Abingdon vicar Timothy Davis 'spiritually abused' teenage boy, tribunal finds

By Sophie Grubb
Oxford Mail
January 09, 2018

Rev Timothy Davis, pictured by the Oxford Mail in 2013.
Photo by Antony Moore

A VICAR has been found guilty of 'spiritually abusing' a teenage boy. 

Reverend Timothy Davis was found guilty of misconduct whilst leading Christ Church in Abingdon, relating to behaviour with a boy aged between 15 and 16 years old. 

The Bishop's Disciplinary Tribunal has released its judgement against Mr Davis, who is aged in his 50s.

It is understood to be the first time a tribunal has convicted a priest of spiritual abuse.

The Diocese of Oxford has condemned his actions, saying he 'betrayed the trust of everyone involved'. 

The tribunal's report states the boy 'was put under unacceptable pressure...and was deprived of his freedom of choice'.

Accusations found proved against him include 'deliberately touching him, albeit not in a sexual manner'.

Mr Davis, who was ordained in 1991, also described the teenager's girlfriend as a 'bad seed' and her family as 'evil', the boy said. 

The behaviour, deemed 'inappropriate' by the tribunal, was carried out in 2011 and 2012 while Mr Davis was mentoring the boy under a church scheme.

During this time, he was living at the home of the boy's family, who were members of his congregation.

He began to mentor with 'such intensity', the tribunal found, that he breached Church of England safeguarding procedures.

The tribunal report said Mr Davis asked if they could move their meetings from the family living room to the boy's bedroom, where they studied the Bible and prayed for each other.

It added: "During prayer they laid hands on each other's head, shoulders, chest and back. They also played a 'trust' game whereby one of them would fall backwards to be caught by the other."

Their mentoring meetings eventually built up to an hour and a half daily.

The report added: "[Mr Davis] became angry if [the boy] did not ring him or respond to his texts.

"At times [Mr Davis] was in tears in the presence of him."

A church colleague of Mr Davis told the tribunal he could sometimes 'explode with anger' when asked about the boy and his family.

During the tribunal, the boy's mum told the panel: "There was no way I could have told him [Mr Davis] the mentoring should stop.

"We were frightened of the consequences to [Mr Davis] and what God would do.

"[Mr Davis] was saying things that were scaring me. It was not the God I knew."

During Mr Davis' defence, he told the tribunal he was 'shocked and confused' about the allegations and insisted he had 'no idea' of the effect his behaviour was having. 

He said he had been diagnosed with PTSD in 2012 after a car crash when he was seven, in which his mother was nearly killed, and was also affected by the death of his stillborn older brother.

But the tribunal panel said no medical or psychiatric evidence had been submitted to reinforce this.  

The report states: "[Mr Davis] confirms he was aware of ‘ the possibility of a blurring of lines’ but all he had to go on was the encouragement of [the boy's] parents to carry on with the mentoring."

He also admitted the pair went alone to the theatre in London and to the cinema in Didcot, and that on occasions he would hug the boy. 

In its conclusion, the tribunal panel noted Mr Davis had led a 'powerful and successful ministry' but added: "We remind ourselves that at this time [the boy] was 15 or 16 doing his GCSEs and [Mr Davis] was a Vicar in his 50’s leading a very large and successful church.

"The imbalance in the relationship is obvious and it is of grave concern that [Mr Davis] could not see that at the time, nor recognise it now.

"We want to make it clear that there has been no suggestion at any time that there was any sexual touching and we are satisfied that none took place at any time."

They said they were nonetheless 'disturbed' by some of the evidence they had heard during the course of the tribunal hearing, which took place in late December.

A date is yet to be set to fix a penalty for Mr Davis, who was suspended from the church in 2016.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Oxford said: "Abuse of spiritual authority and power falls far short of the obligations and duties of those in Holy Orders.

"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.

"The findings of the tribunal show that, sadly, Tim Davis betrayed the trust of everyone involved in a youth mentoring program at Christ Church Abingdon.

"None more so than the young man and his family who offered their home and hospitality to him.

"The behaviour and actions of Tim Davis during this period are in no way reflective of acceptable church practice.

"We fully support the findings of the tribunal and now await their decision as to the penalty to be imposed."


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