Monday, 7 July 2008

Diocese of Chelmsford 'didn't warn Boris over deputy'

The Ray Lewis scandal took a new twist today when the Church of England admitted it was wrong to claim Boris Johnson was warned in person over his disgraced former deputy.

It prompted senior Tories to brand the Church "reckless" in putting out incorrect information.

The Church suggested over the weekend that the Mayor had been told of allegations made against Mr Lewis during an event at Millwall football stadium on 11 May. It claimed the Bishop of Barking, the Rt Rev David Hawkins, spoke to the Mayor about Mr Lewis, who resigned on Friday after a series of allegations emerged about his time as a vicar in West Ham.

But today a spokesman admitted the conversation did not take place. The Rev Chris Newlands, chaplain to the Bishop of Chelmsford, which includes the Barking diocese, said: "I had a conversation with the Bishop of Barkingand that is what he told me [that the Bishop had a conversation with Mr Johnson about Mr Lewis] and that is what I reported. But when the Mayor questioned him [about the conversation], I went back to the bishop and he said he didn't think he did."

The Church now admits the only warning it gave to Mr Johnson was in a letter sent on 13 May, headed "Global day of Prayer". In the sixth paragraph, Bishop Hawkins wrote: "As you probably know your deputy mayor Ray Lewis was a Church of England clergyman in my Episcopal area in the Nineties. He is no longer serving in authorised ministry in the Church of England. If at any point you wish to speak to me about this do be in touch."

Mr Newlands accepted today that "with hindsight" the paragraph could have been more prominently placed. He added: "We never knew it would blow up the way it has. You cannot make an allegation without being absolutely sure you have everything backed up so writing between the lines is a standard way of saying we need to have a conversation about this." Read more

See also here.

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