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Don Stevenson • 9 months ago

This is truly appalling. It undermines the reputation of The Revd Mark Ruston and other prominent evangelicals. If they knew the extent of the abuse, and clearly they did, it was their professional and ethical responsibility to report what they knew to Hampshire Police. To their everlasting shame they chose secrecy rather than their responsibility to protect children and young people.

RichardWSymonds • 9 months ago

Is it true that John Smyth has just died of a heart attack?

Guglielmo Marinaro • 9 months ago

Yes, it is.

RichardWSymonds • 9 months ago

Iwerne may well suffer the same fate as Ampleforth and Downside:


There are consequences to both action...and inaction.

Christopher Shell • 9 months ago

Every single time this story comes up, we get the untrue idea that any bad treatment went on 'at Iwerne'.

It was confined to JS's home shed.

Please, for (hopefully...) the last time, can we have the true version, not the version that people obviously want to be true. 'Even' Jayne Ozanne speaks of the 'notorious' Iwerne camps. Name even one activity the actual camps were 'notorious' (as opposed to admirable) for.

If the highly unpleasant activity of grooming went on between JS and potential victims at the camps, that is not a camp activity (being confined to just one leader) let alone one that the 'camp' will have been aware of.

Jane Orr • 9 months ago

Thank you for repeating what has been said by several people in this thread. Martin Sewell has not yet responded to comments about his headline. I would also like to know if the term "Iwerne Camp Survivors" (rather than John Smyth Survivors) is one he made up this week or is generally used. I cannot find the term if I Google it, and it would be extremely unfair and inaccurate. The Iwerne Camps did, and continue to, provide an excellent holiday both in activities provided and minds stimulated.

Martin Sewell • 9 months ago

You may have missed them Jane but I have been very careful and accurate, and addressed your concerns in various places. . You might also allow the possibility that my sources are better informed than yours.

But let’s be clear.

Iwerne is a geographical place, shorthand for the camp there and even elsewhere and importantly a culture. I understand there is such a thing as a Iwerne man just as CIA folk were “Company men” ( even long after they had left) and ex-SAS soldiers refer to each other as “ Hereford men”. “ An Oxbridge man” means something even if it lacks any formal rules of association.

Can it be denied that the cover up was significantly owned by Iwerne men?
They may have had their reasons some perhaps not entirely ignoble, but there was undoubtedly a protection of the brand going on, and if they want to own “ care for the victims families wishes”, let them also own that it suited their own purposes of reputational management, and let them own the consequences of their “ catch and release “ approach to serial abusers - dozens of victims in Africa. According to his South African Church Smyth was showering naked with young men and asking prurient questions of young men almost to the last.

We shall in due course need to ask about the cultural climate in which none of those abused felt safe/able to disclose. Silencing the Victim is a major objective with abusers. Some cultures make that easier than others.

On a brighter note Bp Peter Hancock has issued a statement and seems ready to initiate a conversation with Titus/Iwerne and to prioritise the support of victims so not everyone shares the “ Nothing to see here Gov” approach that one finds still lingering.

David Wilson • 9 months ago

The title of this post is most misleading. As far as I know, there is no suggestion at all that Smyth engaged in his horrific 'discipline' at the Iwerne Minster camps themselves, nor that any other of the leaders knew about it until the investigations were made.

If one seeks to infer that the 'ethos' of the camps enabled the abuser to take advantage of his victims, then one should also condemn church choirs, football clubs and family life, as these are all places where abusers have taken advantage of access to victims.

I should add that I know personally one of the people who has publicly admitted being one of his victims.

Brian R • 9 months ago

Jack has made a number of criticisms of Nash, principally that he wasn't a sensitive 21st century man in touch with his feminine side. Yes, these are causes for concern. But on balance, I prefer the way Nash shared the gospel with young people to the way Jack doesn't.

Steve Robinson • 9 months ago

Ruston was himself part of the Iwerne cabal. Does that make him more or less likely to produce an untainted report?

Christopher Shell • 9 months ago

Depends whether it really was a 'cabal'. Are we just supposed to accept that description uncritically?

David Wilson • 9 months ago

Read the post. The report went to the head master of Winchester College, who was clearly horrified. ysMark Ruston pulled no punches. I knew Mark Ruston as vicar of my church, and he was the most gentle and humble man, but with a quiet ministry not least in training some notable curates, e.g. David Watson.

