A RECTOR has resigned from the Emsworth and Warblington parish after an investigation from the Church of England over sexual misconduct.
Simon Sayers has accepted a penalty from the Bishop of London to be prohibited from ministry for five years after he admitted two sexual incidents with a 16-year-old schoolgirl in 1995 while he was a vicar in London.
His parish were told this morning of the Bishop’s decision by the Bishop of Portsmouth Christopher Foster. Mr Sayers resigned shortly afterwards.
A statement from the Diocese of Portsmouth said: ‘In April 2015, the Church of England was asked to respond to a complaint about sexual misconduct by Mr Sayers while he was a vicar in the Diocese of London in the 1990s.
‘Although the police had not pressed criminal charges, the Church of England takes all allegations of misconduct seriously and therefore carried out its own process.
‘While this process was ongoing, Mr Sayers was suspended from his position as rector of Warblington with Emsworth.
‘The Bishop of London – in whose diocese the incidents happened – has found Mr Sayers abused his position of trust by engaging in sexual acts with the girl.
‘He engaged in conduct unbecoming a clergy person and inappropriate for a married man.’
After hearing the announcement this morning, parishioners from Emsworth and Warblington voiced their support for Mr Sayers and sadness at him leaving.
Many members of the congregation walked out of the church following the announcement.
Emsworth resident and church choir-member Leslie Grist, said: ‘Simon has served this parish and town wonderfully over the last 12 years.
‘He has been kept in limbo for nearly two years. Now he and his family have lost his income and been told to get out of their home within two weeks.
‘It just seems so harsh and unkind. There is real outrage about this here.’
Fellow Emsworth resident and church member, Michelle Murphy, added: ‘Simon has been a wonderful minister during his time at St James’.
‘Many are heartbroken at the outcome of this protracted process.
‘Simon had admitted fault and the penalty seems so harsh on him and his family after the police found no case to answer.
‘I know the congregations will want to do everything they can to support Simon and his family now and in the future.’
Couple Barry and Eileen Mapley said the whole situation seemed unfair.
‘It seems that Simon has been silenced and given no real opportunity to explain his side of the story to the community and church,’ they said.
In a statement, Mr Sayers said: ‘It is with great sadness that I have today resigned.
‘This follows a brief “above the waist” incident of a sexual nature (with someone over the age of consent) and a brief kiss two days later, in March 1995, while I was in parish ministry in London.
‘Soon afterwards I resigned and left that parish.
‘Nearly 20 years later, a complaint was made to the police but following a thorough ten-week investigation, the police concluded that there was, in their words, “no case to answer”.
‘I have always believed that my behaviour in 1995 was wrong and fell below the high standards required of a Christian leader, and I am deeply sorry for the sadness the incident and its investigation has caused.’
He added: ‘As a family we have been extremely moved by the depth of love and support which has been shown to us by the wonderful community in which we live.
‘It has been my greatest privilege to serve this community and especially the churches of Warblington and Emsworth, and I continue to pray for the flourishing of this town, its churches and community life.’