Category Archives: ‘Rebuilding Bridges’ Morning Conference – Church House Westminster

February 4 2018 – ‘Rebuilding Bridges’ Website launch [following the Bishop Bell Rebuilding Bridges Conference at Church House Westminster on Feb 1]

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Website following on from The Bishop Bell Rebuilding Bridges Conference at Church House Westminster on Thursday February 1 2018

http://rebuildingbridges.org.uk/

In the news…

External links to a selection of Bishop Bell-related article that appeared after the Rebuilding Bridges conference.

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February 4 2018 – “The Bridge on the River Chaos” – ‘Rebel Priest’ Rev Jules Gomes – Conservative Woman

https://www.conservativewoman.co.uk/rebel-priest-rev-jules-gomes-bridge-river-chaos/

The Bridge on the River Chaos

 

Last Thursday our very own ‘Rebel Priest’, the Rev Dr Jules Gomes, delivered the keynote speech on behalf of the George Bell Group at Church House. It was an impassioned plea for justice for the still-impugned Bishop Bell. But more than that, it was a plea for bridge-building with a Church of England that has entrapped itself in the morally relative world of victim politics and orthodoxies. This, Jules argued, citing biblical, philosophical and legal sources, has been at the expense of truth, right and justice. ‘Right’, not the modern ‘rights’ culture, must guide the Church and Christian faith.

You can listen to his full address here. An edited version is posted below.

By Rev Jules Gomes

The human compulsion to build bridges is deep-rooted; it is archetypal. Jacob in Genesis dreams of a ladder bridging earth to heaven. This archetypal story is immortalised by William Blake’s painting and by Francis Thompson’s poem situating Jacob’s ladder in London.

Paradoxically, bridge building is fiercely contested. The compulsion to blow up bridges is also deep-rooted in human nature. The monumental clash between these conflicting compulsions is what makes Sir David Lean’s World War II movie The Bridge on the River Kwai one of most gripping of the 20th century.

In the movie, Colonel Nicholson is fixated upon building the bridge linking Bangkok to Burma, convincing himself that the bridge is a monument to British character. Unknown to him, the Allies have sent a mission to blow up the bridge. Ultimately, Nicholson, who has successfully built the bridge, is trying to prevent the Allied commandos from blowing it up. He is shot and stumbles over to the detonator plunger and falls on it, just in time to blow up the bridge and send the enemy train hurtling into the river. Major Clipton, the British medical officer who has witnessed the carnage unfold from his vantage point on the hill, says as he shakes his head incredulously: ‘Madness! Madness!’

To build, or not to build, that is the question we are posing at the George Bell Rebuilding Bridges Conference.

Order and chaos are the constituent elements of this world. According to Jordan Peterson, ‘Order is where the people around you act according to well-understood social norms, and remain predictable and cooperative. It’s the world of social structure, explored territory, and familiarity.’ If the hierarchy of the Church of England had conducted its investigation into Bishop Bell on the principles of order, we would not be battling to clear the slander against his reputation. We are here because order has been overwhelmed by chaos.

The opening verses of the Bible present us with the picture of an ocean of chaos. The Hebrew text paints for us pictures of mythological sea monsters of chaos intent on devouring God’s creation. God subdues and defeats the monsters of chaos through the logos, God’s Word. Chaos is also marked by ‘darkness over the face of the deep’. God’s first act is to dispel darkness by creating light. Light is God’s first bridge-building act.

Over the last two years, the Bishop Bell group has been fighting this battle between chaos and logos. Finally, logos has triumphed. Hundreds of thousands of words written and spoken by dozens of historians, lawyers, clergy, columnists, churchgoers and choristers have prevailed. The Lord Carlile Review, a leading manifestation of ‘order’, even though restricted in its brief, has found a subtle way to pronounce Bishop Bell ‘not guilty’.

But the bridge over troubled waters is yet to be built. Justin Welby doubts the logos and rejects the light and clarity of order. He returns to the darkness and disorder of chaos in his insistence that a ‘significant cloud’ still hangs over Bishop Bell’s character.

Thus we may not be able to build this bridge with Welby, even though we are desirous of so doing. Our chief task, then, is to build the bridge between present and past. We build our most strategic bridge with history. History held Bishop Bell in the highest honour. The present zeitgeist blew the bridge of historical record to smithereens. It adopted a scorched earth policy and obliterated Bell’s name from institutions that had sought to etch his memory in stone.