As has been stated, it seems it was the parents of the boys concerned who did not want the report to go to the police. Should the Iwerne Trust and Winchester College gone against their wishes?

Happy Jack • 9 months ago

Most definitely, yes.

CliveM • 9 months ago

One thing this post and ensuing discussion has told me, I’m going to thank God I wasn’t educated in the English public school system.

Chefofsinners • 9 months ago

Think I know what happened to the Iwerne Trust’s report. It was given to the young office boy, Boris, with instructions to post it to the Archbishop.

Brian R • 9 months ago

Today's conservatives must choose between Burqa and Burke.

Guest • 9 months ago
Manfarang • 9 months ago

Well he put it in something that looked like a letter box. No surprise it got lost.

Brian R • 9 months ago

Johnson's remarks have made some people go postal.

Happy Jack • 9 months ago

If the article on Wiki is accurate, then the "spiritual roots" and outlook if the founder of the Iwerne Trust camps gives rise to concern.

Nash made it his business to preach the Christian gospel at the top thirty British public schools, and began a camp ministry which by 1940 … Attendance was by invitation only. He used military terminology: Nash was known as commandant, his deputy, adjutant and the leaders were officers. His prayer was "Lord, we claim the leading public schools for your kingdom." Unobtrusive, yet highly strategic, the enterprise involved simple Bible teaching accompanied by personal friendship and pastoral care … He used a simple "A, B, C" formula to explain what needed to be done for conversion: "Admit your need of Christ; Believe that Christ died for you; Come to Him.".

Although Nash was an Anglican visiting Church of England institutions, his message was not necessarily welcome. Many parents would not have been open to their children embracing Evangelical religion. John Stott describes the meetings at Rugby as "strictly off the record and conducted with a good deal of secrecy." Nash lent his favourite books out, (often by R. A. Torrey) covered in brown paper to disguise them. His approach was shaped by methods common to Evangelical circles in North America, including an expectation of definite decisions for Christ, inquiries into people's spiritual state, a "lack of interest in social issues" and "a large dose of self-denying otherworldliness." ….

Nash wrote many letters. John Stott reports: "His letters to me often contained a rebuke, for I was a wayward young Christian and needed to be disciplined. In fact, so frequent were his admonitions at one period, that whenever I saw his familiar writing on an envelope, I needed to pray and prepare myself for half an hour before I felt ready to open it." Nash focused on those individuals that he felt had special leadership qualities, "not from snobbery, but from strategy."

Many 'Bash campers' went from school to Cambridge and became pillars of the Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union, so that it was possible, when the movement was at its zenith for a boy to go from public school to Cambridge, to ordination, to a curacy and to a parish of his own without encountering the kind of life lived outside those particular circles... Some have noted that Nash created an "oddly male, oddly elitist, and oddly simplistic world." In 1969, it could be said that much of the leadership of the British Evangelical church had been "Bash campers". King goes on to say that in order to understand the Evangelical mind, therefore, it was necessary to understand the "Bash camp" mind,


There much in here that would concern Jack.

Brian R • 9 months ago

Yes, of course, Wikipedia - the fons et origo of Truth, pure and unbiased - as Peter Hitchens has discovered. Who are the "Some" and who is oddly fond of the adverb "Odd"? And is Jack not aware that public schools (yes, even Catholic ones!) were Oddly Male and Oddly Elitist in the 1940s - and afterwards? Why, even the Boy Scouts were Oddly Male then ....

Anton • 9 months ago

English upper-middle class culture of the 20th century was rather worrying.

Manfarang • 9 months ago
Martin Marprelate • 9 months ago

Am I the only one who finds this report amazing to the point of disbelief?
I was at two private schools in the late 50s and 60s. My recollection is that the 'cane' was kept more as a threat than for regular use. When inflicted, it was used very sparingly indeed.
So I have trouble imagining the scene when young Rupert comes home from Iwerne camp.
Rupert (a little tearful): Hello, Pater, hello, Mater!
Pater: Hello young Rupert! Did you have a good time at Iwerne?
Rupert (hastily): Oh, absolutely super! Spiffing!
Mater: Rupert, why are your buttocks bleeding?
Rupert: Oh that! It's nothing really! It's just that Mr Smyth thrashed me mercilessly for about half an hour.
Pater: Why? What did you do?
Rupert: I'm not quite sure. I think he said something about falling.
Pater & Mater: Oh, that's all right then. So long as it's nothing serious. Now off to bed with you, young Rupert; and try not to get too much blood on the counterpane.

