Tag Archives: House of Bishops

OCTOBER 9 2020 – “RESIGNATIONS, DYSFUNCTIONALITY AND THE HOUSE OF BISHOPS” – VIAMEDIA NEWS – JAYNE OZANNE

Resignations, Dysfunctionality and the House of Bishops

Posted on October 9, 2020by Jayne Ozanne

by Jayne Ozanne, Editor of ViaMedia, Director of the Ozanne Foundation and Member of General Synod

I resigned from my Bishop’s Council this week.

The decision has been a long time coming – I’ve felt I’ve been hitting my head against a brick wall over our failure to prioritise the poor and disadvantaged, especially given we are such a rich diocese, for years. In fact, I’ve been banging the drum since I got onto Council five years ago. Interestingly, even though we constantly rated serving the poor in our diocese as a “the top priority” during our discussions, it rarely seemed to make the cut into any paperwork . In virtually every meeting I can remember I have had to remind those in authority of the commitments we had agreed as a Council.

I realised things would never change when after one Diocesan Synod meeting I was told, when the priority yet again failed to be mentioned to those gathered, that it was because it was too long to fit on the slide! All rather ironic given that we’d just had a report that emphasised the real issue in our diocese was that of “hidden poverty”!

In truth, I know I was as tired of banging my drum as Council members were of hearing it.

So, eventually, it got to the point where I felt that the best way for them to hear me was by my absence. You see, sometimes leaving is the only way left for people to be heard….

Since I resigned, I’ve been reflecting on why it is so difficult for those in the central Church or Diocesan structures to hear what those outside or on the fringes of the Church see as completely obvious. It came into sharp focus again this week with the IICSA report which stated what so many of us have been saying for some time now – that we need a completely independent safeguarding system in the Church in order for it to be fully functional.

I have decided that the real problem is that our boards and councils are populated by mostly white, mostly male, mostly middle class and mostly middle aged (and that’s being kind) people who all hold virtually the same world view – and who are incapable of recognising that there is legitimacy to any other view other than their own. Because they all end up endorsing each other, they confirm their own legitimacy, and nothing therefore ever changes.

That’s why we find it difficult to embrace those from other backgrounds – those that are different to the monochrome “norm” that the Church of England has built into the warp and weft of its very foundations. You just have to look at the make up of General Synod to see what I mean.

It is why we’ve an appalling record on nearly every measure of diversity – we are seen by those “on the outside and margins” as racist, sexist, homophobic and transphobic. We are outrageously bad at dealing with people with differing abilities too. Although it’s “not good show” of course for us to admit this in public.

And what does this “monochrome” system result in? Well, I won’t be popular in saying this, but I believe this ultimately results in the single most critical problem for us as a Church. It’s the real root of most of our problems, which few are prepared to admit let alone publicly name – it is that we have a leadership structure that is, I’m afraid to say, deeply dysfunctional. It seems our House of Bishops operates like a boys public school, with prefects and head boys who whip the younger boys (and they are of course mostly boys!) into line. It may seem like the body that so many aspire to, but once you’re there you get sucked into colluding with a system that few feel able to break free from. Although thankfully, there are some brave individuals who do.

It is interesting to question why so few have called this out publicly over all these years?

Especially given that to many of us on the outside and fringes this dysfunction is plain to see. We have bishops leading double lives, which no one seems to bother about or challenge. We have bishops preaching one thing and practicing another, particularly when it comes to the way in which they treat LGBT+ clergy in their midst. We have bishops who lament safeguarding failures, but whose own record is pretty poor. It all leads to a postcode lottery, which everyone knows about but no one does anything about because they (we?) have all got too much to lose…or worse, that they don’t think that somehow anyone will notice.

But we do, and we all know. The charade was up a long time ago.

It’s just like my own experience with Bishop’s Council – no one can be bothered to bang the drum any more. We are resigned to letting it all continue, with no one rocking the boat.

