“It would be nice, and fairly nearly true, to say that ‘from that time forth Eustace was a different boy.’ To be strictly accurate, he began to be a different boy. He had relapses. There were still many days when he could be very tiresome. But most of those I shall not notice. The cure had begun.” CS Lewis: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Evangelicals appear to be on the ascendency in the Church of England/
There is much going on in the Church of England in regards to abuse. It might surprise some Americans to learn that evangelicals now have some sway within those churches. In the 1960s there was significant disagreement between two well-known church leaders: Martin Lloyd-Jones and John Stott. Lloyd-Jones argued that evangelicals should leave the COE to avoid aligning with the liberal leadership. Stott believed that evangelicals should stay and change the COE from within. It looks like Stott’s view was correct. Premier Christianity posted How evangelicals took over the Church of England. They posted the following chart of the three major groups within the COE.
It’s perhaps understandable why evangelicals have felt forced to leave the Church in years gone by. Whether disgruntled at perceived liberalism or prompted by the charismatic renewal to start something new, evangelicals have often followed Martin LloydJones in feeling more at home outside of the established Church. Yet, whatever differences remain over sexuality, evangelicals are in the ascendancy in the CofE. It could be argued that there’s never been a better time to be an Anglican evangelical. If that’s true, then Stott’s side of the debate can claim victory. Not only is evangelical influence substantial, but it is significant enough to attract criticism both from secularists and some Christians inside the CofE
Unfortunately, the evangelicals in the UK have to deal with abuse in the churches and a plea for information.
However, just like in the USA, the UK evangelicals have their own abuse scandals which I have written about from time to time. I have written about Fletcher before as well as John Smyth. There appears to me to be some sort of tie-in to nudity and corporal punishment, perhaps coming out of the public schools (which are private schools in the US. I know that is quite confusing for Americans.)
Before I begin looking at the developments in the Jonathan Fletcher situation, I’m going to be somewhat cryptic here. It’s my hope that I will hear from some people who are aware of what I am hinting at. I have heard that there may be a group of evangelical pastors or church leaders who are involved in physical shenanigans that are brushed off as *getting steam out.” This is not an accusation in any way not is it meant to point out any particular person. However, I have received sufficient input that leads me to ask more questions. Confidentiality is guaranteed: firstname.lastname@example.org
It is important to understand that it is not the fault of the church if an abuser is present, either in positions of leadership or general membership. Such individuals have deeply rooted psychiatric issues and need to be confronted. It is the fault of the church leadership or membership if they know such a person is present and do nothing about it. In July 2019, I wrote a post about Jonathan Fletcher. Jonathan Fletcher was the Minister of Emmanuel Ridgway Proprietary Chapel, in Wimbledon, from 1982 to 2012. His license to preach was revoked in 2017.
Fletcher had been a leading figure in the Church of England’s conservative evangelical wing. In 2018, an article describing three of these groups was published. Three of the largest Evangelical groups in the Church of England merge. These three groups are Reform, the Fellowship of the Word and Spirit (FWS), and The Church Society. The Anglican Mission in England chose not to join the merger.
Report #1: It was merely spiritual abuse and has nothing to do with physical or sexual abuse.
What is the back story to the Rev. Fletcher scandal? Here is a link to the Telegraph article “Minister Spiritual Abused the Vulnerable.” Some of the key points from the article:
- Fletcher, now 76, was removed from his church powers in 2017.but allegedly continued to preach
- He was a leader of Reform.
- He was accused of spiritual abuse and not physical or sexual abuse.
- He claimed to be an acquaintance of John Smyth. (Here is a link to TWW posts on the accusations of abuse by John Smyth who recently passed away.)
- Apparently more allegations about his conduct were received in 2018.
However, this comment by Fletcher in the Telegraph caught my eye.
He said: “I totally reject and deny any allegations [made against me], although I don’t know what the allegations are about.
“I’m sure that in 30 years of being a reverend that I may have offended someone who has then turned against me. I knew anonymous allegations were made two or three years ago. And I was told police had been contacted. However, I have not been told of any subsequent allegations since.”
Think about it. He rejects all allegations made against him even though he doesn’t know what the allegations are. 😀 .
Report #2: It was physical and sexual abuse.
The Evangelical Ministry Assembly organized by the Proclamation Trust made a statement.
Did they admit to being complicit?
First, we speak with sadness and, I hope, with great humility. There is much here that does not reflect well on our constituency. Serious questions will need to be asked about what went on and how it was able to continue. To the extent we have been complicit in a culture which allowed this to happen, real and deep repentance will be needed. Change will be necessary.
It appears that this group was not proactive.
Church discipline involved hitting each other on their naked backsides!
