A Landmark Ruling?

You may have spotted this piece in the Times yesterday on a Church of England Vicar sacked for being a swinger.

A female vicar who told colleagues that she went on swinging holidays in the South of France and who turned up drunk to church services has been banned from practising for 12 years by the Church of England.

The Rev Teresa Davies, from Daventry, Northamptonshire, was found guilty of inappropriate conduct at a tribunal in London yesterday.

Mrs Davies was said to have told two church colleagues at a Christmas lunch in 2006 that she and her husband had spent holidays without their children in the South of France, in an area that she said was noted for “the casual exchange of sexual partners”.

The tribunal also heard that Mrs Davies, 37, and her husband had posted under the name “Tess and Mick, Daventry” on swinging websites. After the lunch Mrs Davies sent an e-mail to one of her colleagues, the Rev Canon Owen Page, saying that she had “probably loaded you with too much information”. She told the other clergyman, the Rev Peter Davis, who gave her a lift home after the lunch: “I think I have said too much.”

Later she told her archdeacon that she had been drinking and was trying to be shocking. She also said that she had never had any sexual relationship outside her marriage. She admitted to the tribunal that this was incorrect.

Naughty. Here’s the killer paragraph.

The tribunal said: “Clergy who commit sexual misconduct have to be dealt with firmly and in a way which would protect those who could be harmed if the respondent were otherwise allowed to remain in ministry."

You can read the full determination of the tribunal here, but here is the main ruling paragraph.

With regard to the first limb of the Complaint, the Tribunal ha absolutely no doubt that on the 18th December 2006 the Respondent made the claims attributed to her, namely that she and her husband had an open sexual relationship and engaged in sexual activity with others outside their marriage. Bearing in mind her admission that she and her husband visited the particular resort in the summer months without their children and the evidence of the personal website profiles entries reflecting their claims, the Tribunal has determined that her behaviour was scandalous, and a serious breach of the Guidelines and the provisions of Canon C26(2) and that it was conduct unbecoming or inappropriate to the office and work of a Clerk in Holy Orders.

Interesting. Was the guilty action the scandal or the actual activity of having sex outside of the marriage relationship? I think one must come to the conclusion that the crime was not the scandal and rumour, but the actual act that led to the scandal. Here’s the relevant Canon:

C 26 Of the manner of life of clerks in Holy Orders

1. Every clerk in Holy Orders is under obligation, not being let by sickness or some other urgent cause, to say daily the Morning and Evening Prayer, either privately or openly; and to celebrate the Holy Communion, or be present thereat, on all Sundays and other principal Feast Days. He is also to be diligent in daily prayer and intercession, in examination of his conscience, and in the study of the Holy Scriptures and such other studies as pertain to his ministerial duties.

2. A clerk in Holy Orders shall not give himself to such occupations, habits, or recreations as do not befit his sacred calling, or may be detrimental to the performance of the duties of his office, or tend to be a just cause of offence to others; and at all times he shall be diligent to frame and fashion his life and that of his family according to the doctrine of Christ, and to make himself and them, as much as in him lies, wholesome examples and patterns to the flock of Christ.

So, a question. Would another clergyman, brought up before a tribunal on the grounds of his manner of life being that of one involved in any sexual relationship outside of marriage, be equally barred from ministry based on this ruling above as precedent?

Can you see where I’m going with this?

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27 Comments on “A Landmark Ruling?

  1. Peter – granted that “All have sinned…” but it doesn’t follow from that, that we shouldn’t make any distinctions when sentencing someone after a judicial / tribunal process, surely?

    in friendship, Blair

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