But time is running out. Many are tiring of this game. And they’re leaving.

So much so that soon the primary problem won’t be the fear of people rocking the boat, but rather the fear of ensuring that there are still people who are prepared to sail in it!

So reform is needed – and it needs to start at the top.

The House of Bishops is about to release resources for the Church of England to engage with over sexuality. What they seem to have failed to see (again!) is that the vast majority of people in the pews made up their minds about LGBT issues long ago….what they’re waiting for is for the House of Bishops to finally do so themselves. And to do so in a way that has some credibility.

So it’s time the House of Bishops had an OFSTED inspection. They need to turn the mirror on themselves and take a long hard look at what they see. They need to be honest about their dysfunctionality, their divisions and their double standards.

Miracles can happen – and with God’s grace this might just be one of them. Goodness knows we need it!

8 Responses to Resignations, Dysfunctionality and the House of Bishops

  1. Roy Clements says: October 9, 2020 at 8:20 am You have fought the good fight, Jayne. But at last you have realised that the real problem with the C of E is its unreformed ecclesiology. There is no biblical warrant for the kind of centralised authoritarian episcopacy it perpetuates. Baptists, congregationalists and other independents have their faults, but they can CHANGE!
  2. Kim James says: October 9, 2020 at 8:37 am Kicking issues into the long grass is quite a speciality in many organisations that are embarrassed by their own failures. The CofE is very good at it at all levels of the hierarchy – from PCC subcommittees all the way up to Synod and the archbishops.
  3. Susan Paterson says: October 9, 2020 at 11:20 am Absolutely nailed it – well done. We need a Reformed Anglican Church – though sadly the initials are already taken!
  4. Philip Feakin says: October 9, 2020 at 11:34 am Excellent. It is a great pity that you have had to resign. The Church needs more people to be speaking out about the Church’s very evident shortcomings.
  5. Jan Dean says: October 9, 2020 at 3:12 pm And that pattern repeats all the way down to parish level where the skin of my teeth is finally giving up.
  6. James Normand says: October 9, 2020 at 6:16 pm Speaking as a white, middle class, late middle-aged man, not (yet) on General Synod, I think your assumption that we ‘all hold virtually the same world view – and .. are incapable of recognising that there is legitimacy to any .. view other than [our] own’ is far too much a generalisation and simply not true.
    That is not to say that I’m critical of your decision to resign from the Bishop of Oxford’s Council. I fully appreciate that ‘there comes a time’ and I’m very sorry that that time has come for you – who have done so much to open the eyes of old fogeys like me.
    Keep battling on, Jayne, in the forums which you continue to inhabit – and, in particular, through your Foundation and Via Media.
    • Jayne Ozanne says: October 9, 2020 at 6:22 pm All generalisations are, by their very nature, that – generalisations. But given the exceptionally large number of people who have today agreed with this caricature of Church of England Boards and Councils I think those who fit this description need to reflect on how diverse their groups actually are…

OCTOBER 5 2020 – IICSA REPORT TO EXPOSE “A VERY ENGLISH FORM OF CORRUPTION“ LYING DEEP WITHIN THE ANGLICAN CHURCH

IICSA REPORT EXPOSES “A VERY ENGLISH FORM OF CORRUPTION“ LYING DEEP WITHIN THE ANGLICAN CHURCH

Looking ahead to IICSA report day on Tuesday

Stephen’s Blog Stephen Parsons

by Gilo

By no means a comprehensive list. Just a brief visit across a number of things we may probably see further comment upon after the Inquiry makes its final Anglican report.

Mandatory Reporting

It’s possible that any expecting to see the much needed recommendation for Mandatory Reporting as part of the statutory framework – will be disappointed. It is long overdue.

The argument is won.

