iwerne trust
Church of England

Iwerne Trust abuse: leading public school gives victims immediate help, while the Church of England leaves them hanging

There are many stories of abuse within the Church of England, and for years they have remained hidden, either undisclosed or covered up. It is hard to think of there being an upside to the plethora of revelations that are gradually coming out, but there is one: when we truly understand the scale of the problem and the details of what went wrong, we will have a sporting chance of securing the future – not a certainty, perhaps, but at least chance that we might.

Currently, the approach of the church hierarchy, the House of Bishops and their closest advisors, appears to be to batten down the hatches, figure it all out for themselves and then bring the answers down from the mountain top to present to and thereby enlighten the General Synod, which will gratefully thank them for all their hard work and adopt the solution with a handful of amendments from the troublemakers.

Meanwhile, we of the other houses (Clergy and Laity) may not be forging a Golden Calf – but some of us will not be surprised to see a copper-plated pig’s ear making an appearance.

You cannot construct the solution without listening closely to the victims themselves, which is what this blog is currently engaged in facilitating. Before we hear today’s story however, it would be useful to go back and read ‘Dave’s story’, because some themes are beginning to emerge.

We also need to learn a little about the Iwerne Trust.

In the 1940s, camps for boys (just boys) were established with the express intention of creating a cadre of high quality leaders for the Church of England. One of these organisations became the Iwerne Trust. Superficially the project succeeded, delivering not only an archbishop but also a phalanx of leaders for the Evangelical wing of the church who went on to establish many of the country’s largest fellowships: some were leading ab initio, some became leading under their resolute leadership – which is precisely what Iwerne intended.

There was, however, a terrible human cost, as the Church Times described earlier this year:

…he and other boys had been beaten so badly by Mr Smyth that they had to wear nappies to staunch the bleeding.

One said that he grew so fearful of the beatings that he tried to take his own life in 1981. This prompted the Iwerne Trust to launch an investigation, and compile a confidential report in 1982. It described what it called the “beatings” of 22 young men.

The scale and severity of the practice was horrific. . . eight received about 14,000 strokes: 2 of them having some 8000 strokes over three years.

My latest story come from ‘Graham’ (identity protected). He was a textbook candidate for development by this method of discipline, fitting Iwerne’s ideological profile perfectly. Like all Iwerne victims, he was smart and from a very well-heeled background. Graham explains that the Trust divided its youngsters at the outset into sheep and goats. The sheep were those drawn from the handful of the very best and most exclusive public schools. The minor public school pupils were the goats, syphoned off and ‘developed’ separately. They were the lucky ones. The Chairman of the Iwerne Trust, John Smyth QC, did not soil his hands on hoi poloi.

Graham develops the point:

“There was a split with Scripture Union in the late 1980s as they wanted the camps to be more inclusive. They were told non-public school boys would not fit in and would find it uncomfortable! It was like a Boy Scouts feudal set up: the Adjutant ran the camps, with Officers, Senior Campers, then the boys. Becoming an Officer was strictly vetted, and what you aspired to.

“Iwerne preached that you were better (but do not tell others, you are part of a club that they are not part of), etc., etc.”

This flags up why the Church of England would be extremely foolish to attempt to side-line, patronise or ignore this group of victims. They were hand-picked to be la crème de la intellectual crème of the church – well educated, successful, motivated, organised and resourced.

If the church attempts to be evasive or overly patrician in its response, it may have met its match, for these are the guys with a grievance, not a guilty past. They have the stories, a substantial archive of evidence, and financial muscle. The do not want the Church of England’s money: they want justice for themselves and all other victims.

Iwerne was an independent trust, but Graham refutes the notion that this exonerates the Established Church:

“I accept that the camps were not run by the CofE, were not under the control or oversight of the CofE as an organisation itself. However, it is true to say it was a Christian camp, under the umbrella of the Church of England, staffed by CofE clergy, visited by CofE Bishops, endorsed by CofE referees. It produced CofE bishops (and an archbishop).

“The camp literature was endorsed by ++Michael Ramsey and +David Sheppard.

“Parents, those involved, would have been EXTREMELY surprised if at any stage they were told it was not CofE… the endorsement of all these vicars legitimised Iwerne.”

Graham directed me to an article in the Daily Telegraph, which shockingly explains that, once uncovered, John Smyth QC (famously the barrister of choice of morality campaigner Mary Whitehouse) was spirited out of the country to Africa in a manner reminiscent of Lord Lucan, where he not only continued his activities but was financially supported by an Iwerne benefactor for many years after the facts of his chronically abusive behaviour became known.

The Church Times article carries a statement on behalf of the Church of England that, upon learning of the problem, it provided support for the victims of John Smyth. That is significantly challenged by Graham. He says the church did nothing meaningful to help in 2013: he was offered £100 to pay for counselling. It was too little too late, but his story offers the church a clue for how victims can and should be treated.

To preserve Graham’s anonymity I have to redact details: he has already been accidentally ‘outed’, and so an ethical assurance of redaction was a condition of letting me tell his story.

Graham first sought help from a friend, priest, and fellow Iwerne victim. Schooled in the Iwerne way of doing things, Graham expected “an Iwerne response – some shrink pulled from ex-Iwerne ranks who would calm me down, keep a lid on it and then I would go back to my quiet life.”

In fact, the priest made no initial attempt to engage with the church’s safeguarding team, preferring to freelance the solution for 18 months without success. Only then did he – without Graham’s knowledge or consent – approach Diocese A.

Given the choice between following church procedures and the ‘Iwerne culture’, his default position had been towards the latter.

The Diocese seemed to have no procedure for dealing with a victim like Graham, and after extensive consultation around a number of dioceses, it also failed to find help for six months. It was 23 months after Graham first approached the CofE before he first spoke to a counsellor proposed by the Diocese.

At this point, having a (legal) background in such matters, I asked an obvious question: “Who determined what was the proper response to your problem?” In short, did he need counselling, psychiatric intervention, or psychology? Every victim may have complex individual needs; they might conceivably have multiple problems requiring different and properly sequenced interventions. This is no time for amateur hour.

Graham responded: “No assessment was ever undertaken by the CofE, it was never mentioned.”

He continued:

“In February I had a breakdown and ended up at the XXXXXX Clinic. I am now under the care of a psychologist there. This is being paid for by major public school XXXXXX. They responded almost instantaneously with: ‘…we will ask no questions, do not even need to know your identity (the Bursar does), and will pay for whatever you need from the best you can find.’ And they have. While major public school XXXXXX has a lot to answer for what occurred during 1978-82, in 2017 their response has been exemplary.

“Part of my anger at Lambeth Palace is that once they knew of the abuse in 2013, they did nothing. I screamed at the TV when Justin Welby talked of the earnest inquiry into what had happened. Well, I was the only witness (at that stage) and I never met, and was never interviewed by Diocese A, Lambeth Palace or the police.”

I found that accusation deeply concerning. I wondered how that could possibly be reconciled with Archbishop Justin’s statement, if it can be at all. After careful thought, however, it seems to me that prima facie the two accounts are reconcilable, though not in any way the church can take pride.

