Monthly Archives: September 2021

OCTOBER 3 2021 – BISHOP BELL DAY OF COMMEMORATION – ‘SAY A LITTLE PRAYER’ SUNDAY – “GEORGE BELL, BISHOP OF CHICHESTER, ECUMENIST, PEACEMAKER, 1958” – THE CHURCH YEAR CALENDAR [3/10/2021]

OCTOBER 3 2021 – BISHOP BELL DAY OF COMMEMORATION‘SAY A LITTLE PRAYER’ SUNDAY – OCTOBER 3 2021 – “GEORGE BELL, BISHOP OF CHICHESTER, ECUMENIST, PEACEMAKER, 1958” – THE CHURCH YEAR CALENDAR [3/10/2021]

THE CHURCH YEAR CALENDAR

Sunday, October 3    George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, Ecumenist, Peacemaker, 1958

‘SAY A LITTLE PRAYER’ SUNDAY – OCTOBER 3 2021

Bishop George Bell [February 4 1883 – October 3 1958]

LETTER SUBMISSION TO THE CHURCH TIMES – OCTOBER 1 2021 [UNPUBLISHED]

Dear Editor

One core reason for the resignation of a highly respected peer from the Ecclesiastical Committee has been the injustice meted out to the Bishop of Chichester George Bell [Lord Lexden in the House of Lords, Sept 16].
“Passion and anger” and “total despair” at the Church’s unfair and unjust system are not just felt by this Conservative peer – he is not alone.
It would appear Divine intervention is the only means by which the injustice inflicted against the wartime bishop can be made just.
To that end, prayers will be offered up this Sunday [Oct 3] – a Day of Commemoration in the Church of England Year Calendar:
‘George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, Ecumenist, Peacemaker, 1958’.


Yours sincerely

Richard W. Symonds

The Bell Society

SEPTEMBER 17 2021 – “MY FAITH IN THE CHURCH’S INSTITUTIONAL INTEGRITY HAS BEEN COMPLETELY BROKEN” – LORD LEXDEN IN THE HOUSE OF LORDS

“To despair of being able to do anything, or refuse to do anything, is to be guilty of infidelity”

Bishop George Bell [quoted by the former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey at the end of his address in the 2018 Rebuilding Bridges Conference in Westminster]

Yes! Indeed special remembrance next Sunday of our great Bishop who within the communion of saints prays with us and for us. A holy and courageous priest, and we look forward to the erection of the statue on the west wall of Canterbury Cathedral. I wish we could be told a bit more about it, apart from the usual ‘ it will now be delayed probably for five years because of other works’. But on his special day in the Church’s Calendar, let us focus on the glorious life George Bell lives in the Kingdom of Heaven, and give thanks for the great work GOD did in and through him while he was among us.

+ Nicholas Reade

Nicholas Reade on Bishop Bell – Extracts from “Rarely Ordinary Time – Some Memoirs” [Rother 2019]

OCTOBER 1 2021 – CHURCH TIMES ‘LORD LEXDEN-BISHOP BELL’ LETTER SUBMISSION [UNPUBLISHED]

LETTER SUBMISSION TO THE CHURCH TIMES – OCTOBER 1 2021 [UNPUBLISHED]

Dear Editor

One core reason for the resignation of a highly respected peer from the Ecclesiastical Committee has been the injustice meted out to the Bishop of Chichester George Bell [Lord Lexden in the House of Lords, Sept 16].
“Passion and anger” and “total despair” at the Church’s unfair and unjust system are not just felt by this Conservative peer – he is not alone.
It would appear Divine intervention is the only means by which the injustice inflicted against the wartime bishop can be made just.
To that end, prayers will be offered up this Sunday [Oct 3] – a Day of Commemoration in the Church of England Year Calendar:
‘George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, Ecumenist, Peacemaker, 1958’.


Yours sincerely

Richard W. Symonds

The Bell Society

SEPTEMBER 29 2021 – “CHURCH NEWS – CLERICAL ERRORS” – PRIVATE EYE + LORD LEXDEN’S RESIGNATION + BISHOP GEORGE BELL

CHURCH NEWSCLERICAL ERRORS – PRIVATE EYE – NO. 1557 – 1 OCTOBER – 14 OCT 2021

During a debate in the House of Lords last week, Lord Lexden announced his resignation from the parliamentary ecclesiastical committee because “my faith in the Church’s institutional integrity has been completely broken”. He said that he “can no longer support the Clergy Discipline Measure, in view of the harm it is capable of inflicting on innocent clergy caught up in sex abuse allegations.

The resignation was prompted by the Diocese of London’s response to the suicide of Fr Alan Griffin, a retired Church of England priest who was falsely accused of visiting “rent boys” and subjected to a long and agonising safeguarding process by the church he had served for 40 years [Eye 1553].

Lexden was particularly angry that the diocese urged the coroner at Griffin’s inquest, Mary Hassell, not to include in her report “any concerns that may be taken as a criticism of clerics or staff for not filtering or verifying allegations”. She ignored the plea.

The diocese has denied it was “trying to deflect criticism away from clergy or staff”. But the Bishop of Blackburn, the sole prelate standing in the House of Lords to represent the Church of England at a debate two weeks ago, clearly didn’t get the memo. he agreed with Lord Lexden that the request to the coroner was “reprehensible and completely unacceptable”.

An in-house “Lessons Learned” review has been commissioned, of course, but so far no one has been held responsible for the chain of events that ended so tragically for Fr Griffin.

It began with a “brain dump” two years ago by the diocese’s retiring director of operations, Martin Sargeant, in which he identified 42 clergy whom he regarded as problematic. The claims ranged from drunkenness and sexual deviance to more prosaic gossip such as “he has a student living with him” and “chaos seems to follow him around”.

Since then the catastrophic handling of the allegations by the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, has led to a dramatic breakdown of trust with her clergy. The 41 surviving clerics named in the “brain dump” want to know what has been said about them, why they were given no opportunity to rebut it, and whether the unsubstantiated claims are now held on their personal files.

The Eye learns that a majority of clergy in the Two Cities area of London Diocese – the part overseen directly by the Bishop of London – held a closed meeting on 14 September at which feelings ran high. Many were friends and former colleagues of Fr Griffin. Some spoke of “rage, indignation, bewilderment, frustration and sorrow” at the failure of the senior diocesan staff to care for them in the face of allegations made against them. One, driven to despair, said they had not received a kind communication from diocesan leaders in three years.

Some are quietly planning legal action against their own diocese. Others, encouraged by the threatened vote of no confidence that led to the defenestration of the Bishop of Winchester [Eye 1549], are now proposing a similar vote against the Bishop of London.

SEPTEMBER 29 2021 – “BREAKING NEWS. THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND DOES NOT HAVE TO EXIST. GOD CAN BUILD THE KINGDOM WITHOUT US. SO WE NEED TO DISCOVER WHY WE EXIST” – MARTYN PERCY

SEPTEMBER 26 2021 – “I FIND IT DEEPLY TROUBLING THAT AN ARCHBISHOP [WELBY], CONSIDERED TO BE MORE SENSITIVE THAN MOST TO DIVINE MORAL LAW, CAN BE SO MORALLY BLIND TO THAT WHICH IS IN FRONT OF HIS MORAL NOSE – EVEN THOUGH MATTHEW 7 v 5 RINGS IN MY OWN MORAL EARS” ~ RICHARD W. SYMONDS – THE BELL SOCIETY

Richard W. Symonds

The Bell Society

OCTOBER 14 2021 – “THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE” BY RT HON GEORGE CAREY, FORMER ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

By Dave Hall

Former Archbishop to launch second instalment of memoirs at CRE National

In a memoir which pulls no punches, Rt Hon George Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, reflects on nearly two decades of ministry post-retirement.

Lord Carey was the first former Archbishop of Canterbury to write an autobiography and has now written a second. The Truth Will Set You Free takes up the story from his retirement to the current day while revisiting key lessons learned throughout his life.

