In what is thought to be a landmark case, a church tribunal has convicted a vicar from Oxfordshire of spiritual abuse.

The Rev. Tim Davis of Abingdon moved into the family home of his victim, engaged in lengthy encounters in his bedroom, and tried to control his behavior. He forbade the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, from seeing his girlfriend. The case is said to be the first of its kind.

Davis was found guilty of misconduct after a tribunal found that his intense mentoring of the boy between 2012 and 2013 amounted to abuse. It found he sought to control the boy’s life and relationships. There were nightly one-to-one, unsupervised mentoring sessions lasting up to two hours in the boy’s bedroom. The boy was between 15 and 16 during those sessions.

Davis would react angrily if the boy did not attend services, particularly if he was with his girlfriend. His mother decided not to end the vicar’s relationship with her son because “she was scared of going against God.”  It took a year for her see his actions were not right, she told the hearing.

The tribunal found that the vicar “lacked propriety and failed to heed the effect [his behavior] was having on others and in particular [the boy].” The sentence against Davis will be announced in a few weeks.

“Abuse of spiritual authority and power falls far short of the obligations and duties of those in Holy Orders,” leaders of the Diocese of Oxford said in a statement. “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.”

John Martin

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