When one of our priests was first told, he went off on a frolic of his own, based upon a neglect of church procedures and an over confidence in his own abilities. The culture of Iwerne contributed to that over confidence. When Diocese A was approached, it devised an inadequate and much delayed plan based upon a one-size-fits-all model that ‘counselling’ would do the trick. It was the wrong answer, and failed because no adequate initial assessment was undertaken. When it broke down there was no continuity of pastoral care: the church had ‘offered help’, but when Graham became somebody else’s problem, the box was ticked and thus, when asked, the National Safeguarding Team could be told and report to the Archbishop that the church had responded to Graham. Just not competently, or with continuity. No wonder Graham found Archbishop Justin’s statement hollow, however sincerely delivered.

The Church of England was actually engaging in what the French playwright Alfred Jarry called ‘the science of imaginary solutions’.

What is striking here is the similarity with ‘Dave’s’ experience. As soon as Dave first discloses, the church is ill-prepared and has to cast around for resources. There is no budget available. There is also chronic delay. Nobody appears to realise that victims may have functioned after a fashion for years, but once they turn and ask for help they are entering an acute stage of crisis.

Superficially, the inexpert might think ‘well, the abuse happened a long time ago – they can hang on a bit longer’. The truth is that at the point when the victim realises he needs help, he is entering a downward spiral where the complex maelstrom of thoughts and emotions kick in. There may be flashbacks, anger, difficulties within current relationships, guilt at having been so gullible – and much more. This is the point at which suicide attempts may happen. This is when urgency and competence are needed, and where the church remains chronically unprepared. It seems to have attempted to figure it out on a case by case, diocese by diocese basis. It needs to be more like the emergency room in a hospital, where a variety of skills and specialisms leap into co-operative action from the outset, everybody well prepared and confident in their role. These are life and death moments.

Dave told me that in a single recent month, three victims of clergy abuse known to him had committed suicide.

Graham was lucky. He went to a public school where there was money and strong leadership, and they kicked into action as soon as he approached them. Here’s a shocking truth: the well-connected get taken care of.

If, however, like Dave, you went to Bash Street Comprehensive, you continue to wait with no money, no counselling, and no hope of any help anytime soon. This from a church that continues to lecture government on how it fails the poor.

If the Established Church would like to offer Dave the kind of help that Graham received from the private sector, they only have to contact me. They have my email address. I’d be happy to put them directly in touch with Dave, so they might learn from the “exemplary” response of the public school.

  • Anton
  • Jon Sorensen

    Extremely sad story. If Iwerne Trust or CoE would be a non-religious organisation, police, politicians and community leaders would be on this immediately. Leaders would be held accountable, organisations would be shut down and victims issues would be addressed immediately. Sadly we will hear about child “abuse” (correct words will be not used) by religious organisations for a long time to come, because religious organisations seem to get away with it.

    Unbelievably Iwerne Trust is now advertising their summer 2018 camps. Why is there no public outcry to stop those or common decency to cancel these camps. Where are the Christians to demand to get rid of Iwerne Trust and its camps?

    From the broshure:
    “Iwerne Holidays have been serving independent schools for over 80 years. As well as providing an excellent activity holiday, we aim to encourage Christian character and values in young people.”

    • Anton

      Because the perpetrator has left Iwerne Trust. Do you also believe that the BBC should be closed because of Jimmy Savile’s activities?

      • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

        Well…yes….it would be a mercy for us all

        • Anton

          Yes it should be closed, but not because of that!

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            Indeed…but any catalyst which brings about its demise would be welcome.

          • Anton

            I’d rather Savile had never been born, but people can do their bit by junking the TV and license fee.

      • Jon Sorensen

        You (and unfortunate upvoters) are delusional if you think there was “the perpetrator” and nobody else knew anything. Did nobody really do, support, see or see the aftermath of… “beatings” of 22 young men”… “eight received about 14,000 strokes”? These religious organisations get away with it because members like blindly and naively think it was only a one person and when he “left” it’s is all ok. So sad for all the kids.

        • Anton

          I didn’t say and I don’t believe what you think I did, so please stop misrepresenting me. Then there is my question: Given that you think Iwerne should be closed because of historic abuse by one man, do you think the same thing should happen to the BBC?

          • Jon Sorensen

            Your point was a single individual. That’s what you thought and it is naive.

            If BBC or any organisation would protect systematically child rapists in a same way as major religious organisations have done then same thing should happen.

          • Anton

            My best guess is that a single individual did it, a small number of people were suspicious but out of mixed motives didn’t follow up their suspicions, and most people at every level simply didn’t know. Would you agree?

          • As far as I am aware the abuse didn’t happen at the camps but outside them at Smyth’s home.

          • Jon Sorensen

            And nobody noticed ” boys had been beaten so badly by Mr Smyth that they had to wear nappies to staunch the bleeding.”

            Funny how location details are still not clear. Things happened in a “shed”, “shower” and “pool”.

            So sad

          • Jon Sorensen

            So somebody was responsible of “beatings” of 22 young men”… “eight received about 14,000 strokes”
            … nobody else knew about it. ONLY “suspicious”. What were they “suspicious” about? That “stroke” marks were not miracles?

            No. In reality more people had to be involved doing, knowing or in cover up. Single person would not get away with that amount of abuse without others knowing.

          • Anton

            Bear in mind that others have said here that the beatings did not take place at Iwerne’s camps but on Smyth’s own property. If you are going to say that other people definitely knew you had better be ready to name them.

    • CliveM

      I was reading the Mail today. It had an article about how over 200 men were held on child abuse charges in just one week. From all walks of life, teachers, NHS, Police and military.

      And like the Priests and Bishops caught they are evil, depraved individuals who need to be punished and excluded from society.

      Lower the dirt.

      Bit like a person who when seeing these atrocities, takes pleasure in using them to indulge in a bit of cheap point scoring.

      • Jon Sorensen

        Religious organisations have protected and move around child abusers. They have internal protocols not to contact police immediately. Secular organisations don’t tend to that.

        So your “comparison” is a fallacy of false analogy and your claim or “cheap point scoring” is then a fallacy of non sequitur.

        • CliveM

          “So your “comparison” is a fallacy of false analogy and your claim or “cheap point scoring” is then a fallacy of non sequitur.”

          I’ll highlight the above as a testament to your logic.

          • Jon Sorensen

            Thanks. Please learn basic fallacies. It will improve your argumentation.

  • I think we need to separate here the abuse of Smyth and the culture of Iwerne. This post, like much of the commentary on this, clearly has an agenda (alongside the honourable one of bringing justice to victims of abuse) to smear the idea of camps focused on public school children or on boys, with a nasty guilt by association. But characters like Smyth don’t discredit an organisation’s purpose and strategy any more than characters like Savile do the BBC or hospitals. There is no necessary connection between nasty abusive characters like Smyth and an initiative like Iwerne (the Titus Trust doesn’t have these problems, for instance) and it is anti-conservative, libellous smear to insinuate that they do.

    • Guglielmo Marinaro

      No, there is no necessary connection between nasty abusive characters like Smyth and an initiative like Iwerne, just as there is no necessary connection between nasty abusive characters like, for example, Fr Brendan Smyth or Fr Sam Penney (to pick just two at random) and the Roman Catholic priesthood. The unfortunate fact remains, however, that such institutions – and yes, I know that they’re not the only ones – do attract such abusive characters (in addition to countless non-abusive ones). Hence the need to be alert to the the risk and to be willing to learn from past errors.

