Tag Archives: “significant cloud”

February 26 2018 – “The Church of England should stand up for Bishop Bell” – OXSTU [Oxford Student]

http://oxfordstudent.com/2018/02/25/church-england-stand-bishop-bell/

The Church of England should stand up for Bishop Bell

A short biography of George Bell, who had been Bishop of Chichester for 27 years when he died in 1958, begins by acknowledging a recurring pattern regarding the reputation of notable people. It points out that after such people die, their reputations are often reshaped and defamed by harsh criticism not voiced during their lifetimes – but that the Bishop had managed to be an exception to this rule.

This claim, published in 1971, would no longer be written today. Whilst the memory of George Bell has been cherished over the past 60 years due to his significant support of the Protestant opposition to Hitler, his work in bringing over many non-Aryan refugees from Germany and his emphatic opposition to the bombing of civilians during the Second World War, Bell’s reputation is now at risk of being utterly decimated. A complaint made to the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2013 accused Bell of having committed grotesque acts of child abuse in the 1940s and 50s. In response, the Church apologised and paid the accuser £16,800 in compensation. Various memorials, such as one proclaiming him a ‘champion of the oppressed’ in Chichester Cathedral, faced removal. An Eastbourne school, formerly known as the Bishop Bell Church of England School, has changed its name altogether.

Most would agree that this sort of action would be justified in the face of conclusive evidence against Bell. But it has since transpired that the church acted far too hastily. Following their acceptance of the abuse claims, a robust movement was sparked to defend Bell’s reputation, involving major journalists such as Charles Moore and Peter Hitchens. The Church then initiated an independent inquiry, led by Lord Carlile (one of the country’s top legal experts), which concluded that they had “rushed to judgement” and that the damage to Bell’s reputation was “just wrong”. Lord Carlile even went so far as to say that had he been prosecuting a case against Bell in court, Bell would have won. Nevertheless, this report was withheld by the Church for two months. After its eventual release, Justin Welby insisted that a “significant cloud” still hangs over Bell’s name in spite of Lord Carlile’s conclusions.

We should be equally concerned for protecting Bell’s reputation against false accusations as we are for spoiling his reputation over true accusations

This strange outcome highlights an element of mystery that has surrounded the Bell case. The initial claim against Bell was anonymous and the church revealed no details about the accusation when making their apology. As mentioned, it took two months for the Church to release the Carlile report after having received it. Once it was released, Justin Welby did not follow the logical implications of the report, but refused to retract his statements because of a vague belief in a “cloud”. On the 31st January, the enigmatic plot thickened when the Church announced that a further anonymous and unspecified accusation had been made and was being investigated. Some felt the timing of this was suspicious, given that a motion to debate the restoration of Bell’s reputation was due to be voted on at the Church’s General Synod the following week. Lord Carlile, who knew nothing of this accusation during his investigation, described the announcement as ‘unwise, unnecessary and foolish’. At the very least, we can all recognise the strange and stark asymmetry between the previous withholding of the completed Carlile investigation report and the eagerness of the recent announcement of an incomplete investigation. Things got worse when it emerged that the Church of England had refused to allow Mrs Barbara Whitley, Bell’s 93-year-old niece, to have the lawyer of her choice represent her side in the proceedings – instead choosing on her behalf someone who is neither a lawyer nor known to Mrs Whitley.

At this point, while many will sympathise with the active supporters of George Bell, which now includes leading groups of historians, theologians and church leaders who have written public letters asking for Welby to retract his statement, others feel a sense of unease. After all, it is of course possible that the accusations are true. Justin Welby, in a recent interview with the Church Times, said that the alleged victims should be “treated equally importantly” as the reputation of George Bell. Some would say this does not go far enough: surely we must be more concerned for the alleged victims, who are still living, over the reputation of someone who died 60 years ago?

The general nervousness of the Church of England’s handling of the Bell case must be related to the fact that the Church currently faces over 3,000 complaints of sexual abuse

Perhaps a better way of framing this would be to say that we should be equally concerned for protecting Bell’s reputation against false accusations as we are for spoiling his reputation over true accusations. The trouble is that most people have an instinctive tendency to find the latter much easier than the former. When the Church of England apologised and paid the first alleged victim in 2015, The Guardian ran the story with the headline “Church of England Bishop George Bell abused young child”. At that stage, nothing was known about the identity of the accuser nor the accusations, and yet headlines announced the claims as fact. Once the Carlile report was made public, it would have been no less factual to run the headline ‘George Bell declared innocent of abuse claims’, yet nobody did so. In fact, most would consider this overstepping the mark.

