Julie Roys has conducted an amazing interview with one of Fletcher’s victims, Lee Furney.
Lee and I went through Cornhill in London at the same time. He was a boarder at Fletcher’s home in Wimbledon and eventually ended up reporting what was happening. Nothing was done.
LEE FURNEY 30:17
So, I filed a formal complaint with the staff team, and I did that on a number of occasions. So, there was three or four times.
JULIE ROYS 30:24
LEE FURNEY 30:25
I went to Wimbledon and I went and complained to the staff team there and said that it had to stop.
JULIE ROYS 30:31
And the response?
LEE FURNEY 30:33
You were told that he was a great man, it was a great honor to be at the church, and you needed to take the rough with the smooth in life. And you should be thrilled with being here. And so, you really need to settle down.
and then a little later, after having complained on a number of occasions…
And so, I complained. I said, Look, you know, I’ve heard these rumors of back rubs, I’ve seen someone getting lowered into a bath. There’s clear favoritism going on here. And unless you dance to his tune, then you’re pushed off a cliff, and you’re condemned. And you as leaders are standing around watching this. Something needs to be done. So, I was assured at that point, that would be investigated. And it did sound very bad. But they were sure that there was a reasonable explanation for it. And of course, there wasn’t a reasonable explanation.
The interview also covers how the news eventually came out and the continuing culture of cover-up and information-management that went into full flow. When voices of victims were first sought the process for reporting was awful:
First of all, they were invited to report their abuse. Where? To the church itself. There was no safeguarding charity to report it to. So, you had to go to the church itself, and report the abuse of the church itself. In my case, to one of the enablers of his abuse. So that’s what you were invited to do. Here is a letter. There is literally a box in the letter that tells you where to report to, you can report to the minister who enabled his abuse, or to the safeguarding officer there. And if you want to think out of the box, you can go to the diocese and safeguarding officer that you’ve been told for 20 years is a no-good liberal. And you know, that would basically be apostasy to go there to the diocese. So those are the options given to the people to report. So many didn’t report, many had no level of trust, and stayed back. Some brave people did do that, and courageously spoke out. And we’ve been able to now establish that all of these things that were said happened, but actually, there’s far many more victims than we’ve got recorded. There were 27 victims were recorded in that report. Well, that’s the tip of the iceberg for Fletcher’s abuse.
It is unfortunate but we need to be clear on something:
Robin Weekes, currently the vicar at Emmanuel Wimbledon, was curate at the time when Lee was making his complaints. As the report puts it “little or no action was taken”. Then, Weekes was the person that Emmanuel Wimbledon told victims they should share their stories with; the same person who almost 20 years before had taken “little or no action” and ended up defending the position of Fletcher rather than advocating for vulnerable young trainees. It is also very difficult to believe that knowledge of what Fletcher was doing was limited to the then Emmanuel leadership, even back then in the early 2000s and certainly prior to 2017 when it was made known to the Church of England authorities.
The 31:8 report states,
There is an urgent need for individual and collective repentance demonstrated by a clear pursuit of learning and change. Repentance would include all those who have been responsible for harm, or complicit in it (either through acts of commission or omission) being able to clearly articulate where they have wronged others and what they intend to do in order to begin reparations31:8 report, p96
Will that happen? Back to the interview:
Well, Emmanuel Wimbledon has already come out and said that the minister there is going to be staying in post and everybody else in that particular inner circle of evangelicalism is forwarding their excuses to say they didn’t know very much, really. And so, this is pretend. So, we’re all very, very sorry. But no one will take any personal responsibility. And so, when everybody is sorry, and the apology is general, nobody’s really sorry at all. And so, for example, for me, I’ve got people saying to journalists, They are very, very sorry the way that they treated me. Really remorseful. They’ve got great regrets. But they haven’t told me that. And so, if you were really repentant, you’d go to your brother, wouldn’t you or your sister? And you’d say to them, Look, I’ve sinned against you, brother or sister. And there’s been ample time to do that. And instead, it’s been the same people that have been coming to me not to say sorry, to me, but to say to me, Could you get people to stop making such a fuss? Can you get people to take tweets down off social media because you know, these people, and then you’re faced with somebody who hasn’t been in touch with you for 20 years. The last time that you met them, they actually turned their back on you and try to avoid you. Well now, they’re picking up the phone, not to apologize. But to ask you to manage their social media, whilst at the same time, decrying social media to other people in their circles and say, Don’t listen to any of that stuff.interview transcript 48:41
What Lee relates here, and there is no reason to doubt him, mirrors a number of conversations I had when the Fletcher story started breaking publicly. Knowing that davidould.net was a place where sometimes I would write about and expose these sorts of things, I was contacted with the express concern that I should not write about it. All the concern was about minimising the exposure.
