Friday, 31 May 2019

Christian Abuse News - Jesus Army Church Closes

The Jesus Centre, former home of the Jesus Army, Northampton
Jesus Army churches close after child sex abuse claims - BBC News

In what could be a metaphor for Christianity itself, an extreme fundamentalist church in Northampton, UK, has lost so many members over child abuse scandals that it has decided to call it a day and close its doors, just as have so many other Christian churches.

Decent people are walking away from the church, repelled by the behaviour of the clerics and the church's leadership in tolerating it and even facilitating it and participating in it.

The Jesus Fellowship Church (JFC) - formerly known as the Jesus Army - housed in the Jesus Centre, Northampton, was a Christian cult founded by Noel Stanton, it's sole leader. It was a totalitarian autocracy in which Stanton made and enforced the rules. At its peak in the early 2000s, the cult has some 2,500 members.

Children were taken from their natural parents and given to church 'elders' who were deemed suitable. Members were forbidden from owning possessions.

Stanton died in 2009 and in 2013, complains of bullying, mental and sexuual abuse (none of them involving Stanton) began to emerge. Solicitor David Greenwood of Switalskis solicitors who is representing two of the women who allege abuse, one sexual, the other emotional, says he knows of 30 other cases of alleged sexual or emotional abuse, some from outside the Northampton area.

The JFC passed on these allegations to the police, resulting in 'Operation Lifeboat' to investigate the allegations, resulting in six men from the cult being sentenced for the indecent and sexual assault of 11 victims between the 1970s and 1990s and Northamptonshire Police say about 200 complaints of various types of abuse have been made.

The JFC have said they are "appalled" by the abuses and have apologised. The membership having now fallen below 1000, the cult says it no longer has the resource to continue and voted last Sunday to revoke its constitution and disband.

The problem now for the authorities is to disentangle the complex of trusts in which the cult has its money, to see whether there is any accessible to the cult's victims by way of compensation. The cult still has active branches in Birmingham, Brighton, Coventry, Kettering, Leicester, London, Northampton, Norwich, Oxford and Sheffield which will now become fully independent.

Like many other religious communities and para-church organisations investigated by the ongoing Investigation into Child Sexual Abuse, JFC had failed to implement statutory standards for the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults, apparently believing themselves to be above the law.

Once again, we see a religious organisation used as a front and a haven for abusers and exploiters while the leadership at best turned a blind eye to what was being done under their roof and under cover of the organisation they ran. It matters not whether the religious organisation was a community of a few hundred, a few thousand, a nationwide church or an international organization with tens of thousands of branches and hundreds of thousands of clerics. The result was the same - casual abuse of power and casual abuse of vulnerable people while those in charge did nothing.

There really is something deeply repugnant in a religion which so frequently provides cover for abusers and does so willingly, only taking action when the cat is out of the bag.







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