The general nervousness of the Church of England’s handling of the Bell case must be related to the fact that the Church currently faces over 3,000 complaints of sexual abuse (including both long-standing and recent accusations). Other high-profile cases of clergy committing child abuse, such as that of former bishop Peter Ball, have highlighted the shocking failures of senior clerics to listen to victims and pass allegations on to the police. Taking into consideration the sharp spike in awareness of the prevalence of sexual abuse in society more broadly, following Weinstein, Larry Nassar and the #MeToo movement, it is not hard to imagine why the Archbishop of Canterbury would not want to stick his head above the parapet and defend the innocence of an archetypal establishment figure: a dead, white, male clergyman.

Courage, after all, comes at a cost. George Bell discovered this himself when his opposition to the bombing of innocent civilians during the Second World War put him on the wrong side of Winston Churchill, probably the main reason why he was never appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. In the absence of substantial evidence in support of the accusations against him, Bell’s reputation deserves to be defended. This is not only in the interest of truth, but also in the interest of maintaining a legacy of courageous leadership which is desperately needed among Bell’s clerical successors today.

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January 20 2018 – “Justice for Bishop Bell” – Daily Telegraph – Letters – His Honour Anthony Nicholl

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Daily Telegraph – Letters – 20 Jan 2018 – Press Reader

https://www.pressreader.com/uk/the-daily-telegraph/20180120/281994672906849

SIR – In English law, a superior court that finds the decision of a lower court fundamentally flawed has one of two courses to take. It can either quash the decision outright or remit it to the lower court to reconsider in accordance with the principles of law.

In their letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury (report, January 18), seven academics have pointed out that the Church of England prevented Lord Carlile from deciding on the guilt of George Bell, the former Bishop of Chichester. However, that behaviour does not enable it to escape the implication of Lord Carlile’s finding that the process, that led the Core Group – charged with investigating the allegation – to impugn Bishop Bell, was fundamentally flawed.

If the Church wishes to act justly it has two options. If it is to maintain that “a cloud” remains over Bishop Bell’s reputation, it must set up a fresh independent review into the truth or otherwise of the claims made by his accuser “Carol”, to be conducted in accordance with the correct principles of procedure.. It must abide by the result. However, if the Church is not prepared to go to the expense of such a review, it must accept that the Core Group’s finding of guilt cannot stand – and say so.

It seems likely that a further review would be a waste of money. The Church should therefore be glad to dispel the cloud wrongly cast upon the reputation of a great man.

 

His Honour Anthony Nicholl – Stratford-upon-avon, Warwickshire

January 9 2018 – Letter from Anne A. Dawson of Northolt

Dear Editor
I am writing in support of the ‘Rebuilding Bridges’ Morning Conference next month – at Church House Westminster on Thursday February 1 – which I am sadly unable to attend. This is important to me because it restores my faith in humanity there are other people sharing views compatible to mine.
I felt devastated by the bleakness of the statement of our spiritual leader, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in response to the Independent Review by Lord Carlile 15.12.2017, because I feel it expresses cynicism and self-interest, especially the Archbishop’s words about Bishop Bell:
“We realise that a significant cloud is left over his name. No human being is entirely good or bad. Bishop Bell was in many ways a hero. He is also accused of great wickedness. Good acts do not diminish evil ones, nor do evil ones make it right to forget the good”
My trust in the hierarchy of the Church of England has been shattered. I won’t leave the Church because of this, but basically the statement is tragic because of its implications.
Why is there a cloud over Bishop Bell’s name?
My response is because the Archbishop intends perpetuating ambiguity.
I would challenge the relevance in the context of this statement: “Good acts do not diminish evil ones, nor do evil ones make it right to forget the good”.
 
