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Friday
Mar032017

Lead Pastor P.J. Smyth Deceives Covenant Life Church About Knowledge of John Smyth’s Violent Beating of Boys

Last week, newly installed lead pastor, P.J. Smyth added this “Update” to his final statement about having no knowledge of his father’s extreme physical abuse of boys.  It is hilarious and outrageous at the same time.

UPDATE, FEBRUARY 22: Since writing this I have realized that it is not strictly accurate to say, “I was not involved with those interactions” and I am sorry for the confusion this has caused.  I was seeking to write in a timely way what I remembered, but my memory was flawed. The Covenant Life elders have commented here. —PJ Smyth 

This “not strictly accurate” is utter deception.  So is “my memory was flawed.”  I’ve written at length in this piece to expose these lies for the good of all who are being misled.  I’ve provided summaries along the way for those who want to scan the article.  The final two sections should be read in entirety.  They are “The Horrendous Letter from Executive Pastor Mark Mitchell” and “It is not strictly accurate to say, I was not involved with those interactions.”

Once more, the pastors of Covenant Life Church have chosen a crooked path rather than a straight path.  This will be obvious as you examine the evidence.  The documented account that follows progressively unfolds and comes to a dramatic conclusion.  May we learn from it and determine to love what God loves and hate what God hates. 

Proverbs 12:22 The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.

I’ve added explanatory comments and corrections in brackets [ ] and underlining for emphasis.  

 

Background to Story

Twenty-one months after Joshua Harris resigned, the long awaited P.J. Smyth from South Africa was finally installed on Sunday, February 5 as the new lead pastor for Covenant Life Church (CLC) in Gaithersburg, Maryland.  At the exact same time, his eminent father, John Smyth was being exposed by the national press in the United Kingdom, Zimbabwe and South Africa for the lewd, sadistic and criminal beating of boys and young men over many years. 

Channel 4 News in the United Kingdom broke the story on February 1 and showed a riveting shock interview of John Smyth by investigative reporter, Cathy Newman.  The story remained headliner news in these countries for a couple of weeks because John Smyth was a noted judge (a Queen's Counsel), lawyer (barrister), moral crusader, and leading evangelical with personal connections to men like John Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury.  Currently, Smyth lives in the capital city of Cape Town where he was Director of the Justice Alliance of South Africa until fired when the incontrovertible evidence of abuse was made public. 

 

Letter 1 to P.J. and CLC Pastors 

Summary:  Of necessity, P.J. had to issue a response to CLC.  In fact, he responded three times.  The first one, “Statement on UK Media Reports,” was full of deception.  P.J. denied all knowledge of his father’s abuse in the United Kingdom and he intentionally left out all reference to his knowledge of abuse in Zimbabwe and the reporting of abuse by the news media.  I appealed to P.J. and the pastors in private via email.  They did not respond to my concerns or observations.  

From: Brent Detwiler [mailto:abrentdetwiler@gmail.com]
Sent: Sunday, February 5, 2017 4:52 PM
To: P.J. Smyth; Robin Boisvert; Dave Brewer; Don DeVries; Jamie Leach; Adam Malcolm; Mark Mitchell; Kevin Rogers; Greg Somerville; Bob Schickler; Dave Brown; David Finch; Tim Harvey; Todd Keeler; Chris Kinsinger; John Leconte; Bo Lotinsky; Jose Troche; Steve Wyzga
Subject: Deceptive Statement on UK Media Reports

P.J.,

This will be brief.  Much more could be said.

You made several misleading and deceptive statements to the members of CLC on Thursday.   

Statement on UK Media Reports
Date: February 2, 2017
Author: PJ Smyth 

I became aware yesterday that a story broke in the UK media reporting that my father, John Smyth, was apparently involved in xcessive physical discipline of high school/college aged boys more than three decades ago, when our family lived in the UK.  I was about 10 years old at the time.

Several decades later I became aware that there were questions about my father’s ministry in the UK, although I had no knowledge of specifics.  Reading the reports is deeply troubling, and my heart and prayers go out to anyone who was, or is, affected by this situation in any way.

First, you made this statement knowing full well UK media were also reporting on the alleged physical abuse of young men by your father after he left the UK in 1984 for Zimbabwe where he lived for the next 17 years before moving to South Africa in 2001.

This omission was intentional and I am sure it was purposeful.  You didn’t want CLC members to know about the alleged beatings of boys and young men in Zimbabwe.  Instead, you wanted them to think it was all in the distant past – “more than three decades ago” and confined to the UK.  That is deceptive.  It is the same strategy that was employed by CLC and SGM [regarding the sexual abuse of children]. 

Nor did you want them to know your father was charged with the culpable homicide of 16-year-old Guide Nyachuru in 1992 [correction: he was charged in 1997, Nyachuru died in Dec 1992] and five criminal counts of crimen injuria in 1993 [correction: he was charged in 1997, the incidents occurred in Apr 1993].  That is, “unlawfully, intentionally and seriously impairing the dignity of another.”     

You also refer to the alleged beatings as “excessive physical discipline.”  That is not the way the victims, news media or Church of England have reported their experience or the story.  You are twisting and watering down for CLC what your father is accused of doing.  You are not giving them the facts as reported.  You are covering up.

You also distance yourself from any knowledge of events by stating, “I was about 10 years old at the time.”  That leaves the false impression that everything related to alleged beatings happened in the UK when you were very young.  You intentionally didn’t tell CLC about the reported beatings and criminal charges in Zimbabwe or your participation in your father’s camp when these things were reportedly occurring.  You obviously knew some of the alleged victims, like Guide Nyachuru.  You were probably friends.    

In the second paragraph, you say, “Several decades later I became aware that there were questions about my father’s ministry in the UK, although I had no knowledge of specifics.”  Maybe, maybe not, regarding the UK but you continue the deception regarding no knowledge of the prominent media reports covering the 17 years in Zimbabwe.  You made the statement after lunch on Thursday, February 2.  You said you were “reading the reports.”  By this time, your sister had already done her interview with the BBC and talked about life in the boy’s camp in Zimbabwe.  You were not ignorant of the coverage but intentionally left it out.  The question is why?

As a result of these misleading and deceptive comments, you were contacted by the national press [e.g. Channel 4 News UK] according to sources.    You reference this when you say “there have been enquiries about what I knew and when.”  These enquiries forced you to make a more detailed statement the following day that included reference to your participation in the holiday camps.     

P.J., given your repeated obfuscation in the first statement, it would be foolish to believe anything in your second statement.  For instance, when you say, “I attended a number of Zambesi Holidays camps [in Zimbabwe] and I was never aware of any abuse.”  That is a categorical denial.  You claim you were never made aware of any abuse by anyone at any time under any circumstances. 

I’ve been at this a long time.  I’ve seen leaders in CLC and SGM repeatedly lie and deceive.  I will not be surprised if evidence comes out in the future that proves you are lying.  I hope that is not the case, but if it is, now is the time to be honest with the CLC elders.  If you cover up further, your demise is certain and extraordinary harm will come to the church.

Finally, a word to the CLC elders.  Investigate closely and follow the story carefully.  More comes out every day.  Do not passively accept P.J.’s explanations.  Furthermore, he should be reproved by you for his disingenuous statement on Thursday.  It should cause you great concern!  He should also ask CLC to forgive him.

 

Letter 2 to P.J. and CLC Pastors

Summary: As more information was coming out, I took occasion to write P.J. and the Covenant Life pastors again.  This time I encouraged P.J. to take redemptive action and reach out to the victims if he was truly innocent.  I also encouraged him to be honest about any abuse he experienced growing up and to report all suspected or known abuse from his days in boarding school or beyond.  There were also “rumours” in England of the abuse taking place in Zimbabwe.  Yet P.J. emphatically claims he never heard anything about any abuse in England or Zimbabwe. 

From: Brent Detwiler [mailto:abrentdetwiler@gmail.com]
Sent: Monday, February 6, 2017 5:26 PM
To: P.J. Smyth; Robin Boisvert; Dave Brewer; Don DeVries; Jamie Leach; Adam Malcolm; Mark Mitchell; Kevin Rogers; Greg Somerville; Bob Schickler; Dave Brown; David Finch; Tim Harvey; Todd Keeler; Chris Kinsinger; John Leconte; Bo Lotinsky; Jose Troche; Steve Wyzga
Subject: The Opportunity for P.J. to Reach Out to His Father's Victims

Last night, The Daily Telegraph in London published “John Smyth, the school predator who beat me for five years” at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/05/john-smyth-school-predator-beat-five-years/.  It is just one of the many stories you should be following and following up on.  The person in the story should be contacted by you.  P.J. can provide you his contact information.  [This person attempted suicide in 1982 at age 21.  An internal investigation followed that exposed John Smyth and documented the abuse of 22 boys in England.]

You should also watch the “silhouette” video interview with this person that was done by Channel 4 in the UK.  https://www.channel4.com/news/archbishop-apologises-for-historic-abuse-the-full-story

Here are a few quotes from the print story.  I’ve added some information in brackets.

“Today, as a middle-aged man of 56 [born 1961], I’m not particularly good-looking.  But as a boy, I was considered “pretty”, and in the boarding-school world that I grew up in, that meant only one thing: being regularly molested by other boys at prep school and again at the public school [i.e., Winchester “College” for boy ages 13-18] in Hampshire [County], the school to which generations of my family had gone and my parents had a close connection.” 

