Analysis of Covenant Life Church’s P.J. Smyth’s Statements on the Situation Regarding his Father, John Smyth QC

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.”

Emile Zola

“The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.”

Winston Churchill

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

  1. An overview of the situation with John Smyth and the allegations of abuse and what allegedly happened in Zimbabwe and the United Kingdom.
  2. 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.

Sincerely,

PJ Smyth

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!

22 thoughts on “Analysis of Covenant Life Church’s P.J. Smyth’s Statements on the Situation Regarding his Father, John Smyth QC

  1. Eagle, I think you and your regular readers realize that I’m not from CLC / Sovereign Grace. If it’s one thing that hasn’t made sense to me as someone not from such a background (although my college church may have been somewhat influenced by Sovereign Grace back in the People of Destiny days), it’s the pastors stating early on that they are deeply troubled by all this.

    Granted, yeah, it’s troubling. But, leadership means that you take the mess by the horns and take responsibility for it, regardless as to your personal feelings. And integrity means that you don’t downplay or conceal problems. They’ll surface eventually if they are the truth — and if they are not, then they’ll be found out as lies or half-truths in due time.

    Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that part of following Jesus was about coming to the light. I think that acknowledging sins and repenting of them would probably make for a good witness for Christ before non-Christians. I would suspect it, anyway.

    But, if I could say something else: what PJ Smyth’s dad did or did not do, does not tell me much about PJ Smyth, because PJ Smyth’s dad is a different man. And maybe there were things that PJ Smyth did not know. I mean, most of us weren’t there. Y’know?

    So, I’m adopting a “wait-and-see” approach. I’m really sorry for CLCers that our brethren there have had to deal with so much. And I am sorry to hear of these latest developments. I pray that the Lord work things out. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As Lynda Greun states: “And integrity means that you don’t downplay or conceal problems.” I am very concerned with the lack of forthcoming by PJ in his initial handling of these horrific allegations/charges. It is very concerning, actually ALARMING, that PJ would NOT mention the murder charge and further abuse charges from Zimbabwe when he first addressed the UK press reports. It does not bode well for the claims that CLC leadership has changed. “Downplaying” and “concealing” alleged abuses and cover-ups has been CLC leadership’s practice all throughout the sex abuse lawsuit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Pam, I agree the alleged murder charge from Zimbabwe is concerning. The fact that has been dismissed is greatly troubling. He did a better job in his second statement but if this were an accidental death, why the charge?

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  3. I watched a report on Channel 4 UK’s website tonight, and it had more information about the Zimbabwe portion of John Smyth’s life. The report ended with an unnamed daughter of John Smyth calling on her father to leave Cape Town and answer the serious allegations piling up against him in the UK and Zimbabwe.

    https://www.channel4.com/news/exclusive-more-church-abuse-revelations

    I personally found it interesting that it was an unnamed daughter who was willing to go somewhat on the record about her father, and not PJ Smyth, who has a American reputation to protect.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am researching and writing a post about John Smyth and this guy was so obsessed with stopping homosexuality. It was a crusade…from he United Kingdom to South Africa. I can’t believe some of what I am finding.

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      • Like stripping naked and “groaning in spiritual ecstasy” while beating teenage boys until they stood in a pool of their own blood? Then pressing up behind them from behind to whisper in their ear?

        Like Ted Haggard, his Fred Phelps-level Crusade was self-treating his own Same Sex Attraction. In Secret. Purity Culture crams it down to surface as secret KINK.

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    • From a previous news article, John Smyth and his wife have already left Capetown — “Present Whereabouts Unknown”.

      “Buenos Dias, Senorita. Yo soy el Fugitivo!”
      Calvin & Hobbes

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  4. Pingback: An Overview of the Situation with John Symth and the Disturbing Allegations in the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe | Wondering Eagle

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  6. Readers, until you have a family member do something so horrible, so unspeakable, an act or acts which defy your imagination…you need to be slow to speak, to protest, and to judge. You don’t understand the chasm between normalcy of life before, and the pieces of shattered life after…after people like me, people like PJ- are slapped with the impossible evidence that their loved one did this horrific thing. Before this evidence, and the consequent life change, we are often in denial. I received a phone call from people claiming to be police detectives; they knew so much about me and my family. My response? “How do I know that you’re not a couple of reporters?” and “Of course he is innocent. He would never do this!” But the sword eventually drops, and our lives are torn apart. The overwhelming sense of betrayal hits. If we can’t trust this beloved family member, if we never really knew them…ever, then who in our lives can we trust? It’s an isolating, lonely, heart-crushing place to be.

