'Cult' priest in hospital and barred as minister

Nine O'Clock Service scandal: Leader accused of abusing women is to have psychiatric treatment as churchman calls for criminal charges
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The Independent Online
ANDREW BROWN

and JOHN MCKIE

The Rev Chris Brain, who is alleged to have abused up to 40 women members of his Nine O'Clock Service cult, is to be admitted to a hospital for psychiatric treatment, the Diocese of Sheffield announced yesterday.

He was moved from a secret Derbyshire retreat to Manchester's Cheadle Royal Hospital, where he is expected to stay for at least two weeks.

On the same day, the Archbishop of York barred him from acting as an ordained Church of England minister.

The Archbishop, the Most Rev John Habgood, wrote to Mr Brain, 38, informing him of his decision as allegations of psychological, emotional and sexual abuse of NOS members continued to surface. The Bishop of Sheffield has already banned him from practising in the diocese.

The letter bars him from ministering anywhere in the Church of England until allegations against him have been investigated.

The Archbishop's action came as a church leader at this weekend's Christian Greenbelt Arts Festival called for criminal charges to be made against Mr Brain.

The Rev Graham Cray, Principal of Ridley Hall theological college and an early NOS supporter, said of the abuse claims yesterday: "There ought to be criminal charges against him but the emotional manipulation and collusion here will make it very difficult."

Tim Riches of Synergy, a Leeds-based evangelical group inspired by the Nine O'Clock Service, said that the scandal surrounding Mr Brain would not weaken the estimated 200 "rave-style" services around the country using ideas pioneered by the NOS.

"Everybody is very keen to send a message of support to people within NOS. What has upset me particularly is how the media has portrayed the whole NOS thing. Anything to do with house music or dance music now is suddenly some sort of ritualistic sex cult."

Mr Brain faced more criticism yesterday when press reports alleged he had bought a car, mobile phone and Armani clothes with supporters' donations. He was said to have had the use of a pounds 200,000 house near Barnsley in which a recording studio was installed, paid for by donations to the NOS.

The Bishop of Sheffield, the Rt Rev David Lunn, said the NOS trust fund was "squeaky clean", adding: "People gave him private donations and they can do that if they want. They are grown-ups."

Mr Brain's wife Lynne and five year-old daughter Ruth were taken for separate counselling on Thursday. A church spokesman said Mrs Brain was still supporting her husband.

Mrs Brain's mother, Shirley Taylor, criticised her son-in-law on Thursday. She said that he had turned Lynne, whom she has not seen for three months, into a "zombie". She raised questions with her vicar Rev Michael Taylor, of Harrogate church St Andrew's, last October. He in turn approached the Archdeacon of Sheffield, the Ven Stephen Lowe, who claimed that they "were making mountains out of molehills".

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