The son of an abusive pastor has been forced to step down as the leader of a US church after a report concluded he did not disclose important information about his father’s behaviour.
PJ Smyth is the son of John Smyth,who abused 22 boys during the 1970s and 1980s and about which allegations were first made public in 2017.
John Smyth died of a heart attack in South Africa before the police investigation had finished.
At the time, PJ Smyth expressed surprise at the revelations and said he did not know about the abuse, but many people raised concerns about the accuracy of his statements.
Consequently, Advance - a church movement started by New Frontiers – launched an investigation into what PJ Smyth knew about the abuse and asked him to step down while the inquiry was ongoing.
‘The Mullen Report’ has now concluded that “at several points in the 2017 process of PJ being questioned about his knowledge of John Smyth’s history, he did not disclose important information”.
The investigation, conducted by Wade Mullen, revealed “apparent discrepancies” in statements made by PJ Smyth regarding his knowledge of the accusations against his father. PJ Smyth also admitted his public statements in 2017 could be described as “distancing, sugar-coating, minimising or avoiding”.
When interviewed for the report, the 50-year-old shared he recently came to a “painful awareness” that his father abused him when he was young and “maintained an abusive control” over him through much of his adult life.
He continued: “With what I am learning from mental health professionals, I believe that a combination of natural memory loss over decades, and the trauma I am carrying, has caused me to bury and distort memories within this traumatic life-theme of me and my dad. I am now on a journey to discover, confront, and learn to live with my memories.”
The report recommended the Advance leadership team to consider whether it would be wise to reinstate PJ Smyth as the leader of Advance, as well as creating a much more “trauma-aware and trauma-informed” safeguarding team.
In a statement, Advance said: “The Advance Leadership Team has required PJ to step down from his role to seek recovery, rehabilitation and restoration from his own past trauma as well as to address character concerns raised in the report.”
It continued: “As a leadership team, we want to voice our deep love and appreciation for PJ and Ashleigh and the Smyth family. We want to acknowledge that as friends and brothers, this process and outcome has been painful for all involved…We will be working with them on determining the best next steps in their journey of healing and we believe wholeheartedly in the power of God’s grace to redeem, restore and renew.”
In a letter to his former church, PJ Smyth said: “After many months of waiting, the Mullen Report commissioned by Advance is out, and Monument and Advance have interacted with me about their respected responses to the Report.”
“In good heart, I accept the recommendations at the end of the Mullen report. I am working on my various apologies and a corrective statement to correct the errors in my 2017 statements. I accept and grieve that my errors have caused harm, and I wish I had done more in 2017 to help conclude the matter in a more satisfactory way.”
It concluded: “We built Monument together as a leader-pedestalization-free-zone, determined to all rely on Jesus and one another, and keep the mission front and center. For that I am grateful, and with confidence, I entrust you to Jesus, one another, and your leaders.
“With love, PJ.”