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The wretched story of Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, continues. 
For reasons never properly explained, some dons want him out. They have now spent three years, and millions of pounds of the college’s money, pursuing 34 unproved allegations against him. 
His persecution has always been unattractive, but latterly it has raised issues wider than odium academicum (and odium theologicum, Dr Percy being Dean of the cathedral as well). 
As in the case of the late, unfairly accused Bishop George Bell of Chichester, the doctrines of ‘safeguarding’ have been hijacked to destroy a reputation. 
Recently Dean Percy was cleared for the fifth time, on this occasion by judicial means. An appeal court judge, Dame Sarah Asplin, ruled it would be ‘entirely disproportionate’ for an accusation against him to be referred to a church tribunal.
The allegation — unrelated to the wider dispute, but weaponised by his opponents, who circulated extreme ‘risk assessments’ against him on the strength of it — is that he ‘very briefly stroked’ the hair of a college employee while complimenting her generosity in donating it to a children’s cancer charity. (Dean Percy denies any touching.) 
As far as church law goes, the matter is settled, yet the Bishop of Oxford and the college refuse to lift the safeguarding restrictions on the Dean. These mean, among other things, that college gardeners have to tend his garden in pairs. He is being cruelly harassed by the misuse of rules designed to protect the sexually abused. He is a victim of what the church, in other contexts, would call ‘complex/institutional abuse’.

Charles Moore



Archbishop Cranmer



Thinking Anglicans

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Photo: Martin Bell

Source: Lichfield

What does Sussex mean to you?

I have the fondest memories of Chichester, where I abandoned my BBC duties in July 1996 and spoke in the cathedral on the first anniversary of the Srebrenica (Bosnia) massacre. I spoke from the pulpit formerly occupied by Bishop George Bell, one of my heroes, who had the courage to speak out against the carpet bombing by the Allies of German civilians towards the end of the Second World War. The whole county is beautiful, the coast, inland and the glorious Downs.

~ Martin Bell

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Further to the reference in paragraph 4 of the President of Tribunals’ decision to the e-mail dated 7 May 2021 from Winckworth Sherwood to the Designated Officer (Edward Dobson), it is noteworthy, too, that Private Eye has named Alison Talbot as the author of a document setting out what Martyn may and may not do during his suspension: Eye 1548, page 38. This is a suspension by the Governing Body, not the Church. Readers of this blog may be interested to know that the conduct of Winckworth Sherwood (WSLaw), and Ms Talbot in particular, is currently the subject of an investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). Whatever may have been said in the Winckworth Sherwood e-mail (which, rightly, was not taken into account by the President), for reasons given in my comments yesterday (and by others on this thread), the outcome of the CDM complaint and the factors mentioned by Dame Sarah Asplin in paragraph 10 must surely lead to the conclusion that the second College tribunal should be abandoned. To proceed with the tribunal, as the statement posted yesterday on the ChCh website would indicate is the Governing Body’s intention, would involve a wholly irresponsible use of charity funds“.

David Lamming

“At the very minimum, an immediate investigation needs to be carried out regarding Winckworth Sherwood [WS Law] – not just in relation to the Dean of Christ Church Oxford Martyn Percy, but also in relation to the wartime Bishop of Chichester George Bell”

Richard W. Symonds – The Bell Society

“So where is the justice? Where is the mercy? Why in the name of Christ is the Church of England determined to ensure that a “significant cloud” remains over the name of Martyn Percy?”

‘Archbishop Cranmer’

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News 25th May 2021:

Major research paper published
and Sheldon steps down from campaign to replace CDM

‘I was handed over to the dogs’: lived experience, clerical trauma and the handling of complaints against clergy in the Church of England

A devastating systematic analysis of data from the Sheldon/Aston research survey. This paper explores the deeply troubling territory around the edges of the CDM. The painful testimonies are a hard read but these are voices that need your ears. Anyone in ministry can get caught up in this, often through no fault of their own.

We hope it will impassion you to become part of an unstoppable movement for constructive change.

Link : “Handed over to the dogs”

That movement for change will no longer involve Sheldon’s leadership.
We are stepping back now. We have given it heart and soul for several years and much has been achieved. Now we are in danger of over-stretching ‘real world’ Sheldon. Sheldon has generously funded this project in direct cash (£35,000), but in many ways the time and emotional energy has been much more costly. We don’t put a monetary value on our time, but time spent on ProjectCDM is time not spent with people in need or on other necessary projects. We have attended many meetings, written papers, collaborated with researchers, contributed to consultations by others and built networks. There has probably been some vicarious trauma in the mix. Bringing to light such deep-rooted pain has generated significant additional correspondence and pastoral need from those directly harmed by the CDM. 

The church can look away but can no longer say it didn’t know. A complaint against a caring professional in a public role should be treated as a pastoral emergency. Clergy urgently need a system for handling complaints and allegations of misconduct against them that is swift, proportionate, easy to understand, presumes innocence unless or until found guilty, and is applied without fear or favour. It needs to be rooted in gathering of robust factual evidence and prioritise restoring relationships wherever possible. The administration of the process must itself be properly accountable. Reputations of institutions matter, but those of individuals are far more vulnerable in this context. A year after the bishops agreed that CDM should be replaced we have no evidence that the NCIs have a handle on any of this. This press release was published on 17th May but we have no idea whether the proposals considered relate to the heavily criticised Lambeth proposals of December 2020 or have already pivoted towards the ELS model. The lack of transparency is itself deeply problematic.

Sheldon, along with CECA, is therefore now recommending
that the ELS proposals are urgently taken forward into legislation.

This is a necessary coalition of the willing to achieve this particular goal. There is still room for improving detail. We think the scope should be widened and the safeguards enhanced, but the overarching framework appears sound. Here is a brief introductory summary, and here are links to all the working party reports and the in-depth workings.  In the absence of an official one, this is Sheldon’s own Scope and Purpose against which we think any new Measure may be assessed.

A reasonable target is approval by Synod by July 2022 and enacted into law by the end of the year, but this will only happen if there is overwhelming pressure from clergy. 

Here are a few suggestions for action

  • Use all channels feeding in to General Synod this July – this is when the course will be set and it will be harder to change later
  • Make it a live issue in the elections to General Synod in September – it is the new intake who will succeed or fail to replace CDM. This cuts across tribal lines and affects clergy of all stripes.
  • Your bishop needs to hear your voice – it is especially important that people who have not been CDMd act on this as those who have are often too vulnerable. 
  • Church and church-related media – newspapers, blogs, social media, etc – keep the subject visibly on the agenda
  • Make good use of the Sheldon Hub as a secure space for forum collaboration and resource repository. This page will continue to signpost current conversations and provide links to documents and other resources. Bookmark it. 
  • Get talking on this forum thread to generate momentum now.
  • Also a new Private Forum for those in a position to be actively involved in the processes to try and ensure the new Measure is as responsive to all our concerns as possible. It will be operated by colleagues from CECA and ELS. Apply to join the private forum.

Link : ELS proposals (summary)

When we started this project the subject of CDM was unspeakable, untouchable – a hot potato – and the fear was palpable. We hope our work has cut the CDM down to a size you can now handle more safely. There was no-one else to start this work because of our unique vantage point, trusted position, lay status and a healthy dose of sheer bloody-mindedness. We trust and pray that together you will go on and finish the task – together you will be unstoppable. We wish you well.

The Sheldon Community’s “ProjectCDM” was started in 2017 in response to significant pastoral concerns around the effects of the Clergy Discipline Measure. We set ourselves the fourfold task of

  • Improving support for those going or been through CDM
  • Improving implementation of the existing Measure
  • Commissioning independent academic research into the workings of the Measure
  • Making evidence based recommendations for the repair or replacement of the Measure

Feb 21: Call for appointment of Lead Person to see through CDM replacement

With the forthcoming retirement of the Chair of the Lambeth Working Group the Rt Rev Tim Thornton Sheldon is urgently renewing its January 2020 call for the appointment of a Lead Person to see through the replacement of the CDM. The role should involve building consensus, shepherding legislation through General Synod, overseeing initial training and implementation, embedding feedback learning loops for safe future functioning and initiating restorative justice. 

Feb 21: Scope and Purpose of replacement to CDM

Sheldon remains very concerned that detailed proposals are being brought forward for the replacement of CDM without any published document on the Scope and Purpose of such a Measure. As no-one else appeared to have the appetite to produce one, Sheldon offers this document as a starting point

Link : Scope and Purpose



Richard W. Symonds

And if not “handed over to the dogs’ [eg Martyn Percy], then ‘thrown under the bus’ [eg George Bell].

There is a cancer within the church hierarchy which, if not rooted out, is likely to destroy it.


Three years ago a spurious but serious complaint was made against my cousin who is in a caring professional role in major (not church) institution. His manager called in an independent person to investigate and report. That person was assisted by a lesser ‘rank’ person. The process was made very clear to my cousin, both verbally and in writing. The investigation began the day after the complaint was made and finished four working days later with a written result dismissing the complaint.

It is another example of the way bishops have allowed themselves to be, and in fact settled comfortably into the role of, manager and attempt to turn their dioceses into Diocese plc. The duty of care to clergy is ignored and the suffering resulting can be immense – the Sheldon Hub paper clearly shows this.

Richard W. Symonds Reply to  Dave

“Diocese plc” reminds me of a Financial Times article [December 17 2014]: “Church of England management courses overlook God, says critics”


Church of England should stop all current planned ordinations.

The institution is unsafe. Without a properly functioning disciplinary process that is fair, sane, and carries no prospect of being grossly weaponized – new clergy may find their employer brings them professional and psychological harm, if they fall foul of a diocesan structure.

The Church of England should be regarded as an unsafe employer of all clergy until it has sorted this mess out. That it has not been able to keep Sheldon on board its project of CDM reform is acutely embarrassing – a highly regarded organisation that brought a great deal of energy and wisdom to this work.

Those responsible in the Church’s structure for this failure will now have to salvage the pieces. Until they can make the necessary reforms, no further person should test a vocation in the organisation. The Church cannot risk feeding fresh clergy to the dogs, just as it cannot risk subjecting survivors to any further re-abuse.

“It is hard to know whether the Church has the human and organisational resources to produce a new model to replace the CDM failure.  The House of Bishops has already agreed that the CDM process is not fit for purpose.  In spite of this, it does nothing to halt the notorious Kafkaesque process being played out at Christ Church Oxford. The recent revelations by Private Eye about the restrictions being imposed on the Dean under CDM protocols are grotesque

Stephen Parsons


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Peter Hitchens

Welby says sorry… but not for his cruel error – Peter Hitchens – Mail on Sunday – May 23 2021

Justin Welby, who to my astonishment is still Archbishop of Canterbury, chose Thursday evening, when the world was diverted by the Martin Bashir affair, to issue a very strange apology.

Mr Welby once worked as a ‘dormitory officer’ in evangelical Christian camps for public schoolboys. These were run by a violent pervert and barrister called John Smyth QC, now dead.

Smyth liked to beat his charges. Quite a lot. Eight of the boys received a total of 14,000 lashes, with two receiving 8,000 strokes between them over three years.

Now Mr Welby says: ‘I want to offer a full, personal apology. I am sorry that this was done in the name of Jesus Christ by a perverted version of spirituality and evangelicalism.’

Well, so are we all. But I’m not sure exactly what he is sorry for. The Archbishop says he had no knowledge of the abuse at the time, and I believe he is a truthful man and that this is so. But he should count himself lucky that he is being judged by people with a better sense of justice than he has.

This is the same Welby who allowed and defended the national publication of unproven and poorly-based anonymous claims that the great and brave wartime Bishop of Chichester, George Bell, had been a child molester, to the fury of his surviving family and of the many who had known, loved and admired him.

After a careful inquiry by a leading lawyer Lord Carlile had cleared George Bell, Welby would not accept that he had blundered and sulkily proclaimed that a ‘significant cloud’ still hung over Bishop Bell’s name. The man has no respect for the presumption of innocence. Yet he himself is sheltered by it.

I think that fact should trouble him, as long as he refuses to admit his grave error.


Why no apology? Because there are too many people with too much to lose by apologising.

Because there are simply too many very powerful and influential people in control, with significantly real and dark clouds hanging over their own bad name, who have too much to lose if Archbishop Welby apologises, exonerates and clears the name of the late Bishop George Bell.

It’s a cover-up to protect the reputations, the power and the influence of these people, who should be exposed and held accountable for their actions.

It’s a cancer within the Church of England which, if not rooted out, is likely to destroy it.

Richard W. Symonds – The Bell Society – May 24 2020


“Reputation is the glue that holds us together as a society and as individuals…It is a shocking violation to have your reputation [your good name – Ed] stolen from you: it is an act of reckless irresponsibility to destroy it yourself. Your reputation belongs to you, your friends, and to those you love, who share your name and family. We should take this aspect of human dignity very seriously” – Dr Martin Warner – Bishop of Chichester


“Yes Bishop, we should take this very seriously indeed, shouldn’t we?” ~ Richard W. Symonds – The Bell Society

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Archbishop Welby announces further investigations into John Smyth case



John Smyth

EVERYONE who knew about the abuse perpetrated by the late John Smyth and failed to report it will be investigated by the National Safeguarding Team, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Archbishop Welby offered a “full, personal apology” to victims of Smyth, whose abuse, he says, was “done in the name of Jesus Christ by a perverted version of spirituality and evangelicalism”.

It is now more than four years since Channel 4 News broke news of the violent abuse perpetrated by Smyth, a QC and former chairman of the Iwerne Trust (later part of the Titus Trust), which ran holiday camps for boys at English public schools in the 1970s (News, 10 February 2017).

Both the Iwerne Trust and Winchester College, where many of Smyth’s victims were pupils, learned of allegations of the abuse in the 1980s, but failed to report them to the police. One survivor grew so fearful of the beatings that he tried to take his own life in 1981. It prompted the Iwerne Trust to launch an investigation and compile a confidential report in 1982. Written by Canon Mark Ruston, the Vicar of the Round Church, Cambridge, from 1973 to 1987, and the Revd David Fletcher, a Scripture Union employee, it described the abuse of 22 young men: “The scale and severity of the practice was horrific. . . eight received about 14,000 strokes: two of them having some 8000 strokes over three years.”

The abuse was not limited to the UK, where it has been estimated that there are more than 100 survivors (News, 31 May 2019). After the Ruston report, Smyth went to live in Zimbabwe, where he continued to run holiday camps — Zambezi Ministries — and South Africa. In Zimbabwe, “almost constant concerns” were raised about Smyth, as early as 1986 (News, 10 February 2017). In 1992, a 16-year-old boy, Guide Nyachuru, was found dead in a swimming pool at a Zambezi camp, prompting other young men to come forward. A paper heard by the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe in 1997 suggests that 90 boys had raised allegations against Smyth (News, 31 May 2019).Advertisement

Smyth died in 2018, before he could be questioned by police, arrested, or tried (News, 17 August 2018). That year, Hampshire Police confirmed that no charges would be brought against anyone else.

It is now four years since the Channel 4 investigation and almost two years since a former director of social services, Keith Makin, was appointed by the NST to carry out a “lessons-learnt” review of the handling of allegations of abuse (News, 1 March 201916 August 2019). In his statement this week, the Archbishop acknowledges that survivors of abuse have endured “a long wait” and says that he is “absolutely determined that the Makin Review will be as comprehensive and strong as it can be. I have given an undertaking that it will be published in full. I pray that this can give some sense of closure for these victims.”

The statement follows a meeting with some of the survivors of Smyth’s abuse. The Archbishop confirms that he has apologised that it has taken so long to arrange the meeting, acknowledging that this has caused “much frustration and anger”. In 2019, a spokeswoman for Lambeth Palace said that he hoped to meet survivors “as soon as possible” (News, 18 April 2019)

“In February 2017, I issued a general apology on behalf of the Church of England, as the story was breaking, and before we understood the full horror and scope of the abuse,” the statement says. “Having met some victims now, I want to offer a full, personal apology. I am sorry that this was done in the name of Jesus Christ by a perverted version of spirituality and evangelicalism.

”It is clear that the impact of this has been widespread. I want to offer this apology, in addition, to those Smyth victims that I have not met. I continue to hear new details of the abuse and my sorrow, shock and horror grows.”

The statement says that the Church “has a duty to look after those who have been harmed. We have not always done that well.” Graham* (a survivor, not his real name) has consistently challenged the Church’s handling of the allegations, including “appalling” communication with survivors (News, 1 March 2019).

In a 2019 Channel 4 interview, Archbishop Welby said that Smyth was “not actually an Anglican” and that the C of E was “never directly involved” — an account immediately disputed by survivors (News, 18 April 2019). Graham’s assertion that Smyth was a Reader in the C of E has since been confirmed.

Last year, the NST concluded that Graham’s complaint against the Archbishop about his handling of allegations about Smyth was “not substantiated” (News, 13 November 2020).

In this week’s statement, the Archbishop seeks to clarify what he knew, and when, about the abuse. Victims are angry, he says, that Smyth was not stopped in 2013, when a disclosure was first made to the diocese of Ely, and the Archbishop was informed (News, 10 May 2019).

“By this time Mr Smyth had been out of the UK for nearly thirty years,” he says. “We, the Church, were unclear as to his activities abroad or indeed to the utterly horrendous scope and extent of his actions here and overseas. I recognise the anger of the survivors and victims but having checked that the Diocese of Cape Town was informed and that the police were properly informed and involved our jurisdiction did not extend further. I believe that by 2013 Mr Smyth was no longer attending an Anglican Church.”

He continues: “These victims are rightly concerned that no one appears to have faced any sanction yet, when it is clear a number of Christians, clergy and lay, were made aware of the abuse in the 1980s and many learned in subsequent years. I have not yet received a list of names. I am told by survivors that some facilitated Smyth’s move to Africa. I have made it clear that the National Safeguarding Team will investigate every clergy person or others within their scope of whom they have been informed who knew and failed to disclose the abuse.”

The Archbishop has also confirmed that he will write to the family of Guide Nyachuru. “I apologise on behalf of the Church of England to all those in Africa who were abused after John Smyth had been uncovered in the UK in 1982, although the Church did not know, owing to the cover up, of the abuse until 2013,” the statement says.

A statement from a group of victims of Smyth’s abuse, issued on Thursday, said: “We are pleased that the Archbishop of Canterbury is taking responsibility and acting as a good example for the other culpable parties involved in our story.” It called on Scripture Union, the Titus Trust, and Winchester College to follow the Archbishop’s lead and “reveal everything they know about the abuses and their coverup. It is clear a large number of individuals, clergy and lay, have known about these abuses for over thirty years and we call on them to cooperate fully with the Makin Review and the National Safeguarding Team. For victims like us, full closure is impossible without full disclosure.”

Martin Sewell, a lay member of General Synod who has read the Ruston report, has suggested that “well over 100 people knew, heard, or suspected that something was seriously amiss in varying degrees” (News, 1 March 2019). Evangelical clergy and organisations have denied knowledge of the abuse (News, 3 March 2017). Canon Ruston died in 1990. Archbishop Welby was a dormitory officer at Iwerne holiday camp in the late 1970s, when Mr Smyth was one of the leaders. He has always maintained that nobody discussed the allegations with him and that he first learned of them in 2013.

The NST has concluded that a former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, saw a report about the abuse while he was Principal of Trinity College in the 1980s — a conclusion which he disputes (News, 29 January 2021).

Smyth was a trustee of the Scripture Union from 1971 to 1979. An independent case review (of which only the executive summary has been made public) quotes a former SU national director, the Revd Tim Hastie-Smith, who admits that he was either “grotesquely insensitive” or “extraordinarily incurious” about reports of the abuse (News, 1 April 2021). In October 2014, he wrote: “Apparently, the incident is ‘well known’ and involves a number of high-profile individuals. . . It is hard to see how this incident has remained ‘secret’ for so long.” The review notes that the individuals who received full disclosure of Smyth’s abuse “have all been described by victims as having ‘huge social polish’ which made them very convincing, dominant and persuasive”.

The Titus Trust has said that it will co-operate fully with the Makin review. It has commissioned Thirtyone:eight to undertake an independent review of the current culture of the Titus Trust, due to be published this summer. An earlier review has not been made public. The Iwerne summer camps were closed last year (News, 29 May 2020).

The Makin report was due to report in August last year, but was delayed owing to the coronavirus pandemic (News, 1 May 2020).

Archbishop Welby’s statement concludes: “I know that words are inadequate and will have a different meaning and impact on individuals, but I hope that my words today can convey on behalf of the Church of England and myself our deepest sorrow.”


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Archbishop Justin Welby

Source: FT

Fury as ‘pointless’ Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby turns his back on chaplain reported to a terror unit after questioning his school’s new LGBT policies

  • Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is slammed for not supporting a chaplain
  • Reverend Dr Bernard Randall reported to Prevent programme by Trent College
  • Dr Randall told pupils they were allowed to disagree with school’s LGBT policies
  • A police probe ruled he posed ‘no counter-terrorism risk, or risk of radicalisation’
  • Christian Legal Centre appealed for Justin Welby to publicly support Dr Randall


PUBLISHED: 22:02, 15 May 2021 | UPDATED: 02:18, 16 May 2021

163View comments

The Archbishop of Canterbury was last night lambasted for refusing to support a chaplain who was reported to an anti-terrorism programme after he questioned his school’s new LGBT policies.

Church of England leaders were urged to intervene after this newspaper revealed how independent Trent College near Nottingham secretly reported Reverend Dr Bernard Randall to the Prevent programme, which normally identifies those at risk of being radicalised.

Dr Randall, 48, had delivered a sermon in which he told pupils they were allowed to disagree with the school’s new LGBT policies, particularly if they felt they ran contrary to the Church’s principles.

The school decided Dr Randall’s sermon was ‘harmful to LGBT’ students and referred him to Prevent, although a police probe ruled the chaplain posed ‘no counter-terrorism risk, or risk of radicalisation’.

  • Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby (above) was lambasted for not supporting a chaplain who was reported to an anti-terrorism programme for questioning his school’s LGBT policies

The Christian Legal Centre, which has taken up Dr Randall’s case, appealed for Archbishop Justin Welby, along with the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, and the Bishop of Derby, Libby Lane, to publicly support Dr Randall.

‘Will you use your platform to defend Dr Randall and freedom of belief and religion in our schools,’ centre chief executive Andrea Williams asked in a letter.

But all three senior figures declined to give Dr Randall their backing.

Asked whether the Most Rev Welby, who is on a three-month sabbatical, believed the school was right to report Dr Randall to Prevent, a spokesman at Lambeth Palace said: ‘We don’t have any comment.’ 

The Archbishop’s failure to back Dr Randall provoked fierce criticism.

Sir John Hayes, chairman of the Common Sense Group of Tory MPs and peers, said: ‘There’s nothing in the sermon that I saw published in the paper that anyone would find disturbing. 

‘When a clergyman is sacked for giving a sermon and the Archbishop doesn’t act, you are entitled to ask: at what point would the Archbishop act? What’s going to happen for the Archbishop to act? If he’s never going to act, what’s the point of him?’

Ms Williams added: ‘It is incredibly disappointing, but sadly not surprising, that the leadership of the Church of England have failed to speak up in support of Dr Randall. Where is Welby on this issue?’

Meanwhile, George Carey, who was Archbishop of Canterbury between 1991 and 2002, heaped pressure on his successor by saying Dr Randall ‘deserves the support of the Church of England’

  • Reverend Dr Bernard Randall, 48, (above) delivered a sermon in which he told pupils at Trent College near Nottingham they were allowed to disagree with the school’s new LGBT policies

‘Freedom of speech is the key issue here,’ he said. ‘His sermon was respectful of differences and invited discussion and debate.’

It comes as The Mail on Sunday can reveal claims that Church officials supported the school’s decision to report its chaplain to Prevent.

It has been claimed that Justine Rimington, the school’s ‘designated safeguarding lead’ who reported Dr Randall to Prevent, spoke to an official at the Diocese of Derby and was assured that her actions had not been ‘discriminatory’. 

In a letter to parents last week, the school’s head Bill Penty defended the chaplain’s referral to Prevent, saying: ‘Throughout this process we were following established safeguarding practice, as we are required to do.’

Dr Randall was initially sacked for gross misconduct but then reinstated on appeal. He was made redundant last December and he is suing the school for discrimination and unfair dismissal.

Last night, he said the lack of support from the top of the Church of England was ‘disappointing’, adding: ‘They could have said we believe in freedom of religion.’

In her reply to Ms Williams, the Right Rev Lane said: ‘Public statements in support of one side in a dispute, prior to the evidence emerging in legal proceedings, is neither in the interests of good legal process nor, indeed, likely to serve Dr Randall’s personal interests well.’

The Most Rev Cottrell’s office said that it supported the Right Rev Lane’s comments. 

“Foolish and naïve behaviour by the Church” – ‘C

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Lord Alex Carlile QC

– Photo Source: Wiki Commons


George Bell group – Statement May 2019

Since October 2015 when the Archbishops’ Council announced that they had paid compensation to the woman given the pseudonym ‘Carol’, who alleged that she had been abused by Bishop George Bell, his defenders have criticised the Church authorities for never once affording the Bishop the presumption of innocence.  Now, after the inquiries of Lord Carlile and Timothy Briden, it can be seen that the allegations against Bishop Bell were unfounded in fact.


The Carlile report, whose conclusions (save as to publicity) the Church accepted, criticised the investigation of Carol’s allegations as a rush to judgment predicated on Bell’s guilt. It concluded that the decision to settle with Carol was indefensibly wrong and that the process completely ignored the Bishop’s reputation and the interests of his surviving family, including his very elderly niece.

The original statement by the Archbishops’ Council in October 2015 claimed that none of the expert independent reports had found reason to doubt Carol’s veracity. But Lord Carlile discovered that the only expert consulted by the Church thought it very likely that Carol’s experience of abuse in her first marriage had affected her recall, and that the possibility of false memories was a real one.

Regrettably Archbishop Welby added his authority to the destruction of Bell’s reputation: on Good Friday 2016, before the Carlile report was completed, he told BBC Radio that the investigation of Carol’s claim had been ‘very thorough’ and the finding of abuse correct on the balance of probabilities. We now know how far from the truth that was.

The Archbishop told Lord Carlile during his inquiry that if there had not been a proper investigation of Carol’s story, the Church would have to apologise. But sadly, when the Carlile report was published in December 2017, he chose not to do so. To the disappointment of Bell’s defenders, he appeared to reject the presumption of innocence; instead he commented that there was still ‘a significant cloud’ left over Bishop Bell’s name without giving any explanation of why he continued to hold that view in the face of Lord Carlile’s conclusions.


The publicity given to the Carlile report appears to have triggered a copy-cat claim by the woman given the name Alison. The Core Safeguarding Group which had been responsible for the shambolic investigation of Carol’s claim now set about trying to substantiate that by Alison. They may well have hoped that the similar facts alleged by Alison would corroborate the discredited Carol. But within weeks the police, to whom the Core Group had reported the matter, closed their enquiries.  Next an investigation by a senior retired police officer commissioned by the Church quickly showed that Alison’s evidence was unreliable and incapable of supporting any adverse finding against the Bishop.

Mr Briden reported that her account not only had internal inconsistencies but was also contaminated by her having read Carol’s story, a contamination revealed by her repeating verbatim some of Carol’s words which had been reported in the press. He ended his report by saying that all the allegations against George Bell remitted to him were unfounded.

Many will have hoped that on reading Mr Briden’s report Archbishop Welby would have publicly acknowledged that the cloud of which he had previously spoken had been dissipated. He did not do so.


The history of the treatment by the Church of England of the reputation of George Bell has become a scandal. It is now the plain duty of the Church of England, nationally and in the Diocese of Chichester, to make amends by working to restore Bishop Bell’s reputation, not least in institutions which were once proud to adopt his name.

We welcome the decision of Canterbury Cathedral to revive a commission to create a statue of Bell and note the expression of ‘delight’ with which the Archbishop of Canterbury has responded. We acknowledge with gratitude the firmness with which the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford have maintained and cherished the chapel there dedicated to Bell’s memory throughout the controversy. We note that the meeting room dedicated to Bishop Bell remains, as before, at the World Council of Churches in Geneva.

It is only in Chichester itself, the place in which Bishop Bell lived and worked for almost thirty years and where his ashes are interred in the cathedral, that any public adoption of his name is now suppressed.

We find the public stance of the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, incomprehensible and indefensible. The Bishop’s ‘Response’ to the Briden Report, published on 24 January 2019 and now promoted on the websites of the diocese and cathedral, only went as far as to acknowledge that ‘Bishop Bell cannot be proven guilty’. He added that it could not be ‘safely claimed that the original complainant [i.e. Carol] had been discredited’. This is a most regrettable insinuation that there was, or likely was, substance to Carol’s allegation and hence that Bell was to be suspected of abuse.

The Bishop emphasised the defamatory innuendo by asking ‘those who hold opposing views on this matter to recognise the strength of each other’s commitment to justice and compassion.’ There is, regrettably, no evidence in this response of the Bishop’s commitment to justice or of any compassion towards those who are wrongly accused. His words have been repeated verbatim by the Bishop at Lambeth in response to a Question at the recent session of the General Synod of the church. Indeed, the Bishop even invoked the authority of the House of Bishops in support of this view. So far as we are aware the House has never even discussed the matter.

Such words simply preserve the impression that there was, and remains, a case against Bell. A not dissimilar state of mind was revealed by the Chichester Diocesan Safeguarding Officer when he told the Child Abuse Inquiry in March 2018 that ‘all the indications we have would suggest that the simplest explanation for why someone comes forward to report abuse – because they were abused – is likely to be the correct one’.

As the High Court Judge Sir Richard Henriques has pointed out in his report to the Metropolitan Police on allegations against prominent individuals, such an assumption results in an investigation which does not challenge the complainant, tends to disbelieve the suspect and shifts onto the suspect the burden of proof, ignoring any presumption of innocence. It becomes a premise for a miscarriage of justice such as can now be seen to have been inflicted on the reputation of George Bell.

It should be sufficient to observe that like Professor Anthony Maden, Lord Carlile did interview this first complainant. We note Lord Carlile’s statement of 1 February 2019, made to the local campaigner Mr Richard Symonds: ‘The Church should now accept that my recommendations should be accepted in full, and that after due process, however delayed, George Bell should be declared by the Church to be innocent of the allegations made against him.’

We are more than conscious that this saga represents a wider pattern in the Church and across society where many other such miscarriages of justice have become notorious. Now it is surely essential that if all the many safeguarding bodies, national and diocesan, are to be retained by the Church of England their work must be placed under real legal discipline and in the hands of officers who observe fully the expectations and rule of law and act without fear or prejudice.

There must never again be any repetition of such a discreditable, indeed disgraceful, performance.

Andrew Chandler, Convenor of George Bell Group, 9 May 2019

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Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church


Workplace dignity and Oxford dons – Church Times Letters – May 7 2021

From Professors Gordon Lynch, Stephen Pattison, and Linda Woodhead, and 21 others

Sir, — We write as academics working in the field of theology and religious studies to express our concern about ongoing events at Christ Church, Oxford, in which several of our colleagues are involved.

