Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Aisle not be back

Minister hounded by village gossip quits

AN ULSTER cleric who hit out at village gossips for spreading false rumours about himself and a pretty Sunday school teacher has quit the Church.

AN ULSTER cleric who hit out at village gossips for spreading false rumours about himself and a pretty Sunday school teacher has quit the Church.

Sunday Life understands a letter of resignation will be read to parishioners in Killyman, Co Tyrone, on behalf of Church of Ireland minister, Rev Alistair Warke, today.

The letter is expected to be read during the church's 10.30am service.

The minister's decision to quit comes after the married dad-of-three hit out in April, at rumours that he was linked with Sunday school teacher, Ruth Simpson.

We revealed how the rumours had been circulating among parishioners in the tiny Co Tyrone village, but Mr Warke and Ms Simpson said the claims were "totally untrue".

It is understood the former minister is set to take up a position with a Dungannon-based factory, after leaving the Church.

Mr Warke, who is originally from Co Donegal, will also leave the church rectory, which has been his home since he took up his ministerial duties in the area, in 1995.

The former minister refused to comment on the developments after we contacted him, saying: "I think you should speak to the church's press office".

A Church of Ireland spokesman confirmed that the ex-minister had handed in his notice.

Said the spokesman: "This is a very sad story indeed.

"The Church has accepted Rev Warke's resignation, and the matter is now in the hands of Archbishop Robin Eames.

"I can't confirm whether a letter of resignation will be read during a service, but parishioners will be informed of their minister's decision."

Previously, the spokesman had hit out at the rumours, telling Sunday Life: "These claims are very unfortunate and very disconcerting for Rev Warke's family. In this day and age, clergy are vulnerable to slur and innuendo no matter how innocent they are."

Ms Simpson, who vehemently denied the rumours, told Sunday Life she had "no idea" why Rev Warke had resigned.

Added Ms Simpson: "I have nothing to say about this.

"Rev Warke's decision to resign is his business. If people want to know why he has resigned, they should ask him.

"I'm still disgusted by the claims about me, and may have to take some sort of legal action to stop them."

In April, she blamed a former boyfriend for spreading false rumours.

She told Sunday Life then: "I was aware of the rumours, but they are just being made by a man who is jealous of my role in the church. He is also jealous because I ended our relationship. How can he stoop so low?

"I am a very good friend of the (Warke) family, including Alistair's wife, and I do a lot of work with the church, that's all. It's hard not to come into contact with Alistair, considering the work we do."

Rev Warke was shocked when we approached him in April about the rumours relayed to us by local parishioners.

At that time, he said: "I am not going to deny that Ruth is a friend of mine, a neighbour, a parishioner and a friend of my family's.

"But the allegations are totally false, untrue and unfounded."

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