Disgraced vicar quits over sex scandal

Television confession: Priest who built up cult following with 'rave' style service admits to numerous liaisons
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The Independent Online
JOHN McKIE

The disgraced church minister Chris Brain last night admitted "improper sexual conduct with a number of women" and revealed he had resigned as a Church of England priest.

Three months ago the former Anglican vicar, who led the "rave-style" Nine O'Clock Service in Sheffield, was accused of a sex scandal involving women in his congregation.

On last night's BBC1 Everyman programme, Mr Brain and female NOS members gave their first interviews about the controversial Sunday services,which bred a band of mainly young devotees.

In the programme, Mr Brain offered to resign as a priest, a decision he confirmed with a letter to the diocese of Sheffield on Saturday.

Mr Brain said: "For a priest in a church setting, I would have to say that I was involved in improper sexual conduct. I did get gratification. The gratification I was after was not sexual, although there was sexual gratification ... I would not use somebody. It was in the area of just closeness and affection and friendship."

Mr Brain conceded that the sexual activity had developed "after a long period of developing a close relationship with that person".

One such woman said last night that Mr Brain told her that "he would teach me to discover my potential as a woman. It escalated from something I found acceptable to something I find unbelievable now. It has cost me dearly. I feel in some way he owned my body and I was his to do what he wanted with, and that disgusts me".

One of the female NOS leaders said of Mr Brain: "He would regularly talk about how we were discovering a post-modern definition of sexuality in the Church. Again, it's language, language covering up the fact of what was really going on - one bloke getting his rocks off with about 40 women.

"Abuse - religious, sexual, psychological abuse - had gone on in the Nine O' Clock Service for years," she said.

It was not just Mr Brain who was under attack yesterday. One woman on the documentary claimed that she had complained to the Bishop of Sheffield in November 1992.

Roy Arnold, spokesman for the diocese, dismissed this allegation last night. "Her complaints were of a general nature. As soon as we heard serious complaints in the summer of this year, we investigated them straightaway and blew the whistle on Mr Brain."

The Church was also criticised on BBC Radio Four's Sunday programme by Mr Brain's lawyer, Stewart Lale, for abandoning his client. "I think he feels totally unsupported in any way, shape or form by the Church," he said.

Mr Arnold defended the Church. "We have been too busy dealing with the victims," he said. "And there are more obvious victims than Chris Brain."

The Church also criticised the BBC for overstating its problems. The Rt Rev David Lunn, Bishop of Sheffield, said: "I still find it difficult to understand why the BBC and the media in general have managed to convince themselves that the problems of a single congregation in a single diocese have represented a management crisis of mega-proportions for the Church of England."

John Drury, the BBC's head of factual programmes (religion), said. "There are clergy interviewed in the programme who share our view that this is a matter of serious concern."

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