Dean of Ripon resigns to avoid ecclesiastical court

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The Dean of England's oldest cathedral has agreed to resign after charges of "conduct unbecoming" against him were dropped.

The Dean of England's oldest cathedral has agreed to resign after charges of "conduct unbecoming" against him were dropped.

The Very Rev John Methuen, Dean of Ripon, was due to appear before a rarely constituted ecclesiastical court on 21 counts relating to allegations of an autocratic management style and inappropriate behaviour towards women. But after eight hours of discussions between the two sides, the announcement was made yesterday that charges against the dean had been withdrawn.

Under the agreement, Mr Methuen, 57, a former chaplain at Eton, will leave Ripon Cathedral, North Yorkshire, by the end of the year and take sabbatical leave in the meantime. His suspension, imposed last September, has been lifted.

Although he can continue to live in the deanery next to the cathedral, he will play no part in the day-to-day running of the cathedral he has led for 10 years.

Mr Methuen was suspended on full pay of £28,000 last September. He had denied all allegations against him, which also included one offence of serious, persistent or continuous neglect of duty and others connected with allegations about his drinking.

The allegations centred on a five-year row about his management style that increased in magnitude when three members of staff quit over what they saw as the Dean's autocratic behaviour. If he had been found guilty, Mr Methuen could have been admonished, removed from office or, in an extreme outcome, been deposed from holy orders.

After the hearing Mr Methuen said: "Following the unhappy disputes at the cathedral, I am pleased that the inhibition [suspension] has been lifted. I believe that I now need a period of reflection on my future life and ministry and I have accepted the Bishop's offer of sabbatical leave."

In a statement read to the court, the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds said: "The ministry and mission of the church have suffered during this unhappy period. I would ask all those concerned to refrain from recriminations and set the past behind them and hold in their prayers the Dean, his wife and family and all those who have been damaged by these events."

Mr Methuen will be remembered for the way he gave refuge in 1986 to Viraj Mendis, who was fighting deportation to Sri Lanka where he feared for his life due to his support for the Tamil cause. He stayed at the Church of the Ascension, in Hulme, Manchester, for two years before he was arrested by police and deported. Mr Methuen visited the church last year.

In 1999 Mr Methuen was involved in the promotion of Ripon Jewel, a beer that was to be sold at Ripon Cathedral.