Controversy over St. Anne's Church priest Carl Williams has taken a new turn with news that he has been removed from the pulpit - at least temporarily.

And with the fate of the controversial priest still up in the air, consultant Julian Hall, whom Rev. Williams has hired to represent his interests, yesterday accused the Anglican church of "behaving in a unchristian manner. "

Anglican Bishop Ewen Ratteray was staying tightlipped over reports reaching the Bermuda Sun that Rev. Williams has been suspended from the post to which he was appointed last June.

Bishop Ratteray said the Church would not be commenting on the matter until after St. Anne's parishioners had been informed of the latest developments.

The Bermuda Sun has been informed that retired Anglican priest Canon Thomas Nesbitt has been asked to fill in at St. Anne's for the next two Sundays.

Mr. Hall told the Bermuda Sun yesterday: "There is clearly, and very sadly, an ongoing dispute between Father Williams and certain members of the congregation, which needs to be resolved.

"I have to say that from what I understand, Father Williams enjoys the support and love of the substantial majority of his congregation.

"There has also been, over several years, a dispute between Father Williams and Bishop Ewen Ratteray regarding the way in which Father Williams has been designated.

"That, too, is in the process of being resolved following representations which have been made by Father Williams to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who, of course, has ultimate authority over the Bermuda diocese.

'No letter'

"I am not in a position to say that Father Williams has... been suspended... because neither Father Williams nor I have seen any letter which [would confirm this]. Nor has he been informed that he has been suspended.

"But I will finally say this: 'there is nothing more unseemly than a Christian organization behaving in an unchristian manner. Of one thing you can be assured, Father Williams, as a Bermudian employed by the Bermuda diocese of the Anglican Church, will do everything he possibly can to ensure that his rights are protected and preserved."

The dispute over Rev. Williams, who was appointed to the post last June, following pressure from the Department of Immigration, comes as the church enters Holy Week.

There have been a flurry of meetings in the weeks since Rev. Williams, who was born in Barbados, is married to a Bermudian and who now has Bermuda status, received a 12-page documents from St. Anne's Church wardens in January, accusing him of "priestly ineptitude."

There was a heated Synod meeting at the end of January at which St. Anne's warden Lisa Quinn Brown called on the Bishop to suspend Rev. Williams while the matter was being resolved.

The Bishop overruled her suggestion and said he would put the matter to a fact-finding tribunal, or bishop's court, but that option was subsequently shelved.