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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.
Is it true that John Smyth has just died of a heart attack?
Yes, it is.
Iwerne may well suffer the same fate as Ampleforth and Downside:
There are consequences to both action...and inaction.
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.
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.
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.
Thank you for your reply, and for your second article which appeared a lot fairer to me. It is obvious that your sources are different to mine. One of my sources is myself as I was a "lady helper" and then matron at both the junior and senior Iwerne camps from 1969 till 1980. Needless to say, I was entirely unaware of anything untoward going on, just aware of very happy campers who pleaded with their parents to come back year after year. I have kept up with a few former junior officers and the first any of us knew about the appalling things that John Smyth had been doing was when the Channel 4 story broke last year. We all obviously knew who ran the camps, but had no idea who the trustees were, or who the chairman was. I am sure we could have found out if we were interested, but it was irrelevant to us and the running of the camps. In 1982 they noticed that JS had stopped coming, but lots of officers missed a year or so due to business or family commitments, so that was not unusual.
On reading the Rushton report I can identify most of the initials of the addressees as people that I knew and very much respected. I know they must have been as horrified as the rest of us when they read what had happened which not only was sadistically cruel, but also went totally against the theology they had been teaching. It hardly proved that Jesus is your best friend if he wanted that sort of thing done to you. I find it impossible to think of them planning a deliberate cover up, but acknowledge that, as you say, the fact that none of the young men felt able (at the time) to speak to the police must have been a relief to them.
I would certainly welcome an independent enquiry to clarify all that has gone wrong, and like others do not feel that the CofE is independent enough.
Hi Jane. You say “On reading the Rushton report I can identify most of the initials of the addressees as people that I knew and very much respected...”. Is the report available online? Thanks
Yes. Just follow the link in the article at the beginning of paragraph 5.
Thanks very much, Jane. I can’t believe I missed the link. I always assumed it wasn’t on the net. When I read your comment, I Googled it and found nothing.
And doesn't that just prove the point that (as all agree) the Iwerne people took the Bible very seriously. It follows that they took injunctions not to gossip seriously. A lot of the problem is that several people in this case cannot conceive (because of the circles they move in themselves - which are not relevant) that some subcultures frown on gossip and actually don't do a lot of it - or significantly less than others.
Thanks Jane, I don’t take issue with a word of what you write. I never thought for a moment that there was significant knowledge within the camps at the time, though victim Andy Morse said on the BBC yesterday that he spoke to other victims and friends within the camps whilst it was happening.
The CofE is a gossiping institution. Friends talk to friends, I tell you my secret if you tell me yours...
I now believe ( on some direct evidence ) that within a couple of years of the assaults, those who knew would have exceeded three figures. It can hardly have been otherwise.
I think we need to address a plain ( biblically attested) proposition - sometimes, good people do bad things. Christopher speaks of the “ widely respected” Iwerne leadership. Well, I am afraid that sometimes such opinion needs to be revised. It is not nice and not easy but integrity requires it to be done.
++ Justin did this with Bishop Bell prematurely and on much much less evidence than we have against the Iwerne Trustees who received a plain report and made catastrophically bad decisions, for then victims, future African victims and now the integrity of the Church and the Iwerne project itself. You Evangelical folk have suffered now as a direct result of those decisions. ++Justin did not overlook the huge good Bell did, but placed him “under a cloud.”
How can similar measured condemnation not be apllied to those who knew early and did nothing? Who better to frame that condemnation than people like you?
My most sympathetic advice is that my Evangelical friends should get on the right side of this issue ASAP and condemn the cover up and align with all sectors of the Church in making ours a zero tolerance place for abuse , and condemnation of the prioritisation of institutional interests above victims.
