TO ARCHBISHOPS AND BISHOPS: APOLOGISE. RESTORE THE NAME OF GEORGE BELL HOUSE. OR RESIGN
LETTER SUBMISSION – AUGUST 29 2020
Following this week’s Private Eye article and Church Times letter, we the undersigned again call upon / renew the call for Archbishop Justin Welby and Bishop Martin Warner to consider their positions.
The evidence against Bishop George Bell has been gathered and thoroughly examined. Lord Alex Carlile QC and Timothy Briden have declared the allegations are unfounded and there is no case to answer . It follows, therefore, that no “significant cloud remains” hangs over Bishop Bell’s head – it hangs elsewhere.
Bishop Bell’s name has now been fully vindicated, so there is no good reason why an apology should not be forthcoming and the name of George Bell House restored.
But Archbishop Justin Welby and Bishop Martin Warner continue to perpetuate this injustice against the wartime Bishop of Chichester by wilfully and arrogantly refusing to admit they were wrong. There is no willingness on their part to right that wrong. They display no humility in acknowledging that wrong. They have no intention to lift that “significant cloud”.
As Stephen Parsons says in ‘Surviving Church’: “Incompetence whether caused by ignorance, conceit or malevolence, is a particularly important matter when the individual refuses to admit to it and own up to it”.
After Archbishop Welby’s comment last year: “It is still the case that there is a woman who came forward with a serious allegation and this cannot be ignored or swept under the carpet” – a few of us did not ignore or sweep under the carpet those allegations against Bishop Bell. We fully investigated the clear likelihood of ‘mistaken identity’ – especially after the IICSA brought to light the “bonfire” of John Treadgold Dean of Chichester. Our findings are one reason why we are so critical of the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner – especially relating to excising the memory of Bishop Bell in Chichester].
Bishop Bell’s niece Barbara Whitley, the only surviving relative and in her 90’s, and the Rev Peter Mullen and Andrew Morse have already called for resignation.
Therefore, we, the undersigned, now call for the resignation of the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner, unless an immediate and full public apology is forthcoming regarding Bishop Bell and the name of George Bell House in Chichester is restored.
ATKINS, Revd. Forrest William
CHARMLEY, Professor John
DONALD, Revd. Steve
GOMES, Dr. Jules
INESON, Revd. Matthew
LINSLEY, Alice C.
MORGAN, Dr. Gerald
MULLEN, Revd. Dr. Peter
RAVEN, Revd. Canon Charles
ROBINSON, Dr. Steven
SYKES, Rt. Revd. Nicholas J.G. – Suffragan Bishop
SYMONDS, Richard W.
VIRTUE, David W. DD
October 22 2015 – Church of England Statement by the Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner 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…The settlement followed a thorough pre-litigation process during which further investigations into the claim took place including the commissioning of expert independent reports. None of those reports found any reason to doubt the veracity of the claim”
Ponder this if you will, then decide what action to take.
In Chichester, action has already taken place by restoring 4 Canon Lane back to George Bell House:
More action is to follow.
The Very Rev Stephen Waine said:
“Communities around the country had events planned for VE Day which have now been cancelled, including Chichester Cathedral.
“We are delighted to offer this online service for those at home, as well as to be encouraging people to take part in the Big Picnic For Hope, as a way of remembering the heroes of the past and present.”
~ Phil Hewitt – Eastbourne Herald
LETTER SUBMISSION – MAY 8 2020
Dean of Chichester Cathedral, The Very Rev Stephen Waine, says [‘Chichester Cathedral marks 75th Anniversary of VE Day’, Eastbourne Herald, May 8)
With hope, I will also be remembering a past hero – George Bell, Bishop of Chichester – one of the greatest and bravest wartime bishops of the 20th century.
Richard W. Symonds
RESPONSES TO LETTER SUBMISSION
“Thank you for sending me this. I am sure it will not be given a fervent welcome, either in the Deanery or in the Bishop’s residence. I’m afraid that Martin Warner’s seemingly total lack of a conscience, or of an understanding of the requirements of justice, leaves me ever more frustrated”
Friends and admirers of Bishop George Bell (who died in 1958) were appalled three years ago when a new guidebook to Chichester Cathedral was published.