This is frightening.  You should ask P.J. about his experience in prep school and public school and about the experience of friends and fellow students.  In his second statement to CLC, P.J. said, “I am firmly committed to reporting any form of child abuse to the authorities.”  If that is true, I trust he has reported all suspected abuse he knew about from childhood to the present in England, Zimbabwe, South Africa, or anywhere else for that matter.  And obviously, you must find out if he was abused; and if so, whether it was reported to law enforcement [P.J. was in boarding school from age 8-13 in the UK and 14-18 in Zimbabwe.]         

“I was 14 when I started to regularly have lunch there [at P.J.’s home] with him [John Smyth], his wife, Anne, and their two children, then seven and five [i.e., P.J.].  We played “family” games in his garden, which – unusually for those days – had a pool [the Smyth’s lived in Morestead, England].  For a lonely teenager, who was away from home for weeks at a time and yearned for the normality of family life, it seemed like a safe, friendly haven.”

This person was a close family friend and probably someone P.J. looked up to and knew well.  The person is nine years older than P.J.  At a minimum, P.J. should contact him at some point to express deep sorrow for the actions of his father.  The same is true of all the victims that have been identified like Mark Stibbe, Richard Gittins, Andrew Watson, et al.  

I’d also urge P.J. to contact Cathy Newman at Channel 4 News.  She broke the story and has vital and extensive evidence against his father.  P.J. should seek to learn all he can about the allegations and criminal charges.  As it stands, he claims to be totally ignorant of any reports, suspicions, or allegations per both statements made to CLC (e.g. “I never saw or heard anything [in the UK] that led me to suspect my father was engaged in the activities alleged. … I attended a number of Zambesi Holidays camps [in Zimbabwe] and I was never aware of any abuse.”). 

If true, then P.J. should seize the opportunity and be a spokesman for his father’s victims in the UK and Zimbabwe.  It won’t be easy given his love for his father but it seems incumbent given Christ’s love for the multitude of victims that exists according to official reports based on evidence (e.g., “The Mail & Guardian has seen an internal report written by the Iwerne Trust in 1982, in which it acknowledges the “horrific” scale and severity of the alleged beatings [in the UK] by Smyth involving 22 young men since 1978.”)

If P.J. will speak out, he can help stop the hellish perversity of child abuse and its cover up by church leaders in Europe, Africa, and North America where he has influence.  There is only one potential complication.  Is P.J. being honest about what he knows?  Here is another quote from last night’s article. 

“Just like I’d been in my teens and early twenties, I became secretive and withdrawn, my deteriorating mental state not helped at all by the news that Smyth had moved to Zimbabwe [in 1984] and set up Christian camps similar to those at Iwerne Minster [in England].  And that rumours of what went on there were similar.” 

My heart just skipped a beat.  If this individual, living in England, heard “rumours” of beatings in Zimbabwe like his own, are we to believe, P.J. never heard “rumours” of physical abuse while living in Zimbabwe for 15-16 years [correction: 20 yrs.] and participating in the camps for many years?  I don’t think so.  Yet he claims he never saw or heard anything that led him to simply suspect his father. 

Though the victim in this article/video recently reported to police, he goes on to say.

“But I’m too cynical to believe he will ever face justice, although I’d love to be proved wrong.  Too many important people have too much to lose.”

John Smyth may never face justice but this individual who was terribly traumatized and driven to attempt suicide could experience tremendous grace in the form of P.J. reaching out to him, learning about his father’s abuse, expressing his most profound sorrow, and offering him his most generous support.

Personally, I think justice is coming and a lot of people will be exposed.  Thank God for a secular news station that was willing to do a six-month investigation in order to expose an alleged sadomasochist and the high-powered church leaders that covered up his reported crimes for over 30 years out of concern for financial loss and reputational harm.  It is just like your history in Covenant Life Church. 

 

Letter 3 to P.J. and CLC Pastors

Summary: After this second letter, I continued to follow the story as best I could.  P.J.’s denials were increasingly incredulous.  Now it was being reported that his uncles and aunts knew about the abuse and the entire board of trustee in Zimbabwe resigned because P.J.’s father refused to stop working with youth when they confronted him on “the beating claims.”  In addition, P.J. knew his father was arrested for culpable homicide and five counts of crimen injuria.  Crimen injuria is “unlawfully, intentionally and seriously impairing the dignity of another.”  This included physical assaults.  As a result, I wrote the Covenant Life pastors a third time.

From: Brent Detwiler (abrentdetwiler@gmail.com)
Sent: Wednesday, February 8, 2017 5:20 PM
To: P.J. Smyth; Robin Boisvert; Dave Brewer; Don DeVries; Jamie Leach; Adam Malcolm; Mark Mitchell; Kevin Rogers; Greg Somerville; Bob Schickler; Dave Brown; David Finch; Tim Harvey; Todd Keeler; Chris Kinsinger; John Leconte; Bo Lotinsky; Jose Troche; Steve Wyzga
Subject: More Evidence - P.J.’s Uncles & Aunts Knew about the Abuse

Here is more evidence showing P.J. has deceived you and CLC about what he knew regarding his father’s abuse of boys and the circumstances surrounding those abuses.  He is not ignorant.  This article comes from The Daily Telegraph.  I have added notes in brackets [ ] with italic print. 

The Daily Telegraph
Family of lawyer accused of beating boys demanded he stopped working with children 
Patrick Foster, Nicola Harley, Peta Thornycroft, Johannesburg 
February 6, 2017 • 6:00AM

Family members of a barrister accused of subjecting boys to savage sadomasochistic beatings tried to stop him working with children, it has emerged.

John Smyth QC [i.e., Queen’s Counsel], a friend of the Archbishop of Canterbury, is accused of abusing teenagers in both Britain and Zimbabwe, having run Christian holiday camps in both countries.

The Daily Telegraph can disclose that his brother-in-law [Jonathan Brooks] and sister-in-law [Janet Brooks] both resigned from the trust that oversaw his mission in Zimbabwe, in protest at his refusal to stop working with children.

Mr Smyth’s brother, Christopher, is also said to have told the barrister to stop his work with young people after becoming aware of the beating claims.

[Note: Everyday more evidence comes out showing many people in the UK and Zimbabwe knew about the physical abuse of boys and young men including close family members.  Against this backdrop, are we to believe P.J. knew nothing about the beatings then and now as he has claimed?  In fact, P.J. told CLC he didn’t even know about any “excessive physical discipline.”]  

The part-time judge moved to Zimbabwe in 1984, after allegations emerged that he had beaten 22 young men in his garden shed in Winchester [England], having persuaded them it would help purge them of their sins.

After moving to Africa, Mr Smyth set up the Zambezi Trust, which was modelled on the work he had carried out in Britain and ran holiday camps for boys from the nation’s elite public schools.

In 1989, the headmaster of Winchester College published a book in which he referred to the beating allegations involving Mr Smyth, identifying him only as the school’s “neighbouring barrister”.

[Note: P.J. was 18 when the book, Road to Winchester, came out referencing the beating allegations by his father in the UK.  Did he never hear about the allegations in the book?]

Mr Smyth immediately wrote to the trustees of the Zambezi Trust, who included Janet Brooks, sister of the barrister’s wife, Anne, and her husband, Jonathan.  He claimed he had been “completely dependent on sleeping pills” at the time of his “extraordinary aberration of judgment”. [An unbelievable deception by John Smyth blaming sleeping pills for his violent beating of boys in the UK from 1978-1982.]

Minutes from the Zambezi Trust show that Mr Brooks, a leading gynaecological surgeon, and his wife joined the other trustees in writing back, saying they would quit unless he withdrew from “direct personal involvement in youth work” in Zimbabwe.

It is understood that the Brooks had a meeting with Christopher Smyth, also a barrister and part-time judge, and his wife, Jayne, who agreed that Mr Smyth should stop working with children.  However, Mr Smyth rejected the trustees’ ultimatum and the group resigned en masse.

[Note: Jonathan and Janet Brooks, Christopher and Jayne Smyth, were P.J.’s uncles and aunts.  Moreover, the entire group of trustees resigned per this report when his father refused to stop working with children in Zimbabwe.  Yet P.J. told CLC on Feb. 4, “I was aware that a delegation of pastors and parents insisted that my father and the Board of Zambesi Holidays make adjustments to camp life, which they did.”  This is so deceptive if the reporting is accurate [which it was].  P.J. doesn’t tell CLC the board of trustees resigned in mass because his father refused to follow their directives.  Something he certainly would have known.  He tells them just the opposite.] 

A friend of Mr and Mrs Brooks said: “It was extremely difficult for them, and they were very courageous.  Both Jonathan and Janet are very principled people and were not prepared to be involved with something where there might be a risk of unsavoury activities, and that’s why they resigned.  They thought he needed treatment.” 

In 1997, Mr Smyth was charged with culpable homicide after a 16-year-old boy was found at the bottom of a swimming pool in 1992.  Several boys then came forward to claim he had beaten them with bats and forced them to swim naked as he watched, although both cases against him collapsed.

