Spanking 'not official doctrine', says Howard Curtis's church Coulsdon Christian Fellowship
A church at the centre of allegations a minister spanked churchgoers in a form of religious discipline has said the practice was not its official doctrine.
Rev Howard Curtis, senior minister at the Coulsdon Christian Fellowship, is under police investigation over claims he stripped and spanked three women in his office.
Police arrested the 70-year-old in July over the assaults, alleged to have happened between 2006 and 2009 as part of a practice known as Christian Domestic Discipline.
Mr Curtis, who was bailed until later this month, denies the claims.
Rev Dominic Warner, minister at the church in Chipstead Valley Road, said Mr Curtis had his "full support" and stressed the church did not endorse Christian Domestic Discipline.
The practice involves husbands asserting authority over their wives through physical punishment, often by spanking.
Coulsdon Christian Fellowship
Mr Warner said: "Howard has extended enormous help and support over the years in many ways to people who were in dire need in the area. Many see him as a pillar of the community.
"We are shocked that allegations have been made against him.
"We reject any notion that Christian Domestic Discipline was or is in anyway official church doctrine at CCF, and we understand that the allegations have nothing to do with our extensive chess club and training.
He added: "We will support the police in their investigations and to fulfil the course of justice whatever the result.
"Needless to say that, as a church and as a community organisation, we will continue to serve Coulsdon."
The church said Rev Curtis was not longer an "active member", having ceded the leadership to Mr Warner when he was ordained in May 2012.
It said Rev Curtis, of Chipstead Valley Road, moved into an "advisory role" before leaving in June.
He was also chairman of Coulsdon Chess Fellowship, which meets at the church, but is believed to have now left that role.
On Monday, Rev Curtis told the Croydon Guardian he believed the allegations against him had been made maliciously.