A VICAR in Oxfordshire has been removed from office and banned from ministry for two years, after having been convicted by a church tribunal of spiritual abuse against a teenage boy.
The priest, the Revd Timothy Davis, formerly Vicar of Christ Church, Abingdon, was “prohibited from the exercise of holy orders for a period of two years” by a tribunal panel on Saturday.
In December, Mr Davis was found guilty under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 (CDM) of “conduct unbecoming or inappropriate to the office and work of a clerk in holy orders through the abuse of spiritual power and authority” by a five-strong Bishop’s Disciplinary Tribunal for the Oxford diocese, chaired by His Honour the Revd Mark Bishop (News, 12 January).
The victim was judged to have been put under “unacceptable pressure” during one-to-one Bible-study sessions in his bedroom over a period of 18 months. Mr Davis’s conviction is thought to be the first judgment that the abuse of spiritual power and authority had taken place.
The complaint was brought by the Archdeacon of Dorchester, the Ven. Judy French, in 2013, and referred to a period of 18 months from January 2012, during which Mr Davis held private mentoring sessions with a 16-year-old schoolboy, whose family were part of his congregation, as part of a youth scheme set up by the youth pastor of Christ Church, Matt Luscombe.
A spokesman for the diocese of Oxford said: “In December 2017, the Revd Tim Davis 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.
“The penalty imposed on Tim Davis was that he should cease to hold office with immediate effect, and he now stands prohibited from the exercise of holy orders for a period of two years. Should he wish to return to ministry after the period of prohibition then he will be required to undertake a formal risk assessment.”
The spokesman also 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.”
Mr Davis has been suspended by the diocese following the allegations since July 2016.
The case was heard by a panel chaired by Judge Bishop, and including the Revd Edward Bowes-Smith; Canon Ann Philp; Prebendary Sue Lloyd; and Dr Stephen Longden, last November.
The 20-page judgment found that Mr Davis had engaged in “mentoring so intense” that the victim had been “deprived of his freedom of choice as to whether to continue” this mentoring.
Read our leader comment on spiritual abuse from last month