Category Archives: The Bell Declaration 1939

80th Anniversary of The Bell Declaration 1939 – “The Church ought to declare what is just”

“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


Full transcript: