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Seven survivors say Fletcher lied and betrayed them to satisfy his own sinful gratification

Submitted by David W. Virtue, DD
May 11, 2021

TO: Justin Humphreys
CEO, thirtyone:eight
Chair, Independent Advisory Group for the Independent Lessons Learned Review
concerning Jonathan Fletcher and Emmanuel Church Wimbledon

Dear Justin,

Survivors' questions about the Independent Advisory Group (IAG) statement

We are a group of 7 survivors of Jonathan Fletcher who have found the past few weeks incredibly difficult since the publication of the 31:8 Review report and the IAG statement. 5 of us participated in the Review.

We have each suffered personally at the hands of JF. Up to this point each of our experiences has been like our own small jigsaw piece. But your report has enabled us to see our individual experiences within the wider picture of JF's perverted and calculated abuse. We thank God for the way that the report has shone essential light on JF and the culture he created at Emmanuel Wimbledon during his time as its Vicar, the period when we suffered his abuse.

It is crushingly sad to realise that a person we so trusted, respected and loved has used us and betrayed us for his own sinful gratification.

JF famously used to quote Numbers 32:23 as a kind of joke when teasing people upon his discovery of a trivial misdemeanour: 'be sure your sin will find you out.' None of us could ever have imagined how tragically prophetic his words would turn out to be. We pray that your report will finally cause JF to recognise his sin (including its clearly same sex attracted nature, which he continues to deny), to give up on the excuses he persists in making and to stop his lies.

It is his relentless lying which is the ultimate cause of the incredible damage that has been done to us and to the whole Conservative Evangelical community.
However, what has also wounded us -- indeed, profoundly deepened our pain -- is the IAG statement and the Twitter response its authors have incited. It has left us profoundly hurt and confused. It has left us dismayed and angry -- because of the unjustified erosion of trust in leaders we know acted responsibly, promptly and kindly.

Compared with your 31:8 report, the IAG statement seems to speak with a different voice pursuing a different agenda. It feels like our abuse has become a convenient launching pad for its authors' and their supporters' real interest.
We have been left hurt and frustrated that the focus has been allowed to be taken away from our suffering, the sin of JF and the failings of Emmanuel Wimbledon. We have been left wondering: why did the IAG take advantage of this moment to pursue their other interests instead of allowing the report to speak with its own voice?

Having been used once we find ourselves being used all over again, indeed we feel we are being weaponised for somebody else's agenda.

We have watched in silent sorrow for over 7 weeks. But now is the time for our voices to be heard, alongside the voices that claim to speak for us but don't. We are therefore writing to you, as the Chair of the IAG and CEO of 31:8, asking you to help with our questions. We are in search of honest and careful engagement by you to help us in our confusion and our pain.

In the course of preparing this letter, one of us has disclosed to the others of us further information about his abuse by JF which he felt too ashamed to disclose to the Review and which he has never before disclosed. This disclosure has now been reported to the relevant Diocesan safeguarding authorities. It has
enabled the others of us to see more clearly the undeniably sexual nature of JF's behaviour and to better understand our own experiences as grooming behaviour for more serious abuse.

It should be clearly stated that the reason for his not disclosing this activity to the Review was categorically not because of fear of retribution by evangelical leaders. Indeed, his experience - as has been each of ours -- is that the men who currently stand accused of creating 'a culture of fear' have treated us at all times with sympathy, integrity and great kindness. They have helped and encouraged us to bring our experiences to light where we found that difficult to do. We are grateful to them for the action they took to bring JF's abuse to public light.

The fear we have experienced in disclosing our abuse and our insistence on anonymity has rather been because of shame of discovery which, as you are aware, is a typical reaction for victims in our situation.

After careful reflection, we have chosen to write an open letter which we intend to make public, because this has unavoidably become a public matter. It is not only us but other victims and onlookers who need to have questions clarified -- especially where the IAG statement is still being used in a public way on Twitter and elsewhere. We also understand that at least four different individuals have written to you asking the same sorts of questions that we ask of you here. To date, they have not received proper responses to their reasonable enquiries. Again, this has persuaded us that an open letter is appropriate.

Our decision to write this letter has not been taken lightly. We are honestly terrified by the response we expect from a certain Twitter coalition for asking difficult questions that do not fit with their narrative.

This letter has already cost us a great deal in time and emotional strain to produce. But our concerns are so serious that we cannot remain silent any longer.

