Tag Archives: Richard W. Symonds

Nov 29 2019 – “Church apology for historical antisemitism” – Times Letters by Bishop Gavin Ashenden [published] + Richard W. Symonds (unpublished)

Dear Editor

Bishop Gavin Ashenden’s reference to Bishop George Bell’s “confrontation” in the 1930’s (‘Church’s apology for historical antisemitism’, letters, Nov 22), reminds me of the latter’s September 1939 article in Fortnightly Review: ‘The Church’s Function in War-time’:

“The Church ought to declare what is just. It has a right to prophesy, to analyse the issues which lie behind a particular conflict, and to rebuke the aggressor…”

No mention of apology – just repentance.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Richard W. Symonds

The Bell Society

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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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

Nicholas Reade on Bishop Bell – Extracts from “Rarely Ordinary Time – Some Memoirs” [Rother 2019]

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Bishop George Bell

Nicholas Reade on Bishop Bell – Extracts from “Rarely Ordinary Time – Some Memoirs” [Rother 2019]

Page 30-33

As well as being Chairman of the Liturgical Commission, Dr. Jasper was an historian, and, a few years previously, had written the life of Arthur Cayley Headlam of Gloucester. At that time, we were all awaiting the publication of his biography of George Bell, Bishop of Chichester [1929-58], one of the greatest bishops ever produced by the Church of England, who many expected to become the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1943, when William Temple died suddenly.

Bishop Bell was a courageous church leader, who had helped Jews and others to escape from Nazi Germany, and spoken out in the House of Lords against the indiscriminate bombing of German cities in the Second World War. He was a great ecumenist, theologian, and patron of the arts and a much-loved pastor. Christine had spent her previous summer holidays working on the index of this long-awaited biography.

Dr. Jasper was always very humble and modest about his work and scholarship, and would seldom initiate conversation about what he had achieved. As I became more involved with the family, I sensed that Bishop Bell had almost become part of the household, so the revelation fifty-seven years after his death that the Church had made an apology to one complainant, on the grounds that the Bishop had abused her between sixty-five and seventy-five years ago, seemed utterly unbelievable. 

While the Church has been careful not to say that the Bishop is guilty, it has ruined his reputation. Originally, no information was given as to the process by which the Church had come to this conclusion, other than the statement that ‘experts’ had been involved. Such secrecy was hard to countenance in an age of ‘transparency’. As a family, and in common many others, we expressed our concern in the church press, and have continued to do so. In 2017, the Core Group Report was seriously criticised by Lord Carlile QC in his review into the Church’s handling of the complaint.

Of course, it is right and proper that the Church investigates thoroughly every complaint made against every person and however famous and respected – and however ancient. Given, from the beginning, how shaky and questionable the allegation against Bishop Bell appeared to be, what has greatly concerned me is that the bishops of the Church of England, who, certainly in the past, had a fine reputation for standing against injustice and for being unafraid of making themselves unpopular, have expressed not one word of concern at the destruction of Bishop Bell – with the exception of the Bishop of Peterborough, in a speech in the House of Lords, and, more recently, the Bishop of Chester. A couple of retired bishops have voiced our concerns and given support to the George Bell Group, but our view carries little weight.

An allegation is made against him around sixty-five years later; he is tried by, frankly, what looks like a kangaroo court – with nobody to speak up for him, as Lord Carlile pointed out. Not a single bishop was prepared to query publicly what was being said, and how it was being dealt with. The left-leaning newspapers, always eager to campaign on miscarriages of justice, have given scant support to those of us concerned concerned at the traducing of Bell’s reputation.

It has been left to The Daily Telegraph, The Times and The Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday to write powerfully about the basic principles of justice being ignored by the Church. The Church is the Sacrament of the Kingdom, and becomes what she is meant to be in the celebration of the Eucharist – this keeps me going. It is the institutional church that gets so much wrong (as I know, also, from my own mistakes). I can therefore understand the anger and the real disappointment of the person who told me that ‘the whole episode’ of the church’s handling of the Bishop Bell situation ‘puts you off church-going’.

