Covenant Life Church Sure Knows How To Pick’em

By | February 3, 2017

What did CLC pastor PJ Smyth know and when did he know it?

PJ Smith receives weekly phone call from his father.

Breaking: News 4 has aired their first two longer investigative stories on the abuse carried out by John Smyth. You can view the first story here. You can view the second story here.

Breaking: It is currently 2130 local time in Dubai, February 3, 2017. PJ Smyth has just released a video which can be viewed immediately below. PJ Smyth’s statement is not good news for Covenant Life Church.  It is my opinion that he comes across as a deceptive man with something to hide. CLC has a storied history of former senior pastors who have been deceptive with church members, unfortunately, it looks like they can add another one to the list.

For starters, PJ refers to his father’s abuse as “excessive discipline.” But the bigger deception is in what PJ did not say. You will notice that he talked only of his father’s alleged abuse while living in the UK decades ago.

Long, long ago and far, far away.

It all occurred when PJ was a young boy.  He only heard vague rumors of his father’s behavior.  End of story.  Nothing to see here, now move along.

Nice try PJ.

What about those years in between the time you and dear old dad lived in the UK and SA?  I believe your dad packed up and took the family to Zimbabwe in 1984, where he then worked for 17 years. By my calculations that would mean your dad left Zimbabwe for SA in 2001. You would have been 30 years-old!  While in Zimbabwe your dad was charged with the culpable homicide of 16-year-old Guide Nyachuru at one of the Zambesi Ministries’ summer camps held in Marondera in December 1992. (Link)  He managed to dodge those charges and fled to SA. (Link)  Any recollections of those years PJ?  You’re a clever man, surely you don’t expect us to believe that when you were 21 years old you had no knowledge of the charges of homicide against your father, do you?

PJ has some explaining to do.  My bet is the corrupt leaders at CLC who rallied around CJ Mahaney and Joshua Harris to cover up the sexual abuse of children happening in their church will continue their corrupt ways and attempt to provide cover for PJ Smyth.  It is time for the good members of CLC to rise up and demand the truth from their leaders, and then demand the resignation of corrupt leaders.

 

PJ Smyth’s deceptive video makes no mention of his father’s abuse in Zimbabwe.

PJ Smyth’s written statement. (Link)

My submitted response which is not likely to make it out of moderation!

Breaking: February 4, 2017. PJ Smyth has published a second statement on the Covenant Life Church website. (Link)  In the statement below I again must point out what was not said. PJ states that “I do clearly remember the tragic drowning of a fellow camper.” No mention is made that his dad was arrested and charged with the culpable homicide of 16-year-old Guide Nyachuru, PJ’s “fellow camper.”  Perhaps PJ does not have as clear a recollection of that minor detail. Allow me to refresh PJ’s memory:

“While in Zimbabwe Smyth ran a Christian mission, Zambesi Ministries, for 17 years. He was charged with the culpable homicide of 16-year-old Guide Nyachuru at one of the Zambesi Ministries’ summer camps held in Marondera in December 1992. Nyachuru’s naked body was found in the Ruzawi School pool — questions still hang over the circumstances surrounding his drowning. Smyth has always maintained it was a tragic accident.

Smyth was also charged with five counts of crimen injuria relating to incidents during a camp in April 1993 involving five boys from posh Zimbabwean schools.

The culpable homicide prosecution was discontinued when the then Zimbabwean Chief Justice, Anthony Gubbay, ruled the prosecutor in the case had a conflict of interest. Smyth moved to South Africa soon afterwards in 2001.” (Link)

“In 1997 Smyth was arrested over claims that he had killed a teenage boy, 16-year-old Guide Nyachuru.” (Link)

 

“Rocky Leanders, who was 15 when he attended a camp in Africa, said Smyth encouraged the boys to swim naked with him.

Leanders alleged that Smyth beat boys with table tennis bats, sometimes hitting them so hard that he broke the bats.

His mother saw the bruises, and contacted a lawyer, who identified more alleged victims.

