Page last updated at 15:08 GMT, Thursday, 10 April 2008 16:08 UK

'Spitting vicar' sacked by bishop

Rev Dr Tom Ambrose
Rev Dr Tom Ambrose denied ever swearing or spitting

A Church of England vicar accused of spitting at and intimidating his parishioners has been ordered to leave his Cambridgeshire post by his bishop.

Rev Dr Tom Ambrose, 61, of St Mary and St Michael Church in Trumpington, has been disqualified from carrying out any of the functions of his office.

A church tribunal last year recommended the move citing "pastoral breakdown".

Dr Ambrose has issued a denial he ever spat at parishioners and said the allegation was never put to him.

Dr Ambrose had clashed with parishioners over his plans to modernise the church.

I do not spit and I never swear. If there is any person who has ever see me do such a thing, let them come forward
Rev Dr Tom Ambrose

The tribunal heard evidence of "arrogant, aggressive, rude, bullying, high-handed, disorganised and at times petty behaviour of Dr Ambrose".

In the decision letter to the vicar and those who brought the tribunal, the Bishop of Ely Dr Anthony Russell wrote: "I am astonished and dismayed that there are recorded two occasions on which it is said that Dr Ambrose spat at parishioners, allegations which were not challenged in cross-examination."

The incidents were part of a long line of disagreements between Dr Ambrose and worshippers at the church, the tribunal was told.

The tribunal heard allegations that he inundated opponents of his plans with e-mails and letters.

St Mary and St Michael Church in Trumpington
Rev Dr Tom Ambrose was a vicar at St Mary and St Michael Church

Dr Ambrose also allegedly upset older parishioners by using slide shows instead of sermons and using so much incense in church that some worshippers felt sick.

But he denied being aggressively confrontational and claimed that "envy" had been behind the allegations against him.

In a widely circulated email he said: "I wish to issue a categorical denial that I have ever spat at anyone in my entire life. This allegation has never been made to me personally.

"It was never made when PCC members first presented a case to the bishop several years ago, it was never made during... attempts at mediation.

"It was never raised at the mediation sessions which were held under the auspices of ACAS."

"I do not spit and I never swear. If there is any person who has ever see me do such a thing, let them come forward."

A Diocesan spokesman said Dr Ambrose remained a vicar.

He said: "He has not lost his orders, essentially he's lost his job."

Dr Ambrose is understood to want to now take his case to an employment tribunal.

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Dr Tom Ambrose will fight the decision through an industrial tribunal

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