Comment on ‘Surviving Church’ about Iwerne

Apr 6, 2020 by

by Julian Mann:

When I was involved in Iwerne first in 1979 as a school boy and then as a student in the 1980s, I remember singing this chorus: ‘At the Cross of Jesus pardon is complete/Love and justice mingle/Truth and mercy meet/Though my sins condemn me Jesus died instead/There is full forgiveness in the blood He shed.’

This is the doctrine of substitutionary atonement which the Book of Common Prayer presents with its ‘full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world’ which Jesus Christ made on the Cross as ‘the propitiation for our sins’ (as the BCP’s Comfortable Words render 1 John 2v1).

If Smyth twisted this beautiful doctrine to justify abusing people made in the image of God, then that was an abuse of the evangelical message of the Cross which calls every Christian to love and serve other people in self-sacrificial ways.

For what it’s worth my own view is that Iwerne should have closed down in 1982 after the Ruston report and been replaced by a more modest work that would have supported Christian unions in boarding schools and run fun days and/or weekend conferences with biblical teaching rather than the full residential holidays which allowed Smyth (and as it later emerged Jonathan Fletcher) to groom victims.

I was at boarding school from the age of 8 to 18 and the institutional version of Christianity we got was not inspiring. When I was in the system, it would have been difficult for lively local churches to serve individuals incarcerated in these institutions, but a specialist para-church organisation accountable to the wider Church could have done it with a network of Christian teachers prepared to support it.

(from facebook)

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