[Note: P.J. was 21 in 1992 and probably a camp counselor.  These youth leaders slept in the dormitories with their campers.  He was 28 in 1997 when the charge of culpable homicide and five counts of crimen injuria were publicly brought against his father.  Crimen injuria is “unlawfully, intentionally and seriously impairing the dignity of another.”  Court documents from the time say: “The particular allegations are that [his father] made the complainants walk naked to the swimming pool at night; that he took showers with them in the nude; that he talked to them about masturbation and told them to be proud of their ‘dicks’‚ as Jesus Christ had one; and that he assaulted them on their ‘rear bare buttocks’ with a table tennis bat.”  P.J. had to know about these criminal behaviors including the assaults and yet he told CLC, “I was never aware of any abuse.”]

The Sunday Telegraph yesterday printed a letter from Mr Smyth to parents of boys due to attend a Zambesi Trust camp in 1993.  In it, he wrote that he would shower with the boys and planned to use a wooden bat “fairly liberally” in the event of misbehaviour.

The barrister also wrote how he would encourage the boys to skinny-dip.  He added: “It is all part of the all-boys-together fun of camp”.

[Note: P.J. told CLC that changes were made to the camp in “the early 1990s” during his college years (1989-1993).  And yet his father wrote this letter in July, 1993.  It said in part:

“The younger [youth] leaders sleep in the dormitories with their campers, and we all (including myself from time to time) have our showers with the boys. … I never cane the boys, but I do whack them with a table tennis bat when necessary. … Very occasionally, if a boy offends in a more serious way, I will whack him with a slightly bigger bat which the boys call ‘Jokari’. … Last thing at night the dormitory leaders will sometimes take their group for a short swim in the pool – or just a plunge if it is chilly.  The boys run down in their towels and skinny-dip.”

This was after they made “adjustments to camp life” according to P.J.  All of this points to knowledge of a father who was perverse and abusive.]

Christopher and Jayne Smyth did not return requests for comment, and nor did Mr and Mrs Brooks.

[Note: At this point, there can be no doubt P.J. has lied to you and Covenant Life Church in various ways.  The only question is whether you will deal with it openly and honestly and have him resign as lead pastor.]

 

What P.J. Denied & Affirmed Regarding Knowledge of His Father’s Abuse & When He Did So

Summary: It is so important to understand what P.J. has denied and affirmed regarding his knowledge of his father’s behavior.  He has categorically denied all knowledge of physical abuse (i.e. assaults and beatings).  He has affirmed limited and non-specific awareness of “questions” and “issues.”  This awareness came “several decades later” (i.e., 2012 or later) according to statement one.  It came “in my twenties” (i.e., 1991-1999) according to statement three.  P.J. was forced to change his statement knowing a lengthy investigative report from 1993 would soon surface exposing his chronological lie.  This report documented, as a matter of fact, P.J.’s knowledge of his father’s violent beating of many boys in the UK and Zimbabwe. 

Here is P.J.’s first statement to CLC from February 2.

Statement on UK Media Reports
Date: February 2, 2017
Author: PJ Smyth

I became aware yesterday that a story broke in the UK media reporting that my father, John Smyth, was apparently involved in excessive physical discipline of high school/college aged boys more than three decades ago, when our family lived in the UK.  I was about 10 years old at the time.

Several decades later I became aware that there were questions about my father’s ministry in the UK, although I had no knowledge of specifics.  Reading the reports is deeply troubling, and my heart and prayers go out to anyone who was, or is, affected by this situation in any way.

I’ve already pointed out numerous problems with this statement but I want to highlight two more.  P.J. emphatically states, “Several decades later I became aware that there were questions about my father’s ministry in the UK, although I had no knowledge of specifics.”  Take special note, P.J. says he didn’t know “there were questions” until “several decades later.”  That is an abject lie. 

Compare this assertion with what he says in in his revised and expanded statement two days later on February 4.  He craftily changes his story in a way most people understandably would not notice. 

In my twenties, I gradually became aware that there had been issues surrounding my father’s ministry in the UK.  Nothing specific, but I remember hearing some of my parent’s friends say things like, “… of course those were difficult years for your Dad.”  However, I assumed that it was something relatively minor and it never occurred to me to press my father for detail.”

The story has changed.  It is no longer “several decades later” (2012 or later), it is “in my twenties” (1991-1999).  There is a huge chronological difference.  P.J. had to reboot his story because he knew a lengthy investigative report would soon surface proving he learned about the “issues” in the UK no later than June 1993 when he was 23.  The claim of “several decades later” would be exposed.  More on this later.

What’s important for now, is to observe all the lies that have been told thus far.  And hold on, bigger ones are coming.

Here is the third statement by P.J. to CLC in its entirety.  He added the last two paragraphs to his second statement.  I’ve added comments.

Open Letter from PJ Smyth
Date: February 4, 2017
Author: PJ Smyth
 

Since the release of my brief statement on Thursday, there have been enquiries about what I knew and when.

I want to say again how deeply troubling it is to hear the media reports about my father, and my heart and prayers go out to anyone who has experienced suffering in this situation.

During the time we lived in the UK, I was in boarding school from the age of 8 to 13.  When I was home I never saw or heard anything that led me to suspect my father was engaged in the activities alleged.  I had a happy childhood at home, and my father disciplined me in a manner consistent with the laws and cultural trends of the UK at the time, not in a manner alleged in the recent reports.

[Comment: P.J. covered up for his father.  He learned about his abuses in the UK and Zimbabwe no later than June 1993.  He did not report his father to law enforcement.]

 

We moved to Zimbabwe when I was 13.  My father told me that he felt called out of the legal profession into full-time Christian work.  I attended a number of Zambesi Holidays camps and I was never aware of any abuse.  During the early 1990s when I was studying in South Africa [19889-1993], I was aware that a delegation of pastors and parents insisted that my father and the Board of Zambesi Holidays make adjustments to camp life, which they did.  I was not involved with those interactions.  I do clearly remember the tragic drowning of a fellow camper one year [Dec 1992].  It was devastating to his family and to all of us who knew him.

[Comment: P.J. participated in these vacation and holiday camps.  That means he participated in the lewd and deviant behaviors his father required of all the boys.  He also knew about the “excessive physical discipline.”  It was public knowledge.  For example, his father wrote camp parents in July 1993, “I do whack them with a table tennis bat when necessary. … Very occasionally, if a boy offends in a more serious way, I will whack him with a slightly bigger bat.”  But P.J. knew his father did more than “whack” them.  The previous month, he was presented with overwhelming evidence of criminal abuse, not just bizarre corporal punishment, by Zimbabwe’s top human rights lawyer, David Coltart and four pastors.]

 

In my twenties, I gradually became aware that there had been issues surrounding my father’s ministry in the UK.  Nothing specific, but I remember hearing some of my parent’s friends say things like, “… of course those were difficult years for your Dad.”  However, I assumed that it was something relatively minor and it never occurred to me to press my father for detail.

[Comment: P.J.’s story is evolving of necessity.  He now says he “gradually became aware that there had been issues” but “nothing specific.”  What issues?  He doesn’t say.  Over what period of time?  He doesn’t tell us.  And what does “nothing specific” mean?  He doesn’t explain it.  All vagaries, but worse, all untrue!  He continues.]

 

I believe that the civil authorities are given by God to help protect against wrong-doing.  I am firmly committed to reporting any form of child abuse to the authorities.  These are horrific allegations, and if proven true it is right that my father face justice.

[Comment: P.J. knew about the “horrific allegations” against his father but did not report them to the authorities.  P.J. covered up just like C.J. Mahaney, Joshua Harris and their staffs covered up the sexual abuse of children.]

Sincerely,
PJ Smyth

 

P.J. and His Father Meet with Investigative Team Composed of Esteemed Lawyer David Coltart & Four Zimbabwe Pastors in June 1993

Summary: At a June 1993 meeting with P.J. and his father in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, lawyer David Coltart and several pastors brought up general allegations of what his father had done in the UK and specific allegations of what he had done in Zimbabwe.  This meeting was called for by P.J.  Extensive documentation was presented and oral testimony was given by the pastors who had interviewed numerous boys beaten by his father.  P.J. claims no recollection of these abuse allegations.  After this meeting, a 24-page report was written by Coltart and made its way to P.J. and his father, John.  This report is in the possession of P.J. and the CLC pastors.  It should be released.    

The presentation of evidence included information found in a 1982 report done by the Iwerne Trust in the UK.  Reverend David Fletcher led the internal investigation and Canon Mark Ruston wrote the report.  Here is an excerpt.

1982 UK Report

2.    The Practice began in 1978, with J. [John Smyth] offering a 17-year old the choice of a beating or being reported to parents/school (for shoplifting).  He chose the beating given with the cane in the summer house.

3.    For a term or two, it continued with four 17-years olds, on the bare bottom with a gym shoe (because it leaves less evidence) but was voluntarily accepted as a deterrent to masturbation.  Beatings varied from a dozen to 40 strokes.  (In all mention of figures I quote what they have told me, in every case taking the lower figure).  These were technically all criminal offenses under the Offenses Against the Person Act of 1861, Sec.47.

4.    Since summer 1979 it has gradually escalated, in frequency and severity of beatings and in the number of men involved.

