An apology by Rev William Taylor at St Helen Bishopsgate on 4 April 2021
I have asked today for a further opportunity to address the church family about recent events flowing from the publication of the 31:8 report commissioned by Emmanuel Church Wimbledon.
I have been challenged rightly by churchwardens and staff colleagues about how I spoke last Sunday morning. They’ve challenged me graciously and firmly. The comments are fair, and I take them on board. I take full responsibility. I was wrong to speak as I did last Sunday. I caused hurt. I am sorry. I am grateful to have a team around me who are not afraid to speak up and challenge me. This I do not take for granted and I pray they will continue to be more concerned to fear God than to fear man, and so raise any concerns or questions.And that brings me to my main apology. In our church family, as well as in the wider church and society, there are many who are survivors of abuse and injustice of many kinds, including those who suffered from abuse by Jonathan Fletcher and, amongst them, the victim member of the Independent Advisory Group (IAG). I deeply regret that my statement last week has caused you pain. I fully accept that this has been the case and this unreserved apology is to you. I also apologise to those whose confidence in reporting has been knocked; some of you may have thought as a result of my statement that any concerns you might report would be dismissed. This is not the case; our safeguarding team here takes all concerns seriously and I am sorry to have undermined confidence in this important part of our work here at St Helen’s. Please do speak up. We will listen to you. We love you and care for you.
I apologise that my comments about the external members of the IAG undermined what I said about the 31:8 Review. It is a substantial and serious piece of work. I, and others, have been reading the 31:8 Review and the IAG statement with care. I can already see things in the recommendations made by 31:8 that we need to implement at St Helen’s. There are bound to be other things that need to be changed.
One word concerning John Stevens. Last Sunday morning, just before our service, I received a wonderful and encouraging text from John. It had nothing to do with the statement I was going to make. But it lifted my heart. I quoted from John’s text without first seeking his permission. I have apologised to John already and express that publicly here. John has been one of the faithful partners in the gospel who challenged me privately about my statement last week. My intention in quoting from John’s text was that our hearts be lifted too. But John, I am sorry that by quoting your text I gave people the impression that you endorsed my statement and I regret the very difficult position my words have put you in.
We are already planning how best as a church to consider carefully the 31:8 Review. We will say more at our annual church meeting in a few weeks, when we will set out how we will consider and report back on the many recent reviews that have reported in other Christian settings, including the 31:8 Review.
Please would you be praying for our collective humility as we do so. Also please join us as we continue praying for those who have suffered abuse.I am sorry, really sorry. I hope those who have been hurt by what I said will forgive me. And I hope you will find real comfort from the Lord Jesus.
A prayer by Dr Beccy Scott at St Helen Bishopsgate on 4 April 2021
Our Father in recent weeks and months we have heard of many who have suffered abuse in churches at the hands of Jonathon Fletcher, John Smyth, Ravi Zacharias, Steve Timmis. Father we grieve for the many victims and the pain they have experienced. We grieve for their further pain of not being listened to, of being blamed, of not being noticed by others even as they have lived amongst your people. We reflect on criticisms of church culture and comments of things hidden in plain sight. We wonder ourselves where we have been blind to the suffering of others or have enabled their suffering.We are ashamed that we are the people for whom Christ suffered and died and yet amongst your churches, his precious name has been dishonoured. We want to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations and yet realise again how much we need to proclaim this to ourselves. We know that nothing is hidden from you. We praise you that the Lord Jesus died knowing precisely how deeply sin runs through us. We praise you that your mercies never come to an end.As we reflect as a church family, please would you bring healing to those among us who may have suffered. Would they find comfort this day in the risen Lord Jesus. We pray for William and the senior staff, the church wardens and the PCC as they reflect on the recommendations. Thank you for their commitment to test and examine our ways. Please would we come to know what repentance looks like for us as individuals and as a church and for the wider church.We pray to you in the risen name of Jesus. Amen.