And this presents an ideal moment as the Church has come round to acceptance of MR after a rather circuitous route of yes we do, no we don’t. Many of us suspect the Inquiry want to hold on to this as a ‘big ticket’ recommendation for the final report at the end of 2021. Why wait until then? Current policies across many institutions in regulated activities have been called “bags of bits” by Mandate Now; labyrinthine policy jungles which would become largely redundant with MR. Culture change will happen in a single weekend with its eventual introduction. But I think we have to wait until the Inquiry gets the last train home.

Independence

The Archbishops Council statement was notably vague on this. That the Church is keen to put this theme out just before the final Anglican report suggests that the Inquiry will call serious question to the Church’s fitness for self-governance. There is an overwhelming need for the National Safeguarding Team to be given independent oversight, well away from the control of Archbishops’ Council secretariat. The current NST is almost an entirely new team, but part of the difficulty facing Melissa Caslake and her newbies is picking their way through the considerable wreckage of the previous era which has left many survivors deeply suspicious of the NST.

Many disaster sites might have been avoided, or reached quicker resolution, if the NST hadn’t been shaped by the culture of Church House, its comms and lawyers and managers, and at times, the Church’s own dodgy reputation launderers.

The Christ Church core group debacle would in all likelihood have been avoided. I am told the probable outcome of this independence will be the formation of a new NCI (National Church Institution) – called Safeguarding – with independent members alongside Church appointees in an oversight committee to beef up scrutiny. We will have to wait and see how and when this happens.

Archbishops and Bishops

Many of us expect to see Archbishop Justin Welby and former Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, criticised. Both their hearings were embarrassing. When each had an opportunity to apologise to a survivor sat directly behind them, they failed to do so despite being invited by the Inquiry. Those watching sensed that the Inquiry took a dim view. The wider existential crisis of the bishops – how many senior figures and their dioceses have responded, or failed to respond – is likely to come under heavy fire.

The walls of silence to major questions that so many of us have experienced as a pattern across the bishops is something we hope the Inquiry will highlight.

I know that Bishop Jonathan Gibbs is keen to see more vigorous accountability injected into the structure. At present it is at best variable, at worst: absent.

Some bishops are thrown under the bus. Others get away with run-for-the-hills behaviour and hope the fallout from their denial and distancing will not follow them.

The National Safeguarding Steering Group, the church’s current overarching board of governance, to many of us seems to resemble a shielding for senior figures who should be facing critical questions. It includes bishops who have managed to hide within the structure behind dysfunctional processes and a culture of protection.

Ecclesiastical Insurance

Many of us expect to see the church’s insurer take a substantial hit following the recall to IICSA when Ecclesiastical Insurance tried to pull the wool over a government inquiry.

It’s worth pointing out that Carl Beech is serving 18 years in prison for perverting the course of justice and lying under oath to the police. But Ecclesiastical, a big corporate, have managed so far to get away with apparent dissembling in front of a government inquiry – under oath!

It’s also notable that their lawyer, top QC Rory Phillips, had only one client at the Inquiry and a very small handful of statements to be across. What a mess he made. I don’t think anyone assumes he knew his client was being dishonest. But to be candid, he could have done an hour’s easy homework – and realised he was representing a client who was being considerably less than ‘sufficiently full and frank’ in their testimony. It took the Inquiry less than 45 mins to devastate their testimony on three significant counts. Now, much more is emerging about malevolent psychiatric reports used against survivors, ‘genetic predisposition’ defences, desk-topping, and other strategies deployed by EIG and their lawyer – much of this reflecting dubious ethics.

But I doubt these will be visited in the report as some of these have only recently started to emerge, despite being brought to the attention of senior church figures over the years. But I would expect to see the Church criticised for its duplicity in some aspects of its relationship to the insurer.

It has sought to protect a corrupted nexus, from whom it derives substantial income through the owner of the insurer, AllChurches Trust. It has been, as one cleric put it, “a very English form of corruption”.

