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Church Of England 'Culture Of Neglect And Bullying': Part 1

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Unite union has called for the resignation of two Church of England bishops for presiding over 'a culture of neglect and bullying' in the Diocese of Worcester.

The call came as the vicar Reverend Mark Sharpe, his wife Sara, and four children left their home - the rectory at Hanley Broadheath, near Worcester - yesterday, after eviction proceedings were started.

Unite represents 2,500 faith workers across the UK and has asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to set up an immediate investigation into the four year campaign of harassment allegedly inflicted on Reverend Sharpe after the vicar exposed irregularities in parish affairs at the remote rectory in rural Worcestershire.

Culminating in eviction, the campaign of harassment allegedly inflicted on the vicar and his family included the poisoning of a pet dog; the tyres on the family car being slashed twice; the theft of central heating oil three times; his family being sworn at; his post being tampered with; his internet and phone connections being cut; and constant prowlers at the rectory.

Unite has called for the Bishop of Worcester John Inge and the Suffragan Bishop of Dudley David Walker to resign 'for washing their hands like Pontius Pilate' over the alleged abuse.  The union also wants the diocesan surveyor Mark Wild and the diocesan registrar Michael Huskinson to quit.

Unite spokesperson Rachael Maskell said:

"This is a toxic parish with a 40-year history of clergy leaving abruptly or in broken health.  The bishops knew the history involved and failed to exercise duty of care.  They have failed both as employers and Christians.

"The fact that Mark and his family have been forced to leave their home during the so-called season of goodwill at the pinnacle of the Christian year is a disgrace, and a dark stain on the church's reputation."

Unite had tried to negotiate a settlement for Reverend Sharpe, who has been off sick with stress since April 2006, but before it could reach an agreement, announcements were made in the parish's churches that he was leaving his post.

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