Structurally speaking, the most important part of a bridge is the beams that support it. Our bridge with history should be built on the twin beams of truth and justice. The torrential waters of the River Chaos threaten both beams.

We live in a post-modern and post-truth age. Postmodernism dismantles truth as relative and perspectival. Philosopher Richard Rorty unapologetically proclaims, ‘There is no truth. We should give up the search for truth and be content with interpretations.’

In its handling of the Bell enquiry, the Church of England has revealed its first postmodern and post-truth archbishop for whom there is no truth, only interpretations, for whom the only virtue is openness, and for whom personal experiences are more influential than objective facts in shaping public opinion.

The second beam that will support our bridge across the River Chaos is justice. The philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre in his book Whose Justice? Which Rationality?  speaks of ‘different and incompatible conceptions of justice’ and of ‘conflicting conceptions of justice’.

Is this what is being played out in the drama of Bishop Bell? There is one school that defines justice as that which is ‘right’, and another that defines justice as ‘rights’. ‘Rights’ are the obligations society is said to have towards certain social groups and it is the status of a person in the organised hierarchy of such groups that decides what is ‘right’ according to the ‘rights’ accorded to that group. In other words, justice is now re-defined as the ‘rights’ of a victim; these rights may even trump what is ‘right’, because postmodernism defines all claims to ‘truth’ and what is ‘right’ as claims to ‘power’.

In this radical re-conceptualisation of justice, those who claim to have suffered qualify by default for privileged status. They are right because they have the right to be right irrespective of what is objectively right. This, of course, is not to dismiss Bishop Bell’s accuser ‘Carol’ and her claims, it is simply to argue that the Church of England has moved considerably in its conception of justice. It is a very different conception from those who conceive of justice as ‘right’ because it is part of the right order of the logos and its features are truth and light.

The problem with grounding this beam of justice so as to build our bridge is that it is constantly threatened by chaos. In his Republic, Plato seems to think that people are pushed into the path of justice only by coercion and force of law. People choose to act in their own interest given the opportunity to commit injustice, because that is what nature deems good. Of course, Plato ultimately argues that humans submit freely to justice and law because there are rewards for those who restrain themselves in the face of temptation and make amends in the case of transgression.

But making amends requires great courage and it is ‘courage’ which Aristotle called the greatest of all virtues, because without courage it is impossible to practise any of the virtues. It is courage which will drive the building of our bridge across the River Chaos. Will Archbishop Welby have that courage?

As a tribute to Bishop George Bell I can do no better than conclude with these words from Romans 8: ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’

 

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From Anne A. Dawson

Dear Editor

I am writing in support of the ‘Rebuilding Bridges’ Morning Conference next month – at Church House Westminster on Thursday February 1 – which I am sadly unable to attend. This is important to me because it restores my faith in humanity there are other people sharing views compatible to mine.
I felt devastated by the bleakness of the statement of our spiritual leader, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in response to the Independent Review by Lord Carlile 15.12.2017, because I feel it expresses cynicism and self-interest, especially the Archbishop’s words about Bishop Bell:
“We realise that a significant cloud is left over his name. No human being is entirely good or bad. Bishop Bell was in many ways a hero. He is also accused of great wickedness. Good acts do not diminish evil ones, nor do evil ones make it right to forget the good”
My trust in the hierarchy of the Church of England has been shattered. I won’t leave the Church because of this, but basically the statement is tragic because of its implications.
Why is there a cloud over Bishop Bell’s name?
My response is because the Archbishop intends perpetuating ambiguity.
I would challenge the relevance in the context of this statement: “Good acts do not diminish evil ones, nor do evil ones make it right to forget the good”.
 