Interim Support Scheme

This is not part of the Inquiry. But it’s definitely worth comment – as the Church announced this flagship scheme last week perhaps as an attempt to plea-bargain with the Inquiry, and certainly to address widespread concern at the lack of compassion towards survivors. My understanding is that this scheme will help up to ten people initially (to help create the structure) and then quickly scale up. Quickly being the operative word.

If it fails to do this, or rows back on its promises, and becomes another smoke and mirror delaying tactic – then it will raise much more ire.

The proof will be in the extent to which it is prepared to rescue economies of those left in wreckage as result of reporting and re-abuse. And not just the initial ten or so. But fifty, then a hundred, and so on. This is not the redress scheme and should not be confused with it. It is the interim support prior to redress. My understanding is that there is no figure attached to this scheme – instead the lead bishops have argued for an open credit line – which I think is the right approach. The final redress scheme will cost a great deal more. The figure that has been talked about in the longer term has been £200million. But many of us think this will not be sufficient.

What happens after?

Will the Church go back to sleep after the Inquiry? My sense is that the current lead bishops are keen to use this opportunity to bring about as much culture change as they can and I think they recognise that this is required across the top of their Church.

My own view is that a Truth & Reconciliation initiative may be needed, in which bishops end the long procession of crafted apology statements, and apologise for real. But that has to go hand in hand with real justice and genuine repair of lives.

About Stephen Parsons

Stephen is a retired Anglican priest living at present in Cumbria. He has taken a special interest in the issues around health and healing in the Church but also when the Church is a place of harm and abuse. He has published books on both these issues and is at present particularly interested in understanding the psychological aspects of leadership and follower-ship in the Church. He is always interested in making contact with others who are concerned with these issues. View all posts by Stephen Parsons →

← Is the Church of England ready for new moves in Safeguarding?

2 thoughts on “Looking ahead to IICSA report day on Tuesday”

  1. Gilo BBC Radio Sunday. 25mins in. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000n4vyReply
  2. Jane Chevous Thank you Gilo, your predictions sound spot on and give us some hope that things will change. I know that you and others are working behind the scenes to do this and am very grateful for all you do.
    I do hope the report calls for independent scrutiny & that this results in a total reform of the core group process, because this is where the real canker is. It’s unfit for purpose and often reabusive. And as you say, fails to hold abusers and especially bishops who do nothing, to account. Nothing is happening to either of the bishops who failed (refused) to respond to my report of clergy rape.
    A redress scheme doesn’t bring justice. I hope the idea of a restorative justice process, including a Truth & Reconciliation commission, does gain traction. Counselling and compensation alone do not bring justice, or repair the rupture of abuse

JUNE 6 2020 – PHILOSOPHICAL AND THEOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS – 1: “CLOSED CHURCHES AND SILENT BELLS”

church-closed

WG73

CLOSING CHURCHES

Our Finest hour?

 I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

The Battle of Britain and “the blitz” were campaigns (although viewed as one single offensive by the Nazis) that Sir Winston Churchill knew were more than simply about a conflict between two nations. During the Second World War we fought an ideology, and seventy five years’ ago Churchill spoke from the Ministry of Health balcony to a vast crowd (an ironic location seventy five years on):

The lights went out and the bombs came down. But every man, woman and child in the country had no thought of quitting the struggle. London can take it”.

One such bomb came down close to St John’s Church, Kensal Green on November 16th 1940 blowing out most of the stained glass in the church and causing severe damage to the roof. In 1944 the church celebrated its centenary. Fr Tipper, Vicar during the war years, recalled many years later the moment he entered his bombed church: “I went into the church with a working man. He was crying and I was too. He said ‘cheer up Father. We’ll build it up again’ and we have done that”. In March at the last assembly in church before schools closed I told the pupils about Fr Tipper He was proud that not one service was cancelled following the bombing, even with a part of the roof blown off and the glass blown out, and as bombs still fell.

