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Rector of St Helen’s, Bishopsgate, was Smyth victim himself, he says

07 June 2021

YouTube/St Helen’s Bishopsgate

The Revd William Taylor preaches during a service at St Helen’s, Bishopsgate, last month

The Revd William Taylor preaches during a service at St Helen’s, Bishopsgate, last month

THE Rector of St Helen’s, Bishopsgate, in the City of London, the Revd William Taylor, has revealed that he was abused by the late John Smyth.

Mr Taylor says that he had wanted to keep the abuse “private, though not secret”, but had felt compelled to speak publicly after it had been implied on social media that he had covered up Smyth’s abuse.

The Archbishop of Canterbury announced last month that the National Safeguarding Team would investigate everyone who knew about the abuse perpetrated by Smyth, a QC and former chairman of the Iwerne Trust (later part of the Titus Trust), which ran holiday camps for boys attending English public schools in the 1970s (News, 21 May).

A letter from the churchwardens of St Helen’s, published on its website last Friday, says: “Over the past few years, people have noted on social media that as a young undergraduate William attended Iwerne camps at the time (40 years ago) when John Smyth was a Iwerne leader. . . Some have repeatedly challenged William to say what he knew and when, the innuendo being that William covered up John Smyth’s abuse.

“William has asked us to state publicly what he knew and when. William knew in late 1981 that John Smyth engaged in violent beating of undergraduate students, because William was one of those beaten by John Smyth.”

In a personal statement included in the letter, Mr Taylor writes that, “as a young Christian aged 20”, he first met Smyth in July 1981. “I was deceived by John Smyth and first beaten in Smyth’s shed in late August 1981. I recall being beaten twice more, the last in early December 1981. After that, I never went again. On 12 February 1982, I reported the beatings to the minister of the church I was attending at the time. . .

“I am grateful that Smyth’s abuse is being thoroughly investigated and I have participated willingly in the Church of England review undertaken by Keith Makin. Like many abused by John Smyth I have always wanted to keep his abuse of me private, though not secret. Until very recently, none of those abused by Smyth have sought to contact me, nor I them (with one exception), to discuss what happened 40 years ago.

”It is my hope that, having been forced to make my personal experience public, none of those abused by Smyth will have to face the same treatment I have faced online, which has had a significant effect on me and my family.”

The churchwardens’ letter also refers to allegations made on social media that Mr Taylor knew about the abuse committed by the Revd Jonathan Fletcher (News, 26 March) earlier than February 2019, which is when he has stated that he first knew about it.

A review by the law firm Edward Connor Solicitors concluded that “William Taylor did not have knowledge of Jonathan Fletcher’s abuse, prior to 5 February 2019,” the letter says. The diocese of London had also concluded that “everything had been appropriately referred” by Mr Taylor and St Helen’s.

In April, Mr Taylor apologised for criticising a statement by the Independent Advisory Group (IAG), which supported the lessons-learnt review of Mr Fletcher’s activities (News, 9 April).

Last Friday, it was announced that Smyth’s son, P. J. Smyth, would be stepping down as Pastor of Monument Church, Gaithersburg, Maryland, in the United States, while an investigation was carried out into allegations about the accuracy of statements that he had made about his late father. He would also be stepping down from a leadership position in the Advance Movement, a group of more than 100 Evangelical churches in the US.

“The Advance global leadership team is now engaged in a process of drawing up terms of reference for an independent and external review of the accusations and evidence,” a statement on its website said.

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