London, Feb 9 (ANI): A sex hungry vicar, who felt guilty after sleeping with his lover and prayed, has been banned from the church for six months after it was revealed that he was torn between two women.
The Reverend Stephen Smith's behaviour was found inappropriate after former girlfriend Kerry Lansfield, 47, reported him to Church of England authorities.
Lansfield said she had a nervous breakdown when Smith, 54, married her rival last summer.
The news was broken to Rev Smith's flock at St Mary's Church in Cardington, Beds, at a Sunday service.
"We had a two-year relationship but I suspected he had a secret girlfriend when I heard him blowing kisses down the phone," the Daily Express quoted Lansfield, as saying.
She continued: "I thought we'd get married. He was sex mad and often took me back to his vicarage for 'a bit of the other'. It was an intense sexual -relationship but he felt guilty after we had been to bed.
"He would start praying and say 'Praise the Lord' for the tender moments we had shared together. I was new to the church and felt a bit uncomfortable about it. But I trusted him and he totally betrayed me."
Lansfield, a divorcee, confessed to have fallen in love with Smith who suffers from cerebral palsy and diabetes.
She said: "His vicarage was a few miles from his church and because of his health, it was very awkward for him. He used to ring me and I'd drive him everywhere. Sometimes I washed and bathed him if he felt unwell. I introduced him to my family and thought we'd settle down together.
"When I feared he had a secret girlfriend, I challenged him about it and he eventually admitted there was another woman in his life. I ended the relationship but was in a terrible state. He'd blank me in church and the congregation turned their backs on me.
"They regarded him as this wonderful caring vicar and me as the loose woman. Then I learned he was getting married. It was too much to bear. I had a breakdown and, at my mother's insistence, reported him."
Rev Smith is now married to Susan, a council worker, and lives at the vicarage in Bedford.
He said: "It's a dreadful situation and is like a living nightmare. It's been terribly upsetting for me but my wife is standing by me.
"Anything that happened with the other woman was before I got married in June. It's distressing. I'm just trying to get on with things and I'm leaving it for the diocese to deal with it.'"
A church source said: "He has been suspended because he has conducted a close, personal relationship with a member of his flock. This was an inappropriate relationship. The clergy is expected to uphold the highest standards of personal behaviour.
"Nobody wants to stop members of the clergy conducting adult relationships, that would be wrong but, following a complaint, his behaviour was deemed inappropriate."
However, members of the congregation have come forward in defence of their vicar.
"We all adore our vicar and feel he has been let down. He was seduced by this woman and couldn't get away from her. She was jealous of everyone, even me - and I'm 77," church treasurer Mrs Mary -Carmichael said.
Church-goer Margaret Nicholson, 57, said: "We are very shocked and nobody really knows what is going on. He is a fun-loving, jokey man but has never been untoward to any of us. He is a real gentleman. He has never done anything to make me feel uneasy and it seems to me he is the victim of a woman scorned."
A representative of the Diocese of St Albans confirmed the ban, imposed by the Bishop of Hertford, the Right Rev Christopher Foster, came into effect on Sunday January 31.
He added: "A complaint was made against the Rev Stephen Smith, team vicar in the Elstow team ministry, Bedfordshire, that his conduct towards an adult female member of his parish was inappropriate to the office and work of a Clerk in Holy Orders.
"The public and the Church rightly expect the highest standards of behaviour from clergy and take seriously any falling short from these standards." (ANI)