Tag Archives: Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

Sept 2 2019 – “Sad Times in the Church of England” – Geoffrey Sampson

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https://www.grsampson.net/CStce.html

Geoffrey Sampson


[LOGO]

Sad Times in the Church of England

For most of my life I have been an active member of the Church of England, and felt fortunate to be so. Suddenly I no longer feel that way. Since Justin Welby became Archbishop of Canterbury in 2013, the Church has been changing its nature and ceasing to be the organization I used to know.

My chief reason for saying this is the scandal relating to George Bell (1883–1958), who was bishop of Chichester from 1929 to his death. Bell is a man who would have been recognized as a saint, if the Church of England went in for saint-making. In the early 1930s he was active in support of workers harmed by the economic depression of that period. Then from 1934 on he became the leading voice outside Germany publicizing and protesting against Nazi anti-Semitic measures, supporting the section of the German Evangelical Church which opposed the Nazis, and helping Jewish refugees from Nazism. After World War II was under way, Bell was one of the very few public figures who condemned and used his role in Parliament to try to change the Allied policy of area bombing of civilian populations. Since the war it has been widely recognized that the bombing campaign was a barbaric stain on the British historical conscience, but at the time Bell’s stand attracted hostility, including from fellow church leaders. Bell tried to organize help for the anti-Nazi resistance within Germany, but was rebuffed by the British government – Bell believed that our government could have helped the July 1944 Hitler assassination plot to succeed, but instead chose to act in a way which ensured its failure. After the war, Bell was a leading proponent of magnanimity in victory, protesting for instance at the ethnic cleansing of Germans from Eastern European countries.

In 2013, when Bell had been dead more than half a century, one woman, “Carol”, complained to the new Archbishop that between the ages of five and nine she had been sexually abused by Bell. This was a period of public moral panic about sexual abuse of children. A number of appalling cases had come to light, involving people such as a recently-deceased show business personality, a still-living bishop, and a number of men from Muslim immigrant families who treated naive young white girls as meat to be passed round from bed to bed. As a result people, including the police, seemed disposed to take seriously even the flimsiest and most implausibly lurid allegations against public figures.

In the case of Bishop Bell, the Church rushed to accept “Carol’s” story with no apparent willingness to consider that the allegations might be false (although everyone by then could see that there was money to be made from false accusations). After holding an enquiry at which George Bell’s living relatives were not allowed to appoint a lawyer to defend Bell, the Church declared that it accepted the allegations, and paid “Carol” a substantial sum in compensation. A church school named after Bishop Bell was given a new name, and other similar moves were made to blot out the memory of Bell as a great man.

Many individual voices within the Church protested at this travesty of normal standards of justice and due process, but they were ignored, until in 2016 the Church asked the senior lawyer Lord Carlile to review the way it had dealt with “Carol’s” allegations. His conclusion was that the Church had “rushed to judgement” and “failed to follow a process that was fair and equitable to both sides”; but this led to no change of heart on the part of the Church authorities. In January 2018 they claimed that they had “fresh evidence” against Bell (a statement which Lord Carlile said ought not to have been made public when the details were not revealed and so could not be tested).

Obviously the worry, for those of us who feel shocked by all this, has been that if we were privy to whatever confidential information the Archbishop has, perhaps we would realize that the allegations were well-founded. But in March 2018 the man who had been “safeguarding officer” for Chichester diocese when the Church accepted the allegations made a statement which appeared to imply that the real reason for that acceptance had been, not conviction of their probable truth, but a desire to mitigate an uninsured financial risk in case of further similar allegations. (See p. 9 of The Spectator for 24 Mar 2018 – and see also a hard-hitting letter to the editor of the Daily Telegraph on the same date from Dr Ruth Grayson.)

This is not what we expect from the Church. What authority can it have to preach to us that care for other people should take precedence over our selfish financial interests, if it throws one of its great men to the wolves as soon as its own finances are threatened?