6.    The scale and severity of the practice was horrific.  Five of the 13 I have seen were in it only for a short time.  Between them they had 12 beatings and about 650 strokes.  The other 8 received about 14,000 strokes: 2 of them having some 8,000 strokes over the three years.  The others were involved for one year or 18 months.  8 spoke of bleeding on most occasions (‘I could feel the blood splattering on my legs’ – ‘I was bleeding for 3½ weeks’ ‘I fainted sometime after a severe beating’).  I have seen bruised and scored buttocks, some two-and-a-half months after the beating.  Beatings of 100 strokes for masturbation, 400 for pride, and one of 800 strokes for some undisclosed ‘fall’ are recorded.  The beatings were with garden canes with some sort of a handle.  S, wanting ‘to be the best for God’ beat as hard as he could.

A year or so ago ‘training’ beatings of some 75 strokes every 3 weeks were instituted, as being better than only going down after a ‘fall’, though these persisted.  On told me he was receiving beatings at least every 4/5 days one vacation.  The custom of semi nakedness gave way to complete nakedness ‘to increase humility’.  For training beatings a man undressed himself, for ‘falls’ he submitted to being undressed by the operator [John Smyth].

Immediately following the June 1993 meeting, an evidentiary report was produced by David Coltart and others for law enforcement.  Here is an excerpt from “one camp held in 1991.”  The “beatings in the Zambezi Ministries camps” were like the ones in the United Kingdom.  John Smyth and P.J. received a copy of this report.

1993 Zimbabwe Report

33. During 1991 the incidents of nudity and beatings in Zambezi Ministries camps increased.  In one camp held in 1991 the following happened on camp.

(i)    the younger boys – Forms 1 and 2 - were not permitted to wear under-clothing on the camp (this pertained not only during the day whilst activities were undertaken, but also at night when the boys went to sleep);

(ii)   at shower times Mr. Symth would stand, in the nude, in the vicinity of, or just inside, the shower area and hand to the boys soap and shampoo for their showers;

(iii)  Mr Symth lead the boys in prayers whilst he was naked

(iv)  if a boy was caught wearing underwear at any time corporeal punishment was administered either to the naked buttocks or to the buttocks covered with a pair of shorts only.

 

P.J. Knew About the Allegations of Abuse in Advance & Requested the Meeting with the Investigative Team to Discuss Them

Summary: One of the pastors in the meeting wrote this comment on Todd Wilhelm’s blog, Thou Art The Man.  P.J. knew about the allegations before the June 1993 meeting and requested the meeting to discuss the allegations.    

“I am a pastor in Zimbabwe who met PJ Smyth at his request to discuss the allegations against his father.  He was certainly aware of the issues.  How can I contact you in confidence?” 

The lawyer and pastors did not request the meeting.  P.J. requested the meeting!  And take special note why he requested the meeting.  So, he could “discuss the allegations against his father.”  The allegations included criminal allegations.  These men had gathered evidence for law enforcement so P.J.’s father could be arrested, prosecuted, and tried. 

Todd Wilhelm has written extensively about P.J. and John Smyth in three separate posts.  I highly recommend them.  He includes video, links, and much more.

PJ Smyth's Convenient Memory Loss
Sunday, February 19, 2017

PJ Smyth's Open Letters - A Work in Progress
Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Covenant Life Church Sure Knows How To Pick’em
Friday, February 3, 2017
 

Wilhelm confirms what I have reported above in his post, “PJ Smyth’s Convenient Memory Loss.”

“Shortly after I published the article [Covenant Life Church Sure Knows How To Pick’em] I was made aware of a meeting which took place in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe in June 1993.  This meeting was requested by PJ Smyth.  In attendance at the meeting were PJ Smyth, his father John Smyth, and a group of five men, one of whom was a human rights attorney.  These five men had conducted an intensive investigation of John Smyth after charges of horrid abuse of young boys, including the drowning death of one boy, came to light.

“At this meeting, a lengthy document containing the results of this five-man investigative team was discussed.  The document included detailed accounts of alleged crimes perpetrated by John Smyth. …  

“After the June 1993 meeting at which the investigative team revealed to PJ and John Smyth their detailed findings, PJ Smyth wrote a letter to this team.  In this letter, written in 1994, PJ Smyth stated he would continue to support his father based on the “Gamaliel principle.”…

“This same team of five men from Zimbabwe emailed PJ Smyth a few weeks ago [on Feb 6], reminding him of their meeting in 1993.”

 

“I was never aware of any abuse. … I was not involved with those interactions” –P.J. Smyth

Summary: P.J. certainly knew about the allegations of beating boys and young men before the June 1993 meeting ever took place.  And yet he categorically denied all knowledge of all abuse at all times to Covenant Life Church on February 4.  He further stated he “was not involved with those interactions.”   

“I attended a number of Zambesi Holidays camps and I was never aware of any abuse.  During the early 1990s when I was studying in South Africa [19889-1993], I was aware that a delegation of pastors and parents insisted that my father and the Board of Zambesi Holidays make adjustments to camp life, which they did.  I was not involved with those interactions.”

These are blatant lies: “I was never aware of any abuse” and “I was not involved with those interactions.”  In response, one of the Zimbabwe pastors emailed P.J. two days later to confront him on his denials.  Now, P.J. and the Covenant Life pastors were in real trouble.  One lie led to another lie.  They had to make up a story so they blamed these categorical denials on a “flawed” memory.  

This means P.J. forgot he asked for the meeting.  He forgot he was in the meeting.  He forgot he was with his father to defend him. He forgot being with one of the premier lawyers in Zimbabwe.  He forgot the criminal allegations and written documents that were presented.  He forgot the anguished accounts of physical abuse presented by the four pastors.  All he remembers is “what the building looked like.”  This is beyond ridiculous.  It is pure deception.  No one forgets these kinds of events! 


Letter 4 to P.J. and the CLC Pastors

Summary: This total loss of memory was brought to my attention by a CLC member who recounted what P.J. said during a Q&A session with church members.

“Pastors from Zimbabwe emailed to remind him about a meeting he was at in 1993 concerning problems regarding his father, but even after talking with them last week he only remembers what the building looked like, not the content of the discussions.  So he’s trying to figure out how to be transparent while realizing to his dismay that he’s forgotten significant things. … Otherwise his credibility will always be in question.”   

When this came to my attention, I wrote the CLC pastors a fourth letter and said in part, “Only a fool would believe ‘he’s forgotten significant things’ like ‘the content of the discussions’ with the Zimbabwe pastors in 1993.”  I also said, “You need to let CLC have all the information you received from the Zimbabwe pastors” knowing it would prove P.J.’s guilt.  This time the letter was blocked.  The pastors were not interested in, or allowed to hear my thoughts.  Therefore, I sent the letter below using a different email address.  

From: Brent Detwiler
Sent: Thursday, February 16, 2017 1:16 PM
To: P.J. Smyth; Robin Boisvert; Dave Brewer; Don DeVries; Jamie Leach; Adam Malcolm; Mark Mitchell; Kevin Rogers; Greg Somerville; Bob Schickler; Dave Brown; David Finch; Tim Harvey; Todd Keeler; Chris Kinsinger; John Leconte; Bo Lotinsky; Jose Troche; Steve Wyzga
Subject: P.J. and the Zimbabwe Pastors

This summary was sent to me regarding the information P.J. and Mark [Mitchell] shared during the Q&A and update held after the last two Sunday meetings [Feb 5 & 12].

“BTW, PJ Smyth is devastated by the news about his father.  He described it as having the wind knocked out of his sails and said he and his siblings failed to connect the dots over the years.  He’s going to get some counseling help to re-process the last 30 years of his life.  Pastors from Zimbabwe emailed to remind him about a meeting he was at in 1993 concerning problems regarding his father, but even after talking with them last week he only remembers what the building looked like, not the content of the discussions.  So he’s trying to figure out how to be transparent while realizing to his dismay that he’s forgotten significant things.  The elders and congregation still believe God brought him to lead us at this time, and the timing of the revelations, the day after his installation as our lead elder, doesn’t seem like a coincidence.  So we’re trying to care for the Smyth family while also double-checking whether he really didn’t know of problems with his dad when he interviewed with us.  Otherwise his credibility will always be in question.”

This is the fourth time I have written you.  My previous correspondence is below.  The evidence against P.J. is now overwhelming.  Only a fool would believe “he’s forgotten significant things” like “the content of the discussions” with the Zimbabwe pastors in 1993.  This is right out of his father’s play book.  If you want to understand P.J., you need to understand his father.  Read these two public announcements recently published by John Smyth’s elders in Cape Town at Church-on-Main.  They document John’s deceitful ways including the use of selective amnesia.  P.J. is imitating him.

In 1993, the Zimbabwe pastors met with P.J. and talked about the culpable homicide and crimen injuria that is recorded in this legal document.       

“The applicant [John Smyth], who ran several youth camps in Zimbabwe, was charged with culpable homicide as the result of the drowning of a 16-year-old boy at one of the camps in December 1992.  He was in addition charged with five counts of crimen injuria arising from his alleged conduct at the same camp during April 1993.  The applicant was arrested on 15 September 1997 and taken to a magistrate for initial remand.” (Smyth v Ushewokunze and Anor – ZLR 544 w in the 1997 edition of The Zimbabwe Law Reports)

P.J. was 22 years old in 1993.  He had just graduated from college.  His impressionable memory was very strong.  You don’t forget a meeting with Zimbabwe pastors that are discussing extremely seriously allegations of criminal conduct against your father and looking for evidence you can supply them as his son.   Nor do you forget, “The applicant was arrested on 15 September 1997 and taken to a magistrate for initial remand.”  John Smyth is referred to as the “applicant” because he was applying to get the case dismissed. 

