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Church News

BBC's Martin Bashir explains how vicar Jonathan Fletcher dominated his church

by Cara Bentley

Religion Editor at the BBC, Martin Bashir, who attended Emmanuel Church Wimbledon, has written about the power-hungry character of Jonathan Fletcher, who admitted having naked massages with men and making inappropriate sexual comments. 

It has also been revealed that he has delivered communion at the request of individuals, despite no longer being allowed to do so officially by the Church of England. 

Jonathan Fletcher stopped being a vicar at the conservative evangelical church in 2012 after 30 years. Claims arose in 2017 about his behaviour towards other men. 

In June 2019, at the Evangelical Ministry Assembly, it was announced that he used physical discipline during mentoring when targets weren't met and gave and asked for massages, both clothed and unclothed, from men under his leadership. 

Mr Fletcher repsonded at the time by saying: "I enjoy massage and benefit from it. To that end I regularly have it professionally administered. 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. Again, I realise that in the position I have held in the past as an incumbent, it was unwise of me to involve anyone to whom I was also ministering and I apologise for doing so."

The Diocese of Southwark removed his Permission To Officiate, meaning he could no longer have a ministry role in the Church of England. 

In an article in The Telegraph, BBC's Martin Bashir, who attended Emmanuel Church at that time, wrote that Fletcher dominated services; leading prayer and worship, reading the Bible passage, preaching the sermon, leading the confession and not letting many others take to the front. 

Bashir adds that in church meetings Fletcher would joke after other people spoke: "As you all know, I much prefer to run a benign dictatorship" and described him as "unimpeachable."

The religion editor also explains how he queried his pastor about a sum of over £100,000 being invested by an elderly man, which was sorted out by a businessman who had been in prison and declared bankrupt. 

He explained: "I wrote to Fletcher, in confidence, explaining that I was concerned about what this former bankrupt was doing and made it abundantly clear that I did not want my concerns to be shared with him. I assumed that Fletcher would have a quiet word, the monies would be returned, and the matter resolved with no ill-effect upon anybody's reputation.

"Instead, Fletcher not only showed my letter to the businessman, he proceeded to cast aspersions upon my motives to other members of the congregation in a classic smear operation. Two individuals have since admitted that he attempted to blacken my name to them." 

The Telegraph also reported that Mr Fletcher presided over communion at two people's bedsides since his ban, on their request. He also spoke at a cremation of a "very close friend" a fortnight ago in Guildford and attended a thanksgiving service at St Saviour's Church in Guildford. 

Fletcher said both were private events and that he took no part in the thanksgiving service. 

The Dioceses of Guildford and Southwark said they were "very concerned" about his behaviour and said it should not have happened. They apologised to his alleged victims for the "further distress".

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