The bishop of the Anglican diocese of Huron, Robert Bennett, has deposed the Rev. George Ferris, a retired Anglican priest who faces up to five-and-a-half years in prison for five counts of sexual offences dating back to the 1980s.
Deposition, which is the most severe penalty for ecclesiastical offenses as stated in the Anglican Church of Canada’s Handbook, means Ferris can no longer exercise ordained ministry. It has “the same effect as if the person had relinquished the exercise of the ordained ministry pursuant to Canon XIX,” said the handbook. Deposition also includes all the consequences of “deprivation,” including the severing of connections between the person deprived and his or her parish and diocese.
“We accept the rulings of the court and give thanks for this judicial ministry among us,” the diocese said in a press statement issued after the sentencing at the Ontario Court in Brantford. “We recognize that there is much pain for many people in these decisions and we ask God’s comfort and solace for all involved.”
On Jan. 28, Ferris was sentenced to four years in prison for two counts of sexual assault and one count of sexual exploitation involving the molestation of a teenage boy between 1983 and 1989, when he served as rector at St. James’ Anglican Church in Paris, Ont.
Another sentence, totalling 18 months, was handed a day later, Jan. 29, for two other cases of sexual assault involving two separate complainants.
“This man [Ferris] has ruined my life,” said one victim impact statement quoted by CTV News-Kitchener. “I’ve spent 20 years living in shame and pain,” said another. “I lost my faith.”
Chris Morrison, 42, of Paris, Ont., testified in a trial last October that he was a teenager when Ferris molested him “in a situation that escalated from embraces to oral sex and other instances of actual and attempted anal sex,” reported the Waterloo Region Record. The court was also told that in 2006, Ferris had also given Morrison “hush money” amounting to $5,000.
Morrison told the Brantford Expositor that he decided to go public as part of his healing process.
Another victim, age 33, said Ferris had molested him when he was 13 at a motel in London, Ont., where a church function was being held. The man said he has been battling depression and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Ferris, who retired in 2010, has denied the allegations.
Ordained in 1971, Ferris served a number of Ontario parishes including St. Peter’s Oshweken and St. Paul’s Kanyengeh at Six Nations; St. Thomas’, Walkerton; St. Paul’s, Pinkerton; St. Matthew’s, Kingarf; and St. James’, Paris, Ont.
In 1991, Ferris left parish ministry and moved to Renison College, at the University of Waterloo, where he served as chaplain, director of alumni and development and director of residences.
In September 2001, he returned to parish ministry as rector of his former parish of St. James’.