      “the Titus Trust doesn’t have these problems, for instance”

      Well, let us hope not, but it seems rather foolhardy to articulate a blanket negative like that. You can never be sure that you’re not speaking too soon.

      • I don’t disagree, but this article expressly describes Smyth’s abuse as the ‘terrible human cost’ of the Iwerne Trust carrying out its purpose. That is vicious smear, guilt by association, and pure libel.

    • Martin Sewell

      I do not ignore the point available in the link that such abuse does occur in every Church Tradition. I knew relatively little of Iwerne, but it is extraordinary how many of its victims have made contact with me, and it is them, not me, who emphasise the theological dimension. It was the theology and culture that prepared them for abuse as Anton explains above.

      Where there is contemporary relevance is this. That generation of youngsters was embued with a huge self confidence. As we try to engage the Church in Safeguarding and Victim Care matters, we often encounter a similar imperious attitude.

      I asked for a commitment to a debate on safeguarding at February Synod as long ago as July. It could not be given; Jayne Ozanne wrote recently on the same question and has been rebuffed. We asked when the Carlie Report into the Bishop Bell controversy would be published and have no indication. We asked for full particulars of the process by which it is to be ” finalised ” and that remains unanswered.

      Not everyone adopting this unsatisfactory approach will be associated with Iwerne or its underlying theology. What cannot be denied is that the Church does seem to be continuing to operate according to its rather patrician attitudes. This is not healthy.

      • Did their theology and culture ‘prepare them for abuse’ or ‘imbue them with huge self-confidence’? You surely can’t have it both ways.

        I have no doubt that theology can be twisted to the purposes of an abuser. Any teaching on obeying parents and submitting to authority, and accepting discipline (and even undeserved suffering) can obviously be so diverted to monstrous ends. To argue that therefore the theology is culpable or harmful is clearly wrong: it has been twisted by a monster, it is not the cause of the depravity, and no insinuation should be made that it is. Looking for explanation of depravity in the theology and culture of a Christian tradition is extraordinarily uncharitable.

        The main offending section of the post is where you expressly describe Smyth’s abuse as the ‘terrible human cost’ of the Iwerne Trust carrying out its purpose. Surely you can see that that is a vicious, libellous smear of guilt by association?

    • John Duncan

      To draw a line between the culture of Iwerne and the abuse of Smyth, as though one had nothing whatever to do with the other, is absurd. Of course Smyth articulated a grotesque and distorted version of that culture, but the fact is that there are clear emphases between the public school/Anglican culture (including the conservative Anglican theology) of that period and Smyth’s abuse. Think, for example, of the role of beating within the public school and the evangelical emphasis on discipline (Heb 12-5:8) and subduing the body (1 Cor 9:27) and combine it with the febrile obsession with sex and masturbation, and you have the perfect conditions for someone with a twisted psyche such as Smyth’s to enact his perversions.

      And to use the term ‘libellous’ is quite disturbing, frankly.

    • Jilly

      Hang on there Will – what the Savile scandal demonstrated was that many people across a wide spectrum within the BBC and hospitals *did* know or had strong suspicions or had been abused themselves by Savile. There was no working mechanism within these institutions robust enough to put a stop to his activities. So there was a systemic failure at just about every level – which admission was finally dragged out of the BBC. It’s reputation took a big hit which has taken years to partially restore.
      I suspect it paid out a lot to the victims.

      As to the Iwerne Trust, (did nobody notice anything amiss with the lads who were so badly beaten they had to wear nappies?) it did not attract the same degree of notoriety as BBC/Savile, but has it made he necessary reparations in order to restore confidence?

      A boy in my family went to various boys’ camps (mostly military cadets) from his independent school and had a whale of a time so I’m not biased against boys’ camps nor independent schools. But they were not religiously orientated. The family are unlikely to have agreed to him going to one if he had wanted to. For a wide variety of reasons, none of them anti-conservative or libellous.

      • I agree with this – I didn’t mean to say there isn’t a problem of culture in covering over abuse and protecting perpetrators. There clearly was (and is). What I am saying is anti-conservative and libellous is blaming the conservative evangelical theological tradition for inspiring the abuse, and also ascribing blame to the whole idea of camps for public school boys and the rigorous, disciplined culture they embodied.

  • David

    I hope that justice is finally obtained for all those who suffered.

  • I don’t know if I missed it, but I’m not sure I understand the intention of this post. As I understand it, these are cases of historical abuse, the failure to deal with which has already had press coverage, so it’s not an expose. Is this only about sharing stories?

    Shouldn’t these cases be in court, where a decision can be made with all the evidence at hand? The last line reads like an attempt to leapfrog that and shame the CoE into paying out, unless I’m totally misreading it.

    • Jilly

      I think you *are* totally misreading it….

      The people coming forward are doing so now because they need help now as coping mechanisms no longer cope. And help isn’t there.
      The church has money it could use to get the appropriate professional aid but it won’t.
      People are taking their own lives because they cannot live with the horrors of their abuse. These were lives which may have been patched up and some good outcome obtained. But it’s too late.
      It’s not too late for other survivors if some ecclesiastical purse holder would cooperate. But s/he won’t.
      I think there is a tendency for people who have no experience with abuse survivors to think ‘it all happened a long time ago, they’ve got on with their lives so why not put it behind them?’ Well, it doesn’t work like that. Nor is it in the same league of a celeb whose knee was touched and now is a good time to make a fuss – the current ‘Me Too’ which is pushing the agenda for women.
      Think of battle fatigue, post traumatic stress – reliving the time you were powerless, savagely and repeatedly beaten, maybe anally raped, made to feel a failure – and in a Christian context how that must impact on a young person with a vocation for the priesthood – where you might have expected to find love and acceptance. Waiting to be called out again for more punishment at the hands of a sadistic monster… with the apparent approval of the clergy.

      Abuse survivors (and survival is often very fragile) can’t think of about the pressures of going to court while it is a daily struggle not reach for the pills or a noose. Who could run a marathon on broken legs?

      This suits the church which is more bothered about keeping it quiet – while it gets on with grandstanding and massaging its ego with same sex stuff at Synod

      • I’m not saying that abuse isn’t horrific or damaging , that should be taken as read. I’m simply cautious of a heavily redacted article written for an Internet blog by an interested third party. For instance here:

        The Church Times article carries a statement on behalf of the Church of England that, upon learning of the problem, it provided support for the victims of John Smyth. That is significantly challenged by Graham. He says the church did nothing meaningful to help in 2013: he was offered £100 to pay for counselling. It was too little too late, but his story offers the church a clue for how victims can and should be treated.

        The level of support the CoE provided is contested. We don’t have the full story, which is why these matters should be addressed in the courts. It’s impossible to make judgements off the back of an anonymised and redacted account. If there have been coverups and abuse, the legal system should be involved (although the linked Telegraph article says that the abuse trials collapsed in the 1990s).

        It’s easy to use these stories to stir up emotional indignation but that’s not going to change anything on its own. These things need investigating properly, offenders need to be punished (if they’re still living), victims compensated and the CoE taken to task officially.