Martin, 2 of the things you write are demonstrably wrong. You write that the C of E is a gossiping institution (Barbara Pym, Wilson 'The Vicar of Sorrows') and we know exactly what you mean. But because the C of E is such a disparate thing (at least 4 quite different main strands, and Iwerne was different again - of course Smyth was Plymouth Brethren anyway), what you say will be agreed to be a too-large generalisation. The only person who could make such a generalisation would be someone who knew the entire C of E. Quite impossible, I uncontroversially say.The second thing is an equally large generalisation. You write about the Iwerne leadership (and whether we should respect it or not) as if it were a single entity. But it comprised/s many separate individuals. To tar them all with the same brush is a low level of analysis when it is possible to achieve a much higher. And in the process you tar all the actually good people. Is that something to be proud of?Looking on Thinking Anglicans, it seems that approved analysis of Iwerne equals negative, disapproved equals positive. In other words, a mob mentality. And mob analysis is a low level of analysis.
I absolutely agree that no followers of Christ can willingly fall into a mob mentality. Nothing I say or mean promotes that. In various places I have repeatedly made clear that the majority of Iwerne people knew nothing and that I have had good support from Iwerne folk in my quest for better safeguarding transparency and accountability.
I sense you “ won’t take yes for and answer.
Where we differ is that whether you mean it or not, you sound like you are ready to give an easy pass to the senior Iwerne leadership, to insist that because the majority of crime was off site, that in some way makes it “ not a Iwerne problem” and that it was all a long time ago so we should all move on.
Whatever criticism I may make of CofE leadership at times, I know that none of them thinks that is a healthy approach, and it cannot be countenanced in 2018.
Iwerne folk have a simple choice. Either you face the past squarely and honestly, revising (with fairness) the reputation of the great and the good who made bad decisions or your brand will be trashed in the Court of public opinion. George Carey has showed you the way by showing honesty and contrition about the way he handled the Peter Ball issue. Iwerne needs to do the same. If you circle the wagons this will not go away.
I want to avoid an “us and them “ fight in the Church. However those of us without your brand loyalty will not let this issue be brushed under the carpet: the best way forward is for the good people of the Iwerne family to address those in error reproving with love.
I missed your phrase 'brand loyalty'. I never show brand loyalty.
I will, of course, take anything for an answer that fits the evidence.
My only points, pretty unarguable, were (1) that one cannot generalise about the C of E for it is hugely big and diverse; and (2) that one cannot generalise about the Iwerne leadership either for the same reason, since they have had a fabulous leader-child ratio which involved hundreds of leaders. The number of innocents you would be tarring is absolutely vast. You may have meant the senior leadership or board or trustees, or even fewer people. In that case, the generalisation is much less severe but is still a generalisation. We would then need to look at how opposed the individuals were or were not, both in theory and in practice, to what JS was doing.
As for 'in 2018' that is a clear case of the philosophical fallacy known as chronological snobbery. In fact, the sign of intelligence is to be able to think independently and critically, not bound by the parameters of one's own age and culture, since anyone of any intelligence can think according to their own culture. Worse: such a high proportion of errors, including so many of the errors that occurred historically in dealing with JS, result from being bound uncritically by the fashions and modus operandi of one's own culture. Don't give the impression that you will hound anyone who does not conform to the prevailing culture. The prevailing culture is always changing, so what intrinsic authority does it have?
Thanks, Jane. I am going by witnesses that have so far been quoted. It looks like Bp Alan Wilson (through talks with people he knows) may know things that we don't. However - his claim is a very startling one. The Iwerne leadership was and is widely respected for excellent character. If indeed JS beat people on-site, he must have been very secretive about it, or else done so very rarely. M Ruston's report indicates the lack of awareness even among other top leaders of JS's practice, which shocked them all. Since they were not aware, how would JS get away with secret beatings on his typical scale within actual camps?
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.
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.
Ruston was himself part of the Iwerne cabal. Does that make him more or less likely to produce an untainted report?
Depends whether it really was a 'cabal'. Are we just supposed to accept that description uncritically?
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?
Most definitely, yes.
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.
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.
Today's conservatives must choose between Burqa and Burke.
Well he put it in something that looked like a letter box. No surprise it got lost.
Johnson's remarks have made some people go postal.
