A married vicar has been sacked after church bosses heard he had an eight-month affair with the teenage daughter of a family friend.
Reverend Paul Meier, 47, was youth missioner in the deanery of Storrington, West Sussex, at the time and the 18-year-old attended two church youth groups he ran.
He and his wife had been friends with the girl's family for six years before the affair began in 2008.
Judge John Lodge, who led a church disciplinary tribunal into the scandal, said in a report: "One day he kissed her and a full sexual relationship between them developed.
"Mr Meier told the complainant he wanted to leave his wife, Saskia, and be with the complainant.
"Saskia did not know of her husband's adultery at that time, but his attention towards the complainant distressed her."
The hearing ruled that Rev Meier's behaviour was 'inappropriate to the work of a clerk in Holy Orders' after he admitted gross misconduct.
He has been removed from his post and expelled from the Church of England for at least eight years.
The clergyman had been suspended a year ago after the girl complained to church authorities after he took up his new post in Horsmonden, Kent, just a few miles from her home – but parishioners were not told why.
The tribunal blasted Mr Meier's behaviour when the girl began to show signs of distress as their affair continued.
The judge said: "The complainant became mentally disturbed, as evidenced by attempts to self-harm, and she acted bizarrely,eg, locking the family out of the house one evening.
"Mr Meier admits the complainant self-harmed and that she told him about it.
"Mr Meier says, 'My response (which I can't remember) may not have been very intelligent'." His response was to "carry on his affair with her, despite her obvious mental health problems", the tribunal heard.
The judge added: "Rather than cease his misconduct and provide her with the support she needed and deserved, he allowed things to continue unchanged."
In the middle of 2008 the girl's parents sent her to a psychiatric unit where she began to recover.
But Rev Meier continued to visit her. He told his wife of the affair and said he wanted to leave her.
Mrs Meier told the tribunal: "I advised him to go on a two-week holiday to think things through by himself. He came back willing to stay, and our relationship has grown steadily, with a lot of hard work and forgiveness."
The hearing ruled: "If the adultery is with a person within the cleric's area of pastoral responsibility that can be an aggravating factor because issues of vulnerability, exploitation and abuse of position arise."
It said he had abused the trust placed in him by his family, the girl, and her family.
But the judge said it was 'to his credit that he has sought to rebuild his marriage' and that several people had written in support of him.
Suggested For You
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements.Learn more