Californian priest, 32, sacked after affair with parishioner

Californian priest, 32, is sacked after starting an affair with a parishioner going through a difficult divorce just 10 days after he began working at a church in Glasgow

  • Rev Dr Elijah Wade Smith, 32, became a Church of Scotland Minister in 2015
  • The Kirk reviewed his behaviour after a string of allegations and found he had had an affair with a parishioner and touched himself in front of a colleague
  • Smith, from California, also cheated on his girlfriend on multiple occasions 
  • Church suspended him after finding his behaviour ‘contrary to the Word of God’ 

Rev Dr Elijah Wade Smith, 32, cheated on his girlfriend, had an affair with a married parishioner and touched himself in front of a colleague. 

A ‘sexually promiscuous’ minister was sacked from the Church of Scotland after having an affair with a married woman and touching himself in front of a colleague.

Rev Dr Elijah Wade Smith, 32, was emotionally abusive to his girlfriend and humiliated her in public as well as cheating on her with a 19-year-old, according to a Presbyterial Commission report.

His shocking behaviour was described as ‘contrary to the Word of God’ by church officials who also said ‘he abused [his] duty of trust’, and told him he ‘failed to maintain a proper line between your pastoral duties and your friendship’.

The Church of Scotland set up a commission to review the behaviour of the Glasgow minister following allegations of misconduct against ‘several women’. The report outlined 11 ‘charges’ between 2015 and last year.

Dr Smith came from California to join the church and was ordained as minister of Queen’s Park Govanhill Parish Church, in Glasgow’s south side, in January 2015, becoming the Scottish Kirk’s second-youngest minister.

But just a month into his post he began a ten-day affair with a married parishioner. The woman was in the process of divorcing her husband but was ‘seeking healing’ from her minister, the report said.

Smith had sex with a 19-year-old despite being in a committed relationship and also cheated on his girlfriend with one of her friends.

Dr Smith allowed women to stay over at the manse, despite the risk of his congregation finding out.

Rev Dr Elijah Wade Smith, right, who was ordained as the Minister of Word and Sacrament at Queen’s Park Govanhill Parish Church in January 2015, with the Right Rev Dr Derek Browning

In August 2016 he contacted a friend of his girlfriend’s on Facebook, and after a boozy night out slept in her bed where they kissed and touched intimately, after agreeing not to have sex – despite Dr Smith being in a committed relationship.

In August 2017 he turned up on the doorstep of an ex, clutching a bottle of whisky, ‘in pastoral mode’, and they had sex.

The church deemed this to be inappropriate as he had no intention of being in a committed relationship with her, and she was upset as a friend had been injured in an accident.

The report said: ‘In resuming a sexual relationship with her that evening, we consider that he also betrayed the trust he owed to her as a minister.’

The disgraced minister also verbally abused his girlfriend, calling her ‘a mess, a dog and failure’ which the Kirk said amounted to ’emotional and psychological abuse and bullying behaviour’.

He embarrassed her in public by commenting on her ‘clothes, behaviour and stupidity’ and said to friends ‘I must have a thing for stocky birds’.

During the investigation into the allegations, Dr Smith, who has a Doctorate from St Andrew’s University, entered a special plea of being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.

He wrote in a blog post that the condition means: ‘All too often I misinterpret what I am told.’

Queen’s Park Govanhill Parish Church, in Glasgow’s south side, which Smith joined in 2015

After his suspension in 2018, a church colleague came to the manse to meet with him and see if he could have ‘time away from the parish’, not knowing the nature of the allegations.

Dr Smith began talking about the accusations and told the woman it was ‘ridiculous’ that one of the women said he looked at porn. 

He told her: ‘I don’t even masturbate’, then proceeded to pick up a guitar and sing, as the woman saw he had become ‘visibly aroused’ and ‘was fondling himself’.

The minister denied this but the commission found the woman’s evidence to be credible.

The commission report said Dr Smith’s behaviour showed a ‘concerning pattern’ and he had expressed a desire to continue in his job.

It added: ‘Your conduct towards these women amounted to exploitation of them. It also demonstrates a sexually promiscuous nature.’

Concern was raised that even after being suspended, Smith behaved in a ‘lewd manner’.

The report deemed his behaviour to be ‘contrary to the Word of God at the higher end of the scale’, and he was suspended without limit of time.

A Church of Scotland spokesman said: ‘A Presbyterial Commission was convened to consider complaints against Dr Elijah Smith who was then minister at Queens Park Church, Govanhill.

‘The complaints were upheld and a sentencing hearing was held on Wednesday, May 15. ‘The decision of the Church court was to remove Dr Smith’s status as a minister.’

Dr Smith declined to comment on the report.

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