And as I’ve previous noted, even his uncles and aunts knew about all of this as did the entire board of trustees.  P.J. can only remember “what the building looked like.” 

“Jonathan and Janet Brooks, Christopher and Jayne Smyth, were P.J.’s uncles and aunts.  Moreover, the entire group of trustees resigned per this report when his father refused to stop working with children in Zimbabwe.  Yet P.J. told CLC on Feb. 4, “I was aware that a delegation of pastors and parents insisted that my father and the Board of Zambesi Holidays make adjustments to camp life, which they did.” This is so deceptive if the reporting is accurate.  P.J. doesn’t tell CLC the board of trustees resigned in mass because his father refused to follow their directives.  Something he certainly would have known.  He tells them just the opposite.” (Email to CLC Pastors, “More Evidence - P.J.’s Uncles & Aunts Knew about the Abuse,” Feb 8, 2017)   

Given your history of withholding vital evidence and information from the church as pastors, I asked the person who wrote me a couple questions about the correspondence from Zimbabwe. 

Q:  Did P.J. or Mark read the email from the Zimbabwe pastors to everyone at the Q&As or just summarize?  If the latter, have people asked to see the email in entirety?

A:  The emails from Zimbabwe?  PJ just summarized them.

Q:  I would not trust PJ’s or Mark’s summary.  CLC needs to see it in entirety.  Sooner or later it will come out.  You should press them.  I think they are covering up.  Did P.J. or Mark say why they were not making the pastors’ email available?  

A:  It didn’t sound like the email had a lot of details, just along the lines of “Don’t you remember that you were at that meeting in 1993 about your dad?”

This sounds all too familiar.  Withholding and mispresenting information instead of sharing information because it is incriminating.  You need to let CLC have all the information you received from the Zimbabwe pastors.  They obviously contacted P.J. because they know he lied to CLC in his “Open Letter from PJ Smyth” on Feb 4 when he wrote, “I attended a number of Zambesi Holidays camps and I was never aware of any abuse.” 

If P.J. wasn’t already aware of his father’s abuse by 1993 (which is unlikely) [turns out he was aware], this group of pastors made him aware and that is something no son ever forgets about his father.  There are also a host of other evidences about which I have written you that P.J. knew about the lewd, deviant, deceptive and criminal activity of his father.

I was recently asked to write a rebuttal to the false narrative put forth by a CLC member on Thou Art The Man regarding the conspiracy to commit and cover up the sexual abuse of children.  See Brent Detwiler’s Factual Rebuttal of Covenant Life Church Apologist .  I only scratch the surface in this piece but it illustrates some of the ways you have lied, mislead, and deceived members of the church.  For example, the “independent investigation” [regarding sexual abuse] was anything but independent.  It was manifestly biased and prejudicial and intentionally left out vital evidence of an incriminating nature.

Now the same kind of thing is happening again with P.J. because there has never been repentance, confession, and transformation.  And once again, the discipline of the Lord has come upon you.

P.J. needs to be removed like C.J. needed to be removed. 

Instead you make him out to be a hero like Nehemiah under attack by the devil and accusers by the few comments you let through on the website.

Taryn Lee Dube on February 5, 2017
Dear PJ and family
We have not ceased praying for your entire family since seeing the news articles this week.  We trust that our sovereign Father will keep you in the shadow of his wings during this time.  Much love from us.  Don’t cease doing the work set before you

Suzie Kidston on February 6, 2017
Hi P.J and family, I’m so devastated for you all!  Please do NOT cease doing all the good work that you’ve been doing.  That would mean the old devil has won!  GOD IS SUPREME!!  Please remember that!  You have helped me so much when you have preached at CCK, New England Street, Brighton, England.  You are ALL in my thoughts and prayers.  God Bless you and family.  I understand more than you think!!

Marilyn Smith on February 7, 2017
Remember the enemy’s desire to distract and destroy Nehemiah.  Might this horrible business have come to light now because the enemy wants to destroy you and distract you from the great work you have begun here, a work that apparently only you can do?  Let’s continue to build the wall; don’t let the enemy succeed.  We’re in prayer with you.

Peter Giglio on February 7, 2017
Pj and Ashley,
Sherly and I support you and are glad your here.  Don’t be defined by your accusers and continue leading us in the mission.

*We welcome your comments—whether in responding to blog content or comments others have left.  We moderate the comments, so please know that even though we can’t post every one, we do read and appreciate them all. Thanks!

 

P.J. Claims Ignorance of Abuse Allegations because His Father Was Good at Hiding Things – So Good, Lawyers Never Discovered It in Over 25 Years

Summary: P.J. claimed his barrister father was good at hiding the abuse as evidenced by the supposed fact lawyers opposed to him in court never discovered any “dirt” on him over the course of 25 plus years.  If they didn’t discover it, how was P.J. to discover it?  This was an entirely fabricated accounting.  First, John Smyth practiced law for 19 years, not 25 plus years.  Second, the abuse reportedly started in his 13th year of practice which was 1978.  There were only six years (1978-1984), not 25 plus years, when legal opponents could have discovered it. 

But there is more.  The violent beatings were discovered, not by lawyers, but by the Iwerne Trust in 1982 after a close family friend of the Smyth’s tried to commit suicide on his 21st birthday because he was due to receive severe beatings from P.J.’s father.  P.J. knows all about this horrendous account and its discovery in 1982.  Yet he withholds such information from CLC and gives the false impression that no one knew about his father’s abuse.  This family friend who attempted suicide was nine years older than P.J. and regularly came to P.J.’s house and played with him.

Here is what a Covenant Life member reported to me.    

CLC Member: He says he was not mistreated and had a happy childhood.  I’d say a few hundred people were at the Q&A’s.  We don’t claim to know God’s purposes in this--maybe CLC can help the Smyths get through this because of our recent experiences.  No one’s suggested it’s some kind of attack.  Apparently his father, a prominent barrister, is good at hiding things.  PJ noted that his father has been in many high-profile court cases and his opponents would have loved to get this kind of dirt on him to discredit him, yet in 25+ years none discovered it.

Brent: From what I read, a lot of people knew about his abuse.  He stopped practicing law when he left the UK in 1984.  For the next 17 he did the Christian camp in Zimbabwe not lawyering.  Anyway, did they read the email?  That would be important.

I want to focus on this one sentence because it is untrue. 

“PJ noted that his father has been in many high-profile court cases and his opponents would have loved to get this kind of dirt on him to discredit him, yet in 25+ years none discovered it.”

Here is John Smyth’s biography from his website.

John & Anne Smyth
Biography

John and Anne were married in 1968. They have 4 grown up children and 7 grandchildren.

John was educated in the UK and Canada and gained MA and LLB degrees at the University of Cambridge.

He was called to the Bar in 1965 and practiced as a Barrister (Advocate) for 19 years [1964-1984].  In 1978 he was appointed a part-time judge, and in 1979 Queen’s Counsel.

In 1984 John and Anne moved with their family to Zimbabwe to do mission work.  After two years with African Enterprise they founded Zambesi Ministries which they directed for the next 15 years until John reached 60 [2001].

Anne and John now make their home in Cape Town. John is available as a consultant in constitutional law and serves Doctors for Life International and the Justice Alliance of South Africa.

John Smyth practiced law until 1984 when he was forced out of the United Kingdom by virtue of the fact that his beating of boys was discovered in 1982.  When it was discovered by the Iwerne Trust, they kept the information to themselves.  The report they produced said the abuse started in 1978.  What’s the point?  Apparently, no one knew about the abuse until 1982 except the victims. 

That means there was only a period of six years, not 25+ years, during which legal opponents could have discovered the “dirt on him to discredit him.”  Furthermore, John Smyth practiced law for 19 years, not 25 plus years.  These are more misleading statements by P.J.  He wants people to believe he did not know about the abuses in the UK and Zimbabwe because his father was good at hiding things.  Not even top lawyers were able to discover the dirt.  It gets worse.

 

Parents Discover Their Sons Were Being Beaten & Go to Pastors Who in Turn Go to David Coltart Who Investigates & Writes a 24-Page Report

Summary: One of the most famous private schools in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe is the Christian Brothers’ College (i.e. high school).  Some of the boys from this school participated in the Zambesi Ministries camps run by John Smyth.  Parents from Bulawayo discovered their sons were being beaten, etc.  They went to their pastors.  Their pastors went to David Coltart.

This sequence of events was reported in an extremely important article titled, Boys spoke about Smyth’s bizarre behavior which appeared in the The Sunday Independent in South Africa on February 12.  It was written in part by Peta Thornycroft who is a courageous and award winning journalist.  Her part of the story was put on David Coltart’s website.  Remember, Coltart is the lawyer who met with P.J. and his father. 

The entire article should be read but here are some important excerpts underscoring P.J.’s knowledge of people and events.

