Tag Archives: Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“THE GEORGE BELL – GERHARD LEIBHOLZ CORRESPONDENCE” – EDITED BY GERHARD RINGSHAUSEN AND ANDREW CHANDLER [CHURCH TIMES BOOK REVIEW – JULY 12 2019]

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The George Bell-Gerhard Leibholz Correspondence, edited by Gerhard Ringshausen and Andrew Chandler

12 JULY 2019

 

John Arnold reviews letters that shed light on George Bell’s life

THEY were an unlikely pair — the English bishop and the German Christian-Jewish constitutional lawyer — but they were linked by the fact that Bell shared a birthday with Leibholz’s wife, Sabine, and thus with her twin brother, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who is present, off-stage, throughout the book. It was the Bonhoeffer connection that made it natural for Leibholz to turn to Bell for help, when he and his family escaped from Nazi Germany in 1938. Practical help in finding food and shelter, work and income, and in dealing with intractable bureaucracies, dominates the early phase of the correspondence and recurs throughout.

Leibholz was only one of many whom Bell was aiding, before, during, and after the war, with advocacy and practical Christianity. In 1945, Bell was supporting Dietrich’s youngest sister, Susanne, in getting members of her husband’s congregation in Berlin to put slices of bread in the collection plate for starving children. He does all this and more, while fulfilling, even over-fulfilling, the duties of his daytime job as Bishop of Chichester. He is unfailingly kind, thoughtful, practical, and effective, making full use of his position at the heart of the Ecumenical Movement and of the Establishment with easy access to politicians, publishers, universities, and, above all, the House of Lords, which gave him a platform for his prophetic ministry to the nation and beyond.

This is the core of the book, in which Leibholz’s mastery of jurisprudence and knowledge of Germany inform Bell’s passion for justice. Their chief concern was the Christian and democratic future of Germany and of Europe. They were strongly opposed to both Fascism and Communism, but feared that British and Allied vindictive attitudes (typified by Robert Vansittart) and the policy of unconditional surrender failed to distinguish between Nazis and Germans, deprived the resistance of hope, and prolonged the war.

 

STADTARCHIV GÖTTINGEN Gerhard Leibholz

 

They were deeply critical of the agreements reached in Casablanca, Yalta, and Potsdam, and, while wanting a unified Germany, feared that it could be only a communist one. After three years of political stagnation, 1945-48, they rejoiced to see the beginnings of the Marshall Plan and the establishment of the Federal Republic, though at the cost of a separate German Democratic Republic. Leibholz was restored to his Professorship at Göttingen, and became a leading member of the Federal Constitutional Court. He is regarded as one of the founders of the modern German State.

The exchange of letters is a delight. However intimate and affectionate the contents, they consistently address each other as “Dear Leibholz” and “My Lordbishop” (sic). Leibholz is expressing himself in a second language; so there are inevitable infelicities. Bell writes with unfailing clarity and charity, compassion and care. In a letter of 1945, he lets us into the secret: “I don’t want to say things that are unnecessary or untrue, and I want to remember the minds of the reader into whose hands such [letters] might fall. I want to say no word that cannot be substantiated.”

Readers should include all who care for truth and right, justice and mercy, German and church history, and Bonhoeffer studies. The book is beautifully produced with an introduction, real footnotes, extensive bibliography and index, and two appendices: Gerhard’s perceptive and appreciative review of Bell’s Christianity and World Order, and Sabine’s wide-eyed memoir of the family’s first visit to Chichester in January 1939.

Leibholz died, crowned with years and honours, in 1982, and Bell in 1958, after chairing a meeting of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches and attending the Lambeth Conference. As Leibholz and his wife wrote to his widow: “What made him unique was that he put into action the spirit which moved him and commanded his conscience. The World has become poorer by a really great man. . . We have to thank him for having granted us the privilege of setting up a bond of friendship which shall last forever and which death cannot destroy.”

The Very Revd Dr John Arnold is a former Dean of Durham.

 

The George Bell-Gerhard Leibholz Correspondence: In the long shadow of the Third Reich, 1934-1958
Gerhard Ringshausen and Andrew Chandler, editors 

Bloomsbury £85
(978-1-4742-5766-4)
Church Times Bookshop £76.

Nov 29 2019 – ‘Guidebook’ Letter – Chichester Observer (unpublished) – Tim Hudson of Chichester

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New Chichester Cathedral Guidebook

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?

TIM HUDSON

Hawthorn  Close, Chichester

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 20 2019 – New Chichester Cathedral Guidebook reprinted [with child abuse allegations against Bishop Bell replaced by Bell-Bonhoeffer correspondence]

Dear All

You’ll be pleased to know that the Chichester Cathedral guidebook has recently reappeared in the Cloisters bookshop – but with the paragraph on Bishop Bell’s supposed paedophilia replaced by a longer account of his friendship with Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

I have written to the Chichester Observer mentioning this, since most people won’t know about it.  I wonder if it represents the beginning of a change of stance from the Cathedral people; let’s hope so.

With best wishes,

Tim

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Front Cover and original Page 37 [with child abuse allegation against Bishop Bell]

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Original Page 37 [with child abuse allegation against Bishop Bell]

 

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New Page 37 – Re-written

 

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NOTE

The old Guidebook was printed by “Pitkin Publishing. The History Press…1/16” and the new Guidebook reprinted by “Pitkin Publishing. Pavilion Books Company Ltd…2/19” [ie printed in Feb 2019 – but on sale in Cloisters Bookshop at Chichester Cathedral in Nov 2019 – a 9-month delay]

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

Sept 23 2019 – European Links and the Coburg Conference – Chichester [Oct 10-14 2019]

https://web.archive.org/web/20171228223404/http://www.chichestercathedral.org.uk/about-us/european-links.shtml

European Links

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.

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Dear Editor

Earlier this month, at Westminster Abbey, there was a Service of Thanksgiving for the politician and diplomat Lord ‘Paddy’ Ashdown who died last year.

In the Epilogue of his last book – “Nein! Standing Up To Hitler 1935-1944” – Lord Ashdown concludes:

“There are also, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Bishop Bell argued, moral questions to be addressed here”

Later next month, in Chichester Cathedral*, some of those questions will be addressed at the Coburg Conference which “will focus on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s and George Bell’s work, and what it can teach us in the light of today’s political situation”. 

Yours sincerely 

Richard W. Symonds

The Bell Society

 

* October 10th to 14th. Venue: 4 Canon Lane (formerly George Bell House), Chichester Cathedral

Dear Editor

Earlier this month, at Westminster Abbey, there was a Service of Thanksgiving for the politician and diplomat Lord ‘Paddy’ Ashdown who died last year.

In the Epilogue of his last book – “Nein! Standing Up To Hitler 1935-1944” – Lord Ashdown concludes:

“There are also, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Bishop Bell argued, moral questions to be addressed here”

Later next month, in Chichester Cathedral*, some of those questions will be addressed at the Coburg Conference which “will focus on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s and George Bell’s work, and what it can teach us in the light of today’s political situation”.

 

Yours sincerely

Richard W. Symonds

The Bell Society

 

* October 10th to 14th. Venue: 4 Canon Lane (formerly George Bell House), Chichester Cathedral