        • Jilly

          Of course offenders need to be punished and ideally through the courts. But a victim/witness needs to be as psychologically fit as an astronaut to see through a cross examination in the witness box. Many can’t face it, their evidence is not heard and cases collapse.
          Our adversarial system is just that – adversarial.
          If you were ‘an interested third party’ who had involved himself in the plight of abuse victims and had come up against an impenetrable wall of bureaucracy, how would you handle it? The victims are not sufficiently robust to make good witnesses for a court. So where now? What would you do?
          Of course there are phoney ‘victims’ (the Ted Heath accuser being oneand other similar cases). During the 1980s and 90s a great number of young offenders passing through the courts claimed to have been abused while in Social Services Care. So frequent was this part of a legal defence that in the end no weight was given – it was assumed they were lying or exaggerating. All of them? Some killed themselves. Others sunk in the prison/crime/drug abuse revolving door. We now know a lot about the abuse within the Care system in those times. Not all of them were lying.
          Clearly large sums of compensation must wait until claims are further investigated but if it is reasonable to suppose, based on current knowledge, the alleged abuse most likely did take place it seems reasonable that the damage caused by it ought to be addressed. The church, in its charity, could do more to help these people. But it probably won’t….

          • Our adversarial system is just that – adversarial.

            Our judicial system works on two major presumptions: 1. That a defendant is innocent until proven guilty, and 2. that a defendant has the right to defend themselves against the allegations against them. If you accuse me of X, and I say I didn’t do X, it is necessarily adversarial. The answer is providing better support for victims to be able to testify, as provisions are made for child witnesses. Yes, being cross examined is a horrible ordeal, but what alternative do you suggest?

            If you were ‘an interested third party’ who had involved himself in the plight of abuse victims and had come up against an impenetrable wall of bureaucracy, how would you handle it? The victims are not sufficiently robust to make good witnesses for a court. So where now? What would you do?

            Lobby my MP for a judicial review, set up a crowd funder to hire legal help, appeal to colleagues in my previous industry and charities for assistance. That was my whole,point, there seems to be no direction behind this post other than “this happened, it’s bad.” Give me something specific, give me something I can do.

            During the 1980s and 90s …. Not all of them were lying.

            The legal system of the 80s/90s is not the same as today’s. However, a number of children still die and are abused under the noses of incompetent social workers. It’s always followed by a round of apologies and promises to learn lessons until the next tragedy occurs. Because these kids are usually in care or poor and marginalised, nobody really cares and so nothing is done. This is wrong. The system is broken, and it can only be changed by forcing change at the highest level. Ditto the CoE. Helping an individual is laudable, but it must be accompanied with action on the wider scale. As long as these allegations remain anonymous there’s nothing to stop people turning around and saying “that didn’t happen”.

            Clearly large sums of compensation must wait until claims are further investigated but if it is reasonable to suppose, based on current knowledge, the alleged abuse most likely did take place it seems reasonable that the damage caused by it ought to be addressed. The church, in its charity, could do more to help these people. But it probably won’t….

            We don’t know enough to know if it reasonable to assume it took place. The amount the Church has done is, at the post itself says, disputed – again, we don’t know. I suspect the church is unwilling to pay out of court because it fears either opening the floodgates to unsubstantiated claims or because it would appear as an admission of guilt; particularly in the case of incidents that were swept under the rug by previous generations, there are potentially a lot of powerful people with a lot to lose. If the church is holding back in causes that they believe to be genuine, then yes that is wrong – they should be made to answer for it and they will have to answer to a higher judge.

          • Boxfordblogger2012

            “The system is broken, and it can only be changed by forcing change at the highest level. Ditto the CoE.”
            I think this is the main point that Martin Sewell is wanting to make. Hence the concern for there to be a major debate on safeguarding at General Synod next February (to include responses to the Moira Gibb and Lord Carlile reports on Ball and Bell respectively: one report concerned with the Church’s failures to respond properly to victims of abuse, the other with a concern for justice for those accused of abuse, possibly wrongly, and the need for a proper investigative process that preserves the presumption of innocence).
            Synod’s Business Committee meet next week to plan the agenda for the 3-day meeting (8-10 February 2018) and the timetable (but not the detailed agenda) should be published shortly after that meeting. Questions are likely to be asked if the timetable makes no provision for such a debate..

          • I’d agree with everything you’ve written, but I can’t help feel slightly pessimistic about debates at Synod ever actually resolving anything. I’m sure there’ll be all the right words, the formation of working groups to go away and look at issues and the promise of further debates and a commitment to safety and justice etc. As for the proper investigative procedures, it seems quite straightforward to me; if there’s an allegation of criminal activity made against someone, it’s a matter for the police and the courts to deal with, not priests and bishops and safeguarding officers. That’s how most of this mess happened in the first place. Why the CoE or any other body thinks it has any investigative responsibility beyond phoning the police is beyond me…

          • Jilly

            A very good legally precise reply, Lain Iwakura!

            The courts are there of course to establish if the alleged perpetrater is guilty or not guilty. They don’t have much flexibility on that. The Defence is there to rubbish the Crown witnesses who unfortunately are the alleged victims who if in crisis cannot deal with it and, ergo, the case collapses. I don’t suggest an alternative to what happens in court if examination of the evidence including witness statements I to be rigorous. Some perps will go unpunished.

            My concern is getting help for the victim/survivor. Has this person been abused? An experienced forensic psychiatrist/psychologist can assess. If yes/probably, where does help lie? How to access it? How much will it cost? Who ought to pay v who will pay?etc. This is separate from hefty compensation payouts and court findings.
            It ought not to follow that whoever steps in to pay does so because they are legally responsible. The church is terrified of more bad press about its clergy and very defensive. And it might be difficult to prove (beyond reasonable doubt) that the priest did it rather than e.g. Mum’s boyfriend. But could it have been the priest? Have other similar but separate allegations been made?
            Given the numbers of victims of alleged abuse emerging these issues aren’t going away. A pragmatic approach would be for the church to set up a charitable fund to provide psychiatric help for survivors regardless of alleged ecclesiastical involvement (The NHS is overloaded so don’t expect much there.) Welby must have mates from the oil industry…
            The church would be seen as being compassionate even if at its heart it isn’t…. while the survivors could start putting their lives together.
            Legal stuff to pursue the perpetrators and compensation can come later.

            I wonder if Martin has considered your ideas to move matters forward or already has and they’ve not worked. Anonymity is unavoidable. Abused people have a profound sense of shame which is understandable albeit not rational.

          • Thank you – I think the whole thing is fundamentally a tragic mess. People were allowed to get away with things they shouldn’t have been allowed to, and when they were found out it seems they weren’t stopped. The two priorities would now seem to be to make sure that survivors are treated properly and to make sure that the environment that allowed this to happen is changed so that it can’t happen again. (I think the church has got a little better here, but is still overly reliant on volunteers to fill safeguarding and child protection roles at a parish level, a role becoming so complex it needs a dedicated professional).

            My concern is getting help for the victim/survivor. Has this person been abused? An experienced forensic psychiatrist/psychologist can assess. If yes/probably, where does help lie?

            I think this is where we hit stalemate. The CoE seems unwilling to provide help for anyone until the case has been proven, but many survivors need help to get to the stage where they’re functioning well enough for the case to be proven.

