And the lawyer’s pastor son‚ PJ Smyth‚ said: “These are horrific allegations‚ and if proven true it is right that my father face justice.”
In a statement on Sunday to the Cape Town congregation Smyth has been part of for two years‚ church elders said the former Justice Alliance of South Africa leader should also “admit‚ if necessary‚ to any accusation that holds substance and apologise‚ asking for forgiveness and mercy”.
The Wynberg church has asked Smyth‚ 75‚ and his wife‚ Anne‚ to stay away from its services and meetings until the allegations of “terrible misconduct” against the former part-time judge are resolved.
A TV documentary last week reported that Smyth left the UK for Zimbabwe in 1984 after a hushed-up report by a church charity said he administered savage beatings on boys who attended camps at Winchester College‚ Hampshire.
He arrived in South Africa in 2001 after the dropping of a culpable homicide charge linked to the drowning of a 16-year-old at a Zambesi Holidays camp for Christian teenagers.
Church-on-Main pastor Andrew Thomson told worshippers on Sunday that a “fair number of people … have had moments of counselling and group discipleship with John”.
Elders were available “should anyone feel the need to discuss the nature of‚ or content of‚ their experience. Similarly‚ if you think there is someone you would like to prompt us to follow up with‚ please do so.”
He added: “If our having had John as a leader of a discipleship group or his role in any form of ministry has led to hurt or risk to anyone‚ or to bringing the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ into disrepute in any way‚ for this we apologise”.
The church’s three Cape Town congregations have been invited to a members-only meeting on Wednesday to discuss the Smyths. Elders have offered counselling to the couple‚ who have left their Bergvliet home and failed to respond to numerous requests for comment.
PJ Smyth‚ in a letter to the congregation of Covenant Life Church in Maryland‚ US‚ said his 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”.
“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‚” said PJ‚ who has just left Johannesburg after 10 years at the helm of several GodFirst churches.
“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‚ 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 do clearly remember the tragic drowning of a fellow camper one year. It was devastating to his family and to all of us who knew him.
“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 parents’ 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.
“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.”