU report is separate. It may be helpful to read the FAQ first.

Scripture Union Statement

Executive Summary of  the Scripture Union John Smyth Independent Case Review

John Smyth Independent Case Review FAQs

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
37 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Interested Observer
Interested Observer
4 months ago

I didn’t know that Smyth came from a Plymouth Brethren background, but that his family was expelled when he was young. Was that previously public? That does seem to provide a real insight.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Interested Observer
4 months ago

Yes, I knew. For me a significant revelation is that the then Bishop of Winchester, John Vernon Taylor, rejected Smyth for ordination in 1981 but, in spite of that, Smyth went to Trinity College, Bristol (Theological College) as a part-time student afterwards in 1983 at a time when George Carey was the Principal there. This episode was the subject of the withdrawal of Archbishop Carey’s PTO, restored only recently, and in the light of his denial of all knowledge and culpability, that appears an act impossible to reconcile with the inaction against others whose knowledge at an earlier date is… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Rowland Wateridge
Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
4 months ago

The SU review emphasises repeatedly that the Ruston Report was kept to a very small circle of Iwerne insiders, and when it was eventually given to a few more people it was only in a redacted form. This does seem to confirm George Carey’s insistence (confirmed by Trinity staff) that he had not seen it and was not aware of Smyth’s crimes.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Janet Fife
4 months ago

I wonder whether the Makin report will resolve this issue. I suppose we have to accept that it is very marginal. I find it astonishing that the NST and the spokesman bishop felt able to override the word of a retired Archbishop of Canterbury. Before others bring up the matter of his actions over Peter Ball, this is a quite different situation.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
4 months ago

I don’t see why the word of a retired archbishop of Canterbury should matter more than anyone else with a reputation for honesty. Although George Carey handled the Ball case very badly, he at least admitted it, apologised, and at IICSA testified to his own discredit – markedly unlike a number of other bishops and church functionaries who obfuscated and evaded. But as you say, that’s a very different case. The issue for me here, having read all the paperwork which was supplied to Lord Carey from the NST, was the absolutely abysmal handling of evidence. They assumed at the… Read more »

Charles Read
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
4 months ago

Theological colleges and courses did and do accept independent students – not just ordinands (and nowadays Reader students). If Smyth were a very part time independent student it is entirely plausible that George Carey never met him or had minimal interaction with him. There is no necessity that Carey interviewed him or offered him a place – indeed this is normally done by e.g. the Director of Studies in many places.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Charles Read
4 months ago

Janet and Charles: If I didn’t make it sufficiently clear, that was precisely the point I tried to make. The withdrawal of PTO was what I intended to convey as the act impossible to reconcile, not GC’s denial of culpability. Chronologies expose many apparent anomalies – a point I have been hammering on TA for years! We should learn very much more when the Makin report is published

John Wallace
John Wallace
Reply to  Interested Observer
4 months ago

If it were the Exclusive Brethren (as Open Brethren do not expel), it could have been something which most of us would regard as trivial. I don’t think it is a factor.

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
Reply to  John Wallace
4 months ago

I didn’t mean because of whatever led up to the expulsion: you can probably be expelled from the Exclusive Brethren for using the wrong brand of margarine. I meant the experience of complete family expulsion cannot be easy for a (presumably) child: suddenly, the whole social and emotional content in which you move is gone. You can imagine that leaving a child insecure, needy and manipulative. Of course, all attempts to figure out the causes and motivations of dark triad personalities — and there’s little doubt that Smyth was a textbook example of narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy — are doomed.… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Interested Observer
Simon W
Simon W
Reply to  Interested Observer
4 months ago

His son, known as PJ Smyth, is a ‘mega church’ Pastor in the USA.

jon
jon
Reply to  Simon W
4 months ago

PJ Smyth also acts as part of the senior leadership of newfrontiers Churches in the uk and has “apostolic oversight” over their equivalence of a diocese.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Interested Observer
4 months ago

Smyth wasn’t a product of the English public school, but managed to adopt that persona from his very different start in life in Canada. 

Anne Lee
Anne Lee
4 months ago

The link Scripture Union gives to the Winchester report goes to the School’s website and a search reveals nothing about any Report. The link to the C of E goes to the page about their report into John Smyth. Please will Scripture Union correct the Winchester link.

Richard Ashby
Richard Ashby
4 months ago

John Smyth was the barrister acting for Mary Whitehouse at the trial for blasphemy of Gay News in 1977. Both publisher and editor were found guilty and both fined and the editor sentenced to suspended six months imprisonment (this latter quashed on appeal).