We affirm the basic principle of dignity in the workplace and note the importance of upholding that principle in relation to all parties involved in investigatory and disciplinary processes. Unless used efficiently and humanely, such processes themselves cause harm. The previous disproportionate actions by the College against the Dean, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, have contributed to a current situation in which no one is well served.

We welcome the Charity Commission’s interest in this case. We also believe that senior figures in the University of Oxford, such as the Vice-Chancellor, as well as senior leaders in the Church of England, have a responsibility for upholding the basic principle of dignity for all in the workplace, and should not merely remain silent.

We call upon them, and all colleagues directly involved, to help achieve a just and speedy resolution.

c/o Department of Philosophy, Politics and Religion
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD

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SIR – It was good to read Ian Girvan quoting the challenge to the bombing policy of Sir Arthur Harris by the Great Bishop of Chichester, George Bell – a challenge made more powerful by the bishop’s inside knowledge of the German situation, and his conviction that the Nazis must be fought.

Bell’s words inevitably earned him considerable abuse.

It has been suggested that Harris’s statue outside St Clement Danes church might be balanced by a statue of one of his strongest critics.

A memorial to Bishop Bell near to that of Harris would be a fitting tribute to a man of courageous Christian principles, and also a rebuke to the Diocese of Chichester, which recently tried to defame Bell following a now wholly discredited single allegation of child abuse – and to its shame still refuses to restore him to public honour.

Rev Dr Barry A. Orford

London NW3

“A surviving Town Hall [Rathaus] Statue entitled ‘The Allegory of Goodness’ looks out over the ruins of Dresden – Source: ‘On This Day’ – February 13 1945

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RS Campaign created by Richard W. Symonds


(1) To call on the Church of England to allow a fuller investigation before considering the case against Bishop Bell closed. This includes re-examining the evidence against Bishop Bell.

(2) To ensure fair and just procedures are in place for the future.

Why is this important?

The Church has a responsibility to ensure fair and just procedures are in place so that evidence can be properly examined in any future investigation.

How it will be delivered

The Petition will be delivered to the Bishop of Chichester at the Bishop’s Palace on Saturday December 2 2017

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Justin Welby – Archbishop of Canterbury

Source: FT


The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has declined to rescind his statement that said Bishop George Bell still has a ‘significant cloud’ left over his name following the publication of a critical report into the Church of England’s handling of an abuse claim against the late bishop.

The refusal by the Archbishop of Canterbury to change his position follows a letter sent to Lambeth Palace and the Daily Telegraph last week by seven eminent academics expressing their ‘profound dismay’ at the ‘irresponsible and dangerous’ statement, in which Archbishop Welby said of Bell that ‘a significant cloud is left over his name’.

In a statement issued today, Welby referred back to the separate case of Peter Ball, the former bishop of Lewes and Gloucester, who was released from prison in February last year after serving 16 months for the grooming, sexual exploitation and abuse of 18 vulnerable young men who had sought spiritual guidance from him between 1977 and 1992.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Reuters

A damning independent inquiry last year found that the CofE ‘colluded’ with the abuse ‘rather than seeking to help those he had harmed’.

In new comments that risk angering supporters of Bishop Bell, Welby said today: ‘The experience of discovering feet of clay in more than one person I held in profound respect has been personally tragic.’

The Church of England was criticised in the independent Carlile report published in December for a ‘rush to judgment’ in its handling of the allegations against Bishop Bell, the former Bishop of Chichester who died in 1958. The report by Lord Carlile said that although the Church acted in good faith, its processes were deficient and it failed to give proper consideration to the rights of the accused.

In today’s statement, which Welby said reflected the ‘considered, personal response’ he has now sent the academics, the Archbishop said: ‘I cannot with integrity rescind my statement made after the publication of Lord Carlile’s review into how the Church handled the Bishop Bell case. I affirmed the extraordinary courage and achievement of Bishop Bell both before the war and during its course, while noting the Church has a duty to take seriously the allegation made against him.

‘Our history over the last 70 years has revealed that the Church covered up, ignored or denied the reality of abuse on major occasions. I need only refer to the issues relating to Peter Ball to show an example. As a result, the Church is rightly facing intense and concentrated scrutiny (focused in part on the Diocese of Chichester) through the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). Our first hearing is in March.

‘The Diocese of Chichester was given legal advice to make a settlement based on the civil standard of proof, the balance of probability. It was not alleged that Bishop Bell was found to have abused on the criminal standard of proof, beyond reasonable doubt. The two standards should not be confused. It should be remembered that Carol, who brought the allegation, was sent away in 1995, and we have since apologised for this lamentable failure; a failure highlighted by Lord Carlile.

‘I wrote my response with the support of both Bishop Peter Hancock, the lead bishop for safeguarding, and Bishop Martin Warner, the Bishop of Chichester. We are clear that we accept all but part of one of the recommendations Lord Carlile makes and we are extremely grateful to him for what he has done and the help he has given the church.

‘He indicates that in his judgment, a better way to have handled the allegation would have been for the Church to offer money on condition of confidentiality. We disagree with this suggestion. The confidentiality would have been exposed through the IICSA process, and the first question we would have faced, both about Bishop Bell and more widely, would have been ‘so what else are you concealing?’. The letter from the historians does not take into account any of these realities, nor the past failures of the Church. But we will go on considering how we can make our processes better and more robust, as pointed out by Lord Carlile.

‘As in the case of Peter Ball, and others, it is often suggested that what is being alleged could not have been true, because the person writing knew the alleged abuser and is absolutely certain that it was impossible for them to have done what is alleged. As with Peter Ball this sometimes turns out to be untrue, not through their own fault or deceit but because abuse is often kept very secret. The experience of discovering feet of clay in more than one person I held in profound respect has been personally tragic. But as I said strongly in my original statement the complaint about Bishop Bell does not diminish the importance of his great achievements and he is one of the great Anglican heroes of the 20th century.’

The statement is in response to the letter by Prof Sir Ian Kershaw, one of the world’s leading authorities on the Third Reich, Prof Charmian Brinson, Prof Andrew Chandler, Professor John Charmley, Prof Michael J Hughes, Prof Jeremy Noakes and Prof Keith Robbins.

Lambeth Palace Library

They wrote: ‘None of us may be considered natural critics of an Archbishop of Canterbury.

‘But we must also draw a firm line. The statement of 15 December 2017 seems to us both irresponsible and dangerous.

‘We therefore urge you, in all sincerity, to repudiate what you have said before more damage is done and thus to restore the esteem in which the high, historic office to which you have been called has been held.’

Before the allegations were made public by the Church of England, Bishop Bell was known as a highly revered theologian who was widely regarded as a hero for his work helping victims of Nazi persecution.

But in a statement following the Carlile report, Archbishop Welby left open the possibility that Bell was guilty, saying that he was ‘accused of great wickedness’ and apologised only ‘for the failures of the process’.

In their letter to Welby, the historians – including two biographers of former Archbishops of Canterbury – said that they ‘wish to express our profound dismay with the position you have taken’.

They wrote that the current Archbishop’s position ‘offends the most basic values and principles of historical understanding’.

They continued: ‘The allegation [against Bell] is not only wholly uncorroborated but is contradicted by all the considerable, and available, circumstantial material which any historian would consider credible.

The letter went on: ‘We cannot understand how such an unsupported, indeed insupportable, allegation can be upheld by a responsible public authority. Quite simply, it is indefensible.’

In his original statement, Welby had noted that Lord Carlile did not decide on guilt, but the academics pointed out he was deliberately prevented from doing so by the terms of reference that had been set out by the CofE.

They wrote: ‘We state our position bluntly. There is no credible evidence at all that Bishop Bell was a paedophile.

‘We state this after reviewing all that is known about his character and behaviour over many years.’

They concluded that Bell has been ‘impugned from within his own Church of England’, adding: ‘There is today no cloud at all over Bishop Bell. Nobody employing credible critical method could think otherwise.’


“The Bishop Bell disgrace is a festering sore of injustice which only an Archbishop can heal”

Richard W. Symonds – The Bell Society

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Susannah Clark 

Re. the Non-Disclosure Agreements mentioned on the ‘Archbishop Cranmer’ website, may I ask: was ‘Carol’ who reported abuse by Bishop Bell subjected to a non-disclosure agreement?
Also, if any of you can provide me with a contact for ‘Carol’ (of course, I would never approach her directly in the first instance) I should really appreciate a private correspondence with you. You can find contact details on my whispered love website.
Thank you.

David Lamming

David Lamming Reply to  Susannah Clark

Susannah – There was no NDA in the Bishop of Chichester’s agreement to settle Carol’s claim, though Lord Carlile considered there should have been one in circumstances on the basis that it would have been legitimate to settle the claim without admission of liability having regard to standard ‘litigation risks’: see the Carlile Review (15 December 2017) paragraphs 52 and 262-268. As you know, Lord Carlile was highly critical of the investigation (or lack thereof) by the core group. Hence his paragraph 268: “I regard this as a case, perhaps a relatively rare one, in which steps should and could have been taken to retain full confidentiality, with a clear underlying basis for explaining why it was done. For Bishop Bell’s reputation to be catastrophically affected in the way that occurred was just wrong.” 

Richard W. Symonds

Richard W. Symonds 

RE: Archbishop Cranmer One Church of England diocese has spent £500,000 on 20 Non-Disclosure Agreements

It is my understanding that ‘Carol’ – who alleged being abused as a child by the wartime Bishop of Chichester George Bell – was NOT subject to a legal Non-Disclosure Agreement [NDA] or ‘Confidentiality Clause’. If she was, then she would have been in breach of it by appearing on the BBC in 2015/16 and providing an ‘exclusive’ to the Brighton Argus .

Kate Reply to  Richard W. Symonds

Since, if there was an NDA you wouldn’t know the terms, I think “would” should be qualified in your statement as “would probably”. Reply

Richard W. Symonds

Richard W. Symonds Reply to  Kate

That is a ‘red herring’ Kate. To repeat: it is my understanding that ‘Carol’ was NOT subject to a Non-Disclosure Agreement or Confidentiality Clause.

This is beyond regrettable in my view – as it has contributed to a monstrous injustice regarding Bishop Bell which has lasted for more than five years.

The Church hierarchy should be charged with the attempted murder of a Bishop’s reputation.

Richard W. Symonds 

If a living Archbishop praises a dead Bishop for his “great achievements” whilst simultaneously character assassinating him with a “significant cloud” accusation, that is a particularly cruel form of abuse – and should be recognised as such.

Interested Observer 

The problem with confidentiality agreements (hereinafter CAs) in contracts between large, well-lawyered enterprises the Church of England on the one hand, and private individuals perhaps represented by their local solicitor at best on the other, is that they are clear examples of deliberate intimidation.

They are presented to the individual as scary, heavy legal instruments where the merest breath of a breach, by the most strained construction, will result in prison and bankruptcy at the snap of the counter-party’s fingers.

In reality, actually enforcing such confidentiality agreements is very difficult.

In order to obtain injunctive relief (ie, “stop doing that, and if you do, it’s contempt of court”) requires showing material harm, amongst other things. It’s not enough to say “they signed a confidentiality agreement, we say they are breaching it, the judge must stop them”, it’s “they signed a confidentiality agreement, we believe they are breaching it in a way which materially harms us, here is the proof that they were properly advised and the proof that they are in breach, please will the judge stop them if we ask very politely”.

The material harm is the difficult part.

If they’ve already breached it, compensation has the same problem: you need to show material harm for which the damages will be recompense, you can’t just demand punitive damages.

So against a party whose answer to an attempt to enforce a CA is “OK, I’ll see you in court”, life can get very interesting and usually such conflicts end in an armed truce.

But the reality of settlements the CofE is likely to have made against survivors of racist abuse is one of complete inequality: the survivors are _not_ going to say “OK, I’ll see you in court”, they’re going to immediately cave. And the CofE knows this, which is why they like the CAs: they have an effect on the individual far in excess of their actual scope. They’re not entering into a confidentiality agreement in good faith, they are using it in bad faith as an instrument of power.

A legal agreement with “confidentiality clauses” is a Non-Disclosure Agreement….But if staff members leave because someone is grinding them down, bullying them, or otherwise abusing them because they dare to challenge policy decisions, or point out something that isn’t quite right, or disagree with the way something has been or is being handled, then buying their silence with an NDA is unethical and immoral. If someone is asked to leave and is offered a sum of money on condition they remain silent, one wonders what it is that must never be made known. Remember, this is just one diocese in the Church of England. How many others routinely resort to the law in order to silence the dismayed and disaffected?

‘Archbishop Cranmer’

“The Bishop Bell disgrace is a festering sore of injustice which only an Archbishop can heal”

Richard W. Symonds – The Bell Society



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South East Today

BBC One South East, Thursday 5 November 2015

CofE abuse victim criticises bishop’s ‘no cover-up’ response

bbc.co.uk, Thursday 5 November 2015

An item in the programme and an associated online piece, on the handling of allegations of sexual abuse against clergy in the Diocese of Chichester, stated that there were 11 cases in which men connected with the diocese had been proven to have been involved in sexual abuse, and that the late Bishop George Bell was among them.

The journalist Peter Hitchens complained that this was inaccurate, as the allegations against Bishop Bell had never been tested in court and, although the church authorities had recently apologised to and settled a civil claim with his accuser, they were not in a position to determine his guilt and had not in fact stated that they believed him guilty. The original statement by the church authorities had not explicitly said they believed Bishop Bell to have been guilty, but a subsequent statement said they had accepted the veracity of the allegations on the balance of probabilities.

This, however, did not warrant reporting as a matter of fact that the allegations had been proven. Noting that South East Today had accepted in previous correspondence that the term was inappropriate and had undertaken to avoid it in future, the ECU considered that the issue of complaint had been resolved.

Result: Resolved



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Victim in apology to Carey over abuse-claim Bishop George Bell

Published 13 March 2016

Rt Rev George Bell
image caption The Rt Rev George Bell was Bishop of Chichester from 1929 until his death in 1958

A woman, who the Church of England has accepted was abused by a bishop, has apologised to the family of a former Archbishop of Canterbury.

The victim, known as Carol, claimed she had written to Lord Carey, telling him that she had been abused as a child by Bishop George Bell.

In a statement issued by her solicitor, she accepted that was an error.

“Carol has issued a private apology to the Careys for the genuine mistake she made in good faith,” it said.

The statement continued: “She first made complaints in 1995 to Bishop Kemp of Chichester.

“She was prompted to complain again to Lambeth Palace at the time of the Jimmy Savile revelations, but it was only in 2013 when she wrote again – this time to Archbishop Justin Welby – that the matter was referred to the police.”

Following an investigation, the Church of England said it believed Carol had been abused, and issued a public apology.

However in an open letter to a national newspaper, Lord Carey said he was “appalled” at the way the authorities had treated the memory of Bishop Bell.

The Rt Rev George Bell was Bishop of Chichester from 1929 until his death in October 1958.

Related Topics

More on this story

Around the BBC

Related Internet Links


Bishop of Chichester George Bell’s sex abuse victim gets compensation – BBC News

George Bell: Former wartime bishop ‘abused girl in cathedral’ – BBC News

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Vaughan Roberts serves as the Rector of St Ebbe’s


Roberts was born on 17 March 1965 in Winchester, Hampshire, UK.[1] He was educated at Winchester College which is an all-boys public school in Winchester.[2]

He studied law at Selwyn College, Cambridge and graduated from the University of Cambridge with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in 1988; as per tradition, his BA was promoted to a Master of Arts (MA (Cantab)) degree in 1991.[3][4] In 1987, he was President of the Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union.

After graduation, he spent a short time in student ministry in South Africa.[3] Roberts then moved to Oxford and in 1989 entered Wycliffe Hall, an Anglican theological college.[4] There, he studied theology and undertook training for ordained ministry.[3]

Roberts was ordained in the Church of England as a deacon in 1991 and as a priest in 1992.[4] In 1991, he joined St Ebbe’s Church, Oxford, a conservative evangelical church, as a curate under David Fletcher.[3][4] From 1995 to 1998, he was the Student Pastor with special responsibilities for students and student ministry.[3][4] In 1998, when Fletcher retired, Roberts was appointed Rector of St Ebbe’s.[4]

Robin Weekes serves as the minister of Emmanuel Wimbledon


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Lord Carey of Clifton


Address by Lord Carey of Clifton

The following words were addressed to those attending the Keep Rebuilding Bridges conference on October 5. Baron Carey of Clifton was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002.

I am delighted to offer a contribution to this Conference on Rebuilding Bridges and thank Richard Symonds for his invitation and for all he has done and continues to do, to clear George Bell’s name. It is good to see in our audience Dr. Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson, the daughter of Bishop Bell’s close friend, Franz Hildebrandt. We look forward to hearing her later.

Now, I am uncomfortably aware that my presence here raises two unrelated questions.

I have been accused many times over the past few years of presiding over a ‘cover-up’ of Bishop Peter Ball’s crimes. Peter Ball misused his office as a bishop to abuse, and indecently assault young people who were exploring vocations into Christian ministry. There was, of course, no cover-up. We now know that the police at the time examined many allegations against Ball and together with prosecutors only charged him with a caution. This decision was very much of its time. But later even after I had left office other people, including police, had an opportunity to look at all the evidence that was in our hands at Lambeth to bring Peter Ball to justice, yet they did not do so until Chichester Diocese passed on its files and Peter Ball was finally brought to justice in 2015. I and my colleagues at the time did make mistakes and rightly my actions are being subjected to public scrutiny – a review by Dame Moira Gibb and the IICSA Inquiry. I have cooperated willingly, openly and honestly with this scrutiny at every stage. I will take every opportunity I can to publicly apologise to the victims of Peter Ball for the mistakes I made in the 1990s which have caused them such pain to this day. I will say no more about this matter because IICSA is still to report on this next year.

The other question is about the role of retired bishops and archbishops. ‘Don’t spit on the deck as you leave’ is usually good advice. But I am not retired from ministry. I am still active in ministry, still a member of the church and by Her Majesty’s invitation a member of the House of Lords. If it is permissible to speak out on public affairs, as I do from time to time, then it is permissible for me to speak out on matters of justice when so few others will.

Over the last 12 months or so I have had a recurring disturbing worry. It is the ‘nightmare’ that in spite of a very happy and faithful marriage to the same woman for nearly 60 years some 50 or so years from the point of my death, rumours will circulate that I was an abuser of others. The rumours will reach such a pitch that the Church to which I had given my life will capitulate, pay out money and believe the falsehoods. Who would defend me?

This could happen to anyone of us – male or female. It became a reality for one of the great giants of Anglicans, namely George Bell who died 70 years ago and whom we honour today. I remember the time when I was Archbishop visiting Morton’s Tower in Lambeth Palace where Bell’s works were stored. I was amazed by the scale of his correspondence and work. It expressed his energy, output and commitment to public affairs. He was never afraid to be unpopular because his commitment was to the gospel of Jesus Christ and its truth. Before ecumenism became a fashionable word he had already embraced a deep commitment to other Christians and Churches. Whilst anti-Jewish hatred continued to change the face of Germany and western Europe, Bell instinctively turned his face against the ugliness of anti-Semitism. I read his correspondence with Dietrich Bonhoeffer and marvelled at their deep friendship and common faith. At a time of understandable patriotism and jingoism on the part of the British people, Bell courageously argued against unacceptable retribution against Germany. Winston Churchill turned against him and, we understand, put paid to any prospect of Bell becoming Archbishop because of his opposition to carpet bombing

But Bell was more than an energetic, courageous and knowledgeable public figure. He was a man rooted in prayer and worship; a high churchman who loved the order and beauty of liturgy. In his exceptionally busy life he was supported loyally, deeply and lovingly by his wife, Henrietta. She was always alongside him, as were his chaplains who were there to take some of the burden of his high public office.

And then, fifty-seven years after his death, his own diocese which he served faithfully and greatly loved – supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the House of Bishops – made an announcement which was likely to affect Bell’s reputation forever more. The announcement was widely interpreted by press and public alike as an accusation that Bell had sexually abused a child between 1949 and 1953. Strangely, church leaders deny that they have ever said that Bell was guilty of the abuse, but this is surely disingenuous. In the Archbishop of Canterbury’s words, a ‘cloud’ hangs over his name.

In that initial announcement, very few details were given but it was clear that an unspecified sum of money had been given to the complainant. The Church said it had decided to give this compensation on the basis of the ‘balance of probabilities’. But even on this evidential basis, arguments for the defence should have been heard. Previously, no other accusations – or even rumours – had ever been heard against Bell. And on the basis of this one unproven, and probably unprovable allegation, his name was removed from buildings and institutions named after him.

A recent detailed review of the case by Lord Carlile showed that no significant effort had been made by the Church to consider any evidence that might have supported Bell’s innocence. In particular, those investigating did not consult Bell’s biographer, Andrew Chandler, nor the living people who worked with him at that time.

George Bell’s cause was given no legal advocate. Instead, in a process, which I referred to in the House of Lords in 2016 as ‘having the character of a kangaroo court’ it seems as though the ‘victim’ was automatically believed. The normal burden of proof was reversed and it was considered ‘wicked’ to doubt the veracity of the allegations.
Dr Andrew Chandler in his excellent biography of George Bell states: ‘We are asked to invest an entire authority in one testimony and to dismiss all the materials by which we have come to know the historical George Bell as mere figments of reputation.’ Of course, if Bell was guilty, his high reputation should not protect him. But we have not been given the chance to establish fairly whether he was.

In an appendix devoted to the controversy, Chandler notes that Bell’s 368 volume archive contains his personal notebooks and pocket diaries from 1919 to 1957, in which he kept track of all his appointments and engagements. He notes Bell’s “conspicuously high view of the standards required by his office,” and adds that Bell was almost constantly observed, that he participated in many disciplinary processes for clergy, that he maintained what seemed like a happy marriage, and that he worked almost continually in the presence of his wife, secretary, domestic chaplain, or driver.
Chandler interviewed the only member of Bell’s circle who was then still alive, Adrian Carey, his domestic chaplain from the early 1950s. This man “is firm, indeed emphatic, that ‘no child or young teenager ever entered during my two years as Chaplain, except on the day in January chosen for the parish Christmas party which he and Mrs Bell laid on every year for the children of the clergy’”.

Thankfully an outcry came against such a miscarriage of justice and I was delighted in 2016 to be invited to join the George Bell group, led by Andrew Chandler, to fight to clear George Bell’s name.

It was a relief to us all when the Bishop of Chichester asked Lord Carlile of Berriew QC, a well-known independently-minded human rights lawyer, to conduct an independent review which he did thoroughly and authoritatively. His report concluded that the “core group” established by the church to consider the claims “failed to follow a process that was fair and equitable to both sides”.

“The church, understandably concerned not to repeat the mistakes of the past, when it had been too slow to recognise that abuse had been perpetrated by clergy and to recognise the pain and damage caused to victims, has in effect over-steered in this case.

“In other words, there was a rush to judgment: the church, feeling it should be both supportive of the complainant and transparent in its dealings, failed to engage in a process which would also give proper consideration to the rights of the bishop. Such rights should not be treated as having been extinguished on death.”

He added: “In my view, the church concluded that the needs of a living complainant who, if truthful, was a victim of very serious criminal offences were of considerably more importance than the damage done by a possibly false allegation to a person who was no longer alive.”

Carlile said the purpose of his review was not to determine the truthfulness of the allegations nor to rule on Bell’s guilt or innocence.

He went on, “even when the alleged perpetrators have died, there should be methodical and sufficient investigations into accusations leveled against them”.
In this case, “the truth of what Carol was saying was implicitly accepted without serious investigation or inquiry. I have concluded this was an inappropriate and impermissible approach.”

What then followed was to my mind more damaging to the Church than to George Bell. Instead of this logically leading to the rehabilitation of George Bell’s reputation, the Church compounded the problem further by apologizing for the procedures that had been found wanting by the Carlile review, but nevertheless refused to retract its conclusion that George Bell was in all probability guilty of the abuse.

In the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury a ‘significant cloud’ hangs over his name. The Archbishop bluntly added: ‘he is accused of great wickedness’.

What is deeply unsatisfactory is that no explanation is given and no evidence for these conclusions. If the Carlile report revealed how biased and unjust were the conclusions of the Core Group, how can the Archbishop, the Bishop of Chichester and Bishop of Bath and Wells continue to unblushingly assert that George Bell’s reputation remains under a cloud?

Now, it gives me no pleasure to note that the Archbishop of Canterbury has received harsh criticism from a number of leading historians and theologians and, sadly, his response has been so far unsatisfactory. Those of us still committed to the national Church remain horrified that not more has been done to explain his remark that ‘a cloud remains’. At the very least justice demands it.

Perhaps an explanation lies in a further allegation which has come out of the blue, at the beginning of this year, before the Carlile review could be properly debated in General Synod. But after the first core group debacle, can we really have confidence that the Church can investigate this competently itself?

Regarding the current investigation at least this time we know that George Bell’s niece is to be represented by one of the George Bell Group, Desmond Browne QC, and that Andrew Chandler’s expertise and knowledge of Bell is being utilised. But a gnawing and perhaps understandable suspicion remains that the hierarchy are hoping we will all forget and the ‘can’ will be kicked further down the road. It is a sorry mess: a great man’s name has been traduced, justice has been denied and the good name of George Bell rubbished.

The Archbishop has rightly made mediation and reconciliation a major plank of his ministry, and I hope he will reach out to all those who are dismayed by this treatment of Bell and consider again his judgement of Bishop George Bell.

However, one of the matters I am most dismayed by is the silence over these concerns by the House of Bishops. The Church of England has always been respected for scholarship, theological exploration and independent thought. George Bell stands out as a pre-eminent scholar-bishop of the 20th century who engaged in public debate within the church and nation – frequently disagreeing with his episcopal colleagues.
In my time as Archbishop I served with colleagues of great scholarship and distinction including John Habgood, David Hope, Tom Wright, Mark Santer, Michael Nazzir-Ali, Peter Selby, Richard Harries, David Jenkins, Hugh Montefiore, David Sheppard, Simon Barrington Ward, and John Taylor of St. Alban’s and many others. These were bishops who prized justice and spoke out when they saw injustice. Bishops were prepared to speak out even against their own hierarchy – and they did not always agree with me.

So why the silence from the House of Bishops? Each member must know that he or she is implicated indirectly in this condemnation of Bell. Only one bishop has distanced himself from the Archbishop’s conclusion, but I understand that at least six others disagree with him. Unity, and collegiality are good things but never should they replace what is right and true. ‘Collegiality’ is not to be mistaken for ‘collective cabinet responsibility’ or ‘party discipline’.

So it is right to press the Bishops to declare themselves. Do you share the opinion that a significant cloud hangs over George Bell’s name? Do you agree that he is guilty of great wickedness? Please tell us what you think. At the February Group of General Synod Martin Sewell was told that ‘the House of Bishops is accountable for safeguarding in the Church of England’. If that is the case, why the silence? Is it an honorable thing to be silent on a matter so crucial as this? If the bishops are at one with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s declaration that a ‘cloud hangs’ over George Bell’s reputation and that ‘he is accused of great wickedness’, let them says so in a collective declaration of support for the Archbishop’s view.

It is because we all make mistakes that we need a church that preaches grace, forgiveness, repentance and new life. I see very little of grace in the way that the Church of England has handled allegations against George Bell. Indeed, it is shaming because it is unjust. We know we can do better. That is why this conference talks about rebuilding bridges, and that is why many of us will continue to fight for justice for George Bell.

However, I want to end on a positive note. Rebuilding Bridges is central to the Christian faith and that is what we all want to do. Let me offer three points:
I believe the George Bell case and also the Peter Ball investigation makes the argument for outsourcing investigations in the case of accusations of sexual misconduct. It is not because Archbishops and bishops can’t be trusted to have an important role in safeguarding, rather it is because we are too close to the clergy concerned and very likely to defend instinctively the institution, rather than actively promote an unbiased and independent approach.

Secondly, George Bell was a man of the Church, passionate about its witness and unity. Here we are today with declining numbers of worshippers, with no clear evangelistic programme, and no apparent plan to reach the young. The gap between Church and society is widening all the time. Yes, I know that great work is going on and not all churches are declining. It grieves us all that this major squabble is taking up so much time and energy when our gaze should be directed away from ourselves. The supporters of Bishop George Bell desire wholeheartedly to speak with one voice with the Archbishop and the House of Bishops. Reconciliation would certainly send out a great signal of overcoming a major barrier to our unity, which of course is part of our mission.

A third positive sign is an attractive idea that Dr. Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson is going to offer later and I do not want to steal her thunder in any respect. As I understand it, she is going to suggest a way of continuing Bishop George Bell’s work in the diocese.

Let me close my remarks with George Bell’s own words: words we should all heed, and which should guide our attempts to clear his name: ‘To despair of being able to do anything, or refuse to do anything, is to be guilty of infidelity’.

George Carey

Lord Carey of Clifton with Sandra Saer at Church House

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Vasantha Gnanadoss with Revd Alan Gadd at the Rebuilding Bridges Conference at Church House Westminster – Oct 5 2018

Photo: RWS Photography

Scripture Union review’ – Church Times Letter – April 9 2021

Sir, — From your coverage of John Smyth and the Scripture Union (News, 1 April), we learn that “One of the revelations from the SU report is that Bishop Paul Butler, at the time President of Scripture Union and Lead Bishop for Safeguarding, was told in 2015, yet appears to have done nothing.”

Failure to take action when abuse is reported is recognised as a serious matter. Can we expect Bishop Butler to be suspended while this revelation is investigated?

There is a marked contrast between this revelation of inaction and Bishop Butler’s defence, later in 2015, in the House of Lords, of what Lord Carlile has described as “a rush to judgement” on “a single unfounded allegation” against Bishop George Bell.


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Rev Jules Gomes: The Church of England masters the non-apology

By ‘Rebel Priest’ Rev Jules Gomes

August 31, 2016

The Conservative Woman

When is an apology not an apology? An apology is not an apology when a Church of England bishop offers it to a victim of sexual abuse on a silver platter of spin as a tactical cop-out while shedding crocodile tears and mumbling ‘Awfully sorry, old chap!’ in the mode of a Bertie Wooster facing a snappy Gussie Fink-Nottle.

The C of E has been caught with its pants down in yet another monumental cock-up with the embarrassing revelation of how bishops were instructed only to give partial apologies—if at all—to victims of sexual abuse to avoid being sued. A survivor of child sexual abuse has issued a damning indictment of the C of E’s hierarchy, naming and shaming it for washing its hands ‘like Pontius Pilate’.

The old-fashioned practice of a heartfelt apology, deeply rooted in the Christian theology of repentance and reconciliation, has now been turned into an episcopal Punch and Judy show with lawyers, bureaucrats and managers on fat cat salaries pulling the strings while their purple-clad puppets dance to their dirges, desperately clutching at mitre and crosier.

Deep in the spin-doctoring factory of episcopaldom, the ecclesiastical equivalents of Sir Humphrey Appleby are teaching their bishops to play the game of Catch Me If You Can while Sir Jeffrey Archer’s techniques on the 11th Commandment Thou Shalt Not Get Caught are being honed to perfection. It is part of the managerial double-speak dominating all forms of damage control discourse in the C of E.