But the “request” made to me was nothing compared to the deliberate rejection of complaints made when the abuse was happening. Those who knew then knew all the way up to 2017. They knew every time another hint was made, every time another allegation surfaced and was swept away. They were categorically not surprised when it all eventually came out. Yet who will take real responsibility?
The whole interview is well worth listening to, or at least work through the transcript.
For more information from the Independent Advisory Group check out the website soulinformation.org.
This Post Has 18 Comments
A truly sad tale, following so closely revelations that the late Ravi Zacharias so shamelessly dishonoured Christ & his fellow evangelicals in America. Now another betrayer/hypocrite clergyman appears in London. Mr Furness’ remarks towards the end of the interview “We’re (ministers of religion) supposed to not just teach & train but we’re supposed to correct & rebuke. And if we don’t correct & rebuke, then everything is going to go wrong with our teaching & training ….. Because we’ve not really listened to the scriptures.”
There’s a lesson there for all leadership levels in the ACA. When you see deviations from Christ’s teachings, call them out, “correct & rebuke”.
Aspiring Archbishops of Sydney, take note. Ditto incumbent Wangaratta & Newcastle Bishops.
That is true, Paul, but there is far more in this than a political lesson for the clergy.
Unfortunately that is the only thing that we hear in the Christian media. The more difficult lesson for any of us to accept is the complicity of the so-called victims.
What is needed in the church remains always a biblical mind, 1 John 4.
I refer to Lee Furney’s remark quoted above:
“… this is pretend. So, we’re all very, very sorry. But no one will take any personal responsibility….”.
Well, do you know perhaps why no one will take any personal responsibility? I’d suggest it’s because people may well be seeking to exploit the very case brought against Fletcher, namely, that he used his power and status to abuse and intimidate his victims. If so, why can’t they, themselves, be seen also as among those who were misled and mistreated, by him, so that their failure to act or listen to complainants was because they were just as much deceived by his power and charisma, and thus, “inadvertently” allowed the abuse to continue? In other words, why can’t they scapegoat JF just like his accusers who will not speak at all of “victim’s” responsibility?
Furney is not being straightforward about this. He was not a simple victim of Fletcher. He was a complainant, which is something very different. Unless you draw the distinction between the two (which Furney fail to do, probably out of compassion for those who stumbled), you allow Fletcher to be scapegoated not only by his accusers, but also, by those who, for whatever reason, wish to avoid being seen as complicit. James 5:16.
Thanks for this David and for your courage in reporting on these things. I have read the full transcripts of Furney’s interview, and your comment about Robin Weekes knowing about these matters 20 years ago, taking little or no action, and now being the Vicar after Fletcher. If these things are all true, then I cannot see how the ministry at Emmanuel Wimbledon (and wider ministries associated it) maintain their integrity unless Robin Weekes resigns. If these reports are true – he knew about it, did not do enough in response, was promoted as Vicar (suggesting a culture of promoting people who can be relied upon to continue to minimise abuse), continued to hide Fletcher’s behaviour and only initiated an independent report (whose terms of reference rule out identifying what he knew about the matter) after things were in the secular media. I cannot see how his ministry at Wimbledon can maintain its integrity without him resigning, if these things are true. He has breached trust with many people and it is personal and vast.
For example, I had Jonathan Fletcher (whom I did not know at all) stay at my house as he came to our church to preach (not at my invitation; I was simply the assistant minster and was asked to house a visitting preacher). He slept in the room next to my son. I took it on trust that he was not someone who was offering naked massages to ministry apprentices in the years previously. As did thousands of others. Assuming what is written above is true, Robin Weekes (and presumably many others) knew about this and broke trust endorsing Fletcher’s ministry after they knew of these matters.
As I said above, I cannot possibly see how conservative Evangelical Anglican ministry in the UK can maintain its integrity without Robin Weekes resigning as a result. Maybe I’m missing something. But as a parent of a 15 year old evangelical Christian young man – there is no way on planet earth I would be sending my son to any camp run by Iwerne, or ministry associated with Wimbledon (which includes Cornhill etc).
I have held off from commenting on this post – both the original piece by David and this comment – out of respect for those abused by Fletcher. But now, nearly eight months after these comments about Robin were made, I think it’s time to offer a counterpoint.
David, you received an embargoed copy of the 31:8 review so you could report on it for this website. You wrote at the time something like it was normal journalistic practice to provide embargoed copies. It is. But it is also normal journalistic practice to seek and publish a response from someone against whom you publish gross accusations (any accusations, actually). To run this piece without any reply from Robin is poor.