My first concern as a bishop has always been for the survivor (even though I am aware of falling short some twenty-two years ago, when measured alongside today’s strict and excellent standards); but until it can be proven beyond all reasonable doubt that Bishop Bell abused a child, I will continue to call upon George Bell within the Communion of Saints to pray with me and for me. Meanwhile, I continue to treasure on my bookshelves Bishop Bell’s copy of The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, given to himon 7 October 1957.

Much has changed concerning Bishop Bell’s reputation following further enquiries, and the long awaited report of the Right Worshipful Timothy Briden, Vicar-General of Canterbury. What will not change, is the inadequate original investigation, and that George Bell, one of the ‘saints’ of the Church of England, who is commemorated every year (3rd Oct) in our liturgical calendar as bishop, ecumenist, and peacemaker (1958), should for the last four years have been cast into the wilderness by the Church he served with love and the greatest distinction.

Page 88 & 89

I was sorry, also, to say farewell to Bishop Kenneth Skelton, the Diocesan Bishop. I admired him in many ways; he took time to get to know his clergy and was generous with the time and encouragement he gave to me as a young incumbent. Although he came across as shy initially, I found him very easy – and it helped that he could always see the humour in situations. He had the gift of drawing out the best in people. He was a truly pastoral bishop, who worked collaboratively and strategically. This remarkably gifted man, whose leadership was prophetic, appears to have been forgotten about in the Church of Rngland – possibly because he was a very humble person.

Kenneth had served as Bishop of Matabeleland from 1962 to 1970 in western Rhodesia, where he was deeply respected as a pastor and theologian, and where he championed the cause of the black majority, inevitably clashing with many politicians. he wrote a gripping account of his ministry in Matabeleland, ‘Bishop in Smith’s Rhodesia’ (Mambo Press, 1985). The Law and Order Minister called him ‘The Devil’s Advocate’, and stated that the government was watching him.

He was also dubbed ‘Red Skelton’, after the American comedian. Some commented that Kenneth could best be compared in the Church of England with Bishop George Bell, for both worked tirelessly for social justice and were fearless in speaking out.

Page 111

As with the four other parishes I had worked in, I lost no time in getting down to work – but this was a somewhat larger area and responsibility than I had experienced before; there was a huge in-tray demanding my attention. Every day new issues would hit my desk.

On my first day, I visited Bishop Bell School – now called St. Catherine’s College – the large Church of England secondary school in the Langney area of Eastbourne, opened by H.R.H. Princess Margaret in 1958 and dedicated by Bishop Bell. This was his last act after twenty-nine years as bishop, and he was to die shortly afterwards. He had specifically requested that the school be built in a less affluent and expanding area of Eastbourne. Whenever I entered that building, which also housed his mitre and crozier. I never felt that this courageous and truly great bishop was far away.

Page 261

17. You have a great respect for Bishop George Bell and have expressed concerns about how the allegation made against him has been handled by the Church of England.

Yes indeed – and I am joined in this by many from around the world. Others much better qualified than me to make a judgement have taken the view, from the earliest stages of the allegation, that the evidence was not compelling. I have yet to meet anyone, anywhere, who has looked at the facts available and believes that the handling of this allegation reflects credit on the Church. One comment was ‘what a circus’ – which would be amusing if the case were not so serious. It has of course been extremely difficult to find out much about it, because of the lack of transparency.

To be fair to those who have dealt with this, and in the light of the public reaction, Lord Carlile QC was invited to review how the Church handled the whole matter. His report leaves the Church with the very difficult task of ensuring that we will never again allow such an injustice to occur. I am surprised the Church did not understand that any institution seeking to act as investigator, accuser, judge and jury cannot deliver justice.

I came across a memo, and I cannot remember where it came from, of what Lord Woolton said to Bishop George Bell on 9 February 1944, just before he made his courageous speech against the indiscriminate bombing of German cities: ‘George, there isn’t a soul in this House who doesn’t wish you wouldn’t make the speech you are going to make…you must know that. But I also want to tell you that there isn’t a soul who doesn’t know that the only reason why you make it, is because you believe it is your duty to make it as a Christian priest’.

That is the Bishop Bell we will all remember, along with his many other heroic deeds. It is tragic, as the Bell Group Press Release of 15 December 2017 argued, that the institutional church today deprived this bishop, who has been dead for over sixty years, of the presumption of innocence or of due process…

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Chichester have faced severe criticism for the way in which this whole matter has been handled, and tendered their apologies for it.

