A SERVING vicar will today be given an award for his work exposing Church wrongdoing connected to crimes committed by the former Bishop of Lewes.

Rev Graham Sawyer, the vicar of St James’ Church in Burnley, will share the Secularist Of The Year Award with Phil Johnson, from Eastbourne.

Mr Johnson is the chair of support group Minister And Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors (MACSAS).

The award comes the day after the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse concluded three weeks of hearings into alleged cover-up of abuse in the diocese of Chichester.

Reverend Sawyer was one of 18 men who, in their youth in the 1970s and 1980s, were abused by Bishop Peter Ball after coming to him for spiritual guidance.

This month it was revealed that prosecutors are considering a criminal investigation into former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, whose interventions on Ball’s behalf in the 1990s were criticised by an independent report last year.

NSS chief executive Stephen Evans praised Rev Sawyer and Mr Johnson for their “courageous efforts to break the silence that has allowed an epidemic of abuse to take place in the Church of England”.

Rev Sawyer said: “”I am very humbled to be awarded this prize.

“I cannot understand why any reasonable person in the UK – whether they be a person of faith or not – couldn’t support the NSS’s principled version of secularism that defends both freedom of and from religion.”

Phil Johnson said: “I am honoured to accept this award and in doing so recognise I am just one of many people who have stood up to institutions to try to achieve justice.”

The National Secular Society works for separation of religion and state and equal respect for human rights.