Monthly Archives: April 2021


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



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




South East Today

BBC One South East, Thursday 5 November 2015

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




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.

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

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



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 


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


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.



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.



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.


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‘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