Why is the Archbishop saying this, if not to convey insidious undertones of an implied guilty verdict? The Archbishop had an opportunity to clearly refer to the UDHR, Articles 10 and 11. I feel he has let down the Church of England, as its leading spokesperson.
I am not an expert in law or theology. My interest in this issue is because my work in a pastoral role at primary school includes safeguarding procedures. In my opinion, Lord Carlile’s report was balanced and rational. It avoided preference or prejudice, unlike the Archbishop’s statement which conveyed both.
To me ethics are of utmost importance, because we are educating the next generation to be morally responsible as individuals and as world citizens.
Every child has a sense of natural justice. ‘It’s not fair’ is one of the first and most repeated phrases from Reception Year upwards. In playground disputes we always follow procedures based on conflict resolution. First one child speaks, while the other listens, then vice-versa. With an adult monitoring, most often the outcome is reconciliation.
However, how can I encourage children to respect a man of great responsibility like the Archbishop, when he dismisses the need for a fair hearing of the other?
The school where I work is predominantly non-Christian, with a very diverse spread of backgrounds and nationalities. My sadness is that the Christian faith is being destroyed within by its own leaders, when they recklessly demolish the reputation of one of its greatest representatives.
I am really distressed by this, as children have more choices than ever about what they choose to believe and the inspiration for their internal value system, but the consequences of weak moral leadership from the Anglican Church will not inspire any young person.
The Archbishop has weakened the Church of England by the defamation of Bishop Bell. The long term result is a church broken from within, which does not attract new faith in young people.
A strong church for the younger generation is needed, which has the humility to concede it is sometimes wrong and mismanages its procedures. The Archbishop has lacked the courage to do this, by continuing to deflect guilt onto Bishop Bell. That is why I feel his Statement was self-serving and cynical by the statement “Good acts do not diminish evil ones , nor do evil ones make it right to forget the good”. This comment is made in the context of Bishop Bell’s life, marked throughout with adherence to Christ-centred behaviour in war-divided Europe and beyond. This reference to “evil acts” are totally without evidence, and neither necessary or appropriate to the statement.
To misquote Martin Luther King Jr, 28.8.1963 “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the allegations, but by the content of their character”.
I want to live out my Christian values towards others, based on informed and thoughtful reflection rather than prejudice. I own my anger towards the Archbishop, prompted by shock that he was so intentionally ambivalent towards Bishop Bell in his statement.
I continue to learn through this situation about the theory of personality and what integrity really is. I will continue to invest time and consideration into challenging the Archbishop’s statement “Good acts do not diminish evil ones, nor do evil ones make it right to forget the good”, especially in the context of Bishop Bell.
This letter is underpinned by my sincere desire to look towards the well-being of children. My work requires robust safeguarding in school and in all spheres of life.
In an attempt to over-compensate for past indifference to allegations of child abuse within the church, the leadership projected blame onto a dead man to absorb the ill will. By implying the guilt of Bishop Bell in the above comments in his statement, the Archbishop increases mistrust in safeguarding procedure rather than respecting Lord Carlile’s conclusions.
This does not offer any assurance that future allegations will be properly addressed. I feel compassion for those who have been deeply hurt by words of injustice towards Bishop Bell, who has no opportunity for a fair public hearing.
I hope for a positive outcome at the Rebuilding Bridges event on Ist February, and pray that it brings reconciliation and the restoration of Bishop Bell’s good name.
Yours sincerely
ANNE A. DAWSON
Northolt

February 1 2018 – ‘Rebuilding Bridges’ Morning Conference – Church House Westminster + Letter of Invitation

LETTER OF INVITATION

Dear All

I do hope you have had a good Christmas.
 
I am writing to you, following the Carlile Review on George Bell, Bishop of Chichester –http://www.chichester.anglican.org/media/documents/document/2017/12/Bishop_George_Bell_-_The_Independent_Review.pdf .
 
In the light of this, a Morning Conference ‘Rebuilding Bridges’ will take place at Church House Westminster on Thursday February 1 2018
  
100 written Invitations will be posted out by January 1 2018.
 
You are warmly invited to attend on Feb 1. 
 
Please provide a full address and post code, and I will send out an Invitation to you.  
 
If there is anyone else you might think would be interested in attending, I will be more than happy to also send them an Invitation. 
 
Many thanks – and a very Happy New Year to you!
 
 
Richard W. Symonds
Event Coordinator
 
2 Lychgate Cottages
Ifield Street, Ifield Village
Crawley, West Sussex RH11 0NN
 
Tel: 07540 309592 (Text only)
 
NB May I draw your particular attention to “Help!” on the left-hand side of http://rebuildingbridges.org.uk/ Any contribution towards costs would be appreciated!