Church of England priest guilty of 'spiritual abuse' against teenage boy is banned from ministry

A Church of England priest has been banned from ministry after being found guilty of 'spiritual abuse' against a teenager.

Rev Timothy Davis, of Christ Church, Abingdon in Oxfordshire, was 'prohibited from the exercise of holy orders' for two years by a disciplinary panel on Saturday.

It comes after he was found 'guilty of conduct unbecoming or inappropriate to the office and work of a clerk in Holy Orders through the abuse of spiritual power and authority over a person then aged 15-16' in January.

The landmark case was the first of its kind in which a priest was found guilty of 'spiritual abuse'.

Christ Church, AbingdonTimothy Davis, vicar of Christ Church, Abingdon

The Church of England tribunal said the teenage boy, referred to as W1, was 'deprived of his freedom of choice' as to whether to continue with mentoring sessions.

'Under the guise of his authority [Davis] sought to control by the use of admonition, scripture, prayer and revealed prophecy the life of W1 and/or his relationship with his girlfriend,' it said.

Davis, who is in his 50s, moved into the family home of the boy and engaged him in a series of two-hour sessions of prayer and Bible study in the teenager's bedroom. The vicar also went with the family on holiday.

W1 said that although he found being mentored by Davis as all-consuming, he did not feel able to challenge the priest.

The boy told the tribunal that Davis became angry if he did not ring him or respond to texts.

The tribunal heard how the boy's mother, who worked at the church, also felt unable to challenge Davis because he was her boss and had made it clear that God wanted his mentoring of W1 to continue. She said that she 'was scared of going against God'.

Davis, who was suspended in July 2016. told the panel that he was 'shocked and confused' about the allegations. He added that he had 'no idea of the effect I was apparently having'.

After passing judgment, the diocese stressed that clergy were in a privileged position of trust, and that spiritual abuse fell 'far short of the obligations and duties of those in holy orders'.

Clergy guidelines state that the power held by clergy over others must not be used to bully, manipulate or denigrate. They say that clergy should never seek to remove autonomy from a person, nor should power be exercised inappropriately.

In a statement issued yesterday, the diocese said: 'The findings of the tribunal are instructive for anyone still doubting that spiritual abuse exists, and we commend the young man and his family for their courage and grace throughout this process.'

A spokesperson for the diocese of Oxford said: 'The findings of the tribunal are instructive for anyone still doubting that spiritual abuse exists, and we commend the young man and his family for their courage and grace throughout this process. The Diocese of Oxford continues to offer pastoral support to all involved.'

Lifestyle