A new and dark scandal comes beating at the door of P.J. Smyth’s Covenant Life Church. This is a fast moving situation and this is the first of several posts. This is the analysis of P.J. Smyth’s statements regarding his father, John Smyth. John Smyth’s alleged abuse occurred in the United Kingdom and also there was the death of a 16 year old boy in Zimbabwe allegedly at his father’s hands. Brace yourself Covenant Life Church this I fear is the beginning.
“If you shut up truth and bury it under the ground, it will but grow, and gather to itself such explosive power that the day it bursts through it will blow up everything in its way.”
“The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.”
And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
John 8:32 NLT
Recently a new and dark scandal started to taint Covenant Life Church. I would like to give credit to Todd Wilhelm for writing about it. This blog has written a lot about P.J. Smyth over the past two years. Some of the articles I have written have been the most read articles at this blog. They have been read by members of Covenant Life Church here in the United States and also have been read in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Africa. The Senior Pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland came to the United States from South Africa. These are a few of the articles that I have written if you are learning about P.J.
- “From CJ Mahaney to PJ Smyth at Covenant Life Church? Some Thoughts from an Outsider” deals with a review of P.J. when he was being considered for the Senior Pastor position. This will give you a good biography of P.J. Smyth.
- “What is PJ Smyth’s Advance Movement? An Overview of its Doctrine, Hubs, Mission, Leadership and Finances; Also its Global Presence.” This is an overview of the Advance Movement which is by P.J. Smyth. This African based church planting movement is slowly breaking into the United States.
- This is “An Open Letter to P.J. Smyth” that I wrote after he was selected as the Senior Pastor of Covenant Life Church. This is how I believed he should proceed, and what he could learn from Nelson Mandela.
- “Covenant Life Church Update: P.J. Smyth’s Visa Petition is Granted.” This was written when P.J. Smyth got his Visa and could come to work in the United States from South Africa.
A new scandal has come to my attention which is very dark. It has created quite a splash in the British press and I am reading a lot of the news and updates. John Smyth a Barrister (Lawyer) from the United Kingdom is facing charges of horrific abuse that he allegedly perpetuated on at least 2 continents. In the United Kingdom he aggressively beat young boys so hard that they bled and dealt with scarring. These beatings were for guys who masturbated. One individual allegedly tried to commit suicide on his 21st birthday than face another beating. John Smyth then left for Zimbabwe and helped run a camp in that nation. Under his leadership a 16 year old boy, Guide Nyachuru, was found dead. The question is this…did John Smyth murder him? The other day John Smyth faced charges for that death in the 16 year old in Zimbabwe. The question is what did John Smyth’s son, P.J. Smyth know of the abuse and when did he know it? This is a fast moving story and more information is breaking. I am going to do a quick post that analyzes P.J. Smyth’s statements as issued on the Covenant Life Church blog. But I want to state that there will be 2 more posts in the upcoming days. This is what is in the works at The Wondering Eagle.
- An overview of the situation with John Smyth and the allegations of abuse and what allegedly happened in Zimbabwe and the United Kingdom.
- Another issue on my mind is what we will expect from the Executive Pastor Mark Mitchell? When the Washingtonian Magazine did an article about Sovereign Grace Ministries and Covenant Life Church and the allegations of child sex abuse the response by Mark Mitchell was telling. Mark, claimed that the Covenant Life Church is under attack from “Satan.” I wrote a response to that claim in “An Open Letter to Mark Mitchell (Executive Pastor Covenant Life Church)” Because of Mark Mitchell’s behavior here at The Wondering Eagle he will forever be known as the Church Lady of Covenant Life Church. As this new scandal pounds on the door of Covenant Life what are we going to hear from Mark Mitchell?
I am going to analyze P.J. Smyth’s letters as they were released. My comments will be in red below. And then I will close out with some general analysis and closing thoughts intending to brace the community at Covenant Life Church.
The first letter that P.J. Smyth wrote was released on 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 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.