Seventy five years after VE Day is a good day to reflect on how much we have changed. Could London “take it” today if bombs came down again? Our risk averse, micro-managed, centralized, committee loving and tick boxing culture – in every area of life – makes the answer uncertain. We should remember, however – as any who has seen darkest hour will know – that had there been no Churchill there may have well been no victory. However much we have changed we are the same nation, as Her Majesty recently said: “the pride in who we are is not a part of our past, it defines our present and our future”.  I saw a war time poster recently advising people if they were gassed: wash your hands and go to work. Clearly one thing has changed is the notion of risk.

A renewal

What, I have wondered in recent weeks, would Fr Tipper, let alone Churchill, make of the Church today? In August 1944 Geoffrey Fisher, the then Bishop of London, wrote to Tipper a letter congratulating the church on celebrating its centenary “in the throes of a new period of human history”:

Let this Centenary renew your faith in the unchanging things – God’s love, our redemption in Jesus Christ, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit in the Church, the duty to bear our faithful witness. For these things your church stands. There, through the ministry of word and sacrament, there in the unity of the Church’s prayer and worship, you are fortified in the grace of God”.

I think Fr Tipper would have found it incomprehensible that a church could be closed, and even more incomprehensible that Geoffrey Fisher would “advise” him to do so. Tipper had served in the first war and knew about both risk and the law, not simply as rules in a book, but as the rule of love that is summarised in Fisher’s letter above.

The Worship of God is a response to His love and a commandment. The celebration together of the Eucharist on the day we celebrate the Lord’s resurrection is a command not a choice; how we bear witness to Christ, the ministry of Word and Sacrament, the Church’s prayer – all spring from the story of redemption. St Paul notes the law often: the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5, 22). We live under the law, but the law is only as strong as that which it is based upon and inspired by.

Better Days

It would seem strange to Fr Tipper that Clergy would willingly deny themselves the ability to care so they could stand in solidarity with those at home. In the war he was known for visiting people whose homes had been bombed and many years later upon his retirement it was for this, rather than anything he might have ever preached, that he was remembered. A visit, a word of support, doing what a parish priest has always done.

I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge” said The Queen in that memorable address “and those who come after us will say the Britons of this generation were as strong as any”. As footage showed key workers, shop keepers, delivery drivers, nurses, soldiers, and postmen, how good it would have been to see a priest. I cannot describe the profound anger I felt as I feared an aunt might die in hospital , when the Archbishop designate of York suggested clergy should not volunteer to go into hospitals. I cannot comprehend how risk, symbolised by the cross, became something that so overpowering.

Of course prior to this episode relations between clergy and bishops were not ideal. There can be a tension between the needs of a parish and of a diocese. No parish is alike and serving parishes can become a never ending puzzle as to how we can sustain a parochial system with less resources. The more recent addition of national Church institutions adds another layer of complexity. Interestingly Geoffrey Fisher, he of the above letter, was the last to oversee a revision of the Canons, to fit a Church for a new world. He knew put the rules in first and everyone knows what they are doing (he had of course been a Head Master).

Fr Tipper lived in a less complex culture and four years after the war his glebe was purchased by Paddington Borough for housing – it was where the bomb landed. Today three blocks of flats stand on it. His Vicarage is now sold. We should not of course look back to a past generation and be wistful but we can ask the question whether what we think people want is the same thing as the pastoral care they are given. Where people know whom as well as what to turn to relationships are easier, as well of course as the place to visit. In recent weeks I am sure people have been aware of their parish church, and that it has been locked might make people cherish it the more. Might they too become a bit more involved with its life? A little more assertive of what they might attend? It might be a little too traditional for some but if we are to serve the nation a good start would be to listen, and start at the base.

These past weeks have renewed my faith in the unchanging things: God’s love, our redemption in Jesus Christ, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit in the Church, and the duty to bear our faithful witness. Like many these past weeks have also taken my mind back to my youth and the church of my youth. The Church of England can be what it once was, with confident clergy in their parishes secure in the knowledge of their roles supported by pastors of all churchmanships, working alongside laity clear in their responsibilities, supported by a diocese that is vital in so many areas. It would be a tragedy if business as usual resumed, there is required now a middle way which is after all a very Anglican way to go.

