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Deceived vicar must leave Essex parish, a church tribunal has ruled

01 May 2020

The Revd William Bulloch was cleared in January of having an affair with a parishioner

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The coastline at Leigh-on-Sea, Essex

The coastline at Leigh-on-Sea, Essex

THE Essex vicar who was falsely accused of making a parishioner pregnant must, none the less, leave the parish, a church tribunal has ruled.

The Vicar of St James’s, Leigh-on-Sea, the Revd William Bulloch, was cleared in January of having an affair with the parishioner, “AB” (News, 24 January). The tribunal that heard the case, brought by the Archdeacon of Southend, the Ven. Michael Lodge, concluded that the pregnancy was part of a wider “egregious” deception, in which AB convinced Mr Bulloch and his wife that she was suffering from a terminal illness.

They took her into their home, as part of a response to her “dying wish”, and lent her their daughter’s wheelchair. At AB’s request, Mr Bulloch told her own seven-year-old daughter of her mother’s imminent death. The accusation that Mr Bulloch had made her pregnant came after he discovered that he had been duped by AB and confronted her, the tribunal heard.

On 6 April, a tribunal under Judge Mark Bishop decided that the two elements of the charge that Mr Bulloch had admitted — that he had “failed to seek assistance or advice from the diocesan safeguarding team or senior diocesan clergy as to how suitable help or support could be provided for [AB] and/or as to how he should respond to her”, and that he had used “foul and obscene language” in conversations with her after the deception was discovered — constituted misconduct.

Besides failing to keep appropriate boundaries in a pastoral relationship, Mr Bulloch had subsequently failed to involve the diocesan authorities in AB’s care; when asked about it, had minimised the contact that he said he had had with her; and had not told the truth to the Archdeacon. The tribunal ruled that this last charge constituted serious misconduct.

The tribunal ruled that Mr Bulloch be removed from office, on the grounds that the misconduct had “fundamentally undermined his work as a priest in this parish”. The timing of this should take account of the present coronavirus lockdown. It also ruled that he should undertake training in anger-management, safeguarding, and external relationships, and should receive a rebuke.

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