In the book, published by the Barnabas Fund, Carey reflects on aspects of leadership, overseas development, education and mission. He also writes honestly about how, in his 80s, the Bishop Peter Ball scandal came back to haunt him when his permission to officiate was suspended not once but twice.

He launches The Truth Will Set You Free at CRE National 2021 on Thu 14 Oct (11am, Daniel’s Bar) in an event open to all visitors to the exhibition.

• The Barnabas Fund are on stand C5 at CRE National 2021

Book your tickets to CRE National! – and save up to £5

Seminar Guide – See the complete guide to seminars and special features at CRE National 2021

Welcome Back – See an online version of the CRE National 2021 ‘Welcome Back’ brochure

Our next exhibitions

CRE National 2021
12-14 October 2021
Sandown Park, Surrey

CRE South West 2022
23-24 February 2022
Westpoint, Exeter

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Building Bridges

Sandra Saer, who chaired the Keep Rebuilding Bridges Conference, at Church House, Westminster, on 5 October 2018, waiting with Lord George Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, a key Speaker at the Conference, to hear a question from the floor.

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

https://findfullebook.com/download/the-truth-will-set-you-free/

‘SAY A LITTLE PRAYER’ SUNDAY – OCTOBER 3 2021 – “GEORGE BELL, BISHOP OF CHICHESTER, ECUMENIST, PEACEMAKER, 1958” – DAY OF COMMEMORATION – THE CHURCH YEAR CALENDAR [3/10/2021]

THE CHURCH YEAR CALENDAR

Sunday, October 3    George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, Ecumenist, Peacemaker, 1958

‘SAY A LITTLE PRAYER’ SUNDAY – OCTOBER 3 2021

Bishop George Bell [February 4 1883 – October 3 1958]

 

LETTER SUBMISSION TO THE CHURCH TIMES – OCTOBER 1 2021

Dear Editor

One core reason for the resignation of a highly respected peer from the Ecclesiastical Committee has been the injustice meted out to the Bishop of Chichester George Bell [Lord Lexden in the House of Lords, Sept 16].
“Passion and anger” and “total despair” at the Church’s unfair and unjust system are not just felt by this Conservative peer – he is not alone.
It would appear Divine intervention is the only means by which the injustice inflicted against the wartime bishop can be made just.
To that end, prayers will be offered up this Sunday [Oct 3] – a Day of Commemoration in the Church of England Year Calendar:
‘George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, Ecumenist, Peacemaker, 1958’.


Yours sincerely

Richard W. Symonds

The Bell Society

“To despair of being able to do anything, or refuse to do anything, is to be guilty of infidelity”

Bishop George Bell [quoted by the former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey at the end of his address in the 2018 Rebuilding Bridges Conference in Westminster]

Yes! Indeed special remembrance next Sunday of our great Bishop who within the communion of saints prays with us and for us. A holy and courageous priest, and we look forward to the erection of the statue on the west wall of Canterbury Cathedral. I wish we could be told a bit more about it, apart from the usual ‘ it will now be delayed probably for five years because of other works’. But on his special day in the Church’s Calendar, let us focus on the glorious life George Bell lives in the Kingdom of Heaven, and give thanks for the great work GOD did in and through him while he was among us.

+ Nicholas Reade

SEPTEMBER 17 2021 – “MY FAITH IN THE CHURCH’S INSTITUTIONAL INTEGRITY HAS BEEN COMPLETELY BROKEN” – LORD LEXDEN IN THE HOUSE OF LORDS

Alan Griffin case mentioned in House of Lords debate – ‘Thinking Anglicans’

on Friday, 17 September 2021 at 12.09 pm by Simon Sarmiento
categorised as Church of EnglandGeneral SynodSafeguarding

The speeches concerning the Safeguarding (Code of Practice) Measure  from the Bishop of Blackburn, Lord Cormack, and Lord Lexden are * all worth reading. However, I draw you attention to this exchange between Lord Lexden and the Bishop:

Lord Lexden Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Cormack referred at the start of his powerful remarks to the passion and anger that he felt because of some recent events. I feel very deep passion and anger, as I shall explain.

I have had the honour of serving on the Ecclesiastical Committee for a few years, but I am afraid I cannot continue my membership of it. I can no longer support the Clergy Discipline Measure, in view of the harm it is capable of inflicting on innocent clergy caught up in sex abuse allegations. Doubts about the Church’s capacity to devise a fair and just system for dealing with accusations of sex abuse laid against its clergy have long been simmering in my mind, not least because of the terrible way in which the reputation of the great George Bell, to whom my noble friend referred, was damaged–and damaged so unfairly. But worry and concern have now given place to total despair; my faith in the Church’s institutional integrity has been completely broken.

Long ago I was briefly close, perhaps for no longer than a single summer, to a witty and clever Cambridge contemporary. He was a classicist who became a lecturer at Exeter University and later took holy orders. His name was Alan Griffin. In November last year, the Reverend Dr Alan Griffin committed suicide. After the end of the inquest into his death in early July this year, the coroner wrote a detailed report on the way that the Church had investigated his suspected sexual misconduct. She revealed that when he died, the Church’s investigation had been going on for over a year. The coroner stated that

“he could not cope with an investigation into his conduct, the detail of and the source for which he had never been told”–

I repeat, the detail and source for which he had never been told.

Worse, when the coroner probed the evidence against him, she found it was non-existent. There was, she said,

“no complainant, no witness and no accuser”.

The Church had acted on the basis of mere gossip and innuendo. Could there be a clearer example of the denial of natural justice?

And how did the Church carry out its investigation during the year in which Alan Griffin was kept in ignorance of the so-called accusations against him? The coroner states:

“nobody took responsibility for steering the direction of the process from start to finish and for making coherent, reasoned, evidence based decisions”.

And so the scene was set for a terrible tragedy.

The last element of the Church’s behaviour in this case which I want the House to note is very serious indeed. The coroner records that submissions

“on behalf of the Church of England … urged me not to include any concerns that may be taken as a criticism of clerics or staff for not filtering or verifying allegations.”

This is not from some shady organisation or business with suspect moral standards, but from our country’s established Church. These are the circumstances that led to the death of a friend of mine from long ago, and that is why my faith in the Church’s institutional integrity has been broken.

Lord Lexden Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

Could the right reverend Prelate comment on the quotation from the coroner’s report that I read out at the end? The Church of England seeking to interfere with the content of a coroner’s report in order to diminish the extent of the criticism it would sustain: is that not utterly reprehensible?

The Bishop of Blackburn Bishop

It is reprehensible and unacceptable. One of the big issues has been the whole matter of cover-up and trying to silence voices. That is a very clear example and should never, ever be repeated. I will report that back to the national safeguarding team and others. We are in the business not of covering up but of being transparent and open, so that these things can be brought to light and people can learn from them. It is reprehensible and completely unacceptable.

COMMENTS – ‘THINKING ANGLICANS’

The presumption of innocence is a fundamental principle of English law over many centuries, but in recent years it has been honoured in the breach by those we normally expect to set an example”

Dr Gerald Morgan OM FTCD

THINKING ANGLICANS – COMMENTS

“The whole thing just smacks of an attempt to silence people within a system which everyone admits is broken”

Rev. Andrew Foreshew-Cain Reply

“The “system” may well be broken, but it has been operating within the Church for many centuries. An amended Code of Practice will change nothing until the centuries-old operating system is amended. That requires identifying those who run the system. Good luck with that”

Richard W. Symonds

The Lord Bishop of Blackburn:

Moved by The Lord Bishop of Blackburn

That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Safeguarding (Code of Practice) Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.

The Bishop of Blackburn Bishop

My Lords, it has been a long day and we are on the cusp of a party conference recess. I do not want to detain your Lordships more than is necessary. I am somewhat anxious, and feel, to use the words of a noble Lord a moment ago, a scintilla of fear, standing here for the first time and hearing much of the previous debate about the importance of good leadership and of doing everything well. Perhaps I am a candidate for all that further training that was talked about. It is a great privilege to be allowed to spend this week as duty Bishop in this House and to lead Prayers each day.