Justin Welby came to ministry unusually late, after an early career in the oil industry. The behaviour of the Church in the Bell case seems to reflect norms of the commercial world, where a firm will routinely trim its sails to shifts in public opinion so as to avoid any conflict which might threaten profits. From the Church we expect higher standards, and before the tenure of the current archbishop we got them.

A second episode which has reinforced my doubts about the Church today also relates to the current panic about “safeguarding children and vulnerable adults”. Our Deanery encouraged us to attend a training session on this subject, organized by our Diocese, at which most of the talking was by a woman who used to be in the police but has now been appointed by the diocese to improve safeguarding standards. The tiny congregation in our parish doesn’t really have children or vulnerable adults, but I dutifully went along. After a chunk of bureaucratic guff of interest only to administrators, the bulk of the session revolved round a series of hypothetical scenarios which we were invited to consider and decide whether they warranted reporting to the police. We were told “Say what you think – there are no right or wrong answers.” But when a couple of us ventured to put an alternative to the speaker’s point of view (in one case in particular, relating to money rather than sex, it seemed very easy to imagine that rushing to the police could do more harm than good), the shutters immediately came down. The speaker’s view was right, we were wrong, no discussion. From comments in the national press it appeared that churchgoers all over the country were having similar experiences.

Again this is not the Church of England I thought I knew. One of the strong points of our national church has been that (in contrast to the Roman Catholic church) it is not intellectually authoritarian. It has not, in recent centuries, presumed to impose a single correct point of view in areas where in reality truth is grey and debatable. For a policewoman it is natural to see the world in crudely legalistic black and white terms, that is their déformation professionelle. But one looks to the Church for a more nuanced and tentative (and hence more morally realistic) attitude.

On the other hand it is clearly true that in the current climate of public opinion, informing on one’s neighbour whenever one thinks one might have detected any vague hint of impropriety is the “safe” thing to do, never mind whether it might be a recipe for an unhealthy society.

What does an ordinary man in the pew do in this situation? Living where I do it would be difficult to transfer allegiance to one of the nonconformist churches, even supposing their current standards were better, and at the parish level I am very happy with my church. Furthermore Welby will not be Archbishop for ever. So I suppose I will struggle on in the Church of England for the immediate future at least. But my enthusiasm is severely dimmed. If I were not a member already, I would not feel tempted to join.

— I wrote the above in April 2018. Two months later, Welby did it again! That June he made a public speech in which he described the European Union as “the greatest dream realized for human beings” since the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century. I am not sure how dreamy the Roman Empire was, but more to the point: in terms of political wisdom shown by different people co-operating to create lasting structures which succeed in reconciling the conflicting interests and ideals of numerous individual inhabitants, both the gradual evolution of the Swiss Confederation since the thirteenth century, and the creation of the USA in the eighteenth, knock spots off the EU. Quite a lot even of those who voted Remain in our referendum would agree, I believe. I didn’t get the impression that they mostly voted in a spirit of “Isn’t the EU great!” Some may have, and Welby was evidently one of them, but there was a great deal of “Safer to stick with what we’ve got, getting out might prove even worse”.

Is Welby on a one-man campaign to ensure that thinking people want nothing to do with the Anglican Communion in future? In August 2019 he announced that he was chairing a group whose aim is apparently to frustrate our current Prime Minister’s attempts finally to get Britain out of the EU. It astonishes me that the head (under the Queen) of the national Church can think it appropriate to act as a partisan in a matter of political controversy in this way. (Does he think that those of us who warmly support Boris Johnson’s approach are for that reason bad Christians?) A view which seems much more appropriate for a man of God was expressed in early 2019 by Jonathan Sacks, until 2013 the Chief Rabbi of the UK, who said in effect (I haven’t got his words in front of me) that the principle of government in a democracy being subordinate to the wishes of the population is so important that, even if our rulers were thoroughly convinced that Britain leaving the EU would be a serious mistake, once the referendum was held in 2016 and the majority was for Leave, they must ensure that we leave.