Okay…stop! This statement by the Senior Pastor was awful. Just awful and here is why. First look at what it says about the discipline. P.J. states that it was “excessive.” How does this claim face up with the facts? Read this story in the Telegraph that interviews one of his victims. Some were beaten so hard that the skin on their buttocks was ripped open and they bled. As John Smyth said people needed to be purged of sin, so he beat them hard. In other cases some people were driven to becoming suicidal. The Sun gets into that in some detail. But is that excessive discipline? No…this is P.J. first’s mistake in that he downplays what happened. Beating someone over a period of time to the point where someone becomes suicidal is not excessive discipline. It is abuse pure and simple. The second problem with his statement is that P.J. says that the incidents happened only in the United Kingdom. That is not true, as John Smyth spent about 16 years in Zimbabwe I believe. Why did P.J. Smyth omit Zimbabwe? After all there are allegations that a 16 year old was killed? That is what led to the charges being drafted? Those are the questions that members and attenders of Covenant Life Church should be asking.
In response to the criticism and concerns P.J. Smyth released another statement on February 4, 2017. I have that below and I will be looking at that one also.
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.
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 was not involved with those interactions. 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 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.
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.
This is a better statement of the two. But here is the problem while he acknowledges the victims he downplays the allegations. There is an old saying that I think is especially appropriate here. It says where there is smoke there is fire. The allegations and breaking stories are coming out in multiple publications and even forcing the Church of England to respond. That is not a trivial aspect but it amplifies the situation. Yes there can be a herd mentality at times, and yes there can be false accusations. I am intimately family with situations like that in my own story. Having stated all that wasn’t P.J. in his 20’s in Zimbabwe? What about the death of Guide Nyachuru? Why is that downplayed as a simple drowning? If charges are being brought up wouldn’t that mean it was more than a simple drowning? I mean I am just analyzing the situation and looking at the facts. Tragic deaths happen regularly…you read about them in the news. But if this was another tragic death why did charges come forward? I am open for some push back and if I am wrong then please call me out on it.
Brace Yourself Covenant Life Church
Before I start on this final section let me state that I hope I am wrong. I hope that what I am about to write is incorrect. Covenant Life Church I have a feeling in my gut after doing this for a while and writing about corruption and problems. My advice to you is to brace yourself. Prepare for a wild wide that will be crazier than anything you have ridden in Disneyland. You are about to embark on a journey of spin, manipulation, and you will learn stuff I fear that will be darker and sinister than you could have possibly imagined. Why do I state that? The facts do not add up and there are more questions. Information is pouring out on the British press frequently. In a 24 hour period I could not believe the information that came forward. And really Covenant Life this is just the tip of the iceberg! There is more information that is coming forward. Its just a matter of time. These are questions that I have in my mind as I read the news articles in the British press. What role did the Church of England play? If I, or anyone for that matter scratched under the surface would we find a massive child sex abuse cover up that would rival what is playing out in the Roman Catholic faith? As more evidence comes forward will we learn that P.J. Smyth came to the United States for different reasons other than what was said? Was this story about to break in Africa and seeing the writing on the wall did P.J. think that coming to Maryland would give him a way out? I don’t know I am asking these questions based upon what is happening. Another question is this…will Covenant Life be forever associated with allegations of child sex abuse or child abuse cover up?
This has been a fast moving story and the news keeps breaking. I am scanning the British press and looking at African press to see what is coming forward. If any members of Covenant Life Church wants to write an open anonymous letter to P.J. or Covenant Life leadership, well my blog is available for you to do so. In August of 2015 when P.J. Smyth was being considered as the Senior Pastor someone from SGM Survivors reached out and asked me to listen to P.J. and write about him. That is why I am committed to writing about this development. However, when I attended and listened to P.J. he talked about using pop culture to make spiritual illustrations. In the expository sermon I listened to he talked about lessons from Lily Allen. I am going to use that theme as I close this post. We just had the Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons. The half time show had Lady Gaga singing and performing. And its in that spirit that I will leave you with a Lady Gaga song that I think captures the start of the Senior Pastor who has only been in his position for a few days. Does Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” illustrate the rocky relationship between Covenant Life Church and its Senior Pastor? Is this the start of a bad romance? Covenant Life I will let you decide. Your feedback and comments are always welcome. Please know that I love you guys!