Covenant Life Church Members – it is your responsibility to determine whether PJ Smyth and CLC leaders are honest and trustworthy. In your attempt to do so, ask yourself this question – if your father had been arrested for homicide, would you remember it?
“In 1997 he [John Smyth] was arrested over claims that he had killed Nyachuru. He also faced charges of injuring the dignity of five other boys who said they had been subjected to savage beatings.” (Link)
“In 1997, Mr Smyth was charged with culpable homicide after a 16-year-old boy was found at the bottom of a swimming pool in 1992. Several boys then came forward to claim he had beaten them with bats and forced them to swim naked as he watched,” (Link)
“When the leader decides to cover abuse, any value his ministry may have had has been lost, and the ministry will become a hollow shell.”
Tear Down This Wall of Silence: Dealing with Sexual Abuse in Our Churches
By Dale Ingraham and Rebecca Davis
Mark Mitchell – “PJ has been through a thorough examination process.”
PJ Smyth – “I had no knowledge of the specifics.”
When I was home I never saw or heard anything that led me to suspect my father was engaged in the activities alleged.
I attended a number of Zambesi Holidays camps and I was never aware of any abuse.
I am firmly committed to reporting any form of child abuse to authorities.
-PJ Smyth, “Open Letter from PJ Smyth” (Link)
Several weeks ago, I published an article titled “Covenant Life Church Sure Knows How To Pick’em” (Link). The article included the “video short” by PJ Smyth, which is embedded above. I questioned why PJ Smyth only discussed his time in the UK, curiously failing to mention his 17 years in Zimbabwe.
Shortly after I published the article I was made aware of a meeting which took place in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe in June 1993. This meeting was requested by PJ Smyth. In attendance at the meeting were PJ Smyth, his father John Smyth, and a group of five men, one of whom was a human rights attorney. These five men had conducted an intensive investigation of John Smyth after charges of horrid abuse of young boys, including the drowning death of one boy, came to light.
At this meeting, a lengthy document containing the results of this five-man investigative team was discussed. The document included detailed accounts of alleged crimes perpetrated by John Smyth. Below is a lengthy quote which sheds further light on the matter.
“Zimbabwe’s top human rights lawyer David Coltart released details of some of the boys suffering within a 24-page report he released to Independent Newspapers.
More and more of Smyth’s victims have come forward to UK and South African journalists to tell their stories about the beatings and humiliation and sexual confusion they endured at his hands when they were vulnerable teenagers, all of which were in some way linked to his bizarre sexual behavior.
Coltart was asked by a group of churches in Bulawayo to investigate Smyth, his Zambezi Ministries and the holiday camps he established after arriving in Zimbabwe in 1984.
The churches in Bulawayo were approached by parents of some of the boys who had attended Smyth’s holiday camps. The churches then went to Coltart whose human rights work was well known.
His report details incidents the boys endured and interviews with trustees of Zimbabwe ministries.
Coltart’s report says that teenage Zimbabwe boys attending Smyth’s camp were regularly not allowed to wear underwear during the day or night and were forbidden to shut the door when they went to the toilet. Some were beaten and forced to walk around nude or skinny dip and bounce around naked on a trampoline watched by Smyth, who was also nude, but was then a middle-aged man.
The boys reported Smyth kept on talking to them about masterbation and was often around them naked, even when they were showering, or praying with them.
But on one camp, he clearly went too far, and some of the boys were greatly disturbed and confided in their mothers.
“They were miserable when we picked them up from camp near Harare. They told me they had been beaten,” said Stell Leanders, whose older son Rocky, who now lives in the UK, was on the camp that year with his younger brother and cousin.
He was 14 and the other two boys were just 13. She examined the boys at home and took them to a doctor who found bruises on one of their backsides a week after he had been beaten.
Although Smyth used a table tennis bat on these boys and others, he managed to break it on one boy’s backside on one of the camps.
There were five boys from that camp who complained about Smyth’s bizarre behaviour towards them and their parents then laid charges with police in Bulawayo.
The boys were all pupils at Christian Brothers College in Bulawayo. Their parents also went to see their church leaders in Bulawayo. And they in turn approached Coltart who said he was happy to do the report pro amicus.