The puppeteers advise their bishops to use ‘careful drafting’ to ‘effectively apologise’ and to ‘express regret’ only using wording approved by lawyers, PR advisers and insurers. ‘Because of the possibility that statements of regret might have the unintended effect of accepting legal liability for the abuse, it is important that they are approved in advance by lawyers, as well as by diocesan communications officers (and, if relevant, insurers),’ warns the Orwellian document from the Ministry of Truth.

When is an apology a genuine apology? When it is neither as slippery as a banana skin or as shallow as the paddling pool of a typical Anglican sermon. In his ground-breaking book, On Apology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.) Aaron Lazare, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, offers profound insights into the anatomy of an apology. Lazare traces the history of the world’s most humbling act, from Lincoln’s apology for slavery to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s mea culpa after allegations of breast-groping. ‘Why do certain apologies succeed or fail to elicit forgiveness and bring about reconciliation?’ he asks.

‘There’s a right way and a wrong way to apologise. There are several integral elements of any apology and unless they are accounted for, an apology is likely to fail.’ The four components for an effective apology are ‘acknowledgment of the offence; explanation; expressions of remorse, shame, and humility; and reparation. Of these four parts, the one most commonly defective in apologies is the acknowledgment,’ he writes.

‘The offender (or the one speaking on behalf of the offender) must clearly and completely acknowledge the offence. People fail the acknowledgment phase of the apology when they make vague and incomplete apologies (“for whatever I did”); use the passive voice (“mistakes were made”); make the apology conditional (“if mistakes have been made”); question whether the victim was damaged or minimise the offence (“to the degree you were hurt”); use the empathic “sorry” instead of acknowledging responsibility; apologise to the wrong party; or apologise for the wrong offence,’ says Lazare.

The psychologist and pastoral counsellor Carl Schneider defines apology as ‘the acknowledgement of injury with the acceptance of responsibility, affect (felt regret or shame—the person must mean it), and vulnerability—the risking of an acknowledgement without excuses.’

There is a double irony here. All this, of course, is firmly grounded in the biblical tradition of repentance and in the Book of Common Prayer’s injunction that we should ‘acknowledge and confess our manifold sins and wickedness; and that we should not dissemble nor cloke them’ ‘but confess them with an humble, lowly, penitent, and obedient heart.’

But all this business of confession and contrition is intensely counter-intuitive to the managerial culture in the C of E. This is reflected in the dumbing down of its modern prayers of repentance to ‘politically correct prayers which sound as if they were written by a committee made up of Tony Blair, Karl Marx, and Noddy.’ What can you expect when the Archbishop’s Council produces an idiots’ Guide to Common Worship, which re-titles “Confession” as “Doing the dirt on ourselves”?

The other ironical twist is that apologies actually prevent lawsuits altogether and increase the likelihood and speed of settlement for those that do arise. This is evident from recent research both in the UK and the US. For example, one British study found that many plaintiffs who sued their doctors said they would not have done so had they received an apology and an explanation for their injury (Jeffrey S. Helmreich, ‘Does “Sorry” incriminate? Evidence, harm and the protection of apology,’ Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy 21 (2012) 574).

Consistent with this view, legislatures in American states have enacted statutes that make certain apologies inadmissible in court thus encouraging more people to offer genuine apologies. Contrary to the recommendations of the C of E mandarins, a new secular culture of confession and contrition is seeking to encourage apologies by explicitly denying their admissibility as evidence.

In some instances the bishops have refused even to tender a doctored apology. Earlier this month Sussex police apologised to the living relatives of the late Bishop George Bell and the BBC admitted that some of its reporting on the allegations against Bishop Bell was wrong. However, the C of E is still refusing to apologise for smearing Bell’s reputation and for the way it handled the case.

The comparison of the bishops with Pontius Pilate made by the survivor of abuse is apt, not just for its powerful metaphor of Pilate ‘washing his hands’ but also for its portrayal of Pilate as the puppet in the pantomime. Pilate is weak-minded, spineless, gutless, easily led and irresolute. The cleverly crafted literature of John’s gospel portrays him as constantly vacillating back and forth as he listens to the crowd. Perhaps it is time the panjandrums in purple stopped listening to the men in pinstriped suits and learned how to say the two most humbling words in the English language: ‘I’m sorry.’ It would be even better if they learned to say the three greatest words in the biblical language of forgiveness and reconciliation: ‘I have sinned.’

‘Rebel Priest’ Rev Jules Gomes The Rev’d Dr Jules Gomes, BA, BD, MTh, PhD (Cantab) is a journalist and academic.


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Archbishop Welby

Photo: FT



George Bell, painted in 1955

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has apologised for “mistakes” made in the handling of an allegation of sexual abuse against a former Bishop of Chichester, George Bell, after an independent investigation concluded that fresh allegations of sexual abuse were unfounded.

Evidence from at least two claimants and statements from the family of Bishop Bell, who died in 1958, were gathered by Detective Superintendent Roy Galloway, and assessed by an ecclesiastical lawyer, Chancellor Timothy Briden, Vicar-General of the Province of Canterbury, who carried out two hearings last July and October.

Chancellor Briden concludes in his report, published on Thursday, that the new allegations were “inconsistent”, “inaccurate”, “unconvincing”, or, in some instances, amounted to “mere rumour”.

This included the evidence of a complainant known as “Alison” (not her real name), who wrote to the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, claiming that Bishop Bell had “fondled her” when she had sat on his lap, aged nine, in the 1940s. In her oral evidence, the report says: “Her attempts to repeat what had been written in the letter displayed, however, a disturbing degree of inconsistency.”

Mr Briden continues: “I am satisfied that Alison has not made her complaint for financial reasons, not as a piece of mischief-making. Her desire has been to support Carol.”

Another 80-year-old witness — named as “K” in the report — said that his mother had told him that she had seen Bishop Bell “carrying out a sexual act with a man over his Rolls Royce” in 1967. Bishop Bell died in 1958. Apart from this inaccuracy, the report states: “The longer that the statement from K’s mother is analysed, the more implausible it appears.”

The allegations surfaced after the publication of a review conducted by Lord Carlile of the Church of England’s handling of an allegation of sexual abuse against Bishop Bell by a woman known as “Carol” (News, 22 December 2017). The diocese of Chichester had apologised and reached a settlement with Carol two years previously (News, 23 October 2015).

The Carlile review concluded, however, that the Church had “rushed to judgement” when it said that Bishop Bell was responsible for serious abuse. It had also failed in its response to Carol’s original complaint in 1995, and in 2013 when she had written to Archbishop Welby.

The Carlile review triggered fresh allegations, and an investigation was commissioned by Dr Warner in January of last year “in the spirit” of the Carlile review. This was confirmed at the time in a statement from the Church’s National Safeguarding Team, led by Graham Tilby — the “core group” in the Briden ruling.

Questioned during a press briefing on Thursday about the decision to publicise these allegations after the Carlile review had advised against this, a Church House spokesman said that the review had resulted in the raising of “difficult questions” by General Synod members about the handling of allegations against Bishop Bell and the subsequent damage to his reputation.

“Those questions would have been difficult to answer; we did not want to mislead the Synod.”

The Church regretted the “unfortunate timing” of the publication of the review before the February Synod meeting, he said, but it had not been a “conspiracy. It was simply the way events unfolded.” He continued: “The previous matter [allegations made by Carol] were in the public domain. I cannot see how we could have covered up a further investigation [into fresh allegations].”

The spokesman also expressed regret over the handling of Carol’s case (including her feeling of being “besieged” by defenders of Bishop Bell), and the public statement made in 2015 after the settlement was reached. “The statement we made was not sufficiently clear — the level of certainty does not exist to say that either Bishop Bell is not a paedophile or that Carol’s allegations against him are unfounded.”

This was reiterated by Dr Warner in his statement on Thursday: “We have learned that the boundaries of doubt and certainty have to be stated with great care, that the dead and those who are related to them have a right to be represented, and that there must be a balanced assessment of the extent to which it would be in the public interest to announce details of any allegation.

“It became obvious that a more thorough investigation must be made before any public announcement can be considered, and that the level of investigation typically undertaken for settlement of a civil claim is not adequate to justify an announcement. It is now clear that, if an announcement about any person is to be made, it must not imply certainty when we cannot be certain.”


C of E rejects Carlile recommendation regarding naming of alleged abusers THE Church of England’s safeguarding team has already rejected the key recommendation made in the critical independent review of the Church handling of the George Bell abuse allegations

Archbishop Welby said after the Carlile review that “a significant cloud” had been left over the name of Bishop Bell. In his statement on Thursday, however, besides confirming that “nothing of substance” had been added to previous allegations, the Archbishop reiterated that “[Bishop Bell’s] legacy is undoubted and must be upheld.”

He said: “The reputation of Bishop Bell is significant, and I am clear that his memory and the work he did is as of much importance to the Church today as it was in the past. . . I hope that ways will be found to underline his legacy and share the learning from his life with future generations.”

The spokesman for Church House suggested that Chichester Cathedral might “review” its decision to remove Bishop Bell’s name from its grant scheme. It was up to individual institutions to decide whether to reinstate his name on buildings, however. Resignations in the Church over the handling of the case would be “a matter of conscience”.

The Church was to produce further guidance on handling posthumous allegations, he said, and was “keen to hear” the conclusions of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), which is due to produce its final report on the Anglican investigation after the final hearing in July (News, 18 January).

Archbishop Welby apologised “unreservedly and profoundly” for the hurt caused to the surviving “family, colleagues, and supporters” of Bishop Bell for the failures of the Church in handling the allegations. “However, it is still the case that there is a woman who came forward with a serious allegation relating to an historic case of abuse, and this cannot be ignored or swept under the carpet. We need to care for her and listen to her voice.”

In an interview with The Spectator published on Thursday, the Archbishop said: “‘It has been a very, very painful process. Not least because Bishop Bell was — is — one of my great heroes.”

Dr Warner also apologised for “how damaging and painful” it had been for all involved in this and other cases in his diocese: “The diocese of Chichester has rightly been held to account for its safeguarding failures of the past — shocking and shaming as they were. We hope that the culture of the diocese has changed.” It remained committed to responding with compassion, he said.

Professor Andrew Chandler, Bishop Bell’s biographer, who has been campaigning to clear Bell’s name, said on Thursday evening that the statements “show that they are clinging to the wreckage of their old position as best they can.

“It is simply self-justification, but it does indicate that they will just maintain for the sake of consistency the views that got them into such trouble in the first place.”

He questioned why, in January of last year, the Church had issued a statement and commissioned a second investigation: “What today has really exposed is the ridiculousness of what has been going on, and the foolishness of people who have real power in the Church. . .

“Many people will say that the Church was trying to control, or retrieve control, of the narrative of Lord Carlile, to shut down the critics, and create a doubt in the public mind that Bell might be a serial offender of some kind.

“They have nothing to hide behind now. It looks like a highly calculating, politicised outfit indeed.”

While parts of the Archbishop’s statement were “meaningful, welcome, and appropriate”, the reference to the Church’s “dilemma” in weighing up a reputation against a serious allegation did not exist, Professor Chandler argued.

“There is no dilemma. It is quite extraordinary as part of pastoral practice, let alone legal practice, to maintain that taking somebody seriously involves believing somebody. . . The problem is that the various [church] establishments invested a great deal in this, and it is difficult to climb down. . .

“If they are going to survive in office with any credibility at all, they [will] have to think very hard [as to how to] win back the trust that has been so inexorably lost.”

The “enormous” damage to Bishop Bell’s reputation had been inflicted by the very people who should have looked after it, Professor Chandler concluded. “The real figure of Bishop Bell has never been involved. His name has just been symbolic of a great social dread, and an established institution colluded with [this dread] in search of self-justification.”

Read more from Andrew Chandler on our comment pages, and read how the story was covered in the national press, here.

You can find the full report and statements the Church of England website.

Full statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury:

I apologise unreservedly for the mistakes made in the process surrounding the handling of the original allegation against Bishop George Bell. The reputation of Bishop Bell is significant, and I am clear that his memory and the work he did is of as much importance to the Church today as it was in the past. I recognise this has been an extremely difficult period for all concerned and I apologise equally to all those who have come forward and shared stories of abuse where we have not responded well.

OTHER STORIES Welby is urged to withdraw George Bell ‘cloud’ statement after Carlile report THE Archbishop of Canterbury has said that he cannot, with integrity, clear the name of George Bell, the former Bishop of Chichester

An allegation against the late Bishop George Bell, originally brought in 1995, was made again in 2013 in the context of a growing awareness of how institutions respond to safeguarding cases. A review carried out by Lord Carlile into how the Church of England handled the case concerning Bishop Bell made a significant number of recommendations, and the Church of England accepted almost all of these.

At the end of 2017 several people came forward with further, fresh information following the Carlile review, and after a thorough, independent investigation, nothing of substance has been added to what has previously been alleged.

statement from the National Safeguarding Team explains the processes involved in reaching this latest decision more fully.

The Church’s dilemma has been to weigh up the reputation of a highly esteemed bishop who died over 60 years ago alongside a serious allegation. We did not manage our response to the original allegation with the consistency, clarity or accountability that meets the high standards rightly demanded of us. I recognise the hurt that has been done as a consequence. This was especially painful for Bishop Bell’s surviving relatives, colleagues and supporters, and to the vast number of people who looked up to him as a remarkable role model, not only in the Diocese of Chichester but across the United Kingdom and globally. I apologise profoundly and unconditionally for the hurt caused to these people by the failures in parts of the process and take responsibility for this failure.

However, it is still the case that there is a woman who came forward with a serious allegation relating to an historic case of abuse and this cannot be ignored or swept under the carpet. We need to care for her and listen to her voice.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has already questioned the Church of England over its response to the Bishop Bell case and the review by Lord Carlile. We expect that their report on our hearings will address further the complex issues that have been raised and will result in a more informed, confident, just and sensitive handling of allegations of abuse by the church in the future. We have apologised, and will continue to do so, for our poor response to those brave enough to come forward, while acknowledging that this will not take away the effects of the abuse.

This very difficult issue therefore leaves the Church with an impossible dilemma which I hope people with different perspectives on it will try to understand.

Finally, I want to make it very clear that Bishop George Bell is one of the most important figures in the history of the Church of England in the 20th century and his legacy is undoubted and must be upheld. His prophetic work for peace and his relationship with Dietrich Bonhoeffer are only two of the many ways in which his legacy is of great significance to us in the Church and we must go on learning from what he has given to us. I hope that ways will be found to underline his legacy and share the learning from his life with future generations.


Lord Williams backs abuse survivors’ demand for independent safeguarding body at IICSA 14 Mar 2018

‘I am ashamed of the Church’, Archbishop Welby admits to IICSA hearing 21 Mar 2018

Safeguarding: the next steps 06 Apr 2018

Police close latest investigation into George Bell 23 Apr 2018

Safeguarding: what we got wrong, and the steps we are taking to put it right 06 Apr 2018

I was shocked by what I found in Chichester diocese, Dr Warner tells IICSA hearing 14 Mar 2018


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Linda Woodhead reviews ‘Sex, Power, Control: Responding to Abuse in the Institutional Church’

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church

A review by Linda Woodhead, Distinguished Professor of Religion and Society, Lancaster University

When she was the Director of Safeguarding for Bath and Wells, Fiona Gardner was puzzled about why so many of the diocesan hierarchy asked her, ‘How can you stand it?’. At the time, she thought that ‘it’ must be sexual abuse and predation. Only later did it occur on her that ‘it’ was something different: the shadow church, as difficult to face up to as the shadow side of one’s own psyche.

The anecdote gives a flavour of this important book. Gardner draws on many years of experience as a psychotherapist, a safeguarding officer, a spiritual writer and counsellor. She was one of the people who eventually helped bring Peter Ball to justice. She knows the Church of England from inside out, and the human psyche too. She writes with clarity and understanding about the mind of the abuser and the trauma of the abused, always grounding her thoughts in actual examples.

It is Gardner’s multifaceted experience that enables her to do something fresh and useful: to psychoanalyse the Church in order to explain its abusive tendencies. While sociologists like me are wary of attempts to psychologise social phenomena, Gardner gets past my defences because she understands institutions and social relations so well. She knows that they always involve power, and that an institution is in essence a structured set of power relations. The book’s title ‘Sex, Power, Control’ is well chosen.*

Back to ‘it’, the grubby side of the Church of England that those in power want to bury. Gardner’s achievement is to drag it into the light. By listening carefully to the insights of survivors and analysing ‘the mind of the abuser’, she finds a key to unlock the Church of England’s bloody chamber.

Narcissism features prominently in the analysis, narcissism being understood in clinical terms rather than simply as vanity. The narcissist buries shameful things that he or she cannot bear to face. Some of these may derive from childhood, some from later episodes and actions. In order to defend against horrible feelings, a false self is constructed. The more grandiose the self, the more it needs to be continually re-inflated. One way of doing so is by joining an institution that confers dignity. Dressing up, being given a title, and being treated as more ‘reverend’ than others does the job very well. So – to take a further step – does controlling, demeaning and even abusing other people. The smaller you make them, the bigger you feel. The abusers that Gardner encountered were all men, and were all predatory narcissists.

In sociological terms, abuse both exploits existing social inequalities and reinforces them. Victims of clerical abusers are selected because of they are lay, young, lower-class, female, or have other vulnerabilities. The abuse reflects and reinforces their relative powerlessness, meaning that abuse serves a social as well as a personal purpose: it is not peripheral to hierarchical structures, it is integral to them.

Gardner tells us about the warning signs of narcissism. She sees in men like Ball a ‘completely self-absorbed sense of reality’. Everything is all-about-them. They work tirelessly to salvage their reputations and inflate their egos, and draw on all the connections and tools available to them to do so. They are deeply manipulative. Those who cross them are likely to be treated with rage, contempt and various forms of intimidation. As well as a campaign of letters from Ball himself, Gardner was advised by three senior church officials to back off, in one case being walked round the bishop’s palace grounds for a ‘chat’, and on another being rung by Lambeth Palace.

As well as the solipsism, the narcissist gives himself away by a lack of boundaries. There is no thee and me, just me. You are of interest only insofar as you serve the narcissist’s needs, and you have no separate subjectivity or independent existence for him. This blurring of boundaries extends to the body. The abuser does not just groom victims emotionally, he invades their personal space uninvited with touches and groups, hugs and strokes; he may sit people on his knee, or suggest sharing a bed.

Understanding the mind of the perpetrator helps Gardner to understand why the Church has been so hospitable.  It is a rigidly and steeply hierarchical institution. The clergy, she says in one chilling passage, are the subjects, the laity are objects, and victims of abuse are not even objects – they are marginals, untouchables, a kind of ‘matter out of place’, as the anthropologist Mary Douglas put it in her discussion of dirt and impurity. To allow the victim to speak and have agency is to upset the whole order, thereby putting at risk not just the institution but the very identity of those whose sense of selfhood is bound up with it. No wonder that when Ball’s abuse was reported to no less than nineteen bishops and an archbishop by increasingly desperate victims and concerned supporters, not one of them intervened.

Gardner uses the idea of ‘institutional narcissism’ (which I think comes from Stephen Parsons and his blog) to take the analysis further. It helps to explain why senior leaders crave success stories even when they involve things as dodgy as the Balls’ monastic order or Chris Brain’s ‘Nine O’Clock Service’. It explains why those who try to blow the whistle are ignored or traduced, and why bad news has to be hushed up. It explains why so many large and costly ‘comms’ teams are employed by dioceses, Church House and Lambeth to pump out good news and bury bad. It explains why truthfulness is not a value you ever hear preached. This all makes sense because there is institutional grandiosity to defend, and an ‘it’ to be denied.

Gardner includes a helpful chapter on the public schools from which over half of the bishops are drawn. The repression of emotion and vulnerability in order to appear strong and manly, and ambivalence about homosexuality and women, are discussed. This helps to situate the current problems in a wider framework of English class, privilege, and establishment.

If that all sounds a bit grim, it is. The obvious conclusion is that the only way to rid the Church of England of abuse is to dismantle its hierarchical structure completely. Safeguarding is a hopeless sticking plaster.

Yet I found at least one hopeful thing in Gardner’s analysis, for she reminds us that abusers are made, not born. And if the making of an abuser is a process, that process can be halted. Gardner gives the example of a young man abused by his mother as a child who is aware of his own attraction to children, and terrified by it. Instead of surrendering to this part of himself by, for example, downloading images of children, masturbating, becoming addicted, and perhaps going on to offend, he seeks medical help. This allows him to manage his desires by understanding, externalising and controlling them. There can be ‘interventions’ just as with any other kind of addiction, and the earlier the better.  Books like this help by making people more alert and understanding.

But can the institution change its spots?  Gardner is too nice to say ‘no’, but she probably thinks it. She may be right, but I wonder if a more historical view of the Church of England would have let in a bit more light and possibility. It is easy to think that the way things are now is the way things have always been and always must be, but the diocesan structures that weighed down on Gardner in Bath and Wells are actually rather recent. It was only in the second half of the twentieth century that diocesan bishops became powerful bureaucrats, as the Church was remodelled along the lines of the state with its own kind of regional devolution and expanding civil service. Parliamentary control and lay patronage were whittled away, and the disastrous simulacrum of democracy, the General Synod, was born.

For all the episcopal bluff, the Church of England is not really one thing, and never has been. ‘Unity’ is a narcissistic fiction. The Church of England is one big unhappy family whose several parties divorced one another some time ago. And although some parts and parties of the Church really may be abusive at the core (where abuse means abuse of power, which opens the door to sexual abuse), other parts can more easily be cleaned up.

Gardner is right that the problem of abuse is tied up with theology and governance structures, which means that any real solution must be, too. I have long thought that the constituent parts of the CofE should be allowed to separate from one another, develop on their own terms, and become parts of a federal structure. If the Church wants to be taken seriously by civil society, let alone enjoy the privileges of establishment, then the criterion for remaining part of this loose affiliation must be to respect the basic norms of equality, non-discrimination, transparency and independent oversight that govern other public bodies. That, combined with proper safeguarding and an open learning environment, might just save what is worth saving.

*Full disclosure: I have not met or corresponded with the author, but she cites my book with Andrew Brown That Was The Church That Was: How the Church of England lost the English people and its definition of the institutional Church.

About Stephen Parsons

Stephen is a retired Anglican priest living at present in Cumbria. He has taken a special interest in the issues around health and healing in the Church but also when the Church is a place of harm and abuse. He has published books on both these issues and is at present particularly interested in understanding how power works at every level in the Church. He is always interested in making contact with others who are concerned with these issues.


  1. EnglishAthena Yup. The great institutional sin is the caste system. Even three years ago, I’ve had a bishop shouting and doing the stabby finger thing; generally behaving as if I was just saying horrible things, rather than reporting experiences. They haven’t learned much.


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Richard W. Symonds

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SIR – A propos his continued character assassination of the late Bishop George Bell of Chichester, it isn’t only “the basic Christian precept of repentance” which Archbishop Welby seems to lack (Letters, April 2).

Exodus 20.16 states “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour”.  Does that not also refer to bearing witness you don’t know to be certainly true? 

Tim Hudson

Chichester, West Sussex

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Lord Alex Carlile QC


16th December 2017

Victim: ‘He can say Bishop Bell wouldn’t be found guilty, it doesn’t change the facts’

Exclusive by Joel Adams  Argus_JoelA ReporterBishop George Bell

Bishop George Bell 

THE woman at the centre of a Church sex scandal said yesterday: “It did happen.”

She spoke out after a review found the Church had not investigated her claims properly – and her alleged abuser’s reputation had been wrongfuly damaged.

Lord Alex Carlile had reviewed the process which led to a statement of apology and a payout from the Church of England over the woman’s accusation against wartime Bishop of Chichester George Bell.

Lord Carlile said the process followed by the Church was “deficient in several ways”.

He told The Argus: “The statement was wrong, it should never have been issued. It was quite wrong, and I think if one looks at the process, the process went just horribly wrong.

Lord Carlile, a QC, added: “I’ve prosecuted and defended a lot of cases including a lot of sex cases, and there’s absolutely no prospect that a criminal case against him would have succeeded.

“I think even if it had been brought in 1951 or 1952, I don’t think it would have succeeded.

“But in any event a complaint wasn’t made until 37 years after he died. And by that time there would have been absolutely no chance had he been living of him being convicted.”

Bell’s accuser, who The Argus has called Carol to preserve her anonymity, responded: “The fact is, it happened whether he would have been found guilty or not, whatever Lord Carlile says.”

Carol first reported the sexual abuse, which she said happened for several years from the late 1940s beginning when she was five, in 1995.

The bishop to whom she wrote told her to speak to a vicar.

Carol emailed the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office in 2012 but was told nothing could be done because Bell was dead.

In 2013 an email to the newly enthroned Archbishop Justin Welby was taken seriously.

A two-year investigation was undertaken leading to the settlement and statement of apology, which referred to Carol as “the survivor”.

Critics accused the Church of trying Bishop Bell – a critic of the bombing of civilians during the Second World War, defender of German Christians under the Nazis and one of the 20th century’s most revered churchmen – in a kangaroo court.

In November Lord Carlile was appointed to review the Church’s handling of the affair and yesterday his report was highly critical.

He concluded: “The investigation was very weak, failing to find important, credible evidential material that the announcement of my review produced with ease.”

Bishop Peter Hancock, the Church of England’s lead safeguarding bishop, said the church accepted the “main thrust” of the report’s recommendations.

But the Church has rejected Lord Carlile’s central proposal that an alleged perpetrator should never be named unless responsibility for the alleged abuse has been proved.

Bishop Hancock said the Church was committed to transparency and would generally seek to avoid confidentially clauses.

Carol told The Argus: “In all the talk about how the Church treated Bishop Bell, people seem to have forgotten how the Church treated me.”


Lord Alex Carlile QC sat down with Argus reporter Joel Adams at Church House yesterday morning following the publication of his report.

What is the most significant piece of evidence you are concerned the original process did not unearth?

The evidence of a person I’ve called Pauline who was about the same age as Carol.

She was in the bishop’s palace a great deal of the time, had a great deal of contact with the bishop.

She described him as basically being lovely at all times, aloof but a very nice person.

She says there was never any suggestion of any impropriety towards her on his part.

Next the fact that there were no other complainants. The church knew there were no other complainants but they didn’t give it much weight.

Thirdly that for part of the period, a little earlier than the complaint time, there were Kindertransport children living in the bishop’s palace, and I was able to see some photographs of some of them, they were almost all little girls.

So there wasn’t an analysis of the evidence worth naming analysis.

Surely no weight is ever given in a trial to all the children a sex offender didn’t touch?

If you take the Jimmy Savile case, there have been hundreds of people who came forward.

In the Peter Ball case a considerable number of people came forward.

Of course there are cases – occasionally, and I have to say occasionally – where only one person has been abused, but with the kind of abuse that was complained of here it’s very unusual for there to be only one person who’s been abused.

And therefore it is a legitimate part of any inquiry.

Are you troubled by the fact the other witness you spoke to, who the inquiry didn’t, Andrew [Adrian – Ed] Carey, can remember neither Carol nor Pauline?

I wasn’t particularly troubled by that.

When I saw Canon Carey first of all he was 95, he had a very good memory for some things but one can’t expect him to remember everything .

And although I of course asked him whether he remembered these children and I was slightly surprised that he didn’t, he also gave me a very complete description of the way of life in the bishop’s palace and there were some details he gave me, of who did what, where they tended to be, what staff the bishop had around him, which diminished the prospects of the complaint being proved.

What is your message to Carol?

My message to her, and I met her and believe she would accept this message, is that if due process has not been followed properly, then she like any other reasonable person would not expect a person to be condemned.

It was not part of my terms of reference to say whether she was telling the truth or not and I have made no such judgement.

Do you feel the entire process has been a waste of time if the Church is not happy to accept the most important conclusion that you have drawn, that it should not have named Bell?

Firstly I believe that Bishop Martin will reflect upon this report in the long term.

Secondly this report will not only be read by bishops, but will be read by people who form parts of Core Groups in the future, and I think they in part will be guided by it.

Finally I would say that I think one can overplay the importance of paragraph 33 of my report, it’s one of the recommendations there are some very detailed recommendations about the way in which these cases should processed.

You conclude in quite stark terms the statement was wrong

It was wrong, It should never have been issued. It was quite wrong, and I think if one looks at the process, the process went just horribly wrong.

Are you a religious man?

No. I’m a baptised and Confirmed member of the Church of England, but I’m not a religious person.


RESPONDING to Lord Carlile’s review, Church of England leaders apologised to Bishop Bell’s family as well as repeating their apology to Carol.

Safeguarding lead Bishop Peter Hancock said: “We recognise that Carol has suffered pain, as have surviving relatives of Bishop Bell.

“We are sorry that the Church has added to that pain through its handling of the case.”

Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner said: “We apologise for failures in the work of the core group of national and diocesan officers and its inadequate attention to the rights of those who are dead.

“Irrespective of whether she is technically a complainant, survivor or victim, Carol emerges from this report as a person of dignity and integrity.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: “We are utterly committed to seeking just outcomes for all. We apologise for the failures of the process.”

All three churchmen accepted many of the report’s criticisms of the process,and said improvements to its protocols were already in place, with further consideration still to come.

But all three stressed the church did not agree with Lord Carlile’s recommendation that alleged perpetrators should never be named if responsibility had not been proved.

They said the Church was committed to the principle of transparency and would generally seek to avoid confidentiality clauses.


UNTIL Carol spoke to The Argus last February, all anyone knew of the person at the centre of this case was that the Church had apologised to a person it called “the survivor” and settled a legal claim.

Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner had said in October 2015 the allegation dated from the 1940s and concerned allegations of sexual offences against “an individual who was a young child at the time”.

We revealed the claimant was a woman, now in her seventies, who alleged the abuse had started when she was just five years old.

Carol told The Argus she was frequently molested by Bishop Bell in rooms in the cathedral grounds, when she visited a relative employed there.

She said Bishop Bell would take her into a private room saying he wanted to read her a story.

She said: “It was whenever he got a chance to take me off on my own. My strongest memory is seeing this figure all in black, standing on a stair, waiting.

“He used to take me off down this long corridor and there was a big room at the end, and he used to take me in there.”

She said once the door was closed he would put her on his lap and molest her.

Yesterday it was also revealed that in a police statement she said on some occasions he made her touch his genitals and had attempted to rape her.

Last year she told The Argus: “He said it was our little secret because God loved me.”

She gave the same testimony to the Church investigation.

She said: “It’s something that lives with you for the rest of your life. It never goes away.”

In 1995 Carol wrote to then Bishop of Chichester, Eric Kemp, telling her story.

Yesterday it emerged she added: “My whole life has suffered because of him… I am going to tell my story and sell it to the highest bidder to gain compensation for something that blighted my whole life.”

She never did sell her story.

Yesterday said she had written that to get Bishop Kemp’s attention.

Her attempt failed.

Kemp advised her to speak to a vicar.

In September 2012, as the Jimmy Savile story broke, she twice emailed Lambeth Palace with her story.

She was told first to ring a helpline, then that “the former bishops of Chichester are dead so there is nothing we can do to take your story forward and deal with it”.

