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Disabled vicar wins retirement battle

PUBLISHED: 01:15 09 April 2004 | UPDATED: 04:46 02 March 2010

A DISABLED vicar who was axed from his job and is facing eviction from his home, is celebrating a mini-victory today after being allowed to retire on ill health grounds.

A DISABLED vicar who was axed from his job and is facing eviction from his home, is celebrating a mini-victory today after being allowed to retire on ill health grounds.

Tim Breene, assistant minister at All Saints church, Kesgrave, has now been granted a full pension by the Church of England pensions board.

He hopes this will be a step forward in convincing the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich of the seriousness of his condition.

The Diocese said Mr Breene finds himself without a job after failing to take a number of alternative jobs offered to him.

But an occupational health assessment, carried out by the diocese itself, emphasised the necessity of remaining in this area, and the nature of his disability meant he could not take up a full time post.

Mr Breene, 44, suffers from dystonia - a problem with the muscles in his neck which causes them to go into painful spasms.

He said: "Whilst it is technically correct that I had not applied for vacancies, surely the important question to ask is why would I risk losing the job I love, my income and my home, if there were an appropriate vacancy available?

"It is with great sadness that I have no other option but to seek retirement on grounds of ill health. The stress of the last three years has caused further damage to the muscles affected by Dystonia and seriously undermined my ability to work.

"Had the Church been supportive I probably could have continued working for years.

"I'm very grateful to the pensions board, but very sad that it's been brought about by the behaviour of the Diocese."

The Evening Star first featured Mr Breene's story last month, when he told how church authorities had axed his post and left him jobless.

And a fortnight ago The Star revealed he was to be forced to move out of his home, despite the Diocese sending him the wrong tenancy agreements - twice.

Despite officially retiring, Mr Breene hoped to continue to assist Rev Robin Spittle in serving the parishioners of Kesgrave.

But the pair are still in discussions with the diocese as to whether this can continue and Mr Breene has now written a heart-felt plea to the Archbishop of Canterbury asking him to intervene in the case.

Mr Spittle said: "I would hope the retirement would show the Diocese that they need to reassess their understanding of Tim's condition because the fact that he's been allowed to retire is a demonstration that his condition is a real thing.

"There are always two sides to every story and undoubtedly there have been mistakes made on both sides but, at the end of the day, I want a gifted minister to be allowed to continue ministering."

The diocese claim they have not received formal notification of his retirement and until this is settled they can not consider his request for continued permission to officiate:

A diocesan spokesman said: "When the situation is sorted out to everybody's satisfaction then the request for permission to officiate will be considered.

"There are still a number of loose ends."

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