BOMBSHELL: The Peniel Church, Coxtie Green Road
A DISGRACED bishop had an affair with not one but two women prior to his dismissal from a local church, an employment tribunal has heard.
Michael Reid, former leader and founding member of the Peniel Church in Pilgrims Hatch, was sacked after his eight-year affair with his choir mistress was publicly revealed in April 2008.
Just days later, another woman – who cannot be identified for legal reasons – claimed to have had a relationship of "many years" with Reid, which involved a "possible abuse of his position".
The revelation was made at an employment tribunal in east London where Reid, 66, is suing the church for unfair dismissal.
It comes in the same week Reid had his police bail extended over rape allegations.
Church trustee Meiare Cleminson told the tribunal: "It is important to note that from the point the news broke, the congregation were in complete shock.
"This was a bombshell that rocked the foundations of our church. It is without doubt the biggest crisis of the church's 33 year existence."
Mrs Cleminson said she warned Reid about his relationship with choir mistress Sheila Graziano three years ago.
"They became very close in their work environment," she said.
"He would often go to her house during the day or in more recent times he would book a hotel."
Reid would tell trustees they were simply working on his "thesis", it is claimed.
"I distinctly remember saying to him that people would think there was something amiss," she said.
"I suggested he should abstain from any appearance of evil."
But Reid told her he "would not be told what to do by those with filthy minds".
She added: "I was concerned with his attitude as it appeared to contain a great deal of hypocrisy.
"I genuinely think he believed the issue would just go away. He gave the impression he regarded this as a private family issue and didn't want it to come out.
"It struck the heart of his position and everything that he said he stood for. He had been a very strong advocate for family values."
On April 5 2008, Reid admitted the affair during a sermon but his son Matthew took the pulpit to expose Mrs Graziano as the subject of his father's affections.
Days later Reid and his wife Ruth fled to Tulsa, Oklahoma, it is said.
While he was away another woman, known as Lady X, came forward.
Mrs Cleminson said: "Lady X referred to matters of grave concern.
"Aside from being a further incident of adultery, suggested a possible abuse of position by Michael."
She said it became "evident the congregation no longer could accept Michael as their pastor".
"The breach of trust was enormous in light of all that Michael said he believed," added Mrs Cleminson, "He appears completely oblivious to the devastation his own actions have caused and regularly blames everyone else."
Mrs Cleminson later added people in the congregation cried when he announced his "sin" during a sermon.
"This was not someone causing offence, this was someone committing adultery and causing serious emotional harm to a family and congregation," she said.
"You must look at it in the light of a man who stood for such strong family values and people will have followed him through thick and thin because they believed he lived what he preached."
Reid, of Testimony House, Coxtie Green Road was suspended from the church on April 25 2008 and took three months off sick for stress before he was dismissed by the church later that year, when he lost an appeal.
It is claimed he argues the decision was "too harsh".
The hearing continues.
Reid was arrested in the early hours of Thursday August 27 following an allegation of rape. He was due to answer bail on Monday, but it has been extended until Wednesday December 23.