CONCERNS have been raised after a former Kirk minister who was sacked after having an affair with a parishioner and masturbating in front of a colleague was employed to work with overseas exchange students.

Dr Elijah Smith was removed from his Glasgow parish in disgrace in 2019 after a Church of Scotland investigation established he had begun an affair with a married congregant shortly into his post; abused his girlfriend; had an affair with a teenager; and fondled himself in front of a kirk staff member.

However, it emerged the 35-year-old had been employed by the University of Glasgow as an administrator in the School of Social and Political Science, working with overseas Erasmus students.

It is believed that the university was not aware of Smith's past when he began the role several weeks ago.

Smith was listed on the university's staff directory on Monday of this week but by Wednesday afternoon, following contact from The Herald, the page had been removed and a spokeswoman said Smith was not employed by the university.

A former parishioner from the Glasgow church where Smith was minister praised the university for its swift response but expressed concern that he was able to successfully manoeuvre through the organisation's recruitment process.

The woman, who asked not to be named, said: "Elijah's name is eminently searchable - a quick Google check brings up a wealth of stories detailing exactly what his history is.

"As a Christian I believe in forgiveness and in second chances, however I am not convinced that a role working with teenagers and young women, particularly those far from home, is a suitable or positive first step."

A University of Glasgow spokesperson said: "The University of Glasgow has robust recruitment processes in place. We take any issues raised with us very seriously, investigate them thoroughly and act accordingly.

"We cannot comment on individual cases."

In 2019 the Church of Scotland published a report detailing the findings of a Presbyterial Commission, which investigated allegations of multiple sexual transgressions while ordained as minister of Queen's Park Govanhill Parish Church.

Originally from California, Smith took up the post in Glasgow's south side in January 2015 and within a month had entered into an affair with a parishioner who had sought spiritual support during her divorce.

Although she was separated, the woman was technically still married and had told Smith she was in "a dark place" and in need of help.

A second former parishioner said the incident had brought back difficult memories of what was a scandalising time for the close knit community church.

She said: “This was very difficult for everyone involved at the time, particularly the women who were intimately involved with Elijah.

“It’s disturbing to me that he was able to take up post in this sort of environment and to others I’ve spoken to who are aware of the situation.

“I’m glad he’s been removed from post and I acknowledge this must be hard for him too - it is unsavoury for everyone involved.”

A woman whose evidence was heard when the decision was made to remove him from his role at Queen's Park Govanhill Parish Church said she was pleased with the decision to remove him.

She said: "Whilst I have only recently become aware that Elijah had been employed at Glasgow University, I am pleased that they have come to the decision to remove him from post.

"I hope this move reflects an ongoing commitment to protecting students from those with a proven history of abuse, sending a strong message that those who misuse positions of  authority, trust or responsibility to their own ends are not welcome on Glasgow University campus."

Smith, who was the church’s second youngest minister at the time, also began an affair with the teenaged neighbour of the woman with whom he was in a long term relationship.

He also began sending deeply personal messages on Facebook to his girlfriend’s friend before meeting the woman in a pub, where they hugged and kissed.

The report detailed how the pair exchanged explicit text messages and that Smith slept over at her home.

The former minister, who has a doctorate from St Andrew’s University, said in mitigation that he has Asperger’s syndrome and wrote a blog post about his actions, claiming that he often “misinterprets” what he is told.

It was found that Smith had emotionally and verbally abused his partner.

A church colleague who went to the manse to ask Smith to take “time away from the parish” also detailed how he became “visibly aroused” while playing a guitar and began masturbating in front of her. 

At the conclusion of the investigation, which spanned 11 charges from 2015 to 2018, the church removed Smith’s status as minister.

He later went on to set up a Crowdfunder to help with Home Office fees while applying for a UK visa and offered to tutor donors in knitting, playing the banjo or guitar, or lessons in Adobe Creative Suite.

The online appeal also said: “Maybe none of these supposed ‘incentives’ appeal to you - I am sure we can work something out (cycling lessons? singing lessons? playtime with Karl?), even with my limited skillset.

“Unskilled manual labour is definitely an option.”

Smith had said he was looking to raise £3000 to help pay for food, rent, and monthly bills after the visa application process took a “sizeable chunk” of his savings.

In a statement in 2019, when he was sacked from the church, he said: “I have no ill will toward anyone, including my accusers.

“I want peace for everyone involved and I want to continue to survive and build some sort of meaningful life. In doing so, my true character will be proven.”