    PJ Smyth, not even two months after leaving his home and country, is going through this process. His normal support systems are on a different continent. Wherever he went for peace, to meditate, to reflect, is on a different continent. Every earthy thing familiar and comforting, except his immediate family…is on a different continent. He is now leading a church with a negative history- but he had no part in it. He has a father who did horrific things- but there is no evidence PJ took part in any of this. Yet folks are eager to read all sorts of evil intent into the brief statements he has made. People, PJ has been run over by a Mack Truck and he can barely breathe; you expect him to produce iron-clad statements that are unbreakable by the most skeptical and bitter of bloggers? Right now, PJ Smyth deserves our compassion and our prayers. I was blessed to have people supporting me and praying for me when I was reeling and shaken from such unbelievable news; PJ deserves no less. God is completely capable of revealing sin and providing judgment when necessary; don’t try to take His place. Already, PJ has faithful African friends who have contacted him, asking good hard questions. CLC members are asking good hard questions.

    Please pray. Pray for PJ and his family, and pray for truth. Then trust. Not in man, but in God; He is faithful.

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    • Lynne I see your IP address is from Gaithersburg, and you are most likely a member of CLC. I don’t think anyone here is holding what John did against PJ. I think many people have questions as to what PJ knew and when he knew it. I honestly hope I am wrong as I do not enjoy writing some of these stories. But I just have a feeling in my gut about all this. Time will tell…and we shall see what happens. Other than that thanks for your comment you are free to publish your thoughts here.

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      • wonderingeagle-
        I read Pam Palmer’s comment, and she is reading the worst into PJ Smyth’s responses. I understand her concern and her response, given her personal experience with CLC. You examined and questioned PJ’s responses to this terrible news. I have read the comments of many elsewhere, whose animosity toward anything SGM or CLC related, has now apparently been directed toward PJ Smyth. Who has been in the States and part of CLC less than two months. Despite the lack of evidence, these people are connecting PJ to his dad’s horrific behavior, insisting that at a minimum, PJ was aware of it. It’s as if the villagers are coming after him with pitchforks and torches. So ready to bring about destruction, based upon a mere possibility. No empathy, no compassion. How SHOULD a Christian respond to a brother in crisis? My comment above was a plea for understanding; a request that you who are asking questions and over-analyzing PJ’s statements- please understand that he has been hit with unbelievable, horrific news, and he’s barely hanging on as he is coming to the realization that his life is changed forever. How well would you communicate in such a situation?

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      • Lynne,
        I see you have migrated to Wondering Eagle’s blog with the same type of comments you made on my blog. You never answered the question I posed to you on my blog, so let me restate it here a bit more clearly. When it is revealed that PJ Smyth knew of his father’s actions years ago, yet did not report him to law enforcement, can I assume that you will then consider him unfit for the position of elder/pastor? After all, being above reproach is one of the qualifications of an elder, is it not?

        CLC pastor Mark Mitchell stated in front of the church that “PJ has been through a thorough examination process, he clearly meets the qualifications for eldership.”

        When Mitchell’s thorough examination process is shown to be woefully inadequate will that then be adequate proof that Mitchell is in over his head and he also needs to step down from leadership?

        When your claim that I and others have no evidence and have slandered PJ, can I count on you to return to the blogs where you have made your comments and apologize to us? Can I count on you to make as passionate a plea for PJ to be removed from his position at CLC as you are currently making for us to have compassion on the man?

        Just to be clear once again, I am not claiming PJ Smyth is in any way responsible for the alleged crimes of his father, John Smyth. What I am claiming is PJ Smyth had detailed knowledge of his father’s alleged horrific crimes years ago and took no action to notify authorities. Then, when the news of his father’s alleged crimes went viral he knowingly lied in his published statements on the CLC website.

        He has proven himself to be cut from the same cloth as his 2 predecessors at CLC.

        I also take issue with your statement about people having animosity toward anything SGM or CLC related. Speaking for myself, I don’t have animosity towards all things SGM/CLC related; only those who have sexually abused children, those who had a legal responsibility to report the abuse once they became aware of it and did not do so, and those who remain loyal lapdogs to either of the aforementioned groups of individuals.

        On my blog you commented that your uncle murdered his wife and you insisted upon his innocence until you were confronted with the evidence. At that point you “felt like an idiot for being deceived by a narcissist and pathological liar for 19 years.” Don’t be too hard on yourself when the evidence on PJ is revealed, which it will be. Narcissists are smooth operators, able to deceive even the very elect.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. What a waste of time you people!!! I live in India and I seriously think you Americans need to get it together and get a little sense into your pea sized heads (sorry that’s the wonderingeagle type Americans that is). Stuff happens, pain is a daily occurrence. Suck it up and get on with life. Get on and get busy praying and seeking and saving the lost. What a lot of stupid effort eagle man/woman to write all these words. I wanted to comment elsewhere on your posts but the comments were closed so this is a generic response rather than specific. P J was 10 when the purported events happened. 10! Would you take responsibility for what your parents stupidly did or didn’t do when you were 10? Give the man a chance. Give that church a chance. For all of your so called good intention this is nothing but the opposite. What good are you doing right now? What pain are you alleviating right now? Come to our nation if you have so much time and do some good instead of sitting in your boxers and tees and spewing all this criticism and garbage. Get a life. Go do some good. And close this blog down. It’s a waste of time. Moderate and post this if you have the guts to.

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