Belfast Telegraph

Wife of Ulster vicar standing by her man despite his adulterous affair

By Joanne Sweeney

This is the former Church of England vicar from Northern Ireland who "betrayed his church" by having an adulterous affair - and the wife he cheated on.

Stephen Vincent had sex with a female parishioner just over a month after being ordained in 2012 and has been banned from working as a cleric for eight years.

The couple and their three young children will quit their Church-provided, rent-free home by the new year after he lost his position.

Mr Vincent (40) and his wife Erin (30) - who are originally from Bangor, Co Down - have been caught up in a lurid episode that shocked their parish and nearly ended their marriage.

However, Mrs Vincent has said she will stand by her husband as "everyone deserves a second chance".

Mr Vincent admitted at a Church disciplinary hearing after a complaint of sexual misconduct was lodged against him to having a brief physical relationship with a woman he was supposed to be mentoring.

Before he was removed as assistant curate from St Giles Parish, Newcastle-under-Lyme, the disciplinary tribunal revealed in its ruling that the female parishioner, only known as X, had attended Mr Vincent's ordination service on June 23, 2012.

Mr Vincent admitted having sex with X - a woman who was introduced to him as she had thoughts of joining the clergy - on two occassions after they both had engaged in several hundred texts that grew increasingly sexual within two days.

The tribunal heard that the affair ended abruptly for no apparent reasons and the woman later went to the police to complain that she had been raped by Mr Vincent, a claim that was investigated by the police without any prosecutions.

The woman then went to the Church authorities with her complaint.

The tribunal's ruling said that it "unreservedly accepted" Mr Vincent's account that the sex between the two was consensual.

It heard evidence that at the time of the affair, Mr Vincent's relationship with his wife had been "difficult" and he had "a tough first year" in the parish.

He had said that he had betrayed and hurt his wife, his family and his church "in exchange for the impression of being wanted; of being desired" and that he had deeply regretted his actions and felt deeply ashamed.

Mr Vincent said that the affair was a "huge, stupid mistake".

"In one day I lost my home, my job, and in some ways I nearly lost my family as well." He paid tribute to his wife's strength for maintaining the family.

Mrs Vincent added: "I can see how much he regrets it and I don't think he needs punishing further.

"Steve is an amazing person who has made some silly decisions. We have three gorgeous children who mean the world to us, and we both stay strong for them."

A spokesman for the Diocese of Lichfield issued a statement which said: "This case arose out of sexual misconduct by Mr Vincent unbecoming of his calling as a priest in Church of England."

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