I am grateful for your Lordships’ presence this evening, not least because the Measure before us is significant in its application and is about safeguarding. As noble Lords will know, the Church of England has been on a long journey of putting in place appropriate staff, policies and practices to make the Church a safe place for all people, especially children and vulnerable adults. That has been essential as a response to church often being unsafe and to stories—historic and current—of appalling cases of abuse by those in positions of power who should have known better and whom many were willing to trust.

This Measure updates the legislation concerned with the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults by the Church of England. In particular, it responds to a recommendation made by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, known as IICSA. In 2019, the independent inquiry issued a report on case studies it had carried out into abuse committed by Peter Ball, a former Bishop of Gloucester, and on past abuse in the diocese of Chichester. The report recognised that steps had been taken by the Church to tackle abuse, including the passing of the Safeguarding and Clergy Discipline Measure 2016. But the independent inquiry considered that the way the 2016 Measure imposed obligations on individuals and Church organisations to follow correct safeguarding practice was less clear than it should be. This recommendation focused on the requirement in the 2016 Measure that a relevant person must have “due regard” to safeguarding guidance issued by the House of Bishops. The independent inquiry considered that the effect of a statutory requirement to have “due regard” to guidance was not well understood and should be replaced with a requirement that was more explicit in its terms.

The Archbishops’ Council accepted the recommendations contained in the report of the independent inquiry and has been taking steps to implement them. This Measure, passed by the General Synod in April this year, will implement the recommendation I have just described. It replaces the existing duty to have “due regard” to safeguarding guidance with the duty to “comply with” requirements imposed by a safeguarding code of practice. The concept of complying with a requirement should be more straightforward than having “due regard” to guidance.

The code of practice itself, and any subsequent amendments to it, will be subject to prior consultation, including with those who have suffered abuse, as well as with representative bodies of the clergy and the laity. The code will also be subject to scrutiny by the General Synod. The code of practice, and any amendment to it, will be sent to every member of the General Synod and published online. If 25 or more members of the synod give notice, a code will not come into force until the synod has debated and approved it.

The opportunity has also been taken in this Measure to update the list of “relevant persons”—that is, those individuals and bodies to whom the code of practice will be directed and who will be under a duty to comply with its requirements. Under the 2016 Measure, the list of relevant persons already includes clergy, licensed laypersons, church wardens and parochial church councils. Cathedral chapters will be added by the Cathedrals Measure 2021. This Measure will add diocesan boards of finance and diocesan boards of education to the list. It will also add staff working in the Church of England’s national safeguarding team, meaning that they too will be obliged to comply with relevant requirements contained in the code of practice.

During the passage of the Measure through the General Synod, the issue was raised as to how compliance with the requirements of the code of practice would be enforced, should that become necessary. So far as the clergy are concerned, non-compliance would potentially be a disciplinary matter, as it would be for licensed lay ministers. Bodies such as parochial church councils and diocesan boards are charities, and the Charity Commission takes the safeguarding responsibility of charity trustees very seriously and has statutory powers to intervene where they are not being properly carried out. Cathedrals are subject to visitation by the bishop and will shortly become subject to the jurisdiction of the Charity Commission.

The sole lacuna in terms of enforcing compliance was found to be the case of churchwardens. As matters stand, there is no power to take disciplinary or other action against a churchwarden who refuses to comply with correct safeguarding practice. The Measure therefore includes a power for the bishop to suspend a churchwarden where he or she has failed to comply with the requirement of the safeguarding code of practice. This is a discretionary power and builds on powers that bishops already have to suspend churchwardens who present a direct safeguarding risk. As with the exercise of those existing powers, a churchwarden who is suspended for non-compliance with the safeguarding code of practice will have a right of appeal to an independent judge.

I must conclude by acknowledging the serious past failings of the Church of England in protecting children and vulnerable adults from abuse—a failure which the most reverend Primate Archbishop of Canterbury has acknowledged on many occasions. As he said in his evidence to the independent inquiry in 2019:

“Overall, I remain utterly horrified by what we have done in the past, our failures, and no doubt there will be failures going on … We have made some small progress. We have a long way to go.”

I hope and pray that this Measure will be another step in making the Church of England a safer place for children and vulnerable adults. I beg to move.

Lord Cormack Conservative  7:00 pm, 16th September 2021

My Lords, I rise as one who has been a churchwarden—although no longer—for a total of 36 years in three different churches, who has served on the General Synod of the Church of England for 10 years between 1995 and 2005, and who is still actively involved in church affairs. I have also served on the Ecclesiastical Committee, whose report is what we are officially discussing tonight to approve it, for nearly 50 years. I therefore have a fairly long background.

I am so delighted to see my noble friend Lord Lexden here—I think we are the only two members of the committee here. I know that our chairman, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, was very sorry not to be able to come, and I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, was also particularly sorry not to be able to come. I support the Measure, but I agreed with my colleagues on the committee that between us, we need to make some rather important points.

I support this Measure as being expedient but I hope it will also be effective and will not create some of the tragedies and difficulties that the ham-fisted handling of safeguarding has resulted in in recent years. I speak with some passion and some anger. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lincoln, a Member of your Lordships’ House, was suspended—the first time a bishop had been suspended in centuries; I believe the previous one was suspended for shooting his gamekeeper—for 20 months and was then allowed back with a mild rap on the knuckles. He had done nothing serious—he himself had done nothing of a criminal nature—but he was held not to have handled a case drawn to his attention with sufficient expedition. It was a difficult case; I do not know all the details, and it would be wrong to give just a few. However, this man, who served the Church for many years and who was installed as bishop in November 2011, the day before Remembrance Day, having had almost two years of his episcopate suspended, is now somewhat broken, and has announced that he is retiring at the end of this year. I am pleased to say that he has been able to take Prayers in your Lordships’ House on a couple of occasions; I hope that he will be able to do so again. This was a disproportionate handling.

It would not be so bad if this were an isolated case. But staying in Lincoln, the chancellor was suspended because he was facing a criminal charge; that is fair enough. He was acquitted unanimously by the jury and was then exonerated by the Church authorities, but it took 789 days. Again, it was said that some further accusations were trivial and unsubstantiated. We must be careful when dealing with public men and women who have contact with their parishioners, or with a wider congregation if they are in cathedrals and so on. We must have regard for them as people.

For instance, it was said in Committee—my noble friend Lord Lexden was there—regarding the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lincoln, that part of the delay was due to the fact that the police were investigating and had to report to the Church authorities. He suggested that the police had held this up for well over a year when they had not done so at all. Within a few months of the action taken in May 2019, the police said that they had no further interest in the case, and yet the Church dragged its feet.

Of course, there are many examples of clergymen—it is not an exalted rank—who have had their lives completely wrecked by malice. There is recent example in the London diocese of a clergyman who committed suicide.

I am not for a moment suggesting that safeguarding is unimportant. As a Christian and an Anglican, I am deeply ashamed of some of the things that have happened historically. But I am also deeply ashamed of the way in which certain things have been handled, as I have indicated.

Let me make a historical reference. One of the saintliest bishops of the 20th century was, without doubt, Bishop Bell of Chichester, formerly the Dean of Canterbury. He was a man of great spirituality and is regarded as so important that he has a day devoted to him in the Church calendar. He stood up and spoke out against mass bombing. He did not always endear himself to our great Prime Minister of the day, Winston Churchill, or to others—although Churchill did say some very kind things about him, and meant them. This man, dead in 1958, was, a matter of just three of four years ago, suddenly traduced on the evidence of a woman in her late 70s, who alleged that she had been interfered with by the bishop as a girl of five. There was no corroborative evidence. An investigation was conducted with great forensic skill by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, who delivered what can only be called a damning report on the way in which the Church of England had handled this.

I welcome the Measure before us tonight—not that the bit of paper that colleagues have been able to pick up tells them very much about it, and so I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate for his concise but good explanation. I wish our colleagues had had a better piece of paper; they might then have been more tempted to come and take part in this debate. It is also a pity that this is a debate without a list of speakers, as I think we would have attracted more with one.

