Bishop of Maidstone’s Pastoral Response to the Fletcher Report

Bishop of Maidstone, the Rt Revd Rod Thomas has released his pastoral response to the Thirtyone:8 Report regarding Jonathan Fletcher. The response was sent privately to the parishes under the bishop’s care and has since been made available for public dissemination. It has passed by, largely unnoticed by the public.

After an opening reflection, his response included 3 assurances, then asked a question of those under his episcopal oversight.

He wrote:

“First, I want to assure you that I personally will be taking the findings and recommendations of the report very seriously. I am particularly troubled by what the report has to say about a climate of fear among conservative evangelicals, and the existence of closed circles which have inhibited people from drawing attention to misbehaviour, the inappropriate exercise of power, and abuse. The fact that I have never personally experienced this fear may well be an indication of my own lack of awareness – and I want to do something about that. There may well be things that I have not seen that I really should have seen, and I want to take this matter very seriously. I know that the ReNew network has committed itself to a process of listening, reflecting and repenting; I want to do likewise and to start by listening to what anyone has to say about experiences they have been through which have marked or damaged them.”

He then offered his personal contact information for anyone wishing to have a conversation about the circumstances and for anyone wishing to speak with someone else, contact details for his Chaplain and Pastoral Advisers.

His second assurance:

“Secondly, I want to assure you that I believe it is right to hold myself to account and will also be following up those recommendations in the report that relate to the wider church. Specifically, I am a suffragan of the Archbishop of Canterbury and am accountable to him. Accordingly I have written to him with a full account of how I first came to hear of Jonathan Fletcher’s abusive behaviour in September 2018 and what I did in the months that followed. In my letter, I made clear that if he believed I had acted inappropriately, I would resign.”

The Archbishop’s response to Bishop Thomas’ offer of resignation will be in a separate article.

His third assurance:

“Thirdly, I want to assure you that I will do everything I can to help local churches – whether they are parish churches or congregations in non-parochial settings – to assess their own policies, practices and behaviour and together build a more healthy culture. In a few weeks I hope to release the results of a survey of female ministers (both voluntary and paid) and produce guidance materials on how we can better promote the flourishing of all who minister in our churches, both men and women. I shall also be working to establish a lay-led ‘Implementation Group’ to assess the help that is available to parishes as they seek to build and maintain healthy cultures and to commission extra assistance if necessary.”

Then came his question:

“Will you join with me in seeking to build a healthy culture so that, together, we can expose what is wrong (Ephesians 5:11); care for one another; act in obedience to the apostolic command to ‘keep your conduct honourable’ (1 Peter 2:12); and enable presbyters to be ‘well thought of by outsiders, so that (they) may not fall into disgrace, into the snare of the devil’ (1 Timothy 3:7)?”