Coltart’s report for the churches which included professional opinions from medical doctors was then released to all those concerned with Smyth’s activities in Zimbabwe, including principals of schools attended by many of the boys who would want to attend the camps. “We don’t know what happened to the charges against Smyth,” Coltart said.
Leanders said: “The charges just seemed to fade away. We understood that perhaps a deal was done that he would leave Zimbabwe.”
Coltart also met several of the trustees of the Zambesi Ministries and at the end of the report there were recommendations that Smyth cease all work with young people and seek professional help.
One boy who attended one of Smyth’s holiday camps in Zimbabwe died after skinny dipping in the pool at night. Smyth was charged with culpable homicide but the case was dismissed and he then left Zimbabwe in 1998.
…The couple live in Bergvliet but have not been seen outside their home. It is clear from Coltart’s report, that Smyth’s eldest son, PJ Smyth, a former head boy at one of Zimbabwe’s top private schools, knew there was some criticism of his father’s behaviour with teenage boys in Zimbabwe.
Please note that Peta Thornycroft, the author of the article above, is a distinguished professional journalist who has written several other articles about the John Smyth case. You can read more information about her background here:
PJ Smyth released a second statement on the Covenant Life Church website. In this statement he said:
“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.”
Note the “I do clearly remember” above. The importance of these words will be shown later.
Throughout all this, PJ Smyth said that he “attended a number of Zambesi Holiday camps and I was never aware of any abuse.”
When PJ wrote these words, I had highly credible information from my source that he was being deceitful. I then wrote my article titled “PJ Smyth’s Open Letters – A Work in Progress” and I stated:
After the June 1993 meeting at which the investigative team revealed to PJ and John Smyth their detailed findings, PJ Smyth wrote a letter to this team. In this letter, written in 1994, PJ Smyth stated he would continue to support his father based on the “Gamaliel principle.”
I must admit I have never heard of this principle, but my brother has written a short article on his blog which explains it. (Link)
This same team of five men from Zimbabwe emailed PJ Smyth a few weeks ago, reminding him of their meeting in 1993.
Uh oh. What to do now? Remember the comment, left by a critic, that I led off this story with? Please review it now, and you will see the commenter made good sense.
Yes indeed, PJ has placed himself in an extremely vulnerable position.
As I see it, PJ has two options. He can admit he lied in the statements he made and face the likely prospects of being removed from his job, or he can double down and claim some sort of amnesia.
Any guesses as to which option PJ would choose?
As I see it, CLC leadership also has two options. They can admit that their thorough investigation process of PJ wasn’t actually very thorough, demand the resignation of PJ Smyth, and face the prospects of being removed from their jobs for incompetence, or they can double down and support PJ’s claim of amnesia, stand behind their man and offer their full support while PJ gets some counseling to help him re-process the last 30 years of his life, while reassuring the church members they will do another thorough check to make sure PJ really didn’t know of the problems of his father when they interviewed him for the job.
Any guesses as to which option the CLC elders would choose?
Well, you probably guessed it. Mark Mitchell and PJ Smyth held an informal Q&A session after the church service on both February 5th and 12th. Mitchell related that Smyth is devastated by the news about his father. After talking with the pastors from Zimbabwe poor old PJ can’t for the life of him remember the content of those discussions in 1993. Why he can hardly remember what the building looked like! So PJ is now attempting to figure out how to be transparent while realizing, much to his dismay, that he’s forgotten significant things.
Here’s some free advice on how to be transparent – tell the truth!
In the past few weeks, I have patiently waited to see if the truth would come out at Covenant Life Church. I enjoyed reading some hateful comments from those who were quite sure I was slandering their newest celebrity preacher. Knowing the truth, it was an easy task to put up with the comments from those whom I assume were Covenant Life Church members.
Note: PJ Smyth claimed in Q&A meetings held at Covenant Life Church on February 5th and 12th that after recently talking with pastors from Zimbabwe he was devastated by the recent revelations about his father’s alleged horrible actions. He described it as having the wind knocked out of his sails and said he and his siblings failed to connect the dots over the years. He’s going to get some counseling to help re-process the last 30 years of his life.
