Author Archives: richardwsymonds37

June 23 2019 – Bishop Bell speaks of a Church independent of the State

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George Bell Bishop of Chichester

This matter of functions is vital. The State has a function, and the Church has a function. They are distinct. The State is the guarantor of order, justice and civil liberty. It acts by the power of restraint, legal and physical. The Church, on the other hand, is charged with a gospel of God’s redeeming love. It witnesses to a Revelation in history. It speaks of the realities which outlast change. It aims at creating a community founded on love, So when all the resources of the State are concentrated, for example, on winning a war, the Church is not a part of those resources . It stands for something different from these. It possesses an authority independent of the State. It is bound, because of that authority, to proclaim the realities which outlast change. It has to preach the gospel of redemption…[the church] is not the State’s spiritual auxiliary with exactly the same ends as the State. To give the impression that it is, is both to do a profound disservice to the nation and to betray its own principles…[the church must still settle] the question of right and wrong – the moral law:
The Church…ought to declare both in peace-time and war-time, that there are certain basic principles which can and should be the standards of both international and social order, and conduct. Such principles are the
[1] equal dignity of all men,
[2] respect for human life,
[3] acknowledgement of the solidarity for good and evil of all nations and races of the earth,
[4] fidelity to the plighted word, and
[5] appreciation of the fact that power of any kind, political or economic, must be co-extensive with responsibility.
The Church therefore ought to declare what is just.

[Source: “The Church’s Function in War-time” by Bishop George Bell – Fortnightly Review – Sept 1940]

George Bell House - 4 Canon Lane - Chichester Cathedral

George Bell House – 4 Canon Lane – Chichester Cathedral [before the name change in 2015] [Picture: Alamy]

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“No justification for lack of name” – Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson – Chichester Observer Letter – June 20 2019

The phrase that 4 Canon Lane was ‘formerly known as George Bell House’ is misleading.  4 Canon Lane is a street address.  The building was given to the cathedral to commemorate Bishop George Bell, funds were raised for its renovation as George Bell House and it was dedicated as such in 2008 by Archbishop Rowan Williams.  It has never been undedicated.  The name ‘George Bell House’ therefore still stands.  The right of the cathedral authorities to attempt to remove it without due consultation with all parties concerned is highly contentious.
In view of the findings of two senior lawyers that the allegations made against George Bell are not only unproven but unfounded, there is no justification for the continued absence of his name from the building.  On the contrary, there would be every justification for all those who contributed to the renovation of George Bell House to request their money back unless the name is immediately reinstated, or to take other action as they deem appropriate.
The statement that ‘Chichester Cathedral Friends has no official position on the George Bell issue’ beggars belief.  George Bell founded the Friends in 1939.  It was entirely in order to raise this question at their anniversary meeting on 6 June.  The reply given at the time was that it would now be considered.  We await a further statement with interest.
Dr Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson
Sheffield
“Injustice on the Sisters and us” – Charlotte A Evans – Chichester Observer Letter – June 20 2019
Your report on the demonstration at George Bell House [4 Canon Lane] seems slightly to misrepresent the issue, in stating that its purpose was “to highlight the ‘injustice’ on the former Bishop”.
As I understand it, the protesters were gathered to highlight, first, the injustice on the Sisters* who donated the house, and on all of us who contributed financially to the renovation of the former Archdeaconry.
It was formally opened by Archbishop Rowan Williams as “George Bell House”, in 2008.
Thus, the commemoration of Bishop Bell was integral to the establishment of the centre, and ought not to have been suppressed by the Dean & Chapter.
You are right, of course, to report the sense of injustice regarding Bishop Bell.
Many of your readers will be aware of the petition to restore the name to George Bell House, which [I believe] has over a thousand signatories so far.
Thank you for your reporting.
Charlotte A Evans
Chichester
* Anglican Sisters of the Community of the Servants of the Cross

June 19 2019 – “The Blackburn Letter – A new beginning for the Church?” – Stephen Parsons – ‘Surviving Church’

http://survivingchurch.org/2019/06/18/the-blackburn-letter-a-new-beginning-for-the-church/

The Blackburn Letter. A new beginning for the Church?