Only when Justin Welby took office in 2013 did a later email receive proper attention, leading to the 2015 apology, and then to Lord Carlile’s review.

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Christopher Hoare


Lord Lexden’s excellent letter- 2 April – reminds us of the grave injustice Archbishop Welby inflicts on Bishop Bell, by stating that ‘a significant cloud’ remains over the latter’s name.   What then should be done to right the matter?  For my part I have withdrawn £50 thousand left in my Will to Chichester Cathedral until such time as the name  ‘George Bell House’ is restored to a building in Canon Lane, Chichester, dedicated to Bishop Bell, by Archbishop Rowan Williams in 2008. To enjoy my legacy this needs to happen in my short remaining lifetime.  I am 89 !

More importantly can we find out what is preventing this first step being taken now ?    I think it is due to Archbishop Welby’s  loyalty to Bishop Warner, whom it is widely believed was installed to clean up the bad reputation our Diocese had earned for sex scandals.  The latter, closely involved in the discredited investigation, was clearly completely taken in by ‘Carol’ [ the name given to the claimant] who  during over half a century of convincing herself of the identity of her abuser – if indeed she was abused at all – was doubtless a convincing witness.

Other than Chapter & a small number of Clergy, is there anyone in favour of retaining the temporary name 4  Canon Lane ?   I have yet to meet or hear of a single one. although it is true that a certain number of  highly regarded senior Laity, while recognising the existing injustice, are inhibited from ‘coming out’ due to  conflicting loyalties.

Whereas I am convinced that ultimately Bishop Bell’s reputation will be fully restored, I doubt  whether even the first step will be taken in time to claim my legacy

Christopher Hoare,  Chichester


Sir, Lord Lexden is to be thanked for raising the injustice done to George Bell (letters, Apr 3).

A first step for the Church of England in rehabilitating the bishop’s reputation would be for the present Bishop of Chichester to restore the name George Bell House, dedicated in 2008 by Rowan Williams, then the Archbishop of Canterbury, to the house on Canon Lane in Chichester.

There was never any good reason to remove it.

Graham Toole-Mackson

Arundel, W Sussex

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Revd Peter Mullen

Resign, Bishop Warner! Resign Archbishop Welby

By Peter Mullen [submitted to ‘The Conservative Woman’]

April 5, 2021

After many years as Rector of a parish in the City of London, I am happily retired to the south coast. I live at the foot of the South Downs and half a mile from the sea. There is a first rate butcher’s shop and I shall — once we are let out of prison — revisit our cheerful local pub. There is only one drawback to being a priest in the Diocese of Chichester and this takes the form of my boss by whose permission I am licensed to officiate. The Rt Rev’d Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester. Of course, Warner’s boss is Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury — and he represents another drawback. I will explain…

Bishop George Bell (1883-1958), Bishop of Chichester, has been judged and condemned without any case brought for his defence. An elderly woman came forward in 1995 and claimed that Bishop Bell had sexually abused her fifty years earlier. The authorities took no action. The woman complained again in 2013, by which time Bishop Bell had been dead for fifty-five years. The police concluded that there was sufficient evidence to justify their questioning Bishop Bell, had he been still alive. Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester, discussed the matter with Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury and in 2015 the Church of England offered a formal apology to Bishop Bell’s accuser, paid her an undisclosed sum in compensation — later revealed to have been £31,000 – and allowed her to remain anonymous. The Church authorities ordered that memorials to Bishop Bell be removed and institutions — such as the Bishop Bell School, Eastbourne — should change their names. So this highly-regarded wartime bishop was effectually condemned to the status of a non-person.

Unsurprisingly, there was outrage. On 13th November 2015, Judge Alan Pardoe QC described the way the allegations against Bishop Bell had been handled as “slipshod and muddled.” Judge Pardoe’s criticisms were followed by further censure from a group of historians and theologians led by Jeremy Morris, Master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge.

The Bishop of Chichester replied with insouciance and a volley of jargon to these criticisms: “The Church is seeking to move on from a culture in which manipulation of power meant that victims were too afraid to make allegations, or allegations were easily dismissed. We must provide safeguards of truth and justice for all, victim and accused alike.”

But there were no “safeguards of truth and justice” for Bishop Bell who was condemned without a hearing.

The outrage did not subside and a committee of senior church people, distinguished lawyers and members of both the Lords and the Commons calling itself The George Bell Group was formed. On 20th March 2016, this group published a review in which they challenged the Church’s evidence against Bishop Bell and attacked it for failing to find or interview a key witness or examine Bell’s own extensive personal archive.

On 30th June 2016, the case formed a large part of a debate in the House of Lords on historical child sex abuse.

On 28th June 2016, the Church of England announced that it would hold an independent review of the procedure used. On 22nd November 2016 it announced that Lord Carlile QC would chair this review

Meanwhile, the George Bell Group declared: “In view of the evidence that we have gathered and examined, we have concluded that the allegation made against Bishop Bell cannot be upheld in terms of actual evidence or historical probability.”

Lord Carlile’s report was eventually handed to the Church authorities and they kicked it into the long grass.

So much for Bishop Martin Warner’s vaunted “…safeguards of truth and justice for all, victim and accused alike.” All along, the only interests being safeguarded here were those of the Bishop of Chichester and the Archbishop of Canterbury. We know very well why these authorities leapt so precipitately to condemn Bishop Bell out of hand: it was because they had previously had to admit to the existence of so many perpetrators of sexual abuse among the senior clergy — especially in the Diocese of Chichester. Warner and Welby, to salvage what remained of their reputations, wanted desperately to appear to be doing something.

Thus the name of the safely-dead Bishop George Bell was tarnished because the Church’s highest authorities sought to cover their own backs.

Let us be in no doubt as to the seriousness of the Church’s misconduct so eloquently criticised in Lord Carlile’s report…there was “a rush to judgement.”

In the light of this scandalously incompetent behaviour, the least that might have been expected from the Archbishop of Canterbury was a profuse apology…Instead Justin Welby persisted in his mood of arrogant vindictiveness, saying, “A significant cloud is left over George Bell’s name. No human being is entirely good or bad. Bishop Bell was in many ways a hero. He is also accused of great wickedness. Good acts do not diminish evil ones…”

This is outrageous. True, Bishop Bell was “accused of great wickedness” — but he was not found guilty of any wrongdoing. And there is no “significant cloud” over his name. There is, however, certainly a very dark cloud over Welby’s name after his lamentable performance in this matter…

Welby has described the church’s enquiry as “Very, very painful.” For him yes, as indeed it ought to have been owing to his disgraceful and dishonourable conduct of this issue from the start. So to answer the question put to me this morning by the Bell Group, “How should we proceed?” There is only one answer and it is clear: the Bell Group should call for Warner and Welby to resign — as indeed they ought to have done once Lord Carlile’s report had been published.

“Bishop’s injustice” + “Cost of abuse” – The Times – Letters – April 3 2021


Sir, The Archbishop of Canterbury rightly says that Church of England’s response to allegations of child sex abuse has often been appalling [“Independent watchdog to police abusive priests”, Mar 30].

But in its haste to make amends, the church inflicted an appalling injustice on one of its greatest bishops, George Bell.

The processes by which it decided in 2015, nearly 60 years after his death, that he had abused a girl, were shown by Lord Carlile QC in 2017 to have been flawed. He said that for Bell’s reputation to be so “catastrophically affected” was “just wrong” and that Bell “should be declared by the church to be innocent”.

Justin Welby’s declaration is still awaited.

Lord Lexden

House of Lords

Daily Telegraph – Letters – April 2 2021[Good Friday] – “Welby and Bishop Bell” – Lord Lexden OBE

SIR – Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, states: “We can’t erase the past…We have to learn from it” [report, March 31].

He ought to have learnt from the recent past that when an error is made, correction and apology must follow.

The process by which the Church decided in 2015, with his approval, that Bishop George Bell had abused a young girl in the 1940s, were shown to be fatally flawed by Lord Carlile QC in his independent report of 2017, which said: “For Bishop Bell’s reputation to be catastrophically affected in the way that occurred was just wrong.

He added that Bishop Bell “should be declared by the Church to be innocent of the allegations made against him”.

If the Archbishop wishes to learn from the past, how can he stand by his unfounded statement that Bishop bell remains under a “significant cloud”?

What will posterity say about an Archbishop who lacked the basic Christian precept of repentance?

His moral failure will cast a significant cloud over his reputation forever.

Lord Lexden (Con)

London SW1

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Daily Telegraph – Letters – April 2 2021[Good Friday] – “Welby and Bishop Bell” – Lord Lexden OBE

SIR – Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, states: “We can’t erase the past…We have to learn from it” [report, March 31].

He ought to have learnt from the recent past that when an error is made, correction and apology must follow.

The process by which the Church decided in 2015, with his approval, that Bishop George Bell had abused a young girl in the 1940s, were shown to be fatally flawed by Lord Carlile QC in his independent report of 2017, which said: “For Bishop Bell’s reputation to be catastrophically affected in the way that occurred was just wrong.

He added that Bishop Bell “should be declared by the Church to be innocent of the allegations made against him”.

If the Archbishop wishes to learn from the past, how can he stand by his unfounded statement that Bishop bell remains under a “significant cloud”?

What will posterity say about an Archbishop who lacked the basic Christian precept of repentance?

His moral failure will cast a significant cloud over his reputation forever.

Lord Lexden (Con)

London SW1


I write to urge the Archbishop of Canterbury to set a Christian example of humility and repentance at Easter 2021 by correcting the error in respect of Bishop Bell”

Gerald Morgan OM FTCD

All very well, but the pride that infuses the coterie of power that nurtured and protected
not one but two seriously hypocritical cannot stroll away with a few biblical names. When did Jesus choice of fishermen morph into the leadership exclusively drawn from attendance at Iwerne via Eton, Winchester and Repton? Why not challenge Wm Taylor and his lieutenants with the following. Instead of embracing with gratitude the work of those who had reached out to the broken, and fought their corner when many in that grouping of the Church were putting pressure on the victims to stop tarnishing the brand, Taylor tries to marginalise them, characterising them as a “ small group who had a part in shaping the report”.and as they extend the debate, he complains that they are “ clearly politically driven”. The organisation that produced the report in the first place ( whose name at this point he deigns not speak ) apparently has questions to answer. Well, you first William. Why don’t you tell us in which decade you first became aware that your old Iwerne teacher was a sexual sadist? Why don’t you tell us what you think of his crimes being covered up for 40 years by your friends and long term associates? Do you think on reflection, there was a degree of closet racism in Smyth being too dangerous to English public school boys, but ok to unleash to abuse African boys because he had given a “ Scouts honour “ promise to your leadership pals? What steps have you taken to bring any of this out into the open and support the victims? You continued your relationship and sat on Charity Trustee boards for a couple of years with your friend Fletcher after his PTO was withdrawn. Did he ever confide in you during this period that he was in a “spot of bother”? Do you think that some victim’s reticence to speak for so many years, might have been as a result of the power of your leadership team, and that their challenging your power of shunning and a culture of omerta might just be “ godly political work” What personal responsibility do you acknowledge for not being seen as a champion of transparency and accountability in these matters? What does the phrase “ the arrogance of power” mean to you? I strongly suspect that Revd Taylor will not like these questions; he need not answer them. No matter. We have others, and more to the point, so do many many more decent people in the Church from all shades of opinion who see what has gone on within this Iwerne coterie, and find it abhorrent on many levels

Martin Sewell – ‘Surviving Church’

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

Source: Financial Times


“Bishop’s injustice” + “Cost of abuse” – The Times – Letters – April 2 2021


Sir, The Archbishop of Canterbury rightly says that Church of England’s response to allegations of child sex abuse has often been appalling [“Independent watchdog to police abusive priests”, Mar 30].

But in its haste to make amends, the church inflicted an appalling injustice on one of its greatest bishops, George Bell.

The processes by which it decided in 2015, nearly 60 years after his death, that he had abused a girl, were shown by Lord Carlile QC in 2017 to have been flawed. He said that for Bell’s reputation to be so “catastrophically affected” was “just wrong” and that Bell “should be declared by the church to be innocent”.

Justin Welby’s declaration is still awaited.

Lord Lexden

House of Lords

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Universities are the crucibles of ideas. Democracy dies without open debate, viewpoint diversity and robust contestation of ideas. Universities flourish in conditions of free inquiry, critical interrogation, intellectual integrity and firewalls against donor and political pressure. Have they instead become the chief enablers of the long march through institutions? The death in December of James R. Flynn of the ‘Flynn effect’ fame (and my boss at Otago University for 16 years) warranted feature articles in the liberal New York Times and the conservative Wall Street Journal. His last book, In Defence of Free Speech: The University as Censor, was promoted by Emerald Press in 2019 but then pulled on legal advice, picked up by Academica Press in the US and published as A Book Too Risky To Publish: Free Speech and Universities.

For nine years, with Kofi Annan’s backing, I helped protect the institutional autonomy and academic integrity of the UN University, little knowing that reputable Western universities would demonstrate a softer commitment to core university values in the age of microaggressions, trigger warnings and emotional safe spaces. These have transformed the university’s mission from challenging ideas to coddling snowflakes. Academics being de-platformed, cancelled, censured, disciplined, fired and disinvited has become commonplace. Management-speak administrators cower before Twitter, mistaking volume of noise for breadth of support, genuflect to woke fads and are keener to regulate behaviour than defend intellectual freedom.

Ramesh Thakur

“Civilization is in a race between education and catastrophe. Let us learn the truth and spread it as far and wide as our circumstances allow. For the truth is the greatest weapon we have.”

― H. G. Wells

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A Bloody Shambles: Surviving Church Between Good Friday and Easter

Stephen’s Blog Stephen Parsons

by Anonymous

The bloody history of shambles might help us process the God-awful mess of
the Church of England, the National Safeguarding Team, injustice and
incompetence, and the brutality of bishops and church officers “just following
their process…”.

Annibale Carracci, The Butcher’s Shop, oil on canvas, circa 1583, 185cm x 266cm.

Christ Church Picture Gallery, Oxford.

 Annibale Carracci, The Butcher’s Shop, oil on canvas, circa 1580

59cm x 71cm, Kimbell Art Gallery, Fort Worth.

You are looking at two pictures by Annibale Carracci, painted in the early 1580s.  It is one of two slightly different paintings called ‘The Butcher’s Shop’. One hangs in the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. The other hangs in the Christ Church Picture Gallery, and is one of the paintings bequeathed in legacy by Charles 1.  It may have originally been commissioned by a Butcher’s Guild.  It is big picture of a busy butcher’s shop – much like you get in any market.  Meat hangs up; there are game birds.  Several staff chopping and prepping. Sharp knives, a saw, and some butcher’s blocks – all stained with blood.

But it is of course a religious picture, refracted into the everyday.  Here, in the picture, we see the foreground, almost at knee height, so you have to bend down to see it: a lamb about to be slain.  Passive, motionless and without blemish.  The picture gives us other clues as to its intentions.  Meat – like the soul in judgement – is weighed by one person in a balance. 

An armed guard gazes into some middle distance – a seemingly pointless detail in a butcher’s shop.  And there are on-lookers too, as though watching butcher’s at work was a good way to spend your free time.  This is a scene of ordinary slaughter. An ordinary day at a butcher’s shop is like an ordinary day in Palestine, two thousand years ago.  Death is routine.  Actually, there seem to be a lot of bystanders in the two paintings – people doing nothing whilst the slaughter just carries on.  Process.

In C.D. Dickerson’ intriguing Raw Painting (Kimbell Masterpiece Series, Yale University Press, 2010), he explains how the paintings portray the butcher’s trade in sixteenth and seventeenth century Bologna.  Dickerson puts Carracci’s painting into context by comparing it with a contemporary butcher’s shop painting by Bartolomeo Passarotti (1577-80) and Dutch-Flemish paintings by Pieter Aertsen and Joachim Beukelaer.

The paintings by Pieter Aertsen and Joachim Beukelaer (below) may appear, on the surface, to be mere representations of the produce available in a Dutch or Flemish market.  But on closer inspection, one can clearly detect a sacred scene painted in the background of Aertsen’s work.  Why did Carracci and others paint like this?  I think one clue is the link between the soldier and the passive lamb in the Oxford painting.  For here the imagery is pregnant with meaning.  This is no ordinary butcher’s shop. The man kneeling in the foreground with a cleaver in his left hand is about to ‘sacrifice’ the docile lamb in front of him.

The butcher standing left of him is holding a set of scales reminiscent of a Last Judgment. But what is that Swiss Guard with the ridiculous protruding codpiece even doing in a lowly butcher’s shop? The Swiss Guard were, and still are, the elite police force of the Vatican. A respectable Swiss Guard would have servants to do his bidding. Could he be representing one of the soldiers at the scene of the Crucifixion? Maybe. Yet the Swiss Guard represents something much more sinister: a symbol of the Church uncaring, just observing a slaughter.

Most readers of this site will know what an utter shambles the Church of England is, that safeguarding (and the work of the NST) and the implementation of CDM’s on clergy is form of process-torture and brutal butchery. Research from Sheldon found that 40% of clergy who were on the wrong end of a CDM contemplated suicide.  The rest merely feel crucified – butchered by an inhumane system of justice that follows a process that is numb and dumb to compassion. 

Our bishops admirably perform the role of Pilate, washing their hands to claim their innocence.  The NST and the Dioceses are little better than shuttling the victim between the court-trials of Pilate, Caiaphas and Herod.  If you are unlucky enough to be the Dean of Christ Church, you can be delivered up to all three tribunals in a matter of weeks.  No-one takes responsibility.  They will each blame the other.  It is a shameful shambles for an institution that is supposed to specialise in care-taking, receiving care and in care-giving.  It is incomprehensible that people who are supposed to be good and kind can tolerate such indolent brutality and butchery visited upon others.  What is going on, I wonder?

Our word ‘shambles’ commonly means “a scene or state of great disorder and confusion”, but it historically referred to a slaughterhouse.  The word (in a singular form) originally meant “a stool” and “a money changer’s table”. Later it acquired the additional meaning of “a table for the exhibition of meat for sale”, which in turn gave rise in the early 15th century to a use of the plural form with the meaning “a meat market”. A further extension of meaning in the 16th century produced the sense “a slaughterhouse”.

That meaning quickly led to the more figurative use of ‘shambles’ to refer to a place of terrible slaughter or bloodshed. A few centuries passed with the word being mostly used with the literal “slaughterhouse” and figurative “place of mass slaughter or bloodshed”. A bloody mess, literally. By the early 20th century, another extension of meaning took place. ‘Shambles’ acquired the sense of “a scene or state of great destruction” and “a scene or state of great disorder and confusion,” or a “great confusion; a total mess”.

The money-changer’s tables? A bloody mess? A slaughterhouse? Good Friday? You might ask why safeguarding in the Church of England is such a bloody mess – an utter, total shambles?  The answer from Good Friday is that Church has to do something with its crippling guilt over its past crimes and cover-ups.  So it matters not who is tortured and dies for all of these sins: someone has to.  A scape-goat is needed. Preferably a ready supply of them.

This is why the Swiss Guard in Carracci’s painting looks on, impassively. His pose is one of indifference.  But I also think it is one of pointless pietistic prayer and passivity.  Bishops will tell you they are praying for you as you are butchered and hung out to dry by the NST, before whatever remains of you is passed through the mincer of a CDM.   Carracci painted the church observing the victim die, for what in fact the church does.  The lamb-meat is to order.  So I think this is an image of atonement for the sins the Swiss Guard must represent.  As soldiers, they had a fearsome reputation for being tough, brutal mercenaries; they were butchers for hire, and commanded high fees for their work.

Perhaps like me, you have found yourself butchered and hung out to dry by the Church?  Perhaps you found that the bloody slaughter that is visited upon victims of abuse, clergy facing false accusations and ruin, and being condemned by courts, trials and processes that deny everyone their basic human rights, transparency and agency, is just too gruesome to watch anymore?  I agree. Sometimes, the only thing to do with a bloody ‘shambles’ is look away. 

Or perhaps leave it altogether?  Leave the butcher’s shop, I mean.  Assuming you don’t mind the analogical imagination at work here, if the vehicle for your means of journey and pilgrimage – be it boat, plane, car or train – is not roadworthy, seaworthy or able to fly safely, it is usually a mistake to presume the voyage ahead will not include some terror or likely misfortune.

If the car or bus has no MOT, and looks like it is clearly a shambles, my counsel is you’d be unwise to climb aboard and take a seat. It may already be too late for me to give you this advice, and you may well find you are already (s)trapped in.  If so, I am sorry.  But please, try and leave when you can.  You may have to wait for the next stop at a junction or at a port. But when it comes, this is your chance to hop out, and hop off.  Escape. Seize the moment.

The quality of the driver, a cheerful conductor or smiling flight attendant won’t help.  The recent (promised) dubious health and safety audits won’t be worth the paper they are written on. Leave now. Because once inside this shambolic vehicle, your life is actually in far more danger.  It is better not to risk the ride.

Leaving the butcher’s block was not an option for Jesus on Good Friday. Or for the two thieves. Or for Spartacus and his friends. Such carceral crucifixions were common: there to intimidate the masses, suppress dissent and bypass true justice. But you do not need to be crucified for the sake of the church, looking on, with pitiful piety and pastoral pity.  This is their shambles, not yours. You do not need to be another vicarious victim in their butcher’s shop.

A lamb being slaughtered is not a very promising symbol for a new religious movement.  Yet from the first Easter, Christians proclaimed that “the Lamb who was slain takes away the sins of the world”.  The gospels converted the shepherd of the sheep into one of the flock.  Jesus becomes a victim; one statistic among the numberless who were butchered by an autocratic State. 

Jesus is simply a routine execution – a regrettable process to be started and finished as quickly as possible. And then we can all go home.  I find it interesting the Jesus is condemned to die before the jury can deliberate; his trials are afterthoughts, and only there to rubber-stamp the sentence.

I think I may know what you are thinking now.  So please let me say, try not to worry too much about Jesus struggling and gasping for each breath on the cross.  Or protesting about the injustice of three consecutive kangaroo courts.  Because Jesus is not alone, you see.  He has the constant presence of episcopal company in his suffering, and I promise you, is sincerely offered “prayer and pastoral support during this difficult time”. You should remember that the thieves don’t get that, so Jesus is actually quite fortunate.

Seriously, Jesus is “well supported”. If it were not for that cross keeping him upright, he’d be a crumpled, tangled heap of bloody mess, bruises and broken bones on the ground, where no-one could see him. Such is the brutality of our CDM’s and the faceless unaccountable processes of the NST. I, you, we: are led like lambs to the slaughter. 

So much for Good Friday, then.  Yet I do not think you have to be another notch on the NST and CDM roll-call of victims.  That is why I wrote this.  Good Friday is not meant for you.  The Swiss Guard may still look on, but there is life outside the butcher’s shop. It is not your prison, or your butcher’s block, and you do not need to be some tangled mass of discarded offal in an ecclesial meat display. You are actually worth much more than the sparrows. Jesus told us.

So at Easter, what might you try to remember? That death has no more dominion over you. As C. S. Lewis once said, part of the Deep Magic of Good Friday lies in surrendering to something else that the Church neither owns or knows; namely the wisdom of God.  You can let fear do it’s worse, but it cannot kill you, so do not be afraid. 

Try to keep your faith, knowing this is foolishness and weakness to the world; but to God, it is wisdom and strength. A resurrection strength that will actually save us from this butchery. 

That Swiss Guard has it all coming to him.  Much like the soldiers who stood guard by the tomb of Jesus.  The cracks appear; the light breaks in. The guards can’t cope without a corpse.  Their dead prisoner has left; they have nothing to watch over any more.  The light floods out of the tomb. 

Resurrection is coming, and for those indolent passive soldiers – instruments of unjust butchery going through their motions of process a few days before – the resurrection is going to be, quite simply, terrifying. Revolutionary.  The tomb-guards and soldiers then have nothing to process, and nobody left as the object of their grim vigil.

New life comes, and the old order is swept away. The guards, sore afraid, must scatter. We will now witness to something else: new life, new hope and radiant resurrection light piercing the darkness, and exorcising the indifference of our church leaders and the banality of their butchery back into the shadows, where such evil belong. 

Lent and Good Friday are but a season. Resurrections are forever.

Pieter Aertsen, The Meat Stall with the Holy Family Giving Alms, oil on panel, 1551

115cm x 165cm, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh.

Joachim Beukelaer, Fish Market, oil on panel, ca. 1568

56cm x 213cm, Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples.Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

Thoughts on “A Bloody Shambles: Surviving Church Between Good Friday and Easter”

Rowland Wateridge

Here’s a link to a website about this painting which might be of interest. I am sure there must be others. Interesting, and a little surprising, that this painting previously hung in the kitchen at Christ Church, Oxford until its importance – and value! – were recognised. https://www.artble.com/artists/annibale_carracci/paintings/the_butcher’s_shop

Janet Fife

I don’t think it’s such an odd comparison as it might appear. There are questions about irregular procedures at Christ Church, including the pursuit of legal proceedings against a man who has been medically certified unfit to brief a lawyer. And the safeguarding expert who investigated the case has been credited as the author of a risk assessment which she denies having carried out. Jesus was subject to irregular proceedings, an illegal (because held during the night) trial and false charges. In the Christ Church case, of course, there has yet to be a verdict on whether the allegation is true or false – but the Oxford diocesan website has published several statements critical of the Dean. This seems to prejudge the verdict; especially as they claim the allegation is of serious abuse, when it does not meet the legal criteria of serious abuse. The irony is that the Jewish leaders in Jesus’ time believed that they were doing the right thing – probably for varying reasons – and church leaders also probably believe they’re doing the right thing when they inflict this kind of psychological and reputational damage on a survivor, a person alleged to have committed abuse, or someone thought to be guilty of safeguarding failures. It’s a cruel system, to everyone who gets caught up in it. Holy Week is a call to all of us to be honest our motives and question our own judgements.

Janet FifeThe Clergy Discipline Measure is currently being reviewed and will eventually be redrafted.If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that there are longstanding and deep-rooted problems with the way the Church of England handles allegations of abuse; the processes are incompetent, often unfair, and usually inhumane for both complainant and respondent. Good processes are necessary for all concerned. It has taken the National Safeguarding Team nearly three and half years to get as far as setting a core group in my own case.

Janet Fife

The Swiss guard seems to be getting off on the butchery. On another tack, I think Anon is right to draw a parallel between churches’ often brutal treatment of their own, and the victimisation of Jesus which we commemorate In Holy Week. The Church of England is not alone in this, but is certainly a serial offender. And the horrors unfolding at Christ Church are a prime example. My prayers are with the Percy family, as they live through their own narrative of suffering, and with all those involved.

Innocent Bystander

I don’t know the situation at all well but I do agree with you that one must feel compassion for them. It must be a very difficult living through ‘their own narrative of suffering’ as you put it. Hopefully they will be able to walk away soon (or go by boat, car, train as Anon says) and start afresh.

Stanley Monkhouse

You lot are obsessed. The guy’s hand is in his pocket. Codpieces have been fashionable on and off throughout history, size signifying nothing. Lots of military portraits show the tight trousers outlining male genitalia such as would dwarf those of male rock stars. Google Prince Albert ring. Stephen compares the disinterested guard in the picture to the passivity of the bishops so perhaps the codpiece (not particularly large I assure you) represents the cock-up they preside over.



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1st April 2016

Vigil in support of Bishop George Bell to be held on Sunday

By Joel Adams

Bishop George Bell 


A VIGIL protesting the treatment of the legacy of the late Bishop George Bell will be held at Chichester Cathedral on Sunday.

In October last year the Church of England issued a public apology and paid a settlement to a woman who said she had been abused by the wartime Bishop of Chichester while she was a child in the 1940s and 1950s.

But the vigil’s organisers have said they want to encourage people to examine the evidence against Bishop Bell for themselves, including a detailed review into the Church’s methodology in the case published last month by a group of prominent scholars, academics and peers called the George Bell Group.

Organiser Richard Symonds said he expected between three and ten people to attend the vigil, which will be held at 12.30pm on Sunday, April 3 outside the Cathedral, where Bell’s ashes lie.

Vigil outside Chichester Cathedral – April 3 2016

Mr Symonds told The Argus: “I am more concerned with the process. It would appear to be seriously flawed and might prove to be a catastrophic error of judgement. I think the Church’s powers-that-be were panicked into a rushed judgement.

Flyers will be handed out which feature a picture of George Bell with words from a cathedral monument – “A true pastor, poet and patron of the arts, champion of the oppressed and tireless worker for Christian unity” – along with quotes from the George Bell Group.

My Symonds said the purpose of the vigil was to raise public awareness and to encourage people to come to their own conclusions, and ultimately to reinstate George Bell’s name on buildings and institutions which have removed it since the Church’s announcement in October of last year.

The reliability of the victim’s testimony and the soundness of the Church process has been questioned and challenged by defenders of George Bell, who was highly regarded as a man of peace and patron of the arts, who opposed the area bombing of Germany and counted Gandhi as a friend.

In a 5,000 word review published online on March 20, the George Bell Group questioned why the Bishop’s personal diaries had not been cross-referenced, and why his biographer and then-chaplain had not been interviewed by the panel which investigated the abuse claim. 

Last week the Archbishop of Canterbury said in an interview: “”On the balance of probability, at this distance, it seemed clear to us after very thorough investigation that that was correct and so we paid compensation and gave a profound and deeply felt apology.”ADVERTISING

Organisers could not confirm whether any of members of the George Bell Group are due to attend the vigil. 


House Rules

We do not moderate comments, but we expect readers to adhere to certain rules in the interests of open and accountable debate.

Broadwater Juice 1st April 2016 09:19 am

April Fools surely?

Richard W Symonds 1st April 2016 11:16 am

Two additional pieces from the Argus article (not included in this online version):

1. “Solemn remembrance is appropriate for late Bishop” by Peter Hitchens

‘A PEACEFUL and dignified vigil outside the cathedral where George Bell’s ashes are buried can only do good.

‘A small but growing and determined group of people of many differing opinions, many of them skilled in the law, feel that the Bishop still deserves better treatment than he has received at the hands of the Church.

‘And as George Bell himself was willing to risk disapproval by not bowing to conventional wisdom or fashionable thought, his present-day supporters feel justified in doing the same.

‘The recent review of this case by the George Bell Group has shown beyond any reasonable doubt that the Church acted hastily by publicising allegations against him in such a way that many believed they were proven.

‘Crucial records were never consulted. A valuable living witness, a decorated Naval war veteran, who both lived and worked at the Bishop’s Palace at the time of the alleged crimes was not traced or interviewed, though this would not have been hard.

‘There are many other flaws in this case and yet the Church still won’t properly address them.

‘A gentle reminder to the Church that it is founded on truth and must respect it, can surely do no harm’.

Peter Hitchens is a columnist for the Mail on Sunday

2. “Abuse victim is not seeking retribution” by Lawyer Tracey Emmott

‘CAROL suffered these assaults many decades ago and has had to live with them ever since.

‘The memory of what happened to her has blighted her life.

‘Like many victims of childhood abuse she felt inhibited to speak out fearing nobody would believe her, until public attitudes changed and it was realised what horrors had so often been perpetrated on children in the past.

