An update with where we are with our work with the JA, here is a copy of a letter we have recently sent to the trustees and NLT, setting out the progress to date, where we feel they need to move forward and questions they need to answer.

Dear Trustees of the JFCT and members of the NLT,

Ian Gorrie, Andy Crisp, Mary Gunn, Andy Lantsberry, Dave Williams, Helen Williams, Lesley Cutts, Ann Hawker, Richard Mercer, Richard Parker, Daniel Moriss, Steve Mosely, Steve Jones, Ian Bird, Maggie Stokell

We would like to propose a meeting with you all to catch up with where we have got to, and to plan the next stages of our working together. We propose this to be Wednesday 11th April.

We would like as many as possible to attend this meeting. Please let us know how many of you can attend, as we feel it is imperative that this is seen to be taken seriously and that time is made to give answers to those who have been wronged.

The last 8 months of working together has been quite a journey for us all and there has been some progression, which we welcome.

The Counselling Scheme has moved forward, we are waiting for confirmation that the restrictive cap of £2000 is now discretionary, allowing for expert professional help that can make a difference. The JFCT is considering a group of their members attending a post-cult mind reform course with Gillie Jenkinson, and funding training for members of the survivors group to be able to deal with first contact trauma, which we are looking forward to.

We now have an information sheet that can be accessed on request, detailing what growing up in the Jesus Army was like for many, to enable counsellors to better understand their clients’ experiences.

There have been some payments made by the JFCT in respect of the way 2nd generation adults were treated financially. This is currently on hold.

In general, capital paid in over the years is being paid back with interest.

The JFCT has made tentative steps towards communicating to their members some of the horrors that went on historically within their walls.

There seems to be a growing majority within the JFCT who understand that the church needs to face up to the past and put things right before they can move forward.

Vicki Lawson-Brown’s investigation is at last underway. We cannot say much about this investigation at the moment but look forward to her recommendations.

A blog page has been set up at: www.jesusarmyexperienceproject.wordpress.com, that has now reached 1,469 unique (unknown) individuals and details people’s experiences of the Jesus Army.

The Freedom and Truth Facebook group now has 173 members; giving people a safe space to talk about their experiences within the Jesus Army, connect with others and discover the truth of what went on.

We are setting up our Community Interest Group/Charity “Open Gates” and will be running a survivors conference in the summer to help survivor’s access information to help them move forward.

While the above shows great progress we feel there is still a long way to go.

The Counselling Scheme has moved forward for under 18’s, but is still largely not accessible to people who joined the JA over the age of 18.

We have noticed resistance to the information sheet we produced, and are hoping this will be resolved soon in dialogue between the administrators of the Scheme, as we have already received much feedback on its beneficial impact.

You have said you are currently working on a financial redress scheme. We have repeatedly asked to be consulted and part of the discussion on this. In meetings and conversations you have appeared to be open to this.

However we now know less than we did at the start of the process; for example the deadline is long past and we haven’t been issued a new one that we can present to the wider group.

With your latest communication to people about the continued delay with the redress scheme, you asked a few of us to feed back prior to it being sent out, (which we feel is a real step forward). However we notice you did not take any of our comments on board, apart from adding an apology.

Much of the response was around the difficulties we seem to have in getting open communication from you, and asking you to honour your own stated intentions.

We have attached a financial redress scheme from Lambeth Council that we feel has many parallels to this situation. We ask that you take the time to read and consider.

As you have said you really want to put things right, we suggest that the first way is to be seen to mean this. Weeks or months of silence, and communications that are one-sided, or where we have to arrange the meetings and chase you for updates – does not appear to anyone that you really want to put things right.

There are an increasing number of people who need persuading that it’s worth working with you.

The last update you distributed was very vague and – although it mentions being ‘considered as part of a wider scheme of redress and reparation, which includes the counselling fund that is already in place’ – it was titled and introduced as ‘Relief-of-need’, which was confusing, as we stated in previous feedback. Also many in the wider group wish to know how comprehensive your scheme will be in order to asses whether they will need to take the legal route.

A general theme that has become a persistent perception is that our hard work, information, opinion and research is often seemingly dismissed for an opinion that seems more acceptable to your particular worldview.