We are in search of truth which we pray will bring healing to us and others.
In what follows, we do not refer to our brother victim member of the IAG. We do not know his identity and do not wish to speculate about his motives. Our hearts go out to him as a fellow survivor of abuse. But whoever he may be, he does not speak for us in the IAG statement and what it says.

One of the ironies in this whole tragic episode is that the very people who have claimed to be bringing down a 'culture of fear' are themselves creating exactly that for any who have dared to challenge their narrative.
We anticipate their reaction and pre-emptively provide these responses to some of what we expect them to say:

• 'Conservative Evangelical leaders have approached you and are using you for their own purposes.'

No: this letter is entirely our own initiative, instigated without knowledge of any of these leaders. It is not based on any information received from them, but only on information we have discovered ourselves. It is borne out of our own concerns and our own desire to uncover the truth.

• 'You are so ensconced in the Conservative Evangelical culture yourselves that you are blind to reality and have personal vested interests in calling into question the activities of the IAG and related supporters.'

No: such presumption about our motives and our experiences is both deeply wounding and completely false. We belong to a wide range of churches in a wide range of places, including abroad. Some of us are ministers, others not. The resignation of Conservative Evangelical leaders under scrutiny would
have no impact on any of our individual employment situations or future prospects of employment.

• 'You are guilty of D.A.R.V.O.' [Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender]
No: such an accusation against victims like us would be not only false but unconscionable.

Dan Leafe has stated his support of our right to remain anonymous and our right to have our voices heard. We trust he will keep to this commitment, even as we ask searching questions that concern him and his involvement:
Our questions about the IAG statement are attached to this letter. They are grouped under
the following headings:
1. The description "the IAG statement" p.8
2. Publication p.9
3. Basis p.11
4. Status p.12
5. Independence p.13
6. Agenda p.21
• The aim and scope of the review, compared with the IAG statement p.21
• The naming of church leaders p.25
• Assertions about fear p.27
• Assertions about 2017-2019 p.29

On 12 February 2020 you tweeted this about Susie Leafe, who was talking about 31:8's pledge
- https://thirtyoneeight.org/news-and-events/pledge/. You and her husband, Dan Leafe, supported her.

As survivors of JF's abuse, your pledge is for us and we urge you please to honour it:

Put us first: please listen to us and ensure you put our need for help at the heart of your response to this letter.

Conceal nothing: please give us honest responses to our questions and disclose what the external IAG members told you about their interests, motivations and agendas.

Take responsibility: for the IAG statement and how it came to be made.

Hold each other accountable: you have committed publicly to "holding ourselves mutually accountable by accepting the challenge of others about our own practice", so please tell us what you are now going to say and do publicly about the IAG statement which has caused us so much unnecessary additional pain.

We repeat how grateful we are for the Review report. The problem for us lies with the IAG statement in the way it removes the focus from JF, Emmanuel Wimbledon and our suffering.

JF is the man who wronged us and harmed us. JF is rightly the focus of the Review. It is right that broader questions are raised where there are opportunities for wider learning -- indeed, this is one way we pray good can come out of survivors' suffering. But the IAG statement does not merely raise broader questions -- it removes the focus from JF and from the issues that really caused our suffering. But worse, what it has incited has brought us misery and
inflicted deeply personal further pain.

We will listen carefully to what you say in response to us, but on the face of it the IAG statement looks like a political and/or personal agenda that some members of the IAG are determined to pursue.

What hurts and confuses us so much is their apparent willingness to weaponise our experience of abuse for their own purposes. And, respectfully, what hurts and confuses us even more is why you allowed them to do it, and then stayed silent when they had done it. If we are wrong, please help us and tell us why we are wrong. Or disavow the IAG statement publicly, so everyone can set it aside and get on with the serious and vital cultural reflection we all desire. We praise God for the clear evidence that this necessary reflection is already beginning to take place in our constituency.

We have tried to reflect carefully on the tone and language of this letter. We have sought to examine our own motives and, at times, our own anger. We recognise the dangers, by what we say and how we say it, of ourselves compounding the pain of others involved in this sorry affair. We acknowledge that we are closely and emotionally involved and that this may have clouded our judgment. For where our tone or language is flawed and wrong, we sincerely apologise. We only ask for the grace which Pete Nicholas has encouraged to be accorded to survivors such as ourselves, who are seeking to communicate about matters which, for us,
are raw, personal and painful.

Justin, we look forward to hearing from you -- and we ask that you respond urgently.

Fletcher Survivors 1-7

You can read the full document here: https://tinyurl.com/3su7j2hb

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