‘The Church has carried out its investigation and concluded that Carol’s story is likely to be true. Carol has been remarkably level-headed in her attitude towards Bishop Bell and made clear in her interview in the Argus that she wasn’t seeking retribution.

‘As long as this story stays in the headlines, Carol will continue to suffer. She deserves much better.

‘There is very little more that I can say since the facts, though disputed, are already known. It’s time we left Carol in peace so she can get on with her life.’

Lawyer Tracey Emmott

Last Updated: 1st April 2016 01:53 pm brighton bluenose

I have never heard such self-serving nonsense as that from lawyer Tracey Emmott – but then again many lawyers regularly defend the indefensible so we should not be surprised I guess!

Last Updated: 1st April 2016 01:10 pm Grammar Boy

Sadly I cannot join the vigil as I no longer live anywhere near Chichester. Bishop Bell’s reputation was savaged unmercifully. The present Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop of Chichester should pray daily that the same fate does not befall them when they are dead.

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Jonathan Fletcher



23 Mar 2021

Cathy Newman Presenter

A former vicar who bullied and psychologically abused men and boys was protected by a church culture where he was “untouchable”.

That’s the finding of an independent review which found 27 victims of Reverend Jonathan Fletcher were failed by the Emmanuel Church in Wimbledon. The Metropolitan Police is gathering information about the allegations, including one involving a sex act.

One of the victims has agreed to waive his anonymity for an exclusive broadcast interview with Channel 4 News. Lee Furney says Jonathan Fletcher invited him to take part in massages. And he claims there are more victims of sexual abuse.

Further information

John Smyth

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A group has been established to seek to restore the reputation of Bishop George Bell.

The George Bell Group – which comprises lawyers, politicians and senior church members – wants to challenge ‘George Bell’s condemnation as a paedophile’ and has contacted the Archbishop of Canterbury.

In response, the Diocese of Chichester has reiterated its stance after it issued a statement saying that it had apologised and made a financial settlement last year to a victim of child sex abuse.

The George Bell Group said : ‘A surprised world learnt on October 22, 2015 that this much-admired wartime Bishop of Chichester had in 2015 apparently been found guilty, by Church authorities, of child sex abuse. As a result, his reputation has been irreparably damaged and schools and institutions dedicated to his memory have been renamed'”

The Right Revd George Bell was Chichester Bishop from 1929 until his death in 1958. His supporters have praised his humanitarian work during the Second World War. A spokesperson for the Diocese (who? – Ed) said that the current Bishop of Chichester Dr Martin Warner had already stressed ‘that we are all diminished by what has taken place concerning the case of Bishop George Bell.’ “We have nothing to add to what was said last October when news of the settlement with the survivor was made public.”

At that time, the Church said in a statement that it had paid civil damages following what it described as a ‘thorough pre-litigation process during which further investigations into the claim took place, including the commissioning of independent expert reports. None of those reports found any reason to doubt the veracity of the claim.’

In February, Dr Warner commented : “Words of apology written in a letter can never be enough to express the Church’s shame, or our recognition of damage done. However, the apology that I made on behalf of the Diocese of Chichester is genuine, and a sincere expression that lessons are being learnt about how we respond to accusations of abuse.”

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Dr Rowan Williams

Photo source: BBC Wales



University of Chichester, Bishop George Bell lecture

Saturday 4th October 2008

A lecture by the Archbishop of Canterbury given at the University of Chichester, 4 October 2008, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Bishop George Bell, Bishop of Chichester 1929—58.

The Archbishop answered questions at the end of the lecture – click here to go directly to the question & answer section, or read it at the end of the lecture.

A Church of the nation or a Church for the nation?  Bishop George Bell and the Church of England

In the first of a series of commemorative lectures earlier this year, Dr Andrew Chandler spoke with great insight about Bell as a man whose greatest commitments seem to have been doomed to failure. His steady belief in negotiation and arbitration in international conflict, his consistent refusal to allow that modern technological warfare might dispense with traditional moral boundaries – we could add too his passionate optimism about the possible convergence of the Christian faith with the artist’s imagination, and his lifelong devotion to ecumenism: all this surely represents a set of aspirations that now look to many people sadly unrealistic, overtaken by the onset not only of a Cold War but of a sort of ice age in corporate social vision or imagination.

My aim will not be to argue against this judgement, though Dr Anthony Harvey’s excellent tracing (in a later lecture this year) of the growth of some sort of organised moral and institutional awareness of the claims of international law might well be set in the balance against a superficial verdict of failure overall. It is rather to ask some questions about the motivation of such commitments as rooted in a particular sense of what the Church in general, and the Church of England in particular, might be. Bell was a politically active and experienced man, but not a pure politician; so we shouldn’t assume for a moment that practical failure would have made very much difference to what he thought worth working for. I want to suggest that his beliefs about the Church of England, as revealed in his actual priorities, offer an account of what might still be a reasonable ground for identifying the moral priorities of any Christian community, ice age or no ice age; and that therefore the celebration of Bell’s memory is by no means a wistful exercise.

I shall be focusing on two areas of Bell’s varied and tireless labours – his sponsorship of the arts in a Christian context and his interventions in public debate about the conduct of war. And what I hope to draw out is Bell’s acceptance of Christian witness as shaped by a twofold responsibility – responsibility to the culture in which the Christian community is located and responsibility for it. On the one hand, Christians are ‘answerable’ to the ambient culture in the sense that they are there not to dictate but to serve; the Church is not a body that arbitrarily sets the agenda for society at large, but seeks to discern what needs it must meet. It therefore has to develop a degree of attention to the culture in which it lives, if only so that it doesn’t find itself (as has often been said) answering questions that no-one is asking. On the other hand, with the Jewish prophetic tradition much in mind and the New Testament imagery of the believing community as salt, leaven and light, Christians are answerable to God for the integrity and justice of their society; they may not be setting an agenda but they are discerning what is destructive and warning against it – and the refusal to utter such a warning leaves the believer exposed to judgement.

The balance is a difficult one, and very few individuals or particular Churches get it right for long. Answerability to the culture can produce a lack of confidence within the Church in its own distinctive gifts, and at worst an uncritical reproduction of the culture’s attitudes with a faint pious gloss. Answerability for the culture can generate obsessional confrontation, something like paranoia about cultural and moral decline and a weddedness to the luxuries of a permanent minority position which allows criticism without practical engagement. What is impressive about Bell is not only his ability to hold the tension, with an apparent lack of self-consciousness that is remarkable, but also the way in which the two concerns appear in his biography as intricately interwoven. A supreme ‘insider’, in both ecclesiastical and social terms, Bell uses the rather ambivalent authority of his position both to serve and to re-shape his environment.

Bell and the Imagination of Society

Kenneth Pickering, in his delightful book, Drama in the Cathedral,[i] has chronicled the history of the plays performed in Canterbury Cathedral in the twenties and thirties of the twentieth century; and Bell’s role in prompting this history is fully acknowledged. It was he who, as Dean of Canterbury, invited John Masefield to write The Coming of Christ for performance in the Cathedral nave in 1928 and who commissioned music from Holst and designs from Ricketts for this historic event. Pickering stresses [ii] Bell’s refusal to censor Masefield’s text, despite the strong political meat contained in some of the shepherds’ speeches, where the experiences of the Great War and the General Strike are given pretty explicit voice: ‘Bell was prepared to face the consequences of the anti-war sentiments expressed in the play.’ [iii] And if we recall the coolness or even hostility towards the entire project from some in the Cathedral establishment in Canterbury and the lukewarmness of the Archbishop, it is clear that Bell’s distinctive but undramatic moral courage was already in evidence. For most modern readers, Masefield is an unadventurous poet, and quite a lot of the text of this particular drama does now sounds the flat and artificial note of the mere pageant; but it is important that the moments where something much more passionate and challenging is allowed to come through are among the parts that Bell most wanted to preserve.

In other words, Bell’s welcoming attitude to the arts of his day was not simply a matter of encouraging decorative uplift: Masefield, Holst and Ricketts were none of them at the time uncontroversial figures, or indeed conventionally religious ones (Charles Ricketts was a robust unbeliever, much amused by the invitation to design a nativity play in a cathedral.) If the history of the Canterbury plays now seems less exciting in terms of engagement with the more complex areas of modern literary development than seemed to be the case at the time, we should make due allowance for the advantages of hindsight. Bell’s personal taste was largely (not exclusively) conservative, but in comparison with most of his ecclesiastical contemporaries he was notably adventurous, and, above all, he was determined to allow artists themselves to set the standards of excellence and acceptability. In this alone, his stature is evident. The later evolution of the Canterbury plays, the involvement of Martin Browne, the recruitment of T S Eliot to the project and the formation in 1930 of the Religious Drama Society with Bell as President, all this is quite well-known. Although Bell left Canterbury in 1929, his personal imprint on this notable rediscovery of the possibilities of religious drama continued undiluted. Eliot could even dream of every cathedral having its own drama company, [iv] not as an aspect of ‘religious revival’ but as a way of the Church meeting people’s appetite for serious theatre. And Bell himself, as his approach to Masefield’s text suggests, looked to drama to address the major public issues of the day; in 1932, he enthusiastically supported a play on disarmament as setting an agenda for the Geneva Conference of that year.

In fact, the more one looks at Bell’s involvement with the religious drama revival, the more the connections with the rest of his concerns become clear. Being ‘answerable’ to the culture meant, in this context, something like ‘giving permission’ – as we’d now say – to the artist to raise issues, to give room for voices that might otherwise be suppressed. Answerability is not about giving a generic blessing to the culture and its corporate imagination, not even about trying to identify in it some encouraging echoes of Christian aspirations; it is helping the properly critical voice of art to find an audience. It is, we could say, serving the seriousness of society, not accepting its own account of what entertains or reassures it. Masefield’s Coming of Christ is, of course, a mediaeval pastiche, lapsing constantly into sententious poeticism; yet it was doing something quite fresh, and that freshness could not have been there without Bell. It was using the cathedral as a platform for public seriousness, not bound to but still grounded in the confession of faith.

The language of ‘seriousness’ may recall Philip Larkin’s famous ‘Churchgoing’ poem; but I think there is a difference between Larkin’s seriousness, essentially a mood of rather sombre individual reflection strongly connected with the remembrance of death, and the seriousness of an art that invites its culture to self-examination and a degree of shared productive discomfort. Bell clearly believed that if the Church was going to be responsive to the arts, it had to let them be what they would. In another of this year’s commemorative lectures, Christopher Frayling expertly dissected some of Bell’s assumptions about aesthetics and identified the residual presence of Ruskin and other Victorians (Bell was in so many ways very much a belated Victorian) in shaping what we are bound to see as an overoptimistic sense of convergence between creativity and faith. Indeed; yet his practice is, in this as in other areas, perhaps more complex and nuanced than his actual words. The world of the visual arts has been much disenchanted since Bell’s heyday, and Professor Frayling lays out authoritatively why re-enchantment is a long job, if it is possible at all. We have no common iconographical vocabulary, no symbols we all recognise even if we are doing new or subversive things with them. To imagine a simple convergence of visual art and theological understanding is fantasy. Yet, if my reading of Bell’s engagement with drama is right, there is a little more to be said: even in an artistic atmosphere dominated by individualism or abstract formalism, where the whole notion of a ‘commission’ from an institution like the Church is suspect, is it still true that art can work for public seriousness? And if so, is it still possible for the Church to assist in letting such voices be heard or images be seen?

I hope that by now it will be clear that what I’ve called answerability to the culture was not, for Bell, any kind of easy compliance: it was an attentive and sometimes risky strategy of seeking to give a hearing to those voices in the corporate imagination that were pushing the boundaries of what made obvious sense, that were moving beyond a simple consensus, whether of taste or of ethical sensitivity. It would have been relatively simple in 1928 for a religious drama to elide the painful realities of war and economic privation; Bell refused that simplicity and enabled at least some of the later Canterbury plays to address some of these same realities, and the related ethical knots of propaganda, complicity and raison d’état, the political rationalisation of violence, that surface in the most famous of all the Canterbury dramas – Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, in whose commissioning Bell had played a part. More generally, though, what is implied here about the Church overall is of great significance. Bell had written in 1930, in his Brief Sketch of the Church of England, [v] that a national church was one in which ‘everybody has an interest of some kind’; [vi] and on its own, this could have been the recipe for a bland and narrowly pastoral account of the Church’s service to the society around. Bell’s practice suggests, in contrast, that a national church is one which can help to orchestrate a fuller argument in and about society than might otherwise happen, partly by offering a platform for certain otherwise inaudible or unwelcome voices. Precisely in its careful attention to what is actually being said and imagined in the creative arts, it becomes more than a pious mirror for one or another kind of dominant discourse. It helps to sustain within the nation’s culture a critical distance from the practices of power.

Bell and the Morality of Society

Hence the interweaving of Bell’s involvement with art and culture and his advocacy for those without voice in the international as well as the national context. It was an advocacy conducted unashamedly within the geography of the English establishment; Bell was out to persuade national decision-makers to decide differently, and he acted accordingly, in the Lords, in the correspondence columns of the mainstream press and by navigating that complex delta of mingling private relationships and affinities that composed the governing class of the interwar years. He was not a grandstanding prophet, unconcerned with how national decisions are made; his extraordinary network of personal contacts across Europe, largely born out of his ecumenical labours, meant that too many situations in the Europe of the thirties were of direct personal concern for him ever to be content with generalities. He wanted to save particular lives, not only to secure better outcomes for large numbers.

And this meant creating routes into the establishment for those with no obvious leverage or access. It is eternally to his credit that he – unlike rather too many of his colleagues in the Church of England – recognised almost instantly the nature of the threat posed by the Third Reich to Christian and civilised tradition, and the scope of the much more crude and direct threat to the Jewish people. (Among the English bishops of the day, only the proverbially brave and independent Henson of Durham fully shared this clarity.) When the mixture of covert anti-Semitism and a presupposition in favour of order and the combat with Bolshevism had blinded even relatively liberal and compassionate public commentators and politicians in Britain, he seems to have had no doubts of where the demands of truth lay. And this clarity was evident not only in Britain but in the wider ecumenical scene. In April 1934, Bonhoeffer, still at that point a pastor in the German church in Sydenham, wrote to Bell, quoting a letter from a friend in Germany about the crisis in the church there: ‘in the present moment there depends everything, absolutely everything on the attitude of the Bishop of Chichester’.[vii] An extravagant testimony, but one that shows how completely Bell was relied upon as the voice of the European Christian conscience, through his position in the Council for Life and Work; as the most important force in animating solidarity for a persecuted Christian minority in Germany, convinced (not without reason) that Christians elsewhere had only the dimmest notion of what was at stake for them.

It was the start of a long and costly involvement for Bell in the protection of all the victims of the Third Reich – increasingly in his pressure for the British Government to act on behalf of Jewish refugees, in his practical support for famine relief in Europe in the early years of the war, and, in a different register, in his consistent opposition to the pattern bombing of German cities – recognising that German civilians too were victims of the Reich, hostages of the Reich, and that the indiscriminate slaughter of such people was to adopt some of the enemy’s own callousness towards their own people. But both before and during the Second World War, there is a consistency also in what Bell wanted for the nation to which he belonged. In pressing for a responsible and moral stance towards refugees and in condemning methods in warfare that compromised the claim to be fighting ‘justly’, he was reminding his fellow-countrymen that the nation is not an entity whose interests can be thought about in isolation from an ethic extending across national boundaries. What is good for the United Kingdom cannot be defined in abstraction from what is good for those who look to the United Kingdom for generosity and integrity. We cannot call ourselves good if we betray what others expect from us in the light of that claim. A moral society is one that is strong enough to expose itself to the judgement of others, to hold itself accountable to more than its own immediate interests. Significantly, it was a point that Bell was still making in the 1950s, when the presenting issue was economic justice for the poorer nations and continents.

So we could say that responsibility ‘for’ the nation was something to do with the belief that the nation needed itself to be reminded of its own responsibility, its answerability to what is expected of it in a global moral context. Like many another tormented patriot in the modern age, Bell attacked an immoral consensus in his own society not out of a lack of commitment to the nation and its interests but out of a depth of commitment to the ‘imagined nation’ evoked in the most serious (to use the word again) elements in that nation’s traditional self-descriptions. The question Bell puts is essentially one which all public moralists must sooner or later, in one form of words or another, articulate: ‘Do we as a society actually want what we say we want?’

A national church in which everybody has an interest: standing alone, that is a potentially complacent account of what Bell believed about the Established Church; but in the context of his actions, it’s a definition that provokes deeper questions. Bell acted as though the Church were in some sense the guardian of the ‘interests’ of the nation insofar as the nation was a morally coherent society. It is not so much that society at large looks after the interest of the Church, but that society recognises that in the absence of the Church its own interests are gravely compromised. That recognition requires the nation to believe that its interests are not served by automatic self-defensiveness; that its flourishing may be in its exemplifying better some of the elements that its national mythology prizes – legal equity, the welcome of strangers, the willingness to take risks for a wider good (as, for example, in the abolition of the slave trade). The analogy with the prophet in ancient Israel here acquires some force: here is a voice that recalls the community to its basic self-images and self-understandings – assuming that the national community does indeed have a ‘myth’ about itself rather than just a commitment to its collective self-interest.

So Bell’s twofold witness comes to be essentially about challenging the society in which he works as to whether it has any shared sense of its worth, of what it is that its social forms and practices communicate about its vision of human flourishing. For Bell, as, again, for any public moralist, what matters about this or that society is whether it has anything to say about what’s good, interesting, life-giving for human beings in general, not just for this society or nation in isolation. This is never to reduce the particularities of a nation to moral generalities, variations on a cultural Esperanto whose local expressions are of no substantive concern. And it is precisely at this point that the specifics of a local culture come into play – the history and heritage of creativity in a particular language and ethos. Part of the Church’s responsibility to and for the nation at large is discharged by its readiness to nurture and support voices of questioning within the culture, voices that themselves challenge a society about what it considers to be of worth and meaning. Certainly, we are in a situation where even the residual optimism of Bell about the possible convergence of artist and churchman (and yes, I do mean churchman in this context) is not available. Yet this doesn’t mean that the Church today is spared the task of approaching the art of its day ready to listen and discern, and to try and see where it speaks to and at the level of seriousness that will pose the necessary questions for society. Bell’s engagement with the arts, whatever its limitations in retrospect, was emphatically of a piece with his later challenges to the moral self-image of Britain in a darkening Europe and a destructive war.

Bell and the Church in Society

For Bell himself, this was all undoubtedly bound up with his understanding of what an established church should be doing. Yet at the same time as his perspectives on these matters were maturing so impressively, the Established Church was going through a crisis of unprecedented severity. The year before Bell became a bishop, Parliament had for the second time rejected the Revised Prayer Book. Bell himself is one of the most punctilious chroniclers of the crisis in his biography of Archbishop Davidson; and his critical friend and intermittent ally, Hensley Henson, had, as a result of the Prayer Book debacle, abandoned his commitment to establishment. Were Bell’s own convictions shaken? It seems not; in 1930 he joined a Commission on Church and State (along with William Temple) set up by the bishops, which was more or less designed to sidetrack any talk of disestablishment.[viii] But to understand exactly what was involved at this moment, we need to grasp that what the Prayer Book crisis did for some was not to precipitate them into the arms of the disestablishers but to reinforce a sense that establishment needed to be sharply distinguished from subjection to state authority. As Matthew Grimley notes in his excellent monograph, a deep division had opened up between those like Bell and Temple who valued establishment as a vehicle for the kind of critical moral debate we have been reflecting on, and those in both the Modernist and the Conservative Evangelical camps at the time who looked to the authority of the state to protect them from both superstition and ecclesiastical hierarchy.[ix]

The salient point is that, as Grimley puts it,[x] ‘Most Evangelicals and modernists denied that the Church had an inherent right, as an association or as a divine society, to settle its own doctrine.’ This was completely antithetical to what Bell believed. If the Evangelical/Modernist position were to be accepted, there would never really be grounds for the Church, as a body of people committed to a specific revelation, to question what the state determines about ‘the orientation of the religious life of the nation’ (the phrase comes from the Evangelical paper, the Record, in 1927). And this was, of course, to be the issue at the heart of the German Church Struggle; Bell could not have spoken or acted as he did in regard to Germany if he had not been clear about the principles and limits of establishment in England. The Modernists and Evangelicals of 1927/8 cannot, of course, be blamed for not foreseeing where the German situation would end up within a few years, and some made due amends; likewise, we should have to acknowledge that some of the most embarrassing examples of collusion with the Nazi-influenced German Christian programme came from British churchmen with a quite different background (Hoskyns and Headlam, for example). But the central issue of 1927/8 must have done something to shape Bell’s thinking, not least as it was the painful nemesis of his patron and lodestar, Archbishop Randall Davidson.[xi]

For an established church to do its work on Bell’s presuppositions, it has to be more than just an established church; it has to have a theology that guarantees a wider horizon than the national. This, of course, has a great deal to do with the perspective Bell acquired through the ecumenical movement, but it is not simply an appeal to an international instead of a national Christian consensus. Bell evidently believed that the Church has to be able to give an account of why it is there at all, as a community that is not simply identical with the political community, however deeply it sees the destiny and health of that community as linked with its own life. The Church has to be able to propound and defend a view of what is due to human beings as such that is independent of a merely local or national loyalty or even of an international ideological loyalty. In short, the Church exercises its responsibility to and for the nation and its culture precisely by being itself responsible to more than the nation and its culture. In other words, Bell’s twofold concern with the arts and the political morality of government illustrates not the virtues of a Church embedded in its cultural environment in the most obvious way, but the essential importance of both transnational and theologically grounded interests in its life. The Church is ‘serious’ because it is in some degree strange to its environment as well as committed to understand and serve that environment. And an openness to the life of the imagination is simply one way in which that strangeness can be refreshed and strengthened: the culture of a nation is not a matter of repetition and self-reinforcement but of that ‘continuity of conflict’ that Alasdair Macintyre has identified as central to the vitality of any tradition. The Church has no business being less strange and challenging than the best of the artistic life of its society.

A Church whose roots lie in the event of the Incarnation cannot be other than strange to its society. It embodies the conviction that the uncontainable creative energy that undergirds all reality is uniquely and uninterruptedly at work in a human life at a particular juncture in history, so that this human life communicates possibilities that human history left to itself could never generate. Among those possibilities, crucially, is the vision of an interdependent and universal human fellowship, living by mutual gift rather than mutual rivalry. And in any imaginable human situation, this will produce tensions with the specific loyalties and priorities that are assumed by fellow-citizens or kinsfolk. At a time when it is easy to be weighed down with anxiety about the degree to which we are satisfactorily adjusted to our cultural context, it does no harm to have a reminder that the ‘legitimacy’ of the Church is not based on the permission of a social authority: it answers to something other than the dominant structures of the day.

Yet, it is the same incarnational theology that reminds us that God has spoken in a particular dialect and a particular body, and not in generalities or abstract principles. The Church speaks the languages of its environment, and one of its most distinctive features – to pick up a point developed elsewhere[xii] – is that it assumes its Scriptures can and must be translated, over and over again. It is heavily invested in the deeper discovery of what is given to it in revelation through the encounter with new and diverse contexts. It may be strange, but it cannot be simply alien and incomprehensible; it is always seeking to understand itself in the endlessly varied exchanges of cultural life within and between societies.

What I have been arguing is simply that Bell instinctively understood this essential duality in the character of the Church (and in the character of a Christ described in the orthodox formulations as complete in both his unfathomable divinity and his familiar humanity). And if there is a vital role to be played these days by what is fashionably called ‘narrative theology’ (granted all the reservations and criticisms that may be made, criticisms brilliantly developed in Francesca Murphy’s recent book on the subject), we could reasonably say that telling Bell’s story is one way of elucidating what might have seemed abstract doctrinal statements about the nature of Christ and his Church. Stories that present the Church as struggling to hold the tension between the two responsibilities I sketched at the beginning of this lecture are an essential tool for maintaining the Church in a proper and critical self-awareness. Neglecting theology may be an attractive course for the practically-minded, but some at least of the narratives of the twentieth century present rather sharply the practically disastrous results of this, when the absence of a clear self-understanding on the part of the Church leads to an abrogation of responsibility. Laying out the narrative becomes part of the theological education we need – which is, once again, why remembering Bell is not an exercise in nostalgia.

He does not give us a simple answer to the conundrum of how to understand and work with the residue of establishment in England today; but in gently pushing us towards a recognition of the critical possibilities in this historical situation, he also reminds us that what there is of moral and spiritual substance in our legacy is not primarily about any power to direct and control the social process or about a guaranteed security for the privileges of a particular ecclesial organisation. It is something to do with the opportunities of engaging with some very tough and complex questions about how a society scrutinises itself in the light of what lies beyond its political fashions and immediate interests. And it will do that most honestly, of course, if it is itself ready to confront its own reality, its weaknesses and its gifts, with clarity.

Establishment can be the nurse of an over-ambitious sense of what ‘the Church’ means in society. In a very characteristic passage, the late Donald MacKinnon sets Bell’s descriptions of Archbishop Davidson at work alongside the contemporary struggles, the passionate quarrels and plottings of those who were forging a revolutionary future in Russia – Lenin and his friends and enemies. The conjunction is almost, but not quite, comical – not quite when you consider the scale and cost of what emerged from the latter. ‘No one,’ writes MacKinnon, ‘can read Bell’s great life of that most considerable of twentieth-century primates [Davidson], without being made aware that here was a man of great wisdom and unquestionable goodness, who saw his role in part at least as that of being the very effective instrument of an informed Christian presence at the heart and centre of British life in the very heyday of Britain’s imperial power’.[xiii] Yet where were the forces that in fact were moulding the greatest social changes of the world in the first decades of the last century? Not in the well-mannered corridors of power familiar to Davidson. Establishment, MacKinnon goes on, is defended because it ‘assures that a Christian voice is heard in the places where great decisions are made. But what places are these?’[xiv]

Bell’s dual sensitivity to art and politics constituted one factor which kept him from settling down with a merely conventional answer to that devastating question; one factor which made him in some ways a greater man than Davidson. If my reading of certain aspects of Bell’s life here has been at all accurate, he retained a rare capacity to see the Church’s responsibility as related to those whose voices did not find an easy hearing in the ‘heart and centre of British life’ as normally conceived, and to understand that the calling of an established church had something to do with this. An established church can only do what it is meant to if it is a great deal more than an established church; if it is coherently aware both of the larger global context in which its national society lives, and, above all, of the ultimate context of the Church’s existence in the initiative of the strange and transcendent God. Peter Ackroyd, in his biography of Eliot, describes a weekend in December 1930 at the Palace in Chichester where Eliot read ‘Ash Wednesday’ to a mixed group of guests, receiving a somewhat baffled reception. Ackroyd comments that Eliot’s ‘was not the kind of religion at home in bishops’ palaces’.[xv] You can see his point; but it is actually a slightly off-key observation about this particular bishop’s palace. Bell, rather like Temple, can give the impression of someone whose Anglican and Christian identity was fundamentally untroubled, despite the apocalyptic character of the events through which he lived; but, if my reading is correct, then, whatever Bell’s private state of feeling, he (more than Temple?) knew that cultural or political cosiness was a temptation to be strenuously resisted as the most insidious temptation for an ‘insider’ in the British establishment; and he knew that if the insider failed to use his patronage and leverage for the voices that the establishment as not eager to hear, then there was a serious moral issue about that established status. For that knowledge alone, Bell deserves to be heard and rediscovered by Anglicans and, no doubt, by other British Christians, generation by generation.

© Rowan Williams 2008

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Child abuse claims: why due process and a fair hearing matter

Michael White

Michael White

It is such processes that distinguish us from lynch mobs, be they in dusty Mississippi towns, dustier Iraqi ones – or on Twitter

Bishop George Bell
Bishop George Bell, who was described by Charles Moore as ‘nearest thing to a saint since Richard of Chichester’. Photograph: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Mon 8 Feb 2016 14.32 GMT

It looks as if the Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, is edging towards an apology to Field Marshall Lord Bramall, 92, over unfounded allegations of child sex abuse and that some kind of further apology is coming to the family of the late Leon Brittan. It’s too late to do him much good, as it is to former prime minister Edward Heath, also caught up by some wildly improbable allegations.

Monday’s report by senior Dorset police officer James Vaughan into the Met’s handling of the Brittan allegations shows how complicated such historical claims can be.

Vaughan’s report says detectives were “fully justified” in pursuing a “fairly compelling account” of rape in 1967 but only made to police in 2012, though procedural mistakes were made.

Newspapers that made hay with separate lurid claims of sexual abuse and worse, made by someone known as “Nick” and others, later switched sides, as their reporting of Vaughan confirms.

His report did not say Brittan would have been cleared, only that an acquittal was more likely than a conviction.

It’s worth noting in passing that Vaughan concluded that a key police officer in the Brittan case misunderstood the law on consent and it would have been reasonable to arrest the former cabinet minister, which nearly happened but didn’t. As so often, loose ends need tidying up.

But is (arguably) the most distinguished of all those accused, George Bell, bishop of Chichester (1929-58) – a saint by some reckonings – being quietly traduced by the Church of England to cover its own back?

I’ve made some inquiries but don’t claim to know the definitive answer. Others are furious in his defence. One of them, ex-Telegraph editor and formidable Thatcher biographer Charles Moore thinks Bell has been stitched up by the police and his church. This case is again bubbling up this week thanks to a scoop in the Brighton Argus – of which more later.

In reality, Moore wrote last month (paywall), Bell was Chichester’s “nearest thing to a saint since Richard of Chichester” – miracle-worker and patron saint of Sussex, who died in 1253. The issue has been scorching the pages of the church press – and here – since October, when Martin Warner, the current bishop, revealed that a pre-litigation sum of £15,000 compensation had been paid, and an apology made, to an unnamed victim of child abuse in the sepia tinted postwar years when society was more innocent than now.

Why should only rightwing pundits (Peter Hitchens is also on the case) and churchgoers be concerned? In January, the redoubtable cleric Giles Fraser weighed in in the Guardian. Fraser is agnostic about Bell’s guilt but says due process and the rights of a much-admired bishop to be defended have left the church asking to have too much taken on trust.

Due process and a fair hearing should matter to secular progressives as much as they do to both sides in the Julian Assange case and other legal controversies. But Bell should appeal to the left because he was a brave and early opponent of the Nazis (when the Daily Mail was still playing footsie), a friend and ally of the great and murdered Dietrich Bonhoeffer, of Gandhi and TS Eliot, a champion of refugees.

Perhaps most compelling of all, during the second world war Bell was a courageous critic of Allied bombing of German civilian targets. I’m not sure I’d have agreed with him but it took guts. It may also have cost him the archbishopric of Canterbury.

Was this the man who also did cruel and wicked things to a small girl in his care under the pretext of reading her a bedtime story a few years later? The question is hard to answer at 65 years’ distance. Human nature has a dark side, as Bell, who saw Hitlerism close up, knew better than most.

Here’s last week’s Brighton Argus’s scoop, an interview with the alleged victim, “Carol”, her life intact but marked by what she says happened.

