Statement from Trustees in response to Safeguarding Reviews concerning John Smyth and Jonathan Fletcher

As Trustees of the South Central Gospel Partnership, we have been deeply saddened by the revelations of abuse in certain conservative evangelical church settings. Whether we are in Anglican or Independent traditions, we are heartbroken for the victims of abuse and bullying. We have been praying for the Lord to minister to them in their pain and distress. We are very sorry that such abuse should have happened in God’s church, particularly so close to home, and are outraged and horrified by the behaviour of the abusers.

As Trustees we have studied the John Smyth Independent Case Review, produced for Scripture Union, and the Independent Lessons Learned Review concerning Jonathan Fletcher and Emmanuel Church Wimbledon. It is clear from these reviews that there have been serious failings which have allowed these men to continue their abusive practices for a scandalously long time.

We are not looking for scapegoats – indeed we are deeply aware of our own sinfulness and daily need of God’s grace. However, the John Smyth Independent Case Review in particular suggests some serious failings in the Titus Trust. The reviewer is highly critical of some of their practices, particularly with respect to safeguarding reporting. She indicates that there is a “clear indication of inappropriately limited information-sharing” (Paragraph 6.51) from at least 2014 to the present day (Paragraph 6.42). We have spoken to representatives of the Titus Trust trustees and management, and we understand that there will be a response, but that this will take some time.

The Gospel Partnership’s Ministry Training Course has been served for many years by a number of people employed by the Titus Trust. In particular, three of our small group leaders and tutors are or were employed by the Titus Trust in the timescales mentioned in Paragraph 6.42 of the report. In view of our concerns, all three of them have offered to step back from active involvement in the Course, at least until we have been able to consider the Titus Trust’s public response when that becomes available. We consider this to be an honourable step on their part.

We want to stress that this is not a final judgment on the situation nor a personal judgment on any of the three people who have served the Ministry Training Course in the past academic year. We continue to hold them personally in high esteem, and are aware of no evidence at this stage to suggest that they are anything other than innocent parties in this situation. Our decision is based solely on our clear obligation to prioritise safeguarding and the reviewer’s verdict that the Titus Trust has breached its safeguarding obligations towards another partner since at least 2014. We have urged the Titus Trust to comply with their obligations to the satisfaction of Scripture Union and safeguarding professionals, and we remain hopeful that in due time they will.

As you can imagine, all of this has involved much prayer and a great many conversations. It is not something which we are doing lightly; however safeguarding is one of our core responsibilities.

We invite you to pray that the Lord Jesus Christ will be glorified even in these circumstances. We pray that victims especially will find comfort in the Lord, who is close to the brokenhearted and that he saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Peter Comont and James Muldoon on behalf of the South Central Gospel Partnership Trustees

Video message to students of the Ministry Training Course from Matt Searles (Course Director)

Support for victims or those affected by Fletcher

Email thirtyone:eight charity in confidence for details of a fund to provide counselling: ecwsupportfund@thirtyoneeight.org

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