Typical Islamophobic Joooos.
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.
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 ....
English upper-middle class culture of the 20th century was rather worrying.
It did occur to me to post that, but my immaculate sense of taste prevented it.
James Keith O'Neill Edwards, DFC.
A rigid authoritarian approach, secrecy, an emphasis on discipline, "admonitions" that caused anxiety, an eccentric man with a "juvenile sense of humour", a charismatic personality, and "an oddly male, oddly elitist and oddly simplistic world."
All the features of a cult.
Let's leave the Catholic Church out of this, OK?
As to that, I would just say that it strikes me that some of these hard-line evangelical fundamentalist leaders exercise a psychological tyranny over their “disciples” that the most authoritarian and inquisitorial RC Father Confessor could only dream of. Nash (ordained) and Smyth (lay) sound like typical examples of that phenomenon.
A lot of it is a matter of perception, isn't it? There are those who say that even to talk about hell is 'spiritual abuse', in which case the NT is full of it. Conversely, I knew a charismatic vicar (very much in the HTB / New Wine orbit) who would say emphatically that certain decisions were "God's will", which his congregation was gradually beginning to question. Others outside that congregation were more able to see the psychological manipulation and defences going on. More generally, authoritarianism was a common feature of the Church of England a generation of two ago, when bishops enjoyed and expected deference from lay folk as well as clergy. The fact that curates were younger then and usually not yet married when ordained contributed to the paternalistic outlook among bishops, who could see themselves as headmasters of boys.
Well, let's be glad that things have changed.
Nash seems typical of an era, Victorian muscular Christianity. When public school boys were being brought up to run an empire. Smyths motivation seems altogether different.
Yet according to Wikipedia, Nash emphasised the need for a personal encounter with Jesus, and this "upset one of the ruling assumptions of places like Rugby - that Christianity was the cultural birthright of any Englishman baptised and confirmed in the Church of England.
Good for him! If his aim was to bring the gospel to a substratum of English society that didn't realise it needed it then that is good news in every sense. If his aim was to bring the gospel only to those he thought would be good for the CoE, that is not a good priority.
Surely It was neither the fish nor fowl you describe? It was to bring the Gospel to the most likely people to have most influence on the wider Church, to bring it to wider country (if his primary aim was to convert Britain to the Gospel). I feel I was not initially reached, but educated in the Bible through his effort: hats off to him. Having said that the Bash trained leaders were a breed apart - and my impression was that they had a lot in common with Hollywood film stars i.e. they lived in a spotlight of public attention, partly through being the well meaning upper class on show and partly through the 'divine' aura that preaching the true Scriptures lends ministers with crowded churches. As for being the "brightest and best" who judges such things, except God?
His aim was fine. His methods and his personal approach are concerning. Do you not recognise the dangers inherent in it and how it could be distorted or used as a cover by others for more deviant purposes?
The Bash mind-set:
Controversy is eschewed by "Bash campers"; it is held to be noisy and undignified - and potentially damaging. As a result many issues which ought to be faced are quietly avoided. Any practical decisions that must be made are taken discreetly by the leadership and passed down the line. The loyalty of the rank and file is such that decisions are respected; any who question are liable to find themselves outside the pale... It does not give a place to the process of argument, consultation and independent thought which are essential to any genuine co-operation, inside the church or outside it.
Oh for goodness' sake! It was an evangelical youth movement, not the Jesuits! Its purpose was to convert privileged teenage boys so that they would become earnest evangelical Christians, missionaries and vicars - instead of playboys and layabouts. Of course it was snobbish and hierarchical - it reflected British society of its age. Grammar schoolboys never cared for it, as the late John Richardson recalled. But if you think 'targeting' elites is a questionable thing, remember that is exactly what the Jesuits under Matteo Ricci tried in China.
It was a culture ready made for abuse of vulnerable boys - spiritual, sexual and physical. And, yes, before you say it, it's the culture one tends to see in Catholic schools where similar abuse has taken place.