Church of England clergy not permitted to perform baptisms while wearing only underpants, tribunal rules

Performing a baptism while dressed solely in one’s underpants, while also pinching the bottoms of female parishioners is “conduct unbecoming” for a “clerk in Holy Orders”, a disciplinary tribunal of the Diocese of Hereford ruled this week.

The Rev. Clive Roger Evans (62), vicar of St Peter’s Bromyard with Sts Peter & Paul Stoke Lacy was suspended from office for six months for the 2017 incident.

Mr. Evans stated he had been asked at the last minute to perform a full immersion baptism in 2017. He demured as he was about to leave for holiday with his wife. However, his parishioners said their request was urgent, and he agreed to stop off with his wife on their way to their holiday destination to perform the ceremony.

To perform the full immersion baptism, Mr. Evans stripped to his shorts, and it was claimed inappropriately touched two women during the service.  

The tribunal’s 30-page ruling, noted that while the request to perform the baptism was urgent, there was nonetheless “ample opportunity” to bring with him an appropriate change of clothing.  There was “no extreme urgency which might conceivably be imagined to justify a state of semi-nakedness”.

The disciplinary panel held underwear to be “intimate apparel,” and was “qualitatively different to, and has different associations from, other forms of clothing, or even of swimwear.”

“As such there is a loss of dignity by stripping down to underwear in the circumstances in which it occurred which is inherently inappropriate and unbecoming.”

“There was no extreme urgency which might conceivably be imagined to justify a state of semi-nakedness and public display of underwear.”

Mr Evans was suspended for six months and directed to undertake further training.

Following the tribunal’s decision, the Bishop of Hereford, the Rt. Rev. Richard Jackson said:

A Church of England Tribunal has published its findings today [Friday 4 March 2022] into The Revd Clive Evans, Vicar of St Peter’s, Bromyard. It found that his conduct was unbecoming to the office of a clergy person.

We commend the bravery of those who brought these allegations forward and acknowledge how difficult this would have been. We apologise unreservedly to them for what has happened and for what they have experienced.

As a diocese, we take the safety and wellbeing of everyone very seriously and have robust safeguarding procedures in place.

The Panel’s decision is published here and indicates the penalty is a six-month prohibition from any office in the Church of England. He has been removed from his office with immediate effect. [The penalty hearing took place on Thursday 23 February 2022].

In addition to the Panel’s penalty decision, an anonymity order has been made, so it is illegal to name or identify the victims in this case.

The Bishop of Hereford, The Rt Revd Richard Jackson, said: “The behaviour of Revd Evans is completely unacceptable, and we will be keeping all those affected by this case in our prayers.

“Clergy are in a privileged position of leadership. Their congregations and the wider community hold them in trust. The professional guidelines to which they are bound make clear that this is a trust that they must not abuse.

“The behaviour and actions of Revd Evans are in no way reflective of acceptable church practice.

“We fully support the findings of the tribunal and the decision to apply the penalty to remove him from office, which takes immediate effect.”

“We recognise that there will be many individuals left feeling very hurt by this lengthy process, including the congregation at St Peter’s Bromyard.

“We intend to work in partnership with the church community and seek healing and reconciliation for all the individuals affected. My prayer is that through the unfailing grace of God, we can find peace and a way forward in our faith.”

“Anyone with any concerns relating to this case, or any other safeguarding matter is encouraged to get in touch directly with one of our safeguarding advisers who will offer confidential support and advice – or to speak with someone else they trust.”

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