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LONDON: 'Drunken' bishop faces battle to save his job

'Drunken' bishop faces battle to save his job

By Matthew Beard
THE INDEPENDENT
December 11, 2006

The Bishop of Southwark is facing a battle to keep his job after he was apparently found in a tired and emotional state in the back of a stranger's car after a Christmas party.

The Christian Peoples Alliance suggested that the Rt Rev Tom Butler may lose his office after he suffered a head injury last week and told a congregation he was probably mugged.

The bishop reportedly staggered home from a function at the Irish embassy on Tuesday night, climbed into the back of a stranger's Mercedes, and started throwing an infant's toys out of the vehicle.

The Mercedes' alarm went off outside the Suchard bar near Southwark Cathedral. Nicola Sumpter, who owns the car, said: "My boyfriend and his pal raced outside and were stunned to see a grey-haired man in the back seat. He was throwing my one-year-old son's toys everywhere.

"He wouldn't get out so they could pull him away. He couldn't stand up straight and fell over, banging his head."Asked to explain himself, he is claimed to have said: "I'm the Bishop of Southwark. It's what I do." He sat and then lay on the pavement for several minutes while an onlooker dialled 999, but the bishop declined medical attention and an ambulance was cancelled. Then he got up and staggered away. The next day his office called the police to report the loss of property, which was reported in some newspapers as a mugging.

Ms Sumpter said she found a bag with the bishop's possessions in the car.

"He does not remember very much at all," said a spokesman for the bishop. "He got a bump on the back of his head but he is OK and is in good spirits. He is back at work and really wants to downplay it."

The bishop's bruises meant he was not able to wear his mitre the following day. He began a ceremony for a new priests' institution at All Saints Church in south London by apologising to the 300-strong congregation, saying that the mitre no longer fitted his bruised head because he had "apparently been mugged".

Alan Craig, leader of the Christian People's Alliance group on Newham council in east London, said: "If it's true he was drunk he ought to resign. He can be forgiven, but he can't carry on as bishop. He's supposed to be a role model and being drunk in a gutter he can't be a good example. It's not comical; it's sad for him, and for the church." A spokes-man for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said: "It would be premature to comment. We are sorry to hear of the bishop's injuries and wish him a speedy recovery."

Guests at the Christmas reception included the head of MI5, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller; Sir Hugh Orde, the head of the Northern Ireland police service; and the former Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble.

The Bishop of Southwark is facing a battle to keep his job after he was apparently found in a tired and emotional state in the back of a stranger's car after a Christmas party.

The Christian Peoples Alliance suggested that the Rt Rev Tom Butler may lose his office after he suffered a head injury last week and told a congregation he was probably mugged.

The bishop reportedly staggered home from a function at the Irish embassy on Tuesday night, climbed into the back of a stranger's Mercedes, and started throwing an infant's toys out of the vehicle.

The Mercedes' alarm went off outside the Suchard bar near Southwark Cathedral. Nicola Sumpter, who owns the car, said: "My boyfriend and his pal raced outside and were stunned to see a grey-haired man in the back seat. He was throwing my one-year-old son's toys everywhere.

"He wouldn't get out so they could pull him away. He couldn't stand up straight and fell over, banging his head."Asked to explain himself, he is claimed to have said: "I'm the Bishop of Southwark. It's what I do." He sat and then lay on the pavement for several minutes while an onlooker dialled 999, but the bishop declined medical attention and an ambulance was cancelled. Then he got up and staggered away. The next day his office called the police to report the loss of property, which was reported in some newspapers as a mugging.

Ms Sumpter said she found a bag with the bishop's possessions in the car.

"He does not remember very much at all," said a spokesman for the bishop. "He got a bump on the back of his head but he is OK and is in good spirits. He is back at work and really wants to downplay it."

The bishop's bruises meant he was not able to wear his mitre the following day. He began a ceremony for a new priests' institution at All Saints Church in south London by apologising to the 300-strong congregation, saying that the mitre no longer fitted his bruised head because he had "apparently been mugged".

Alan Craig, leader of the Christian People's Alliance group on Newham council in east London, said: "If it's true he was drunk he ought to resign. He can be forgiven, but he can't carry on as bishop. He's supposed to be a role model and being drunk in a gutter he can't be a good example. It's not comical; it's sad for him, and for the church." A spokes-man for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said: "It would be premature to comment. We are sorry to hear of the bishop's injuries and wish him a speedy recovery."

Guests at the Christmas reception included the head of MI5, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller; Sir Hugh Orde, the head of the Northern Ireland police service; and the former Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble.

END



LONDON: How Bishop was mugged - by the Irish Embassy's red wine

THE EVENING STANDARD
12/9/2006

A Church of England bishop is facing an uncertain future after an extraordinary drinking binge, during which he was accused of clambering into a stranger's car.

The Right Reverend Tom Butler, the Bishop of Southwark, was said to have thrown childen's toys out of the Mercedes before staggering off into the night.