            This is most difficult part in historical cases, where the physical evidence of the offence disappeared decades ago and you’re left with a ‘my word against yours’ scenario. If there are multiple allegations against one person, that makes a more plausible case but criminal law demands a standard of beyond reasonable doubt. As abusers often target those who are isolated, vulnerable or disturbed (especially in institutions) in the first place, is it likely we’ll ever reach that standard? On the other hand, being falsely accused can ruin a person’s life, so the evidence must be solid. There’s no easy answer. That’s why I think a wider ranging independent inquiry is necessary. Civil law only requires proof on a balance of probabilities, so maybe that’s the best place to start.

            A pragmatic approach would be for the church to set up a charitable fund to provide psychiatric help for survivors regardless of alleged ecclesiastical involvement (The NHS is overloaded so don’t expect much there.) Welby must have mates from the oil industry…

            I don’t know if the church should be involved at all, it would seem like a conflict of interests to me. Plus, I don’t know if people who’ve been abused by the church would want to go to a psychiatrist funded by the church. I seem to remember reading in some of the other stories about survivors being palmed off onto church-approved psychiatrists, who they didn’t feel they could trust. Perhaps a donation to a suitable charity that provides these services would be a good start, though.

            I’m sure Welby does have friends in the oil industry – that’s where he learned to be so careful and never commit to anything!

  • Manfarang

    I suppose the Bash Street kids went to the Pathfinder camps.

  • magnolia

    I think more healing would occur if it were more widely acknowledged that
    mistakes were made in the past in trusting rather too readily the
    motivations of single men who wished to give up lots of time in running
    camps predominantly for young men. Add to this their allowing some
    young girls in as an enormous privilege, but only to be hardworking
    servants while the men had fun, and quite a few red flags appear
    vividly. These men really didn’t like women much, did they?

    no doubt some had good motives, and yes, no doubt they were men of their
    times, but to give women all the donkey work and the men all the fun
    points clearly to a moral failing of not liking women.
    Whatever the
    causes it is a severe failing because we are called by Jesus to love one
    another, and it produces all kinds of wrong and kinky fruit in amongst
    the good fruit if we exclude those of the other gender from our kindness
    and love.

    • Busy Mum

      I think the whole notion of camps and organised training for church leadership is unbiblical anyway.

      • magnolia

        Interesting view, but why?

        • jsampson45

          I would have thought if anyone thought camps etc. were biblical the onus would be on them to show it.

        • Busy Mum

          I cannot find any reference to such an idea in the scriptures. Paul’s epistles show that ‘positions’ within the church are gifts from God, not instilled by (monetary) investment.

        • Martin

          At a fundamental level, leaders are raised up by God. Indeed, God is the one who saves and God is the one who decrees what role the saved have. Leaders are not created by means of training camps but by the work of the Spirit.

  • ardenjm

    This is about rich, upper middle class Evangelical Protestants within the Church of England.

    By the sounds of things, Smyth was somewhat like Marcial Maciel within my own Church: far more beatings with Smyth, much less sex, no illegitimate children which he then abused (yes, Maciel was a true monster), but they both exhibited the same guru-like hold over people.

    Such charlatans make more sense in a Church with a long-established mystical tradition or from a latin culture (Macel was Mexican) but within the Low Church English public school tradition I think it was the working out of the (hopefully) last iteration of 19th century Revivalist Muscular Christianity instead. That probably explains the focus on the beatings which, whilst it doesn’t seem to have moved onto sexual acts, were both erotically charged and sexually suppressive in the same instant….

    As you wade into the cess-pit of abuse stories you realise just how widespread it is…

    • Anton

      Agreed. I make some comments that I think are complementary in my post above.

    • Except it was just Smyth, so you can’t blame the culture or the theology. It’s libellous to smear an organisation and a tradition based on spurious guilt by association.

      • ardenjm

        I’m not. My reasons for rejecting evangelicalism are entirely theological and have nothing to do with the fact that perverts latched on to it, and, being conditioned by it, developed their perversion within that context. (My reasons for trashing the upper middle class English evangelicals are probably less lofty and justifiable and have to do with my contempt for their virtually universal superiority complex, patronising paternalistic snobbery and smug self-satisfaction which they take to be genuine religious sensibility!)

        In any case, if you’d been attentive to my post (rather than merely tribally reacting) you’d have seen how I illustrated it with an even worse Catholic example: the founder of the Legionaries of Christ. His monstrous perversion does not deny the truth of Catholic teaching in my eyes but I’d be an idiot not to see in his Catholic Faith-system (and culture) the things which conditioned his perversion.

        Hope that clarifies.

        • Except you characterised Smyth’s abuse as ‘the working out of the (hopefully) last iteration of 19th century Revivalist Muscular Christianity instead,’ which you said ‘probably explains the focus on the beatings which, whilst it doesn’t seem to have moved onto sexual acts, were both erotically charged and sexually suppressive in the same instant.’ You say Smyth’s abuse is ‘about rich, upper middle class Evangelical Protestants within the Church of England’. You also state: ‘As you wade into the cess-pit of abuse stories you realise just how widespread it is,’ which implies a wholly unsubstantiated prevalence in connection with these camps and this tradition.

          So as I say, vicious smear, guilt by association and nasty libel.

          • ardenjm

            I’ve explained myself just fine.
            And you look like an apologist for abusers and the system that makes abuse possible and the theological justifications which are used for abuse.

            Protestant or Catholic, of whatever demographic group – in this instance the very wealthy – IT STINKS.

            And it’s ASTONISHING that you spend your time circling the wagons without one sentence acknowledging that.

            Well done: you’ve illustrated perfectly what it means to be, “part of the problem.”
            You remind me of dozens of Irish Catholic Bishops…

          • John Duncan

            You have used some extraordinarily strong words to attack this piece.

            Vicious – reading this piece through, its tone strikes me as reasonably forceful and trenchant, making its points clearly and unequivocally. I see nothing ‘vicious’, about it whatever. The term is entirely inappropriate.

            Libellous – as well as noting the unpleasant threatening undertone implied in the word ‘libellous’, I am at a complete loss to understand how you could think that such a phrase as this could be, apparently, deserving of legal action? The author is simply describing an unintended result of the work of the Iwerne Trust. There is, indeed, a terrible human cost.

            Smear – a smear is a deliberate attempt to damage the reputation of someone, or in this case a particular constituency, by a false accusation. Again, rereading the post, in its entirety, do you really, honestly think that this is what is going on here?

            It seems to me that you are indulging in a good deal of eisegesis, reading your own prejudices and fears into the text.

          • Ray Sunshine


            That’s a word I had never seen anywhere until as recently as a month ago or so. Now it seems to be all over the internet, or at least those bits of the internet where the Christian faith is still tolerated. I like it. I shall start using it myself just as soon as I achieve a minimum level of confidence that I’ve learnt how to handle it safely without it blowing up in my face.

          • Smyth’s horrible abuse is being used – not just by Martin – to smear conservative evangelical theology and camps which have done some incredible and important work for the kingdom. It is being used to attack an important tradition of theology as a whole and the idea of running rigorous camps for public school boys. The implication is that conservative theology is culpable for child abuse. These are clearly invalid moves and indeed is outrageous in its form of argument. It needs to be countered so as not to allow what is good and of the kingdom to be discredited.

            Obviously culpable individuals need to be brought to justice and failures in procedure and transparency need to be addressed. But that is quite different to claiming that the mission of Iwerne Trust camps had a ‘terrible human cost ‘.

