A LESSONS-LEARNT review has been commissioned concerning the Revd Jonathan Fletcher and Emmanuel Ridgway Proprietary Chapel, Wimbledon, after allegations of physical beatings and spiritual abuse.
An independent Christian safeguarding charity, Thirtyone:eight, has been asked by Emmanuel Church to undertake the review into the allegations, which emerged in June last year, while Mr Fletcher was Minister of Emmanuel Ridgway Proprietary Chapel from 1982 to 2012, and an influential figure among Evangelicals in the Church of England (News, 5 July).
The allegations involve physical beatings, reminiscent of the beatings administered by John Smyth (News, 13 April 2017; 1 March). Mr Fletcher has admitted that the beatings took place. Last year, he described them as “light-hearted forfeits” in a “system of mutual encouragement”.
In September, a group of clerics condemned the public response of Mr 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” (News, 27 September).
The review, which began last month, is due to publish its findings in May. A statement from Thirtyone:eight read: “The review will enable the voices of those impacted by the behaviour of Jonathan Fletcher to be expressed, heard and considered alongside other contextual information and concerns from other relevant sources.”
The draft terms of reference say that the review will ascertain, “as far as is possible, a comprehensive picture of Jonathan Fletcher’s activities in relation to the alleged harm caused to individuals”; “whether any of the abusive incidences were known to anyone at ECW [Emmanuel Church] prior to the period immediately leading to the withdrawal of Permission to Officiate”; “why it took such a long period of time for the abuse allegations to come to light”; and “to what extent the cultural context at ECW provided an environment for such abuse to occur and to not be disclosed, and what factors contributed to this.”
Last week, five men were quoted in the The Daily Telegraph as saying that Mr Fletcher had subjected them to ice baths, bullying, and massages.
Some complainants had met Mr Fletcher at Iwerne Trust Summer camps, at which Mr Smyth abused his victims.
One of the complainants told The Daily Telegraph: “I found myself being ill-treated, bullied, maligned, humiliated — all those kinds of things.”
Read more on the story in Andrew Brown’s press column