It emerged that 16-year-old Guide Nyachuru had been found dead in a swimming pool while on a Zambesi holiday in 1992.

His sister Edith, who now lives in Britain, said that the boy was naked when she went to identify his body.” (Link)

 

“Edith Nyachuru, whose brother died at one of Mr Smyth’s camps, say he would still be alive had the barrister faced justice in the UK.” (Link)

 

Source: Channel 4 News – John Smyth confronted with charges by reporter Cathy Newman (Link)

Source: Channel 4 News – “Archbishop admits Church ‘failed terribly’ over abuse revelations” (Link)

Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD sure knows how to pick a winner. CLC, formerly the flagship church of the Sovereign Grace denomination, has been embroiled in a sexual abuse scandal that some say was the largest to hit the Evangelical Church in America. Former senior pastors C.J. Mahaney and Joshua Harris, along with assistant pastor (and brother-in-law of C.J. Mahaney) Grant Layman resigned from the church. Youth leader, Nate Morales was convicted of sexually abusing boys and sentenced to 40 years in prison. Hundreds of disenchanted church members quit.

Covenant Life Church, seeking a fresh beginning, left the Sovereign Grace denomination and began a world-wide search for a new pastor.  The man CLC leaders (the same leaders complicit in the coverup of abuse) selected to lead them out of the morass of sexual abuse and coverup and restore them to a position of respectability was PJ Smyth. While a relative unknown in the USA, PJ was a superstar in South Africa, much like CJ used to be in the USA.  Convinced they had found their next Christian celebrity, CLC leaders had an easy time of convincing the Kool-Aid swilling members who had remained loyal to the church that PJ was their man. The members reportedly voted overwhelmingly ( 97% in favor) of hiring PJ. One year later, in January of 2017, PJ and his family arrived in the USA.

 

All appeared well in CLC-land. PJ was in charge and ready to make everyone forget CJ and lead CLC to new heights of fame and fortune. Who could have known that within one month of PJ’s arrival CLC leaders would once again be indirectly rocked by more charges of abuse?

Yesterday news broke in the UK and South Africa that John Smyth, father of PJ Smyth, is a monster. He is charged with the most horrific abuse of young men, dating back to the 1970’s!

A British lawyer who has been working for the inclusion of Christian values into South Africa’s constitutional jurisprudence has been accused of the “horrific” and “masochistic” beating of teenage boys in his care.

Currently based in Cape Town, John Smyth, a Queen’s Counsel and former acting judge in England, is alleged to have left a decades-long trail of bloodied bodies and broken spirits both in the United Kingdom and in Zimbabwe.

While in Zimbabwe Smyth ran a Christian mission, Zambesi Ministries, for 17 years. He was charged with the culpable homicide of 16-year-old Guide Nyachuru at one of the Zambesi Ministries’ summer camps held in Marondera in December 1992. Nyachuru’s naked body was found in the Ruzawi School pool — questions still hang over the circumstances surrounding his drowning. Smyth has always maintained it was a tragic accident.

Smyth was also charged with five counts of crimen injuria relating to incidents during a camp in April 1993 involving five boys from posh Zimbabwean schools.

The culpable homicide prosecution was discontinued when the then Zimbabwean Chief Justice, Anthony Gubbay, ruled the prosecutor in the case had a conflict of interest. Smyth moved to South Africa soon afterwards in 2001.

The allegations of abuse — ritualised beatings to “repent” for sins such as masturbation — surfaced this week following an investigation by the United Kingdom’s Channel 4 News, An Ungodly Crime?, which screened on Thursday February 2 in Britain.

“Christian Crusader in Teen Abuse Scandal” Mail Guardian (Link)

 

John Smyth is questioned by reporter Cathy Newman regarding allegations of horrific abuse of boys. Smyth is the father of PJ Smyth, senior pastor of Covenant Life Church. (Link to video)

 

Source: The Telegraph (Link)

The Archbishop of Canterbury issued an “unreserved and unequivocal” apology on Wednesday on behalf of the Church of England after admitting he had worked at holiday camps at which teenage boys were groomed for abuse.

