A leading Anglican minister used "physical discipline in the context of discipling relationships" which "involved men hitting each other on their naked backsides with a trainer for failing to meet personal targets", it has been stated.
Rev Jonathan Fletcher, who was minister of Emmanuel Church, Wimbledon, from 1982 to 2012, also took part in "a different practice of one to one massage, ranging from partially clothed massage to massage where both men are said to have been fully naked throughout and to have taken turns to massage each other," according to a statement read to hundreds of interdenominational church leaders at the annual Evangelical Ministry Assembly in London on Thursday. Other behaviour which has not been disclosed has been described as "more" serious.
Mr Fletcher is said to have "recently acknowledged involvement in activities of the sort described", though "has not yet accepted the seriousness of the situation", the statement, which is now fully online, adds.
It has been placed on a new website offering support to anyone affected by the allegations against the former evangelical leader, who was also a trustee of the campaign group Reform. A full video of the statement may also be viewed here.
The statement was read in sections by Rev Vaughan Roberts, Rector of St Ebbe's Church, Oxford; Sarah Hall, the safeguarding officer of Emmanuel Church; and Andrew Wales QC, who has been assisting the church as it comes to terms with the revelations.
It was emphasised that "nothing criminal and nothing to do with children has been alleged" concerning Mr Fletcher.
Part of it repeated an earlier statement from Emmanuel Wimbledon revealing that the church had become aware in 2017 of allegations against Mr Fletcher by unnamed individuals. At the time, these were reported to the Diocese of Southwark, which passed them on to the police. It was concluded that no action would be taken.
Ms Hall said "concrete" allegations came to light again starting in late September, about conduct involving Mr Fletcher and other men.
"I am not going to say how many disclosures, let alone who made them," she said.
"In late 2018 a small number of allegations were made of the practice of physical discipline in the context of discipling relationships.
"One example of this involved men hitting each other on their naked backsides with a trainer for failing to meet personal targets.
"This took place over a period of time; it happened infrequently; the number of hits was small; and we do not believe any physical injuries were sustained, though it has been described as very painful.
"I am sorry to be specific but I don't want you to speculate as to what sort of behaviour I include in physical discipline."
She went on to state that more allegations have come to light this year.
"Further disclosures since March 2019 have largely related to a different practice of one to one massage, ranging from partially clothed massage to massage where both men are said to have been fully naked throughout and to have taken turns to massage each other," she said.
"Again, this conduct seems to have become a regular part of the relationship between Jonathan and certain men over a period of time.
"I have not given an exhaustive list of behaviours, but two common examples. Some disclosures have been less serious; some more."
She said that every disclosure was "promptly reported to all necessary authorities" and that in May 2019, Southwark Diocese invited Emmanuel to participate in a Core Group in response to the allegations. The Church of England's National Safeguarding Team is also participating in the Core Group.
"Again in May 2019, the diocese reported all disclosures to the Police, who concluded that no police action was required," she explained.
"In deciding how to respond and what action to take, Emmanuel has received advice primarily from the Southwark Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser and from the Church of England National Safeguarding Team."
She added: "Emmanuel, along with the other organisations involved, have committed themselves to the guiding principle that the interests of survivors are paramount."
In a section read by Mr Wales, the statement read: "Jonathan has recently acknowledged involvement in activities of the sort described. He did so only this week to William Taylor [Rector of St Helen's Church, Bishopsgate] and he's done so to other senior leaders as well."
But Mr Roberts added: "Sadly, it seems that he has not yet accepted the seriousness of the situation, despite the efforts of a number of senior evangelical leaders, who have sought to engage with him, both face to face and in writing."
Mr Wales said that the number of disclosures that were received about Mr Fletcher, and "their consistent nature, where, for the most part, each person was unaware of what anyone else had disclosed", were among other factors which supported taking the allegations seriously.
He added: "I fully acknowledge that no formal determination in any legal context has taken place. Formal action of that kind would be a matter for Southwark Diocese. But all these factors, taken together, led Emmanuel to take the allegations very seriously, even though – and I stress this – nothing criminal or to do with children has been alleged."
Mr Roberts added: "The guiding principle of all involved is that those affected must come first. We recognised the situation would become public – and rightly so. We welcome it being in the open. But making it public has not been the first concern; and there has been necessary action, such as that outlined... earlier, before reaching the point we are at today."
The allegations were first made public in a report in The Telegraph. In that report, Mr Fletcher denied all allegations against him.
"I totally reject and deny any allegations [made against me], although I don't know what the allegations are about," he said.
"I'm sure that in 30 years of being a reverend that I may have offended someone who has then turned against me. I knew anonymous allegations were made two or three years ago. And I was told police had been contacted. However, I have not been told of any subsequent allegations since."