However, it would be wrong to let this debate take place without seeking to stress that this safeguarding business has not been handled well. It is important because any man or woman is innocent until proven guilty. It is important that if there are further cases they are handled with greater dispatch and compassion, and if the man or woman is guilty then of course they must be appropriately dealt with. If that means they must be unfrocked, as the term is when a priest loses holy orders, fine, but we have not got the balance right up to now.

I pray devoutly that this Measure will enable us to get the balance right but it is crucial for the reputation of the Church of England, which is going through a rough patch at the moment. I have not lost my faith, but I have come close to losing my faith in the Church of England from the experiences I have witnessed in the last few years. We have got to get the balance right. This Measure must work in a way that is fair to the accused as well, of course, as rooting out those who do evil. What we are talking about is that there are some people who do evil, but the vast majority of clergy men and women in the Church of England are honourable to their vocation. They deserve to be treated fairly and properly, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lincoln recently has not been.

Lord Lexden Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Cormack referred at the start of his powerful remarks to the passion and anger that he felt because of some recent events. I feel very deep passion and anger, as I shall explain.

I have had the honour of serving on the Ecclesiastical Committee for a few years, but I am afraid I cannot continue my membership of it. I can no longer support the Clergy Discipline Measure, in view of the harm it is capable of inflicting on innocent clergy caught up in sex abuse allegations. Doubts about the Church’s capacity to devise a fair and just system for dealing with accusations of sex abuse laid against its clergy have long been simmering in my mind, not least because of the terrible way in which the reputation of the great George Bell, to whom my noble friend referred, was damaged—and damaged so unfairly. But worry and concern have now given place to total despair; my faith in the Church’s institutional integrity has been completely broken.

Long ago I was briefly close, perhaps for no longer than a single summer, to a witty and clever Cambridge contemporary. He was a classicist who became a lecturer at Exeter University and later took holy orders. His name was Alan Griffin. In November last year, the Reverend Dr Alan Griffin committed suicide. After the end of the inquest into his death in early July this year, the coroner wrote a detailed report on the way that the Church had investigated his suspected sexual misconduct. She revealed that when he died, the Church’s investigation had been going on for over a year. The coroner stated that

“he could not cope with an investigation into his conduct, the detail of and the source for which he had never been told”—

I repeat, the detail and source for which he had never been told.

Worse, when the coroner probed the evidence against him, she found it was non-existent. There was, she said,

“no complainant, no witness and no accuser”.

The Church had acted on the basis of mere gossip and innuendo. Could there be a clearer example of the denial of natural justice?

And how did the Church carry out its investigation during the year in which Alan Griffin was kept in ignorance of the so-called accusations against him? The coroner states:

“nobody took responsibility for steering the direction of the process from start to finish and for making coherent, reasoned, evidence based decisions”.

And so the scene was set for a terrible tragedy.

The last element of the Church’s behaviour in this case which I want the House to note is very serious indeed. The coroner records that submissions

“on behalf of the Church of England … urged me not to include any concerns that may be taken as a criticism of clerics or staff for not filtering or verifying allegations.”

This is not from some shady organisation or business with suspect moral standards, but from our country’s established Church. These are the circumstances that led to the death of a friend of mine from long ago, and that is why my faith in the Church’s institutional integrity has been broken.

The Bishop of Blackburn Bishop  7:15 pm, 16th September 2021

My Lords, I am grateful to the two noble Lords for their contributions in this debate and for speaking from their experience and their expertise and involvement not only in this House but in the Ecclesiastical Committee, and bringing that experience to this matter.

I would be the first to put my hand up and say that we have not been getting things right, and the national safeguarding team is seeking to improve its way of working. There are a number of cases that have been referred to which are inexcusable, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, in particular, has expressed his deep regret over the 20-month suspension of the Bishop of Lincoln and has expressed that that should be something that is never, ever repeated. I am not aware of all the details of the other incidences that have been referred to, whether it is Bishop Bell or the Reverend Dr Alan Griffin, but there are obviously important lessons to be learned through those experiences and those stories that the Church of England needs to take on board and listen to very carefully.

There is a real sense in which it is important that there is a balance between the concern for safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults within the life of our Church, where terrible abuse has occurred, and for that to be dealt with firmly and rightly, but also a right case for compassion for those who are being accused of something and for that to be looked at both quickly, so that it does not drag on endlessly, and to be looked at quickly enough so that the evidence can be brought to light to see whether there is a case to answer or not. I am horrified to hear the stats just referred to about the Reverend Dr Alan Griffin, that he was never told what the accusation was and that, when it was looked at, it was found to be non-existent and it was all gossip and innuendo. That is not acceptable as a way for a Church to behave in trying to deal with safeguarding matters.

There is a real difference that needs to be drawn between the call to comply with guidance on safeguarding and dealing with those people differently from those who are subject to an allegation of some sexual abuse. There are cases where, sometimes, a person who has just not complied with a particular line of guidance has been treated as though they themselves are a safeguarding risk. That is an unacceptable comparison and there needs to be a distinction drawn between the two. My hope is that this Measure that talks about having to “comply with”, rather than having “due regard” for, will help sort some of that issue out in the days that lie ahead.

I am sorry to hear the stories that have been relayed. I hope that expressing them here in your Lordships’ House is helpful so that they are on the record and we know they have been told and heard by someone in the House of Bishops. I will do my part to relay something of this back to those who seek to carry out that safeguarding function for the Church of England and the national safeguarding team. I will undertake to report something of what I have heard today to them.

I will finish by saying that I and my colleagues commit to seeking to make the Church of England a place where it is safe for children, vulnerable adults and all people to be part of a church gathering and a church family, and for the Church not just to exercise good practice in those areas but to be a model to others of how to do this, because sometimes people have looked to the Church and said, “If the Church doesn’t do it, why should anybody else?” The Church has a call to model something to others in a way it has not done up to this moment. There is a challenge.

Although I am glad for the support for this change in the Measure to ensure good and better practice in the days that lie ahead, it is not the whole answer. We shall have much more to do. I will play my part in doing what I can to relay this back to others and encourage the House of Bishops to do the same.

Lord Lexden Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

Could the right reverend Prelate comment on the quotation from the coroner’s report that I read out at the end? The Church of England seeking to interfere with the content of a coroner’s report in order to diminish the extent of the criticism it would sustain: is that not utterly reprehensible?

The Bishop of Blackburn Bishop

It is reprehensible and unacceptable. One of the big issues has been the whole matter of cover-up and trying to silence voices. That is a very clear example and should never, ever be repeated. I will report that back to the national safeguarding team and others. We are in the business not of covering up but of being transparent and open, so that these things can be brought to light and people can learn from them. It is reprehensible and completely unacceptable.

CHURCH TIMES – CHURCH AND PARLIAMENT – SEPT 20 2021

IT IS not well known enough that the General Synod is a delegated body of Parliament. In respect of the law, it has similar powers to a government department, and, when it wants to change the law, it lays those changes, normally through statutory instruments, before the Commons, via the Ecclesiastical Committee. They will become law unless Parliament “prays” against them.

THINKING ANGLICANS – COMMENTS

“….crushed by the weight of institutional cruelty and corruption”

This would suggest the ‘system’ [however that might be defined] is cruel and corrupt – and those who implement it are themselves made cruel and corrupted by it.

The nightmare is that it is now, already, a self-regulating ‘cloven hoof’ system – it runs itself – and no human agency can stop the cruelty and corruption.

Therefore, this would necessitate an intervention of Divine agency.

Tennyson said: “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of”.

So that is what we must do – pray – without ceasing.

MY FAITH IN THE CHURCH’S INTEGRITY IS BROKEN, SAYS PEER – CHURCH TIMES – SEPTEMBER 24 2021

My faith in the Church’s integrity is broken, says peer

 byMADELEINE DAVIES 24 SEPTEMBER 2021

Safeguarding errors prompt Lord Lexden to quit committee

LORD LEXDEN

CONSERVATIVE peer has resigned from the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament over the Church’s handling of safeguarding, telling the House of Lords: “My faith in the Church’s institutional integrity has been completely broken.”