The Most Rev Justin Welby said the Church had “failed terribly” by not reporting John Smyth QC, the head of the Christian charity that ran the summer camps, to police after he was accused of carrying out a string of “horrific” sado-masochistic attacks in the late Seventies.

Channel 4 News will on Thursday broadcast allegations that Mr Smyth used the camps, which were attended by boys from some of Britain’s leading public schools, to gain access to teenagers, whom he forced to strip naked before subjecting them to savage beatings.

The Archbishop says that he was made aware of the allegations against Mr. Smyth in 2013 when police eventually became involved.
-The Telegraph (Link)

While one cannot place the blame for the sins of the father on the son, it would be reasonable to believe that PJ Smyth had to have knowledge of his father’s sinister life.  The Archbishop of Canterbury became aware of allegations in 2013. When did PJ Smyth become aware that his father was beating young men?  Did PJ report any of these brutal beatings to police?  Was PJ Smyth ever beaten by his father? Assuming PJ Smyth was aware of what his father was engaged in, did he advise CLC leaders of the potential fall-out from his father’s evil deeds?

It would appear CLC leaders did not exercise due diligence prior to hiring PJ Smith. CLC leaders have repeatedly demonstrated that they are sorely lacking any discernment. In my opinion, these leaders need to resign. One also wonders if church members will divest themselves of the notion that only a celebrity can lead their church? The whole culture at CLC seems, to this outsider, to be sick. Perhaps the healthiest thing CLC could do would be to close shop.

It would also be interesting to know whether PJ Smyth was truthful with US Immigration officials in his visa interview.

Below is a video in which Mark Mitchell recounts the thorough vetting procedure they put PJ Smyth through prior to offering him the job of senior pastor. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds to me as if the CLC pastors had determined the job was PJ’s prior to the Search Committee even beginning their work!

 

A little refresher course on problems CLC leaders would like you to believe are in their past:

 

 

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Andy Morse

Hi ,
Many thanks for writing about the John Smyth abuse and taking part in the discussion. We (John Smyth survivors) think you might be interested to see the messages and short videos we have posted on Twitter @AndyMorseUK which reflect some of our opinions on the Church and Justin Welby’s involvement in our ‘story’.

Headless Unicorn Guy

” It is time for the good members of CLC to rise up and demand the truth from their leaders, and then demand the resignation of corrupt leaders.”

WHAT “good members”?

I’ve been reading horror stories about CLC on various Spiritual Abuse watchblogs since the days of their HUMBLE Head Apostle and that whole church is more rotten to the core than North Korea.

Please see a new article citing credible sources indicating that PJ Smyth has known about the allegations of committing criminal acts, facing his father, for decades.

https://thouarttheman.org/2017/02/19/covenant-life-church-time-close/

Thanks. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

Please see a new article in which an expert on all matters pertaining to Covenant Life Church, Brent Detwiler, provides a factual rebuttal to the comments made below by the commenter “Crumbled.”

https://thouarttheman.org/2017/02/14/brent-detwilers-factual-rebuttal-covenant-life-church-apologist/

Thanks. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

[…] 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 […]

crumbled

Janna,

You have no relationship or experience with CLC and it is very obvious you have no idea what you are talking about. Your video on your Facebook page is absurd. Just because you can sit in your basement in your pajamas and mind everyone else’s business does not mean you know anything about what goes on. You site your source as Brent?

Let’s just pretend the allegations made by HT are all false. What does that mean you have done on your crusade? Then, add some of the other allegations that suddenly came forward when millions of dollars were at stake.

Innocent men have lost their reputations, their ministries, their families, their health and their jobs. And, you are culpable.

crumbled

I can’t even figure out why CLC is even mentioned in regards to the sexual abuse lawsuits. The current leaders (Robin excluded) were not there and had nothing to do with events in the 1980’s or any of the events of that time. I think you are mixing CLC ups with Sovereign Grace Ministries. The leaders from the 1980’s formed SGM and fled discipline when confronted by Josh Harris and the other pastors at CLC. The pastors and congregation of CLC voted to leave SGM when the leaders refused to repent or reconcile with the congregation.

Josh Harris told the pastors he would resign if they were not completely honest with the congregation. He’s not the bad guy and was a child when the abuse occurred.

Nate Morales was not a youth worker at CLC. He was an administrator for a Christian school not affiliated with CLC and his victims were primarily students in the school. He briefly attended CLC, but held no official leadership position. Some of his student victims attended CLC as well. But, it was a school related crime rather than a church related crime. Pastors who counseled victims let the parents decide whether to press charges or not, as was the custom everywhere in the 1980’s.

The trial of Nate Morales for criminal charges was not related to the lawsuit, although he was mentioned by a victim.

In the two CLC sex abuse situations, one involved a teenage babysitter and one involved a stepfather, both in contexts outside of church. Given the thousands of people who have attended CLC over forty years, it would appear CLC was significantly safer for children than the general public as well as other organizations.

The babysitter case was certainly an injustice as the parents were scolded for notifying authorities before notifying pastors and significant care was given to the teenage perpetrator.

The stepfather case was a tragic lose-lose situation in which the mother lost custody of her 9 children to foster care and the church attempted to restore the children with the father in the hope of getting them out of foster care.

The other accusations in the lawsuit occurred in Sovereign Grace at large and not at CLC.
Any remaining cases at CLC are largely regarded as fiction.

So, you should address your concerns with SGM, not CLC. And Josh Harris was a hero for putting his job on the line to tell the truth.

Lynne

PJ has been here at CLC for barely a month; and one of the commenters expects him to have already visited the past victims of sexual abuse. It’s a bit much to expect, don’t you think? As far as the news of his father, PJ was away at boarding school and college for much of this, and then he was married. How can he be blamed or responsible for the horrific behavior of his father? Will you blame the child of a serial killer for his father’s crimes? In the articles, I read that his sister was unaware; how likely is it that PJ was aware? My uncle murdered his wife. (my aunt) I insisted upon his innocence, until I was confronted with the evidence. The police detectives had a massive binder full of it. Then I felt like an idiot for being deceived by a narcissist and pathological liar for 19 years. I was an adult in my 40’s then. A child or young adult’s mind is unlikely to comprehend or believe that their loving parent is involved in something so horrible. The churches and organizations failed to report PJ’s father’s predatory and abusive behavior to the authorities. Blame them. Get angry at them. But, don’t slander a man for something his father did.

Lea

I can’t believe in coincidences here. I hate to blame the son for the sins of the father without knowledge of the situation, but this seems like a really poor decision.

Chris S

Richard Barth has an excellent article on the John Smyth story on his blog, which explores some of the background

http://barthsnotes.com/2017/02/03/channel-4-reveals-sadomasochistic-cult-that-allegedly-operated-at-elite-evangelical-anglican-camps/

Just to note; the camps he worked in have a huge unseen influence in British Evangelicalism because of their policy of inviting ‘top boys from top schools’, the alumni from these camps include people such as John Stott, Nicky Gumbel (of Alpha fame) and so on.

Deana Holmes

I…can’t…even…and Abp of Canterbury Justin Welby is involved in this mess?!

Thanks so much for doing the legwork on this story. It’s a very good story, and very frustrating and enraging, but I have one nit to pick, and that’s where CLC is located. It is in Maryland, not Virginia. I was writing an email to the reporters at one of the UK papers that covered the John Smyth story and wanted to get that right in case the reporters wanted to do some further digging. (Maybe I should drop a line to the Washington Post, hmm?)

That said, you really have to wonder if CLC didn’t just jump from the frying pan into the fire! PJ would have been a child/young man when the abuse is said to have gone on, and we have got to ask how much of his father’s “ethos” he absorbed.