Those in the UK will have undoubtedly heard by now of the horrors inflicted on young men in the 1970s and early 80s by John Smyth QC. He was able to meet them and ‘disciple them’ through the network of Iwerne camps. I didn’t start going to the camps until 1990, and there are many aspects and people for whom I (and countless others) give great thanks to God.
I started trying to write a post about it all yesterday but found myself too upset and shaken. There’s just too much to process and disentangle. And I never suffered this abuse nor even knew Smyth’s name. It was all before my time. But it’s become a perfect storm with all kinds of different agendas driving various responses. Amidst it all, I was therefore particularly grateful for Elaine Storkey’s careful but excellent discussion of it on Channel 4 News. The official statement is here, in case people haven’t seen that.
I just can’t find a way to write about it carefully or objectively at the moment (even though a number of friends have asked if I would). Perhaps one day.
But what I can do is just outline what I’m praying for in all the darkness, confusion, pain and questions. These are by no means restricted to this particular storm, so could suffice easily for other future moments.
- For the victims who have thus far gone unheeded to find some resolution, restoration and justice – that all these years of buried and suppressed pain would find healing and that they will be honoured and comforted as they deserve. This must also include those who are closest to Smyth’s victims specifically, because they will inevitably have faced consequences indirectly.
- For the exposure of the guilty (whoever they are, regardless of their theology, status, subsequent achievements, or passage of time since the crimes). That victims would have the courage and security to bear witness to what they suffered and that the guilty would recognise their guilt. But also that this would not become a bandwaggon for waging other battles (which is sickening indeed). The Iwerne work is very easy to find fault with – and has many detractors.
- That the public discourse about these horrors would maintain a distinction between crimes and errors of judgment. That conspiracy theories would be kept to a minimum and lurid journalistic prurience restrained altogether.
- For the protection and preservation of good gospel ministries – or where needed, their refining (i.e. all of them) – that this is not used to destroy what is healthy and God-used. Especially praying for those who lead such works today with their commitments to high safeguarding standards.
- the protection of innocent leaders who might have difficult or unpopular views, awkward personalities or controversial ministries, but who are not guilty of crimes – even when wrong decisions were taken. Praying that smears, innuendoes or enmities would fail and that there would be responsibility by the press. It is crucial to avoid the agony that a Christopher Jefferies endured after the Joanna Yates murder. Or Cliff Richard for that matter.
It is NOT a betrayal of the gospel to report criminal offenders to the police, even if their offences occurred under the auspices of gospel ministry… They are the ones who betrayed both the gospel and those they abused. It is agonising for all concerned, and yet it is the only way to protect the integrity of gospel ministry.
So if you or someone you know was abused then either:
– Call 101 and ask for “operation cubic” or
– if in CofE, email the London diocesan safeguarding officer: Moira.firstname.lastname@example.org