A church in London has apologised for their initial statement in response to the report looking into spiritual and sexual abuse by former vicar Jonathan Fletcher.
The report, by safeguarding charity Thirtyone:eight, was published last month and was followed by an Independent Advisory Group (IAG) review from its external members, which contained further recommendations and highlighted the need for explanations about why Jonathan Fletcher was allowed to speak at several Christian events while accusations about his behaviour were being investigated.
The London church, St Helen’s Bishopsgate, had been criticised for defending a member of staff, Brian O'Donoghue, who is also a trustee of a church plant alongside Fletcher and for also suggesting the IAG’s external members review had political motives.
In his initial statement, Rev William Taylor, the lead vicar at St Helen’s, defended O’Donoghue saying he had acted “with impeccable integrity” and added that “there is nobody I would trust more that Brian O'Donoghue.”
He also called the IAG’s review “politically driven” and said it had “cheapened” the Thirtyone:eight report.
The subsequent report is made up of four members of the IAG, one of whom is a victim of Jonathan Fletcher.
For this, Rev Taylor has apologised in a new statement saying: “In our church family, as well as in the wider church and society, there are many who are survivors of abuse and injustice of many kinds, including those who suffered from abuse by Jonathan Fletcher and, amongst them, the victim member of the Independent Advisory Group (IAG).
“I deeply regret that my statement last week has caused you pain. I fully accept that this has been the case and this unreserved apology is to you,” he said.
Rev Taylor went on to say that he believed the Thirtyone:eight report was “a substantial and serious piece of work” and apologised for his comments about the IAG’s review undermining the work carried out by Thirtyone:eight.
In his initial statement, Rev Taylor also had mentioned a text message sent by John Stevens, the National Director of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches, that was understood to be Stevens agreeing with Rev Taylor’s response. Consequently, Stevens also received a lot of criticism, especially on social media.
“I quoted from John’s text without first seeking his permission. I have apologised to John already and express that publicly here. John has been one of the faithful partners in the gospel who challenged me privately about my statement last week.
“John, I am sorry that by quoting your text I gave people the impression that you endorsed my statement and I regret the very difficult position my words have put you in,” Rev Taylor said.
“I am sorry, really sorry. I hope those who have been hurt by what I said will forgive me. And I hope you will find real comfort from the Lord Jesus”, it concludes.
You can read a full guide to other responses here