Like Dorset copper Vaughan’s reading of the account of “Jane”, Brittan’s alleged rape victim, I found her story chilling and – on the face of it – persuasive. So was Argus reporter Joel Adams on Radio 4.

Others I have spoken to dismiss it. In his Telegraph column on Monday Charles Moore protests that those who knew and loved Bell, some still alive, have not been given a chance to defend him, that no lawyer was appointed to sift the evidential record of the time.

Warner is using Carol as “a human shield” to protect his own procedural failings, he argues.

On Sunday, Hitchens also returned to the fray, citing an admission by Paul Butler, the bishop of Durham, the No 3 man in C of E’s hierarchy and charged with supervising these cases. Butler said in the Lords (column 1,516, pdf) that Bell was “an astounding man” and that, after careful consideration, the church was not saying he actually did what he is alleged to have done.

“There has been no declaration that we are convinced that this took place. It’s about the balance of probabilities,” Butler told peers.

That’s quite a stroke and not how the “Bell guilty, admits church” headlines told it last October. Here’s Warner’s latest statement. My own inquiries shed light in both directions. Friends who know church politics and gossip very well tell me the diocese of Chichester has had an unsavoury reputation for sexual misconduct for decades, as demonstrated by the Peter Ball case. He was finally jailed last year at 83 despite friends in high places.

The issue was compounded by a geographical split in which posher West Sussex – around Chichester and its handsome 12th-century cathedral – is a centre of high church Anglo-Catholicism, whereas East Sussex was until recently the territory of south-coast evangelical Anglicans, some of whom are anti-women, anti-gay. It is not quite Shia and Sunni, but C of E’s culture wars have been nasty, and still are.

Given the shaming of the Catholic church worldwide and Anglicanism closer to home, given the uproar over paedophilia and establishment cover-ups (some bits real, others the fruit of malign or damaged imagination), it’s easy to see why Lambeth Palace seems to have prudently sacrificed the reputation of a long dead bishop under the leadership of Justin Welby.

It’s also disappointing. Those close to Rowan Williams, the last archbishop, are categorical that they have no record that a complaint against Bell reached Lambeth on his watch circa 2010. The buck passes. Meanwhile, local buildings and institutions named in honour of Bell are being renamed, no Cecil Rhodes reprieve for him.

Yet for justice to be done and seen to be done, process matters. Bell may or may not be guilty. But quasi saints do not come along very often and the comments of those who have affected his reputation need to be examined.

Process matters, the right to a proper police investigation and legal defence matters for the guilty as much as the innocent. It is that responsibility which distinguishes us from lynch mobs, be they in dusty Mississippi towns, dustier Iraqi ones – or on Twitter.

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The Church Of England Should Stand Up For Bishop Bell

Comment Jack O’Grady

A short biography of George Bell, who had been Bishop of Chichester for 27 years when he died in 1958, begins by acknowledging a recurring pattern regarding the reputation of notable people. It points out that after such people die, their reputations are often reshaped and defamed by harsh criticism not voiced during their lifetimes – but that the Bishop had managed to be an exception to this rule.

This claim, published in 1971, would no longer be written today. Whilst the memory of George Bell has been cherished over the past 60 years due to his significant support of the Protestant opposition to Hitler, his work in bringing over many non-Aryan refugees from Germany and his emphatic opposition to the bombing of civilians during the Second World War, Bell’s reputation is now at risk of being utterly decimated. A complaint made to the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2013 accused Bell of having committed grotesque acts of child abuse in the 1940s and 50s. In response, the Church apologised and paid the accuser £16,800 in compensation. Various memorials, such as one proclaiming him a ‘champion of the oppressed’ in Chichester Cathedral, faced removal. An Eastbourne school, formerly known as the Bishop Bell Church of England School, has changed its name altogether.

Most would agree that this sort of action would be justified in the face of conclusive evidence against Bell. But it has since transpired that the church acted far too hastily. Following their acceptance of the abuse claims, a robust movement was sparked to defend Bell’s reputation, involving major journalists such as Charles Moore and Peter Hitchens. The Church then initiated an independent inquiry, led by Lord Carlile (one of the country’s top legal experts), which concluded that they had “rushed to judgement” and that the damage to Bell’s reputation was “just wrong”. Lord Carlile even went so far as to say that had he been prosecuting a case against Bell in court, Bell would have won. Nevertheless, this report was withheld by the Church for two months. After its eventual release, Justin Welby insisted that a “significant cloud” still hangs over Bell’s name in spite of Lord Carlile’s conclusions.

We should be equally concerned for protecting Bell’s reputation against false accusations as we are for spoiling his reputation over true accusations

This strange outcome highlights an element of mystery that has surrounded the Bell case. The initial claim against Bell was anonymous and the church revealed no details about the accusation when making their apology. As mentioned, it took two months for the Church to release the Carlile report after having received it. Once it was released, Justin Welby did not follow the logical implications of the report, but refused to retract his statements because of a vague belief in a “cloud”. On the 31st January, the enigmatic plot thickened when the Church announced that a further anonymous and unspecified accusation had been made and was being investigated. Some felt the timing of this was suspicious, given that a motion to debate the restoration of Bell’s reputation was due to be voted on at the Church’s General Synod the following week. Lord Carlile, who knew nothing of this accusation during his investigation, described the announcement as ‘unwise, unnecessary and foolish’. At the very least, we can all recognise the strange and stark asymmetry between the previous withholding of the completed Carlile investigation report and the eagerness of the recent announcement of an incomplete investigation. Things got worse when it emerged that the Church of England had refused to allow Mrs Barbara Whitley, Bell’s 93-year-old niece, to have the lawyer of her choice represent her side in the proceedings – instead choosing on her behalf someone who is neither a lawyer nor known to Mrs Whitley.

At this point, while many will sympathise with the active supporters of George Bell, which now includes leading groups of historians, theologians and church leaders who have written public letters asking for Welby to retract his statement, others feel a sense of unease. After all, it is of course possible that the accusations are true. Justin Welby, in a recent interview with the Church Times, said that the alleged victims should be “treated equally importantly” as the reputation of George Bell. Some would say this does not go far enough: surely we must be more concerned for the alleged victims, who are still living, over the reputation of someone who died 60 years ago?

The general nervousness of the Church of England’s handling of the Bell case must be related to the fact that the Church currently faces over 3,000 complaints of sexual abuse

Perhaps a better way of framing this would be to say that we should be equally concerned for protecting Bell’s reputation against false accusations as we are for spoiling his reputation over true accusations. The trouble is that most people have an instinctive tendency to find the latter much easier than the former. When the Church of England apologised and paid the first alleged victim in 2015, The Guardian ran the story with the headline “Church of England Bishop George Bell abused young child”. At that stage, nothing was known about the identity of the accuser nor the accusations, and yet headlines announced the claims as fact. Once the Carlile report was made public, it would have been no less factual to run the headline ‘George Bell declared innocent of abuse claims’, yet nobody did so. In fact, most would consider this overstepping the mark.

The general nervousness of the Church of England’s handling of the Bell case must be related to the fact that the Church currently faces over 3,000 complaints of sexual abuse (including both long-standing and recent accusations). Other high-profile cases of clergy committing child abuse, such as that of former bishop Peter Ball, have highlighted the shocking failures of senior clerics to listen to victims and pass allegations on to the police. Taking into consideration the sharp spike in awareness of the prevalence of sexual abuse in society more broadly, following Weinstein, Larry Nassar and the #MeToo movement, it is not hard to imagine why the Archbishop of Canterbury would not want to stick his head above the parapet and defend the innocence of an archetypal establishment figure: a dead, white, male clergyman.

Courage, after all, comes at a cost. George Bell discovered this himself when his opposition to the bombing of innocent civilians during the Second World War put him on the wrong side of Winston Churchill, probably the main reason why he was never appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. In the absence of substantial evidence in support of the accusations against him, Bell’s reputation deserves to be defended. This is not only in the interest of truth, but also in the interest of maintaining a legacy of courageous leadership which is desperately needed among Bell’s clerical successors today.


“Very regrettable to see this statement from the Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, who lambasts Bishop Bell’s defenders and accuses them of adding to the suffering of the accuser and her family. This is little more than an attempt by Bishop Warner to use the accuser and her family as human shields in this affair. Sad and wrong. Bell’s defenders are motivated only by a desire for due process and a fair hearing. Bishop Warner should respect that”

~ Justice for Bishop George Bell – March 27 2016

It’s A Sin: The Myth of Homogeneity

Posted on March 27, 2021 by Jayne Ozanne

by Father Richard Peers, Sub Dean of Christ Church, Oxford

Extract from: Final Report – Independent Lessons Learned Review for Emmanuel Church Wimbledon (March 2021)

“Theme 17: Homogeneity

The Review illustrated that one of the biggest difficulties in identifying and disclosing the behaviours was the myth of homogeneity. The Review evidenced that a person who possesses positive characteristics and is widely highly-regarded could nonetheless display entirely inappropriate, abusive and harmful behaviours which render them ‘unfit for their office’.

Furthermore, those who wish to disclose abuse or harmful behaviours can be caused to question their experience and reality where the predominant narrative outlines the positive traits of an individual. When this is combined with a narrative of protecting the gospel above all else then this becomes a powerful barrier to disclosing abuse or harmful behaviour.”

It was in 1987 that the Pet Shop Boys released their single It’s A Sin which provided the title, and elements of the soundtrack, for the recent Russell T Davies mini-series on gay life in the 80’s. Whether it was 1987 or a little bit later my strongest memory of dancing to this iconic song was on a Sunday night (gay night) at The Academy in Boscombe, just outside of Bournemouth. It was an exhilarating time for me. I had met and was with that night, the love of my life, a housemate was performing on stage with a live snake (don’t ask). Like the housemates in the recent TV series it seemed that there was nothing that could poison our sheer delight at life. 

Three decades later watching It’s A Sin touched many unexpected raw nerves for me and I am not embarrassed to say I wept watching it. 

During lockdown I have done a fair bit of online teaching in the form of seminars for various groups including ordinands at Ripon College Cuddesdon and Cranmer Hall in Durham on the Sacrament of Reconciliation, better known as Confession. I have heard a fair number of confessions in the last 20 years or so. One of the key tasks of a confessor, it seems to me, is to help the penitent identify what is and what is not sin. Many people come to the sacrament filled with shame, self-loathing or in need of healing. 

We live in a society in which the language of Christianity is tired and worn; it is hard for people to understand. Sin is a key concept that is much misunderstood. Yet the older I get the more important I think sin is. The more I believe in its reality. We all know that when anyone says “Human beings are divided into …” some trite simplism is going to be uttered. If only it was so easy.

The older I get the more aware of my own sin I become. I am a deeply flawed human being. If that sounds like I am beating myself up. I’m not. 

The older I get the more aware I am that we are all sinners. We are all capable of deeply flawed behaviour. My favourite image for sin (not sure who invented this, perhaps it was me) is a bicycle on which the front wheel is slightly askew. We human beings just can’t cycle straight. We need to constantly adjust for the reality of our askew-ness (sin). That’s mostly what the Christian life is about.

At the top of this piece there is an extract from the investigation into abuse at Emmanuel Church Wimbledon by Jonathan Fletcher. For me it is the most important passage in a very important report. The review highlights how a combination of fear and putting people on pedestals made it impossible for victims to report abuse. It also calls for a wider understanding of vulnerability in situations where individuals wield considerable charismatic and institutional power. These are all important lessons to learn. But it is this myth of homogeneity that is, I think, the most important lesson and the most difficult for us to hold on to.

The American pastor and writer Brian McClaren talks and writes about :

“Confirmation Bias: the human brain welcomes information that confirms what it already thinks and resists information that disturbs or contradicts what it already thinks.”


Complexity Bias: the human brain prefers a simple lie to a complex truth.”

It is easy to believe that there are good guys and bad guys. The truth is almost always more complex.

A friend of mine was one of the young men who formed part of the residential community associated with the serial abuser Bishop Peter Ball. It was a transformative and wonderful time for him, all blessing. Another friend spent much of her life as part of l’Arche communities. She is the leader she is now because of that experience. She has spent the last year grieving the revelations about Jean Vanier.

What can we learn from this? Nothing simple.

I can’t write a line, or come up with a phrase that explains this.  All I can do is offer the Christian faith. St Paul is often mocked for the complexity of his writing; his endless and sometimes seemingly incomprehensible sentences. But he was on to something. Perhaps no one has understood sin better. We human beings are all sinners. There are certain characteristics that we associate with something we call ‘holiness’. I am deeply sceptical of them.  

When we pray the penitential material in our worship and in Scripture it is not a reason to beat ourselves up. It is a reminder that every human being is a sinner. I am with St Augustine, and the Pet Shop Boys: It’s A Sin. I find the constant repetition of the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner” to be tremendously liberating. This is who I am. This is who everybody is. As I say to people when they begin the journey of Spiritual Direction with me: there are no gurus.

As we move into Holy Week there are simple questions we can ask. Why do we need Jesus? What do we need saving from? And the simple answer is: ourselves. As Walt Whitman put it “I contain multitudes”, and some of them are not very nice.

1 Response to It’s A Sin: The Myth of Homogeneity

  1. Richard Moy says: March 27, 2021 at 8:40 am “The older I get the more aware of my own sin I become. I am a deeply flawed human being. If that sounds like I am beating myself up. I’m not. The older I get the more aware I am that we are all sinners. We are all capable of deeply flawed behaviour. My favourite image for sin (not sure who invented this, perhaps it was me) is a bicycle on which the front wheel is slightly askew. We human beings just can’t cycle straight. We need to constantly adjust for the reality of our askew-ness (sin). That’s mostly what the Christian life is about.” Thank you Fr Richard for sharing today… Paul seems to have taken a similar journey… ending up with a depth of understanding as being ‘the chief of sinners’. Was struck last week that Jesus promised a Holy Spirit who would convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgement…. if we’re not being convicted, it may not be the HS (or therefore Jesus) we are really meeting…

The Patronage Legacy of Jonathan Fletcher – Surviving Church


It’s very hard to have to say this. But here goes. The con evo constituency has given itself permission to do as it pleases. No one has stood up to it. The group is now out of control because the rest of the Church has simply allowed this to happen. Con evo clergy should repent of their attitudes of arrogance, entitlement and control.

The wider Church has soft and hard levers which must now be used to bring the group to heel. For example, bishops need not license clergy unless they’ve been satisfied that the parish’s ministry is being fully conducted in good faith with the wider Church. All CofE clergy should act in accordance with, and genuinely in the spirit of, the ordination declarations and oaths of canonical obedience that they have taken, the Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of Clergy and – for what should be obvious reasons – the Nolan Principles.

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Revd Canon Dr Emma Percy: Queer Eye for a Fearful Church

During the long months of lockdown due to the Covid 19 pandemic I was encouraged by my sons to watch Queer Eye on Netflix. I became hooked. When I felt overwhelmed with the uncertainties of the world on an international and personal level I would stick on an episode and be moved by the sheer warmth and kindness. For those who have no idea what I am talking about; Queer Eye is a make-over programme. Individuals whose lives have got stuck for some reason are nominated by a friend or family member to welcome the Fab Five into their life for a week. The five are men with expertise in grooming, clothes, design, food and wellbeing. They are all gay. This seems to give them a freedom to offer new perspectives. The result is life changing. 

We meet individuals who are stuck for different reasons. Sometimes they are so fixated on helping others they do not know how to look after themselves. Sometimes they are stuck in a time warp unable to let go of the past and live confidently in the present. They still dress in the clothes of a college student or with the haircut they had in their twenties. Often there is fear, either in the past or the future. Fear of rejection, fear of not being good enough, fear that if they stop for a minute everything will fall apart, fear of loss and grief. 

Some of these fears arise out of genuine experiences of rejection or failure or loss. Others are projections shaped by inadequate self-esteem or patterns of upbringing that suggested any focus on the self was selfish. We see how often fear can paralyse people or leave them trying to hang on to an idea of themselves which is long out of date. We see how fear can cause them to reject help from the people who love and care for them believing that any kind of dependency is weakness. We often see an inability to recognise their own worth.

What moves me in this programme is that these fears are met with compassion and kindness. There are no glib suggestions that life’s injustices can be easily overcome. Learning to know who you are and to find a sense of confidence in your inherent worth as a person is remarkably transformational. Moreover, the Fab Five are what we might call in pastoral theology wounded healers. These men have faced their own fears. Their queerness, and for two of them their skin colour, has been lived out in a world that still has so many fears about people who are different. As they talk they share small moments of their own stories. We catch glimpses of painful rejection from families, of bullying at school, of tough times.  We also get insights into the good relationships, the positive ways they have embraced who they are. We see how harsh religious judgements have caused deep wounds with one of the five finding it hard to even step inside a church building. Yet, despite this he designs and completes a wonderful meeting space for a church.

These men clearly understand what it has meant in their own lives to be met with compassion and kindness and they are able to express kindness and delight in those they meet. They show the value of relationships, of finding your family even if your own family don’t want you. They tell people that they are worth it, not in a self-indulgent way, but in a genuine valuing of our shared humanity. They also spread joy. This is a generous programme. They give and they do so trying to understand the person in front of them. They give to enhance and help. They give so that giving may be shared and relationships built up. They rejoice so that people can learn to share joy. I know of course that it is TV and it is carefully and skilfully edited but that cannot take away from the sheer humanity and kindness on display.

So, why am I writing about this programme in an essay about the fearful church? Principally because I believe the institutional church is stuck in many ways and is reaching for unhelpful ways of trying to move forward.

The statistics of attendance are on a clear downward slant. The age profile of those who go to church is heavily stacked towards the older end. Although a percentage of younger people will experience Christian worship as part of their education it is far fewer than when I was in school back in the 1970’s. Smaller congregations also means smaller offerings and financial decline is a real concern especially after the pandemic. 

The loss of commitment to organised religion coupled with the increase of a pick and mix spirituality is deeply confusing to a Church that often does not understand the people it seeks to serve. Although the church still has a public voice it is finding that its views are less likely to be asked for or listened to. Increasingly, the internal church debates are both of little interest to the wider society and on some subjects, deeply alienating. Thus the church is facing a loss of power and influence alongside a strong sense of being misunderstood. The fears are genuine and manifold. The future is uncertain. 

As this is the church we need to add to these genuine fears of decline the fear that we are letting down God. This is a fear that we often find hard to articulate. It is also the fear that makes us blame each other. So for some wings of the church we are letting God down by giving in to societal shifts in terms of women, sexuality and marriage. If only we were clearer about our counter cultural stand God would send the spirit and all would be well.  For others, myself included, the criticism is that we have not moved with changing understandings about women, sexuality, science and so much more. If we could really spread the good news of God’s love for all people things would be different.  

We blame each other for failing as evangelists.  We do not pray enough in the right way, (of course there are different opinions of what that would look like). We neglect the sacraments or the word of God or the service of the poor or proper theology. We bicker amongst ourselves and at times we more than bicker, drawing lines between proper Christians and those who for whatever reason do not fit. We fear rejection from each other and many fear displeasure and at worst rejection from God. All of us can be guilty of nostalgia. Like some of the individuals encountered in Queer Eye, we metaphorically dress as if we were our younger selves and wonder why people, including ourselves, find us unattractive.

We struggle to face these fears.  Often attempts to make the church more modern – business-like, more growth orientated and more branded –  lack kindness towards the very people who make up the church. Clergy and committed laity are overstretched and under-appreciated. There is a constant busyness; attempting to  control the decline and re-establish a sense of who we are. One writer suggests, ‘our busyness, strangely enough may constitute its own version of laziness (JBE p 82) – a failure to actually face the realities and the serious work needed to address the underlying issues. There is a nostalgia for church as it was, a distress that all the hard work fails to make a serious difference and a longing for how it might be. This can end up exacerbating our collective lack of self-esteem and damages our internal relationships. We cannot hide from these fears or try to return to a former age, however much we may want to. 

Alongside the realities of decline we  have to face up to the proper shame for past failures. The shame of failing to stop serial abusers from preying on children and young people. The shame of racism and classicism. The fact that so many congregations made good Christian immigrants unwelcome because they were black. The still unprocessed misogyny which led to such a begrudging acceptance of women in the ministry of the church and a continuing undervaluing of the work of so many lay women. The shame is acknowledged but not properly addressed so it continues to undermine our sense of who the church should be. We try to counter the shame by officiously practicing safeguarding and talking about diversity, by pointing to changes made and saying we are sorry. 

Much of this is good and necessary. Yet, a failure to really listen to those who the church has hurt means we have simply added levels of policies without culture change. Some of these have established unkind disciplinary processes that in too many incidences do not recognise gospel principles of compassion, forgiveness and human dependency. We seek to manage risk as if human relationships do not involve vulnerability and openness. There is still a sense that reputation management for the institution is prioritised in a desperate hope that we will not be shamed again. We need to honestly confront the self-understanding of the institutional church that meant certain types of people were trusted despite many warnings about their behaviour and other types of people mistrusted for not being like us.

Where are the wounded healers that might be able to help the church face these fears? Who can be the metaphorical Fab five who can kindly speak truth and give gifts that can help us move forward with a sense of integrity into our uncertain future? I believe we need to hear from those people who have known and experienced ‘othering’ by the church, who carry the wounding of that experience. Amazingly, there are plenty who, despite the rejections, the sexism, racism and homophobia they have experienced from the Institutional church, have found a secure place in God’s love and an articulate faith of inclusion. These folk, and I include myself, stay in our damaged and at some times, damaging church because we recognise that this is our family.  

Having faced the fears of rejection and marginalisation there can be a new confidence in a richer vision of both God and humanity. Some have written what we call standpoint theologies; looking at Christianity and the institution of the church from different perspectives. We need to learn from these about the blind spots and narrow visions that are part of the Church’s past and present, so that we can acknowledge past shames and imagine possible futures. These should not be special interest, alternate, theologies but welcomed as the necessary correctives to heal the fearful church.

As a woman growing up within the church it has taken so long to find genuine confidence in my full humanity before God. I have grown through feminist language in prayer and reflection, theology that speaks to my lived experience, the visible presence of women in places of power within the organisation. These changes matter, but they have been so slow and so begrudging. How transformational it would be if a patriarchal church could truly acknowledge and repent of the ways women have been at best taken for granted and at worst oppressed and abused. How different if feminist and womanist theologies were read by all.

Imagine how enriching it would be to be part of a church that can talk confidently about sex and gender differences and how these can help us understand God and humanity more fully. How exciting it would be to be in a church that rejoiced in the gifts women bring and acknowledge how much of the day to day service of the church they have carried. Yet, the fearful church wants to cling on to patriarchal privileges, to welcome women into the club as long as they don’t question too many of the rules and rituals. It is not able to see how alienating this stance is to a world in which more and more women are embracing their full humanity. 

The long history of othering women is connected to fears about sexual desire. This of course connects to the deep fears within the church about homosexuality. The church has taught men and women to be ashamed of their sexual desires. People have been rewarded for secretiveness, for a denial of self that is deeply damaging. Fear of exposure, fear of rejection and internalised shame is a deeply damaging wound that the church has inflicted on individuals and on its own body. Queer theology has insights to offer about embracing difference, challenging stereotypical views of masculinity and femininity, questioning our current idolising of the nuclear family. 

We have seen how gay and lesbian couples have things to teach all of us about what marriage means and yet the Church of England has rejected that gift suggesting that it should not be blessed.  What would a church look like that was not afraid of human sexuality? How freeing it would be to be part of a church that celebrated all marriages. What can we learn about God and humanity from listening to the wisdom of those who despite all the efforts to shame them have found that in God’s eyes they are good and gloriously made? The fearful church is terrified of acknowledging that differences in sexuality have always been part of human diversity, clinging to the need to shame others there is a failure to see how shocking and unkind this looks to so many in and beyond the church.

The church seems to feel more comfortable in publicly expressing its failures in welcoming in people of different skin colour. In the Church of England there has been a recent acknowledgement of the disgraceful treatment of the Windrush generation; the men and women from Caribbean commonwealth countries invited to come to work in the UK during the post war years.  They arrived in the ‘mother country’, many as faithful Anglicans only to find that they were not white enough to be welcome in the Church of England. 

Yet, it is possible to express sorrow for these failings without addressing the roots of the problem. It seems easier to look at a moment in the recent past than to address the long and complex history of colonialism and slavery. There are Christians across the world who have stories to tell us shaped by their perspectives on colonialism and racism. The Black lives matter movement is another wake up call to say look at the world from where we stand. There is a rich and diverse theology; Latin American, Indian, African and black theologies written by those who have grown up with racism and the legacy of colonialism, all of which can and should challenge the white normativity of so much of our church thinking. We need to listen and learn.

Understanding and repenting of the colonial past that has shaped the church and still shapes so many ways our culture works, is a hard task. On a trip to India a few years ago I was shocked to see the white Christ-child with his white mother in the crib of an Indian church that traced its roots back to the Apostle Thomas.  Yet, this is just a simple example of the colonial legacy of a white church. For those, including myself, who as white western Christians have grown up with a history and imagery of the church which privileges our story there is a need for a reimagining of God, the church and humanity.  What would it mean for the church to really accept that Jesus wasn’t white? 

There is more. We need to encourage the theological perspectives of those differently able, those who do not fit the inherent class system of the church. Though the institutional church claims to want this there is immense fear of change. Above all there is a fear that diversity will mean an erosion of power for those who have held power as of right. This fear needs to be corrected by our gospel vision of mutuality and genuine interdependence. And there needs to be a proper recognition that this change should be uncomfortable for many of us. There is genuine anger to be heard and carelessness to be acknowledged. Yet, there is also hope. If we can start to allow the stories of others to change our understanding, we may find that in really listening to these voices we expand rather than contract. 

In Philips and Taylors book On Kindness they quote Donald Winnicott, ‘a sign of health in the mind is the ability of one individual to enter imaginatively and accurately into the thoughts and feelings hopes and fears of another person; also to allow the other person to do the same to us.’ They acknowledge that this is not without tension. ‘It is kind to be able to bear conflict, in oneself and others; it is kind to oneself and other, to forego magic and sentimentality for reality. It is kind to see individuals as they are, rather than how we might want them to be; it is kind to care for people just as we find them.’(p.96) We need this kind of kindness. The generosity of those who have been hurt by the church is seen in their willingness to compassionately speak truths, to offer new perspectives, to unblock channels of fear. Can we find the grace to really listen?

The Fab Five in Queer Eye regularly commend those they meet for their willingness to be open, to try the different clothes and new foods, to let go of damaging past narratives and embrace new perspectives. I nominate the fearful church for a make-over. We need help. Can we listen to compassionate critique from the standpoints of those whose voices have too often been deliberately excluded? We need the encouragement to step out of our comfort zone and learn from different experts. In a modern world which is, albeit hesitantly, trying to talk differently about gender, sexuality, ethnicity, the colonial past and the diverse future, the church needs to find the courage and humility to listen. When it has truly learned to listen it may find that despite all the signs to the contrary it does have something useful to say. We may find that our vision of God is enlarged and our capacity to share God’s reconciling love with the world becomes more authentic. We might become kinder and understand more deeply the joy of our faith. We may then be surprised to find that after our makeover others may then find us more attractive. 

Emma Percy.

Revd Canon Dr Emma Percy is Chaplain of Trinity College Oxford and Chair of WATCH (women and the church). She is one of the first generation of women ordained priest in the Church of England in 1994. She is a feminist practical theologian and has long been an advocate for an inclusive church. She is the author of Mothering as a Metaphor for Ministry (Routledge 2014) and What Clergy do when it looks like nothing (SPCK 2014) as well as a number of book chapters and journal articles.


“The Church, for me, is a place of hurt, judgement and pain”

Member of the QE Team

“The Church is quick to try to fix things without owning the damage that was done”

Pastor Noah – Evangelical Lutheran Church of Atonement, Philadelphia

“Owning our story is the bravest thing we’ll ever do”

Brene Brown

“I keep running a negative script about myself”

Pastor Noah

You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him to find it within himself

Galileo Galileo



The title of this blog is taken from Psalm 55. The writer laments the way he has been betrayed not by his enemies and the people he might expect to let him down, but instead by ‘mine own familiar friend’, with whom he ‘took sweet counsel together and walked in the house of God as friends.” He goes on:

The words of his mouth were softer than butter, having war in his heart:
His words were smoother than oil, and yet be they very swords
Ps 55:22 

That is what Jonathan Fletcher was.

But I associate the smoothness with David Fletcher too. He too knew how to use the tools of effortless public-school pressurising. He inherited from EJH Nash and then built up the whole edifice of Iwerne and its spiritual style. He sustained and promoted a structure inside which Jonathan Fletcher and John Smyth operated their horrendous regimes. What did David Fletcher know about what his brother was doing? I was only tangentially connected with the whole thing, and yet I knew about Jonathan Fletcher. The denials of sexual motive rang totally hollow to me. I knew that people were in thrall to him. I did not know quite how bad things were. But if I knew what I knew, then I simply can’t believe that people who were a lot more closely connected with Fletcher didn’t know too, and a lot more besides.

It is too early to pretend that lessons can be learned, when all the people who upheld the culture that shielded Smyth and Fletcher are still in post. They have been asked to consider their positions, but there is no sign that any of them think they should step down. They should. I am an outsider to it all, but I have some admiration for the evangelicals who want to see a very different culture. It would be some consolation for the victims of so much abuse by Smyth and Fletcher if the senior and shadowy figures in that whole milieu stepped aside for something new to grow…..

When I was in training in Cambridge, I was attached to St Barnabas Church, whose vicar at the time was Dennis Lennon. Dennis was a Londoner, who had played in the ruins of the blitzed city in his childhood, and who definitely did not go to the right kind of school. He had been a missionary in the Philippines and was then ordained in the Church of England. He was also the most brilliant and thoughtful expository preacher. He was a man without affect, straight-forward, kindly, encouraging, and I owe him a huge amount. I well remember the service he took with his surplice on back to front, looking like he had lost his hands – when questioned afterwards, he showed the wine stain on the front – “I didn’t have time to get Sonja [his very kind Swiss wife] to wash it”. He died some years ago, and I remember him with great thankfulness very often.

Besides being a low church evangelical, Dennis was an intellectual. He read very widely, and his sermons might be peppered with quotations from some obscure Polish poet, or Dostoyevsky or sociological writings or almost anything else. And he really wrestled with the text he was preaching on.

So I was formed by this approach, and the conference that Jonathan Fletcher led seemed shallow and formulaic by comparison.

~ Jeremy Pemberton




The Revd Chris Butt writes:

THE Revd Dennis Lennon, who died on 4 May, aged 75, was ordained in 1974, aged 42. Given that he served in three dioceses — for nine years in Ely, and seven in both Edinburgh and Sheffield — he had a remarkable impact on the communities in which he served.

Born in 1932, he grew up in Fulham, where he developed a taste for leadership as the gang leader of a group of boys, who would play in and around the bomb sites near his home. But the most significant event of his childhood years was the realisation of Christ’s love for him, through his involvement in a Covenanter group.

After training in precision engineering, and national service in Malaya, Dennis returned to the Far East and to Thailand, serving with the Overseas Missionary Fellowship as an evangelist, but also using his engineering skills, on one occasion to build an operating-theatre lamp with an electric torch.