Why is the Archbishop saying this, if not to convey insidious undertones of an implied guilty verdict? The Archbishop had an opportunity to clearly refer to the UDHR, Articles 10 and 11. I feel he has let down the Church of England, as its leading spokesperson.
I am not an expert in law or theology. My interest in this issue is because my work in a pastoral role at primary school includes safeguarding procedures. In my opinion, Lord Carlile’s report was balanced and rational. It avoided preference or prejudice, unlike the Archbishop’s statement which conveyed both.
To me ethics are of utmost importance, because we are educating the next generation to be morally responsible as individuals and as world citizens.
Every child has a sense of natural justice. ‘It’s not fair’ is one of the first and most repeated phrases from Reception Year upwards. In playground disputes we always follow procedures based on conflict resolution. First one child speaks, while the other listens, then vice-versa. With an adult monitoring, most often the outcome is reconciliation.
However, how can I encourage children to respect a man of great responsibility like the Archbishop, when he dismisses the need for a fair hearing of the other?
The school where I work is predominantly non-Christian, with a very diverse spread of backgrounds and nationalities. My sadness is that the Christian faith is being destroyed within by its own leaders, when they recklessly demolish the reputation of one of its greatest representatives.
I am really distressed by this, as children have more choices than ever about what they choose to believe and the inspiration for their internal value system, but the consequences of weak moral leadership from the Anglican Church will not inspire any young person.
The Archbishop has weakened the Church of England by the defamation of Bishop Bell. The long term result is a church broken from within, which does not attract new faith in young people.
A strong church for the younger generation is needed, which has the humility to concede it is sometimes wrong and mismanages its procedures. The Archbishop has lacked the courage to do this, by continuing to deflect guilt onto Bishop Bell. That is why I feel his Statement was self-serving and cynical by the statement “Good acts do not diminish evil ones , nor do evil ones make it right to forget the good”. This comment is made in the context of Bishop Bell’s life, marked throughout with adherence to Christ-centred behaviour in war-divided Europe and beyond. This reference to “evil acts” are totally without evidence, and neither necessary or appropriate to the statement.
To misquote Martin Luther King Jr, 28.8.1963 “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the allegations, but by the content of their character”.
I want to live out my Christian values towards others, based on informed and thoughtful reflection rather than prejudice. I own my anger towards the Archbishop, prompted by shock that he was so intentionally ambivalent towards Bishop Bell in his statement.
I continue to learn through this situation about the theory of personality and what integrity really is. I will continue to invest time and consideration into challenging the Archbishop’s statement “Good acts do not diminish evil ones, nor do evil ones make it right to forget the good”, especially in the context of Bishop Bell.
This letter is underpinned by my sincere desire to look towards the well-being of children. My work requires robust safeguarding in school and in all spheres of life.
In an attempt to over-compensate for past indifference to allegations of child abuse within the church, the leadership projected blame onto a dead man to absorb the ill will. By implying the guilt of Bishop Bell in the above comments in his statement, the Archbishop increases mistrust in safeguarding procedure rather than respecting Lord Carlile’s conclusions.
This does not offer any assurance that future allegations will be properly addressed. I feel compassion for those who have been deeply hurt by words of injustice towards Bishop Bell, who has no opportunity for a fair public hearing.
I hope for a positive outcome at the Rebuilding Bridges event on Ist February, and pray that it brings reconciliation and the restoration of Bishop Bell’s good name.
Yours sincerely
Anne A. Dawson
Northolt

January 7 2018 – “The Seven Resolutions” – ‘Rebuilding Bridges’ Morning Conference – Church House Westminster – February 1 2018

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Thursday February 1 2018 – Church House Westminster

http://rebuildingbridges.org.uk/

The Seven Resolutions for the ‘Rebuilding Bridges’ Morning Conference at Church House Westminster on Thursday February 1

To call for:
1. Archbishop Justin Welby to apologise for his “significant cloud” comment concerning Bishop Bell. Any effective ‘rebuilding of bridges’ is almost impossible without this Apology.  
2. Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner to invite Barbara Whitley, Bishop Bell’s niece, for a “face-to-face” meeting [she has already requested such a meeting]. The Bishop of Chichester has already met ‘Carol’.
3. Chichester Cathedral’s Dean and Chapter to restore 4 Canon Lane back to George Bell House – and to invite Lord Rowan Williams to re-dedicate the new plaque at George Bell House.
4. Chichester Cathedral’s Chancellor and Canon Librarian, Revd Dr Anthony Cane, to permit the display of Bishop Bell’s Portrait (in storage within the Cathedral Library) at Church House on Feb 1.
5. Chichester Cathedral’s Dean, The Very Reverend Stephen Waine, to correct Page 37 of the Cathedral Guide “Society and Faith”:
6. General Synod to undertake a Full Debate at the earliest opportunity, regarding the serious implications arising from Lord Carlile’s report.
7. Prayer