Early in 2019, the Bell story took a new turn. A further official report by Timothy Briden, an ecclesiastical lawyer and the Vicar General of Canterbury, found that the accusations against Bishop Bell were “inconsistent” and “unreliable”. One 80-year-old witness had said that his mother had told him that she had seen Bishop Bell “carrying out a sexual act with a man over his Rolls-Royce” back in 1967. Bishop Bell never had a Rolls. It was obvious that this and the rest of the salacious tittle-tattle was the product of warped, attention-seeking imaginations. Yet the Archbishop still refused publicly to exonerate Bell. He accepted that the original inquiry was mishandled, but said “It is still the case that there is a woman who came forward with a serious allegation … and this cannot be ignored” (Daily Telegraph, 25 Jan 2019). Bell’s successor as current Bishop of Chichester took the same line. The Bell family’s barrister, Desmond Browne QC, commented: “the investigations by two experienced lawyers [have established] George Bell’s innocence. But not once [has] the Archbishop of Canterbury offered Bell the presumption of innocence.”

The authorities in charge of the Archbishop’s own cathedral, Canterbury, announced that they plan to install a statue of Bishop Bell in one of the niches in the west wall, which typically contain figures of saints. Remarkably, the Archbishop responded that this would be a fine idea. I think that is called running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. It seems obvious that the Archbishop knows perfectly well that Bishop Bell was innocent of the charges against him, but he won’t come out and say so, because he is terrified that there might be some legal or financial come-back for the institution he is running.

This is the man whose job it is to inspire the population to be soldiers for Christ?

Also in 2019, other unwelcome features of the new-look Church of England emerged. In January it appointed a new national adviser for income generation, Jonathan de Bernhardt Wood, who had published a book on the subject (promoted on several Church websites) recommending the “target[ing of] those most vulnerable to our fundraising message”, namely “single, elderly, poor females”, and advocating signing church members up to bank standing orders, which he saw as “God’s special gift to fundraisers” partly because people often forget to stop them. “Fundraising through forgetfulness may not seem particularly noble or principled, but it is pragmatic, and in fundraising pragmatism is king … In my book … the ends justify the means.” (Reported in the Daily Telegraph, 25 March 2019.)

Then in August we heard that the beautiful 11th–12th century cathedral at Norwich had installed a large helter-skelter in its nave, with rides costing £2 a time. Some of us who see churches as important buildings think of them as places for contemplating serious, sometimes grim topics – ones that adults must sometimes face, and where better than in a church? They are not intended as indoor funfairs.

Why is it that when organizations like churches – or universities, in which I made my own career – decide that they ought to act like businesses, they always seem to choose the shabbiest, fly-by-night type of businesses as models?


 

Geoffrey Sampson

last changed 2 Sep 2019

Feb 2 2018 – Church Times Letters – “How should a line be drawn under the Bell affair” [Revd Alan Fraser + Revd Dr Barry Orford]

Letters to the Editor

https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2018/2-february/comment/letters-to-the-editor/letters-to-the-editor

How should a line be drawn under the Bell affair?

From the Revd Alan Fraser

Sir, — It is clear that some people have been angered by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s statement last week concerning the allegations against the late George Bell (News, 26 January). I must confess myself simply confused.

Having looked through the Carlile review, I suppose I had expected the half-apology to the relatives of Bishop Bell for the distress the Church’s investigative failures caused to them. I then expected a grudging acknowledgement that, without casting doubt on “Carol’s” testimony, the presumption of innocence would have to be applied to Bishop Bell unless and until any corroborating evidence came to light.

But no. With admirable clarity, the Archbishop said that he could not “with integrity” clear Bishop Bell’s name, and further, that the substance of “Carol’s” complaint was probably true. Given that the rest of us are not able to review the evidence against Bishop Bell, I think we are obliged to take at face value the Archbishop’s statements, and have reluctantly to conclude that Bishop Bell sexually abused a young girl.

But the Archbishop then goes on to say that this “does not diminish the importance of his [Bell’s] great achievements, and he is one of the great Anglican heroes of the 20th century”. With respect, I don’t see how these two statements can possibly both be true at the same time. If Bishop Bell sexually abused “Carol” repeatedly over a period of four years, it emphatically does diminish his achievements.

