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Jonathan Fletcher

Posted 1 Jul 2019

Response to the news concerning allegations made against Jonathan Fletcher

Many of you will already have heard that Jonathan Fletcher has had his permission to officiate removed by Southwark Diocese. Emmanuel Church, where Jonathan ministered for many years, has released this statement concerning the matter. Jonathan was, of course, a former trustee of Reform and was also previously involved in the Church Society Trust, though not as a Director. He was removed from this role after we saw this letter. We are not in a position to comment on or make judgements about the allegations that have been made.

Vaughan Roberts and Sarah Hall spoke about this issue at EMA last week, giving more details about the timeline of the allegations and responses, as well as more information about the nature of the concerns. The video of this and links to a number of other important responses can be found on the Walking With website, which has been set up as a way to help all those who have been adversely affected to come forward for pastoral support. This includes information about an independent listening agency, as well as support via Robin Weekes and Sarah Hall at Emmanuel. Any safeguarding concerns should be reported via the Southwark diocese safeguarding team, whose details can also be found there.

If you have any safeguarding concerns regarding Church Society, we encourage you to report them. Details of who should be informed are in our policy here.

Please pray for all those who have been affected, and for those seeking to minister to them. Pray especially for Bishop Andy Lines and for AMiE. Pray for current and former members of Emmanuel and for Robin Weekes as he ministers to them through this difficult situation. Pray for those who have no one safe to turn to, and for those whose faith has been shaken.

Christopher Ash’s article, ‘How to Respond When Church Leaders Fail’ gives very helpful advice for those of us not directly affected. John Telford’s piece on Spiritual Abuse helps us understand what this is and what steps we can take to protect our churches from it. Ian Paul has posted some excerpts from a useful booklet on bullying in church. Lee Gatiss has written about Serving the Truth in Scandal and Duncan Forbes has some valuable thoughts about what not to say in response to an abuse story.

Addendum

Various questions of detail have been raised about Church Society and Jonathan Fletcher since this blogpost. So this is just to clarify our previous statement about this from 1st July 2019 (above).

Like Church Society itself, the Church Society Trust has both members and trustees (also sometimes called directors). Jonathan Fletcher was previously a member of both, but not a trustee or director.

Directors of the Church Society Trust are the ones responsible for exercising the patronage duties of the Society. Those who are members of the Trust can assist the Directors if they have local knowledge or contacts relevant to a particular post. Occasionally they are able to deputise for Directors in certain circumstances, at meetings or presentations.

In the autumn of 2013, Dick Farr (Chairman of Church Society Trust) had a conversation with Jonathan Fletcher about the CST parish of St Mary’s Summerstown where Mr Fletcher was attending since his retirement, as the vicar of St Mary’s was also considering retirement. That same autumn, Mr Farr couldn’t make a meeting to do with the CST parish of St Peter’s Woking and it was decided at the CST Directors’ meeting that if Mark Burkill (another CST Director) couldn’t go either, they could ask Mr Fletcher as a member of Church Society Trust “to attend on our behalf.” He was then involved in that appointment. At the Church Society Trust meeting on 21st April 2015 we also noted that he had been appointed, but not by us, as Associate Minister at Summerstown, and would therefore look after the interregnum there. The last reference we have in our records to this ongoing situation is from a meeting Dick Farr had with the Archdeacon there in February 2017.

From a letter dated 1st April 2019 by Rod Thomas, William Taylor, Robin Weekes, and Vaughan Roberts which said that Jonathan Fletcher no longer had Permission to Officiate in the Church of England, it became clear to us that it was inappropriate for him to be in a position to possibly act on our behalf in such a situation again. Consequently, at the next Church Society Council meeting on 13th June 2019, Mr Fletcher ceased being a member of Church Society Trust (the members of which are simply appointed by the Council at this meeting annually).

There was very little detail in that 1st April 2019 letter. However, some further allegations about Mr Fletcher’s behaviour were released at the EMA conference on 27th June 2019 and in Church Times on 28th June 2019. We made people aware in this blogpost of 1st July 2019 (above) that we had removed him from Church Society Trust membership, and pointed people to various places they could go for help and support and further thinking about this.

As details continued to emerge, the Chairman of Church Society, Andrew Towner, then wrote to Jonathan Fletcher informing him that we were taking steps towards the removal of his CS membership in accordance with our Articles of Association, on 5th August. He wrote back, in a letter dated 7th August 2019, to resign from Church Society, with the effect that we no longer needed to convene a special meeting to hear and remove him.

I note there have been other questions about Mr Fletcher’s donations to Church Society from a charitable trust. These were his membership fee (paid by all members of the Society) and the price of attendance at our annual AGM (£10).

This evening we prayed again for all the victims of Jonathan Fletcher, and for the church in Wimbledon, in our weekly online prayer meeting. Our main concern, as in the original blogpost above, is for them.

Lee Gatiss
1st April 2021

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