Saturday, February 09, 2008

Ministers Behaving Badly

The year 1894 saw a re- markable, and highly unfor-tunate libel case. G. J. Williams, minister of Brynteg Congregational Church, near Wrexham, sued W. Isaac Morris, minister of Sardis Welsh Congregational Church, Pontypridd. Prior to being called to Brynteg, Williams had been a member at the English Congregational Church in Pontypridd (pictured). A letter praising Williams by the minister of that church, J. Vyrnwy Morgan, had been received by Brynteg. One of the deacons had written to Morris, a leader of Pontypridd Congregationalism, asking for clarification as to Williams' status.

The letter that Morris sent back, in short, advised that Williams ought not, in his opinion, to be allowed within a hundred yards of a pulpit. According to Morris, (i) Williams was not recognised as a preacher by the church he was a member of; (ii) having been a pastor of two Baptist churches; (iii) having given up the calling of a pastor in order to sell beer as a grocer. Once Williams learned of this letter he sued for libel, alleging all charges were untrue. His pastor, Vyrnwy Morgan, appeared for him. Samuel Evans, MP and eminent QC appeared for Morris.

In the course of the case, it was proved that every single charge was correct. Further, Williams had threatened Tongwynlais Baptist Church (of which he was a member) with legal action if they did not remove his name from their membership lists. But worse was to come. Vyrnwy Morgan, appearing as a character witness, revealed that the letter praising Williams had not, in fact been written by him, but by Williams himself.

Williams had somehow got his hands on some of Vyrnwy Morgan's stationery, written his own testimonial, then signed Vyrnwy Morgan's name at the end of this fulsome recommendation.

Unsurprisingly, the court ruled that Williams was, as Morris had described him, a most irregular person.



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