At the very least, the Church of England should suspend forthwith Bishop Bell’s commemoration on 3 October (as the Episcopal Church in the United States has already done) with a view to removing it from the liturgical calendar entirely. It would also seem advisable that Bishop Bell’s name be removed from any church institution or building in order to send the clearest of messages that paedophiles are not to be celebrated. And, if the Archbishop genuinely believes Bell to be an abuser, he should stop describing him as a “hero”, as it is clearly wholly inappropriate.

But it seems unlikely that any of these things will ever happen, because almost no one else who has reviewed the case against Bishop Bell appears to believe him guilty, even on the balance of probabilities. And, indeed, many of them loudly continue to declare him innocent. Meanwhile, the liturgical calendar ticks slowly on and clergy are left wondering “What should we do on 3 October? Whom are we to believe?”

It seems to me that the only possible way to break this unfortunate impasse is for the Church to commission the one thing that Archbishop Welby seems keen, inexplicably, to avoid at all costs: an independent review of the evidence against Bishop Bell which declares authoritatively on his guilt, or otherwise. I am at a loss to understand why this was not included within the remit of the Carlile review, as it would have avoided the current confusion. But we cannot continue to be asked to believe both that Bell was a paedophile and that he continues to be an Anglican hero, as though sexual abuse of a five-year old is no more than an unfortunate character flaw that can be discreetly overlooked in the face of ecclesial achievements. It most definitely is not.

ALAN FRASER
41 Hobhouse Close
Great Barr
Birmingham B42 1HB

From the Revd Dr Barry Orford

Sir, — Amid the widespread dismay and anger at Archbishop Justin Welby’s statements concerning Bishop George Bell, a disturbing fact must not be overlooked. But for the concerned individuals who banded together to demand justice for Bishop Bell, the official presumption of his guilt would have been generally accepted, and his reputation wrecked at the hands of a now discredited committee for which the Bishop of Chichester must accept final responsibility. This is shocking in itself, and in what it suggests about the Church of England’s approach to questions of truth.

The only acceptable resolution of this miserable affair is for the Archbishop and Bishop to express contrition and declare that no shadow remains over Bishop Bell’s name. Perhaps this might best be done during a service in Chichester Cathedral celebrating the life and achievements of George Bell.

That the claimant in the case was abused as a child is credible. There has been no convincing evidence presented for believing that she was abused by Bishop Bell. Why is it so difficult for Archbishop Welby and Dr Warner to admit this?

BARRY A. ORFORD
Flat B, 8 Hampstead Square
London NW3 1AB

Nov 24 2019 -“Chichester Cathedral moves to restore Bishop George Bell” – ‘Archbishop Cranmer’ – Martin Sewell

Chichester Cathedral moves to restore Bishop George Bell

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Chichester Cathedral

CRANMER’S ‘CURATE’S EGG’ COMMENTS

  • Well in the case of Bishop Bell daylight should have been allowed into this long ago. I firmly believe if you want to accuse you do so in the light of common day, not in the shadows of anonymity. And nor do I believe that the Church, nor anyone else for that matter, should be sending fat cheques for allegations which have not been proved beyond reasonable doubt.

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      This was a civil proceeding and claim, not a criminal case. Out of court settlements happen all the time without acceptance of culpability or liability. The error in this instance was not the payment (which was small given the nature of the allegations) but the Church of England accepting the claims were credible and that George Bell was guilty. There was no need for Welby to say he could not, with integrity, clear Bell’s name.

      To be honest, having been in similar situations, Jack has some empathy with Welby’s statement:

      “We have to treat both Bishop Bell, his reputation — we have to hold that as something really precious and valuable. But the person who has brought the complaint is not an inconvenience to be overlooked: they are a human being of immense value and dignity, to be treated equally importantly. And it is very difficult to square that circle.”