Lord Carlile QC, who conducted the 2017 independent investigation into the Bishop Bell allegations, forwarded a Statement to be read out at the Bell Society meeting on 4 February 2019, in the building that used to be called George Bell House, Chichester. It contained the following words:

“I hope that this event will add to the clamour for the Church to admit the awful mistakes it has made in dealing with unsubstantiated allegations against Bishop Bell. His name should never have been publicised before allegations were investigated. 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”

With the dedication of the Bishop Bell statue in Canterbury Cathedral (where he served as Dean between 1924 and 1929), it is to be hoped that a line may be drawn under this sad episode, banishing any shadow over Bishop Bell’s good name – for surely, his character and all he achieved by the grace of God are conjoined.

 

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https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/10/justin-welby-apologises-in-name-of-christ-british-massacre-amritsar

“But can you apologise for the massacre of Bishop Bell’s reputation, Archbishop? We can all apologise for something we can do nothing about – that’s easy – but find it hard to apologise for something we can do something about. Matthew 7 v 5 applies to us all” ~ Richard W. Symonds

Welby “can apologise when it suits” ~ Peter Crosskey

“Now try saying sorry for your own mistakes, Archbishop…” – Peter Hitchens – Mail on Sunday

I do worry about Archbishop Justin Welby. 

Does he know anything? Does he understand his own religion? 

There he lies flat on his face in the Indian city of Amritsar, regretting a massacre he didn’t carry out 100 years ago. 

It was pretty thoroughly condemned at the time, and its culprit was forced to resign.

Archbishop Justin Welby laid flat on his face in the Indian city of Amritsar

 

Archbishop Justin Welby laid flat on his face in the Indian city of Amritsar

Christianity is about recognising your own faults, Archbishop. 

Get some practice. Explicitly and fully apologise for your Church’s decision to publicly smear the great, late Bishop George Bell, now shown beyond doubt to be the result of a one-sided, sloppy kangaroo court.

No need to lie on the floor.

Just say sorry for a foolish, unfair mistake, and the vanity that has prevented you from admitting it.

September 12 2019 – Times Letter Submission – Coburg, Bonhoeffer, Bell and Ashdown – Unpublished [Amended and re-submitted elsewhere]

 

 

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Dear Editor

There is much for which we can be thankful in the life and work of Paddy Ashdown (“Service of thanksgiving for Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon”, Times, Sept 11) – not least his well-researched last book “Nein! Standing Up To Hitler 1935-1944”.

Lord Ashdown concludes in his Epilogue:

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

Some of those “questions” will be addressed next month at the Coburg Conference in Chichester*, 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 2019. Venue: 4 Canon Lane (formerly George Bell House), Chichester Cathedral Precinct, Chichester, West Sussex

 

UNPUBLISHED LETTER AMENDED AND RE-SUBMITTED ELSEWHERE – SEPT 13 2019 (Morning)

 

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 ecumenical 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 2019. Venue: 4 Canon Lane (formerly George Bell House), Chichester Cathedral Precinct, Chichester, West Sussex

SEPT 13 2019 UPDATE (Evening)

The Coburg Conference (10-14 October) will take place in Chichester Cathedral and  ‘other venues’, such as Vicars’ Hall, but NOT including 4 Canon Lane (George Bell House before 2015 name-change – Ed) ~ Secretary of Chichester Cathedral Precentor

 

August 2 2019 – ‘Coburg’ Letter – Church Times – Richard W. Symonds

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Bishop of Bayreuth and Chichester Cathedral Canon of Honour Dr Dorothea Greiner [third from right]

Church Times Letters – Aug 2 2019

From Mr Richard W. Symonds

Sir, — The Church of England’s ecumenical legacy in Europe is being airbrushed out of history by the totalitarian mindset of Brexiteers.

The Bishop of Bayreuth and Chichester Cathedral Canon of Honour Dr Dorothea Greiner is determined that that legacy not be sidelined within the diocese of Chichester and beyond.

The next Coburg Conference will be taking place in the cathedral city this October, and the European delegates — including the Cathedral Chapter — will focus on the ecumenical vision of the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the wartime Bishop of Chichester George Bell, in the light of today’s political situation.

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