Schoolgirl scandal priest Simon Sayers banned from ministry for life after having sexual relationship with married parishioner in Emsworth and Warblington parish

Reverend Simon Sayers pictured outside the St Thomas a Beckett Church in Warblington in 2011. Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (112692-6c)
Reverend Simon Sayers pictured outside the St Thomas a Beckett Church in Warblington in 2011. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (112692-6c)
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A PRIEST has been struck off for life for having a sexual relationship with a married parishioner who turned to him for help.

Former Emsworth-with-Warblington parish rector Simon Sayers admitted ‘betraying his calling’ in a letter to a private tribunal that eventually found him guilty of inappropriate conduct this week.

It comes after he was previously banned from his ministry for five years in 2016 over two sexual incidents with a 16-year-old school girl.

The tribunal, which Mr Sayers did not attend, was told he began a sexual relationship with the parishwoman when she approached him for pastoral support.

But church bosses said he failed to keep ‘appropriate professional boundaries’ – becoming sexually intimate and exchanging filthy texts.

In one message Mr Sayers, who was married at the time, told her: ‘I'm home now but really enjoyed you sitting astride me sans panties.’ 

Another said: ‘You too are the most passionate, sexy, skilled and sensuous lover and my body is yours, my heart and soul are yours forever.’ 

The Church of England tribunal found the woman thought the pair were ‘in love’ and they had exchanged marriage vows and a ring. 

FLASHBACK: Rector resigns after investigation into sexual misconduct

It probed the affair after the former archdeacon of Portsdown, Dr Joanne Grenfell, filed a formal complaint in March, 2017.

A year previously Mr Sayers resigned as parish rector after a central church investigation into sexual misconduct. 

He was given a five-year ban in 2016 after admitting two sexual incidents with a 16-year-old schoolgirl in 1995 as a vicar in London. 

In a 2017 letter to the tribunal’s president Sir Andrew Macfarlane, Mr Sayers said he had ‘no excuse’ for sleeping with the married woman.

‘During the autumn of 2010 there was a shameful affair with [Mrs X],’ he said. 'We were both facing painful issues, and mutual comfort and support strayed appallingly into an affair.

'I can offer no excuse, only my profound sorrow for betraying my wife and my calling once more, after that terrible incident in 1995.'

READ MORE: Parishioners show support for rector who admitted sexual misconduct with schoolgirl

A Diocese of Portsmouth spokeswoman said Mr Sayers' former parish, St James Church in Emsworth and St Thomas a Becket Church in Warblington, is ‘developing its mission’ under new leadership.

‘The Revd Simon Sayers had already been prohibited from ministry for five years after accepting a penalty for previous misconduct,' she said. ‘The tribunal has now imposed a penalty of prohibition from ministry for life.

‘Therefore he will not be able to work as a Church of England clergyman again.

‘The penalty reflects the seriousness of this misconduct. ‘The Church of England takes all allegations of misconduct seriously, and therefore carried out this process in accordance with the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003.

‘Complaints can be made against clergy, as in this case, even if they have already resigned from their position.’

Emsworth and Warblington parishioners previously showed their support for Sayers by staging a church walkout after his resignation in 2016.

The Metropolitan Police investigated the incidents in 1995 but no criminal charges were pressed.

Parishioner says ‘church should be forgiving’ Simon Sayers

A WORSHIPPER in Emsworth who defended Simon Sayers after he was banned in 2016 has again fought the former clergyman’s corner and said: ‘The church should be forgiving him’. 

Former local councillor and retired detective chief superintendent, Brendan Gibb-Gray, said Mr Sayers had been ‘hung out to dry’ and called his lifetime ministry ban by the Church of England ‘far too harsh’. 

He told The News: ‘I feel immensely sorry for him. I believe he is a good man and he has been a brilliant priest in Emsworth over the years. 

‘The church should be forgiving him, I know it’s hard to say, but the other person concerned was an adult.

‘He has suffered so much as a result of the first allegation, where he was basically hung out to dry.

‘The result of all that is Simon lost his job, his house and his family have been immensely distressed. 

‘This incident, although contrary to Christian teaching, if no one was hurt, I feel there should’ve been another chance.’ 

On Mr Sayers’ punishment, Mr Gibb-Gray said the former reverend’s critics ‘have to live in the real world’. 

‘I think it’s far too harsh,’ he said. 

‘The calling of a priest requires extra special vigilance and he slipped up a couple of times – I think his punishment is excessive.

‘Punishment in a court of law would not involve losing your house and job and I think people have got more regard for him because he is human.’ 

Parishioner Leslie Grist, who also spoke highly of Mr Sayers when he was banned in 2016, said she was ‘quite surprised’ to learn of his lifetime ban. 

‘I did defend him last time and I was happy to do so because the whole thing was taken out of context,’ she added. 

‘Having spoken to him as well, I think he was treated abysmally by the church.’ 

Andrew Sheard was installed as the Warblington-with-Emsworth parish rector almost 18 months ago and serves the churches of St James, in Emsworth, and St Thomas a Becket, in Warblington. 

He did not wish to comment on the result of the tribunal, but said: ‘There are many, many good things in this parish and my job as rector now is to try and build on that. 

‘There’s a fantastic team of people here who have got hearts to serve the community and to serve God and are doing a great job.’ 

A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Portsmouth said: ‘The Revd Simon Sayers had already been prohibited from ministry for five years after accepting a penalty for previous misconduct.

‘The tribunal has now imposed a penalty of prohibition from ministry for life.

‘Therefore he will not be able to work as a Church of England clergyman again.

‘The penalty reflects the seriousness of this misconduct.

‘The Church of England takes all allegations of misconduct seriously, and therefore carried out this process in accordance with the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003.

‘Complaints can be made against clergy, as in this case, even if they have already resigned from their position.

 ‘The parish of Warblington-with-Emsworth is now under new leadership and is further developing its mission and ministry with the local community.’

It is understood Mr Sayers, who had been an Anglican priest for about 30 years before his five-year ban, has settled into a new career.