A document which I hope will always be referred to as the Blackburn Letter appeared yesterday June 17th 2019.  It is written by the senior staff of the Blackburn Diocese and is addressed to their licensed staff, clergy and Readers, and safeguarding officers. 

In essence, it is commending study of the recent IICSA report on the Diocese of Chichester and the Peter Ball case. 

Those of us who have been cheering on the case of safeguarding for some time cannot but feel that this is progress.  The Letter may claim historic importance because it shows that in one diocese of the Church of England a group of senior church people really seem to understand all the dimensions of safeguarding in the Church.  They understand it in a way that goes far beyond the box-ticking reputational management process which is what safeguarding comes to be in many places.

Why am I personally moved by this letter?  For a start, the Blackburn senior staff want those who study the IICSA report to notice before anything else the suffering that has been caused by sexual abuse to real victims.  Many people, including myself, have always pleaded that safeguarding should start at this end – the needs of survivors.  Sexual abuse, however many years ago it took place is a ‘human catastrophe’ for those caught up in it as victims as well as causing ‘lifelong impact’.  How right that the Blackburn Letter begins with words from Psalm 51.  ‘Have mercy on us O God, for we have sinned’.  The letter makes no apology for putting the human suffering endured by survivors right at the beginning. 

The traditional preoccupation of the Church, reputation management, only gets a mention in para 5.  It is mentioned, but only as a way of explaining that it has been a factor in not dealing well with allegations from the past.   When protecting the good name of the institution has taken precedence, the suffering of survivors has been made far worse. 

Moving on from what appear to be genuine expressions of sorrow and contrition on behalf of the whole Church, the letter begins to explore what can be done in the future.  The congregations are to be places where ‘children and vulnerable adults can be entirely safe’ but also where ‘the voices of those who have difficult things to say or disclosures to make are heard and acted on.’  The second part of this wish is far harder to deliver.  Many survivors report that the reason the Church has found it so hard to deal with their needs is because the recounting of their past experience of suffering causes so much discomfort in the hearer. 

None of us find it easy to listen to stories of abuse, particularly when the abuser was a trusted figure, like a priest or a bishop.  Taking on board the idea that a member of the home team is an abuser is deeply unsettling.  It is far easier to shut down the discordant thought and that is what many people will do in practice.

A further insight in the letter, which is music to my ears, is the recognition that clericalism, deference and abuse of power lie behind the ‘cover-up’ and the silencing of the ‘voices of the vulnerable’.  Clergy and other leaders have power within the relationships they possess and there needs to be ‘deeper awareness’ of that power.  This theme of ministerial power and its potential for harm is the topic that I have chosen to reflect on in the forthcoming volume of essays Letters to a Broken Church. There is so much more to be said on this topic.

I want to make two further observations about the letter.  One is that the letter appears to have been written at a visceral level.  In short, the emotions of sorrow and repentance are allowed to rise to the surface and be dominant themes in what is communicated.  Somehow the letter, assisted by a quotation from Andrew Graystone’s essay of a week ago, manages to avoid completely the somewhat petulant tone of so many expressions of ‘regret’ and ‘apology’ that we associate with official statements. 

Are we correct in seeing in this letter the beginning of something new, a combination of deep sorrow and genuine feeling for the needs of survivors and those wronged by the Church?    

Such sentiments, if they are followed through, will begin to meet the needs of survivors.  It may be the beginning of the ‘change of culture’ that has been looked for by so many.  It is also the first sign that some senior clergy individually and corporately are beginning to ‘get it’.

My final observation is a somewhat irreverent one but it needs to be made.  Is it a coincidence that this remarkable statement of unanimity and contrition about safeguarding emerges from a diocese that is far away from London?  The Diocese of Blackburn may be articulating a somewhat prophetic position precisely because it feels itself geographically and in other ways remote from the centres of Anglican influence represented by Church House and Lambeth Palace respectively.  The prospect of an entire diocese studying the articulate comments and criticisms of the Independent Inquiry must be causing considerable discomfort among those who try hard to control the narrative and set the agenda for the Church of England.  The forthcoming debates at York General Synod may or may not get to the heart of the issue as the Blackburn Letter seems to have done.  Whatever is said at York, the effect of the process of study in the Blackburn diocese will have implications which will reverberate long into the future.  It will be increasingly hard to claim that no one understands the issues.  The consequences of this serious reflective study on safeguarding and the needs of survivors will be hard to limit only to one circumscribed geographical area represented by the Diocese of Blackburn.