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        I agree. For many reasons the CoE made a grotesque mess of its handling of this case, but it is worth asking what should have been done that wasn’t. In my view, (1) ‘Carol’ should have been told: “We are not pre-judging anything but we need to cross-examine you, because someone who has genuinely been abused and a golddigger would say the same thing, and cross-examination will give us more information to distinguish. Can you see why we require that?” And (2) That reporter who said others had been abused in a local newspaper should have been followed up by the enquiry, no matter how many phone calls had gone unreturned.

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          What should have been done ? That is patently obvious: ‘Carol’s’ story should have been rigorously examined and she should have been made to make her accusations in the light of common day, not in this hole in corner manner. Bishop Bell deserved far better than this nonsense. I think the lessons of ‘Nick’ should be heeded and those who claim to have been abused in 1892 or whenever should not be believed without their story being tested properly. And the last thing that ought to be done is sending fat cheques. Time to derail the compensation gravy train.

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          Any decent qualified child protection expert assessing this woman’s allegations, would have tested her account. “Cross examination” is an adversarial process intended to discredit and undermine. Truth and justice isn’t always the outcome. For victims of abuse, this can be harmful and traumatic. This matter was settled and didn’t go to court – civil or criminal. If it had gone to a civil court, given that George Bell was dead and the action would have been against the Church of England, it would have been the Church who would have been “cross examining” the claimant and seeking to undermine her testimony. As Jack said, he empathises with Welby in this situation.

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            I mean the same by “cross examination” as you mean by “testing her account”. I agree with the words of Welby you have quoted, but overall I believe he grotesquely mispresided over the matter.

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              In going public with George Bell’s name? He argued that when the details eventually became public at the inquiry, the Church would have been accused of a cover-up. And he was right in this. His error was in stating (or implying) that he believed Bell was guilty when there was no clear evidence for this.

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    At IICSA Justin Welby said “We’ve got to learn to put actions behind the words because ‘sorry’ is pretty cheap.”
    He also said that he had apologised to me in person at lambeth palace in November 2016. He did not. Neither my solicitor or myself remember an apology and the minutes for the meeting, taken by a member of the nst, record no apology. This meeting was 7 months before Devamanikkam was even charged (and nobody knew if he would be). Was Justin Welby so convinced of Devamanikkams guilt that he apologised to me 7 months in advance of charges? This is not likely.
    Further an internal memo (obtained through a subject access request) from the same member of the nst dated April 2018 clearly states that no apology had been issued.
    So was Justin Welby mistaken, badly briefed or deliberately telling an untruth to the inquiry?
    The ‘letter’ Justin Welby produced (a few minutes before the start of the hearing despite there being months to prepare statements and hand in documentary evidence) , which I have never received, was a fudge anyway and the barrister asked Justin Welby if that was an apology or the beginning of one.
    I was sat behind him the whole time but he never turned round once.
    I have still had no formal apology despite being raped by a vicar in a vicarage. I would not want that regurgitated excuse now anyway.
    If apologies are so cheap..then do it along with restorative action that is appropriate.
    The truth is that any apology now would be worthless because it would have had to be dragged out of Mr Welby or Mr Sentamu. It is a cold, cold heart that behaves like this.
    Raped by a vicar in a vicarage as a youngster and the archbishop, nor any of the other bishops who have acted shabbily and shambolicly can even say sorry. I was right in my observations at iicsa….not fit for office.

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    About time too! Any idea when George Bell’s statue will be unveiled at Canterbury cathedral? A great Dean and a great Bishop. Let’s hope that his hymn – “Christ is the king” will have been sung today in many churches and cathedrals on Christ the King/Stir up Sunday.

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    When is Welby resigning?

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    The guide book has been changed. Good.
    Central to justice for George Bell is the fight against those who judge the past, without sufficient evidence or context, by the standards of today, to buy approval and signal virtue.

    If you can see this in the case of George Bell, Martin, why do you still support us repenting for the acts of slave traders, antisemites and persecutors of homosexuals? These things were done in different times by other people. To suggest that we bear guilt is just another form of injustice and stupidity.