Richard Ashby
Richard Ashby
4 months ago

‘The evangelical Anglican church leadership in England and Wales was, and continues to be, demonstrably dominated by wealthy, socially elite, highly educated white males. This is also reflected in the Iwerne leadership and clergy involved in the management of the Smyth concerns. The individuals who received full disclosure of Smyth’s abuse have all been described by victims as having ‘huge social polish’ which made them very convincing, dominant and persuasive’. Again, I am struck by the intertwining of the Fletcher and Smyth scandals, the same personnel and the same attitudes and the links through networks of Conservative Evangelicalism to the… Read more »

Jonathan Jamal
Jonathan Jamal
4 months ago

As a past Anglican who in my teens went to the Bash Camp at Walhampton House near Lymington under the VPS Auspices of the Iwerne Trust, I remember their approach to the Gospel was very basic and somewhat simplistic and concentrated on Personal Salvation (“Asking Jesus to come in your life”) but totally ignored the social and political implications of the Gospel. Its approach was entirely Biblical yet it ignored the Sacramental dimension of the Christian Life. It certaintly had no time for Ecumenism, and tended to see its brand of the Christian as the only true brand. Its approach… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
4 months ago

If TA will permit it (and if the link works) this is a video of John Smyth discussing the Pistorius murder trial on South African TV in 2014 – note the late date and the deference shown by the interviewer newscaster. Both are enormously significant. Smyth was being treated as a respected member of society and lawyer in S Africa, and this was after, it is said, the S African church had been tipped off about him. It’s worth watching to the end. A convincing performance by, one might say, the ultimate double-act.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-huJL5tdek

Father Ron Smith
4 months ago

‘Muscular Christianity’ has a lot to answer for. I’m just reading a prime instance of it’s effect on two of the children of a former Archbishop of Canterbury. The title: ‘A very Queer Family Indeed’, published by the Chicago University Press (2016) and authored by Simon Goldhill. The story of mental anguish suffered by two of the children of an ABC in the Victorian Era – because of the Church’s refusal to try to understand the authenticity of non-binary sexuality – might help us to look afresh at the harm done by the continuing hypocrisy of sexism and homophobic culture… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Father Ron Smith
Richard Ashby
Richard Ashby
Reply to  Father Ron Smith
4 months ago

There’s something very odd about the evangelical embrace of ‘muscular Christianity’. Perhaps St Paul’s use of sporting metaphors has something to do with it. On the other hand St Paul, being familiar with and part of the Hellenistic world as it impinged on Judaism, would have been well aware of the Greek cult of the male body and must have known that it was inescapably bound up with homoeroticism. Evangelical concerns about the feminisation of religion arise early in the development of Anglo Catholicism. People like Newman and Froude and others like them of a perhaps more sensitive and even… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Richard Ashby
4 months ago

There’s something very odd about the evangelical embrace of ‘muscular Christianity’.’

As an artistic, geeky, non-sports-playing introvert, I’m obviously not a real evangelical.

Father Ron Smith
Reply to  Richard Ashby
4 months ago

Thanks, Richard, for your contribution here. I have now finished the book about the Benson Family. The obvious reticence of the Victorians to show overt affection for their male young was one of the contributing factors for EFB’s problems with his own sexuality. (The book ends with a lovely picture of EFB, arm-in-arm with Dadie Rowlands on the campus of King’s College, Cambridge. That must have taken some guts at that time!)

Last edited 4 months ago by Father Ron Smith
Mary Hancock
Mary Hancock
Reply to  Father Ron Smith
4 months ago

Thank you, Fr Ron, for reminding me of Dadie Rowlands – not that I knew him personally but saw him around Cambridge, and appreciate his legacy to the city and its cultural life.

Shamus
Shamus
Reply to  Mary Hancock
4 months ago

I may be mistaken, and forgive me if I am, but I think this is referring to Dadie Rylands, a hugely influential theatre director of The Marlowe Society in Cambridge. His influence went well beyond Cambridge. He had a huge influence on the speaking of Shakespeare, and a case could be made that we might not have The RSC without him.

Mary Hancock
Mary Hancock
Reply to  Shamus
4 months ago

Yes, Shamus, I understand he was of far greater importance and influence than just to drama in Cambridge.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Richard Ashby
4 months ago

Thanks for your fascinating post Richard. You are right, there is so much to unpick here. I think the key phrase to unpick is “It seems counter intuitive to establish all male schools for the purposes of educating the sons of the middle classes destined for the colonies, the law, Parliament and commerce. Why anyone thought that confining hundreds of pubertal and adolescent boys in communal dormitories, common rooms, communal showers and team games would counter the homosocial and homoerotic instincts is quite extraordinary.” . In Wilfred Thesiger’s account of the Marsh Arabs of Iraq he describes how young women… Read more »

C R SEITZ
C R SEITZ
Reply to  Simon Dawson
4 months ago

“Why anyone thought that confining hundreds of pubertal and adolescent boys in communal dormitories, common rooms, communal showers and team games would counter the homosocial and homoerotic instincts is quite extraordinary.” I thought that Gayness was an innate identity. How could one encourage it or prevent it? Having attended a single-sex boarding school, I find a lot of this chatter arm-chair psychiatry. If gay males are looking for more maleness in a same-sex partner, this much I can say about boarding school. It certainly gives a boy more maleness than he could possibly ask for or imagine! That certainly de-romanticizes… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  C R SEITZ
4 months ago

