A South Tyneside vicar could face a church ban over a misconduct allegation, it has emerged.
The Reverend David Huntley has been on extended leave of his duties at St Lawrence the Martyr Church at Horsley Hill in South Shields since Easter.
It follows a formal complaint against the clergyman over an alleged breach of church rules.
A probe into the allegation is currently ongoing by the Diocese of Durham.
But it is understood that sanctions available range from no action, a rebuke, to a lifelong prohibition from exercising any ministerial functions.
Today a spokesman for the Diocese said: “We can confirm that a complaint has been received under the Clergy Discipline Measure and is being dealt with in accordance with these rules, as this process is ongoing we cannot make any further comment at this time.”
The Clergy Discipline Measure provides a structure for dealing efficiently and fairly with formal complaints of misconduct against members of the clergy.
The disciplinary process is started by a formal written complaint of misconduct.
There are four grounds on which misconduct may be alleged - acting in breach of ecclesiastical law; failing to do something which should have been done under ecclesiastical law; neglecting to perform or being inefficient in performing the duties of office or engaging in conduct that is unbecoming or inappropriate to the office and work of the clergy.
Rev Huntley, 52, who was unavailable for comment, took over at St Lawrence’s in 2011, after the retirement of the Reverend Martin Wray, who had upset some parishioners when he dressed as a woman at a fundraising ‘vicar and tarts’ party.
Speaking to the Gazette soon after his appointment, Rev Huntley, who arrived from Houghton-Le-Spring, said: “We’ve started a new chapter. I think initially it is calming the whole situation down and building contacts with the community again, working with people, visiting schools and homes.
“Yes there are bridges to be built with the community, but I have been out and about in the area, and I think people are pleased to see me here.
“I’ve been given a warm welcome and people are not talking about the past. We need to build a new solid base to start from. The feeling I’ve had so far has been very positive.”