Church ex­cludes UK man for sex­ual mis­con­duct

Bar­ris­ter who lived in Cape failed to make frank dis­clo­sures about ac­tiv­i­ties in­volv­ing young men

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - PETA THORNYCROFT

BRI­TISH sex­ual preda­tor John Smyth and his wife Anne have been ex­com­mu­ni­cated from the Cape Town church they be­longed to and in which both played a lead­ing role.

Smyth, a Bri­tish bar­ris­ter, who was also part of a South African le­gal NGO, the Jus­tice Al­liance of South Africa, left Zim­babwe nearly 20 years ago un­der a cloud with ac­cu­sa­tions of sex­ual im­pro­pri­ety with school­boys on Chris­tian holiday camps he ran for sev­eral years.

Smyth went to Zim­babwe after sim­i­lar ac­cu­sa­tions were kept un­der wraps in the UK.

Justin Welby, the present Arch­bishop of Can­ter­bury, was one of those who at­tended the camps at a fa­mous pub­lic school in the UK. He said he no­ticed noth­ing but apol­o­gised any­way.

Some of Smyth’s ac­tiv­i­ties, mostly with school­boys at Chris­tian camps in the UK, were high­lighted in a doc­u­men­tary broad­cast on Chan­nel 4 in the UK in Fe­bru­ary.

Many of the vic­tims claim they were re­peat­edly beaten while naked by Smyth, who also en­gaged with them in dis­turb­ing sex­ual con­ver­sa­tions.

Church-on-Main re­leased a state­ment about Smyth last week, say­ing he had been de­ceit­ful and said it had ex­com­mu­ni­cated him and his wife after “much heartache”. It said its el­ders came to their con­clu­sion after re­peated ef­forts failed to per­suade Smyth to make frank dis­clo­sures to the church.

A state­ment pub­lished on the church’s web­site last week said: “The lack of re­sponse by John and Anne to all par­ties in­volved re­lat­ing to the grave al­leged mis­con­duct by John while liv­ing in the UK in­di­cate an un­will­ing­ness to have these mat­ters re­solved… We find the non-dis­clo­sure, or par­tial dis­clo­sure of pre­vi­ous se­ri­ous ac­tions of mis­con­duct, to have been de­cep­tive and mis­lead­ing of an ex­treme na­ture…

“We have found that John Smyth specif­i­cally de­ceived us with re­gard to his deal­ings with young men he coun­selled (in Cape Town) in that he re­peat­edly claimed he would not raise the is­sue of sex­u­al­ity in a first meet­ing.”

The church con­firmed it had ad­vised Smyth to re­turn to the UK after the mat­ter of his sex­ual be­hav­iour with male young­sters there emerged in a doc­u­men­tary on the UK’s Chan­nel 4 in Fe­bru­ary.

After the doc­u­men­tary, Zim­bab­wean lawyer David Coltart, former ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter in the in­clu­sive gov­ern­ment, re­leased a file of le­gal doc­u­ments and state­ments col­lected and agreed by a group of church lead­ers in Bu­l­awayo in the 1990s, which led to Smyth be­ing obliged to can­cel all Chris­tian holiday camps he had been hold­ing in the coun­try for sev­eral years.

Smyth was ad­vised by the Zim­bab­wean church lead­ers to seek pro­fes­sional help and anal­y­sis as they felt he had un­re­solved sex­ual is­sues.

Par­ents of sev­eral boys who had at­tended the camps sued Smyth but the cases even­tu­ally ex­pired, and he then aban­doned Zim­babwe and went first to KwaZulu-Na­tal and then on to the Western Cape, set­tling in a house in Bergvliet.

He be­came an el­der in the Church-on-Main but some of its mem­bers were uneasy about him even prior to the Chan­nel 4 doc­u­men­tary.

Smyth raised money from South Africa and the UK and formed the Jus­tice Al­liance, which took sev­eral cases to court.

His col­leagues in the Jus­tice Al­liance say Smyth is no longer part of their or­gan­i­sa­tion.

He had been a Queen’s Coun­sel in the UK prior to his de­par­ture for Zim­babwe.

The con­tro­versy over his fa­ther fol­lowed his son, PJ Smyth, pas­tor of a suc­cess­ful Johannesburg Chris­tian or­gan­i­sa­tion, GodFirst Church, which had con­gre­ga­tions in sev­eral Gaut­eng ar­eas and sub­urbs such as Parkhurst, Paulshof, Dou­glas­dale, Benoni and Tem­bisa.

He went to the US last De­cem­ber to take up a post at Covenant Life Church in Mary­land, which had it­self been pre­vi­ously in­volved in a child sex abuse scan­dal.

He was un­able to take over his role as lead pas­tor after the scan­dal about his fa­ther emerged in the in­ter­na­tional me­dia.

John Smyth

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