“Yet another story of beating boys’ bare buttocks has come to light in the Church of England. Another denomination to keep your young ones clear of! It interests me more than usual because the main public school involved seems to have been Winchester. Now I have a connection to declare here. In 1962 I won a coveted place from my state school in Gloucester to New College, Oxford. Like Winchester, New College was founded in the early middle ages by a bishop called William of Wykeham. This historical link meant that a disproportionate number of Winchester boys transferred across to New College, where I got to know some of them through the college chapel and the college chaplain’s group, of which I was an active member. I don’t know when precisely the youth camps started, maybe before 1962, maybe after, but it seems probable that I knew some of the abused boys involved with Smyth.
I am not entertained by this account, just sickened by it. Remember, this abuse was perpetrated in the name of Jesus Christ, who famously said “Suffer the little children to come unto me,” not “Make the little children suffer for my sake.” How did the message get so perverted?
Peter Turner, M.A. (Oxon), M.Sc. (Wales)”
The Archbishop of Canterbury was quick to react when he heard that Channel 4 News was about to accuse his old acquaintance John Smyth, QC, an evangelical Christian and former barrister, of savage assaults on teenage boys and young men. The Archbishop apologised unreservedly to all the survivors, even though he had known of the accusations for at least 4 years and had done nothing. As chair of a charity called the Iwerne Trust (later renamed the Titus Trust) Smyth had run annual Christian camps for top public schoolboys. The current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was one of Smyth’s “dormitory officers” at the camps which were run on the lines of a Victorian public school to produce an officer class of muscular evangelicals as the next generation of church leaders.
Smyth lived near to Winchester College and after Sunday chapel he would invite boys back to his house, supposedly for Christian discussions. In fact he was taking them to his shed and flogging them – all in the name of Jesus – to cleanse them of impure thoughts. The standard cure for masturbation was 100 strokes of the cane; for the sin of pride, 400.
One victim who had received thousands of lashes over 4 years was told by Smyth that he could expect a very “special” beating for his birthday. Unable to face the prospect, he tried to kill himself. Fortunately he failed, and notified the Trust of what was going on. Panic-stricken, the Trust asked Rev Mark Ruston to investigate. He tracked down 13 victims of Smyth’s abuse. In his 1982 report Ruston wrote “The scale and severity of the practice was horrific. I have seen bruised and sore buttocks, some two and a half months after the beating. Smyth wanted ‘to be the best for God’, so he beat as hard as he could.” Although the report was sent to all the trustees and to the headmaster of Winchester, the reaction was muted and no-one contacted the police. When a Christian media consultant recommended an independent investigation they recoiled in horror.
In Ruston’s words “The whole thing displays frightening blindness. Blind to scripture, to sense, to propriety and to the very heart of the gospel.”
Private Eye no. 1438 9 March 2017 p.8
Church Times letters pages, February 2017
Related Zingcreed Posts:
504: My bishop is a pervert!
717: Sado-evangelicals #2: Saving Youth Foundation, Alabama 2015