Right at the heart of this blog’s concern and many other places is the desire that the suffering of abuse survivors should be understood, responded to and healed.  Up till now the Church has often insisted of responding through damage limitation and avoidance.  The Blackburn response is suggesting that these methods are no longer viable.  Perhaps the Blackburn Letter is the beginning of a new phase in the history of the Church of England.  One day it may be said that that on the 17th June 2019 the Church of England, represented by the Diocese of Blackburn, began to move from denial and avoidance of the issue of abuse victims to a stance resembling healing, humility and new beginnings.

About Stephen Parsons

Stephen is a retired Anglican priest living at present in Northumberland. He has taken a special interest in the issues around health and healing in the Church but also when the Church is a place of harm and abuse. He has published books on both these issues and is at present particularly interested in understanding the psychological aspects of leadership and follower-ship in the Church. He is always interested in making contact with others who are concerned with these issues.

The Bell Declaration 1939 – “The Church ought to declare what is just”

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“The Church’s Function in War-time” by Bishop George Bell – Fortnightly Review – September 1939[Reprinted in “The Church and Humanity, 1939-1946” by G.K.A. Bell – Longmans-Green 1946 – pp. 22-31][Source : “George Bell, Bishop of Chichester – Church, State, and Resistance in the Age of Dictatorship” by Andrew Chandler – Eerdmans 2016 – page 75]

“This matter of functions is vital. The State has a function, and the Church has a function. They are distinct. The State is the guarantor of order, justice and civil liberty. It acts by the power of restraint, legal and physical. The Church, on the other hand, is charged with a gospel of God’s redeeming love. It witnesses to a Revelation in history. It speaks of the realities which outlast change. It aims at creating a community founded on love, So when all the resources of the State are concentrated, for example, on winning a war, the Church is not a part of those resources . It stands for something different from these. It possesses an authority independent of the State. It is bound, because of that authority, to proclaim the realities which outlast change. It has to preach the gospel of redemption…[the church] is not the State’s spiritual auxiliary with exactly the same ends as the State. To give the impression that it is, is both to do a profound disservice to the nation and to betray its own principles…[the church must still settle] the question of right and wrong – the moral law:

The Church…ought to declare both in peace-time and war-time, that there are certain basic principles which can and should be the standards of both international and social order, and conduct. Such principles are the

[1] equal dignity of all men,

[2] respect for human life,

[3] acknowledgement of the solidarity for good and evil of all nations and races of the earth,

[4] fidelity to the plighted word, and

[5] appreciation of the fact that power of any kind, political or economic, must be co-extensive with responsibility.

The Church therefore ought to declare what is just.

 

~ Bishop George Bell of Chichester – September 1939

The Barmen Declaration 1934

75 Jahre Barmer Erklärung

A sculpure in remembrance of the Barmen Declaration in Wuppertal-Barmen.

https://www.ekd.de/en/The-Barmen-Declaration-133.htm

 1. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” (John 14.6). “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. . . . I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved.” (John 10:1, 9.)
8.11 Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death. 


8.12 We reiect the false doctrine, as though the church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God’s revelation.

  1. The source of revelation is only the Word of God — Jesus Christ. Any other possible sources (earthly powers, for example) will not be accepted – Wiki

 

8.13 – 2. “Christ Jesus, whom God has made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” (1 Cor. 1:30.)
8.14 As Jesus Christ is God’s assurance of the forgiveness of all our sins, so, in the same way and with the same seriousness he is also God’s mighty claim upon our whole life. Through him befalls us a joyful deliverance from the godless fetters of this world for a free, grateful service to his creatures.

8.15 We reiect the false doctrine, as though there were areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ, but to other lords–areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him.

