Former evangelical vicar ‘was left to administer naked beatings, ice bath punishments and perform sex acts in front of people’ when church bosses took ‘little or no action’ over claims against him, investigation finds
- Rev Jonathan Fletcher, 78, was allegedly ‘abusive’ to at least 27 vulnerable adults
- The alleged ‘spiritual abuse’ happened whilst he was vicar at Wimbledon church
- He allegedly forced his victims to endure ‘forfeits’ such as being ‘smacked with a gym shoe’ and ice baths
A former evangelical vicar was allegedly left to subject his victims to naked beatings and ice bath punishments whilst performing sex acts in front of people after church bosses took ‘little or no action’ over the claims, an investigation has revealed.
Rev Jonathan Fletcher, 78, was ‘spiritually abusive’ to at least 27 vulnerable adults at his church in Wimbledon, south west London, according to an independent review of complaints made against him.
The disgraced vicar, who worked at the church from 1982 until his retirement in 2012, allegedly forced his victims to endure ‘forfeits’ such as being ‘smacked with a gym shoe’ and ice baths.
Another victim claimed Mr Fletcher had told him to perform a sex act in front of him but when he refused to do so, the vicar performed the act instead.
Rev Jonathan Fletcher, 78, was ‘spiritually abusive’ to at least 27 vulnerable adults at his church in Wimbledon, south west London, according to an independent review of complaints made against him
The alleged bullying and spiritual abuse was able to continue because leaders at the Emmanuel Church in Wimbledon took ‘little or no action’ to address it.
The church leaders issued their first public apology since the allegations came to light in 2017.
They admitted to failed to ‘call out’ Mr Fletcher and the lack of accountability meant the vicar was ‘untouchable’ but said no leaders ‘knew of the [alleged] massages, beatings or sexual behaviours’.
The independent review by Thirtyone:eight, a Christian safeguarding charity, today said: ‘Various forms of harmful behaviour from Jonathan Fletcher were reported by participants.
‘These included coercion and control, bullying and some referred to their experiences as spiritual abuse.
‘There were reports of naked messages and saunas, forfeits including smacking with a gym shoe, and ice baths.’
The alleged bullying and spiritual abuse was able to continue because leaders at the Emmanuel Church in Wimbledon (pictured) took ‘little or no action’ to address it
Mr Fletcher’s permission to officiate in the Diocese of Southwark was revoked in 2017 over allegations dating back to his tenure as vicar of Emmanuel Church in Wimbledon between 1982 and 2012.
Further abuse allegations were made in September 2018 but police did not continue their investigation.
The review added that a ‘serious incident of a sexual nature was reported’ whereby a participant claimed Mr Fletcher ‘told him to perform a sex act in front of him and when he did not, Mr Fletcher performed the act instead’.
‘This behaviour demonstrates a gross abuse of power and in the opinion of the reviewers is far beyond anything which can be deemed acceptable or appropriate from a minister in a position of power, trust and responsibility,’ the report said.
The church was criticised for their lack of action against the abuse by the review.
‘On the balance of evidence, it is clear that bullying and spiritual abuse was known about prior to 2017 and little or no action was taken to address this by role holders and leaders at Emmanuel Church in Wimbledon at the time.
‘The massages and saunas were also not hidden behaviours. We consider on the basis of all the information gathered that at least some of these behaviours were known about prior to 2017 and there were opportunities for action to have taken place sooner.’
Mr Fletcher declined to comment about the allegations, reports The Times.
The report said that whilst the vicar was invited to participate in the review, Mr Fletcher ‘did not take up the offers to participate by phone, online or written questions and therefore did not contribute to the Review process’.
He has apologised in the past for his behaviours, telling The Daily Telegraph in April last year that he is ‘deeply, deeply sorry for the people I’ve harmed’.
Mr Fletcher also told the newspaper: ‘Anything that happened was totally consensual and non-sexual’.