He married Sonja, a Swiss nurse, also serving with OMF, in Thailand, and both their children, Claire and Patrick, were born there. Dennis had a flair for languages, and became fluent in both Thai and Malay. After seven years in Thailand, the family returned to the UK, where Dennis served as Youth Director of OMF for a further five years, before attending theological college at Oak Hill.

A curacy at the Round Church (Holy Sepulchre) in Cambridge, where he developed a ministry to the many young families, was followed by an appointment as Vicar of St Barnabas’s on the then less-than-fashionable Mill Road. The church was very run down, attended by a handful of people and threatened with closure, but within a few years it was buzzing with life.

The executive director of the Bible Society’s programme for England and Wales, Ann Holt, spoke (Back Page Interview, 31 August) about the influences of people on her, and, alongside Lesslie Newbigin, she mentioned “the sermons of Dennis Lennon. He was a brilliant wordsmith, and the first person to make me think seriously about spiritual discernment.”

Preaching was undoubtedly his greatest gift. An Evangelical at heart, he had none of the predictability of Evangelical preachers. He drew his inspiration primarily from scripture, but also fed his mind and imagination from the writings of Barth, Torrance, Farrer, and von Balthasar, among the theologians, and Herbert, Donne, Emily Dickinson, Ted Hughes, and O’Siadhail among the poets.

He would later, in retirement, write a book on George Herbert’s sonnet “Prayer”, Turning the Diamond, published by SPCK. He also had a wonderful sense of kairos, God’s opportune time, and really launched the Cambridge churches’ ministry to the many international students, which is such a feature of life in many of the city’s churches today.

In 1979, he launched the Kairos Trust, supporting a full-time worker in this ministry. Nearly 30 years on, several people are supported by the trust, and it has a remarkable ministry to students from all over the world.

From Cambridge, he was invited in 1983 to go to Edinburgh, as Rector of St Thomas’s, Corstorphine, which he described at the time as a church “all dressed up, with nowhere to go” — recognition that it had enormous, but as yet unrealised, potential.

At that time, the church was recognisably an Evangelical “flagship” in the mould of many that could be found in the cities and large towns of England — eclectic in its catchment, conservative in its theology and patterns of worship, more at home with churches of like mould (mostly south of the border) than with the diocese of which it was a part.

From this large congregation (and before church-planting became fashionable), with the blessing of Bishop Richard Holloway, who was hugely supportive of Dennis’s ministry, 70 members of the congregation at St Thomas’s moved to St Paul and St George’s, a church in the heart of Edinburgh which was threatened with closure.

This church now has a congregation of 700, who are embarking on a £5-million renewal and renovation project of the building, and look back with great gratitude to Dennis’s ministry. A second church-plant in Clermiston — Emmanuel Church — took place a few years later in the adjacent suburb to Corstorphine.

The Revd Paul Burt, now Senior Chaplain of Winchester College, who was a curate at St Thomas’s when Dennis was Rector, writes: “It’s no exaggeration to say that, as a result of Dennis’s leadership, Edinburgh church life, and even Scottish church life during the second half of the 1980s, glimpsed previously unthought-of possibilities, the effects of which are still being felt today.”

After only seven years in Edinburgh, Dennis was invited to bring his passion for evangelism and the breadth of his experience to the post of Adviser for Evangelism in the diocese of Sheffield, with the added responsibility of two small Anglo-Catholic parishes in Burghwallis and Skelbrooke.

This enabled him to speak with authenticity to churches and ministers across the churchmanship spectrum. He travelled widely within the diocese, encouraging parishes to discover the pattern of evangelism and faith-sharing that worked for them. He also kept up his regular writing of daily notes for Scripture Union’s Encounter with God series, something that he had begun in Cambridge, and which brought a worldwide readership and a considerable postbag.

On one occasion, he received a postcard from a missionary nun somewhere in equatorial Africa: “Now, after forty years, I finally understand what Hebrews is about. Yours, in gratitude, a Handmaid of the Lord.”

In retirement in Uppingham, he was never inactive, and his ministry was deeply appreciated. It had a transforming impact on a number of individual lives; but he was happy to control his workload and spend time with his wife, Sonja, and his children and grandchildren. He enjoyed having time to write, publishing two books in the Encounter with God series on Job and Revelation, another entitled Weak Enough for God to Use, inspired by a saying of Hudson Taylor, and several books on prayer and spirituality: Fuelling the Fire, The Eyes of the Heart, and Turning the Diamond.

At his funeral, the Bishop of Peterborough, who had taught Dennis at Oak Hill, said that he had learnt more from his student on prayer than he himself had taught.

Dennis baptised his latest grandchild, Daniel, on the Sunday before he died: a joyful end to his ministry. After a lengthy battle with cancer, he died on his and Sonja’s 46th wedding anniversary.



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“If this isn’t forgery, it is certainly a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice”

‘Archbishop Cranmer’


Averting a catastrophe in the Church of England. Is it too late?

Stephen’s Blog Stephen Parsons

In September 2018, the Church of England, as part of its ongoing safeguarding efforts, published a very comprehensive fact sheet on different types of abuse.  It is an attempt to encourage a reader to become used to recognising the great variety of abusive practices that can occur in the Church and elsewhere.  In 2015, English law codified the idea that domestic abuse is much more than just physical violence.  It may include a range of behaviours that come under the broad category of coercion and control.   Even without evidence of physical violence, a man or woman can now be convicted of a criminal offence for abuse.   Educating people to have a broader understanding of abuse in a religious context was also needed.  I have a personal interest in this topic.  When I wrote my book Ungodly Fear over twenty years ago, I was trying to explore this idea that the misuse of power in a church context was a widespread reality and the cause of much suffering.  Abusing power is a far bigger topic than just the sexual exploitation of a vulnerable person.

This morning, on a sister blog Archbishop Cranmer, we heard new details about the Dean Percy affair.  I do not propose to repeat the points made in that disturbing article, but to use some of Cranmer’s material to indicate that Percy has become the victim of many of the types of abuse mentioned in the 2018 document.  Apart from naming a wide range of abusive practices, the 2018 CofE document also provides suggestions of the way that the Church can respond to the victims and survivors.  Percy, because he has been labelled as a perpetrator, has not been offered much help, pastoral, financial or practical.  Help is supposed to be offered in such cases, according to the Church’s safeguarding protocols but only the tiniest amount has been forthcoming.  Somehow the level of vitriol in the College is such that a regime of extreme isolation has been imposed.  The help and support that Percy has been able to gather is that which has come from family and friends.  He has also seen the complete depletion of the family finances. 

The 2018 document first of all discusses emotional or psychological abuse.  I would see these two forms of abuse as sometimes distinct categories and, at other times, overlapping.   Over the past three years there have been many examples of psychological threats and abuse towards Percy.  Phone calls/emails late at night are part of the stock-in-trade for those who want to harass and put someone permanently on edge.  Also within a community like a college, it is not difficult to create an unfriendly environment for an individual.  Shunning and ostracism, when they are practised, are especially cruel.  This is a topic to which I often return in this blog as it is one of the most evil practices that can be enacted.  The 2018 document mentions this behaviour when it describes ‘causing or forcing isolation/withdrawal from family/friends and support networks’.  The extraordinary lengths to which the Censors and members of the Chapter has gone to prevent members of the clergy/colleagues even visiting Percy are described as practices that the Church should be fighting against.  Can unproven allegations of sexual harassment ever justify the rolling out of such viciously cruel behaviour?

Abuse can also be financial.  The 2018 document has in mind such things as the forcing of an elderly person to change a will or hand over property.  In Percy’s case, the financial abuse has been by forcing him virtually to bankrupt himself in employing lawyers to defend him in the first legal challenge by the College to oust him in 2018.  He was declared innocent of all the 27 original charges brought by the Censors.  Percy’s accusers were also shown up to have produced manipulated documents.  In short, the accusers engaged in lying to make their case.  Retired Judge Andrew Smith saw the lies and commented on them in his report.  In the latest attacks by College and National Safeguarding Team, overseen by the Bishop of Birmingham, Percy has been unable to instruct legal representation.  This is partly for financial reasons and partly for reasons of his health.

The CofE document mentions discriminatory abuse.  This is taking advantage of someone who is in a weaker position because of poverty, disability or some other handicap.  Discriminatory abuse is to be found all over the recent treatment that Percy has received.  The Sub-Dean, Richard Peers, has taken it upon himself to prevent even the fellow members of Chapter from making contact with Percy.  I understand that not even his request to receive Communion in the home has been allowed.  Such isolating of a sick man, socially, spiritually and psychologically is desperately underhand behaviour. 

Institutional abuse is described.  This is the kind of situation that might occur in a Home where one patient is treated badly because they are deemed to be difficult in some way.  When an institution, like a Home, turns against an individual, it is hard to see how anyone can resist such enormous pressure.  It is clearly going on at Christ Church. The financial bullying of Percy, backed by the enormous financial resources of the College, was another example of institutional abuse.   The Censors must be hoping that the Dean’s ability to fight back financially will eventually be defeated by the sheer fire power available to the College because of their endowments. 

Abuse by neglect and acts of omission are other examples of behaviour suffered by Percy.  The utter failure of the College or Canons to reach out to a sick man to offer help and support of any kind is an inexplicable failure of any institution, let alone one founded on Christian principles.  The 2018 document is not a particularly Christian document.  It is rather an adaptation of the Care Act of 2015 which wanted to show how we need to take a much broader understanding of abuse than society has done hitherto.  As with the Charity Commission, the values being articulated are human values.  If Christian individuals and institutions find these hard to hold on to, what can we expect of the rest of society?  Are we not able to hope that Christians take morality and goodness seriously?

The final category of abuse mentioned in the document is complex abuse.  This is a name given to a situation when an institution or an individual is using a variety of abuse methods against one person.  We have already indicated that Dean Percy is the target of a many-sided form of abuse.  Complex abuse might be considered to be an convenient shorthand for what is going on here.  But there is one great irony about the document Types of Abuse.  This was put together by experts in the Safeguarding world to help Christians identify those in need of help.  Here we are discovering that in fact it is, in this case, the Church itself committing acts of abuse against an individual.  If I am right in identifying six of the categories of abuse in this church document being set in motion by church officials, then someone needs to blow a whistle on this event.  We often speak about survivors on this blog, but here we have to describe Percy as a victim.  Six forms of abuse coming from two distinct institutions, operating with an extraordinary level of malice, is enough to put anyone into a breakdown.  No one going through such an experience is easily able to fight back.  Humanly, the force being used is barely survivable.  The only human strength that can operate here is that provided by supporters, family and friends.

Two things need to happen if the Church is to emerge from this disaster with any integrity. 

One is that all the clergy who have been guilty of dirty tricks and abuse against Percy should be named in a new Clergy Discipline Measure process.  There have been so many procedural dishonesties in this episode.  One mentioned by Archbishop Cranmer, is what I call the dirty dossier.  This is a fraudulent risk assessment document submitted with the CDM documents to the Bishop of Oxford.  The College have admitted that they were wrong to back this document but the damage has done in creating the over-the-top risk assessment which has now been put in place around the College. 

The second thing that could save the day and rescue the Church’s integrity from a mire of self- destruction, is for someone of stature to come forward.  They would then ask for all the destructive church processes to be halted for a while.  The one person that could do this is the Archbishop of York.  The Archbishop of Canterbury is likely to be entangled with the same legal firms as have been advising the Diocese of Oxford and Christ Church College, as well as the various bodies that work out of Church House.  Stephen Cottrell, hopefully, can recognise what a disaster these events are for the whole Church of England.  I believe that the paths of Dean Percy and Cottrell have crossed in the past.  If that is true, he will know that Percy is not a sex-crazed lunatic, which is how his enemies at Christ Church have been trying to portray him for their own political ends.  If the Archbishop pf York could put in place a moratorium on the church processes for three months, this might help to calm things down and stop the current madness infecting and afflicting the church in Oxford and elsewhere.   There is a crisis; we need something dramatic to happen to resolve things.  Stephen Cottrell, you are our last hope!

About Stephen Parsons

Stephen is a retired Anglican priest living at present in Cumbria. He has taken a special interest in the issues around health and healing in the Church but also when the Church is a place of harm and abuse. He has published books on both these issues and is at present particularly interested in understanding how power works at every level in the Church. He is always interested in making contact with others who are concerned with these issues. 

3 thoughts on “Averting a catastrophe in the Church of England. Is it too late?”

  1. John Wallace Stephen, you are so right in this. Nearly 30 years ago, the children’s home where I worked was subject to allegations of abuse as a result of a new deputy Social Services Director, who wanted to make her mark. 52 of us were suspended. Fortunately, through the strength of numbers and putting pressure on councillors, we eventually got an independent enquiry which exonerated us and resulted in the Director and the deputy resigning and the rest of us being redeployed or receiving a financial settlement. Even at that time, the enquiry was reckoned to have cost the County Council around £1m. Martyn does not have the luxury of these numbers, but perhaps those of us who want to see fairness for Martyn – and believe in his integrity – should start a campaign of writing to + Birmingham (as in charge of the CDM), to +Oxford as the diocesan and to ++ Canterbury and ++ York (copying the Charity Commission into our correspondence). I believe totally in Martyn’s innocence and integrity but equally believe that any challenges to this should be based on fairness, openness and, dare I say, the spirit of Christian charity and humility. Initiating CDM processes during absence due to sickness is certainly bad practice and could well be illegal. I’m sure our legal participants to this blog will clarify this. Martyn has already suffered enough at the hands of vindictive academic and ecclesiastical manipulators. It is time for more vocal support for fairness and transparency of process.
  2. Rowland Wateridge If, and we have to say if, a fraudulent document was used in initiating the CDM procedure, the CDM should be set aside, no ifs and buts about that. You can’t have a legal disciplinary procedure based on illegal material. So, the full facts about that document including how and by whom it was produced must be established urgently. I believe steps to that end are already in hand.



Richard W. Symonds Awaiting for approval

Stephen Parsons, over at ‘Surviving Church’, asks: “Averting a catastrophe in the Church of England. Is it too late?”, and concludes it is not – but…

“This morning, on a sister blog Archbishop Cranmer [and elsewhere – Ed], we heard new details about the Dean Percy affair…
Two things need to happen if the Church is to emerge from this disaster with any integrity. 
One is that all the clergy who have been guilty of dirty tricks and abuse against Percy should be named in a new Clergy Discipline Measure process. There have been so many procedural dishonesties in this episode. One mentioned by Archbishop Cranmer, is what I call the dirty dossier. This is a fraudulent risk assessment document submitted with the CDM documents to the Bishop of Oxford. The College have admitted that they were wrong to back this document but the damage has done in creating the over-the-top risk assessment which has now been put in place around the College. 
The second thing that could save the day and rescue the Church’s integrity from a mire of self- destruction, is for someone of stature to come forward. They would then ask for all the destructive church processes to be halted for a while. The one person that could do this is the Archbishop of York. The Archbishop of Canterbury is likely to be entangled with the same legal firms as have been advising the Diocese of Oxford and Christ Church College, as well as the various bodies that work out of Church House. Stephen Cottrell, hopefully, can recognise what a disaster these events are for the whole Church of England. I believe that the paths of Dean Percy and Cottrell have crossed in the past. If that is true, he will know that Percy is not a sex-crazed lunatic, which is how his enemies at Christ Church have been trying to portray him for their own political ends. If the Archbishop pf York could put in place a moratorium on the church processes for three months, this might help to calm things down and stop the current madness infecting and afflicting the church in Oxford and elsewhere.  There is a crisis; we need something dramatic to happen to resolve things. 
Stephen Cottrell, you are our last hope!”





You may have seen a recent letter to the Church Times...about the case of the Revd John Roberts in Woolton. Liverpool…But it was Justin Welby’s behaviour when John Roberts was ‘helping’ at the cathedral that really struck us. In that situation, Welby sided with a convicted abuser against a genuine complainant. Clearly, he has very poor judgement on occasion, as was abundantly shown later by his ‘significant cloud’ comment. Private Eye has covered the case to some extent but, so far, Welby has largely escaped as far as the national press is concerned. At the time of IICSA, the John Roberts case was going through the courts, so there are only veiled references to it in their reports. Liverpool diocese is undertaking a review of the case, so we shall see if that says anything much about Welby’s involvement.

‘M’ – 21/03/2021

It brings it all back, doesn’t it?  I don’t think my anger and disgust will ever go away and my regard for the Church of England which was low anyway has pretty well gone…

‘J’ – 20/03/2021

Thank you for sending me this article by David Jasper. Whilst its contents will be familiar to those of us concerned for Bishop Bell’s reputation, it brings the necessary material together for a wider readership. I wonder whether copies of it have gone to Welby and Warner, though in the case of the former it would probably be intercepted by his staff and kept from his sight, and Warner remains obdurate in his refusal to admit his errors and those of the group which tried to trash Bell’s reputation. After the Carlile Report, an honourable man would have apologized and at least have offered his resignation. It was suggested to me that Warner’s chief concern is protecting his safeguarding team from all blame. I do not know whether this is so, but it is a black day for the Church when matters of truth and justice take second place to defending diocesan functionaries.

I also wonder whether a copy of the Jasper article has gone to the Church Times – not that I have much faith in the paper to concern itself with the Bell case. I believe several letters have been written to the Editor on this matter, including one from me, none of which has been published.

However, the important thing is that Welby and Warner must by now be aware that Bell’s defender’s are not going to “put up and shut up”. Warner, in particular, appears oblivious to the fact that it is his own reputation, and that of the diocese and the Cathedral, which are now in the gutter.

‘B’ – 20/03/2021


‘G’ – 22/03/2021

What a devastating summary of the case!  I hope that the press will pick it up – not just the Church Times, but the national dailies as well


I think what distinguishes the present situation from what has gone before is the suggestion that there has now been a breach of criminal law, not just irregularities in the Church’s own procedures, very serious as some of those have been. We can only wait to see whether this latest development changes things. It may be that only outside intervention will do so

‘R’ – 22/03/2021

Surely it would be better for him to go elsewhere.” That’s what the Governing Body wants. It’s called giving way to bullying


Bullying is abuse. The bully is an abuser



Christ Church Cathedral ‘praying for Dean Percy’

THE Sub Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, Canon Richard Peers, issued a pastoral letter on Wednesday to assure the congregation that the Dean, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, who has currently stepped back from duties while a complaint of sexual harassment is investigated (News, 19 March), is prayed for daily in the cathedral. He rebutted rumours on social media that Dean Percy, who is unwell, had been refused communion and was unsupported. He wrote: “Throughout all this, I have encouraged friends and colleagues to make contact with the Percys to offer love and support and prayer in what must be an extraordinarily difficult situation.”

Safeguarding decisions at Christ Church, Oxford

From the Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford

Sir, — I write as Christ Church Cathedral’s Safeguarding Lead, and I can, therefore, confirm exactly what was, and was not, in the leaked risk assessment (News, 19 March).

The version of the risk assessment leaked to the Church Times lists a timeline, including a “Second risk assessment” as having been carried out by Kate Wood on 22 October 2020. Instead of “Second risk assessment”, it should have read “Investigation”: this is what was carried out by Kate Wood and submitted on that date. That subheading was corrected in subsequent versions of the documents.

None of this has any bearing whatsoever on the complaint itself, or indeed the assessment of risk made in the documents. The risk assessments are confidential, password-protected, and with very limited circulations, designed to protect all those involved, including both the young member of staff who made the allegation, and the Dean of Christ Church himself.

It has even been sensationally suggested that the risk assessments in some way restrict the Dean’s freedom to be visited and supported by friends and family, or even to receive communion. None of this is true; and pastoral support has been in place for Martyn throughout.

It is very disappointing how one heading from those preliminary documents is being disingenuously used to imply that the assessments are somehow invalid, to generate mistruths, and to cast doubt on the CDM process itself.

Christ Church
Oxford OX1 1DP

From Mr Martin Sewell

Sir, — I read your report last week about the wholly disproportionate irregular risk assessment concerning Dean Percy. Taking the document at face value, I was one who criticised the independent investigator Kate Wood for exceeding her area of expertise.

The affixing of her name gave that document the authority of her experience and independence, which, it transpires, it did not have. Accordingly, she did not deserve my criticism, though legitimate criticism must now be considered elsewhere.

I hope that you will allow me to apologise to Ms Wood publicly for the upset and frustration that this aspect of the scandal will have caused her, and my inadvertent part in it.

Member of General Synod
8 Appleshaw Close
Kent DA11 7PB

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“Following the excoriation of the Church hierarchy by Professor David Jasper DD FRSE, it makes me wonder whether or not action should be taken on the basis of ‘institutional abuse’”

Richard W. Symonds – The Bell Society

Page 1

Scottish Episcopal Institute Journal – Spring 2021

Page 31


“In the Christian year as celebrated in the Church of England, 3 October is dedicated to the remembrance of ‘George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, Ecumenist, Peacemaker’…”

Page 32

The Times put it quite simply: ‘Eminent bishop was a paedophile, admits Church’. The background to this extraordinary, and actually incorrect, statement was this…”

Page 33

“In his statement in October 2015, Warner…’the scrutiny of the allegations has been thorough, objective and undertaken by people who command the respect of all parties’…”

Page 34

“‘…balance of probability’. Lawyers know what that means, but when institutional fear and public appetite for scandal are strong factors, there seems to be little patience for the necessary verbal niceties of the law. They are there to protect all of us. Bell was, in effect and in spite of the Bishop of Durham’s statement in the House of Lords, pronounced guilty before his innocence was securely disproved…Lord Carlile’s report was…utterly dismissive of the original diocesan investigation, describing it as ‘indefensibly wrong'”

Page 35

“Carlile concludes…’for Bishop Bell’s reputation to be catastrophically affected …was just wrong. In spite of this the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, continued to reject the clear presumption of innocence as demonstrated by Carlile, commenting instead that a ‘significant cloud’ remained over Bell’s name….Nothing that would stand scrutiny in a court of law has been found against Bell…”

Page 36

“George Bell Group…conclusion reads: ‘…Bishop Bell’s reputation is today vindicated and affirmed by authoritative opinion. What remains of the story is only a matter of contemporary church politics’. But this last matter remains with us today…As long as there is any hint that anyone is to be found guilty. or suffer the destruction of character…before their innocence or guilt have been established by the due and unprejudiced processes of law, then none of us is safe”.

Page 37

“In a statement of 1 February 2019…Lord Carlile wrote: ‘The Church should now accept that my recommendations should be accepted in full, and that after due process, however delayed, George Bell should be declared by the Church to be innocent of the allegations made against him’. So far, it appears, the Church of England has failed to find the moral courage…to make this declaration of his innocence. It belittles us all”.


You may have seen a recent letter to the Church Times...about the case of the Revd John Roberts in Woolton. Liverpool…But it was Justin Welby’s behaviour when John Roberts was ‘helping’ at the cathedral that really struck us. In that situation, Welby sided with a convicted abuser against a genuine complainant. Clearly, he has very poor judgement on occasion, as was abundantly shown later by his ‘significant cloud’ comment. Private Eye has covered the case to some extent but, so far, Welby has largely escaped as far as the national press is concerned. At the time of IICSA, the John Roberts case was going through the courts, so there are only veiled references to it in their reports. Liverpool diocese is undertaking a review of the case, so we shall see if that says anything much about Welby’s involvement.

‘M’ – 21/03/2021

It brings it all back, doesn’t it?  I don’t think my anger and disgust will ever go away and my regard for the Church of England which was low anyway has pretty well gone…

‘J’ – 20/03/2021

Thank you for sending me this article by David Jasper. Whilst its contents will be familiar to those of us concerned for Bishop Bell’s reputation, it brings the necessary material together for a wider readership. I wonder whether copies of it have gone to Welby and Warner, though in the case of the former it would probably be intercepted by his staff and kept from his sight, and Warner remains obdurate in his refusal to admit his errors and those of the group which tried to trash Bell’s reputation. After the Carlile Report, an honourable man would have apologized and at least have offered his resignation. It was suggested to me that Warner’s chief concern is protecting his safeguarding team from all blame. I do not know whether this is so, but it is a black day for the Church when matters of truth and justice take second place to defending diocesan functionaries.

I also wonder whether a copy of the Jasper article has gone to the Church Times – not that I have much faith in the paper to concern itself with the Bell case. I believe several letters have been written to the Editor on this matter, including one from me, none of which has been published.

However, the important thing is that Welby and Warner must by now be aware that Bell’s defender’s are not going to “put up and shut up”. Warner, in particular, appears oblivious to the fact that it is his own reputation, and that of the diocese and the Cathedral, which are now in the gutter.

‘B’ – 20/03/2021

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7th March 2016

Former Archbishop slams church for destroying reputation of George Bell

By Rachel Millard

Dr George Carey pictured in 2002 two days before his retirement as Archbishop of CanterburyPicture: John Stillwell / Press Association
Picture: John Stillwell/Press Association

Dr George Carey pictured in 2002 two days before his retirement as Archbishop of Canterbury [Picture: John Stillwell / Press Association]


A FORMER Archbishop of Canterbury has attacked the church for destroying the reputation of Bishop George Bell over a settled claim of child sex abuse.

Lord Carey said he was “appalled” at the way the church had treated the memory of the revered late wartime bishop and was looking for “ways of re-opening” the case of the former head of the Church of England in Sussex.

Suggesting Bell had been ‘crushed’ by a ‘powerful organisation’, Lord Carey said he had been denied the right to a fair trial and had questioned the church’s approach but been told to keep things ‘low-key’.

Last October the Church of England announced it had settled the claim formally lodged in April 2014 after expert reports gave them “no reason to doubt” its veracity.

The Argus subsequently revealed Bell’s victim was a five-year-old girl at the the time of the abuse in the late 1940s and 1950s, who recalled him telling her “it was our little secret, because God loved me”.

The revelations provoked huge controversy as the former Chichester bishop’s name was stripped from institutions, with supporters saying the claim remained unproven.

The current bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, praising the victim’s courage.

Now, responding to a letter from George Bell’s 92-year-old niece, Barbara Whitely, Lord Carey said the church he headed until 2002 has effectively “delivered a ‘guilty’ verdict without anything resembling a fair and open trial”.

He added in the letter date March 3: “His reputation is in tatters and as you sadly point out, all references to him in the diocese he loved and served have been removed and renamed.

“[…] I am frankly appalled by the way the church authorities have treated his memory.

“When this matter became public knowledge several months ago I questioned the Church’s approach with someone at Lambeth Palace and was advised that it was in everyone’s interest to keep the matter low key.

“I have however kept a watching brief on the matter and your letter has now prompted me to seek ways of re-opening this.”

Lord Carey’s intervention comes after it was revealed he wrote to police in 1993 over the now disgraced Bishop Peter Ball. When the case came to court last year Ball’s solicitors argued Lord Carey was assured the case was closed after Ball received a police caution at the time. But Ball was finally convicted and jailed.

In his letter to Mrs Whitley, Lord Carey added he hoped “to persuade some people in the media to take this forward”.

He added: “Newspapers are sometimes prepared to step forward when powerful organisations crush individuals.” 


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Richard W. Symonds

“Dean Percy, therefore, faces three concurrent investigations: the CDM; a second core group set up by the National Safeguarding Team; and a second tribunal set up by the Christ Church Governing Body under statute 39, “seeking the removal of the Dean from office for good cause”. In the earlier Christ Church tribunal, to consider a complaint lodged in 2018 (News, 9 November 2018), Dean Percy was exonerated of every one of the 27 charges against him (News, 23 August 2019)” – Church Times

So, three quasi-legal kangaroo courts ‘lynching’ the unwell Dean – with injustice, cruelty and brutality – inflicted with an illusion of impregnability, immunity and impunity.

Martin Sewell

Martin Sewell – Child Protection Lawyer [Retired] and Member of General Synod – on Church Safeguarding

The malcontent dons and their lawyers “sold“ the dodgy risk assessment to the Governing Body on the basis that it was an official CofE document compiled by people with the requisite qualification and competence to do so. They prayed in aid the authority the CofE logo and Kate Wood’s name though she was plainly embarrassed to be associated with it.

I was unhappy at her being involved in an exercise outside her core expertise. The failure by the College and lawyers to correct that false impression or correct it in a timely way when requested by her to do so, speaks volumes.

Somebody created that document and saw fit to badge it as a CofE assessment, somebody saw fit to share it with the Bishop who – when challenged – still apparently asserts it is a valid assessment by unauthorised people. Perhaps he will confirm and release how many such assessments those responsible have undertaken. Did he undertake ANY due diligence – if so what?

Had the College clarified Ms Wood’s disassociation from the documents. I would have given Ms Wood an apology, insofar as I implicitly criticised her involvement in this shabby apology of a fair risk assessment. That said, she did not contact me. I am not hard to find.

She has my apology, ( albeit limited by being misled ): would that others were so quick off the mark to those with a grievance.

That said, I do wish she could have felt able to distance herself from it earlier. To do so would have undermined the status of the RA [Risk Assessment] earlier. It is a shame the document stood unchallenged for so long.

It was apparently not created on a CofE template. I understand the metadata reveals the template used is a generic one, not designed for safeguarding use, but for generic event purposes. Its format was once employed to assess the risks of a school classroom hamster!

Interesting to note the standards of scrutiny of important documents by the College Censors.

Martin Sewell 

I ought to briefly address the decision of the Bishop of Birmingham to progress the matter whilst the Dean has been assessed as unable to engage in legal proceedings by his treating Psychiatrist. His lawyer knows the proper legal practice that one cannot act for such a person and were the lawyer to purport to do so they would be doing so improperly and moreover any decision taken by the respondent, under harassment for a reply, would not be valid.

We have come to terms with the Church not complying with the Human Rights Act.

Now we need to accept that it recognises that a person may be under legal disability and unable to act – but attributes no consequence to the status and ploughs on regardless.

This is a rotten system run by people with a thoroughly deformed view of fair practice. 

Father Ron Smith 

There would seem here – to an outsider – to be a whiff of injustice being perpetrated by the Church of England; in its treatment of the situation of the Dean of Christ Church. The seeming intransigence of the University Dons who want him out is not being challenged by the Church – or at least, that is what appears to be the case from this side of the world, in Polynesia.



It is interesting that virtually all commentators seem to be taking Dean Percy’s side. Is this because of his theological views and general position on Church politics? This I could understand given that I agree entirely with his criticisms of Archbishop Welby re managerialism and the poor and misguided leadership he gives. And also I agree with those who feel a great injustice was done to the saintly Bishop George Bell. But I don’t think it was Dean Percy’s finest hour when he and his wife (or possibly vice versa) hounded out Bishop Philip North whom God had called to the see of Sheffield. Also I am not sure anybody has noticed that when Dean Percy was asking for a pay rise to match that of other College Heads in Oxford, he was actually comparing apples with oranges. In that there is a very limited field of talent and suitability for the post of Dean of Christ Church – given you need to be in Holy Orders – and this has been compounded by Welby’s system failing to support academics within the church. I don’t think Dean Percy, for all his gifts, quite matches the pedigree and stellar achievements of many if not most Oxford Heads.
The situation is very sad for everybody involved and hopefully a settlement can be reached without further legal battles. My friends who were at the House have told me they are fed up with both the Dean and the Students of Christ church (the Governing Body). 