Shades of Tom Chantry!
Starting in late September 2018, concrete allegations have been made about conduct involving Jonathan and other men. I am not going to say how many disclosures, let alone who made them.
In late 2018 a small number of allegations were made of the practice of physical discipline in the context of discipling relationships. One example of this involved men hitting each other on their naked backsides with a trainer for failing to meet personal targets.
We are told to not speculates on what constitutes the kind of behavior are included under the headers of physical discipline.
This took place over a period of time; it happened infrequently; the number of hits was small; and we do not believe any physical injuries were sustained, though it has been described as very painful. I am sorry to be specific but I don’t want you to speculate as to what sort of behaviour I include in ‘physical discipline’.
Discipline involved naked massages.
Further disclosures since March 2019 have largely related to a different practice of one to one massage, ranging from partially clothed massage to massage where both men are said to have been fully naked throughout and to have taken turns to massage each other. Again, this conduct seems to have become a regular part of the relationship between Jonathan and certain men over a period of time.
Fletcher still doesn’t take the allegations seriously, calling these activities *light-hearted forfeits.*
Church Times on 6/29/19, Fletcher faces allegations of naked beatings.
In his statement, however, Mr Fletcher maintained that the punishments, administered in a long-standing prayer group, were “light-hearted forfeits” if members failed to hit targets of “healthy and holy living”.
“These included going without chocolate, cold baths and school-type gym shoe punishments,” Mr Fletcher writes. “Although at the time we definitely did not think we were doing anything wrong, I’ve seen since that it could have caused much harm both to individuals and to the reputation of conservative evangelicalism for which I am profoundly sorry.”
He acknowledges that he enjoys and benefits from massage, and regularly hires professionals to do it. “However, if I can avoid the cost by finding a male friend to administer, and in return receive, massage, I do.
“These sessions categorically do not have erotic or sexual overtones and I have never coerced or intended to coerce anyone into an arrangement. If any have felt pressurised by me to do this, I apologise.”
Interestingly Fletcher was disciplined in 2017, but some leading conservative evangelical Anglican clergy only told others to stay away from him in 2019. If they knew he was problematic, why does it appear that they waited two years before going public?
Is there a cover-up of abuse by evangelicals in leadership within the COE? What about the membership?
Sadly, it reminds me of the church in the US. Here is what I want to address. From the above post.
Fletcher was disciplined in 2017, but some leading conservative evangelical Anglican clergy only told others to stay away from him in 2019. If they knew he was problematic, why does it appear that they waited two years before going public?
In 10/20, Anne Atkins wrote When people won’t believe you. Here is what she had to say about the aftereffects to his congregation.
Emmanuel Church, Jonathan’s last living, is still in shock. Members of the congregation talk of feeling tainted. Some are having to reprocess their very conversions under his ministry.
Here is what her acquaintances had to say about Feltcher.
I SEE direct parallels between our experience and those harmed by Jonathan Fletcher. A longstanding protégé of Jonathan’s speaks of his amazement at how little contact has been made by Christian friends.
“Everyone knew I was close to him,” he says. And yet almost no one has picked up the telephone to ask if he is all right. One wrote a kind letter. Another rang. The rest? Silence, for over a year. Have they really not joined the dots?
One victim was on the phone about something else to an old friend. The friend said: “I’ve been thinking of you, with all this about Jonathan coming out.” Thinking of him? But not bothering to get in touch.
…Occasionally, a response can be worse even than ignorance or disbelief. I was at a party (remember those?) in late July 2019, and someone I didn’t know well (but liked greatly) opened the batting abruptly: “What do you make of all this Jonathan Fletcher stuff?”
“What do you?” I asked carefully.
“I’ve been told it’s a fuss about nothing. A misunderstanding of public-school culture and horseplay.”
Aghast, I said: “I have friends who have made allegations.” It didn’t even seem to register
Fletcher blows off his actions. You have got to read what he said.
In the article by Atkins, she recounts a statement by Fletcher that seems absurd to those of us who have been through the #churchtoo movement. Let me remind you, Fletcher is in his late 70s and does not seem to have developed any self-awareness.
As part of a long-standing prayer group, I have in the past been involved in a system of mutual encouragement whereby we set ourselves targets in healthy and holy living and then imposed what I thought of as light-hearted forfeits if we failed.
“These included going without chocolate, cold baths and school-type gym shoe punishments. Although at the time we definitely did not think we were doing anything wrong, I’ve seen since that it could have caused much harm both to individuals and to the reputation of conservative Evangelicalism for which I am profoundly sorry. Needless to say, this activity has now stopped.”
His victims respond.
