Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Banbridge minister falsely accused of 'improper' relationship with woman thrown out of his church

Rumours: Rev Andrew Watson
Rumours: Rev Andrew Watson
Motorbike fanatic: Rev Watson with his Harley Davidson

A revved-up Reverend falsely accused of having an “improper” relationship with another woman has been thrown out of his church.

Motorcycle fanatic Rev Andrew Watson, a minister of Scarva Street Presbyterian Church, Banbridge, was removed from his position on Monday night. It was after a congregation committee said they had “no confidence” in the trendy Reverend, despite the fact he had been cleared of immoral conduct earlier this year.

Speaking to Sunday Life from his Banbridge home, Rev Watson told a reporter that he was glad his name had been cleared.

 But he declined to speak about his removal from the post he held for 12 years.

An internal investigation launched in April when the married dad-of-five — who regularly posts snaps of himself posing with a Harley Davidson bike online — became the subject of the malicious rumours in the Co Armagh town.

The allegations centred on the guitar playing Rev's relationship with a divorced mum.

DIVORCE

Tracey McKee, who also lives in the town, spoke out at the time to defend her friendship with the minister, saying it had not compromised his position.

She added: “I am going through a divorce at the moment, but there is definitely nobody else involved.”

Rev Watson's family, including wife Hazel and children, also backed him at the time.

An inquiry not only found “no evidence” of the alleged misconduct, but that a number of church elders had “contributed” to spreading the untrue

rumours. Two members have since been disciplined as a result.

A statement from the Presbyterian Church to Sunday Life said: “Consequently Mr Watson has been removed as minister of the Scarva Street congregation though he remains as a minister ‘in good standing’ of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and can apply to become minister of another congregation.”

The spokesperson added: “An elder in the congregation has also been removed from office and the Clerk of Session stood down, though remaining a member of Kirk Session.”

Mr Watson, who moved to Scarva Street Presbyterian Church in 2001 from Donegal, is said to have been “devastated” over the decision.

He is still living in the church manse with his family, next to the Scarva Street Presbyterian building.

SAD

It is understood the minister does not have another church post as yet, and a permanent replacement has yet to be found for the Banbridge church.

However a Presbyterian Church spokesperson said Rev Watson would not be conducting today's service.

A source close to the church told Sunday Life: “It is very sad, but it is for the best for all involved.”

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