We acknowledge that you have undertaken some communications around the truth of what happened to so many. Unfortunately apart from one or two of the ‘tamer’ personal accounts you have allowed to air, we feel these have been vague and ‘broad brushstroke’ statements that have left much room for confusion, denial and dismissal.

We believe that there are many ways in which more specific acknowledgment of the abusive culture of the JFC’s history and the nature of abuse that happened could be done; and we have suggested examples of how this truth could be communicated. One way is via the blog. Initially members of the NLT agreed this would be something they could tell members about. We also agreed to publish anyone’s story, including JA members and people whose experiences are different to ours. However we have not heard anything from you since. Although some who have published details of the blog have had personal criticism and public attacks from your own members.

It has been noticed that in every meeting with members of the NLT, you will say ‘”Others may not agree but I see your point / these are just personal opinions but we (in this meeting) agree / We will have to get back to you on this once we’ve talked to the rest” and we understand procedure needs to be observed and consensus reached between the whole NLT before moving forward. However we rarely get a response this way. For example(s): any of the points raised in our last meeting.

There is growing momentum and interest by more and more people and action is needed toward: 1–financially putting things right, 2–telling the truth, and 3–an inquiry.

So many people have been abused, and there is a need to deal with this. You have agreed with this numerous times in conversations and meetings, but since the early instalment of the Counselling Scheme and apart from early attempts at redress, we don’t yet see it borne out by action. To the wider group who are waiting and watching, it appears (as we hear in comments and messages) like you are ignoring us, and that putting things right is not important to you.

We feel that currently one of the most important actions you as leaders of your Church and Trust can do, is to publish the findings of the Investigation to your full membership and to us, the survivors. We have received legal advice that within the existing Trust setup, the Five leaders under investigation will have full power and control over what happens with this report – which if true, would be irresponsible and immoral, as well as illogical – covering up is at the heart of this matter, so to continue to do so would be unbelievable and damning.

The only way you can change this, is by having your members vote to ensure that the report is made public in full. This has to be agreed before the report is finalised, so that the Five cannot just cover this up.

It is in your interest as a church, to ensure that the summary of report be made public, and the full findings of Vicki Lawson Brown, be made accessible to anyone who wishes to know more. If the report is not published, we and the world at large, will know how once again, the leadership of this church has allowed everything to be covered up, and this will also make future dialogue with the survivor group impossible.

We would like a detailed response in writing to the following questions so that we can then discuss your responses with the wider group and further discuss them at the meeting on April 11th:

• Can the current scheme be extended to the over-18’s, or a similar scheme be set up to cater for those adults who are suffering the effects of trauma and abuse experienced in the JFC?

• Please can you let us know if any dialogue, consultation with us and updates around financial redress will happen as was anticipated, or if you intend to present it as a finalised scheme?

• Are you willing to publish the details of our blog in your internal literature, so that people who want to know more and hear personal accounts from survivors can find out?

• What is the trust proposing for passing on an inheritance to the children of deceased members who have been long time contributors of the trust? Most parents leave an inheritance; there will be people without an inheritance because the trust holds both capital contributions and many years of income for many deceased parents.

• Will all retrospective payments be index linked for inflation?

• The initial investigation will put forward its findings at the end of April, will your members be given access to a report that details the allegations and Ms. Lawson-Brown’s findings?

• Will the NLT and trustees give assurances that the five will be removed from their roles and removed from membership of the church if the investigation proves they were either abusers or hid abuse?

• If the 5 are removed from office, will they be bought houses like the other leaders removed for abuse?

• Will those people who have been abusers in the past, be removed from their expensive trust paid houses and removed from membership of the church in accordance with biblical teaching and standard?

• What was the process that lead to the Trustees authorising the purchase of houses for abusers?

• Why are there still companies in existence like JFCT Nominees Limited, Jesus Army Limited, Jesus Fellowship Limited that are dormant and still having details filed by Mike Farrant, and the only Directors are ones being investigated, why have these not been closed?

• You have acknowledged historic financial mistreatment of people under 21 years old, and offered to repay money taken above board and lodgings, with adjustment for inflation. We would take this opportunity to remind you of the importance of honouring the commitments you have made in a timely fashion, as well as the other considerations above, to avoid perpetrating a wilful second abuse against a large group of people.