Her Majesty’s address to the nation was a voice of sanity amidst the fear and confusion. “While we have faced challenges before, this one is different. We will succeed – and that success will belong to every one of us. Better days will return”. Better days will return and perhaps as we see young people demonstrating against racism in large numbers they have woken up to what previous generations knew. Yes a virus is a risk, but discrimination and not listened to is worse for the vast majority. May they, like Fr Tipper, surveying the many mistakes of a risk averse culture build things up again, and for the better.

David Ackerman

Kensal Green, June 2020

May 14 2019 – “George Bell Group issues new statement” – ‘Thinking Anglicans’ – Simon Sarmiento

George Bell House - 4 Canon Lane - Chichester Cathedral

George Bell House – 4 Canon Lane – Chichester Cathedral – before the name change [Picture: Alamy]

George Bell Group issues new statement

George Bell Group issues new statement

The George Bell Group has issued this: Statement May 2019.

Since October 2015 when the Archbishops’ Council announced that they had paid compensation to the woman given the pseudonym ‘Carol’, who alleged that she had been abused by Bishop George Bell, his defenders have criticised the Church authorities for never once affording the Bishop the presumption of innocence.  Now, after the inquiries of Lord Carlile and Timothy Briden, it can be seen that the allegations against Bishop Bell were unfounded in fact.

THE CARLILE REVIEW

The Carlile report, whose conclusions (save as to publicity) the Church accepted, criticised the investigation of Carol’s allegations as a rush to judgment predicated on Bell’s guilt. It concluded that the decision to settle with Carol was indefensibly wrong and that the process completely ignored the Bishop’s reputation and the interests of his surviving family, including his very elderly niece.

The original statement by the Archbishops’ Council in October 2015 claimed that none of the expert independent reports had found reason to doubt Carol’s veracity. But Lord Carlile discovered that the only expert consulted by the Church thought it very likely that Carol’s experience of abuse in her first marriage had affected her recall, and that the possibility of false memories was a real one.

Regrettably Archbishop Welby added his authority to the destruction of Bell’s reputation: on Good Friday 2016, before the Carlile report was completed, he told BBC Radio that the investigation of Carol’s claim had been ‘very thorough’ and the finding of abuse correct on the balance of probabilities. We now know how far from the truth that was.

The Archbishop told Lord Carlile during his inquiry that if there had not been a proper investigation of Carol’s story, the Church would have to apologise. But sadly, when the Carlile report was published in December 2017, he chose not to do so. To the disappointment of Bell’s defenders, he appeared to reject the presumption of innocence; instead he commented that there was still ‘a significant cloud’ left over Bishop Bell’s name without giving any explanation of why he continued to hold that view in the face of Lord Carlile’s conclusions.

THE ‘FRESH INFORMATION’ AND THE BRIDEN PROCESS

The publicity given to the Carlile report appears to have triggered a copy-cat claim by the woman given the name Alison. The Core Safeguarding Group which had been responsible for the shambolic investigation of Carol’s claim now set about trying to substantiate that by Alison. They may well have hoped that the similar facts alleged by Alison would corroborate the discredited Carol. But within weeks the police, to whom the Core Group had reported the matter, closed their enquiries.  Next an investigation by a senior retired police officer commissioned by the Church quickly showed that Alison’s evidence was unreliable and incapable of supporting any adverse finding against the Bishop.

Mr Briden reported that her account not only had internal inconsistencies but was also contaminated by her having read Carol’s story, a contamination revealed by her repeating verbatim some of Carol’s words which had been reported in the press. He ended his report by saying that all the allegations against George Bell remitted to him were unfounded.

