'Spitting vicar' ordered to leave parish

A Church of England vicar accused of intimidating and spitting at parishioners was ordered to vacate his post by his bishop today.

The Rev Tom Ambrose, 61, of St Mary and St Michael Church in Trumpington, Cambridgeshire, has been disqualified from "carrying out any of the functions of his office" by the Bishop of Ely, Dr Anthony Russell.

Today's decision follows an ecclesiastical tribunal in London last year, which was told of a "pastoral breakdown" in the Trumpington parish.

The tribunal heard "evidence of the arrogant, aggressive, rude, bullying, high-handed disorganised and at times petty behaviour of Dr Ambrose."

The tribunal, sought by the Parochial Church Council (PCC) the ruling body of the church, ruled that the position occupied by Dr Ambrose, 60, should be declared vacant by the Bishop of Ely.

Today the Bishop duly obliged, informing Dr Ambrose and his put-upon parishioners that he must vacate his position as vicar of Trumpington.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Ely said: "After careful consideration, the Bishop of Ely, Dr Anthony Russell, has accepted the advice of the Tribunal.

"He has executed a declaration of avoidance declaring the benefice vacant from 9 July 2008.

"He has also made an order, as he is required to do under the Measure, disqualifying Dr Ambrose from carrying out any of the functions of his office. This disqualification has immediate effect."

During the five-day hearing it was alleged that the vicar inundated members of the congregation with letters and emails when they opposed his views.

There were also disputes between Dr Ambrose and parishioners about the date of the harvest festival supper and an allegation that he had five trees felled in the churchyard without consulting the PCC.

Dr Ambrose upset older parishioners by introducing presentations of slide shows instead of sermons and using so much incense in the church that some people felt sick, it was alleged.

The vicar was also accused of spitting at parishioners on two occasions.

In the decision letter to the vicar and those who brought the tribunal, the Bishop of Ely, writes: "I am astonished and dismayed that there are recorded two occasions on which it is said that Dr Ambrose spat at parishioner, allegations which were not challenged in cross-examination.

"These incidents may be seen as among the lowest points of what plainly became an increasingly unhappy relationship between Dr Ambrose and his parishioners as charted in the report."

A Diocesan spokesman said Dr Ambrose remained a vicar.

He explained: "He has not lost his orders, essentially he's lost his job."

He added that the bishop "...hopes it will now be possible to bring this unhappy period to a conclusion."

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