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Retired priest and author prohibited for life after admitting to inappropriate conduct

20 October 2023

Church Times

John Young, former Canon Emeritus of York Minster, in a photograph sent by the complainant

John Young, former Canon Emeritus of York Minster, in a photograph sent by the complainant

A CO-FOUNDER of York Courses and a former General Synod member, the Revd John Young, is the second priest from one parish in the diocese of York to admit to inappropriate conduct and be banned for life from exercising clerical functions.

Mr Young was issued with a prohibition order under the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM), imposed on 1 September, after a year-long investigation into an allegation that he had had sex with a vulnerable woman from the congregation at St Edward the Confessor, Dringhouses, in York.

Three years ago, the then Vicar of St Edward’s, Martin Baldock, was also banned for life for two similar offences (News, 2 October 2020). Mr Young, who retired in 2003 and is aged 86, had assisted Mr Baldock at the church since that time, running children’s Sunday services and an after-school children’s club. He occasionally presided at the eucharist.

A prolific author of popular theology, he was a Canon and Prebendary of York Minster from 1992 to 2003, a member of the York diocesan synod and the General Synod, a chaplain and senior lecturer at York St John University, and a co-founder of the York Courses resources for Lent and other discussion groups.

The complainant was a 40-year-old woman, who told the Church Times that she had come to know Mr Young well through the church. “I was close to John. I thought of him as family, until he did what he did,” she said this week. “He was old enough to be my grandfather.”

Mr Young had visited her in 2019, she said, to offer support after she had taken an overdose. “Instead of support, he said: ‘This is what Martin does,’ before having sex [with me].

“I struggled with what happened and stopped going to church or accepting support. For a long time, I could not go out in case I bumped into him in the street.”

When Mr Baldock’s life ban was published in 2020, she came forward and told the diocese of York what had happened to her.

She complained that the investigation was dragged out, and that her emails ignored, and her enquiries were fobbed off. “The lengthy time it took caused a lot of distress,” she said.

If the cleric accepts the penalty meted out, the CDM process limits what is published on the Church’s website to a bare minimum. This, the complainant said, “means [that] the Church now protects predator priests like these by keeping the reason private and confidential”. She said that she felt “let down”, and wanted people to know what had happened.

Mr Young is still listed on the internet as patron of Accomplish Children’s Trust, a charity which was launched by Mr Baldock and his wife, Susan, to help vulnerable disabled children in Africa. “That is inappropriate,” the complainant said. “Why are they keeping him there when they have known about his sexual misconduct for a few years?” The website also lists St Edward’s as a “supporter” of the charity.

In a statement to the Church Times, the diocese of York said that the statutory Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 code of practice required that all allegations of misconduct under the CDM remain private and confidential.

“John Young has accepted a penalty by consent for prohibition for life as his behaviour was inappropriate to the office and work of a clerk in Holy Orders,” the statement says.

An accompanying statement from the Bishop of Selby, the Rt Revd John Thomson, says: “All complaints are taken seriously, and investigated fully, working with statutory agencies where necessary. The Church of England expects the highest standards of conduct from its clergy in both their professional and personal relationships, and where this is lacking, we are deeply sorry for the harm that this causes and we are committed to listening and responding well. The individuals most closely involved in this situation are in my prayers.

“All parties have been offered pastoral support, which is an important part of the Church’s response when any complaint is brought.”

In a separate statement, the diocese said: “John Young formerly held Permission to Officiate (PTO) in the diocese of York, and was one of a number of retired clergy at St Edward’s Church, Dringhouses, who offer their ministry on an occasional basis in retirement. His lifetime prohibition means that he will never be able to minister again as a priest in the Church of England. The Clergy Discipline Measure (2003) explains it as ‘prohibition without limit of time from exercising any of the functions of his Orders’. He was conferred with the honorary title of Canon Emeritus of York Minster in 2003 and this title has been withdrawn.”

Mr Young has declined to comment.

Mr Young has broadcast on Radio 4. In 2012, a York diocesan newsletter described him as “an outstanding communicator of the Christian message”. His York Courses recordings feature conversations with the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams; Baroness Williams of Crosby; the Archbishop of York (then Bishop of Chelmsford); the Methodist theologian Professor David Wilkinson; and the Revd Lucy Winkett, among others.

Last year, Mr Young wrote in the magazine The Oldie that he had worked as a ghost writer for the former Archbishop of York, Lord Sentamu, providing press articles and replies to letters from the public on anything from theological points to complaints about a vicar. He was formerly a book reviewer for the Church Times.

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