        • magnolia

          Is inverted snobbery not just as bad as snobbery itself? Don’t you just need to judge not by appearances but with right judgement (Jjohn 7.24).

          Speaking as a female who went to a highly-rated public school and similar university one would be (rightly, of course) damned in the C of E were you to lie about it if asked, but can be targeted if you own your past honestly, especially by anyone with things to prove. Doesn’t make any difference, all too often, as to whether you see this as of integral importance to your identity yourself, if others do. It can be pretty nasty.

          Yes, some people can be arrogant, but there are a multitude of ways in which human beings do pride, and we all need to watch ourselves.

          “Proud of making my way up, and it’s all my own doing” is neither better nor worse than “proud of my superior genes, which make me inherently suited to lead”….

          Better to assess individuals than pigeonhole them. Best I think to be colour and class blind, but not value-blind…

      • John Duncan

        ‘Except it was just Smyth, so you can’t blame the culture or theology.’ What an exceedingly defensive response, with even an implied (‘libellous …’) threat.

      • Ray Sunshine

        I disagree. It is entirely legitimate to blame the cullture and the theology too. Smyth must have believed he was doing the right thing, at least in terms of his cultural values and quite possibly of his theology as well.

        • Depraved individuals who twist theology to their purposes do not discredit that theology or its tradition. To suggest otherwise is smear and libel.

          Are you really saying that conservative evangelical theology is culpable for child abuse? If that is so why do we tolerate it?

          • Ray Sunshine

            If that is so why do we tolerate it?

            That is a question that, with any luck, will be answered in the course of the inquiry.

        • CliveM

          “And quite possibly of his theology as well ” as sadly all parts of Christian theological spectrum have had sexual abusers, what is it about their theology that led them to this?

          I’m sure all of them twisted their theology to justify it (at least to themselves), but none of the formal theological positions justify it.

          • Ray Sunshine

            If you don’t want to use the word “theology” I don’t mind using some other word instead: “conservative evangelical ideology” or “conservative evangelical values”. How about “conservative evangelical ecclesiology”? Whatever it was that justified Bernard Law, in his own eyes, in shuffling paedophiles around from one parish to another in Boston, he clearly acted with the intention of doing what was best for the Catholic Church. What is now condemned as “clericalism” was then seen as the right thing for a bishop to do in the circumstances. Similarly, a harsh variety of public school discipline was evidently seen, under Smyth’s tenure, as the right way to educate the boys seen as potential recruits for the “officer class” in the Anglican hierarchy.

          • CliveM

            I’m interested to understand why you seem to feel that conservative evangelical theology is particularly prone to being used by abusers to justify their abuse?

          • Ray Sunshine

            No, I’m not saying it’s particularly prone. Just that, in Smyth’s case, that was the brand of theology (ideology, ecclesiology) governing the institution that employed him. I’m sorry if I failed to make that clear.

          • CliveM

            Ok understood. I was probably being slow!

        • Dominic Stockford

          So it is entirely legitimate to say that High Church Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism are responsible for everything their clergy do? And because he (Smyth) wasn’t in the clergy, their lay people as well?

          • Ray Sunshine

            They don’t bear the sole responsibility, of course. But they are to blame to the extent that the offending priest (or layman, in this case) has been acting within the guidelines laid down by the church, or has good reason to believe that he has been acting within those guidelines. In an earlier comment on this thread I compared the Smyth case to Bernard Law’s mishandling of the Boston paedophilia catastrophe. I wrote:

            Whatever it was that justified Bernard Law, in his own eyes, in shuffling paedophiles around from one parish to another in Boston, he clearly acted with the intention of doing what was best for the Catholic Church. What is now condemned as “clericalism” was then seen as the right thing for a bishop to do in the circumstances.

            I’m just assuming, of course, that Law’s motive in acting as he did was to do what was expected of him by the higher echelons of the Curia. You are in a much better position that I could ever be, to know whether my assumption is a correct one.

    • Martin

      Why do you think they were Evangelical?

      • ardenjm

        You know how you consistently misrepresent Catholic beliefs because you don’t really (want to) understand the Church’s teaching? It might be that I’ve not understood all the nuances of the differences between the various heresies that emerge after the 16th century: For me, Evangelicalism emerges within the Anglican Church (but not exclusively) as a kind of renewal of Low Church Reformed theology and practice (minus pentecostal/charismatic elements) influenced by the Fundamentalism of late 19th century America and spreading within Anglicanism through the 20th century until, by the end of it, it’s the predominant (and predominantly middle class) strand of Low Church Anglicanism. That’s what I understand by Evangelical.
        Happy St Nicholas’s Day!

        • Martin

          So you don’t know what Evangelical means.

          • ardenjm

            WELCOME to my world, then, Martin! Bravo!
            For YEARS Albert, Happy Jack, Cressida and myself have undergone Groundhog Day with you over every single Catholic doctrine. You are, indeed, the yearly prize winner of our Invicible Ignorance Award since you personify the inability to register any perspective on Catholic teaching other than your Jack Chick Cartoon version.

            But, you know what? As a sociological phenomenon I think I’ve understood the Evangelical movement within Anglicanism pretty well.

            Sure, sure, the Exemplifiers of Matthew 7 vs21-23 will no doubt instruct me that it’s all about the 5 solas and has been present as the ‘true remnant’ part of Christianity for ever (shout out to John Wycliffe, Jan Hus and, weirdly, the Cathars and other assorted heretical groups that would mutually anathematize each other were it not for the only thing they have in common: opposition to Catholic teaching) but that’s just your Narrative spin.
            I rest my case: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evangelical_Anglicanism

            Now…if ever you actually want to learn what the Catholic Church REALLY teaches I’m sure you’ll find some help here:

            Have a GREAT St Nicholas’s Day.

          • Anton

            Like “catholic”, the word “evangelical” has changed in meaning…

          • ardenjm

            Sure. This Protestant makes precisely that point very well:

          • CliveM

            Or multiple meaning depending on the originator and his bias.

          • Martin

            Tell me, how can you complain about others misunderstanding your beliefs when you cannot see the idolatry explicit in your attitude to Mary and the saints. Your religion is Man centred, based on the belief that men can do something, that given God’s help you can live a good enough life to earn Heaven. You even believe that some can earn enough brownie points to share with others. Yet God has said again and again in His word that He is the one who saves, He is the one who gives faith, He is the one who justifies, He is the one who makes righteous. Yet you go on and on, working at your treadmill, seeking to become good enough. You are the exemplifiers of Matthew 7:21-23, relying on your own works.

            Your is not the Catholic Church, you are a group of schismatics who broke away from Christ’s Church telling everyone that you have Peter as your first Pope. It is you who anathematizes God’s people, you who down the ages has killed them, while you clung desperately to worldly power and glory..

          • ardenjm

            There you go, Martin.
            Like a broken record, on you go repeating the same old tropes and the same old deliberately misinformed schtick.

          • Martin

            I repeat the same old truths that you cannot answer.

  • Anton

    Groupthink is incredibly strong. At Iwerne we are not talking about young children physically helpless before an adult, but the sort of young man who was in the Officer Training Corps at an elite school: physically fit and resourceful young men of an age who had fought bravely in World Wars. In the 1:1 situations which Smyth set up they could easily have punched him to the floor, walked out of the camp and caught a bus home; they were not stuck in a foreign land with no money, in the way that sex slaves are today. Please do not think that I am speaking against them; my point is the utterly terrifying power of groupthink, and how easily men of evil can manipulate the wish to belong in others.