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      Absolutely agree, Chef. The biblical, godly principle is that each person is responsible for his (or her) own wrongdoing or sin, and no-one elses’s. The instruction given in Deut.24:16, 2Ki.14:6, and 2Chr.25:4, while expressed within a context where the death penalty was implemented, gives a principle of personal responsibility that applies in contexts where other penalties are implemented.

      The requirement for retrospective grovelling apology for wrongdoings that are not a particular person’s fault or responsibility is a form of guilt manipulation that needs to be resisted with full determination, no matter what the force of social coercion applied to that person to perform an act which is nothing but virtue-signalling. Justice demands that the innocent should not be punished, but the guilt-manipulating coercing social mob cares nothing for justice, but only for vindictive, unjustified punishment.

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Nov 17 2019 – Peter Hitchens on Lord Bramall and Bishop Bell…and Archbishop Welby

https://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2019/11/peter-hitchens-well-laugh-at-these-sensitive-students-and-their-virtuous-opinions-but-one-day-these-.html#comments

Peter Hitchens

Peter Hitchens

Welby still won’t do the right thing

Peter Hitchens – Mail on Sunday – November 17 2019

It is a shocking thing to say, but it is true that it is fortunate for the late Field Marshal Lord Bramall, who died last week, that he was falsely accused while he was still alive. Had the attack happened years after his death, as was the case with the comparably great Bishop George Bell of Chichester, the law would not in the end have rescued his reputation.

You can say what you like about the dead, and nothing will happen to you. The accusations of terrible sex crimes made decades after his death against Bishop Bell have been comprehensively shown to be mistaken, to put it charitably.

But some people, most notable among them the Archbishop of Canterbury himself, Justin Welby, continue to refuse to admit they were mistaken when they first accepted them.

He claims sulkily that there’s still a ‘significant cloud’ over Bishop Bell. By behaving in this way, Mr Welby shows he does not properly understand the faith of the church he heads.

 

REACTIONS AND COMMENTS

Revd Peter Mullen

Rev-Peter-Mullen
Good for Peter Hitchens!
Welby and his sidekick, the extremely unpleasant, waxy and oleaginous Bishop Martin Warner of Chichester, have been called to account many times over the last few years and asked politely to do the right thing and apologise. No result.
My opinions don’t count for very much in the world of ecclesiastical skulduggery, but I have published a few articles about this scandal.
Is there anything else to be done?
~ Rev Peter Mullen

“Two members of the House of Lords should make a point of reading these inspiring letters: the Archbishop of Canterbury and the current Bishop of Chichester…” ~ Lord Lexden

More information:

https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2019/12-july/books-arts/book-reviews/the-george-bell-gerhard-leibholz-correspondence-edited-by-gerhard-ringshausen-and-andrew-chandler

https://www.alistairlexden.org.uk/news/great-bishop-and-great-injustice

Sept 15 2019 – “Now try saying sorry for your own mistakes, Archbishop…” – Peter Hitchens – Mail on Sunday

“Now try saying sorry for your own mistakes, Archbishop…” – Peter Hitchens – Mail on Sunday

mail

Peter Hitchens

I do worry about Archbishop Justin Welby. 

Does he know anything? Does he understand his own religion? 

There he lies flat on his face in the Indian city of Amritsar, regretting a massacre he didn’t carry out 100 years ago. 

It was pretty thoroughly condemned at the time, and its culprit was forced to resign.

Archbishop Justin Welby laid flat on his face in the Indian city of Amritsar

Christianity is about recognising your own faults, Archbishop. 

Get some practice. Explicitly and fully apologise for your Church’s decision to publicly smear the great, late Bishop George Bell, now shown beyond doubt to be the result of a one-sided, sloppy kangaroo court.

No need to lie on the floor.

Just say sorry for a foolish, unfair mistake, and the vanity that has prevented you from admitting it.

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

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Bishop George Bell

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

Page 30-33

As well as being Chairman of the Liturgical Commission, Dr. Jasper was an historian, and, a few years previously, had written the life of Arthur Cayley Headlam of Gloucester. At that time, we were all awaiting the publication of his biography of George Bell, Bishop of Chichester [1929-58], one of the greatest bishops ever produced by the Church of England, who many expected to become the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1943, when William Temple died suddenly.

