I completed my first reading of the 31:8 Lessons Learned Review yesterday having not had prior sight of it, nor having been interviewed by those who prepared it. I am very distressed by the harm that has been experienced by those who suffered from Jonathan Fletcher’s abusive activities and very sorry that so many felt they had nobody to turn to. The Lessons Learned Review makes very disturbing reading and needs to be considered carefully. The abuse it describes is deeply shocking. It contains lessons for the wider church that I will be taking very seriously.
Like many others, I have known Jonathan Fletcher over several decades. This started when he was appointed to Emmanuel – the church my wife and I were attending at the time. I left Emmanuel in 1991 for ordination training and for most of my ordained ministry in Plymouth I was geographically distant from him and had little contact with him. However, I did encounter him in meetings, conferences and church houseparties, and was involved in evangelical networks where he was also active. Throughout this time and until there was a disclosure in September 2018, I did not have any knowledge of his harmful activities. I both understand and share the sense of betrayal and hurt that many are now experiencing as a result of the courageous disclosures that have been made.
I will now seek both to learn from, and promote, what the report has to say about building a healthy safeguarding culture. I will be taking the opportunity of outlining the main findings of the review at forthcoming regional meetings (attended by ministry teams from churches which have passed resolutions under the House of Bishops’ Declaration) and highlighting the recommended areas for action.
I am also committing myself to pray for the strengthening and restoration of those who suffered abuse, and want to encourage others to do likewise.
Rt Rev’d Rod Thomas
Bishop of Maidstone
25th March 2021
NOTE FOR INFORMATION
In common with arrangements in other dioceses, the Bishop of Maidstone does not have oversight responsibilities for PTOs or safeguarding arrangements in the Diocese of Southwark. His role in the diocese is described in the Diocesan document: ‘Principles and processes for enacting the HoB Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests in the Diocese of Southwark.’