Lord Lexden, a historian who has held senior posts in the Conservative Party’s central organisation, made the announcement on Thursday of last week, after the Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Julian Blackburn, asked that the Safeguarding (Code of Practice) Measure be presented to the Queen for Royal Assent.

“I can no longer support the Clergy Discipline Measure, in view of the harm it is capable of inflicting on innocent clergy caught up in sex-abuse allegations,” Lord Lexden said. “Doubts about the Church’s capacity to devise a fair and just system for dealing with accusations of sex abuse laid against its clergy have long been simmering in my mind, not least because of the terrible way in which the reputation of the great George Bell . . . was damaged — and damaged so unfairly.

“But worry and concern have now given place to total despair; my faith in the Church’s institutional integrity has been completely broken.”

He went on to describe the “terrible tragedy” of Fr Alan Griffin, a “witty and clever Cambridge contemporary”. Fr Griffin took his own life after unfounded allegations of child sex abuse, prompting a coroner to warn that more clergy deaths would follow unless action was taken to improve C of E safeguarding procedures (News, 23 July).

During his speech, Lord Lexden quoted from the coroner’s report. “The Church had acted on the basis of mere gossip and innuendo,” he told the Lords. “Could there be a clearer example of the denial of natural justice?”

The House also heard from Lord Cormack, who has served as a churchwarden and a General Synod member. He supported the Measure, but hoped that it would not “create some of the tragedies and difficulties that the ham-fisted handling of safeguarding has resulted in in recent years. I speak with some passion and some anger. . .

“As a Christian and an Anglican, I am deeply ashamed of some of the things that have happened historically. But I am also deeply ashamed of the way in which certain things have been handled, as I have indicated.”

ROGER HARRIS Lord Cormack

He spoke of the suspension of the Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt Revd Christopher Lowson, during a 20-month safeguarding investigation (News, 5 February), a “disproportionate handling” that had left the Bishop “somewhat broken”, and of the cathedral Chancellor, Canon Paul Overend, whose suspension had lasted 789 days (News, 18 June). He also mentioned the case of Bishop George Bell (News, 24 January 2019).

He concluded: “I pray devoutly that this Measure will enable us to get the balance right, but it is crucial for the reputation of the Church of England, which is going through a rough patch at the moment. I have not lost my faith, but I have come close to losing my faith in the Church of England from the experiences I have witnessed in the last few years.”

The Measure, which received final approval in the General Synod in April (News, 30 April) and responds to a recommendation by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), requires the House of Bishops to issue “a code of practice for relevant persons on safeguarding children and vulnerable adults”.

It replaces the existing duty to have “due regard” to safeguarding guidance with the duty to “comply with” requirements imposed by the code. Relevant persons include anyone whose work “to any extent relates to safeguarding children and vulnerable adults”. The Measure includes a power for the bishop to suspend a churchwarden who fails to comply.

In his response to the two speeches, Bishop Henderson said: “I would be the first to put my hand up and say that we have not been getting things right, and the national safeguarding team is seeking to improve its way of working. There are a number of cases that have been referred to which are inexcusable, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, in particular, has expressed his deep regret over the 20-month suspension of the Bishop of Lincoln, and has expressed that that should be something that is never, ever repeated.”

He was “horrified” by Lord Lexden’s account of Fr Griffin’s treatment.

He continued: “There are cases where, sometimes, a person who has just not complied with a particular line of guidance has been treated as though they themselves are a safeguarding risk. That is an unacceptable comparison, and there needs to be a distinction drawn between the two.”

Lord Lexden pressed Bishop Henderson for a response to the revelation by the coroner in Fr Griffin’s case that she had been urged not to include in her report “any concerns that may be taken as a criticism of clerics or staff for not filtering or verifying allegations”.

Bishop Henderson agreed that this was “reprehensible and unacceptable. One of the big issues has been the whole matter of cover-up and trying to silence voices. That is a very clear example and should never, ever be repeated.”

Last month, Lambeth Palace and the diocese of London admitted to a catalogue of errors that led to Fr Griffin’s death (News, 27 August).

The investigation into Fr Griffin began when the head of operations of the diocese of London, Martin Sargeant, retired in 2019. Mr Sargeant had met the Archdeacon of London, the Ven. Luke Miller, in February, to undertake what the coroner’s report refers to as a “‘brain dump” of information that he had acquired over the preceding 20 years.

The information became the Two Cities Audit report 2019. In total, 42 members of the clergy in London diocese are named in the report, and references range from “descriptions of past convictions that had been dealt with and recorded, through current safeguarding concerns that might or might not have been acted upon, to what witnesses described as gossip . . . The origin of the information in the entries was in places obvious and factual, but in places entirely nebulous.”

The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, has since written to the other 41 members of the clergy listed in the document. She states that there are “no matters that required a complaint under the CDM”, nor any “outstanding action . . . Nevertheless, we have committed to contacting individually any member of the clergy affected to provide further reassurance.”

She has offered to send anyone named a copy of the information that pertains to them, with references to third parties redacted. Clergy may also request face-to-face meetings with the Bishop’s adviser, the Ven. Rosemary Lain-Priestly, and the Area Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent. Pastoral support has been offered.

“I realise it will be disturbing to learn that your name appears in the document,” Bishop Mullally writes. “You are in my prayers as are all of those who knew and loved Fr Alan.”

Earlier this year, the Vicar of St John’s, Kensal Green, the Revd David Ackerman, resigned as a London diocesan clergy safeguarding support (Letters, 25 June). This week, he also resigned from an elected place representing clergy on the Two Cities Area Council

Last month, he wrote a letter to the Archbishop Cranmer blog, in which he spoke of a “crisis of trust within the diocese of London”.

He also gave an account of a Past Cases Review conducted in the diocese in which “clergy were asked to survey parish files to discover if there were any references to safeguarding issues that remained undiscovered and then sign a form stating whether in our opinion someone might pose a risk in the future. . . Although I found no such files I refused to sign a form saying that I should judge whether someone was a threat. . .

“My own view is that I take safeguarding so seriously that I no longer have confidence in the diocese or the Church of England having its own safeguarding departments or professionals.”

I have had the honour of serving on the Ecclesiastical Committee for a few years, but I am afraid I cannot continue my membership of it. I can no longer support the Clergy Discipline Measure, in view of the harm it is capable of inflicting on innocent clergy caught up in sex abuse allegations. Doubts about the Church’s capacity to devise a fair and just system for dealing with accusations of sex abuse laid against its clergy have long been simmering in my mind, not least because of the terrible way in which the reputation of the great George Bell, to whom my noble friend referred, was damaged—and damaged so unfairly. But worry and concern have now given place to total despair; my faith in the Church’s institutional integrity has been completely broken.

One core reason for the resignation of a highly respected peer from the Ecclesiastical Committee has been the injustice meted out to the Bishop of Chichester George Bell [Lord Lexden in the House of Lords, Sept 16].
“Passion and anger” and “total despair” at the Church’s unfair and unjust system are not just felt by this Conservative peer – he is not alone.
It would appear Divine intervention is the only means by which the injustice inflicted against the wartime bishop can be made just.
To that end, prayers will be offered up this Sunday [Oct 3] – a Day of Commemoration in the Church of England Year Calendar:
‘George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, Ecumenist, Peacemaker, 1958’.


Richard W. Symonds

The Bell Society

The Bell Society wants to clear the name of its beloved Bishop of Chichester, George Bell, Ecumenist and Peacemaker. Bell was charged with sexually abusing a young girl when he was bishop…. The society claims the charges are false and wants them overturned. Archbishop Welby is in no mood to do that.

The society recently got support from Lord Lexden who quit the Ecclesiastical Committee over safeguarding errors. One of the reasons was the injustice meted out to the Bishop of Chichester.