Hattie Williams, writing for Church Times wrote Jonathan Fletcher ‘has minimised allegations’ made against him
In an open response published on the website Anglican Ink, on Monday, the survivors’ advocate Andrew Graystone, and four clerics — the Revd Melvin Tinker, Bishop Gavin Ashenden, Dr Peter Sanlon, and the Revd Carl Chambers — analyse Mr Fletcher’s response, through which, they say, he “continues his self-deception and, drawing on the power of his previous reputation, pressurises others to share it.
He implies that he doesn’t know who he has harmed, or how he might have ‘unwittingly’ harmed them. He asks his victims to identify themselves to him and says that he wishes to ‘beg their forgiveness’ (although he does know who some of them are).”
Mr Fletcher puts on survivors, they write, “a duty to forgive the harm that he himself refuses to acknowledge he has done. In all of this, Fletcher prioritises his own reputation, and the reputation of what he calls ‘the evangelical hierarchy’. In his choice of language and his misuse of scripture, Fletcher doesn’t seem to have recognized that it is ‘time to come clean’.”
Heed this one. Evangelical public school cliques need to come clean.
Again from the Church Times/Wiliams:
The Bishop of Willesdon, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, posted a link to the letter on Twitter, and commented: “There is agreement right across the board that this small public-school clique of evangelicals need to come clean on the cover-up around [John] Smyth and Fletcher. Their continued silence is a disgrace.”
David Ould posted IT’S NOT OVER – EVANGELICALS, ABUSE AND A CALL FOR A GOSPEL-SHAPED REPENTANCE David is a Senior Associate Minister at St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Parramatta in Sydney, Australia.
evangelicals in the Anglican Church will soon be facing up to their own scandal around abuse and it’s cover-up. The long-awaited report by thirtyone:eight into the events surroundingJonathan Fletcher’s abuse at Emmanuel Wimbledon has been postponed until the first quarter of 2021.
Ould emphasizes that the church leaders knew of Fletcher’s disgraceful behavior and ignored it.
I have been approached by more than one person who had knowledge of Fletcher’s behaviour long before the allegations were apparently disclosed. One person has related to me being invited to take part in the “forfeits” and (in their own words) thinking “Hell, no!”. They then went to the leadership of Emmanuel Wimbledon about the matter and were rebuffed.
This was all 20 years ago. 20 years ago Fletcher was urging young men to be virtuous and then going back to his rectory where other men of a similar age to me and my peers were treated appallingly. And church leadership at the time were told. I cannot stress this last point enough. Fletcher’s behaviour was being reported and there was nothing being done to stop it.
Ould believes that the people who know about this are more concerned about preserving *reputation.*
In the past 18 months I have had a number of conversations with others about the whole Fletcher saga. I’m sorry to report that there have been those, some of them well-recognised names in our fraternity, who have urged me to stay quiet and not publish the details and others who have argued that all the details may yet not come out and therefore there is less imperative to disclose. What has become clear to me is that at least one contributing motivation in all this is a concern for preserving reputation.
He believes there will be more revelations. I’m with him.
It is also true that the shame and embarrassment that these events and the poor way that they are handled is not over either. There will be more reports and more disclosures and the truth will come out.
There will be dark days for the COE as the particulars of Fletcher’s apparent abuses come to the light. In my opinion, there is more, much more, to come. I have heard unsettling reports from others of the worrisome behavior of leaders associated with the COE. Some of the names are even known in the US.
Following Aslan, he was taken to a pool where he wanted to bathe his leg. Aslan told him that he must first undress. Scratching and clawing himself, Eustace desperately tried to shed his scales like a snake skin. After three times through this ordeal, he began to fear that he would never be rid of the scales. Aslan’s voice told him, “You will have to let me undress you,” and he tore the skin from Eustace, picked him up, and dropped him into the pool. As Eustace washed, he realized that his arm was no longer in pain because he had turned back into a boy. He returned to the camp and told Edmund what had happened to him, and it was Edmund who revealed that the lion must have been Aslan.
The COE, just like the SBC and other churches and denominations, needs to proceed in that difficult process of removing the thick, ugly scales that have built up through the years. There must be an accounting and that means shedding the protective covering of the public school connections. In the US, we call it the *good old boy* network. I predict it will be a long process to get to the truth as well as to reach out and help the victims that have been wounded like those who have accused Jonathan Fletcher. He will not be the only one. More will be revealed so learn how to do right by the victims. #churchtoo #COEtoo
(He claims he *withheld chocolate?” I am laughed so hard that I scared my dear pug dogs.)
PS I am interested in stories from the UK to post here. I will treat all correspondence on the matter with absolute confidentiality. Also, please read my cryptic words at the beginning of the post. I have a feeling that those who know of these things will understand what I mean.