Affair vicar in sacking appeal

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AN ANGLICAN clergyman, defrocked after an affair with a parishioner, yesterday continued his long-running battle to return to his post in the Church in Wales when an extraordinary legal hearing was convened in the calm of Brecon Cathedral.

Clifford Williams, the former Rector of Benllech, Anglesey, a married man with three children, appeared before the Provincial Court of the Church in Wales, which had met only twice before since disestablishment from the Church of England in 1920.

The private hearing was presided over by the Archbishop of Wales, the Most Reverend Alwyn Rice Jones, sitting with four of the Church's six bishops. Arguments between Geoffrey Little QC, appearing for the Church, and barrister Mark Hill, an expert in canon law, for Williams, were listened to intently, but the Court will not deliver a judgment until later this month.

Williams, aged 50, was appointed to minister to parishes in rural Anglesey in 1982. He lived in an imposing rectory in Tyn-y-Gongl, a peaceful seaside village. There was criticism of his lifestyle and, in October 1997, an ecclesiastical court stripped him of his Holy Orders after finding him guilty of a six-year adulterous affair with Mrs Iris Green.

Williams was also found to have lied to the Bishop of Bangor, the Rt Rev Barry Morgan, and to have refused to obey his senior's orders. He was held guilty of "conduct giving just cause for scandal or offence".

His application to the High Court for a judicial review was dismissed last October, and the Church obtained an order evicting him from the rectory where he had lived for more than 15 years. The eviction hearing was told that the community had been deeply divided and needed someone to heal the rift caused by the scandal.

The cost of the protracted affair keeps rising. The Archbishop's spokesman, the Rev David Williams, said yesterday: "The Church has paid all his [Williams'] costs so as not to disadvantage him. About pounds 300,000 has already been expended."

After the hearing, Clifford Williams made a brief statement, saying: "My counsel put the arguments very powerfully and we must now await the bishops' decision."