PJ also said that even after recently talking with the Zimbabwe pastors he only remembers what the building looked like where the discussions were held, not the content of the discussions. He stated further that to his dismay he’s forgotten significant things.
Smyth’s words and actions appear problematic to me. He asks us to believe that he can’t remember the content of the discussions in 1993 and that he and his siblings failed to connect the dots over the years. Yet he wrote a letter to the 5-man investigative team in 1994, a minimum of seven months after the June 1993 meeting, defending his father based on the “Gamaliel principle.”
The 5-man investigative team responded with a letter to PJ Smyth written in February, 1994. Among other things, they asked PJ Smyth if he believed their report was accurate. PJ Smyth never responded.
Are we also to believe that PJ cannot remember that his father’s brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Jonathan and Janet Brooks, both resigned from the Zambesi Trust that oversaw John Smyth’s mission in Zimbabwe in protest at his refusal to stop working with children? Indeed, the entire Board of Trustees resigned en masse! (Link)
Are we also to believe that PJ cannot remember that his father was arrested in 1997, charged with culpable homicide in the 1992 death of Guide Nyachuru, whose body was found in the camp swimming pool? (Link)
Please also remember that PJ wrote in his open letter on the CLC website that “I am firmly committed to reporting any form of child abuse to authorities.” A minimum of seven months after learning of the horrific abuse his father had committed PJ still remembered to write a letter in support of his father! It doesn’t appear he reported the abuse to authorities.
Do you remember the last Covenant Life employee who had memory problems?
Update 2-22-2017: Mark Mitchell just released a statement to CLC members on behalf of the elders. It is classic damage control, a technique in which Mark and his colleagues have a wealth of experience to draw from. One wonders if these guys will ever be honest!
Other questions in this sordid affair, besides PJ Smyth’s claim to having no knowledge of the abusive ways of his father, deserve some looking into. I urge you to watch this five minute video of Cathy Newman from News 4 in the UK. (Link) Newman and her colleagues are largely responsible for breaking the John Smyth abuse story. At around the 2:50 mark Newman interviews the former Zimbabwean prosecutor who was assigned to the John Smyth case. This prosecutor was questioned informally by a “friend” about whether he thought Smyth was guilty. It was a setup. His “friend” recorded the conversation and the prosecutor was quickly removed from the case for bias.
My source told me that the press erroneously has reported that the Smyth case was dismissed. It has never been dismissed; the case was just allowed to “lapse.” Such is the state of the legal system in Zimbabwe. The question that should be asked is who was behind the efforts to set up the prosecutor and get him dismissed?
Additionally, John Smyth went to court in an attempt to have the case against him dismissed. The Attorneys General refused to do so, reportedly stating the case against Smyth was very strong.
The Govenor was then planning on deporting John Smyth to the UK. At this point Robert Mugabe, the dictator of Zimbabwe, stepped in and squashed this attempt. It would appear John Smyth had some friends in high places.
I would recommend those interested in understanding how Zimbabwe works read a book titled “The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe” by Peter Godwin. (Link)
In Matthew 16, Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against the church. It is a wonderful pronouncement of God’s plan to always have a remnant of people on the earth through which he will work.
Yet too often we confuse God’s promise to always have a people with whatever local congregation we attend. It’s a dangerous misunderstanding.
Local congregations have life spans. They are born; they live; they die. It’s life. Like people, some live longer than others. Few things impress me more than a vibrant congregation that is 80, 90, or 100 years old. Most congregations do not have the ability to be effective for that long. Some do, and they should be commended. Most do not, and they should be closed.
While no church should be quick to close its doors, every church should feel the freedom to know its life is temporary. A day will come in which more can be done for the kingdom by closing than staying open. It’s true for most churches and it’s true for the church I pastor.
Churches are at their best when they are creating, building, fighting for a purpose. Churches are not effective when they are trying to sustain, pay the bills, or attempting to exist. In those moments too much energy is expended for the name of the church instead of for the name of Jesus. In those cases it may be better to close, to begin a new work, to redirect our energy.
“Some Churches Need To Die.” (Link) by Kevin A. Thompson
It’s time CLC.