The Sunday Independent
Boys spoke about Smyth’s bizarre behavior
February 12, 2017

Zimbabwe’s top human rights lawyer David Coltart released details of some of the boys’ suffering within a 24-­page report he released to Independent Newspapers. …

Coltart was asked by a group of churches in Bulawayo to investigate Smyth, his Zambezi Ministries and the holiday camps he established after arriving in Zimbabwe in 1984.

The churches [i.e. pastors] in Bulawayo were approached by parents of some of the boys who had attended Smyth’s holiday camps.  The churches [i.e. pastors] then went to Coltart whose human rights work was well known.

His report details incidents the boys endured and interviews with trustees of Zimbabwe ministries. …

There were five boys from that camp who complained about Smyth’s bizarre behaviour towards them and their parents then laid charges with police in Bulawayo.

The boys were all pupils at Christian Brothers College in Bulawayo.  Their parents also went to see their church leaders in Bulawayo.  And they in turn approached Coltart who said he was happy to do the report pro amicus.

Coltart’s report for the churches which included professional opinions from medical doctors was then released to all those concerned with Smyth’s activities in Zimbabwe, including principals of schools attended by many of the boys who would want to attend the camps. …

Coltart also met several of the trustees of the Zambezi Ministries and at the end of the report there were recommendations that Smyth cease all work with young people and seek professional help. …

Smyth, who travels regularly to the UK, has not taken any calls from media since the story broke last week.  He has not answered emails either.  His pastor, Andrew Thomson, of Church­-on-­Main, has asked Smyth and his wife Anne to cease any leadership role within the church.

The couple live in Bergvliet [South Africa] but have not been seen outside their home.  It is clear from Coltart’s report, that Smyth’s eldest son, PJ Smyth, a former head boy at one of Zimbabwe’s top private schools, knew there was some criticism of his father’s behaviour with teenage boys in Zimbabwe.

PJ Smyth went on to form a private church in Harare called River of Life which still operates in Zimbabwe. Then he came to Johannesburg [South Africa] where he worked in another independent church and in December was hired as a pastor at a church organisation [Covenant Life Church] in Maryland in the US.

 

24-Page Report by David Coltart “Released to All Concerned with Smyth’s Activities”

Summary: You will notice six references to the 24-page report in the online article above.  This is the report Coltart finished writing in 1993 after his meeting with P.J.  It contains the body of evidence he and the four pastors presented to P.J. and his father in June 1993.  The report “details incidents the boys endured and interviews with trustees of Zimbabwe ministries.”  The “detailed incidents” were based on interviews done by the four pastors including the pastor who contacted Todd Wilhelm and emailed P.J. about his denials.  Once completed, the investigative team “released [it] to all concerned with Smyth’s activities.” 

The investigative report was given to parents and principals.  Most schools stopped supporting the camp as a result.  It was given to pastors and medical doctors who recommended John Smyth seek professional help.  It was given to the board of trustees for the Zambezi Ministries camps.  They all resigned including family members.  In fact, prominent members of the board joined in the effort to prosecute P.J.’s father.   The report was also sent to the police and the Attorney General of Zimbabwe.  It finally led to John Smyth’s arrest in September 1997.  Many, many, many people knew about his lewd, deviant, and criminal behavior.  Except for P.J. if you believe his concocted story.  He still claims no recollection of the oral presentation in June 1993 or the 24-page report that followed.   

One other point.  This meeting between Coltart, P.J., his father and the four pastors occurred in Bulawayo.  The five beaten boys mentioned above all went to high school in Bulawayo and that is the same city in which P.J. taught high school for four years.  In all probability, P.J.’s boss, the principle of his school, received a report and I have little doubt P.J. encouraged boys from his school to attend his father’s camp in Harare. 

 

Coltart’s Report Makes Clear P.J. Had Knowledge of His Father’s Behavior

Summary: In stark contrast to P.J.’s denials, Coltart’s report makes clear he had knowledge of his father’s behavior and the “criticism” that surrounded it.  The loudest and strongest criticism of his father’s behavior concerned the violent beating of boys.  This was made explicitly clear to P.J.’s in his meeting with Coltart and the pastors.  

Take special note of the last two paragraphs in the extremely important article, Boys spoke about Smyth’s bizarre behaviour.  They concern P.J.’s knowledge of the abuse.

“It is clear from Coltart’s report, that Smyth’s eldest son, PJ Smyth, a former head boy at one of Zimbabwe’s top private schools, knew there was some criticism of his father’s behaviour with teenage boys in Zimbabwe.”

This is an understatement but nevertheless an important statement.  P.J. is in Coltart’s report!  Why?  Because of the meeting in June 1993.  Members of CLC must ask P.J. and the pastors for a copy of this 24-page report which is in their possession.  The names of victims can be easily redacted.  P.J. claims he had absolutely no knowledge of his father’s abuse.  Coltart’s report clearly shows he did.

The last paragraph in the article identifies P.J.’s current assignment with Covenant Life Church.  Media in the UK, Zimbabwe and South Africa know CLC pastors have a long history of not reporting the sexual abuse of children to law enforcement.  They also know P.J. is not being truthful.     

“PJ Smyth went on to form a private church in Harare called River of Life which still operates in Zimbabwe.  Then he came to Johannesburg [South Africa] where he worked in another independent church and in December was hired as a pastor at a church organisation [Covenant Life Church] in Maryland in the US.”

 

The Gamaliel Letter from P.J. to David Coltart and the Zimbabwe Pastors After Their June 1993 Meeting

Summary: Seven or eight months after P.J.’s meeting in June 1993, he wrote Coltart and the four pastors in defense of his father.  He laid out the Gamaliel principle from Acts 5:33-40.  The pastors wrote him back in February 1994.  P.J. never answered their letter.  This timeline shows P.J.’s recollection of events over the course of many months.  His memory was doing just fine!  

The members of CLC should ask the CLC pastors to release P.J.’s Gamaliel letter for them to read.  If they don’t have it, they can easily get it from the Zimbabwe pastors who contacted them.

This letter is one more piece of concrete evidence against P.J.  He was using (I mean misusing) Acts 5:33-40 to justify ongoing support of his father.  Here are verses 38 and 39,

“Therefore, in the present case I [Gamaliel] advise you: Leave these men alone!  Let them go!  For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.  But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” 

The letter from P.J. was written in early 1994.  The pastors responded to P.J. in February 1994.  Of course, P.J. doesn’t remember any of this either.  Here is what Todd Wilhelm reported on the matter in PJ Smyth’s Convenient Memory Loss.

“Throughout all this, PJ Smyth said that he “attended a number of Zambesi Holiday camps and I was never aware of any abuse.” When PJ wrote these words, I had highly credible information from my source that he was being deceitful. … After the June 1993 meeting at which the investigative team revealed to PJ and John Smyth their detailed findings, PJ Smyth wrote a letter to this team. In this letter, written in 1994, PJ Smyth stated he would continue to support his father based on the “Gamaliel principle.”

 

The Horrendous Letter from Executive Pastor Mark Mitchell

Summary: Now we come to the grand finale - a letter sent to the members of Covenant Life on February 22 by executive pastor Mark Mitchell’s on behalf of all the pastors.  It is a grievous work of astonishing deceit.  That should surprise no one. 

Mitchell played a major role in concealing the truth about the conspiracy to cover up the sexual abuse of children by putting forth a biased and prejudicial report to CLC in October 2014 that did not include testimony from victims and excluded incriminating evidence against perpetrators and the pastors who covered up their crimes including those of convicted felon, Nathaniel Morales.     

What we have now is a repeat performance.  Like the report then, like the letter now.  Mitchell knows if P.J. goes down, the pastors go down and so does the church.  Therefore, lying, deceit and misrepresentation are in order!  I’ve interspersed comments throughout Mitchell’s letter. 

FROM HERE FORWARD, THE REMAINDER OF MY ARTICLE SHOULD BE READ IN ENTIRETY.  THERE ARE NO MORE SUMMARIES.

From: Mark Mitchell - Covenant Life Church <mmitchell@covlife.org>
Date: February 22, 2017 at 11:15:14 AM EST
To: CLC Members
Subject: Update from the Elders

Dear Church,

I am writing today on behalf of the elders to update you on our latest discussions about the allegations against John Smyth and PJ’s communication in response.

We have been dismayed by recent media reports coming out of the UK and Africa of extreme physical abuse by John Smyth.  Our hearts and prayers are with those who have suffered or are suffering in these circumstances.  We support the civil authorities in their God-given role to investigate and resolve any and all wrongdoing.

[Comment: The reports of “extreme physical abuse” by the media are basically the same reports P.J. was told about in June 1993.  I hope the civil authorities investigate P.J. as one who did not report his father’s abuse and may have sought to obstruct his prosecution.  There is also reason to believe he may know of physical abuse carried out by others.  For instance, during his 11 years in boarding school.]

 

As we began to read these reports, questions naturally arose: Did PJ know of such allegations against his father?  If so, when did he learn of them?  Anticipating these questions and more, PJ wrote an open letter on February 4.  Among other things, PJ stated in this letter that he was “aware that a delegation of pastors and parents insisted that [his] father and the Board of Zambesi Holidays make adjustments to camp life.”  He also wrote that he “was not involved with those interactions.”