Bishop Bell was a courageous church leader, who had helped Jews and others to escape from Nazi Germany, and spoken out in the House of Lords against the indiscriminate bombing of German cities in the Second World War. He was a great ecumenist, theologian, and patron of the arts and a much-loved pastor. Christine had spent her previous summer holidays working on the index of this long-awaited biography.

Dr. Jasper was always very humble and modest about his work and scholarship, and would seldom initiate conversation about what he had achieved. As I became more involved with the family, I sensed that Bishop Bell had almost become part of the household, so the revelation fifty-seven years after his death that the Church had made an apology to one complainant, on the grounds that the Bishop had abused her between sixty-five and seventy-five years ago, seemed utterly unbelievable. 

While the Church has been careful not to say that the Bishop is guilty, it has ruined his reputation. Originally, no information was given as to the process by which the Church had come to this conclusion, other than the statement that ‘experts’ had been involved. Such secrecy was hard to countenance in an age of ‘transparency’. As a family, and in common many others, we expressed our concern in the church press, and have continued to do so. In 2017, the Core Group Report was seriously criticised by Lord Carlile QC in his review into the Church’s handling of the complaint.

Of course, it is right and proper that the Church investigates thoroughly every complaint made against every person and however famous and respected – and however ancient. Given, from the beginning, how shaky and questionable the allegation against Bishop Bell appeared to be, what has greatly concerned me is that the bishops of the Church of England, who, certainly in the past, had a fine reputation for standing against injustice and for being unafraid of making themselves unpopular, have expressed not one word of concern at the destruction of Bishop Bell – with the exception of the Bishop of Peterborough, in a speech in the House of Lords, and, more recently, the Bishop of Chester. A couple of retired bishops have voiced our concerns and given support to the George Bell Group, but our view carries little weight.

An allegation is made against him around sixty-five years later; he is tried by, frankly, what looks like a kangaroo court – with nobody to speak up for him, as Lord Carlile pointed out. Not a single bishop was prepared to query publicly what was being said, and how it was being dealt with. The left-leaning newspapers, always eager to campaign on miscarriages of justice, have given scant support to those of us concerned concerned at the traducing of Bell’s reputation.

It has been left to The Daily Telegraph, The Times and The Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday to write powerfully about the basic principles of justice being ignored by the Church. The Church is the Sacrament of the Kingdom, and becomes what she is meant to be in the celebration of the Eucharist – this keeps me going. It is the institutional church that gets so much wrong (as I know, also, from my own mistakes). I can therefore understand the anger and the real disappointment of the person who told me that ‘the whole episode’ of the church’s handling of the Bishop Bell situation ‘puts you off church-going’.

My first concern as a bishop has always been for the survivor (even though I am aware of falling short some twenty-two years ago, when measured alongside today’s strict and excellent standards); but until it can be proven beyond all reasonable doubt that Bishop Bell abused a child, I will continue to call upon George Bell within the Communion of Saints to pray with me and for me. Meanwhile, I continue to treasure on my bookshelves Bishop Bell’s copy of The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, given to himon 7 October 1957.

Much has changed concerning Bishop Bell’s reputation following further enquiries, and the long awaited report of the Right Worshipful Timothy Briden, Vicar-General of Canterbury. What will not change, is the inadequate original investigation, and that George Bell, one of the ‘saints’ of the Church of England, who is commemorated every year (3rd Oct) in our liturgical calendar as bishop, ecumenist, and peacemaker (1958), should for the last four years have been cast into the wilderness by the Church he served with love and the greatest distinction.

Page 88 & 89

I was sorry, also, to say farewell to Bishop Kenneth Skelton, the Diocesan Bishop. I admired him in many ways; he took time to get to know his clergy and was generous with the time and encouragement he gave to me as a young incumbent. Although he came across as shy initially, I found him very easy – and it helped that he could always see the humour in situations. He had the gift of drawing out the best in people. He was a truly pastoral bishop, who worked collaboratively and strategically. This remarkably gifted man, whose leadership was prophetic, appears to have been forgotten about in the Church of Rngland – possibly because he was a very humble person.

