Church of England finds Oxfordshire vicar guilty of spiritually abusing teen boy

A vicar in Oxfordshire is guilty of subjecting a teenage boy to spiritual abuse during prayer and Bible study sessions in the latter's bedroom, a Church of England tribunal has found.

(REUTERS / Nigel Roddis)Members of the Church of England's Synod attend the session during which they will discuss and vote on the consecration of women bishops, in York, July 14, 2014.

In a landmark ruling published recently, the Church of England tribunal declared that the vicar of Christ Church, Abingdon, Reverend Timothy Davis, had committed misconduct under its clergy disciplinary measures. The judgment was released as Bournemouth University found that two-thirds of 1,591 respondents of an online survey admitted that they had gone through spiritual abuse, The Guardian detailed.

In light of the result of the survey, co-author and Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service executive director Justin Humphreys urged priests and other religious leaders to be cautious in conveying the beliefs of their church. He told the Daily Telegraph that spiritual leaders ought to deliver challenging messages in such a way that their recipients will feel that they are free to reject or challenge them.

Since 2011, the vicar had mentored the 15-year-old boy, who was named in the ruling as W1, for 18 months. Davis, who is in his 50s, reportedly subjected the boy to pressure considered unacceptable for the latter's age. The judgment also said W1 "was deprived of his freedom of choice as to whether to continue."

In addition, Davis had stayed in the boy's home where he conducted two-hour prayer and Bible study sessions in the young one's bedroom. W1 said that although the vicar became angry if he did not answer his text messages or calls, the boy was hesitant at challenging his mentor at the time.

"Under the guise of his authority [Davis] sought to control by the use of admonition, scripture, prayer and revealed prophecy the life of W1 and/or his relationship with his girlfriend," the ruling said.

Davis, on the other hand, admitted to the Church of England panel that he was confused about the spiritual abuse allegations against him. He said he was unaware of the effects of his mentoring. Nevertheless, he will be subjected to a penalty at a later hearing.