MYSTERY is surrounding the sudden and unexplained departure of a long-serving minister from an Edenbridge church.
Graham Wood has resigned as minister of The Eden Church after church authorities said he "breached standards of integrity".
He was minister at the church for 10 years and held the same position at Edenbridge Baptist Church for five years before that.
The church's congregation have been left bemused after a letter from church leaders explained he had stepped down but stressed he had not done anything illegal – a claim Kent Police confirmed.
Carole Jenkins, The Eden Church's new minister, told the Courier: "You will of course be aware that ministers are required to uphold very high standards of integrity.
"When Graham realised he had breached those standards he did the only inevitable and proper thing, and immediately resigned."
She added: "Since then the leaders and members of the church have continued to visit, pray for him and offer him other support, and the resources of the Baptist Union have been available to help him with taking his next steps and those continue to be available.
"The church would value your prayers at this difficult time."
Mr Wood has also now moved out of his Stangrove Road home, which was afforded to him as the church's senior minister. He is now living in Nursery Lane in Chipstead, Sevenoaks.
He refused to comment this week when approached by the Courier.
One Edenbridge resident, whom the Courier agreed not to name, said: "It's just one big mystery – nobody knows why it's happened.
"This is a guy that's given his life to that church and he's done an incredible amount for the community, he's helped so many people in and out of the church."
Mr Wood took over as minister at Edenbridge Baptist Church in 1998.
It merged with the Marlpit Hill Baptist Church in 2003 to form The Eden Church, and Mr Wood remained as minister.
The church has recently moved from its High Street home to The Eden Centre in Four Elms Road and its grand opening will take place on Saturday, February 23.
But Rev Jenkins, who has stepped up from being Mr Wood's assistant minister, said the day would not be overshadowed by speculation over the departure of her predecessor.
She said: "I think it's not been an easy time for the church, it's been quite difficult – but members seem to be in good spirits."