Vicar quits after marriage break-up

By Liz HearnshawA HIGH-ranking church official has resigned from his post as a diocese's director of education following the breakdown of his marriage.

By Liz Hearnshaw

A HIGH-ranking church official has resigned from his post as a diocese's director of education following the breakdown of his marriage.

The Rev Canon David Underwood, who is aged in his late 50s, has also relinquished his licence from priestly ministry.

Mr Underwood said handing in his notice as the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese's education director “seemed the most appropriate course of action”, given his former position as chief of liaison between the ministry and schools around the county.

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His decision was made after Mr Underwood split with his wife, Caroline, who is understood to be staying with friends in Cambridgeshire.

The couple had no children and their home in Chevington, near Bury St Edmunds, has now been put on the market.

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Mr Underwood declined yesterday to comment, but a spokesman for the diocese confirmed he had resigned his licence from the priestly ministry and, therefore, was no longer be entitled to attend church wearing a dog collar.

“The Rev Canon David Underwood, director of education for the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, has resigned with effect from June 30,” he added.

“The reason for his resignation was the breakdown of his marriage. It seemed the most appropriate course of action, given his position as the diocese's director of education. The position of director of education will be advertised shortly.”

During his five-year stint as director of education, Mr Underwood was responsible for giving advice and support to the Church of England's 92 schools across the county.

His remit also included liaising with headteachers and governors to improve educational provision and he worked with Suffolk County Council on raising standards in schools.

Mr Underwood was appointed to the role following a career in teaching, which saw him serve as headteacher of Great Heath Primary School, Mildenhall, for nine years from 1982.

He became a priest in 1992, but acted as a non-stipendiary minister, which commands no salary, between 1982 and 1991 at All Saint's Church in Chevington.

Mr Underwood then transferred to Haverhill, where he worked as the area's team vicar until 1994 before beginning a five-year period as priest in charge of St John's Church in Bury St Edmunds.

During this time, he also served as Rural Dean of Thingoe, where he co-ordinated liaison between the diocese and its clergy members.

Mr Underwood then became priest-in-charge at St George's Church in Bury St Edmunds in 1998, before taking on the sole role of director of education in 1999.

Over recent months, Mr Underwood took services at All Saints Church in Chevington once more after the position of parish priest became vacant.

It is understood a warden at the church broke the news of Mr Underwood's departure to parishioners during a service after the parish priest failed to attend.

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