A paragraph about the Bishop on page 37 accepted his identification (from a single accusation) as probably a paedophile, stating that the allegations, though never tested in a court of law, were ‘nonetheless plausible’.
An extra twist of the knife was the slightly unnecessary contention that ‘as Bell himself recognized, … supporting victims is always the right thing to do’.
The resulting outcry, in view of Bell’s previous blameless reputation, caused the Cathedral to withdraw the guidebook from its shop in the Cloisters, so that until recently the only guidebooks displayed were in French and German.
The 2016 revision could be sold to visitors who specifically requested it, but was kept under the counter as if it contained offensive material – as in a sense it did.
Now a newly revised version has silently appeared in the Cloisters shop. In this the ‘outing’ of Bell has been removed, to be replaced by a longer account of his friendship with the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, executed by the Nazis in 1945.
It’s reassuring to see this evident change of view at the Cathedral over the character of one of Chichester’s greatest bishops.
Is it perhaps time now to commission for a site somewhere in or near the building a statue of this remarkable man?
Hawthorn Close, Chichester
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.
41 Hobhouse Close
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.
CRANMER’S ‘CURATE’S EGG’ COMMENTS
(A victim of some strange illness these last months, I have not been officiating , but I wanted to honour on the anniversary of his heavenly birthday George Bell, one Bishop whom many of us consider great).
As a graduate, I was an ordinand at Chichester Theological College for just eight terms between 1957-1959. As the College was short of accommodation at the time, I spent my second year in a room on the top floor of the Bishop’s Palace. I was already well acquainted with the Bishop’s Chapel, as that served also as the College Chapel, where we assembled, except when we worshipped in the Cathedral. Later on we had our own Chapel and a new Building, the latter due to the generosity of many, till the C. of E. closed down our oldest Theological College. It was due to the kindness of Bishop George Bell, one of the great Bishops of Chichester, that for a time both my spiritual and bodily home was to be in the Palace. We did not see the Bishop very often, but memories remain vivid of both him and Henrietta, his splendid wife.
As I am one of a dwindling number of former students still alive who remember those days, Andrew Chandler, of the University of Chichester, George’s excellent biographer and defender against calumny, asked me among others specific questions about the Palace Building as it was. Of course, if the accusers had only spoken to George Bell’s former Chaplain, who was still alive at the time, a Chaplain never far from the Palace, they would have learned that the Bishop was abroad for much of the time they mentioned. Nor did he ever own a Rolls Royce, as was suggested. If George Bell were by any chance aware of allegations made against his name, I imagine he would raise a wry smile, for this good man had to face opposition for much of his life, not least from Bishops and Politicians.
In George Bell’s memory, the Arundel screen in the Cathedral has been restored and re-erected. On one side is a profile of Bell with the inscription – ‘GEORGE KENNEDY ALLEN BELL, BISHOP OF CHICHESTER 1929 -1958. A TRUE PASTOR. POET AND PATRON OF THE ARTS. CHAMPION OF THE OPPRESSED AND TIRELESS WORKER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY.’ Fresh flowers were placed underneath the bronze even before accusers apologised. One of George’s final acts was to dedicate in his honour Bishop Bell School, Eastbourne, now renamed St Catherine’s College, though I wonder which Catherine they mean (the Alexandrian ‘Wheel’ one or Siena) . I cannot find any answer to that, and have not heard of any plans to bring back the original name.
As far as I know, George Bell House at 4 Canon Lane, has not as yet had its proper name restored, although George’s fourth successor as Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, has apologised, (incidentally the previous three being Roger Wilson, Eric Kemp and John Hind, all of whom I have had the privilege to meet) .
We remain proud of George Bell’s connection with this glorious Church of St Mary, Hampden Park, which he consecrated on 24th October, 1953. As we enter the Church, we do not fail to see on the outer wall that tribute to a beloved Bishop.
