By Piers Meyler
Wednesday 19th June 2013
THE controversial head of the former Peniel Church in Brentwood says he would rather live on the streets than move to the new home provided for him.
Dr Michael Reid, 70, who led the church before he was forced out after an affair came to light in 2008, has slammed a High Court decision to evict him – insisting that Testimony House, in Coxtie Green Road, was bought outright for him and his late wife Ruth through collections worth £275,000 in 1992.
He also rejected any suggestion that he could move to Crays Hill near Billericay where a house waits for him paid for by Trinity – the new name for the church he founded in 1978.
The former Metropolitan Police officer, who became a bishop in Nigeria in 1996, said: “It was the worst thing I ever did, but I put the house in the name of the church charity as I never suspected I would be fighting for the right to remain there. I said ‘I’ll put it in the church’s name because I don’t want it after I die.”
The bishop, who claims to have respect from churches across the world, has rejected the offer of a three-bedroom home in Oak Avenue, Crays Hill, likening the move to being placed in exile.
He also rejects the validity of an order he signed in May 2012 – in which he agreed to give up the property – because it was made while he was recovering from a heart attack in April 2011.
It was a life-threatening scare from which he admits he sometimes wishes he never recovered, especially after seeing his Ruth die from pancreatic cancer in December that year.
Dr Reid’s former colleagues have been trying to evict him from Testimony House since 2009.
He had been dismissed a year earlier after news of an affair with his PA Sheila Graziano hit the headlines and he lost an employment tribunal claim.
He blasted the people he once ministered, who have now won the order forcing him to give up Testimony House, and hand it over for the use of the church’s new senior pastor, Peter Linnecar.
“I have never tried to enrich myself out of anything, never sought to enrich myself or my family, Bishop Reid said. I can’t afford to go to appeal – they’ve got all my money. It’s cost me a fortune in legal fees. To be honest, I just feel disillusioned by the way I didn’t get a chance to speak at court. The leadership acts totally outside of Christian principles and doctrine, and in particular in my opinion the board and pastors treated my wife abominably when she was dying of cancer.”
“She gave 32 years of her life to helping people in the church, and only eight members of the church bothered to turn up to her funeral from Trinity. Many of the congregation have left, disillusioned. It is so sad to see such pecuniary-minded people destroy the work of God through jealousy, but then being a Christian I remember that Jesus chose 12 and one was Judas.”
He added: “I haven’t got a plan but I will never go to Crays Hill. They will get the bailiffs. I will sleep on the street – I don’t care.”
Trinity argues that because he is no longer an employee, Dr Reid must leave, a claim he rejects because he says he was never an employee of the church and that he has actually invested hundreds of thousands of pounds into the church from his own business.
Ruling in favour of Trinity, Judge Peter Leaver QC described the church as one based on “traditional Christian ethics and strong family values”. He said: “It’s a great shame that a man who has given a great deal to the church over a lengthy period should now seek to resile from an agreement he entered into, freely and with full consent.”
Frank Saunders, trustee of Trinity Church, said: “We hope MR can come to terms with the situation and accept the court’s decision He could always stay there while he was in good standing with the church. Everyone is fully aware of the circumstances surrounding his departure which meant he was no longer in good standing. Michael Reid remains in the prayers of the church, but we do need the property back.”
- Bishop Reid: ‘I will never go to Crays Hill’ – Brentwood Gazette Exclusive (bishopmichaelreid.com)