The undersigned

Erin Woodger

Martin Kedian

John Bavester

Ian Johnson

Vicki Miles

Lemuel Freezer

Sheila Jackson

Karen Wesley

Elaine Punter

Sally Hirst

Lisa Wyatt

Mellow Avstreih

Naomi Brown

Philippa Muller

Nina Tobin

Becky Ayres

Tommy Porter

Dave Punter

Steve Wesley

Nicola Francis

Matt Smith

Andy Porter

Mikkel Asmussen

Colin Cowley-Hurlock

Kerry Tyson

Amber Harvey

Matthew Avstreih

Plus many other members of the Survivors group who wish to stay anonymous at this time.

6 thoughts on “An update with where we are with our work with the JA, here is a copy of a letter we have recently sent to the trustees and NLT, setting out the progress to date, where we feel they need to move forward and questions they need to answer.”

  1. First, thanks for publishing your letter of 31 March, I think that is helpful. There does appear to be two items in it that slipped through the proof reading – a couple of repeated paragraphs, and a proposed date which is 11 April in one place, and 4 April later in the document. (I hope 11th is the correct date – 4th is probably not enough notice for such a meeting.) Thank you especially to the people who signed it with their names – I remember many of them personally, having moved into community in 1976 as a teenager – that means I can claim to have been a teenager in community, in addition to having been part of it for almost 42 years. My original caring brother/shepherd when I moved into community has, I see, his story in a blog on this site – back then, he was setting the standards for me.
    I can only speak for myself, but, as a current member of JFCT, my assessment is that we members will not accept the report of Vicki Lawson-Brown being suppressed. The big question for me is where will it all end, what good will be destroyed in seeking to uncover and put right past wrongs? I think of those 10 years older than me who have relied on NCCC being their security in old age, and now find it falling down round about them – is that not a form of current abuse, which must have greater priority than historic abuse, even if it is less intense? For them, the pace of change has been too fast.
    I would like to take this opportunity to apologise for anything I have done which has hurt people. I am not aware of anything directly, but generally I think I was pretty undiscerning, and failed to pick up on many things. If anyone would like to remake contact with me, please do so – I continue to be fairly busy, but to try to live with people more important than things.
    Dave “Dependable”, Milton Keynes, david.lee@jesus.org.uk

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    1. Hi Dave, thanks for your comment. I am heartened to hear that as an existing member, you won’t allow the report to be suppressed. I hope by your comments you are not asking for historic victims to remain silent in order to prevent potential financial hardship for older members. I can only speak personally, but I see current members who have no idea what went on and as painful as it may seem, we owe it to ourselves and those people still there to ensure that the extent of what happened and the scale and horrors of abuse that went on, is out in the open for everyone to be aware of, not just a few to know and make decisions on. So no, your friends must not ‘take priority’ at the expense of others; there’s no hierarchy when it comes to abuse. We want to be listened to and for the rot of the Jesus Army to be acknowledged and appropriately apologised for. We hear a defense of ‘the good’ so often. That’s not what’s in question here. Yes there will be monetary compensation for some but I think you’ll find that a lot of us have a much more complex list of needs than ‘30 pieces of silver’ as some of your members have defined it. I appreciate your comments, I hope we can engage in more genuine dialogue with members as we find a way in this.

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    2. Hi Dave hope your well .the sad fact is that thoes ten years and older than you have not been suppirted from the church even when was in the church. I fought for the elderly at the hall it depends how you are
      verna was looked after amazingly but that was not so for many others and even recently been shocked at how unreal8sti the package of care is .I’m sure you mean well i dont beluve the truth is being fed back to members my number is 07711800641 if you want to chat about it .I come with dyslexic warning

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    3. Hi Dave. Thank you for responding and for the honesty and courage that takes. It’s helpful to hear what you feel is true for you and possibly others in your situation. And thanks for pointing out the corrections; as you can guess this letter has been pieced together by many individuals , including some not named.