Richard W. Symonds

Richard W. Symonds Reply to  Neil

There is no moral equivalence between the behaviour of the Christ Church Governing Body and the behaviour of Martyn Percy. To attempt to do so only adds to the obfuscation, perpetuates the injustice and cruelty, and justifies the unjustifiable and unacceptable.

Charles Read

Charles Read Reply to  Neil

What Faith said – well put. As for the Sheffield debacle I would add:

  1. Martyn and Emma Percy did what theologians do and asked hard questions – as summarised by faith. Philip North could have formulated a coherent reply by saying that he thought the C of E had no authority to ordain women without ecumenical agreement (with Rome…) but instead he gave no answer – accounts of his meeting with the women clergy of Sheffield bear this out too – they pressed him and no answer did he give (so it was not just the Percys doing this).
  2. The CNC failed to consider the effect on the diocese of appointing Philip and prepare him for the inevitable furore.
  3. Sheffield has a high percentage of female clergy – what was the CNC thinking?
  4. Martyn and Emma served in Sheffield diocese so they are not disinterested or uninformed about that diocese. I would be concerned if an inappropriate appointment were made to any of my former dioceses – you retain a concern for their wellbeing after you move elsewhere.

Martyn is in fact a top flight scholar but I wonder if there is an air of sniffiness about the fact that he writes and researches in what may broadly be termed sociology of religion? I know from another place that some academics (including theologians) think that is not proper theology.

And finally – does anyone wonder if the sniffiness is connected with Martyn’s humble origins? I am sure such attitudes do not exist in Oxford….

Martin Sewell

Martin Sewell Reply to  Neil

Neil. I can assure you that I and others take a stand on a very simple platform – Transparency, impartiality, accountability, proportionality and adherence to the basic principles of Natural Justice and the Human Rights Act.

i have inter alia defended a dead Anglo Catholic Bishop, a retired Evangelical Archbishop, the liberal Dean, survivors of varying churchmanship and none (including one from a different faith entirely). At present, those seeking my advice and pastoral support tend to be clergy getting unfair treatment. Given how critical I have been of the Conservative Evangelical community over Smyth and Fletcher, I am surprised and (though sorry for them) pleased that some from that constituency have felt able to seek my advice and pastoral support.

So, I hope you can see from this, that the advocacy of Dean Percy’s case by a number of us is rooted in the principles set out above. We advocate good practice for anyone, whether we agree or disagree with them.

There are few things that make me angry, but stupidity, bullying, and injustice are on the list. All are present in the Percy case in spades. 



Responding to Neil briefly. He needs to read the Smith Tribunal judgment.

a. The Dean did not ask for a pay rise, but rather requested transparent processes in setting pay – others first, and then his.

b. For having the temerity to challenge the dons on ‘transparency’, they saddled him with a charge of “immoral, scandalous and disgraceful conduct” – and for four months refused to even explain what lay behind the charge. Most laypeople would assume adultery or much worse – but it suited the dons (again) to not be transparent.

c. They are at it again – “serious sexual assault” and “immoral, scandalous and disgraceful conduct” are all very headline-grabbing. But the allegation turns out to be something to do with a comment about a person’s hair. This is the dons second go at tarnishing him. It is worth remembering that the Dean has no grievance procedure under Christ Church statutes – so defenceless, and taken to trial all the time.

d. I can’t see that the situation with Fr. North is comparable. Fr. Philip could have defended his theological position and explained how he proposed to work with clergy whose orders he did not recognise. He was not able to explain how he could support the priestly ministry of clergy (male) if ordained by a woman bishop and female (all) if he continued to assert that such people were not actually real priests at all. That was/is his theological position. They never were, nor ever could be priests (although males could presumably be ‘properly’ ordained by a male bishop, if they were prepared to accept that ordination by a woman bishop was inherently void?). Fr. Philip’s position would have meant that potentially 50% of the Sheffield parishes were not getting valid sacramental ministry, which as a diocesan bishop should concern him and those parishes. Most clergy and laity cannot see how that is a sustainable position for a diocesan bishop to take.

e. Heads of House in Oxford come in all shapes and sizes. Yes, some are top of their profession (legal, government, commerce, civil service etc). But the majority are, like the Dean, fellow academics who happen to have also run complex and large institutions too. The Dean has been (amongst other things) the Senior Independent Director of the Advertising Standards Authority, which he somehow managed whilst also being Principal of Cuddesdon. I think he still advises the British Board of Film Classification? He’s reasonably well-known as an academic in his field, and one festschrift behind him before you turn 60 is not too bad. Besides running Oxford’s largest College, there is also a Cathedral to manage too. But the dons conspire to make him the lowest-paid Head of House in Oxford (amongst forty colleges). Typically, he has not complained about that and doesn’t – despite the clunky PR of the dons trying to narrate him as greedy.

Read the Smith Tribunal and a. b. and e. are crystal clear.

Stephen Griffiths

Stephen Griffiths Reply to  Faith

Regarding point d), Philip North’s views may or may not be exactly as you describe. But in any case, his views are allowed and upheld by the Five Guiding Principles which General Synod voted through in 2014 and to which every ordinand has since then had to assent before ordination. I for one found Dean Percy’s heavyweight opposition to Philip North’s appointment unreasonable, given the Church of England’s settled and generous position on the matter as enshrined in the Five Guiding Principles. The fact that bishops representing the full spectrum of views can work and flourish together in the same diocese (e.g. Blackburn and Chichester) shows that Dean Percy’s concerns were unfounded. Whether the CNC and Sheffield Diocese handled the matter well is another matter. Reply


Neil Reply to  Faith

Re a.
From the FT (the Smith Tribunal doesn’t seem to be readily available)
In December 2017 Martyn Percy emailed one of the people who set his salary. As dean of the Oxford college of Christ Church, Percy was already among the best paid clerics in the Church of England — earning more than the Archbishop of Canterbury. But he was unhappy. A priest since his late twenties, the 55-year-old was not rich by the standards of college heads. At Christ Church, with its huge quadrangles and £500m endowment, he was surrounded by wealth. He felt overworked. Perhaps, he told the college’s salaries board, he should “adjust [his] availability” — and skip a fundraising tour of the US? From such exchanges has arisen one of the most embarrassing and expensive debacles in the university’s recent history.

I didn’t realise that the Dean wasn’t asking for a pay-rise, which you say is made crystal clear in the Smith Tribunal.

Re b.  ‘immoral, scandalous and disgraceful conduct’ I agree are totally over the top as charges even if he had asked for a pay rise. Unless his behaviour changed (if such a pay-rise was not granted) into a disgraceful sulk and non-cooperation. But I don’t think this was ever alleged? I’m not sure what ‘adjusting availability’ might have amounted to…

Re c. I agree that commenting on someone’s hair does not merit a charge of ‘serious sexual assault’ – but that if you touched someone’s hair then the matter does become serious. Especially if you are the boss. It isn’t clear what is alleged.

Re e. The point is that the field of potentially suitable candidates for appointment as Dean is really very small indeed, and given the need to be in Holy Orders Dean Percy might have thought it more suitable to compare his remuneration with other priests in the Church of England – or Deans of Cathedrals. It would be interesting to know how his predecessors managed on their pay, and if they were content.

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Richard W. Symonds

The Bell Society

“There is a woman who came forward with a serious allegation and this cannot be ignored or swept under the carpet”

Archbishop Justin Welby

“We are simply following the Archbishop’s directive – neither ignoring the allegation, nor sweeping it under the carpet. We are fully analysing its detail and scrutinising it closely – something the Church core group very seriously failed to do at the time”

Richard W. Symonds – The Bell Society

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*Source: “George Bell, Bishop of Chichester – Church, State, and Resistance in the Age of Dictatorship” by Andrew Chandler [Eerdmans 2016] – Page 197





“…this is not simply an issue of attitude but of competence too. This is a point which has been made powerfully by Martin Sewell, who is both a lay member of the General Synod and a retired child protection lawyer. He points out that diocesan staff are typically trained in theology and Canon law, not in safeguarding or child protection law. As a result, he says, many of those making a decision about safeguarding in the Church of England have no credible claim to expertise in this increasingly complex situation. Interestingly, Mr Sewell makes that point both in relation to the treatment of complainants of abuse, but also in regard to the mishandling, in his view, of the George Bell case. He sees the failings on both of those aspects as two sides of the same coin, a fundamental problem, in his view, being a lack of competence and specialist knowledge, particularly legal knowledge and experience gained in a practical safeguarding context”

~ Richard Scorer – Counsel for the complainants, victims and survivors represented by Slater & Gordonat the IICSA [March 5 2018 – Page 129 -Paras. 2-19]

RWS NOTE – 14/03/2021

According to Page 197 [fn 3] of Andrew Chandler’s book, the Caution List can be found in the ‘Bell Papers, vol. 301, p. 5’ – one of 368 volumes – held at Lambeth Palace Library.
As far as I know, no-one has mentioned this ‘Caution List’ – the Church itself, nor the Carlile Review, nor the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse [IICSA].
Because, I believe, the List will uncover names the Church – and ‘others’ – do not want uncovered. And it is likely to provide sufficient proof that the wartime Bishop of Chichester Bell was innocent. And it may well also uncover the name of the abuser of ‘Carol’ in the Diocese of Chichester – especially as “there were national and diocesan caution lists” [p 196].
Are there Non Disclosure Agreements [NDAs] in force to prevent such a List from entering the public domain? That might go some way in explaining the reason why no-one has mentioned either the NDA’s or the Caution Lists. 


“…there is a woman who came forward with a serious allegation … and this cannot be ignored or swept under the carpet”

Archbishop Justin Welby

“We are following the Archbishop’s directive – neither ignoring the allegation, nor sweeping it under the carpet. We are fully analysing its detail and scrutinising it closely – something the Church core group very seriously failed to do at the time”

Richard W. Symonds – The Bell Society

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Peter Hitchens

Interview with Peter Hitchens – English Churchman

English Churchman: What would you like to hear from the Church leadership post pandemic pandemonium?

Peter Hitchens: Their announcements that they propose to retire and do good works.  I am especially keen to see the retirements of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the present Bishop of Chichester, whose names escape me. Their behaviour over the allegations against the late George Bell, the mighty, faithful wartime Bishop of Chichester, was bad at the time and even worse after he was vindicated by Lord Carlile’s report. If they cannot get that right, what can they get right? It’s a sign of how unequal they are to the great task of leading a nation in prayer and faithfulness, and turning the Hearts of the Disobedient to the Wisdom of the Just   If only we had a George Bell for these times, a man prepared to endure much in the service of his Lord. 

Bishop Bell, Wartime Bishop of Chichester

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The rule of the lynch mob – October 28 2015 – The Church of England Newspaper [CEN]

By CEN on 28/10/2015 6 Comments

The rule of the lynch mob

Well let’s get it out of the way. All child abuse is wrong and horrible. All claims of child abuse should be investigated properly and the offenders, if found to be guilty in a court of law, should be flung into prison for a very, very long time.

So now we’ve done the formalities. There is much discontent with the Church of England’s behaviour over the way it has handled abuse allegations against one of its greatest sons, George Bell – a great ecumenist, liturgist, wartime leader and friend to Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church.

It was announced last week that a legal civil claim has been settled by the Diocese of Chichester regarding sexual abuse claims against Bishop Bell. The allegation was first made in 1995 and was not reported to the police. The case was reopened in 2013 and now an unknown sum of money has been handed over.

But why on earth is the Church of England traducing the reputation of one of its greatest wartime spiritual leaders on the basis of recent allegations about the events of 65 years ago? We talk about cases of historic abuse in reference to Jimmy Savile crimes during the 60s, 70s and 80s, but this case is truly prehistoric.

Bishop Bell died in 1958 and the crimes of abuse he is alleged to have committed against a young child date from the late 40s and early 50s when the Bishop himself was in his late 60s and early 70s.

He is effectively being tried and convicted by the Church of England with little thought for proper justice and due process.

“We are all diminished by what we are being told,” said the modern Bishop of Chichester. He goes on to explain: “Our starting point is response to the survivor. We remain committed to listening to all allegations of abuse with an open mind. In this case, the scrutiny of the allegation has been thorough, objective and undertaken by people who command the respect of all parties.

“We face with shame a story of abuse of a child; we also know that the burden of not being heard has made the experience so much worse. We apologise for the failures of the past.”

And here much of the problem lies. The starting point must be justice, not just a concern for the ‘survivor’, because that is to jump to conclusions. The Bishop, and the independent assessors, have missed out a vital part of the process of justice that is that the accused is presumed innocent and has the right to defend themselves.

The indecent haste to describe Bishop George Bell as an abuser is a failure of nerve on the part of the Church of England. The diocese of Chichester may have failed to respond properly when the allegation of abuse was first reported in 1995, and although the accuser was offered pastoral support, this should not lead to any sort of admission of guilt on behalf of George Bell.

There is hysteria and a lynch-mob mentality surrounding some of the cases of historic abuse. We have seen this in the false allegations of murder, rape and ritual abuse made against politicians such as Ted Heath, Leon Brittan and Harvey Proctor. The Church is now as much a part of this overreaction as any other part of society.

Of course there are historic cases of abuse, and there was a long period of time when child protection procedures were unknown and reports of abuse were dealt with poorly. There were cover-ups and failures to believe the victims of abuse. But we’ve had at least two decades of improving things, legislating and regulating to make sure that protections are better, and that children are properly listened to and dealt with.

These improvements should have lessened the sense of hysteria and panic surrounding these cases. Abusers such as Jimmy Savile could never have thrived in today’s climate of safeguarding. Yet the case of George Bell proves that we are living in a state of perpetual and rising fears over allegations of child abuse and we in the Church of England have no answers to these fears. In fact, we are complicit in the lynch mob.

Remember the ritual abuse controversy of the 1980s and 1990s in which social workers and police were convinced that Satanists were involved in the mass killing and abuse of children. And there was no evidence at all in the end.

Remember also the mob that surrounded the home of a paediatrician. The witch-hunt is back and no prominent person is safe from being named – alive or dead. And if named their reputation is trashed.

This is the very opposite of the Christian faith that decries fear and says ‘judge not, lest ye be judged’.

George Bell, with his reputation for bravery, and his leadership in bringing the victims of Nazism to safety, opposing carpet-bombing of German cities and supporting the martyrs of the Confessing Church, is the type of church leader who would have confronted this lynch mob with calm courage.

There may be a stain on his reputation for a short time but his memory will be cherished again in future especially when we look back at this time of witch-hunting with a proper sense of perspective.

6 Responses to “The rule of the lynch mob”

  1. Pingback: Law and religion round-up – 8th November | Law & Religion UK





Richard W. Symonds

Richard W. Symonds

The Christ Church censors prevented the report by Andrew Smith QC from being distributed among fellow trustees.

Sir Wyn Williams response: “I am satisfied the body of information provided was wholly sufficient to reach an informed decision”

Christ Church governors now hope that “individuals will accept the outcome of Sir Wyn’s independent review, and allow the tribunal process to continue and reach a conclusion without further public comment”

In the immortal words of John McEnroe: “You cannot be serious!?” 

Janet Fife

Janet Fife 

Since the Christ Church governing body announced when they commissioned this review that it would confirm the appropriateness of their actions, it’s hardly surprising that it’s done just that. It would be interesting to see the terms of reference.

Richard W. Symonds

Richard W. Symonds

Is the Christ Church internal tribunal simply a quasi-legal kangaroo court ‘lynching’ its Dean, on a par with the Church of England core group which ‘lynched’ Bishop Bell?

Susannah Clark

Susannah Clark 

I totally respect the right of the woman involved to have her case investigated fairly and without prejudice.

However, given the vendetta which many believe Christ Church has carried out against the Dean over an extended period preceding this case, I think it is disingenuous to state there is no ‘conflict of interest’ involved in further handling of this case. The Governing Body has seemed to me to be intent on getting rid of the Dean on any grounds possible.

Furthermore, has this case not already been previously referred to the police?

Finally, I realise the Governing Body would like everyone to shut up, and let them complete what I regard as their long-running feud and vendetta against the Dean – and indeed in the interests of the woman concerned it would be good if her personal complaint could be fairly resolved without her being turned into some cause celebre through no fault of her own – but Christ Church’s attempt to control the narrative can hardly be expected to pass without comment.

Any commentary is not directed at the woman who has every right to have her complaint investigated, but at the Governing Body who in the eyes of a considerable number of observers is unfit to play any further part. To avoid further charges of ‘conflict of interest’ they should entirely recuse themselves from any further process, and pass control of this proposed tribunal to a completely independent body. Can anyone offer reassurance that this is going to be the case?

To achieve a credible outcome, in the best interests of the woman concerned, and the Dean, these two people deserve a process that is not executed under the shadow of doubt that seems to me to be cast on the case by the Governing Body’s longer term behaviour and what I believe to be extreme prejudice against the Dean.

None of what I’ve said implies the woman is not honest, or that she does not deserve to have her claims handled as potentially true, but I believe this badly needs to be dealt with by independent professionals and not by an internal Body already demonstrably hostile to the Dean. 

David Lamming

David Lamming 

One of the questions the retired judge was asked in his instructions was, “Were conflicts of Interest and conflicts of loyalty of members of Governing Body properly managed throughout the decision-making process?” (see page 7). Sir Wyn rightly states (para 24) that “This question must be considered in the context of the “history” between the Dean and the Governing Body and the publicity surrounding that “history”.” He then says (para 25): “I am not aware of the detail of this history other than that which has been aired in newspapers. However, I have reached the conclusion that I can answer the question posed for my consideration by reference to the papers provided to me since I am concerned with the management of potential conflicts rather than whether any particular member was actually conflicted. Self-evidently, actual conflicts would only be revealed if declared by a member or shown to exist by virtue of a member’s conduct.”

It is astonishing to note, first, that Sir Wyn states that he is “concerned with the management of potential conflicts rather than whether any particular member was actually conflicted.” This suggests that no documents were provided to Sir Wyn that would evidence any such conflict.

However, “a members’ conduct” would, surely, include being a signatory to a letter to the Chair of the Charity Commission, Baroness Stowell, stating that (in their honest opinion) “Martyn Percy has breached his legal and fiduciary obligations and shown both unsound judgement and a consistent lack of moral compass, and that he is not fit to remain a trustee,” with the letter concluding, “A failure to act now will oblige Christ Church to spend more money on attempts to resolve an unsustainable situation.” Such a letter, dated 20 May 2020, was signed by 41 members of the Governing Body (trustees of the charity) – co-incidentally the same number as apparently voted on 11 January 2021 in support of the motion that “the complaint was supported by sufficient evidence which, if proved, could justify removal from office” (See Williams, para 20.)

Sir Wyn makes no mention of this letter. Had a copy been provided to him with his instructions he would surely have had to conclude that those members of the Governing Body who signed it had, “by virtue of [their] conduct” revealed a conflict of interest, with their failure to disclose it fatally undermining the legitimacy of the resolution. 

Toby Forward

Maintaining the proud English tradition of the finest justice that money can buy. 



I think it is Welsh justice on this occasion. How much would a retired judge get paid for a report like this? “No doubt?” 

Richard W. Symonds

Richard W. Symonds

The President of Welsh Tribunals concludes:

“I have no doubt that establishing a tribunal is a responsible use of charitable resource and in the best interests of Christ Church”

I am reminded of the courtroom riposte by Mandy Rice-Davies in the Profumo scandal:

“Well he would [say that], wouldn’t he?”



Since the Dean is ill I would have thought that it would make sense for the Governing Body and Chapter to explore his medical early retirement. There is a procedure within the Statutes. This would be much cheaper than a tribunal (and therefore probably a better use of Trust funds) and (but?) wouldn’t have the effect of trashing the Dean’ reputation. The review didn’t consider whether this or other possibilities might resolve the situation more cheaply than a tribunal. That seems to me to be a glaring deficiency. 


Martyn Percy – Screenshot

Tom Keighley is organising this fundraising appeal on behalf of Martyn Percy.I have set up this website on behalf of the friends and colleagues of Martyn Percy, head of one of Oxford’s largest Colleges, and a Church of England Cathedral Dean.  This is revised version of the ‘story’ to reflect what has been in the media

The press has carried a number of accounts of what is happening to Martyn Percy. As Martyn has made no public comments, here are summaries of three reports.

It is claimed the college’s academics have been ‘combing the statutes’ of Christ Church – founded by Henry VIII in 1546 – to find legal justification to get rid of Prof Percy…One way the plotters believe they can force him out is through a formal complaint…That complaint will now be judged by an internal tribunal. Prof Percy, 56, is also said to have received a stream of legal letters that an insider said risked ‘financially breaking him’ after he was forced to hire his own lawyers. The insider added: “It’s a tragedy, embarrassing and a disgrace.” Mail on Sunday

The tribunal process itself raises further questions about governance. It is understood that Dr Percy was given no opportunity to challenge any of the evidence against him…a college insider said: “Chapter and Governing Body did not invite the Dean to give any response to the complaint, or put forward any documents of his own before making their decision.” Church Times

The Bishop of Buckingham fears Percy is being “hounded out” for taking “the costly path of reform” rather than seeking a “quiet life”. His lawyers have raised concerns he has been bullied, saying he has been ostracized forced to run up large legal bills. Sunday Times

It appears therefore that Martyn’s position is a uniquely powerless one. It takes just seven complainants under the statutes of the college to request a tribunal to remove the Dean of Christ Church. Three strange steps appear to have led to this position.

First, the Dean was offered no proper investigation, at which evidence from both sides could be heard, read and weighed.

Second, there was no disciplinary hearing in which he could defend any allegations made against him.

Third, to avoid unnecessary conflict, processes of genuine mediation should always happen. Such mediation is entered into in good faith by both parties – rather than being used as a means to coerce and expedite a virtually immediate resignation, which is increasingly common in workplaces today.

In any normal place of work, a Tribunal would be the very final stage: and only if the investigation, disciplinary procedures and mediation had all failed. In Martyn’s case, the first three stages did not fail: it seems they were not really attempted.

Under the college statutes, the Dean has no grievance procedure available to him either, so he can’t complain about the treatment give him. Consequently, he can do nothing about the bullying and harassment he has received. Under natural justice any person should have rights. But Martyn doesn’t.

Finally, the Dean seems to have no right to free speech. To defend himself, he has to find his own legal costs. His speech is not free. If you think this is unjust, then please help the support fund.

Organiser and beneficiary

Tom Keighley Organiser Hornchurch, Greater London, United KingdomMartyn Percy 

  • Created 7 November 2018

RWS NOTE – 13/03/2021

In a plot worthy of TV series Inspector Morse, Christ Church Oxford – once the most wealthy of colleges – follows the great British tradition of securing the best justice money can buy at any cost.

No doubt being well-rewarded for his efforts, retired judge and President of Welsh Tribunals Sir Wyn Williams concludes his independent report: “I have no doubt that establishing a tribunal is a responsible use of charitable resource and in the best interests of Christ Church”. I am reminded of the courtroom riposte by Mandy Rice-Davies in the Profumo scandal: “Well he would [say that], wouldn’t he?”.
The Christ Church censors prevented the report by Andrew Smith QC from being distributed among fellow trustees. Sir Wyn’s response: “I am satisfied the body of information provided was wholly sufficient to reach an informed decision”.

Christ Church governors are now hoping “individuals will accept the outcome of Sir Wyn’s independent review, and allow the tribunal process to continue and reach a conclusion without further public comment”.
In the immortal words of John McEnroe: “You cannot be serious!”

Has the Christ Church internal tribunal simply become a quasi-legal kangaroo court to lynch its Dean, much like the Church of England Core Group lynching of wartime Bishop George Bell?

The College’s internal tribunal is not only unjust , it is an act of cruelty – and not just inflicted on its Dean.

Locks and panic buttons: security measures against Dean of Christ Church


CDM moves to tribunal stage, even though Dean has yet to respond formally to complaint


Christ Church, Oxford

KEY codes were changed, panic alarms were considered, and staff were told to be aware of the nearest exit at Christ Church, Oxford, all to protect them from the Dean, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, it has emerged.

These precautions are taken from safeguarding documents drawn up on 22 October 2020 after a complaint of sexual harassment was made against the Dean in the cathedral on 4 October (News, 20 November 2020). They were seen by the Church Times this week. It is understood that the Dean disputes the allegation, but he is on sick leave and unable to respond formally (News, 15 January).

There are two documents marked “safeguarding risk assessments”, one for the college and one for the cathedral and choir school. The cathedral assessment, which bears the C of E logo, rates the risk of harassment of the college chaplains and canons as “high”, and talks of changing door codes. Another risk assessed as high is “inappropriate leaks of sensitive and confidential information” to the cathedral congregation and alumni. The risk to pupils of the choir school of “inappropriate or erratic behaviour” is assessed as “low”.

The college assessment states: “There is potential for inappropriate behaviour to take place virtually, by Teams/phone, email, social media. Staff could be unable to carry out their duties effectively if measures are not taken to ensure that they can do so safely.”

Among the measures listed are: “Staff should be aware of exit routes”; “a panic alarm might be considered for staff who routinely work alone”; and “security locks and access to rooms should be checked.”

Housekeeping staff are instructed to enter the deanery in pairs, as are clerk-of-works staff if called to undertake maintenance work. The Dean’s PA is moved to a different office. Staff in the college lodge are considered safe because they work in pairs and “behind a counter and screen”.Advertisement

David Lamming, a lay member of General Synod who has taken a particular interest in safeguarding issues in the Church, said this week: “Not only are the alleged risks and the steps set out to manage them grossly disproportionate to the single allegation against the Dean, the risk assessments are not ‘independent’.” He said that this was a specific recommendation in the report drawn up by Kate Wood, the independent consultant whose investigation of the harassment allegations triggered the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) process.

The college assessment bears the names of the diocesan safeguarding officer, Richard Woodley, and Ms Wood. This was an error, Ms Wood said on Tuesday. “I have never undertaken a risk assessment in this matter or been party to the assessment of risk in any regard. I have never even seen the risk assessments conducted by the college and cathedral.

“My role was to conduct an initial investigation into the allegations of sexual harassment. This is a very different role to conducting a risk assessment. . .

“I was therefore deeply frustrated to read numerous press articles and social media comments in which my professional competence was repeatedly questioned in relation to having allegedly conducted a risk assessment and not being qualified to do so.

“I asked the college several times to publicly explain the error and to confirm that I had not conducted a risk assessment. I also asked the college to engage with those people who had been most vocal in criticising me on this false narrative. This public correction does not appear to have happened, though I am told that the error has now been corrected on the document.”

A spokesperson for Christ Church confirmed that Ms Wood’s name had been incorrectly included in an early “risk assessment draft”. This was corrected before the assessment was finalised, he said. “The risk assessments have been reviewed regularly and will be again ahead of the new term.”

The spokesperson said that the assessments had been signed off by the diocesan safeguarding officer, i.e. Mr Woodley, who explained on Tuesday that, because this was an “interim assessment of risk” rather than a formal risk assessment, it did not need to comply with the Safeguarding (Clergy Risk Assessment) Regulations 2016, which stipulate, among other things, that the person being assessed be consulted and given 14 days to query it, and, when it involved “certain facts which are in dispute . . . must set out the matter and the nature and the extent of the dispute”.


Bishop of Carlisle made ‘significant errors of judgement’ concludes safeguarding inquiry THE Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, made “significant errors of judgement” when he wrote a character reference for the Revd Robert Bailey, a former parish priest in his diocese who has since been convicted of the sexual abuse of two under-13s in the 2010s. This is the conclusion of an investigation by the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team (NST)

The forms used for the interim assessments appear to have been adapted from risk assessments for events, and are headed “Activity risk assessment”. More up-to-date versions were requested by the Church Times but refused.

As for what happens next, it was understood that all progress on the complaint was stalled until Dean Percy became well enough to represent himself or instruct lawyers, and respond formally to the complaint. It was reported at the weekend, however, that the Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart — to whom the Bishop of Oxford has delegated the processing of the CDM — has decided to proceed to the tribunal stage.

Bishop Urquhart’s statement on Tuesday afternoon said merely: “Having regard to the Statutory Guidance issued by the Clergy Discipline Commission, to which I must have due regard, I can say no more than that a complaint has been made against the Dean and that it is being considered in accordance with the procedures laid down in the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 and the Clergy Discipline Rules 2005.”

It is understood, however, that the complaint will now be investigated afresh by a designated officer, who reports to a president of tribunals, a senior church lawyer, who will decide the next course of action.

Dean Percy, therefore, faces three concurrent investigations: the CDM; a second core group set up by the National Safeguarding Team; and a second tribunal set up by the Christ Church Governing Body under statute 39, “seeking the removal of the Dean from office for good cause”. In the earlier Christ Church tribunal, to consider a complaint lodged in 2018 (News, 9 November 2018), Dean Percy was exonerated of every one of the 27 charges against him (News, 23 August 2019).

The college authorities last week published details from a review it had commissioned from Sir Wyn Williams, president of Welsh tribunals, stating that its actions against Dean Percy were “entirely consistent with the statue and by-laws” of the college.

Sir Wyn had been commissioned after the Charity Commission wrote to each member of the Governing Body (News, 5 February), warning that it was investigating the decision to proceed against the Dean to see whether it was “a responsible use of the charity’s resources”. The college authorities are thought to have spent more than £2 million in their attempts to remove the Dean. Dean Percy, in his turn, has run up legal bills of more than £500,000, and is relying on an employment tribunal, due later this year, to force the college to reimburse him.Advertisement

Sir Wyn writes: “There was nothing which can be categorised as unfair or unjust in the way the information was provided to members of Governing Body prior to the making of the complaint.” And he concludes: “I have no doubt that establishing a tribunal is a responsible use of charitable resource and in the best interests of Christ Church.” The review has been sent to the Charity Commission.

On Wednesday, however, The Times quoted from a 15-page opinion commissioned by Dean Percy’s supporters and drawn up by Edward Fitzgerald QC, a human-rights lawyer, and his colleague Paul Harris. This states: “The sustained, repeated and entirely groundless campaign to drive the dean from his job would seem to fall within the definition of harassment in Sections 2 and 7 of the Protection from Harassment Act, 1997.”

Although details of the alleged assault have been published elsewhere, the matter is being dealt with in confidence by the college and church authorities. The complainant wrote to the Church Times last month to counter information about her allegation which had been published elsewhere (Letters, 5 February). She wrote: “Had I not judged the incident to be inappropriate and extremely distressing, I should not have decided to make a formal complaint.”


Richard W. Symonds

“Dean Percy, therefore, faces three concurrent investigations: the CDM; a second core group set up by the National Safeguarding Team; and a second tribunal set up by the Christ Church Governing Body under statute 39, “seeking the removal of the Dean from office for good cause”. In the earlier Christ Church tribunal, to consider a complaint lodged in 2018 (News, 9 November 2018), Dean Percy was exonerated of every one of the 27 charges against him (News, 23 August 2019)”Church Times

So, three quasi-legal kangaroo courts ‘lynching’ the unwell Dean – with injustice, cruelty and brutality – inflicted with an illusion of impregnability, immunity and impunity.