Tag Archives: John Charmley

February 9 2018 – “Bishop Bell is still being defamed by the Church of England” – The Times – John Charmley

 the times

Bishop Bell is still being defamed by Church of England

The coincidence of a second sexual assault allegation against Bishop George Bell coming to light a month after the initial one was discredited and a week before the synod of the Church of England was due to hear a motion on the issue was remarkable. Quite why the church had to issue a press release is unclear. Lord Carlile of Berriew, who investigated the first allegation, has been told nothing about the second.

When did the church first hear of this allegation against the former Bishop of Chichester, who died 60 years ago, and why release it in a manner that suggests an attempt to divert attention from criticism of the church’s initial investigation?

The work of the Carlile report and the George Bell Group has shown that the original investigation by the church was inadequate. There was no attempt to talk to surviving witnesses, or to look at his papers, nor was there any evidence of a pattern of offending behaviour.

The obvious thing for the Archbishop of Canterbury to do would have been to accept this as, at the least, a sign that it was unsafe to condemn Bishop Bell. That would not mean that the complainant, “Carol”, was wrong, but would have aligned with the conclusion that there was no evidence of guilt.

Instead the archbishop managed to make two mutually exclusive claims: first that a cloud hung over Bell’s reputation, but that he remained an “Anglican hero”. These two things cannot both be true. Bell’s reputation as an Anglican hero rests on his record of integrity in opposing the persecution of Jews in the 1930s and the bombing of Germany in 1944, and on his work as a great ecumenist. If he was abusing a child or children during this time, his integrity disintegrates. The archbishop tells us his own integrity is at stake here, although it is unclear how.

The Archbishop Cranmer blogger has suggested that this second allegation may come from a source who failed to contact Lord Carlile. The church could confirm or deny that but prefers to say nothing.

The archbishop clearly wishes to escape the charge that, in the case of Peter Ball, the former Bishop of Gloucester, it failed to investigate child abuse allegations, but it cannot do that by mounting an inadequate allegation against a long-dead bishop. If it thought that it could signal virtue by throwing Bell under the bus, it failed.

Doubling down here does not raise questions about the archbishop’s integrity, but rather about the quality of the advice he receives and his own judgment.

Professor John Charmley is pro vice-chancellor of St Mary’s University, Twickenham

January 19 2018 – “Welby is urged to withdraw George Bell ‘cloud’ statement after Carlile report” – Church Times (online only) – Reporter: Adam Becket

Welby is urged to withdraw George Bell ‘cloud’ statement after Carlile report

Portrait: George Bell, painted in 1955


THE Archbishop of Canterbury faces gathering international opposition and criticism over his response to the Carlile review of the Bishop Bell affair.

Two letters — one from seven academic historians, and another from 11 correspondents associated with the wider Church internationally and ecumenically — have been sent to the Archbishop. A third, from a group of theologians, is understood to be in preparation.

The historians’ letter expresses “profound dismay” at the Archbishop’s public statement after the publication of the Carlile report, and is scathing in its criticisms. It declares that the office of Archbishop gives him “no authority to pronounce on the reputation of Bishop Bell in the manner you have done. We are prepared, in this letter, to claim that authority. We state our position bluntly. There is no credible evidence at all that Bishop Bell was paedophile.”

The Carlile report concluded that Church of England officials had “rushed to judgement” when they concluded that Bishop Bell had sexually abused a young girl in the 1950s.

The historians — Professors Charmian Brinson, Andrew Chandler, John Charmley, Michael J. Hughes, Sir Ian Kershaw, Jeremy Noakes, and Keith Robbins — call on Archbishop Welby to withdraw comments that he made after the publication of the report, when he said that a “significant cloud is left over his [Bishop Bell’s] name” (News, 22 December).

They write: “None of us may be considered natural critics of an Archbishop of Canterbury, but we must also draw a firm line. The statement of 15 December 2017 seems to us both irresponsible and dangerous.

“We therefore urge you, in all sincerity, to repudiate what you have said before more damage is done and thus to restore the esteem in which the high, historic office to which you have been called has been held.”

The Revd Dr Keith Clements, a veteran Baptist ecumenist and former general secretary of the Conference of European Churches, is the lead signatory of the ecumenical letter, which urges that the wider community’s interests not be subordinated to the reputational interests of the C of E.

Dr Clement’s co-signatories include Professor John Briggs, a former member of the World Council of Churches’ executive committee; Bob Fyffe, secretary of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI); and David Carter, former secretary of CTBI’s Theology and Unity Group. Others are Dr Guy Carter, Professor John W. de Gruchy, the Revd John W. Matthews, Dr Jacob Phillips, Dr Jaakko Rusama, Dr Ferdinand Schlingensiepen, and Canon Professor David Thompson.

They call on Archbishop Welby to do justice to Bishop Bell. “He is central to the ecumenical story of Christianity in the twentieth century, and as an inspiring leader he belongs to the ecumenical movement no less than to his own Church. The way in which the allegations against him were dealt with, and the slur allowed to fall on his character, has been deeply hurtful to all such,” they write.

“The ecumenical fellowship which regards George Bell as belonging to its own communion of saints will therefore expect that the Church of England will acknowledge its responsibility not just to its own interests and public reputation but to that wider community of which it is a part, and restore George Bell to his proper place of esteem.”