Independent review into the Fletcher affair shows failures of leadership and oversight within the Evangelical community

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Emmanuel Church Wimbledon

The current vicar of Emmanuel Church Wimbledon, Rev Robin Weekes, told a ministry trainee who complained of Rev Jonathan Fletcher’s bullying behaviour in 2001 that it was necessary to ‘work around’ Fletcher’s ‘domineering leadership style’, according to a report into the former Church of England vicar’s abuses  published today.

Weekes, who was Fletcher’s curate in 2001 and succeeded him as vicar of the south-west London proprietary chapel in 2013, has since ‘expressed deep regret at his response’, the 146-page report reveals. Emmanuel Church, where Fletcher, 78, was vicar from 1982 until he retired in 2012, commissioned the Christian safeguarding charity, Thirtyone:eight, to conduct the review into Fletcher’s abuses in December 2019.

The comprehensive review, led by Chester University’s associate professor of psychology Lisa Oakley and safeguarding consultant  Simon Plant, confirms Anglican Unscripted’s disclosure in July 2019 that Fletcher tried to pressure a victim of his abuse into performing a sex act in front of him. When the then young man did not so, Fletcher performed the act on himself:

 “During the review a serious incident of a sexual nature was reported. One participant reported that JF told him to perform a sex act in front of him and when he did not, JF performed the act instead. This behaviour demonstrates a gross abuse of power and in the opinion of the reviewers is far beyond anything which can be deemed acceptable or appropriate from a minister in a position of power, trust and responsibility. Further, it raises a question regarding whether this would be regarded as misconduct in a public office. We conclude that very few, if any, knew about this incident prior to 2017. We state for the record that JF has never been charged with or found guilty of any offence,” the report says.

The Independent Lessons Learned Review (incorporating an Audit of Safeguarding Arrangements) Concerning Jonathan Fletcher and Emmanuel Church Wimbledon also reveals that:

·        As early as 1982 two people disclosed that Fletcher was engaging in naked swimming with them.

·        In 1990 it became known that Fletcher was asking younger men who looked to him as their spiritual mentor intrusive personal questions about masturbation and sex generally.

·        In 1998 participants in the review first mentioned that Fletcher was engaging in naked saunas with younger men after games of squash. This continued until 2018.

·     In 1999 members of Emmanuel Wimbledon discussed Fletcher’s practice of naked saunas with other men.

·      In 2013/2014 rumours began circulating within the wider conservative evangelical constituency in the Church of England about Fletcher’s abusive behaviour.

The report says 98 participants provided information, 59 of whom were members or former members of Emmanuel. The Reviewers received the testimony of 27 of Fletcher’s victims.

“JF was directly invited to participate in the review through letters sent from the Reviewers. Five letters were sent to JF between May 2020 and December 2020 expressing the commitment of the Reviewers to his inclusion in the interests of fairness and transparency. He did not take up the offers to participate by phone, online or written questions and therefore did not contribute to the Review process,” the report reveals.