“Passion and anger” and “total despair” at the Church’s unfair and unjust system are not just felt by this Conservative peer – he is not alone, said Society leaders.

It would appear Divine intervention is the only means by which the injustice inflicted against the wartime bishop can be made just, they said.

David Virtue DD

VIRTUE ONLINE

Dear Richard,

My own experience has taught me that innocence, a rare thing in this world, is to be treasured and in the long run achieves things that could not have been achieved in any other way.
A new generation has learnt of the greatness of Bishop George Bell in World War II in supporting German Christians such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer in opposition to the horrors of Nazi Germany. The name of Bishop George Bell will stand proud in our history alongside that of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was hanged at Flossenburg, Bavaria, on 9 April 1945. 
In the final analysis the moral courage of Bishop George Bell will merit even more than a bombing campaign that has proved morally and spiritually indefensible to many, not least in the destruction of Dresden on 13-15 February 1945..
Perhaps even now Bishop George Bell will inspire us in our opposition in the world of 2021 to the bombing of innocent civilians by great powers. America’s last act in Afghanistan was a drone strike that killed ten innocent people, mostly children, in Kabul. An apology is hardly sufficient for this and other such horrors.
Innocents are holy, and we have long celebrated the innocence of children on Holy Innocents’ Day on 28 December each year.
The attempt to destroy the reputation of Bishop Bell on insufficient evidence is indeed a shameful act. But as Christians we continue to believe that shameful acts can often inspire those of good will.
Let us hope it is so in the case of Bishop George Bell. Indeed a Christian humility on the part of the Archbishop of Canterbury will suffice to right this wrong. I am sure that he himself will have delivered sermons on the virtue of humility.
But it is one thing to speak of humility. Quite another to demonstrate it by one’s own actions.


Kind regards,


Dr Gerald Morgan OM FTCD (Leader: English Parliamentary Party, founded Lydbrook, Gloucestershire, 2001)

Lydbrook School (1946-1953), Monmouth School (1953-1961), Meyricke Exhibitioner, Jesus College, Oxford (1961-1964), D.Phil. (Oxon.), 1973 Director: The Chaucer Hub. FTCD (1993)

Dear Richard,

Thank you for your vigorous defence of the beloved Bishop. He is vindicated and Welby disgraced.

Best

George

Tel.: 086 456 56 60

“The presumption of innocence is a fundamental principle of English law over many centuries, but in recent years it has been honoured in the breach by those we normally expect to set an example.
If Keir Starmer wishes to be a knight then he must behave as a knight. Let him read Chaucer’s famous portrait of the Knight in the General Prologue and reflect upon it.
The present Archbishop of Canterbury has fallen short of his high estate in calling into question the reputation of the illustrious Bishop of Chichester, George Bell

Dr Gerald Morgan OM FTCD

“The whole thing just smacks of an attempt to silence people within a system which everyone admits is broken”

Rev. Andrew Foreshew-Cain Reply

“The “system” may well be broken, but it has been operating within the Church for many centuries. An amended Code of Practice will change nothing until the centuries-old operating system is amended. That requires identifying those who run the system. Good luck with that”

