Christian camp to close for good after abuse scandal

John Smyth is confronted by Channel 4's Cathy NewmanChannel 4 News

The Christian camp associated with John Smyth is to close this summer after a yearslong abuse scandal involving the late evangelical leader.

The Titus Trust, which runs Iwerne Camp, said it had made the decision following "an extensive year-long review", resulting in a "reorganisation focused on extending and strengthening its ministry to independent schools into the future".

It said the review had been informed by "detailed feedback from school teachers and other stakeholder" and had "paved the way for an agile and more regionally focused approach to organising its popular summer activity holidays".

Commenting on the changes, a spokesman for the Trust said: "We remain committed to supporting Christian teachers and pupils in their faith and witness in both the day and boarding independent schools of England and Wales."

Smyth chaired the Iwerne camps between 1974 and 1982 but in 2017, a Channel 4 News exposed the abuse of boys, including vicious beatings.  Smyth died a year later at his home in Cape Town. 

Andrew Graystone, who has campaigned on behalf of survivors, issued a scathing comment in response to the announcement of the camp's closure.

"The Titus Trust has released a statement saying that they will no longer use the name Iwerne for their camps," he said.

"There is no suggestion in the statement that they have reflected at all on the culture and theology of their movement, or asked themselves why it has enabled so many men to abuse others.

"They continue to refuse to face up to the past of the movement, or to reach out to men who have been physically, sexually and spiritually abused within the Iwerne network."

Last month, Graystone issued a call on behalf of survivors for the Trust to close over the scandal. 

It came after the Trust apologised to victims and said a settlement had been reached with three men "who have suffered for many years because of the appalling abuse" perpetrated by Smyth. 

In response, the statement from survivors accused trustees of doing "everything they could to protect their own interests" and failing to take responsibility.

"We are pleased that they have finally issued a limited apology for their recent behaviour, but we note that none of those responsible has resigned," they said.

"They have not acknowledged the historic cover-up. There is no evidence that the culture of moral superiority, exclusivity and secrecy that has pervaded the network for decades has changed in any way."

They added: "A culture that has resisted reform in the face of overwhelming evidence of damage over many years is beyond reform. It is our wholehearted belief that in the light of these events the Titus Trust and its work should cease immediately."

An independent review into the Church of England's handling of allegations against Smyth is currently being undertaken by Keith Makin, a former director of social services.