Many will have hoped that on reading Mr Briden’s report Archbishop Welby would have publicly acknowledged that the cloud of which he had previously spoken had been dissipated. He did not do so.

THE DUTY OF THE CHURCH NOW

The history of the treatment by the Church of England of the reputation of George Bell has become a scandal. It is now the plain duty of the Church of England, nationally and in the Diocese of Chichester, to make amends by working to restore Bishop Bell’s reputation, not least in institutions which were once proud to adopt his name.

We welcome the decision of Canterbury Cathedral to revive a commission to create a statue of Bell and note the expression of ‘delight’ with which the Archbishop of Canterbury has responded. We acknowledge with gratitude the firmness with which the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford have maintained and cherished the chapel there dedicated to Bell’s memory throughout the controversy. We note that the meeting room dedicated to Bishop Bell remains, as before, at the World Council of Churches in Geneva.

It is only in Chichester itself, the place in which Bishop Bell lived and worked for almost thirty years and where his ashes are interred in the cathedral, that any public adoption of his name is now suppressed.

We find the public stance of the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, incomprehensible and indefensible. The Bishop’s ‘Response’ to the Briden Report, published on 24 January 2019 and now promoted on the websites of the diocese and cathedral, only went as far as to acknowledge that ‘Bishop Bell cannot be proven guilty’. He added that it could not be ‘safely claimed that the original complainant [i.e. Carol] had been discredited’. This is a most regrettable insinuation that there was, or likely was, substance to Carol’s allegation and hence that Bell was to be suspected of abuse.

The Bishop emphasised the defamatory innuendo by asking ‘those who hold opposing views on this matter to recognise the strength of each other’s commitment to justice and compassion.’ There is, regrettably, no evidence in this response of the Bishop’s commitment to justice or of any compassion towards those who are wrongly accused. His words have been repeated verbatim by the Bishop at Lambeth in response to a Question at the recent session of the General Synod of the church. Indeed, the Bishop even invoked the authority of the House of Bishops in support of this view. So far as we are aware the House has never even discussed the matter.

Such words simply preserve the impression that there was, and remains, a case against Bell. A not dissimilar state of mind was revealed by the Chichester Diocesan Safeguarding Officer when he told the Child Abuse Inquiry in March 2018 that ‘all the indications we have would suggest that the simplest explanation for why someone comes forward to report abuse – because they were abused – is likely to be the correct one’.

As the High Court Judge Sir Richard Henriques has pointed out in his report to the Metropolitan Police on allegations against prominent individuals, such an assumption results in an investigation which does not challenge the complainant, tends to disbelieve the suspect and shifts onto the suspect the burden of proof, ignoring any presumption of innocence. It becomes a premise for a miscarriage of justice such as can now be seen to have been inflicted on the reputation of George Bell.

It should be sufficient to observe that like Professor Anthony Maden, Lord Carlile did interview this first complainant. We note Lord Carlile’s statement of 1 February 2019, made to the local campaigner Mr Richard Symonds: ‘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.’

We are more than conscious that this saga represents a wider pattern in the Church and across society where many other such miscarriages of justice have become notorious. Now it is surely essential that if all the many safeguarding bodies, national and diocesan, are to be retained by the Church of England their work must be placed under real legal discipline and in the hands of officers who observe fully the expectations and rule of law and act without fear or prejudice.

There must never again be any repetition of such a discreditable, indeed disgraceful, performance.

Andrew Chandler, Convenor of George Bell Group, 9 May 2019

COMMENTS
Susannah Clark

“it can be seen that the allegations against Bishop Bell were unfounded in fact.”

What does that precisely mean? If the group is saying that the case is ‘unproven’ then I’d agree, because it is impossible to prove one way or the other whether her allegations against the Bishop are true or untrue. If it is saying that ‘Carol’s allegations about George Bell can be proved to be untrue, then that is a slur on a woman whose narrative they have repeatedly said is false. To say that George Bell *is* innocent (except in legal terms) is a false claim.