Kenneth had served as Bishop of Matabeleland from 1962 to 1970 in western Rhodesia, where he was deeply respected as a pastor and theologian, and where he championed the cause of the black majority, inevitably clashing with many politicians. he wrote a gripping account of his ministry in Matabeleland, ‘Bishop in Smith’s Rhodesia’ (Mambo Press, 1985). The Law and Order Minister called him ‘The Devil’s Advocate’, and stated that the government was watching him.

He was also dubbed ‘Red Skelton’, after the American comedian. Some commented that Kenneth could best be compared in the Church of England with Bishop George Bell, for both worked tirelessly for social justice and were fearless in speaking out.

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As with the four other parishes I had worked in, I lost no time in getting down to work – but this was a somewhat larger area and responsibility than I had experienced before; there was a huge in-tray demanding my attention. Every day new issues would hit my desk.

On my first day, I visited Bishop Bell School – now called St. Catherine’s College – the large Church of England secondary school in the Langney area of Eastbourne, opened by H.R.H. Princess Margaret in 1958 and dedicated by Bishop Bell. This was his last act after twenty-nine years as bishop, and he was to die shortly afterwards. He had specifically requested that the school be built in a less affluent and expanding area of Eastbourne. Whenever I entered that building, which also housed his mitre and crozier. I never felt that this courageous and truly great bishop was far away.

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17. You have a great respect for Bishop George Bell and have expressed concerns about how the allegation made against him has been handled by the Church of England.

Yes indeed – and I am joined in this by many from around the world. Others much better qualified than me to make a judgement have taken the view, from the earliest stages of the allegation, that the evidence was not compelling. I have yet to meet anyone, anywhere, who has looked at the facts available and believes that the handling of this allegation reflects credit on the Church. One comment was ‘what a circus’ – which would be amusing if the case were not so serious. It has of course been extremely difficult to find out much about it, because of the lack of transparency.

To be fair to those who have dealt with this, and in the light of the public reaction, Lord Carlile QC was invited to review how the Church handled the whole matter. His report leaves the Church with the very difficult task of ensuring that we will never again allow such an injustice to occur. I am surprised the Church did not understand that any institution seeking to act as investigator, accuser, judge and jury cannot deliver justice.

I came across a memo, and I cannot remember where it came from, of what Lord Woolton said to Bishop George Bell on 9 February 1944, just before he made his courageous speech against the indiscriminate bombing of German cities: ‘George, there isn’t a soul in this House who doesn’t wish you wouldn’t make the speech you are going to make…you must know that. But I also want to tell you that there isn’t a soul who doesn’t know that the only reason why you make it, is because you believe it is your duty to make it as a Christian priest’.

That is the Bishop Bell we will all remember, along with his many other heroic deeds. It is tragic, as the Bell Group Press Release of 15 December 2017 argued, that the institutional church today deprived this bishop, who has been dead for over sixty years, of the presumption of innocence or of due process…

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Chichester have faced severe criticism for the way in which this whole matter has been handled, and tendered their apologies for it.

Lord Carlile QC, who conducted the 2017 independent investigation into the Bishop Bell allegations, forwarded a Statement to be read out at the Bell Society meeting on 4 February 2019, in the building that used to be called George Bell House, Chichester. It contained the following words:

“I hope that this event will add to the clamour for the Church to admit the awful mistakes it has made in dealing with unsubstantiated allegations against Bishop Bell. His name should never have been publicised before allegations were investigated. The Church should now accept that my recommendations should be accepted in full, and that after due process, however delayed, George Bell should be declared by the Church to be innocent of the allegations made against him”

With the dedication of the Bishop Bell statue in Canterbury Cathedral (where he served as Dean between 1924 and 1929), it is to be hoped that a line may be drawn under this sad episode, banishing any shadow over Bishop Bell’s good name – for surely, his character and all he achieved by the grace of God are conjoined.

 

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