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The Jesus Army church may be folding... but its centres, communes and businesses will continue

Website: Northampton Chronicle and Echo
Date: 30/05/2019
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Jesus Centres around the country - including the one in Northampton - will continue to run under a separate charity, despite the collapse of the church affiliated with it.

On Tuesday the leaders of the Jesus Fellowship - more commonly known as the Jesus Army - announced that, under the weight of historical abuse claims, it would cease to exist.

Along with numerous business enterprises, the Fellowship runs seven Jesus Centres around the country, including the one on the corner of Abington Square.

Northampton's centre, situated in the former ABC Cinema, runs a series of support groups and skills classes for the homeless, asylum seekers and those with addiction problems.

It also plays host to the Jesus Army's Sunday worship.

But the chief executive of the charity in charge of the centres has confirmed that all seven around the country will continue to run.

Chelly Walsma, said: "Though originally established by the Jesus Fellowship Church, the Jesus Centres Trust is registered as an independent charity and has its own identity. Its work has been much admired in the places where Jesus Centres serve the local community.

"Its trustees are accountable to, and operate under, the guidance of the Charity Commission.

"Obviously, the publicity surrounding the closure of the Jesus Fellowship Church is a cause for concern for our staff, volunteers and supporters, and for the people that they help; however, the work of the charity will continue."

The Jesus Centres Trust was originally established by the Jesus Fellowship Church in 2002 and currently operates seven venues in London, Northampton, Sheffield, Leicester, Birmingham, Coventry and Kettering.

Only the current Jesus Fellowship church congregations will cease to operate under the current umbrella. They will now become separate, independent entities, free to appoint their own members.

"They will not be affiliated to a national church organisation and will be led by people who are appointed by their own members," said a Jesus Army spokesman. "Some have already appointed interim leadership teams, comprising women and men who are part of the congregation. These local congregations will be responsible for every aspect of their function including finance, staffing, and safeguarding."

The Fellowship, though currently in the winding up stage, currently has 1,000 members, 200 of which still live in communal houses run by the Fellowship.

A spokesman for the church confirmed these communes will also continue to exist - as well as its numerous business enterprises.

In 2016 a senior Jesus Army member reported that the various business, including Daventry-based construction firm Skaino Services, were making combined profits of 'half-a-million- pounds a year'.

Child abuse solicitor David Greenwood of the firm Switalskis is currently fighting two of the 40 or so legal claims being levelled at the Jesus Army, which has been the subject of serious sexual, physical, financial and spiritual abuse claims in recent years.

He said he was concerned the proposed closure of the church would affect those pursuing the Fellowship for compensation over historic abuse.

However, the Jesus Army spokesman said it would remain committed to a redress scheme under another separate charity - the Jesus Fellowship Community Trust (JFCT).

He said: "The JFCT has initiated a redress scheme, the operation of which is being designed by a working party comprising former members and members and victims. The aim is that when the redress scheme opens, it will receive such applications.

"The trustees of the JFCT take seriously their legal obligations to members and also the claims of aggrieved parties. It is the desire of the trustees to fund the redress scheme and they have resourced it so far and given it a high priority."