Richard W. Symonds

PROFESSOR ANTHONY MADEN AND THE BISHOP BELL CASE

Professor Anthony Maden

PHOTOGRAPHY: BLAKEEZRACOLE.COM

THE CARLILE REVIEW – DECEMBER 2017

  1. On the 9 March 2015 Graham Tilby as Core Group Chairman sent an email to
    some, but surprisingly not all members, outlining the proposed decision-making
    process regarding public disclosure. His emphasis was on:
    (i) The view of Carol and the potential psychological impact of disclosure by
    public announcement upon her.
    (ii) What evidence was there that there may be other complainants?
    (iii) Do other public agencies regard such announcements as being in the
    public interest?
    (iv) What is Church policy on public announcements?
    (v) What is the potential impact on the family/reputation of the deceased
    (given that he cannot offer his own defence)?
  2. The third meeting of the Core Group was on the 10 March 2015. Gemma
    Wordsworth was present on this occasion, in her role as Independent Domestic
    and Sexual Violence Adviser seconded to the Diocese. Also additional
    compared with the previous meeting was Gabrielle Higgins, who had
    succeeded Angela Sibson as Diocesan Secretary. In addition Graham Tilby
    attended for the first time, having succeeded Jill Sandham. Rachel Harden
    attended again, having attended the first but not the second meeting. Absent
    compared with the previous meeting were The Bishop of Horsham and Messrs
    Booth, Sandham, Sibson, Wood and Salimi.
  3. This was an unacceptable change in membership of the Group, given their
    responsibility and the requirement for consistency. Factual as well as tactical
    and procedural decisions were required of the Group, and attendance should
    have been a priority – a three-line whip. I appreciate that there were changes
    of personnel, illness, personal reasons for various non-attendances. My
    criticisms in this connection are not of individuals concerned, but of the fact of
    inconsistency in the Group. In a situation where important fact-finding
    46
    challenges are required, consistency of membership is important – even if it
    means reducing the size of the group and obtaining a broader spectrum of
    outside advisers.
  4. At this meeting a summary of the report of Professor Maden was provided to
    the members. I do not understand why it was decided not to give them the full
    report. The summary does not provide the full picture of Professor Maden’s
    comments on credibility. Some members of the Group had seen the full report:
    thus the members were not all possessed of the same information relevant to
    key decisions.
  5. The parts of Professor Maden’s report dealing generally with credibility were as
    follows:
    Summary of Opinion
    The delays in reporting in this case are exceptional. Memory is not reliable over such
    long periods of time and the only way to establish that the allegations are true would
    be through corroborating evidence.
    The Claimant had an unhappy childhood …… There are no current mental health
    problems and she has lived a normal life with no significant mental health problems
    for over 30 years.
    No mental health problems can be attributed to the material abuse and it has not
    affected the Claimant’s life.
    No treatment is indicated.
    She has never lacked the mental capacity to complain. She has never had a mental
    health problem that would have prevented her from complaining. The delay has
    caused enormous problems for the expert asked to assess the case.
    Opinion
    General Comments
    I found the Claimant to be an apparently straightforward woman of good character. I
    have no reason to believe that the material allegations are a conscious fabrication.
    However, there are enormous problems for the expert arising from the fact that the
    Claimant is now assessed 63 years after the material events. The alleged abuse was
    not reported until over 40 years after the material events.
    Memory is not reliable over such long periods of time. Recall is an active mental
    process in which memories tend to become distorted with time to fit the individual’s
    beliefs, needs and values. Both the content and the meaning of recollections change
    47
    with time. Events can and do acquire a significance years later that they did not have
    at the time.
    I can expand on these problems if it would assist the Court. The distorting and
    sometimes creative nature of recall has been recognised since the work of Bartlett in
    the 1940s. This and much of the subsequent research is summarised in works such
    as that by Sabbagh (2009), Schachter (2007) and Fernyhough (2013). It is a
    consistent finding of research in this field that these problems with recall are unrelated
    to questions of honesty, integrity, intelligence or level of education. The consequence
    is that neither the individual nor anybody else can test the reliability and accuracy of a
    recollection except by reference to other sources of information.
    The Royal College of Psychiatrists, in common with similar professional bodies in
    other countries, recognises that in some cases so-called “false memories” of abuse
    may arise. The emphasis in the College document on the subject (Brandon et al, 1997)
    is on such memories arising during therapy but the literature cited above gives no
    reason to believe the problems associated with recall of distant events are limited to
    therapeutic situations. Therapy is simply one of the many influences on the individual’s
    beliefs, needs and values that shape and determine memories.
    Taking that into account, my advice to the Court based on my interpretation of the
    research is that after so many years there is no way of determining without reference
    to corroborating information whether or not recall is accurate. I cannot say whether the
    allegations are a so-called “false memory” but equally I cannot say they are an
    accurate recollection of what happened. The onus is on the Claimant to establish that
    her recollection of what went on between about 1947 and 1952 is accurate. I do not
    know how she can do that without reference to corroborating information but it is an
    issue for the Court to decide.
    The psychiatric expert’s contribution is limited. I note that …. She had been living a
    normal life in a happy marriage since ….. During the course of her first marriage she
    was …… abused. It is very likely that those experiences affected her recall of the
    earlier, alleged events. After the 1995 complaint, she did not experience any
    deterioration in her mental health, as often happens when there is disclosure of abuse
    after many years. She carried on with her life as normal. Memories of the abuse were
    not triggered by her own experience of bringing up children, as often happens in such
    cases.
    Another problem with civil claims made so long after the material events is that they
    are an invitation to engage in a process of retrospective re- attribution. It is a natural
    tendency to look for meaning in one’s life and to impose meaning on events if
    necessary or helpful for one reason or another. One looks back at one’s life and reinterprets events, attaching to them a significance they did not have before and that
    they may not deserve. It is a particularly tempting prospect when things go wrong in
    one’s life. It can be even more tempting if the re-attribution leads to the responsibility
    for any problems being attached to others rather than to one’s own decisions. It is also
    a process in which anybody can engage.
    48
    No matter how successful a life, most people when looking back over 40, 50 or 60
    years will be able to identify things that could have been done better or could have
    turned out better. They will identify personality characteristics they would like to
    change. The distorting effects of memory reinforce this process. It can be particularly
    difficult to remember emotions or motivations after many years. None of this has much
    to do with mental health or psychiatric problems, which are the central issues for a
    psychiatrist. Psychiatrists have expertise in mental health problems but not in
    explaining why a person without a mental disorder takes one decision rather than
    another.
    In the present case, the Claimant looks back on a life that for the first 30 years or so
    was often unhappy. There is an obvious temptation to seek to (consciously or
    unconsciously) allocate the blame for that unhappiness to the actions of others in the
    distant past.
    The time spans in this case are immense when considering complex issues of
    causation. For example, by my calculations the Claimant left her [first] husband after
    .. years of marriage in about …. Erin Pizzey opened her first women’s refuge [[shortly
    afterwards] and did not publish her ground- breaking book on domestic violence
    (Scream Quietly or the Neighbours will Hear) until about 1975. There is no need to
    invoke a personality defect or any other psychological characteristic to explain why a
    woman of that era stayed so long with a violent husband – particularly when she did in
    fact leave him at a time when there was probably little or no support for her to call
    upon.
    The Claimant strikes me as a sympathetic and in many ways admirable woman. She
    does not suffer from a personality disorder. I have no doubt that she is sincere in her
    beliefs. Nevertheless it remains my view that the possibility of false memories in this
    case cannot be excluded.
    The facts are for the Court to determine. I do not believe that psychiatric or other expert
    evidence is likely to be of further assistance in establishing whether or not these
    allegations are true.
    In an attempt to assist the Court, for the purposes of diagnosis I assume the Court
    finds the Claimant was abused as she now alleges.
  6. As noted previously, the issue of credibility was not part of the instructions given
    to Dr Freedman, and accordingly was not addressed as an issue in her report.
    Paula Jefferson, plainly a key adviser to but not a member of the Group,
    informed the meeting of Professor Maden’s good reputation for balance. She
    said that there was no reason to regard Carol as making anything up, but that
    false memories can occur. This fell short of the professor’s view that he could
    not exclude the risk of false memories in this case. Colin Perkins provided his
    interpretation of the full report, which he had read – that much of the
    reservations raised by Professor Maden were about causation and quantum;
    49
    and that the unreliability of memory was not specific to Carol but is something
    that is raised in general with these types of claims. He had read a lot of accounts
    of this nature: false accounts tend to be an amalgamation of the worst
    newspaper headlines. Carol had given a consistent account, so his view was
    that it was unlikely that it was entirely false.
  7. In my view, the members of the Group who had not read the full report were left
    in no position to question what they were told.
  8. Given the comments of Professor Maden cited above, had there been full
    knowledge of them in the Group, my expectation would have been that the
    majority would have steered back towards a fuller evidential investigation of the
    claim. This is an important example of what, earlier in this review, I called
    ‘oversteer’.
  9. Arun Arora raised the issue of the standard of civil proof, the balance of
    probabilities. Mr Perkins then read from the police’s view set out in paragraph
    137 above. He said that they believed Carol, and that there was nothing to
    challenge her credibility. If the evidence is considered credible, then it is
    reported as a detected crime, as had happened in this case. However, Mr Arora
    added that there could be a number of reasons why a crime would be reported
    as detected, including police statistics, and this should be kept in mind.
  10. Gabrielle Higgins responded in relation to the balance of probabilities. She
    pointed out that there had been no other allegations: Mr Tilby responded that
    there might be only a single victim. Ms. Higgins emphasised Carol’s very young
    age at the time complained of, the possibility of false memory, and the possible
    contradiction between Carol saying to Professor Maden that Bishop Bell told
    her to tell nobody, but that she said she had told [the person she visited]. In Ms.
    Higgins’s view, false memory could be an issue; and she reported that the
    Bishop of Chichester was uncomfortable about accepting the claim. Paula
    Jefferson suggested that a Court if hearing the case would take into account
    the misgivings expressed by Ms. Higgins.
  11. John Rees asked if costs (and presumably some damages) could be paid on a
    ‘no liability’ basis.
  12. There was a discussion of a possible settlement involving a confidentiality
    clause. Paula Jefferson observed that they were difficult to enforce. In any
    event, the Archbishop’s Visitation Report to the Diocese had recommended
    strongly that confidentiality clauses should not be added to settlements.
    50
  13. There was then a vote among those present. A majority expressed the view
    that, on the balance of probabilities, indecency had taken place and this
    therefore justified considering a settlement.
  14. There followed a discussion about the issue of an apology, and that this should
    be by letter from the Bishop of Chichester, or possibly face to face. However,
    this was a matter for further consideration.
  15. Once again, this Core Group meeting progressed without adequate advocacy
    or significant consideration of the interests of Bishop Bell, or of the real
    adequacy of what was described as the investigation. Nor was detailed
    consideration given to the possibility of an attempt to deny liability, to see
    whether a claim would actually be pursued or not. Indeed, the possibility of
    fighting the claim was not considered in a structured way at any time.
  16. As indicated above, the possibility of a confidential settlement was rejected. I
    consider this further at paragraphs 51-52 above and 268 below.
  17. Not considered at any time was a litigation risk or ‘nuisance value’ settlement
    with a clear denial of liability, referred to further below. This would have involved
    paying a sum of damages and costs on the clear and explicit basis that it was
    a less costly option than fighting the case.
  18. There followed further delay. During that period, in June 2015, there was further
    publicity adverse to the Diocese, when a retired Eastbourne vicar Robert Coles
    had sixteen months’ imprisonment added to a previous eight year sentence for
    offences relating to boys.
  19. The fourth meeting of the Core Group was on the 28 July 2015. This meeting
    was attended by a diminishing number of members. Kate Singleton, a member
    of the Church safeguarding staff was added. Saira Salimi and the Bishop of
    Horsham attended. From the previous meeting, Bishop Stock, John Rees (who
    may well have been indisposed), Gemma Wordsworth (who worked mornings
    only) and Gabrielle Higgins dialled into the meeting. .
  20. On this occasion, the agenda was short. The solicitor Paula Jefferson had been
    negotiating with Tracey Emmott. The claim could be settled for damages of
    between £15-20,000. An offer had been made of £16,800. As part of the
    settlement, Claimant’s costs of around £15,000 would be payable in addition to
    the damages. There would be a written letter of apology from the Bishop of
    Chichester. There was no desire for publicity on Carol’s part personally, and
    her solicitor would have to be forewarned of any press release.
    51
  21. The meeting decided to progress with the settlement, if possible by the end of
    the following month. There should be a joint letter signed by The Archbishop of
    Canterbury and The Bishop of Chichester, and the latter should offer to meet
    Carol in September. A draft of the letter was to be circulated to the Group
    presumably for the purpose of comment, to include recognition of ‘acts of
    indecency’, acknowledging her correct recollection of abuse, and referring to
    the poor response in 1995.
  22. There was a discussion of the issue of public announcement. Several contraindications were mentioned, including that there was no other reported victim
    nor any history of other concerns. On the other side of the equation, the meeting
    addressed the ‘Principle of Transparency – in the interests of episcopal
    openness’, and also the understanding that Carol’s solicitor was likely to make
    some form of public notification.
  23. The meeting’s decision was as follows:
    On the balance of probabilities, the Core Group believed that we could not rule out
    other victims, who may be of a similar age to the complainant. It was agreed to seek
    a third party independent professional opinion based on an anonymous outline of the
    case. GT to contact Donald Findlater from Lucy Faithfull Foundation in the first
    instance, CP to formulate a summary of the case to be shared.
    It was agreed that given any form of public acknowledgement, that there would be
    potentially large scale media interest given subject’s involvement with Kinder
    Transport, Jewish Community and Holocaust Education Trust.
  24. Arun Arora was to draft the initial version of the media statement, and to consult
    the press officer at Lambeth Palace and the Communications Officer in
    Chichester. Colin Perkins was to notify public authorities of the intention to
    release a media statement. A ‘mapping exercise’ was to be undertaken about
    areas of involvement (impact) and possible family members. Carol was to be
    forewarned of any media release after settlement. The Group was to reconvene
    on 9 September at Church House in London to consider in more detail the
    impact of public disclosure based on the mapping exercise and agree the
    apology letter.
  25. The Core Group next met (fifth meeting) on the 9 September. On this occasion
    The Bishop at Lambeth, Jane Dodds, Gemma Wordsworth and a minute taker
    were those present who had not attended the previous meeting. The Bishop of
    Horsham had attended the previous meeting but was absent this time.
    Apologies were given by John Rees, and by Ailsa Anderson. Ms. Anderson was
    Head of Communications as Lambeth Palace; it is puzzling as to why she gave
    apologies, as she had never featured in the Core Group before.
    52
  26. Of those who attended the very first Core Group meeting of the 9 May 2014,
    absent on the 9 September 2015 were The Bishop of Chichester, The Bishop
    of Horsham, Angela Sibson, John Booth and Jill Sandham. All of these five
    individuals held significant roles and might have made contributions if present.
    Apparently the Bishop of Chichester and John Booth were not invited to this
    meeting; and I have been told that Angela Sibson and Jill Sandham no longer
    held significant roles.
  27. At this meeting it was revealed that the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, who had been
    asked to help, would not be able to provide a full, independent risk assessment
    of the kind discussed at the previous meeting: they were not willing to be quoted
    even if they provided information because no formal risk assessment was being
    prepared.
  28. Carol’s solicitors had agreed a settlement in the sum of £16,800 damages plus
    £15,000 solicitor’s costs. A letter of apology from The Bishop of Chichester was
    to be delivered personally by the Bishop to Carol. She would like to engage with
    Church communications, and wished to receive a timeline of action and any
    statements.
  29. The draft apology letter had been discussed and changed in a series of emails
    and had been agreed in principle. Colin Perkins was concerned that the letter
    should be ‘heartfelt’, and that it was better to let staff to set the parameters and
    the Bishop to write the letter. There would be a separate and public apology
    statement by the Church. This strategy was supported fully by The Archbishop
    of Canterbury.
  30. It was emphasised at the meeting that the Church should be seen to have a
    robustly supportive policy for survivors.
  31. There was a perceived problem that people such as the journalist Peter
    Hitchens, who recently had described Bishop Bell as a personal hero, would
    regard the Church as ‘caving in’ and would cause a media storm if the Church
    was insufficiently robust in its position. In this context, it was recommended that
    it was important that the Church openly should say that it had ‘settled a claim’,
    so that it was clear ‘there has been a legal test and an investigative threshold
    has been set’.
  32. Arun Arora advised that they needed a report or academic journal article
    supporting the position that ‘an offender like GB’ was very likely to reoffend,
    and therefore there were very likely to be other victims – this would support the
    need for disclosure. They needed to be able to quote the names of
    experts/papers etc. if/when asked by the press to explain their decisions.
    53
    Without established expertise, he said, they could be accused of jumping to
    conclusions, and could be challenged by the House of Bishops. The Church
    could not afford to look as shambolic as the police in the Ted Heath case.
    Rachel Harden said they needed a one-line answer to the question as to the
    evidential basis on which they settled the claim. Paula Jefferson responded that
    they had obtained an independent psychiatric report and had tested the
    evidence.
  33. Rachel Harden is minuted as having stated that they had failed to identify any
    living members of Bishop Bell’s family, and that the risk of family coming
    forward was low. This was later revised in the Minutes to read:
    A review of records at Lambeth Palace Library was undertaken. RH confirmed that the
    Bells had no children. However, there may be nieces or nephews alive and their
    descendants who may or may not come forward.
  34. That confirms that there was no or almost no effort to identify descendants.
    Some do exist, as I was able to discover with ease.
  35. There was an extensive discussion about the Bishop Bell name day and his
    name on buildings and institutions. The removal of these items of recognition
    would be a painful process.
  36. The communications strategy was discussed, with a target date of the 30
    September for the press release.
  37. On the 10 September 2015 Paula Jefferson produced a Note summarising the
    reasons for negotiating a settlement, with the relevant background information.
    Material extracts from the Note are at Annex F below.
  38. On the 17 September 2015 The Bishop of Chichester The Rt Revd Dr Martin
    Warner wrote to Carol the letter of apology contained in Annex A below.
  39. On the 7 October Peter Ball was sentenced to a term of imprisonment for
    offences of misconduct in public office arising from sexual abuse of young men
    under his episcopal influence. That case generated an enormous amount of
    media interest.