A son of the Vicarage, winning the Newdigate prize at Oxford for a poem, then at Wells Theological College, George went to work in Leeds, where he greatly admired the social work of the Methodists. Later, as a Domestic Chaplain to Randall Davidson at Canterbury, George wrote his two volume official biography.
As a distinguished pioneer of the Ecumenical Movement, George befriended the German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was hanged by the Nazis on 9th April, 1945, at Flossenburg Concentration Camp. In 1938-9, Bell helped 90 people escape from Germany to Britain. He spoke passionately in the House of Lords against the blanket bombing of civilians in Germany, which did him no earthly favours with either Prelates or Politicians. Many people believe that he would have become Archbishop of Canterbury rather than Geoffrey Fisher, if he had not been opposed by the Archbishop of York, and if Winston Churchill had not vetoed the appointment.
We continue to honour George Bell as ecumenist and peacemaker. As Patron of the Arts as Dean of Canterbury he enabled, among other events, the staging of T.S. Eliot’s ‘Murder in the Cathedral’. Later he supported the gift of murals to St Elisabeth’s, Eastbourne, the artist being Hans Feibusch, and also work by the Bloomsbury Group from Charleston on the walls of Berwick Church.
George and Hetty Bell left Chichester in 1958 for retirement in Canterbury but not for long. In that same year on October 3rd he died. Ronald Jasper, his first biographer wrote of George. ‘He will go down in history as one of the special glories of the Church of England: in days to come when the Catholic Church recovers again its lost unities, men will still remember the debt for that recovery owed to George Bell’.
When I lived in the Palace, very few of us could afford a car. One could and gave me lifts to Arundel for Sunday Evening Benediction. Another rose to owning a bubble car. Nevertheless, our parking by the Palace incurred the very voluble opposition of Hetty Bell, a marvellous sort of friendly dragon, whom we all loved. This outspoken lady was complemented by her husband who seemed almost shy at times. When we heard of the Bishop’s departure, some of us clubbed together to buy them a Kenwood food mixer. ‘Oh, excellent!’, was the immediate response of Hetty. ‘George was always a good mixer!’ And so he was, though subsequently I have also read into her remark, intended or not, that, when necessary, Bishop Bell was also prepared to stir things up. But then, in the words of the Prayer Book Collect, we are urged to pray:
‘Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded. ‘ Amen.
|Rev Michael Fullagar||Michael Fullagar was Rector at Freemantle for nine years, from 1978-87. Before coming to Freemantle he had worked in Zaire.
Priest-in-Charge at Westbury, he was appointed Chaplain to Wycombe General Hospital in 1994.
Now retired Michael helps out in the Benefice of St Mary Hampden Park and St Peter the Hydneye, Eastbourne
The Diocese of Chichester has links with the United Church of Berlin-Brandenburg, the Lutheran Evangelical Church (EKD) District of Bayreuth, Bavaria, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bamberg, Bavaria. Regionalbischof Dr Dorothea Greiner of Bayreuth, and Domkapitular Professor Wolfgang Klausnitzer are Canons of Honour of Chichester Cathedral.
The biennial “Coburg Conference” brings together representatives of the churches of Chichester, Berlin, Bayreuth and Bamberg; and the biennial “Feuerstein Conference” is a meeting of seminarians, theological students and curates. There are musical exchanges and visits involving Chichester Cathedral. There are also partnerships between many parishes in the Diocese and Catholic and Lutheran parishes in Bavaria as well as Berlin and other parts of Germany.
The Cathedral’s link with Chartres was established as part of the civic twinning between the two cities. In 2003 the Bishop of Chartres preached in Chichester Cathedral and the Bishop of Chichester preached in Chartres Cathedral. The Cathedral’s Seffrid Guild made cushions for the chairs of the Bishop and the eucharistic celebrant in Chartres Cathedral. The Dean & Rector of Chartres Cathedral, The Very Reverend Canon Dominique Aubert, is a Canon of Honour of Chichester. As with the German links, there are regular musical visits and exchanges.