He also faced claims that he apparently misled hundreds of worshippers during a sermon the following day by claiming he had been mugged. Scotland Yard confirmed that they received no such allegation from the Bishop.

The astonishing incident began when the 66-year-old Bishop attended a Christmas reception at the Irish Embassy in Central London on Tuesday night, where guests included MI5 head Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller; Sir Hugh Orde, the head of the Northern Ireland police service; and former Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble.

The married father of two, a regular contributor to Thought For The Day on Radio 4's Today programme, was seen drinking several glasses of Portuguese wine from the complimentary bar at the embassy in Grosvenor Place.

One guest said: "He was clearly enjoying himself and grew very animated as the evening wore on.

"He was wearing his dog collar and cassock but was still insisting on telling everyone that he was the Bishop of Southwark. I have seen clergymen drink before but never so openly.

"He was very full of himself. I would not say that he was slurring his words but he was on his way to being very drunk. He was getting louder and louder."

The Bishop spent more than two hours at the party before leaving to go home by public transport.

But, at 9.30pm, the Bishop ended up three miles away in the aptly-named Crucifix Lane, a largely-deserted one-way street bordering railway lines near London Bridge station.

The lane, described by locals as "a bit of a wasteland", is home to Suchard, a bar which has a solitary pool table and a reputation for cheap Thai food.

Paul and Nicola Sumpter, who were drinking there, say they spotted that the Bishop had climbed into the back of their unlocked silver Mercedes A200 saloon.

Barman Paul Sathaporn, 55, said: "The car owner was playing pool and said, 'Someone's trying to get in my car'. He ran outside and pulled the man out of the back seat.

"The owner shouted, 'Oi, what are you doing in my car?' After that the man sat down on the ground, obviously drunk. Then he decided to lie down. The car owner came back in and said, 'He's got a lump on his head so you'd better call 999.'"

Mr Sathaporn said he went outside, asked the man if he wanted an ambulance and was told, "No."

The barman added: "He sounded drunk. I don't know where he came from. After a few minutes he sat up and decided to go and walk off down the road. We were all laughing and saying, 'Look what he's doing.' It was just funny to see him swaying from side to side.

"The car owner said to me, 'Can you believe he says he's a Bishop?'"

Later, the Bishop's bag of personal belongings was found on the back seat. The next morning one of the Bishop's aides contacted police to report several missing items, but at a service in All Saints Church in Dulwich that evening, the Bishop told the congregation he had been mugged.

Worshipper Alison Hardy, 45, said: "He didn't have his mitre on and he said he'd been mugged the previous evening. He said his head was too swollen for him to wear his mitre. He had a black eye and a big lump on his forehead."

A spokeswoman for the Bishop insisted he told the congregation he had "apparently" been robbed. She confirmed he had been drinking at the Irish Embassy but declined to comment when asked if the Bishop had been drunk.

A spokesman for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said: "It would be premature to comment at this stage. We are sorry to hear of the Bishop's injuries and wish him a speedy recovery."

The Sumpters were interviewed by detectives for three hours at their £250,000 flat in Beckenham, South London, on Saturday while a forensics officer dusted and photographed their car, with its back seat littered with cuddly toys.

Mr Sumpter said: "The Bishop must have gone home so drunk that he reported that he'd been mugged. He's obviously a bit embarrassed by what's happened. We're not being treated as suspects - there were half a dozen people who saw what went on.

"This guy was hanging out the back of my car, chucking toys about. I initially thought he was breaking into my car. As soon as I dragged him out it was clear how drunk he was, he didn't know what he was doing.

"He had a big lump over his eye. To me it was like he had had a fall because it was grazed. He tried to get back in the car and fell over and banged his head on the pavement."

The couple said items left on the back seat of the car by the Bishop included confidential memos from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Mr Sumpter added: "He's supposed to be a man of high standing but he was out of his head.

"But he's probably learned his lesson."

END


BREAKING NEWS...Drink row bishop facing calls to quit

A report in The Observer newspaper says the bishop is facing calls for his resignation after he allegedly spent a drunken night out and then claimed to parishioners that a head injury he suffered as a result was caused by a mugger.

Butler, a regular broadcaster on Radio 4, is now fighting to save his job amid accusations of inappropriate behaviour. 'If it's true he was drunk then he ought to resign immediately,' said Alan Craig, leader of the Christian Peoples Alliance group on Newham council in east London. 'He can be forgiven, but he can't carry on as bishop. He's supposed to be a role model and being drunk in a gutter he can't be a good example. It's not comical; it's sad for him ... and for the church.' The bishop, who often speaks on the 'Thought for the Day' slot on the Today programme, was enthroned at Southwark Cathedral in September 1998 and is said to be a popular figure.

There was concern among parishioners at the cathedral yesterday. 'I guess it's the end for him,' said one, who did not wish to be named. 'If you make a mistake like that you pay the price for it, and if you're in his shoes then you pay a very heavy price.

Condensed report

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