[Comment: And he wrote, “I was never aware of any abuse.”  Mark Mitchell doesn’t quote this emphatic and categorical denial.  He must suffer from the same loss of memory as P.J.!  This is the most important line in P.J.’s open letter (i.e., his 3rd statement to CLC).  Incredulously, Michell never answers the question “Did PJ know of such allegations against his father?”  Nor the follow up, “If so, when did he learn of them?”  Why?  Because honest answers to these questions would be the end of P.J. Smyth as lead pastor!

P.J. made his first statement to CLC on February 2, not February 4.  It was titled, Statement on UK Media Reports.  Mitchell also leaves this out.  In the first statement, P.J. says his father “was apparently involved in excessive physical discipline of high school/college aged boys” in the UK.  In so saying, he denies all knowledge of the abuses in the UK.  That too was a lie.  There was no “apparent” about it.  P.J. knew about the abuse in the UK like he knew about the abuse in Zimbabwe. 

Furthermore, P.J. makes no mention of anything related to the lewd, deviant, and abusive activities of his father in Zimbabwe in the first statement.  P.J. was forced to amend the first statement when Todd Wilhelm posted Covenant Life Church Sure Knows How To Pick’em on February 3. 

As a result, P.J. suddenly remembers in his third statement (i.e., Open Letter from P.J. Smyth) that “a delegation of pastors and parents insisted that [his] father and the Board of Zambesi Holidays make adjustments to camp life” but he can’t remember meeting with that delegation of pastors in June 1993.  In fact, he confidently remembers he “was not involved with those interactions.”  Wow!  Moreover, P.J. lies when he says the pastors, parents and board were asking for “adjustments.”  No, they were doing far more.  They were collecting evidence for the prosecution of his father and he knows it.]

 

Two days [Mon. Feb. 6] after posting his open letter, PJ received emails from a UK reporter and a pastor in Zimbabwe that referenced his attendance at a meeting in June of 1993 where certain allegations of his father’s misconduct were discussed.  Though he could not remember details of the meeting, PJ immediately informed the elders that his open letter was inaccurate.  The following day [Tues. Feb. 7] he and his wife Ashleigh spoke directly with the Zimbabwe pastor.

[Comment: The UK reporter had the 24-page report that noted P.J.’s participation in the June 1993 discussion with David Coltart and the four Zimbabwe pastors.  I think this reporter was Cathy Newman from Channel 4 News UK who broke the story about John Smyth.  She had received the 24-page report from Coltart on Saturday, February 4 per sources.  Once again, P.J. had to change his story in response to being exposed.  The emails from both the reporter and the pastor should be given to CLC.

Mitchell does not connect the dots for CLC when he references P.J.’s “attendance at a meeting in June of 1993 where certain allegations of his father’s misconduct were discussed.”  He should be open and honest and tell everyone this meeting was requested by P.J. because lawyer David Coltart and the four pastors were gathering evidence to prosecute his father. 

And in a sickening expression of deceit, Mitchell says “allegations of his father’s misconduct were discussed.”  No, allegations of his father’s abuse were discussed in detail especially as it pertained to the beatings of boys in Zimbabwe.  This is clear in Coltart’s 24-page report.  That’s why the four pastors were in attendance.  They had interviewed some of the beaten boys and conveyed the details to P.J.  But remember what P.J. categorically said in his open letter to CLC, “I was never aware of any abuse” in his father’s camp.    

The spin further intensifies with this statement.  “Though he could not remember details of the meeting, PJ immediately informed the elders that his open letter was inaccurate.”  This is supposed to make P.J. appear credible.  Nonsense.  He is caught once again.  He had no choice but to forward the emails and say his open letter was “inaccurate.”

And suddenly for the second time, P.J.’s memory is working again.  Whereas, he emphatically denied any knowledge of, or participation in, any such meeting; he now recalls the meeting.  Marvelous!  Given these unbelievable explanations, some of the Covenant Life pastors and members have wondered if P.J. suffers from repressed memories (not a faulty memory) due to childhood trauma or the trauma he suffered in the meeting with his father.  Reportedly, “He’s going to get some counseling help to re-process the last 30 years of his life.”  Please don’t!  His problem is not repressed memories, it is deceit.  He doesn’t need counseling.  He needs rebuke.

So, P.J. is contacted by the UK reporter and one of the Zimbabwe pastors and suddenly remembers the June 1993 meeting but now “he could not remember details of the meeting” according to Mitchell.  What is that supposed to mean?  It implies P.J. now remembers the allegations of abuse just not the details.  Mitchell should be explicit in answering his own question.  Really? 

And then Mitchell gives this esoteric description about P.J.’s “attendance at a meeting in June of 1993 where certain allegations of his father’s misconduct were discussed.”  Allegations of misconduct?  No, specific allegations of criminal abuse were discussed.  This kind of manipulative statement by Mitchell is par for the course.

So, “Did PJ know of such allegations against his father?”  Absolutely!  “If so, when did he learn of them?”  Before the June 1993 meeting but he certainly learned more about the criminal allegations during the detailed presentation of evidence at the meeting.

Rather than clearly answering these questions, Mitchell pivots and says P.J. “could not remember details of the meeting.”  This is a dramatic shift!  A new narrative is emerging.  It is no longer, “I was never aware of any abuse. … I was not involved with those interactions.”  It is now, I don’t remember the details.  Nice try!

Folks, I don’t remember the “details” of what I did yesterday if you mean miniscule details.  I do remember particulars of major events in my life going back to childhood.  Like winning the tuba competition in 5th grade.  Shooting my first buck in 6th grade.  Going on my first date in 7th grade.  Making an open field tackle that won the football game in 8th grade.  You get the idea.  I’d certainly remember a major meeting at age 22 that included my father with five prominent leaders who were making a criminal case against him for violently beating boys over the past 15 years.  No one forgets such a meeting unless they suffer from advanced dementia.  P.J. may not remember the minutia but he certainly remembers plenty of details.]

 

Members of our elder team subsequently contacted the pastor from Zimbabwe as well as pastors in South Africa familiar with the situation to inquire about PJ’s knowledge of his father’s work in Zimbabwe.  Based on multiple discussions and the review of relevant documents, the elders concur with PJ that his open letter was inaccurate in stating that he “was not involved with those interactions.”  However, we also believe PJ was seeking to communicate honestly and in a timely way what he remembered.  We believe he acted in good faith but his recollection of these earlier events was flawed.

[Comment: One more time.  Here is what P.J. said in his statements to Covenant Life Church.  Mitchell and the CLC pastors spin his lies and turn them into inaccuracies due to a flawed memory while commending him for “seeking to communicate honestly and in a timely way what he remembered.”  Here is what he remembered.  I’ve underlined for emphasis. 

Statement on UK Media Reports
P.J. Smyth
February 2, 2017
 

I became aware yesterday that a story broke in the UK media reporting that my father, John Smyth, was apparently involved in excessive physical discipline of high school/college aged boys about three decades ago, when our family lived in the UK. … Several decades later I became aware that there were questions about my father’s ministry in the UK although I had no knowledge of the specifics.

Open Letter from PJ Smyth
P.J. Smyth
February 4, 2017

I attended a number of Zambesi Holidays camps and I was never aware of any abuse.  During the early 1990s when I was studying in South Africa, I was aware that a delegation of pastors and parents insisted that my father and the Board of Zambesi Holidays make adjustments to camp life, which they did.  I was not involved with those interactions.  … In my twenties, I gradually became aware that there had been issues surrounding my father’s ministry in the UK.  Nothing specific, but I remember hearing some of my parent’s friends say things like, “… of course those were difficult years for your Dad.”  However, I assumed that it was something relatively minor and it never occurred to me to press my father for detail.”

This is so deceitful it makes me laugh.  I love the line about “I remember hearing some of my parent’s friends say…I assumed that is was something relatively minor.”  He remembers comments about “difficult years for your Dad” but he doesn’t remember a major meeting of the greatness importance with David Coltart and the four pastors from Bulawayo that included his father where they discussed general allegations of abuse in England and specific allegations of abuse in Zimbabwe.

Furthermore, he says “It never occurred to me to press my father for details.”  P.J. is a liar.  Can you imagine the discussion he and his father had after the June 1993 meeting?  I don’t care who the CLC pastors line up to defend P.J.  Their testimony about his “good faith” means nothing.  The facts are clear.  P.J. knew the “issues” were not “relatively minor.”  He knew they were major and he’s know it for over 25 years!    

Mitchell mentions “the review of relevant documents.”  In my fourth letter to the pastors on February 16, I exhorted them to share all the information in their possession with Covenant Life Church. 

“This sounds all too familiar.  Withholding and mispresenting information instead of sharing information because it is incriminating.  You need to let CLC have all the information you received from the Zimbabwe pastors.” 

At this point, CLC members must demand their pastors release the email from the UK reporter, the email from the Zimbabwe pastor, the 24-page report from David Coltart, the Gamaliel letter from P.J., and everything else in their possession.  Why?  Because they are utterly untrustworthy.  People need to see the evidence.  This concerns their lead pastor.  But this will never happen. Why?  Because such evidence would further prove P.J. is lying and that is the end of him as lead pastor.]     

