A MARRIED reverend has quit after an alleged affair with a parishioner.

Team Rector of St Mary’s in Ferndown, Rev Martin Howard, left the church earlier this month, following a complaint of adultery.

He is now believed to be working as a trainee account executive at Alan and Thomas Insurance Group.

He will be unable to work in the church again for a period of five years.

The former clergyman began his career in the church at St Andrew’s in Kinson, where he worked as a team vicar.

He had worked in Ferndown since March 2008.

St Mary’s is a mid-sized Anglican Church with 470 members.

In February last year, Mr Howard defended the church’s use of a poster that speaks out against gay marriage.

The fluorescent green sign featured the words ‘Marriage = 1 Man + 1 Woman’.

Some people who saw the sign condemned it as a ‘stunt’ to spark debate.

He told the Daily Echo at that time: “In displaying our recent poster we have wanted to state from a Christian viewpoint the traditional teaching of the Bible, and the wisdom of the ages, that society is much stronger when marriage is promoted, honoured and protected.”

One member of the church, who did not want to be named, alleged that Mr Howard had been involved in an affair with a married woman.

The parishioner added that Mr Howard owns two ‘buy to let’ houses in the town, but said he is currently staying with friends.

A statement released by the Church of England’s Diocese of Salisbury reads: “The Reverend Martin Howard has resigned his post as Team Rector of the Hampreston Benefice with immediate effect.

“A complaint of adultery had been made under the Clergy Disciplinary Measure, which has been upheld.

“A penalty has been imposed with Martin Howard’s consent that he be prohibited from ministry for five years.

“The Diocese is providing pastoral support to Martin, his wife Liz and their children at a difficult time.”

When the Daily Echo contacted Alan and Thomas Insurance Group, a spokesperson said it would not be possible to speak to Mr Howard, and that he is currently not at the company.

Councillor Steve Lugg, who represents the Ferndown ward at East Dorset District Council, said it would not be appropriate for him to comment.

“No one is perfect, and this seems to be a personal issue,” he said.

“Everyone is entitled to their private lives, and of course this is someone with a family who will need to pick up the pieces.”