No onslaught necessary, Christopher. This is a complex issue so we do well to accept that all of us have different experiences and insights to bring to the debate. . But one point of clarification. You said “I though Gayness was an innate identity”. . I would argue that there are two separate things going on in these homoerotic situations, and too many analyses of homosexuality fail to see that. Firstly there is, as you said, “innate gayness” where a small percentage of men have homosexuality as their primary orientation. And then, as a separate phenomenon, the essential plasticity of… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Simon Dawson
C R SEITZ
C R SEITZ
Reply to  Simon Dawson
4 months ago

In the swirl of efforts to comprehend our cultural moment, yours makes as much sense as others I have heard. Indeed, analysis is difficult, as you say.

Holy week blessings.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Richard Ashby
4 months ago

(Continued from Part one) Then there are frequent stories in the world’s literature of the often close loving relationship between a knight and his page (or a Samurai, or whatever). Just to give one example, the Anglo Saxon poem the Wanderer describes the sorrows of an exiled warrior who has long ago buried his Lord – Then sorrow and sleep / both together / often tie up / the wretched solitary one. / He thinks in his mind / that he embraces and kisses / his lord, / and on his lord’s knees lays / his hands / and his head,… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Simon Dawson
Revd Mark Bennet
Revd Mark Bennet
Reply to  Father Ron Smith
4 months ago

It is wrong to associate “Muscular Christianity” exclusively with evangelicalism, conservative or otherwise. Peter Ball was, in his youth, a notable squash player. Victorian headmasters of Rugby School (associated with the concept) included Thomas Arnold, Archibald Tait and Frederick Temple (the latter two became Archbishops of Canterbury). More nuance is required in the analysis.

C R SEITZ
C R SEITZ
Reply to  Revd Mark Bennet
4 months ago

Thank you. Nuance, indeed.

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  Father Ron Smith
4 months ago

If, as I do, you accept that all mammals – possibly all creatures that reproduce sexually – are, to put it crudely, basically bisexual, on a spectrum if you like, and how that is expressed in an individual is a product of genetics, hormonal exposure of the developing brain at critical times, upbringing and culture, then there is no problem whatsoever with what we call homoeroticism, homosexuality, effeminacy, butchness – and more. The problem lies with the desire to control others – to force others into pigeonholes that don’t challenge limited stereotypes. It’s salutary to remember that some creatures change… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Stanley Monkhouse
Father Ron Smith
Reply to  Stanley Monkhouse
4 months ago

Thanks, Stanley, for your professionally informed (scientific) understanding of sexual/gender diversity. It is good to have a priest-scientist weighing into the arguments. So many homophobes are prone to talk about something “they know not wot of”. Personal experience of innate homosexual attraction might help some to better understand that sexuality/gender identification is neither simple nor a set formula. You do well to remind us that each one of us could have been different if our experience of creation in the womb had not been as it turned out to be. My mention of the Benson Family’s difficulties with binary sexual… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Father Ron Smith
Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  Father Ron Smith
4 months ago

Thanks Ron. Sexuality is today’s Galileo affair. My adherence to institutional Christianity hangs by an increasingly fragile thread. What drew me to the CofE was God as beauty – not just of the senses but in all its forms including of intent and spirit. What has kept me going is the psychological authenticity (beauty) of the gospel. But it seems ro me that now, here, all that is available without having to tolerate the hypocrisy, the finger wagging, the evil behaviour that comes with institutional church. It’s increasingly word-driven rather than sense-driven, dependent on thinking in a particular way as… Read more »

highchurchwomannotflourishing
highchurchwomannotflourishing
Reply to  Stanley Monkhouse
4 months ago

Dear Stanley, could you please write a book on this (or recommend one already written). Can it then be made compulsory reading for all priests, ministers, pastors, lay readers, lay ministers, and ordinands, please, please, please. I am so tired of trying counter the binary sex arguments and deal with the ‘men are men and women are women’ sexism (and the still prevalent homophobia though less of an issue in my church!).

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  highchurchwomannotflourishing
4 months ago

please email me at wsmonkhouse at gmail dot com

Father Ron Smith
Reply to  Stanley Monkhouse
4 months ago

Last night, here in Aotearoa/New Zealand, we were treated to a lovely 2-hour documentary on the papacy of Francis. Included was an interview with a middle-aged Chile Catholic Church child-abuse survivor, seated together with Pope Francis in the Santa Clara guest-house in Rome. When the survivor, Juan Carlos, reminded Pope Francis of the fact that he was now in a Same-Sex partnership living in the U.S., the Pope told him that this should not be a problem, as his gay status was God’s creation! If being gay is not a problem for the Pope, why should the C. of E.… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Father Ron Smith
37
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x