A GROUP of clerics has condemned the public response of the Revd Jonathan Fletcher to allegations made against him as an attempt “to minimise them, and to feign astonishment that anyone should find his blatantly bizarre and abusive behaviour inappropriate”.
The allegations involve physical beatings, reminiscent of the beatings administered by John Smyth (News, 13 April 2017; 1 March). Mr Fletcher, who was Minister of Emmanuel Ridgway Proprietary Chapel, Wimbledon, from 1982 to 2012, has admitted that beatings took place, but has described them as “light-hearted forfeits” in a “system of mutual encouragement” (News, 5 July).
In an open response published on the website Anglican Ink, on Monday, the survivors’ advocate Andrew Graystone, and four clerics — the Revd Melvin Tinker, Bishop Gavin Ashenden, Dr Peter Sanlon, and the Revd Carl Chambers — analyse Mr Fletcher’s response, through which, they say, he “continues his self-deception and, drawing on the power of his previous reputation, pressurises others to share it.
“He implies that he doesn’t know who he has harmed, or how he might have ‘unwittingly’ harmed them. He asks his victims to identify themselves to him and says that he wishes to ‘beg their forgiveness’ (although he does know who some of them are).”
Mr Fletcher puts on survivors, they write, “a duty to forgive the harm that he himself refuses to acknowledge he has done. In all of this, Fletcher prioritises his own reputation, and the reputation of what he calls ‘the evangelical hierarchy’. In his choice of language and his misuse of scripture, Fletcher doesn’t seem to have recognized that it is ‘time to come clean’.”
The Bishop of Willesdon, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, posted a link to the letter on Twitter, and commented: “There is agreement right across the board that this small public-school clique of evangelicals need to come clean on the cover-up around [John] Smyth and Fletcher. Their continued silence is a disgrace.”
The letter concludes by urging survivors of abuse to disclose through the charity MACSAS. “Until there has been full disclosure and repentance, talk of forgiveness is premature and a perverse abuse of the gospel. . . It only risks re-abusing those who have already been grievously hurt.”
Mr Fletcher’s permission to officiate (PTO) was withdrawn in 2017, after allegations of spiritual abuse were made against him (News, 28 June).