Questions over churchman's charity trip: Andrew Brown reports on a leading Anglican's visit to South Africa with a homosexual friend

THE MOST powerful layman in the Church of England took his homosexual companion around South Africa on a trip for an Anglican charity, the Independent has learnt. He later repaid to the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge the extra costs involved.

The bills, showing the two men shared a room on the trip in 1990, were approved by Patrick Gilbert, the society's then managing director, who resigned suddenly last year and is now facing charges of indecent assault.

The Rev Sir Derek Pattinson, as he now is, was secretary-general of the Church of England's General Synod for 18 years, until 1990, when he was knighted on retirement and embarked on training for ordination.

He was also chairman of the executive committee at the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge, a 300-year-old missionary society and publishing house, currently being investigated by the Charity Commissioners after revelations about the extravagance of Mr Gilbert, its last managing director.

Sir Derek set off on a prolonged fact-finding trip around southern Africa at SPCK's expense in the autumn of 1990, while he was still secretary-general of the Synod.

In Johannesburg he was joined, by pre-arrangement, by Barnaby Miln, a homosexual activist who had been the one of the youngest Justices of the Peace in England.

For most of the years when Sir Derek, 62, was training for the priesthood, he lived with Mr Miln in a flat in Westminster owned by the Diocese of London.

Dr Graham Leonard, the traditionalist who has now announced he plans to leave the Church of England in protest against women priests, was then Bishop of London. He agreed to Sir Derek's ordination without the customary investigation of his suitability by the Church's Advisory Council on Ministry.

'It's perfectly true that (Sir Derek) never went to a selection conference, because technically he was the employer of the staff who were arranging it,' Dr Leonard said.

Mr Miln claims that Dr Leonard knew the set-up. 'The Daily Mail chap, Tony Doran, had got through the outer door on the morning of the deaconing and accused (Sir Derek) to his face of being a homosexual. And Derek sent him away,' he said.

'The telephone then started ringing, and Graham Leonard decided to go ahead . . . The organist was told to play full blast, should there be a protest; and at the private do afterwards. Graham Leonard came up to me and said: 'I did you a favour, Barnaby.' '

Dr Leonard attended a packed General Synod debate in 1987 when Sir Derek was on the platform and Mr Miln, then a lay member, announced that he was a homosexual.

The Synod went on to pass by an overwhelming majority, a motion condemning 'homosexual genital activity'.

Before Sir Derek could become a priest, Dr Leonard retired, and was replaced by the Rt Rev David Hope, the former bishop of Wakefield. He compelled Sir Derek to return to the theological college at Mirfield, Yorkshire, for an extra term, which he had hoped to skip. But he did ordain him.

Dr Hope said: 'I knew that they were sharing rooms or a flat. But it was put to me that Barnaby Miln was looking after Derek, caring for or about him. I would presume that their domestic arrangements were satisfactory and wholesome because I was not told otherwise.'

Sir Derek serves as a curate in St Gabriel's, Warwick Square, central London, whose rector is David Skeogh. Mr Skeogh, a 'high' Anglo-Catholic, is a former schoolteacher who served as Dr Leonard's domestic chaplain both in Truro and London.

While Sir Derek was away at Mirfield last spring Mr Miln began a relationship with David O'Reilly, a young Irishman. He had previously been attracted to a handsome Australian teacher, whose athletic interests led him to take up an exercise programme, which resulted in a knee injury.

Mr Miln said he was due for a cartilage operation at the end of March and 'needed somebody to get me around. And Derek was due back from Mirfield for the ordination and so forth. So we needed somebody to drive us around.'

David O'Reilly was Mr Miln's chauffeur and lover from April until he died in mysterious circumstances behind King's Cross railway station, north London, on 6 August this year.

On 20 May, for reasons which are still unclear, two police cars pulled over Mr Miln's car as Mr O'Reilly was driving him along the Westway in London. The two men were taken separately to police stations, and interrogated for six hours. The car was searched, but nothing unusual was found except some leaflets promoting the Anglican Centre in Rome.

Mr O'Reilly introduced Mr Miln to hard drugs very soon after their relationship began. Mr Miln said that in very little time he was spending hundreds of pounds a week on heroin and cocaine.

On 6 August, Mr Miln's 45th birthday, Mr O'Reilly drove him to King's Cross. He parked there, left Mr Miln in the car, and went to buy some cocaine. What happened next is unclear. Mr Miln believes it was murder: the Crown Prosecution Service found no case to answer, when police passed on papers of the case. In any case, Mr O'Reilly fell, or was pushed, under the wheels of a lorry and died.

Sir Derek collected Mr Miln from the police station where he had been questioned for hours by officers wanting to know why he was in the car and what Mr O'Reilly had been doing. He denied everything, but admitted on two separate occasions afterwards that Mr O'Reilly had in fact been buying cocaine for him.

The relationship between Sir Derek and Mr Miln deteriorated, though the two men continued to live together.

Since Mr Gilbert's forced retirement last year from the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge, the new managing director, Paul Chandler, has completely revised its financial controls. He said yesterday that none of the society's travel budget came from contributions made by the public.

Sir Derek, when challenged over the allegations, replied that he had paid by cheque for Mr Miln's share of the hotel bills in South Africa immediately after his return. But he could not produce a record of this.

He has disappeared and cannot be contacted. Dr Hope has ordered him to take medical leave for six weeks, and will review his position at the end of that time.

(Photographs omitted)

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