Christopher Shell • 9 months ago

Nobody was beaten 'at Iwerne' as opposed to in JS's shed in Hampshire (next county). This is the large mistake that keeps on cropping up, and it is an interesting question why.

Martin Sewell • 9 months ago

The piece makes clear that the physical abuse was largely, though not exclusively off camp. The alleged abuse is not simply physical, gross as that was, but also emotional and spiritual, and that was partly on camp. Victims were groomed by this prominent Iwerne charismatic figure who exploited the vulnerabilities of adolescence including sexual embarrassment.

Were you not a Iwerne attender at the time? If so, you will have known the persuasive personality that inculcated a particular brand of sexual repression that also contributed to manipulating the need for repentance and the silencing.

dannybhoy • 9 months ago

"My recollection is that the 'cane' was kept more as a threat than for regular use. When inflicted, it was used very sparingly indeed."
Me too. I recall Saturday night two hours detention in class, whilst the rest of the school watched a film in the Assembly Hall, being a much more frequent form of discipline

Guest • 9 months ago
Call me Old-fashioned • 9 months ago

There are still Iwerne camps; and Forres camps for those aged 9-13...

Dreadnaught • 9 months ago

That a perverted sadist committed these offences is bad enough; that there was a cover-up suggests that others in positions of authority did not report the matter to the police because they saw nothing much wrong and may be of the same persuasion themselves is more serious. Either way, this is what happens when subservience to the power of religious 'imposition' suspends human reason. The victims should have known that their treatment unless invited, was criminal assault and should have gone to the police at the time.

Jane Orr • 9 months ago

My understanding is that the lads and their parents were very keen that the police should not be involved - presumably due to embarrassment and concern that the publicity and giving evidence would affect their future careers. They should, of course, have been persuded otherwise, and today would be, but thought processes were different then.

Happy Jack • 9 months ago

No, the "thought processes" were not "different then" when it came to physical abuse.

Inspector General • 9 months ago

Right then chaps. Who's up for bringing the blighter back...

One step forward, and keep to attention!

CliveM • 9 months ago

What I find interesting about this discussion is how many different ‘facts’ there are;

Welby was a trustee, or then again he wasn’t.

All the beatings happened in a garden shed, but then again they didn’t.

Welby was given the report, but then again wasn’t.

The boys were mainly from Winchester, or then again not.

And these don’t cover the more trivial issues such as to how many camps were held each year etc.

Is there a definitive answer to these?

Martin Sewell • 9 months ago

I only wrote after being satisfied that the story “ stood up”. When the abuse happened JW was young and a junior volunteer. He was never a Trustee. I have their names. All Assaults I have heard of were in the garden shed off site but occurring after grooming at the camps and Winchester school. I hear others might have occurred elsewhere; a third of victims don’t want to discuss details. JW never had the report when it was written - in the best sense he was insignificant at the time. He saw it many years later I do not know when but did make a clear apology for the CofE dimension. Almost all victims had a Winchester connection but not all were inveigled when there, some were caught up after leaving but this occurred via introductions made by past colleagues. Iwerne camps have existed for many decades and are still running, the total number is meaningless at the time of Smyth’s alleged assaults he was involved with the camps serving the minority of “ top public schools”. There was a real class consciousness about where future leaders would come from.

I hope this clarifies my understanding.

You also need to understand that a prosecution may yet happen. There is also only so much one can write in a manageable article.

CliveM • 9 months ago

Thanks for taking the time to explain. I found your article interesting and depressing but did not disbelieve the content.

Anton • 9 months ago

Most of the confusion is due to inadequate digging. In stating below that it all took place in Smyth's garden shed I may have been guilty of it myself, given what Alan Wilson has said below (although I was repeating a comment in one of the media reports). What might usefully be done is prepare a list of questions to put to Justin Welby; a list prepared in the light of all the information in this thread below - not all of which might previously have been in the public domain (eg Mark Ruston was his landlord in Cambridge).

CliveM • 9 months ago

Inadequate digging I agree and by some, over reliance on hear say.

