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Vicar found guilty of 'spiritual abuse' after trying to stop teenage boy seeing his girlfriend with 'nightly one-on-one mentoring sessions'


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A vicar has become the first to be found guilty of spiritual abuse after he tried to stop a teenage boy seeing his girlfriend.

The Reverend Timothy Davis, vicar of Christ Church Abingdon, was found to be guilty of misconduct after a tribunal found that his "intense mentoring" of the boy between 2012 and 2013 amounted to abuse.

The disciplinary tribunal found that he had "sought to control" the boy's life and relationships "by the use of admonition, Scripture, prayer and revealed prophecy".

Nightly one-on-one mentoring sessions which lasted for up to two hours took place unsupervised in the boy's bedroom, it said.

The abuse lasted for 18 months, when the boy was aged 15 and 16.

Mr Davis moved in with the boy's family and would become angry if he did not come to his services because he was with his girlfriend.

He called her "evil" and her family "bad seed" and "poisonous", quoting Matthew's Gospel to support his claims.

The boy, who cannot be identified, told the tribunal that Mr Davis hugged him while crying, which he found "uncomfortable" and he was forced to pray with him morning and evening because he was told "God was saying that is what I should do".

The pair went for dinner in Oxford together, to London to see Les Miserables and to the cinema in Didcot, the tribunal found.

The boy said he found the mentoring "too intense but he found it impossible to tell TD that he wanted less contact."

His mother said she did not try and end his relationship with her son as "she was scared of going against God".

She was initially "angry" at people who criticised the vicar and it took a year for her to realise that his behaviour was "not right", she said.

Mr Davis said he had been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, had been encouraged by the boy's parents and hugged him "only in the context of celebrating GCSE results and on one occasion when [the boy] hugged him and said thank you".

The tribunal found that the vicar "lacked propriety and failed to heed the effect [his behaviour] was having on others and in particular [the boy]."

It preferred the evidence of the boy and his mother, and said Mr Davis was an "unreliable" witness who was guilty of "abuse of spiritual power and authority".

"At this time [the boy] was 15/16 doing his GCSEs and TD was a Vicar in his 50’s leading a very large and successful Church: the imbalance in the relationship is obvious," the judgment said.

There was also inappropriate touching including the playing of the "trust game", where one participant falls backwards into the arms of the other.

There was "no suggestion of any sexual touching", it added.

A penalty will be decided on in the coming weeks. Under the most serious punishment Mr Davis could be removed from office and barred from working as a vicar again.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Oxford said: "Abuse of spiritual authority and power falls far short of the obligations and duties of those in Holy Orders.

"Clergy are in a privileged position of trust in their congregations and communities. The professional guidelines to which they are bound make clear that this is a trust that they must not abuse.

"The findings of the tribunal show that, sadly, Tim Davis betrayed the trust of everyone involved in a youth mentoring program at Christ Church Abingdon. None more so than the young man and his family who offered their home and hospitality to him.

"The behaviour and actions of Tim Davis during this period are in no way reflective of acceptable church practice. We fully support the findings of the tribunal and now await their decision as to the penalty to be imposed."