I was a Smyth victim too, says Rector of St Helen's Bishopsgate

William Taylor(Photo: YouTube/St Helen's Bishopsgate)

The Rector of St Helen's Bishopsgate, an evangelical church in the City of London, says he was beaten in a shed by the late John Smyth.

In a statement, William Taylor said it happened when he was a young man and that he reported the beatings to his church leader at the time.

"I became a Christian in December 1979, aged 18. I first remember meeting John Smyth in July 1981, as a young Christian aged 20," he said.

"I was deceived by John Smyth and first beaten in Smyth's shed in late August 1981. I recall being beaten twice more, the last in early December 1981. After that, I never went again.

"On 12 February 1982, I reported the beatings to the minister of the church I was attending at the time."

Smyth chaired the Iwerne Trust - now named the Titus Trust - between 1974 and 1981 during which time he abused young men at the evangelical summer camps run by the charity.

He later moved to South Africa where the abuse continued. He died in 2018, a year after a Channel 4 News investigation.

Taylor said he had desired to keep his abuse private but felt compelled to make a public statement after some critics on social media suggested he had been involved in a cover-up.

"My heart goes out to all those abused by Smyth in this country and in Africa," he said.

"In the last few years, I have become aware that others suffered far worse experiences than me and have endured long lasting effects.

"I am grateful that Smyth's abuse is being thoroughly investigated and I have participated willingly in the Church of England review undertaken by Keith Makin.

"Like many abused by John Smyth I have always wanted to keep his abuse of me private, though not secret. Until very recently, none of those abused by Smyth have sought to contact me, nor I them (with one exception), to discuss what happened 40 years ago.

"It is my hope that, having been forced to make my personal experience public, none of those abused by Smyth will have to face the same treatment I have faced online, which has had a significant effect on me and my family.

"I thank God for those who counselled and cared for me in 1982, and that God has blessed me with a loving family, close friends, and thirty years of pastoral ministry immersed in God's living and active word."

In a letter to the St Helen's congregation along with Taylor's statement, churchwardens said, "Some have repeatedly challenged William to say what he knew and when, the innuendo being that William covered up John Smyth's abuse.

"William has asked us to state publicly what he knew and when. William knew in late 1981 that John Smyth engaged in violent beating of undergraduate students, because William was one of those beaten by John Smyth." 

They also addressed accusations that Taylor had known about abuse perpetrated by another evangelical leader, Jonathan Fletcher.

The letter shares the conclusions of an independent legal investigation that Taylor had no knowledge of Fletcher's abuse before February 2019.

"At this point, William acted both to prevent Jonathan Fletcher engaging in ministry, in order to prevent further abuse or harm to victims, and to help victims come forward to receive help," the churchwardens said.