Vicar suspended over 'inappropriate' relationship
A vicar has been suspended after having an "inappropriate" relationship with a member of his congregation.
He was forced to leave the pulpit after a member of the public - reportedly a spurned ex-lover - made a formal complaint.
The Bishop of Hertford, the Rt Rev Christopher Foster, heard the complaint and ruled that the Rev Stephen Smith should be prohibited from exercising any functions as a member of the clergy for six months.
The prohibition of Mr Smith, 54, was announced to the congregation of St Mary's Church in Cardington, Bedfordshire, on January 31.
A spokesman for the Diocese of St Albans said: "In August 2009 a complaint was made against the Rev Stephen Smith, team vicar in the Elstow Team Ministry, Bedfordshire, that his conduct towards an adult female member of his parish was inappropriate to the office and work of a Clerk in Holy Orders.
"This (prohibition) is a significant penalty."
Some of the congregation lent its support to the vicar, who is now married to a different woman.
Church treasurer Mary Carmichael, 76, said: "Lots of people have sex. It's not a crime.
"Rev Smith is a wonderful vicar who is very well-liked by the congregation. It's his birthday on Thursday and we've all been sending him birthday cards.
"We are very aggrieved about the situation."
The vicar and his wife, a council worker, are understood to be upset and distressed by what has happened.
Parishioners were informed in the parish magazine recently that the vicar had not been taking services as he was unwell.
His prohibition began on January 31.
The diocese spokesman added: "The public and the Church rightly expect the highest standards of behaviour from clergy and take seriously any falling short from these standards.
"The disciplinary powers available exist to deal with these matters with appropriate penalties. The penalty remains noted on the record of the priest thereafter."
Police were not involved in the matter.
Members of the clergy are required to confine sexual relationships to within marriage.
They are also advised to avoid having relationships with members of their flock.
- 1 'Nasa Confirms Six Days of Darkness in December': No, they don't - it's a hoax
- 2 Number of global billionaires has doubled since the financial crisis
- 3 Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
- 4 Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
- 5 North Korean officials 'publicly executed for watching South Korean soap operas'
'Nasa Confirms Six Days of Darkness in December': No, they don't - it's a hoax
Canadian actor punched in face after 'Islamophobia' experiment goes wrong in wake of Ottawa shooting
Number of global billionaires has doubled since the financial crisis
Elizabeth Norment dead: House of Cards actress honoured by Kevin Spacey after she dies aged 61
Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
Pope Francis declares evolution and Big Bang theory are real and God is not 'a magician with a magic wand'
Huge surge in Ukip support after EU funding row, according to new poll
Ukip ‘exploiting grooming scandal’ to secure party’s first police chief
Nigel Farage: 'There’s nothing wrong with white people blacking up'
Muslims, immigration and teenage pregnancy: British people are ignorant about almost everything
Nigel Farage and Frankie Boyle clash over Andrew Lawrence's 'Mock the Week' criticism
£18000 - £20400 per annum + Accommodation, Flights, Medical Cover: Randstad Ed...
£45 - £55 per day: Randstad Education Preston: We are looking for an experienc...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teachers needed in King's Ly...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teacher needed in the Ely ar...