P.J. Smyth, lead pastor of Monument Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and a founder of the church-planting Advance Movement, left both groups Thursday after an independent report found Mr. Smyth had concealed knowledge of “sadomasochistic physical abuse” practiced decades ago by his father, Anglican leader John Smyth.
The elder Smyth was found to have subjected young men to “thousands of beatings” at boys’ camps in England and Zimbabwe, according to an article published Friday by the Roys Report, an evangelical news service. He died in 2017, the year when allegations about his behavior surfaced.
Monument Church, which holds services in Gaithersburg and in Frederick, Maryland, is allied with the 10-year-old Advance Movement, a church-planting group the younger Mr. Smyth helped found. The Monument congregation also grew out of Gaithersburg’s Covenant Life Church, which has faced its own allegations of abuse in recent years.
“As of December 7th, 2021 we required PJ to step down from the leadership of the Advance Movement and the global leadership team,” an online statement from the group reads.
Advance said P.J. Smyth “did not disclose important information” about his knowledge of his late father’s abuse. It is alleged that P.J. Smyth first heard about the abuse claims in 1993, when he was 22 years old.
The Advance statement acknowledged that P.J. Smyth’s behavior may have been the result of his own traumatic experiences in dealing with his father’s actions.
“Even if this lack of disclosure and transparency were a consequence of trauma, it had significant consequences for Advance, the church he led then and the church he leads now,” the Advance statement said. At the same time, Advance said “it is our great hope that we would see him restored” if Mr. Smyth would “submit himself” to the group’s findings and “bear fruit in keeping with repentance,” quoting Matthew 3:8.
In a response posted by Advance, Mr. Smyth said he hoped to heal and move forward with his life.
“I accept Advance’s decision to step me down from ministry. I accept that I am not above reproach at this time,” he wrote. “I accept that I have character issues that need attention. I accept I am more impacted by trauma than I realized. I accept that I need an indefinite season out of ministry to pursue healing, rehabilitation, and live out fruits of repentance.”
The Washington Times has contacted both groups for additional comment.