Tag Archives: Dean of Canterbury

An Anniversary Tribute to Bishop George Bell by Fr. Michael Fullagar – on the eve of the Coburg Conference in Chichester

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Bishop George Bell

Dear Reader

(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

Feb 1 2019 – “Welby welcomes plan for George Bell statue, hours after apologising for Church’s handling of the case” – Church Times – Hattie Williams

Welby welcomes plan for George Bell statue hours after apologising for Church’s handling of the case

https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2019/1-february/news/uk/welby-welcomes-plan-for-george-bell-statue-hours-after-apologising-for-church-s-handling-of-the-case

 

01 FEBRUARY 2019

The commission was halted in 2015, after an allegation of sexual abuse against Bell

A sketch of George Bell by David Goodman

 

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has welcomed plans for a statue of the late Bishop of Chichester, George Bell, to be completed and installed in Canterbury Cathedral, hours after apologising for the Church’s botched handling of an allegation of sexual abuse against the Bishop.

Plans for the statue were halted in 2015, after a woman known as “Carol” alleged that Bishop Bell, a former Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, had sexually abused her in the 1940s, when she was nine. The diocese of Chichester apologised and reached a settlement with Carol within the year (News, 23 October 2015).

An independent investigation by Lord Carlile later concluded, however, that the Church had rushed to judgement in the case, which, Lord Carlile said, should not have been made public (News, 22 December 2017). He wrote that, had the Church seen the evidence that his review had managed to uncover without great difficulty, the case would not have been thought strong enough even to be tested in court.

The news sparked fresh allegations against Bell, which were dismissed in a report on Thursday of last week by an ecclesiastical lawyer, Chancellor Timothy Briden, Vicar-General of the Province of Canterbury.

The report was the conclusion of a second investigation, commissioned and made public by the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, in January of last year. Both Dr Warner and the Archbishop issued statements apologising.

The next day, the Friends of Canterbury Cathedral, which was founded by Bell when he was the Dean of Canterbury (1924 to 1929), announced that a statue of him which had first been commissioned in 2015, would be completed and installed at the cathedral, paid for by the Friends.

“To commemorate his work whilst in Canterbury, the statue will be placed in one of the exterior niches at the west end of the cathedral, joining those of other influential figures.”

The Friends have declined to comment further or provide pictures of the statue, but a newsletter sent to the Friends of Canterbury Cathedral in the United States, in February 2014, gives details of three new commissions for the west front of the cathedral: one of Dean Bell, and two others of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

It reads: “The statue of Dean Bell has been commissioned and carving has begun out at Broad Oak [in Kent].

“The maquettes for the royal statues of Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have been approved by Chapter and the Cathedrals Fabric Commission and work will begin on their manufacture later in the year. Some of our own masons are involved helping the sculptor, Miss Nina Bilbey, and it is hoped that all the statues will be ready for installation towards the end of the year.”

The statues of the Queen and Prince Philip were unveiled on the west front in March 2015. When approached this week, Ms Bilbey said that she was unable to comment at present.

Archbishop Welby posted a link to the announcement on Twitter, last Friday. He wrote: “I warmly welcome the announcement today that the statue of Bishop George Bell will in due course be completed and installed at Canterbury Cathedral, as a permanent reminder of his unique contribution to international peace and to the Church of England.”

His comment echoed his apology for the “mistakes” made in handling the original allegation, which he previously said had left a “significant cloud” over the name of Bishop Bell, despite protests from historians that Bell’s name should never have been implicated (News, 22 January 2018).

Bishop Bell’s biographer, Professor Andrew Chandler, has been campaigning with the Bell Society to clear Bell’s name. “To invest the authority of high public office, and the name and the resources of the Church itself, in a sustained denigration of an innocent, dead man, is profoundly disturbing,” he said this week.

“To maintain that denigration in public, even in the face of the most authoritative, experienced, and principled criticism, for over three years, is something very serious indeed. It does represent, in a fundamental way, an abuse of moral power.”

A spokesman for Church House suggested last week that Chichester Cathedral might “review” its decision to remove Bishop Bell’s name from its grant scheme. It was up to individual institutions, however, to decide whether to reinstate his name on buildings, he said.

Several buildings dedicated to Bell have been renamed in the past three years, including George Bell House, a conference centre in Chichester Cathedral close, which was dedicated in October 2008, on the 50th anniversary of his death (Features, 3 October 2008). The building was renamed 4 Canon Lane in 2016.

An event — “Rebuilding Bridges” — is being hosted there next week by the Bell Society. It will ask whether the Dean and Chapter will restore the name of Bell to the building, and whether Bishop Bell be “cleared of abuse” by the Archbishop.