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A guide to the responses to the Jonathan Fletcher report

by Cara Bentley

A number of church leaders have responded to the report on former vicar Jonathan Fletcher's abuse and the wider church culture in which the prominent preacher operated in - here are the links and summaries of what they have said.

The Jonathan Fletcher report released last week criticised not only the preacher himself but said there must be a culture change among the wider conservative evangelical Anglican network, which it said played a part in delaying allegations coming to light because of a distrust of people outside and putting leaders on pedestals. 

This was followed by a report by the external members of the Independent Advisory Group, which is made up four people who also ascribe to conservative evangelical theology (an anonymous victim representative, Sarah Smart, Graham Shearer and Dan Leafe). This report referenced the Thirtyone:Eight recommendation that leaders should consider stepping down in more detail and said there needed to be explanations from people - such as in the Titus Trust, Gafcon, ReNew, AMiE and the FIEC - about why Fletcher was allowed to attend and speak at several Christian events after some may have known that his actions were being looked into and his permission to officiate in the Church of England had been removed. 

1.    Glen Scrivener: Our Worst Fears Have Been Confirmed || Lee Furney || Survivor of Jonathan Fletcher Abuse Scandal

Glen Scrivener's interview with one of Fletcher's victims, Lee Furney, released on Tuesday is a 44 minute-long dissection of Furney's experience as a pastoral apprentice at Emmanuel Church Wimbledon, where Fletcher was vicar from 1982-2012. 

Furney explains how he was a bit older than the other men doing the traineeship and refused some of Jonathan's advances, such as naked saunas or massages, leading to him being publicly bullied and side-lined by Fletcher. He talks about how Fletcher did not just groom individuals but "he grooms a whole church and Jonathan Fletcher managed to groom a whole church constituency". 

He describes living with Fletcher as a lodger, being told that his loyalty to Fletcher was of utmost important. He explains how his, and other's concerns, of bullying were brushed aside. 


2.    St Helen's Bishopsgate - William Taylor

Emmanuel Church Wimbledon has many links in staff and friendships with St Helen's Bishopsgate in the City of London, led by William Taylor, meaning some sort of response from them was expected. Taylor was a friend of Fletcher's, many of the two congregations went on the same Christian camps and the some of the church family know some of the victims. 

The response from St Helen's Bishopsgate, delivered at last Sunday morning's online service, has been criticised for its inclusion of a defence of one of their members of staff who a trustee of a church plant alongside Fletcher. Taylor also suggests that there were 'political' reasons behind the IAG's report into the wider church culture. 

Taylor does start by acknowledging his former friendship with Fletcher and says: "Our concerns are, and have been throughout, first and foremost for those damaged by Jonathan. His was a gross abuse of power, and our deepest sympathy is and has been with the victims." He also admits that there will be recommendations from the Thirtyone:Eight report that his church will need to take on board. 

However, he criticises the subsequent IAG report, which supports the recommendation of Thirtyone:Eight's report for people to consider leaving their position, saying: "genuine repentance for some may involve them stepping down from positions of leadership."

Taylor says: "This additional statement, and further social media comments are clearly politically driven, and this action has significantly cheapened the report itself, raises questions for the organisation that produced the report in the first place, and I think that is a very, very great pity.

"Furthermore, very serious allegations have been made in a co-ordinated campaign on social media; and members of the so-called Independent Advisory Group have formed a central part of that campaign."

Taylor goes on to defend a member of his staff who was a trustee alongside Fletcher, saying of the IAG group: "they suggest that he acted inappropriately. And I want to assure you that Brian has acted with impeccable integrity in this whole matter. What is more, I have known Brian for over 25 years, and there is nobody I would trust more than Brian O'Donoghue. Sorry if that's a disappointment to some of you, but it's true."

The Thirtyone:Eight report had already criticised Emmanuel Church Wimbledon for trying to address accusations against people involved in the case from the front, saying it exacerbated the feeling that anyone with concerns couldn't come forward because influential people would be protected by other influential people. This statement has been seen as disappointing for a similar reason. 

Taylor adds that people can talk to him, the Diocese's safeguarding team, or others, about any concerns and that the church should pray for the victims, Emmanuel Church Wimbledon and Reverend Robin Weekes and for clarity on what has happened. 

He also explains that a review has already been done of St Helen's own culture, with 25 recommendations being implemented but that it found no bullying or coercive behaviour. 

"I mention this because allegations have been made about the leadership culture of churches such as St Helen's," he said. 


3.    All Soul's Langham Place - Jonny Dyer

All Soul's Langham Place, a large evangelical church in London, also gave a response on Sunday during their online service, delivered by associate rector Jonny Dyer, who says the report makes for 'painful reading". 

"We are so very sorry that this kind of abuse continues to take place in the church body, especially so close to home" Dyer says and adds that their thoughts are with the survivors and that they are praying they will be loved and cared for well. 

Dyer acknowledges that many may have known Fletcher or heard him preach and would be shocked at what he did. 

Dyer recommends that the church reads the report and the IAG's report and says All Soul's will be reflecting on what it means for them, saying the documents "make for distressing reading" and may remind people of past or present abuse, about which he encourages them to speak to someone. 

He invites people to contact the pastoral team if they wish and advertises a conference with the keynote speaker Dr Diane Langberg this June, on "understanding power, control and abuse and church as a safe place".

You can watch it below at 16 minutes in. 


4.    Mortification of Spin podcast: Learning from the Smyth-Fletcher Abus‪e

This American evangelical podcast hosted by Carl Truman features an interview with Rev. Dr. Peter Sanlon, rector of Emmanuel Anglican Church in Tunbridge Wells, part of the Free Church of England. Carl speaks about the huge presence of Fletcher in English evangelicalism, saying that many felt he wielded more power than any bishop in the Church of England. 

They discuss the culture of public schools and how that culture slipped into the church and Christian camps and how Fletcher's case is linked to that of John Smyth. 

"Many of the largest and most significant and influential churches in England, whether they realise it or not, run their churches in ways which that are principally shaped and designed by the methods that Jonathan Fletcher used to hide his abuse," says Rev Peter Sanlon. 

Rev Peter says if people take on the recommendations of the review seriously, such as by resigning, it could be the key to spiritual revival in England. 


There are, of course, more response articles and videos. Here are just some:

Chris Green - ‘A Time to Speak’ Jonathan Fletcher, abuse, and the Report - one Conservative Evangelical’s response

John Stevens, national director of the FIEC - Spiritual Abuse: Personal Reflections On The Statement Made To The EMA 2019 About The Abusive Behaviour Of Jonathan Fletcher

Andrew Hawkins - After the Jonathan Fletcher abuse scandal: 5 questions for Christians

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