      I was really interested to hear how those who are ten years older than you, now find their security ‘falling down round about them’, and how this is an abuse that might need to take priority over other less ‘intense’ past abuses. I can see how changes and challenges have come about, via members making choices around whether to live in community, following the request for disclosures, and the subsequent level of allegations and the investigation and also following Stanton’s death. While it can be seen that this is unsettling, and has caused much anxiety – how it can be termed ‘abuse’ (by whom to whom?) or somehow equated to historical abuse (including physical sexual and mental assault on children at the hands of adults) – is difficult to see.

      It may be heartening for you to know how often those in the survivor group (who were once those children) acknowledge that there are good people in the membership of the church, and also express concern over the welfare of current members, especially older ones. Members of the NLT and Trustees will be able to confirm that this concern has been raised in meetings with them on more than one occasion. After all, many who have left still have parents and friends living in community or within JFC membership.

      In answer to your ‘big question’ “what good will be destroyed in seeking to uncover and put right past wrongs?”
      I can only say that much good was destroyed in the covering up and hiding past wrongs. I’m reminded of all the songs and scriptures and exhortations of my childhood (I know there’s no need to quote chapter and verse to you): to put Jesus/ God/ righteousness first and how all the other things would be added. . . Or even how all those ‘other things’ (security etc) were actually not to be fought for or protected . . . And that bringing evil into the light / exposing evil is the the only way to deal with anything. . . Or that we should be speaking out for those with no voices. . . etc.

      However it doesn’t seem to me that there should need to be a contest between those who are fearful for their future security and those who need answers, acknowledgement, recompense and a voice in regard to abuse experienced. Putting things right doesn’t need to make current members destitute.
      Although it’s possible that those with hidden agendas and a motive to discredit survivors could want members to believe this to be the case.

      What we heard instead initially from many members and leaders was that putting right the wrongs came as a high priority; particularly as it was felt that God wouldn’t honour a church that did otherwise. Sadly, this commitment has appeared less convincing to many in the wider survived group, as people have felt overlooked and ignored, as per the above letter.

      Thanks once again for your comments, and the opportunity for dialogue, and the apology – unnecessary from my perspective as far as you’re personally concerned – and I appreciate it.
      Best wishes, Mellow.

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  2. Dear Dave, I respectfully request you start digging and asking more questions. There’s already dirt brushed under the carpet. My hope is the outcome of the investigation is that we continue to have these frank discussions. No one can deny that there are good and honest people in the JA that need to be looked after. There are also 100’s of others who also need to be looked after in many many ways and not just financially. There are many damaged children, now adults with the realisation that when Jesus said in the bible suffer the little children to come unto me – he didn’t mean literally. He didn’t mean that children should suffer. Children should have been the penultimate of his creation as he intended. It is the belief of myself as a child born into the institution of the JA that although my parents loved us very much they and us were under the influence of much that has become evident to have been so grossly wrong in every way. I can’t get past this unless I deal with it head on now. Believe me I’ve tried over the years. But the dirt that has been brushed under the carpet keeps seeping through as the carpet is now threadbare. A real clean is needed and then the carpet can be mended. I see no alternative. This is my way of describing it which is my experience and the experience of many many of my peers. We have come to realise as the more that we learn about each other as a group of survivors now that there are too many sad stories, so much abuse in many forms – none being more important than the other. Now we realise why we have struggled in life emotionally, socially, career wise, in relationships, with our own families and with mental health issues for some of us .
    Our parents and others who choose to join this institution have now to struggle to come to terms with what they did, what they allowed, what they were too blind to see, what they told their children to forgive, what abuse they suffered too. We understand all these different issues however I would like to make a point here…. we as children were not and are not responsible for the parents and the adults in the institution- they were responsible for us and many failed us. Many have already come to that realisation and are also dealing with issues. Some people may take longer. We as a group of survivors are working together with all involved to simply put right the wrongs of the past. We are sweeping out that dirt and we are going to ensure it is discarded in the appropriate manner – what the JA decide to do with the carpet is up to you.

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  3. Hi all
    Thanks for the dialogue, I have noted the replies, and been glad to get an email. Communication often helps, hiding things rarely helps, and my aim is to continue to enjoy people. Therefore my email address continues to be available, and I continue to live in community. Let us continue to respect each other as we work out the future.

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