Guest • 9 months ago
Ray Sunshine • 9 months ago

Exactly. Look how much damage Cardinal Bernard Law did to the Catholic Church as an institution, on top of the harm he caused to the victims of clerical child abuse.

Call me Old-fashioned • 9 months ago

You ask why the revolting antics of Smyth at the Iwerne (Bash) camps and after has gone uninvestigated and that any attempt to raise it is batted aside. Well, two reasons which can be summed up in proven, close and still current links to two names/ titles (themselves linked) now it seems untouchable within the CofE:
1. Holy Trinity Brompton
2. Justin Welby

Just in case anyone is in any doubt about the expressions of ignorance of the latter should be taken, he was an Iwerne Trustee before he was ordained and, as a trustee, would have been sent a copy of the report. For any claim of ignorance to be true there is, therefore, only one possible explanation: that he failed to fulfil his statutory duty as a trustee.

You still wonder why there is deafening silence from Lambeth and HTB???

Martin Sewell • 9 months ago

You are mistaken. Justin Welby was never a trustee, he is not on the list of addressees of the report and given the report was marked “ private and confidential,”was probably at the time not important enough to have been given it.

The point of a cover up is to keep the information to those that need to know.

That said, the numbers who either had to be told or were told confidentially in gossip that Smyth had been “ a naughty boy” ( to use the then vernacular ) was probably in the tens initially, and higher later.

Happy Jack • 9 months ago

You seriously want to hold Justin Welby to account for something he may or may not have been told "confidentially in gossip" years ago?

TwoFeetonShore • 9 months ago

In this fallen world there is an almighty invisible battle going on between darkness and light. The nearer one comes to the release from the slavery of sin, the more intense that battle becomes and the enemy's aim is that it is mortal. The dark prince of this world has servants masquerading as angels of light stationed in certain strategic places, even in choice circles in the church, to prevent the called out ones going forward to reach the pearl of great price. The enemy's aim to prevent them arriving. But happily nothing can stop those called to follow Christ. The back-up strategy is to injure them for life, but that fails too because Christ's power and spiritual growth works most powerfully through weakness and Christ is the Great Physician and Psychologist. I support a warning along these lines being shared as early as possible with those in churches or parachurch movements genuinely seeking Christ to make them aware that the church has weeds growing in it, as well as wheat. If you feel something is 'wrong', it most probably is and it could harm you seriously. The best advice is 'Have nothing to do with it'. The church must encourage discernment, as early as possible.

Stephen Bazlinton • 9 months ago

Didn't Jesus himself say something about the kingdom of God being like a great tree with birds comfortable in its branches? Also didn't he speak about it being like a women who added leaven to the whole lump?

alfredo • 9 months ago

As regards the last sentence, were any real 'children' involved? Because the blurring of the lines between children and adolescents is no help to those who try to combat genuine paedophilia.
It's all very well to deplore 'blaming the victim', but there is a real legal and moral problem here. The principle of injuria non fit volenti is one essential to criminal and civil law. Presumably any of these young men could have walked away at any time. The fact that they didn't was probably due to some malign influence or moral blackmail on the part of Smyth. But that is something which belongs in the moral - not the criminal - sphere. Any confusion between what is immoral and what is - or ought to be - criminal is extremely dangerous.

Anton • 9 months ago

It is illegal to kill someone even if that person consents to be killed. Should that be so and why should the same principle not apply here?

alfredo • 9 months ago

Your first sentence is not strictly true in jurisdictions where euthanasia is allowed. But I suppose your analogy could refer to forms of extreme sado-masochistic perversion, as in 'snuff movies'. In most such cases, however, the person involved positively wishes to be killed. I doubt very much if Smyth's victims positively wished to be beaten. Their 'consent' appears to lie in the fact that they didn't remove themselves from all contact with him when, presumably, they could have done, and as common sense required. He was selling them this treatment on the pretext that it was in sense spiritually 'good' for them, and their acceptance of it seems to indicate that they concurred in this. Again, difficult to see how, strictly speaking, they suffered an 'injury' in law.

Call me Old-fashioned • 9 months ago

Notwithstanding the age of the young people involved in the Smyth cases, it would appear that there were reasonable grounds for charges to be laid of either Grievous or Actual Bodily Harm.

Martin Sewell • 9 months ago

The point is, the report said plainly that criminality was involved. Was it for the addressees to second guess that view and not consult the police?