THE CHRONOLOGY

Oct 21 2015 – Telephone conversation between Church of England Director-General Sir William Fittall and Martyn Percy Dean of Christ Church Oxford

On the October 21, 2015, I had been rung by the then Secretary-General of the Archbishops’ Council and of the General Synod of the Church of England, Sir William Fittall. It was Fittall who told me, over the phone, that a ‘thorough investigation’ had implicated Bishop George Bell in an historic sex-abuse case, and that the Church had ‘paid compensation to the victim’. Fittall added that he was tipping me off, as he knew we had an altar in the Cathedral dedicated to Bell, and that Bell was a distinguished former member of Christ Church. [Fittall was also educated at Christ Church Oxford from 1972 to 1975 – Ed]

Sir William Fittall

Fittall asked what we would do, in the light of the forthcoming media announcements. I explained that Christ Church is an academic institution, and we tend to make decisions based on evidence, having first weighed and considered its quality. Fittall replied that the evidence was ‘compelling and convincing’, and that the investigation into George Bell has been ‘lengthy, professional and robust’. I asked for details, as I said I could not possibly make a judgement without sight of such evidence. I was told that such evidence could not be released. So, Christ Church kept faith with Bell, and the altar, named after him, remains in exactly the same spot it has occupied for over fifteen years, when it was first carved.

~ Martyn Percy Dean of Christ Church Oxford

Oct 22 2015 – Church of England Statement on the Rt. Revd George Bell (1883-1958)

“Moral, legal and common sense appears to have deserted the Church of England. The Presumption of Innocence has been described as ‘the golden thread that runs through British justice’. That thread was broken by the October Statement, and replaced with the Presumption of Guilt. The Media – including the BBC – assumed Bishop Bell’s guilt on the basis of the Church’s Statement, and their subsequent headlines reflected that assumption. No attempt was made by the Church, immediately after the headlines, to correct the media interpretation of the Statement. This would strongly suggest a Presumption of Guilt on the Church’s part towards Bishop Bell” – Richard W. Symonds

Oct 22 2015 – Bishop of Chichester (Martin Warner) Statement on the Rt. Revd George Bell [1883-1958] 

“In this case, the scrutiny of the allegation has been thorough, objective, and undertaken by people who command the respect of all parties….” – Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner