Statement from Vaughan Roberts on the thirtyone:eight review concerning Jonathan Fletcher
I want to draw the attention of members of St Ebbe’s to the thirtyone:eight review, commissioned by Emmanuel Church, Wimbledon, on Jonathan Fletcher’s abusive behaviour. It is deeply shocking to read of the extent of his abuse over decades. The damage caused to many people has been profound and our hearts go out to all of his victims.
As a church we take safeguarding very seriously. We make every effort to ensure that our staff and volunteers are familiar with our safeguarding policies, which are published on our website, and fully comply with them. If you have any questions or concerns related to safeguarding, please raise them with a member of staff or with our Parish Safeguarding Officer, Alison Willis (0300 3023270, firstname.lastname@example.org). Alternatively, or in addition, you may prefer to contact the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser, Richard Woodley (07391 868478, email@example.com) or thirtyone:eight (0303 003 1111, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Some of our members have known Jonathan Fletcher for many years, including myself. Others will remember him from his occasional visits to preach at St Ebbe’s. Whether we knew him or not, the review raises important issues concerning the culture of churches and networks, and how leadership is exercised within them, to which we must give careful consideration.
Through our “Power and Prejudice” series of sermons, seminars and small groups at St Ebbe’s, we have begun to examine together aspects of our culture under the spotlight of scripture. I was encouraged by the committed engagement of so many of you and your willingness to comment, not just on positives, but also on areas in which change is needed. This was always designed to be just the beginning of continuing discussions. The PCC has asked the churchwardens to lead this process forward. This will include taking careful consideration of all the recommendations of the thirtyone:eight review. The wardens, PCC and staff team always welcome any further reflections you may have. Please join me in continuing to thank the Lord for the many signs of his amazing grace at work among us, while also being open to criticism and change with a non-defensive attitude, which longs above all to glorify Christ more and more.
Recognising the significance of cultural context in any examination of abuse, I said at the Evangelical Ministry Assembly in June 2019 that there would need to be a close look at our wider Conservative Evangelical culture and that change would be necessary. Over the last couple of years I have sought to examine my own heart before the Lord for personal blind spots and failings and recognise that I still have much to learn.
It has been important to allow the thirtyone:eight review to finish its work. This will now provide a basis for ongoing critical reflection and action within our constituency. I will do all I can to support this. While grateful for so much that has been good, I recognise the need for significant ongoing cultural examination and change. Given that I come from, and have been a leader within, the background and network that has had a major influence in shaping the culture, I am conscious of the need first and foremost to lament, listen, learn and repent, rather than taking a lead in this process. My term of office as Chair of the Proclamation Trust ends early next year, after which I will cease to be a trustee.
As Chair of the Proclamation Trust, I met with the reviewers and fully informed them about the Trust’s connections to Jonathan Fletcher and what we knew, when, of any concerns about his behaviour and how we responded. I, along with the other trustees of the Proclamation Trust, have issued this statement. I also gave the reviewers a thorough account of my own personal knowledge and responses. They expressed no concerns about my actions and no criticism of them appeared in the review. John Stevens, National Director of the FIEC, has described his experience of a process he was involved in, which I chaired. I have been fully accountable to the wardens throughout.
As we read the thirtyone:eight review and engage with the significant issues it raises, let us always remember and pray for, first and foremost, the victims and those closest to them. Revelations of abuse are also unsettling for many others, especially those who have known the perpetrator and benefited from their ministry. When I spoke to the church family at Emmanuel, Wimbledon after they had first been told about Jonathan Fletcher’s behaviour, I pointed them to Hebrews 12:2 and the importance of “fixing their eyes on Jesus”. He alone is absolutely good and faithful. When others let us down, we can always trust in Him.
25th March 2021