  1. Jesus Christ is the only Lord of all aspects of personal life. There should be no other authority – Wiki

 

8.16 – 3. “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body [is] joined and knit together.” (Eph. 4:15,16.)
8.17 The Christian Church is the congregation of the brethren in which Jesus Christ acts presently as the Lord in Word and sacrament through the Holy Spirit. As the Church of pardoned sinners, it has to testify in the midst of a sinful world, with its faith as with its obedience, with its message as with its order, that it is solely his property, and that it lives and wants to live solely from his comfort and from his direction in the expectation of his appearance.

8.18 We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church were permitted to abandon the form of its message and order to its own pleasure or to changes in prevailing ideological and political convictions.

  1. The message and order of the church should not be influenced by the current political convictions – Wiki

 

8.19 – 4. “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men excercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your srvant.” (Matt. 20:25,26.)
8.20 The various offices in the Church do not establish a dominion of some over the others; on the contrary, they are for the excercise of the ministry entrusted to and enjoined upon the whole congregation.

8.21 We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church, apart from this ministry, could and were permitted to give itself, or allow to be given to it, special leaders vested with ruling powers.

  1. The church should not be ruled by a leader (“Führer”). There is no hierarchy in the church (Mt 20, 25f) – Wiki

 

8.22 – 5. “Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:17.)
Scripture tells us that, in the as yet unredeemed world in which the Church also exists, the State has by divine appointment the task of providing for justice and peace. [It fulfills this task] by means of the threat and exercise of force, according to the measure of human judgment and human ability. The Church acknowledges the benefit of this divine appointment in gratitude and reverence before him. It calls to mind the Kingdom of God, God’s commandment and righteousness, and thereby the responsibility both of rulers and of the ruled. It trusts and obeys the power of the Word by which God upholds all things.
8.23 We reject the false doctrine, as though the State, over and beyond its special commision, should and could become the single and totalitarian order of human life, thus fulfilling the Church’s vocation as well.

8.24 We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church, over and beyond its special commission, should and could appropriate the characteristics, the tasks, and the dignity of the State, thus itself becoming an organ of the State.

  1. The state should not fulfill the task of the church and vice versa. State and church are both limited to their own business – Wiki

 

 

8.25 – 6. “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matt. 28:20.) “The word of God is not fettered.” (2 Tim. 2:9.)
8.26 The Church’s commission, upon which its freedom is founded, consists in delivering the message of th free grace of God to all people in Christ’s stead, and therefore in the ministry of his own Word and work through sermon and sacrament.

8.27 We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church in human arrogance could place the Word and work of the Lord in the service of any arbitrarily chosen desires, purposes, and plans.
8.28 The Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church declares that it sees in the acknowledgment of these truths and in the rejection of these errors the indispensable theological basis of the German Evangelical Church as a federation of Confessional Churches. It invites all who are able to accept its declaration to be mindful of these theological principles in their decisions in Church politics. It entreats all whom it concerns to return to the unity of faith, love, and hope.

  1. Therefore, the Barmen Declaration rejects (i) the subordination of the Church to the state (8.22–3) and (ii) the subordination of the Word and Spirit to the Church – Wiki

 

FURTHER INFORMATION

  1. WHY BONHOEFFER STILL MATTERS
  2. THE BARMEN DECLARATION 1934 [End] 

    Verbum Dei manet in aeternum.

    The Word of God will last for ever.

    Martin Niemöller preached a sermon titled, “Christus ist mein Führer,” or “Christ Is My Leader.” The use of the term “Führer” was intentional, since everybody in Germany referred to Hitler by that title. For Niemöller, “Christ is my Führer” implied its negation, “Hitler is not my Führer,” and for stating this Niemöller spent seven years in Dachau prison camp.

    Later, Niemoller spoke about his own witness and said,

    First they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out – because I was not a Jew.
    Then they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out -because I was not a Communist.
    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out -because I was not a trade unionist.
    Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me!

    The “Confessing Church” had a short life. They managed to protest and resist Hitler and the German state. They helped over 2000 Jews escape. Many of the pastors were arrested and held in prison. Of significant lasting value is their legacy to the larger church in the Barman Declaration. Indeed, by that statement, we can remain strong and standing.

    We live in a broken and fearful world. Let us ask the Spirit to encourage us to pray, to unmask idolatries in Church and culture and to remember how important it is to work with others for justice, freedom and peace. Let us neither be afraid, nor cowardly.