 

Likewise, the Zimbabwe pastors who attended the June 1993 meeting have told us they do not believe PJ was being deceitful in his open letter but instead was struggling to remember details from events over two decades ago.  In addition, family, friends, and ministry colleagues who have known PJ for many years affirm PJ’s consistent pattern of integrity and honesty.  And ever since the media reports about his father broke, our experience with PJ is that he has been humble, open and eager to do whatever would honor the Lord and best serve the church.

[Comment:  I don’t believe the Zimbabwe pastors told the CLC pastors that P.J. “was struggling to remember details from events” in his open letter.  Why?  Because the open letter was never about P.J. remembering details from events.  It was about events!  Major events!  Like the entire Zambesi Camp board of trustees resigning.  Like his father’s arrest in September 1997.  Not just the June 1993 meeting, though that is enough. 

P.J. never claimed he could not remember details in his open letter.  That is not the issue.  Rather, he emphatically and categorically claimed no knowledge of ever interacting with the pastors and no knowledge of any abuse in the UK and Zimbabwe.  That is what he remembered and remembered well!  Mitchell is deceitfully changing the subject from “events” to “details from events.”  What a ruse! 

Here is another question for the CLC pastors.  When P.J. went through the vetting process to become lead pastor did he tell them or Pat Ennis and his Search Committee about his father’s lewd, deviant, sadistic, and criminal behavior and his knowledge of the same?  Not a chance!  They would never have hired him if he did. 

Further, I’m sure P.J. was asked by the pastors and Search Committee about his personal and pastoral experience and knowledge of physical and sexual abuse.  For example, whether he was abused?  Whether anyone he knew was abused?  Whether he reported suspected abusers to law enforcement in the past?  CLC members should ask to know all P.J. was asked in this regard and how he answered.

In fact, I’d like to know what he told immigration agents during his interview at the U.S. Consulate in Johannesburg in October 2016.  I guarantee he said nothing about his father or knowledge of his father’s crimes.

P.J. has known about his father’s terrible abuse of boys for 25 years but covered it up just like CLC pastors covered up Nathaniel Morales’ abuse of boys for 25 years.  If P.J. is “humble, open and eager to do whatever would honor the Lord and best serve the church,” he will come clean and resign as the lead pastor.]

 

Next steps:

  • The elders desire to hear from you.  We welcome your questions.  Feel free to talk with us on Sundays or at other church events, or call or email us.  We have an online form for submitting questions and comments as well.
  • For those of you who have already submitted questions, the elders will begin reaching out to you personally.  We will also meet to discuss additional contexts for the elders and church members to dialogue about these issues.
  • Finally, given the emotional impact of this situation, we will be facilitating care and counseling for PJ and Ashleigh. 

[Comment: Ask the elders-pastors to go through what I have written line by line AND provide you all the documents in their possession including the 24-page report.  Let’s see how welcoming they are at that point.  Of course, they will have excuses for why this can’t be done.  Respectfully but firmly challenge them.

“The emotional impact of this situation” has nothing to do with P.J. learning about his father’s abuse.  He has known about it for decades.  I find the following comments deeply offensive because they are profoundly deceptive.  They come from P.J.’s written statements to CLC, a video statement on Vimeo, and a CLC member.

Statement on UK Media Reports
P.J. Smyth
February 2, 2017

Reading the reports is deeply troubling, and my heart and prayers go out to anyone who was, or is, affected by this situation in any way.

Word from PJ on Recent Media Reports in UK (Vimeo)
February 2, 2017

Hi Covenant Life.  This is Thursday, the second of February, just after lunch and this is one of my regular video shorts although I am sorry to say this one has a particularly solemn theme to it.  I became aware late yesterday afternoon that a story had broken in the UK media pertaining to my father when he lived in the UK, 30 years or more ago.  We are still reeling from the news as our immediate family.

OpenLetter from PJ Smyth
February 4, 2017

I want to say again how deeply troubling it is to hear the media reports about my father, and my heart and prayers go out to anyone who has experienced suffering in this situation. … These are horrific allegations, and if proven true it is right that my father face justice.

CLC Member Reporting on Q&As
February 15, 2017

“BTW, PJ Smyth is devastated by the news about his father.  He described it as having the wind knocked out of his sails and said he and his siblings failed to connect the dots over the years.”

These statements anger me and they should anger everyone reading them!  P.J. is pretending he knows nothing about “these horrific allegations” which must be “proven true.”  He finds the reports “deeply troubling” and he is “reeling from the news.” It has “knocked [the wind] out of his sails.”  He audaciously opines, “My heart and prayers go out to anyone who was, or is, affected by this situation in any way” as though he is ignorant and “failed to connect the dots over the years.”

Mitchell promotes this charade.  “Given the emotional impact of this situation, we will be facilitating care and counseling for PJ and Ashleigh.”  The “emotional impact” is not due to learning about the horrific allegations just now in 2017.  P.J. and Ashleigh married immediately after their college graduation in 1993.  This was just before or after the June 1993 meeting.  Mitchell gives the false impression they need “care and counseling” because the allegations about P.J.’s father are new to them.  That is definitely not true of P.J.] 

 

As I wrote last February, our society instinctively knows abuse of any kind is abhorrent, and our laws rightly reflect its grievous nature and devastating effects.  Covenant Life Church shares this abhorrence and condemns abuse in all its forms.  We strive to be a community where victims of abuse and all injustice find healing and hope.

--Mark Mitchell

[Comment: This last paragraph requires a book length response.  Until completed, I’d recommend this short response in Brent Detwiler’s Factual Rebuttal of Covenant Life Church Apologist.  Covenant Life has a long history of enabling abuse and covering up abuse going back to 1991 or earlier.  I trust that ended with the 46-page lawsuit in May 2013 or the conviction of Nathaniel Morales in May 2014. 

 

“It is not strictly accurate to say, I was not involved with those interactions” –P.J. Smyth

Mark Mitchell’s horrendous letter above was sent out to all members on behalf of the 18 Covenant Life pastors on February 22.  That same day, P.J. added the following to his Open Letter from P.J. Smyth with their full support.

UPDATE, FEBRUARY 22: Since writing this I have realized that it is not strictly accurate to say, “I was not involved with those interactions” and I am sorry for the confusion this has caused.  I was seeking to write in a timely way what I remembered, but my memory was flawed. The Covenant Life elders have commented here. —PJ Smyth

Here is the quote to which P.J. refers in its larger context. 

“During the early 1990s when I was studying in South Africa [19889-1993], I was aware that a delegation of pastors and parents insisted that my father and the Board of Zambesi Holidays make adjustments to camp life, which they did.  I was not involved with those interactions.”

Now P.J. tells us, “I have realized that it is not strictly accurate to say, ‘I was not involved with those interactions.’”  What is going on here?  Follow carefully. 

Remember, P.J. was the one who called for the meeting with David Coltart and the four Zimbabwe pastors in June 1993.  That was AFTER he graduated from college in 1993.  In the paragraph above, he tells us some of what he knew BEFORE he graduated.  That is, “a delegation of pastors and parents” were insisting “adjustments” be made to “camp life.”  That is why he requested the meeting with the pastors upon graduation.  He wanted to talk about the allegations.  P.J. is telling us a half-truth which is FAR from the whole truth.  What is missing?  It should be obvious by now.

P.J. emphatically stated in his NOT so open letter, “I was never aware of any abuse” in Zimbabwe.  That’s why he couldn’t say anything about his meeting in June 1993.  He had to totally leave it out.  And now in his latest “Update,” he would have us believe he just “realized that it is not strictly accurate” to say he didn’t interact with the Zimbabwe pastors.  Rarely, have I observed such skillful and refined treachery.  It is reminiscent of C.J. Mahaney, Dave Harvey and Mark Prater.  He has joined their elite club. 

As I write I am laughing out loud and intermittently repeating “NOT STRICTLY ACCURATE!”  I will remember that line the rest of my life.  I agree with you P.J.  It is not strictly accurate to leave out your interaction with Coltart and the pastors with your father by your side as they presented overwhelming evidence of his criminal behavior!  I’m glad you finally “realized” it.  My laughter has quickly turned to mourning. 

P.J., I sincerely hope you repent.  If you do, “not strictly accurate” will become “not remotely accurate,” “my memory was flawed” will become “my lips were lying,” and “I am sorry for the confusion this has caused” will become “I am broken for the destruction I have wrought.” 

The same is true of the 18 pastors at Covenant Life Church.  I know 12 of these 18 men and trained or discipled most of them in one way or another.  The downfall of Sovereign Grace Ministries and Covenant Life Church has always been personal for me.  Not in the angry sense, or bitter sense, but in the relational and missional sense.  I want them to succeed. 

These men were friends and colleagues and I deeply grieve their loss of integrity which seems beyond recovery.  They must all step down for their deceitful, “Update from the Elders.”  It is scandalous in nature.  The pastors are covering up for P.J. Smyth and deceiving the church by design in the process.  Therefore, it is incumbent upon the members to call for their resignations.  If they are not forthcoming, people should leave the church.  I say this without malice.  

Confronting these pastors is the duty of every member and a matter of integrity.  You can’t remain silent or indifferent in the face of such egregious sins.  I sincerely hope P.J. and the pastors repent and Covenant Life is somehow preserved in godliness but that will not happen until Jesus Christ is followed as Lord and obeyed as Head of his Body, the church.

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