‘Bible-basher’ Smyth showered naked and discussed sex with young Cape Town men‚ church reveals

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Pastor Andrew Thomson‚ of Church-on-Main in Wynberg‚ Cape Town‚ said three concerns emerged from the probe into the former Justice Alliance of South Africa head accused of savagely beating boys at a Christian holiday camp in the UK‚ and once charged over the death of a 16-year-old at a camp in Zimbabwe.

In a statement on behalf of church elders‚ Thomson said Smyth’s “pastorally unwise” behaviour involved:

– “His practice of meeting young men at a well-known Cape Town sports club that began with a game of squash‚ was followed by a shower in a common shower‚ then lunch over which we were told John would make generally unsolicited enquiries about the young men’s experience of pornography‚ masturbation and other sexual matters.”

– “Offering his advice regarding sexual matters that left the person feeling uncomfortable. Mostly this seems to have occurred on John’s first meeting with the young men we spoke with.”

– “A heavy-handed style of leadership… John became upset with individuals when they failed to meet up to his suggested commitment towards his meetings and forums.”

Thomson said the events since Channel 4 News in the UK aired a documentary about Smyth’s activities in the UK and Zimbabwe had convinced church elders to make a full disclosure of their history with Smyth‚ 75‚ and his wife Anne‚ 72‚ who live in Bergvliet.

The 2200-word statement revealed that during their investigation‚ the church elders spoke to a man who attended a Zambesi Holidays camp in Zimbabwe‚ run by Smyth‚ in the early 1990s.

“This man explained to us his bad experiences on that particular camp. On 11 September‚ 2016‚ the father of this gentlemen emailed us and mentioned that he knew of a case against John‚ while John was living in the UK.

“This was the first time we heard of anything at all relating to issues with John’s ministry in the UK.”

Thomson said he spoke to Smyth on September 15 about the elders’ concerns‚ and asked why he had not been open about being a charge of culpable homicide in Zimbabwe‚ which was later dropped.

“We also asked John if there was anything regarding his time in the UK‚ prior to him coming out to Zimbabwe‚ that we should be aware of.

“To these concerns John stated that the case in Zimbabwe had been brought by himself to the Supreme Court in order to clear his name of what he viewed as malicious rumours and unfair accusations swirling at the time.

“He also led Andrew to believe that there was nothing in his past in the UK that we needed to know about.”

In an email to Thomson on October 9‚ Smyth launched an attack on the Church-on-Main leadership team‚ said Thomson.

“He called into question our ability to deal with confrontational issues‚ attacking one elder in particular in a serious fashion.

“The elders then took time to discuss what steps should be taken next. We all agreed that our only option was to send a reply email to John. This was proof-read by the whole eldership team and sent to John on 1 November 2016. By now John and Anne had pulled away from most Church-on-Main meetings and forums.

“On 3 November‚ 2016‚ John replied to us by email‚ thanking us for our lengthy reply. However‚ his reply did not resolve any of the concerns we had raised. This impasse continued through November.”

On December 2‚ the elders wrote to the Smyths telling them:

– They were being removed as church leaders;

– The concerns about Smyth’s “pastoral practice” remained; and

– A face-to-face meeting was needed.

“John replied to our email on 5 December‚ 2016‚ reiterating his and Anne’s desire not to meet with us‚ and once again calling into question our ability as elders to lead the church in a satisfactory manner.

“On Monday‚ 30 January‚ Andrew received a message from John requesting him to urgently meet John at his home in Bergvliet. At this meeting John revealed to Andrew that he had received an email outlining what was going to be aired on Channel 4 in the UK in the coming week.

“This was the first time any elder at Church-on-Main was made aware of the nature and the gravity of the allegations about John’s ministry in the UK.

“John was requesting that Andrew as his pastor would call the UK and vouch for him‚ saying that he was in good standing in the church community. At this point Andrew said this was not possible as John was currently suspended from leadership and that there were unresolved issues between John and the elders of Church-on-Main.”

Thomson and elder Mark Agar met the Smyths on February 1. “Our counsel to John was to fly immediately back to the UK and face up to any consequences of any potential misconduct.

“In our meeting John did acknowledge that something of a serious nature had taken place in the UK and that he did regret certain occurrences from his past.

“John also stated that in his opinion many of the allegations from the UK were inaccurate and grossly exaggerated.”

Thomson said the Smyths stopped responding to messages from church leaders the following day.

“Regarding whether we as elders have a duty to report anything to civil authorities‚ as yet nothing has come to light that is criminal‚ as best we can ascertain.

“We have been deeply troubled by the allegations coming from the UK regarding John‚ and our hearts and prayers go out to anyone who has experienced suffering in this regard.

“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.”

 – TMG Digital/TimesLIVE

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