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Shocking disclosures for Christian churches

June 2017

Churches in England, Scotland, South Africa and Zimbabwe have been left reeling by several devastating disclosures within the last few months. These forcibly remind us that every professing Christian must truly have been born again and strive to live close to Christ in holiness of life, lest we bring dishonour upon our Saviour and his cause.

Adultery

A Free Church of Scotland investigation into allegations made against the late Rev. Dr Iain Campbell has concluded that his behaviour was at times ‘seriously inconsistent with that expected of a Christian minister’.

According to reports, the well known, former moderator of the Scottish Free Church General Assembly, was alleged to have had inappropriate relationships with at least three women, going back to 2010.

The allegations against the married former minister of Point Free Church, on the Isle of Lewis, emerged after he died suddenly in January 2017 — allegedly, after attempting suicide — aged 53.

In a statement, the Free Church said ‘appropriate disciplinary action’ had been taken by local kirk sessions, following investigation by the Western Isles Presbytery. On behalf of the presbytery, Rev. James Maciver said: ‘The presbytery has now sadly concluded that elements of Dr Campbell’s moral conduct were contrary to, and censurable by, the Word of God, and seriously inconsistent with that expected of a Christian minister.

‘Following the investigation, each local kirk session has carried out appropriate disciplinary action, according to guidelines laid down in the Practice of the Free Church of Scotland’.

Child abuse

The news came when evangelicals were already reeling from news reports brought after a Channel 4 News investigation into the conduct of John Smyth QC during the 1970s and 1980s. John Smyth was an eminent barrister, who had acted for Mary Whitehouse in 1977 at the Old Bailey, against Gay News and its editor, Denis Lemon, over the publication of blasphemous homosexual material.

Smyth was chairman of the evangelical Iwerne Trust between 1974 and 1981. According to a statement by law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp, questions are being asked about an alleged cover-up of child abuse endured by teenage public school boys at the hands of the barrister. It is alleged Mr Smyth subjected the schoolboys to horrific beatings to purge them of such sins as masturbation and pride.

The statement said: ‘Failure to report and prosecute Mr Smyth in the UK allowed him the opportunity of a fresh start when he moved to Zimbabwe in 1984. Here, he founded the Zambesi Ministry, a series of Christian summer camps for boys from top public schools. It is alleged at these summer camps, Mr Smyth abused teenagers in a similarly brutal way as he had done in the UK.

‘In 1997, Smyth was arrested and charged with killing a 16-year-old boy named Guide Nyachuru, who was found dead in a swimming pool at one of the summer camps in 1992. It was also alleged by five other boys that Smyth had subjected them to abuse, including savage beatings.

‘In 1998, the case of culpable homicide was dismissed against Smyth, after it was claimed that prosecutors had overstated the claims and failed to follow procedures’.

The Church of England claims it reported Smyth’s abusive behaviour to the Cambridgeshire police in 2013, and again in February 2014, after an alleged victim came forward. However, no investigation was launched.

In 2014, allegations were separately reported to Hampshire police, but as the reporting party would not provide details, the police did not open an inquiry. It only reopened after the Channel 4 investigation earlier this year. The BBC claims it has been handed nine hours of recording, left unheard for years, which reveal the full extent of the abuse. On one occasion a victim was beaten for 12 hours.

Fraud

Meanwhile, a founder member of an evangelical church in Newtown, Wales, has been jailed for six years, after admitting to fraud. The charges covered a period from 1994 until 2015.

The struck-off solicitor, turned self-styled financial adviser, was found to have fiddled clients, including friends and fellow churchgoers, to the tune of almost £1.5m.

David Vaughan Jones, 78, admitted theft and fraud charges in October 2016. At that time, according to a report from Dee News, Judge Niclas Parry, sitting at Mold Crown Court, gave Jones ‘a remarkable chance’ and deferred sentence for him to put ‘his money where his mouth is’ and repay those who lost their savings.

Jones claimed the money was held in the Channel Islands and he could compensate everyone. However, in May 2017, according to reports in Financial Adviser, the court heard how, despite asking for details of the bank accounts of his victims so that money could be repaid, no money had been handed over.

Judge Parry said the only conclusion he could come to was the funds did not exist. The defendant had worked as a solicitor in Newtown, but ceased to practice in 1991 and after that, worked in the financial sector.