An Anglican vicar has been banned for life for having an intimate affair with a married parishioner who came to him for pastoral support.
The Rev. Simon Sayers, who was a vicar for over 30 years, received a permanent ban from a Church of England through a disciplinary tribunal in the Diocese of Portsmouth last week.
Sayers, who pastored at a parish in Warblington with Emsworth, was already serving a six-year suspension in 2016 for two "sexual incidents" with a 16-year-old girl in 1995, which drew a police investigation at the time but no criminal charges were filed.
According to the tribunal's decision, media reports surrounding Sayers suspension in 2016 led to further accusations being made against him.
According to the document, Sayers was also accused of having a "sexual relationship" with the unnamed married woman in the fall of 2010, where he allegedly sent the woman "sexually explicit texts" and failed to maintain professional boundaries.
In a 2017 letter sent to the president of tribunals, Sayers called the affair "brief but shameful."
"We were both facing painful issues, and mutual comfort and support strayed appallingly into an affair," Sayers allegedly wrote in the letter. "I can offer no excuse, only my profound sorrow for betraying my wife and my calling once more, after that terrible incident in 1995."
The unnamed woman claimed that she believed that she and Sayers were in love and told the tribunal that she and Sayers exchanged vows “based on the marriage service and the giving of a ring."
"Although there is no clear evidence whether the relationships included the actual commission of adultery, it is clear that the relationship was both physical and sexual in nature," the tribunal's decision reads. "The respondent appears to accept the allegation of sending the sexually explicit texts referred to in the complaint by, in his answer, saying 'most of what was written by each of us was imaginary.'"
The tribunal notes that Sayers resigned from his post in 2016 and has resettled into a new career.
The tribunal concluded that the only "realistic penalty," in this case, is "one of prohibition for life" because Sayers has shown a "limited understanding of the responsibility that comes with the priestly role..."
"On both occasions, the sexual misconduct has taken place with someone within his pastoral care," the decision states. "The respondent's admissions in relation to the misconduct suggest that he has failed fully to understand or accept that his priestly role included the responsibility to maintain appropriate boundaries within pastoral relationships. His failure to do so amounts to an abuse of his position of power."
"We are further satisfied that the exchange of vows based on the marriage service and the giving of a ring in the context of this relationship makes the misconduct more serious. The action amounts to a gross breach of his own marriage vows and the consequential serious betrayal of his wife."
The Mirror reports that Sayers contested in a statement after he was suspended in 2016, that his encounter with the 16-year-old girl in 1995 was a "brief above-the-waist incident" and admitted kissing the girl in the second encounter.
A spokesperson for the Church of England told The Telegraph that the penalty was issued in accordance with the Clergy Discipline Measure of 2003.
"Complaints can be made against clergy, as in this case, even if they have already resigned from their position," the spokesperson stated. "The parish of Warblington with Emsworth is now under new leadership and is further developing its mission and ministry with the local community."