Thirtyone:Eight and the Culture of the Titus Trust - Stephen Parsons
This morning, Wednesday 8th, the safeguarding organisation, thirtyone:eight, published its review on the culture of the Titus Trust. It is a lengthy document and, given the fact that we have only had a few hours since it was published, I can be forgiven for not attempting to comment on the entire review. Rather, I focus on certain points within it. The word that came to me as I was reading the early sections, was the word claustrophobia. This might sum my overall feeling of what the report reveals of the past and present culture of Titus Trust and its previous incarnation as the Iwerne Trust. It is not a word that appears anywhere in the review, but it seems to describe well what many may have had to suffer through membership of this organisation. The overall theological and social culture of Titus is not one that is obviously attractive to the outsider.
A single sentence (p 43) sums up the sameness and suffocating environment that I would have found painful if I had ever been a participant at a Titus camp. ‘Leaders and staff are encouraged to have the same theology, which is reinforced by the churches and church culture the Trust is linked with’. Such a statement suggests to me a version of Christianity which, because it is fixed, is unlikely to have much in the way of flexibility or adaptability when problems are encountered. Members of staff are required to ‘share the Conservative Evangelical convictions of the Titus Trust, as set out in the Trust’s Doctrinal Basis.’ The application form for a post in the organisation has twelve questions to be answered about their Christian commitment. In some ways I have no problem with someone choosing to believe that Jonah spent time inside a whale and that Bible is united in its testimony to condemn same-sex marriage. I am however disturbed to think that impressionable young people of 16+ are being required to assert that no one can become a Christian unless they hold to such beliefs. Apparently according to the reviewers, the word ‘sound’ still circulates widely in Titus circles. It is described as the ‘particular theology of camp.’ Only if you are sound can you be entrusted with leading prayers in camp or seeking any kind of responsibility. Talks, even by junior leaders of experience, have to be monitored and assessed for their soundness, in case some heterodox opinion has been allowed to creep in. As with the thirtyone:eight review of Emmanuel Wimbledon and the ministry of Jonathan Fletcher, a strong sense of fear seems to be present in this task of identifying what is sound and what is beyond acceptable belief. The fear of saying or believing the wrong thing must constantly haunt these young people, whether teachers or learners.