Peter, you write “if these things are all true”. Much of what you write is not true. It was Robin who initiated the investigation – he alerted the Charities Commission. Robin was not “promoted” as vicar. Indeed, he left the church and served for several years as a missionary in India. He was appointed vicar at Emmanuel when he and his family returned – and against the express desire of Fletcher. To write he was made vicar so that abuse could be minimise is actually an awful thing to write (libellous, too, but Robin would never go down that path). Further, Fletcher has often tried to undermine Robin’s ministry since he was made vicar. To suggest they were in cahoots, or one was enabling the other, just isn’t true.
It seems absurd for someone outside the church – and clearly unaware of the truth of the situation – to say Robin should resign. There are 66 recommendations in the 31:8 review. Not one of them says Robin should resign. Neither is the church calling for his resignation.
I have been at Emmanuel for nearly two years now; after Fletcher’s time but arriving as this was really hitting the papers. I have nothing but the greatest of respect for Robin and his family, for his humility, his grace despite the garbage written about him (which led to an extended period of sick leave), and his refusal to defend himself against some rather sickening allegations. He is a man of the highest integrity. One I am grateful to sit under of a Sunday and have in my house each Wednesday for bible study. He is well respected and liked by the Wimbledon Village community. A short walk through the Common, when he is constantly stopped and wished good morning by locals – not church members, is evidence of that.
Since the review was released, Robin has done nothing but apologise – for his shortcomings, for failings by the church, for abuse caused by another man. He hasn’t offered excuses or put anyone up in his defence. His response and behaviour has been of the highest quality – something, unfortunately, we cannot say about some of those who have written about him.
Steve Wilson, I don’t think you get the point, or anywhere near it. Weekes is on record as saying that he and his associates “… did not listen carefully enough to the voices that were pointing out the wrong things in him [Fletcher]”. What is that euphemistic rubbish supposed to mean?
I take it as a good example of his doing, in your words, “… nothing but apologize”. You don’t apologize for your “… shortcomings, for failings by the church, for abuse caused by another man”, when, in the eyes of the world, if not your own, Satan has succeeded in showing your so-called fellowship with a brother in Christ to have been a foul, deceitful, and wicked thing. At that point, something else is in order other than a response and behaviour that “… has been of the highest quality”.
Well, 31:8 disagrees. 66 recommendations in the review and not one of them recommends resignation. And others, such as the respected author and preacher Mark Meynell, agree. Mark Meynell says Robin has been “treated abominably”. More deserves to be written, but I will leave it there.
I’m not calling for Weekes to resign from his employment, nor for any recommendations to be implemented. What is required of those who are involved, including Fletcher, himself, is indicated clearly in Scripture, at James 5:16. Unfortunately it is clear that the matter can not be handled in a manner befitting the body of Christ, which makes a fine mockery of the whole witness of the evangelical church in England. I don’t think that any of us can leave it there.
Well, I’m not quite sure what you want, then, Chris. James 5:16 tells us to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another. Robin confessed his error of not paying enough attention to the complaint that was made to him and has apologised profusely. In terms of Robin, that is where it should lie. I can’t speak for Fletcher. I know the church would appreciate a similar act of confession and contrition from him, but that is something out of the control of ECW, Robin and 31:8. In the meantime, the church continues doing what it is doing – preaching the gospel and building disciples.
As to what it is that I want (having made reference to James 5:16), I have, firstly, to go back to Peter’s comment above, dated 29 March, where he notes Weekes’s inaction until the media in the UK exposed Fletcher. I note that Fletcher, himself, has observed astutely that people responded differently to him at different times. I assume that he had in mind some of those men who are now referred to as his victims eg. the Gafcon bishop. Andy Lines; his remark, however, is noteworthy as it captures Weekes nicely in what is his own predicament.
Thus it, also, shows your effort to defend your friend as misguided, for it is scarcely appropriate to say such things as, “Robin confessed his error of not paying enough attention to the complaint that was made to him and has apologised profusely”. So what if he confessed his error and apologised profusely, when it became public knowledge that there was an error for him to confess? The real failing of those who were associated with Fletcher, including Weekes, Thomas, Taylor, and Roberts, is their spiritual failing, whereby they were only called to any account by the media i.e. on the basis of a set of values that have nothing to do with the Lordship of Christ. In the absence of a lousy secular ethos, they allowed themselves to be hoodwinked by Fletcher into accepting that his motivation was righteous, if not for everyone.
Steve, you ask as to what I would want in relation to this matter. The answer is some reason to believe in the efficacy of what is said, in the New Testament, at James 5:16, notwithstanding the fact that Fletcher is incorrigible. Otherwise the present situation serves the Devil well as it vindicates Fletcher’s telling and searing observation that people responded differently to him at different times. They still do, albeit, now, by making a scapegoat of the man.
