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A Batavia priest was suspended from the ministry Thursday while the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York investigates allegations of misconduct.

The Rev. Simon B. Howson, 38, rector of St. James Episcopal Church since January, is the subject of a "variety of complaints about many different issues" from some members of the congregation, said Laurie Wozniak, diocesan spokeswoman.

Wozniak would not elaborate, other than to say the complaints did not involve sexual misconduct.

After a meeting Tuesday evening with Bishop J. Michael Garrison, the parish vestry, in a split vote, decided to dissolve the parish's relationship with Howson.

Karen Clement, junior warden, said the allegations first came to the attention of the vestry Tuesday.

"There's no substantiation to them at this point," said Clement, who did not favor breaking with Howson. "There's no faces on these allegations, no names. They're unsubstantiated."

Complaints included Howson's not visiting ill parishioners and banning smoking outside the church entrances, Clement said.

Other members of the vestry could not be reached to comment; Howson was out of town.

Some parishioners' discomfort with Howson's evangelical style of preaching may have had something to do with the complaints, she added.

Clement said many parishioners liked Howson's energetic style. Attendance has doubled since he became priest-in-charge of the 700-person church last October, she said. He was named rector in January.

A diocesan review committee will examine the allegations and determine whether they should be taken to ecclesiastical court.

Howson is suspended for 90 days and may be permanently removed from the church.


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