What I read in this statement is the use of insinuation.

“The possibility of false memories was a real one.” Yes. But ‘possibility’ means just that. It’s also possible her recall of who abused her was not false. Possibility either way is not the same as fact.

“They may well have hoped that the similar facts alleged by Alison would corroborate the discredited Carol.” Setting Alison aside, why is Carol described as “the discredited Carol”. That is offensive to a woman whose claims remain unproven one way or the other. It is slur.

As Dr Martin Warner correctly acknowledges: “Bishop Bell cannot be proven guilty.” But he is also right to add that it could not be “safely claimed that the original complainant [i.e. Carol] had been discredited.” That is not insinuation. It is fact. The fact remains that Carol may or may not have been abused by George Bell.

Process was faulty, and reform in the Church’s safeguarding procedures is overdue, but at the same time, this campaign group has created an incredibly hostile and partisan environment for an abuse victim herself. ‘Carol’ in all likelihood has indeed suffered abuse. It may have been committed by George Bell. With the passage of time we shall probably never know. However, assertions that – as a matter of fact – Carol’s claims are false… that is a disgraceful shutting down of an abuse victim’s experience and allegation.

Yes, the accused need safeguarding protection too… few deny process needs improvement… but no, it CANNOT “be seen that the allegations against Bishop Bell were unfounded in fact.”

That is a falsehood, a false assertion. If we create a virulent and hostile environment for people with the courage to come forward to accuse abusers – and it takes incredible courage – then we should be ashamed, because what it will do is drive victims back into secrecy and silence.

In addition, we must never lionise powerful men, even good men of known courage, to the extent that hagiography silences those who – in some cases – are nevertheless victims of the very dark side of human character. Great men can be flawed. We cannot simply disbelieve women because of their abuser’s reputation. That cannot wash. What we need is process that is discreet, measured, and factually very precise with its language. And non-partisan.

We do not, factually, know if George Bell was innocent or guilty. I doubt we ever will. Carol may be right.

T Pott
“We do not know, factually, if George Bell was innocent or guilty.” If that were so, it would put him in exactly the same position as everybody else who has ever lived. So, perhaps, we should simply remember people for what we do know about them.
Susannah, if you make an allegation I raped you when you were 5-years-old, the onus is on you to provide evidence that I raped you. The onus is not on me to prove I am innocent.

If you cannot provide that evidence in a court of law, then however convinced you are that it was me who raped you, I am to be presumed innocent. That’s the law.

After two investigations (Carlile & Briden), ‘Carol’ – who has had the benefit of anonymity and been paid nearly £30,000 (?) in compensation – has provided zero evidence that it was Bishop Bell who abused her.

Therefore, Bishop Bell is to be presumed innocent. That’s the law.

But the Church seems to consider itself above the law by presuming Bishop Bell’s guilt and presuming the innocence of ‘Carol’.

Feb 20 2019 – “‘General Synod has no confidence in the Church of England’s capacity to regulate its own safeguarding culture'” – Martin Sewell

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http://archbishopcranmer.com/general-synod-no-confidence-safeguarding/

MARTIN SEWELL

“Was this not the process that created the Bishop George Bell debacle? The Church of England leadership will still not follow the plain and increasingly irritated advice of its independent investigator Lord Carlile, who said: “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….

“If witnesses accounts and denials of knowledge (if appropriate) are not captured in a timely way, may not their reputations be placed “under a cloud” of complicity in the cover-up by some future archbishop without evidence, just as Justin Welby has tainted the memory of Bishop George Bell? Justice requires due process to victims and those under suspicion alike. We are woefully failing many in this case”

COMMENTS

Len

“The church in trying to preserve its reputation has all but lost it. Kicking allegations ‘into the long grass’ and then throwing long dead Bishops ‘under the bus’ has all added to the loss of credibility of the church and its hierarchy…