I’m sorry, Chris, but you are simply repeating the error made by Peter. As evidenced by the 31:8 timeline of events, Robin notified the Diocese on several occasions, as well as the Titus Trust and the Charity Commission BEFORE the first story in the Telegraph.
Beyond that, I simply don’t know what you’re trying to say. Fletcher has been made a scapegoat? Seriously? I honestly don’t know what you’re talking about. Yes, some people are unhappy about the responses from Rod Thomas, William Taylor and Vaughan Smith. I don’t know them (although I have met Rod a couple of times) so I have nothing to add there. My sole reason for commenting was to defend Robin against inaccurate accusations. Thanks.
I’m sorry, Steve, but I understand that you have been with Fletcher’s group for nearly two years now. So I will refer you to Lee Furney as follows.
“In 2019, just before the secular press reported Fletcher’s abuse, the church sent Furney a letter concerning the abuse he had experienced decades earlier.
“I can remember reading that and saying to my wife, ‘Something big is happening here. And they’re not saying this to help me out. They’re saying this to cover themselves when their story breaks.’ And lo and behold . . . that was because they knew it was about to break.”
I haven’t been with “Fletcher’s group” for two years. I haven’t been with “Fletcher’s group” at all. I have been at Emmanuel for two years, thoroughly enjoying the teaching of Robin, his associates, his curate and trainee ministers. Four of these people were in different countries and one was just a child when Fletcher was abusing people. So to describe ECW as “Fletcher’s group” is wrong, offensive, and quite likely defamatory.
Yet again, you ignore the timeline of events as reported by 31:8, showing that Robin reported claims of abuse to the diocese, the Titus Trust and to the Charity Commission MONTHS before the Telegraph reported. So, to suggest the reports were AFTER the media reported the mater is simply wrong. Maybe they did send Furney a letter before it broke. But that doesn’t negate the fact that abuse claims were passed on to the appropriate bodies BEFORE the story broke (and MONTHS before).
Steve, without prejudice to your other point,
It never was going to. The scope of the report didn’t allow for it. Nevertheless the report outlines some clear failings and I would have thought at least the offer of resignation ought to be made.
I’m not sure that’s correct, David. I don’t think there was any prohibition on 31:8 recommending resignations. Even if I am wrong and it were outside the scope, it was sufficiently inside the scope for 31:8 to raise the prospect of people consider stepping down in the review’s themes but they deliberately didn’t mention it in the recommendations. And many would argue there were several other recommendations that were also outside the scope.
But I still fail to see why Robin should be offering his resignation. The review makes it clear he was approached with a complaint while he was curate. He regrets and has shown clear remorse and has apologised for responding the way he did (essentially, ‘that’s just Jonathan’). He left the church, was actually overseas as a missionary when further abuse was occurring, came back as vicar (against Fletcher’s recommendation), has been constantly undermined by Fletcher, has broadened the leadership and strengthened safeguarding, sought to restore relations with the diocese, reported claims of abuse to the diocese and to the Charity Commission and is recognised by the review as effectively blowing the whistle on Fletcher. Some people might still think he should resign. Okay. But that’s not the position of the church body at Emmanuel. And to be honest, I’m not sure it’s the business of anyone outside the Emmanuel family. There is even a string of Fletcher victims who have written that they don’t want to see him resign. But none of that will change the point of view of people who think differently.
I used to hold the same opinion of Robin until [redacted]. When I complained to the Emmanuel I never received a formal response. The Diocese of Southwark replied that the Church is not a public authority and unaccountable under the Human Rights Act 1998.
There are four men now found to be in the crosshairs: Robin Weekes, Rod Thomas, William Taylor, and Vaughan Roberts https://anglican.ink/2021/03/28/anglican-futures-trustees-statement-on-the-fletcher-reports/. Thomas says, “I did not have any knowledge of his [Fletcher’s] harmful activities” https://bishopofmaidstone.org/2021/03/25/statement-following-publication-of-318-lessons-learned-review-concerning-jonathan-fletcher-and-emmanuel-church-wimbledon/. That is worded in hope of avoiding responsibility: the question at issue concerns what knowledge Thomas et al. had in relation to reports, complaints, rumours etc. concerning the matter. Getting these men to resign, however, is a political solution to a political problem. We might be satisfied with that if we are conservative evangelicals, but not if men are to know that we are the Lord’s disciples John 13:35. It goes without saying that positions of leadership in the Body of Christ are not held by Fletchers’ associates.
I would strongly urge the victims to pursue a personal injury claim against these people. My character was completely assassinated (defamation), my family suffered, I lost my home and my career prospects destroyed. Please don’t let them get away with it.