Safeguarding charity thirtyone:eight has announced that it will conduct an independent review into the operations of The Crowded House church in Sheffield. The announcement comes two months after senior pastor Steve Timmis resigned amid allegations of spiritual abuse and bullying; Timmis was also removed from his position as CEO of the Acts 29 church planting movement.
In a statement, thirty-one:eight, which describes its mission as helping "individuals, organisations, charities, faith and community groups to protect vulnerable people from abuse," said it had been "commissioned by The Crowded House church in Sheffield to undertake an independent learning review concerning the leadership of the church".
It added: "The Crowded House hopes to enable any who have been harmed by the leadership of the church to express this and for their experiences to be heard and considered. The review will examine the actions, decisions, leadership culture, and ministry activities of the church, in order to help The Crowded House leaders to understand what has happened, to seek forgiveness where appropriate, and to ensure a healthy church culture for the future.
"The review process will be entirely independent and the reviewers have both a significant level of experience and expertise in undertaking safeguarding reviews."
Due to the covid-19 outbreak, the charity noted that the initial interviews will be "undertaken via video conference call".
"However, where restrictions are lifted, in line with government guidance, the review will seek to undertake both face to face interviews and site visits," the group noted.
After the review is complete, the team of experts will "analyse the information received and begin drafting the report of findings, which will be quality assured and shared with the elders and trustees of The Crowded House," thirtyone:eight added. "A draft of the final report is planned to be submitted to The Crowded House commissioners by the end of June 2020".
In response to the allegations against, which were first detailed in a piece at Christianity Today, Timmis refused to address specifics but freely admitted that he was "a sinner saved by grace," and claimed "neither infallibility nor impeccability".
He added: "I am, though, more than ready for anyone to approach me and the church elders here with specific concerns. They can be assured of a careful listening."