    • ardenjm

      People want to save their souls.
      People trust their religious leaders to show them the Way of Christ truthfully.

      It’s not for nothing that Our Lord warns of millstones in such instances.

      And sincere, pious Christian ‘leaders’ live as if they can’t end up in Hell:
      Truly, Matthew 7vs21-23 needs to be daily before our minds.

    • Ray Sunshine

      What about their parents? That’s the first question that occurred to me when I was reading Martin’s OP. I suppose the groupthink/brainwashing/whatever is so powerful that either (a) the victims themselves would have regarded it as an act of disloyalty to tell their parents about the beatings or (b) they were afraid their parents would side with the perpetrator.

      • Anton

        Yes, I wondered that too.

        • Malcolm Smith

          It was also my first response. Yes, different times, different attitudes. Still, wearing nappies to staunch the bleeding, 14,000 strokes in 3 years sound like the sort of thing which would provoke a react from even the most stoic of pupils and strictest of parents.

      • IanCad

        The parents are most likely to be group thinkers and pass it on to their children.

  • Norman Yardy

    I thought the the university of life was the best training for men of the cloth. They need to understand the ways of man, not constant beatings. Hardship can sometimes impress an individual towards a Holy life.
    Some of the best preachers I know, endowed with the gifting of the Holy Spirit were addicts in their teens and twenties. God came and saved them.
    A ministry is a called person, not beaten into submission.

  • Fred

    Having gone through Iwerne as a teen in the 1970’s: I can recall nothing of this, genuinely not even a whiff of a rumour. From reading earlier articles, none of this actually occurred at the camps – correct me if I am wrong.
    Those who seek to abuse/ misbehave will seek out a context that provides opportunistic moments. Contexts such as: youth camps, the care system, “Top of the Pops” and so on.
    Each set up will wriggle to avoid corporate responsibility – this is part of human nature – irrespective of religious involvement or none.

  • Ray Sunshine

    Breaking news: According to Haaretz, quoting Palestinian and Jordanian sources, Trump has come down on the side of Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.


  • Happy Jack’s home but has to return to hospital next week as an in-patient for various follow up tests after a PET scan, one of which is a dreaded colonoscopy. During this procedure he will think of the island of Ireland and how she was shafted by the English down the years and the payback now being given for Cromwell’s rape of that nation and the subsequent years of persecution felt by many of her inhabitants.

    Bearing in mind this is the Holy Season of Advent, Jack will be taking a break from blogging until after the joyous celebration of our Savour’s birth. It’s really not a time for inter-Christian squabbling which Jack confesses he cannot seem to avoid of late (ever really!). So he’ll wish all heretics, schismatics, atheists and agnostics, and all faithful Orthodox and Catholics a holy and blessed season and, God willing, see you all thereafter.

    • Anton

      The Republic of Ireland in conjunction with the DUP is forcing Theresa May-or-May-Not into a situation which will lead to a hard Brexit and you call that payback? I for one am profoundly grateful.

      [Jack]’ll wish all heretics, schismatics, atheists and agnostics, and all faithful Orthodox and Catholics a holy and blessed season

      Too bad you’ve missed out most of His Grace’s contributors there, but the same to you and I hope your health continues to improve!

    • IrishNeanderthal


      That does sound a bit spiteful. Foreign nations have long attempted to use Ireland as a catspaw in order to get at England.

      Nevertheless, I hope you have not just a happy, but a holy Christmas, and God willing, we will all see you back here mightily invigorated.

    • Norman Yardy

      May God have his hand upon all the procedures and that you make a speedy recovery. He can deal with the bitterness when you have fully recovered LOL

    • IanCad

      You’re a trooper Jack!! May God be with you and may you return with all barrels blazing.
      I’ve heard of a gastroenterologist practicing in the North of England – a certain Dr. Oliver. If by any chance he is the one performing the procedure I would suggest you not talk of Irish history.
      Best of luck my man. See you in the New Year. Hopefully before that.

      • Anton

        Before an operation never talk to your surgeon about anything but your illness and the weather!

    • Royinsouthwest

      All the best Jack. I am sure that virtually everyone on this blog without exception wishes you a Merry Christmas and a speedy recovery.

    • CliveM

      Get well. Hope the tests come up good. There are worst things then a colonoscopy!

  • Don Benson

    I once went to an all boys camp. I think it was run by Scripture Union. It was fine, not a hint of any suspicious motives or activities, and left me in no doubt that it was extremely well meant.

    However, organised holidays of any kind were never for me. And the idea of picking winners (especially based on their good fortune to be born into well-healed families) for leadership and separating them off for special treatment is not evangelical because it is not biblical; certainly Jesus’s choice of disciples did not fit with that way of thinking!

    But the real question for me is why any boys who had this amazing potential for leadership would quietly submit to vicious treatment from anybody, let alone someone posing as a respected Christian leader. He apparently meted out his sadism in his garden shed, nothing at all to do with the camps. Why did not one of them burn the shed down, or take a spade to the man’s backside? I wouldn’t have hesitated.

    So, while inferring guilt of those who were running these camps due to one individual’s secret, vile behaviour is hardly fair, there is a question about manipulation of young minds even when one’s motivation is sincere. If they really intended to produce great Christian leaders, one of the first things necessary should have been to encourage them to think things through for themselves. It’s a basic requirement for discerning when something is right or wrong, which then gives you the strength to do something about it, not least to speak up even when it’s inconvenient all round.

    • Busy Mum

      Yes, I made the point earlier about ‘training camps’ being unbiblical – see below.

      • Anton

        I’d be reluctant to read the New Testament in such a way that anything not explicitly permitted is forbidden, but it is part of a wider problem about an Established church with an ordained officer class, which *is* unbiblical.

        • Martin


          I think it’s no so much that it is not explicitly forbidden, but that it is theologically nonsense.

          • Anton

            If it is principally a Bible study camp for a certain demographic, led by genuine evangelicals, then that is to the good. All depends on what actually goes/went on there, which I don’t know.

          • Martin


            No, actually the whole concept is wrong. We don’t make leaders, God does.

        • Busy Mum

          I agree with you on that reading of the NT – that approach sounds horribly close to continental law, rather than British freedom.
          But with regards to preaching, I think it is important to consider how the apostles – and indeed the OT prophets and priests – were ‘chosen’. Those records alone should make us very wary of any human selection procedures.

    • John Duncan

      ‘Why would any boys … quietly submit? It’s because the abuser knows how to groom and exploit his victims. And the particular evangelical/boarding school culture with its ‘scriptural’ stress on discipline, obeying authority, etc. made it easy for him to persuade them that they needed ‘disciplining.’

  • carl jacobs

    It never ceases to amaze me how quickly partisans will abandon the particulars of a case in order to pursue some ideological advantage. “Weaponize the Evil!” might as well be their watch word. The injustices that men suffer are reduced to little more than bullets to be expended in ideological warfare.

