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Bedfordshire vicar suspended after alleged affair

9 February 10 16:33 GMT

A vicar has been suspended for six months after his bishop received a complaint about an affair with a parishioner.

The Bishop of Hertford Christopher Foster ruled the Reverend Stephen Smith should be banned from clerical duties.

Mr Smith, 54, announced the decision to his congregation at St Mary's Church in Cardington, Bedfordshire.

A Diocese of St Albans spokesman said the complaint about a relationship with a woman was received last August.

The complaint against Mr Smith, team vicar in the Elstow Team Ministry, regarded his conduct towards an adult member of his parish.

It said this was inappropriate to the office and work of a clerk in Holy Orders.

Parishioners were told in the parish magazine recently that the vicar had not been taking services because he had been unwell.

His suspension began on 31 January.

'Disciplinary powers'

"This is a significant penalty," the spokesman said.

"The public and the Church rightly expect the highest standards of behaviour from clergy and take seriously any falling short from these standards.

"The disciplinary powers available exist to deal with these matters with appropriate penalties.

"The penalty remains noted on the record of the priest thereafter."

Some of the congregation lent support to the vicar, who is now married to a different woman.

Church treasurer Mary Carmichael, 76, said: "Lots of people have sex. It's not a crime.

"Reverend Smith is a wonderful vicar who is very well-liked by the congregation. It's his birthday on Thursday and we've all been sending him birthday cards.

"We are very aggrieved about the situation."

The vicar and his wife were said to be upset and distressed by what had happened.

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