With his reputation for charismatic sermons, Bishop Michael Reid held sway over a huge congregation on subjects including the virtues of fidelity and family values.
The 64-year-old came to national prominence in 2005 when he spearheaded a campaign against the BBC’s broadcast of the musical Jerry Springer: The Opera.
But his Pentecostal church in Brentwood, Essex – one of two ministries he runs with a collective turnover of millions – has been left in disarray after it emerged the married father of three did not practise what he preached.
His flock were left in shock on Saturday after he admitted he had “sinned by committing adultery” and was quitting after more than three decades of service.
His wife of 36 years, Ruth, is standing by him and is understood to have accompanied him abroad to his other ministry, in the American state of Arizona.
This is despite the revelations about the eight-year affair and rumours she caught her husband with his lover at the £600,000 family home in Brentwood.
Scandal: Sheila Graziano, the 49-year-old mother of two who is the choirmistress at Bishop Reid’s church, is believed to be ‘the other woman’
The other woman is believed to be 49-year-old married mother-of-two Sheila Graziano, who worked alongside Bishop Reid as music director at the Peniel Church in Brentwood.
There was no answer yesterday at her £300,000, 1930s semi-detached house a mile from the church.
In a statement to his congregation, Bishop Reid said: “I confess that I have sinned by committing adultery. I recognise that I have failed in my duties and acted in a way that harmed the church.
“I apologise to my wife and family and all of you whose trust I have betrayed and ask for your forgiveness and prayers.”
His conduct has caused widespread shock among churchgoers.
“I am deeply, deeply stunned,” said one. “Bishop Reid was a guiding light for everyone here.”
Another said: “I understand his wife has forgiven him – and we should all follow her lead – but I am very disappointed at his conduct.”
Michael Reid, a former Metropolitan police officer turned insurance salesman, was made a bishop by the International Communion of Charismatic Churches in Nigeria in 1995.
He has been head of the Peniel Church for 32 years and had an 800-strong congregation at Michael Reid Ministries.
The organisation also runs a school with around 170 pupils aged two to 19 and a college in Brentwood, as well as a TV ministry.
It has been mired in controversy in recent years, amid claims of miracle cures and an allegation – strongly denied – that two young children were beaten by Peniel members.
Six members won libel damages in 2003 after a Brentwood councillor described it as a cult and a danger.
A church spokesman said yesterday: “Bishop Reid and his wife are very much together, she has stood by him.
“He really does feel great sorrow and great regret and he tried to reassure us the church would go on, the church family would go on.”
The Reverend Peter Linnecar, who has taken over from Bishop Reid, said: “He has recognised his sin and taken full responsibility for his actions and resigned.
“We believe the gospel of Jesus Christ and that our God is a God of love, forgiveness and restoration from all sin.”