    Atheists by and large don’t have many children, if you haven’t noticed. That’s why Europe is descending into a demographic desert as it becomes more and more atheist. They certainly love children in the abstract if not the particular. And because of that abstract affection they are certainly concerned to label certain theologies as abusive by definition. One wonders how those of us how hold to that theology – and who have actually raised children to adulthood – managed to avoid beating our kids to death in the name of religion.

    Well, no I don’t really. And no sensible person would ask the question in the first place. Instead, an instance of physical abuse is made into a proxy for what certain individuals really want to talk about. “It’s abusive for you to teach your kids what you teach them. You should teach them what I want you to teach them.” But that’s a hard case to make. Who are a bunch of childless atheists to tell me how to raise my kids. They can have their own kids. So instead they weaponize abuse.

    Because (doncha know) what happened in that camp has so much to do with me and how I raised my kids. And even if it doesn’t, they don’t really care. It’s never about truth. It’s about achieving a desired ideological outcome by any means available. All’s fair in war, as they say.

    • Sarky

      Carl, you are free to raise your kids however you want…..we’ll just be there to clear up the mess, because the church certainly wont.

      • CliveM

        I think you need to consider what your post appears to be inplying.

        • Sarky

          Oops. I see how that reads. I was thinking of the damage caused by indoctrination.

          • Martin


            By indoctrination you mean teaching people that they are merely evolved apes? Yes, I can see how that might lead to such camps.

          • Sarky

            And yet again you show your ignorance of evolution.

          • Martin


            No, you are the ignorant one, the one deliberately pretending not to know the truth, the liar who hates God.

            Evolution isn’t science, Dawkins proved that when he said “Evolution has been observed. It’s just that it hasn’t been observed while it’s happening”. If you can’t observe it while it’s happening it isn’t science.

          • Sarky

            We didnt observe the eruption at versuvius, but science tells us what happened.
            You don’t half talk b######s.

          • Guglielmo Marinaro

            Absolutely spot on, but please – Vesuvius! (Vesuvio in Italian)

            Presumably, according to Martins’ “logic”, science could tell Pliny the Younger and the other people living in that part of Campania at the time about the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D., since they could observe it while it was happening, but science can’t tell US anything about that eruption, since we in 2017 can’t observe something while it was happening 1,938 years ago.

          • Martin


            Actually eyewitnesses tell us what happened.

          • Sarky

            But not how and why….that’s down to science.

          • CliveM

            We all ‘indoctrinate’ our children one way or another. Whether it’s our politics, gender politics, faith, values, atheism, lifestyle, it’s impossible to avoid.

      • David

        Consider what exactly you appear to be implying.

  • Mike Stallard

    One of the most dangerous words in the English language is “victim”. Victims blame other people. Like Adam in the garden”Wasn’t me, it was Eve”. Accept the responsibility and grow up! God allows his children freedom to grow, to recover, to live and He lets us get on with it to a remarkable extent. Just giving up and becoming a “victim” is wrong morally and theologically. PS I know two people who are now quite sane and normal people. Both were raised by the Christian Brothers in Ireland. Nuff said.

    • Martin Sewell

      If you are attempting suicide 20 years after the event you might still be a “victim”.
      People have different levels of resilience – children within the same abusing families can have different outcomes.

  • James M

    “There are many stories of abuse within the Church of England, and for years they have remained hidden, either undisclosed or covered up.“

    I think that a lot of what are called cover-ups are nothing worse than incidents that the C of E (in this case) has (for good reasons) decided not to publicise. Openness to public scrutiny is not the same thing as being obliged to publicise the entirety of one’s life. There is absolutely nothing wrong with secrecy, discretion, and confidentiality, in the Church or out of it. People confuse universal nosiness and inquisitiveness with the public interest. There is a lust to pry into the business of others, but it is as vicious as any other form of lust.

    When people “come forward” in droves, many years after the alleged assaults, it is impossible not to suspect such people of being chancers, who come forward because they think that the C of E, or the CC, or whatever the body may be, offers rich pickings to those with sufficiently convincing stories to tell. After all, people get a kick out of seeing formerly respected institutions or persons brought low. Human nature can be utterly vile. So there is no reason to believe an accusation, merely because it is made – initial scepticism is a far healthier attitude than excessive readiness to credit revolting accusations. “Oh, but people have suffered, which is why they didn’t come forward earlier”. What of it ? Everyone suffers at one time or another. IMHO, no accusations should be listened to if the alleged abuse occurred more than 5 calendar years before the date of the allegation. Cases like the allegations against Bishop Bell must not be allowed to happen – it is a disgrace that the good name of a man no longer in a position to defend himself should be attacked as his was.

  • Guglielmo Marinaro

    Yes, it’s a great experience. I’m glad that you didn’t fall into the crater.

  • David Wilson

    I do need to point out that this article seems to be based on the assumption that the Church of England had some oversight of the camps. This seems to be based on the assumption that people may have made that they were Church of England camps.

    The camps were started in the 1930s, not the 1940s, by E.J.H. Nash (known as “Bash”, hence “Bash Camps”). The strategy was not to produce clergymen. Rather, it recognised that the leaders of the nation then, as, indeed, now, were largely drawn from the major public schools. The desire was that future politicians and business leaders should be converted to Christ. In a way that strategy failed, in that those converted went into the church or became school masters!

    The work grew, and in the late 40s, more camps were added (my involvement was with one of these), including those for girls. An important feature of the camps was the link to particular schools. The schools were single sex at this time, hence the split.

    The camps started under the umbrella of the Scripture Union, who employ Nash, and those who ran the camps after him were also so employed. The title was originally “Varsity and Public School Camps” (VPS), but became “Scripture Union in Independent Schools”. The camp I was involved with became fully mixed in the 1980s, as more of the schools became mixed. Also, from that time staff workers were often not ordained. My experience was of a good mix of church backgrounds among the leadership including Methodists and independent charismatics, although CofE did predominate.

    The split with SU was in 2000, not the 1980s, with the Titus Trust taking over as the umbrella organization. The cause of this split was (in my view) theological – SU was seen as ‘unsound’ by a rising group of neo-Calvanists. Any split in the 1980s and 1990s was between those Iwerne folk influenced by the charistmatic movement (Gumbel and Welby being notable among these) and those who were against it. That the latter group stuck with the camps led to the split with SU.

    The Iwerne Trust did not run the camps. It had a purely fundraising purpose. At the camps themselves, Smyth was just one of the ‘officers’, albeit a senior and respected one. It should be noted that the ratio of officers to campers would have been very high: one to three or even one to two. So, it cannot be implied that a junior officer (such as Welby) must have known what was going on. It is this ratio which gave rise to the effectiveness of the camps in raising leaders by personal mentoring (which is a good model, c.f. Paul and Timothy). However, this personal contact gave Smyth, who, it should be emphasised, held no position in the Church of England, the opportunity to build abusive relationships outside of the camps themselves.

    I would also comment that I read when all this blew up that Iwerne did investigate this in the early 80s. It seems the report was taken to the school concerned. However, no further action was taken because the parents of the boys concerned requested it, thinking that any publicity would only compound the trauma.

    It seems also to be true that when the news appeared, people have been using this as an opportunity to come out with there own personal hangups, about the Iwerne Camps, Public Schools, the Church of England etc. etc., unrelated to the actual abuse. But I also know that for some the news brought back the trauma of the abuse which they suffered at a similar time, which is more closely related to the Church of England.