Tag Archives: St Michaels Cornhill

Church Service at St. Michael’s Cornhill, in remembrance of Bishop George Bell – October 3 2016


St Michael’s Church, Cornhill – Photo by Diliff







4 o’clock, Monday 3 October 2016





Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation;
O my soul, praise him, for he is thy health and salvation:
come ye who hear,
brothers and sisters draw near;
praise him in glad adoration.

Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth,
shelters thee under his wings, yea, so gently sustaineth:
hast thou not seen
all that is needful hath been
granted in what he ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
surely his goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.
Ponder anew
what the Almighty can do,
if with his love he befriend thee.

Praise to the Lord, who, when tempests their warfare are waging,
who, when the elements madly around thee are raging,
biddeth them cease,
turneth their fury to peace,
whirlwinds and waters assuaging.

Praise to the Lord, who, when darkness of sin is abounding,
who, when the godless do triumph, all virtue confounding,
sheddeth his light,
chaseth the horrors of night,
saints with his mercy surrounding.

Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore him!
All that hath life and breath come now with praises before him!
Let the amen
sound from his people again
gladly for ay we adore him.

Words: Joachim Neander (1650-1680)
trans. Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878)

To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him: neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws which he set before us.   Daniel 9.9-10
Repent ye; for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.   
St. Matthew 3.2

Dearly beloved brethren, the Scripture moveth us in sundry places to acknowledge and confess our manifold sins and wickedness; and that we should not dissemble nor cloke them before the face of Almighty God our heavenly Father; but confess them with an humble, lowly, penitent, and obedient heart; to the end that we may obtain forgiveness of the same, by his infinite goodness and mercy. And although we ought at all times humbly to acknowledge our sins before God; yet ought we most chiefly so to do, when we assemble and meet together to render thanks for the great benefits that we have received at his hands, to set forth his most worthy praise, to hear his most holy Word, and to ask those things which are requisite and necessary, as well for the body as the soul. Wherefore I pray and beseech you, as many as are here present, to accompany me with a pure heart and humble voice unto the throne of the heavenly grace, saying after me:

A general Confession to be said of the whole Congregation after the Minister.

Almighty and most merciful Father, We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep, We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts, We have offended against thy holy laws, We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, And we have done those things which we ought not to have done, And there is no health in us: But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us miserable offenders; Spare thou them, O God, which confess their faults, Restore thou them that are penitent, According to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesu our Lord: And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake, That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.

The Absolution

Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he may turn from his wickedness, and live; and hath given power, and commandment, to his Ministers, to declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the Absolution and Remission of their sins: He pardoneth and absolveth all them that truly repent, and unfeignedly believe his holy Gospel. Wherefore let us beseech him to grant us true repentance, and his Holy Spirit, that those things may please him, which we do at this present; and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure, and holy; so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Minister. O Lord, open thou our lips.
Answer. And our mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
Minister. O God, make speed to save us.
Answer. O Lord, make haste to help us.

Here, all standing up, the Minister shall sing,

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;

Answer As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Minister. Praise ye the Lord.
Answer. The Lord’s Name be praised.

(Setting by William Byrd, 1539-1623)

Psalm 27 shall be sung by the choir (Chant by William Wolstenholme, 1865-1931))

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.

Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.

One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.

For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.

And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.

When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.

Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.

10 When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.

11 Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.

12 Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty.

13 I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

14 Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.

A reading from the Old Testament
Isaiah Chapter 2 v 1-5, read by Margery Roberts.

1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord‘s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.

And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.


My soul doth magnify the Lord : and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded : the lowliness of his hand-maiden.
For behold, from henceforth : all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me : and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him : throughout all generations.
He hath shewed strength with his arm : he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat : and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things : and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel : as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed, for ever.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end.

(Setting by Thomas Weelkes, 1576-1623)

A Lesson of the New Testament.

The Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 25, v. 1-19, read by His Honour Alan Pardoe QC

1 Now when Festus was come into the province, after three days he ascended from Caesarea to Jerusalem.

Then the high priest and the chief of the Jews informed him against Paul, and besought him,

And desired favour against him, that he would send for him to Jerusalem, laying wait in the way to kill him.

But Festus answered, that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself would depart shortly thither.

Let them therefore, said he, which among you are able, go down with me, and accuse this man, if there be any wickedness in him.

And when he had tarried among them more than ten days, he went down unto Caesarea; and the next day sitting on the judgment seat commanded Paul to be brought.

And when he was come, the Jews which came down from Jerusalem stood round about, and laid many and grievous complaints against Paul, which they could not prove.

While he answered for himself, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all.

But Festus, willing to do the Jews a pleasure, answered Paul, and said, Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these things before me?

10 Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest.

11 For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar.

12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? unto Caesar shalt thou go.

13 And after certain days king Agrippa and Bernice came unto Caesarea to salute Festus.

14 And when they had been there many days, Festus declared Paul’s cause unto the king, saying, There is a certain man left in bonds by Felix:

15 About whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, desiring to have judgment against him.

16 To whom I answered, It is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die, before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have licence to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him.

17 Therefore, when they were come hither, without any delay on the morrow I sat on the judgment seat, and commanded the man to be brought forth.

18 Against whom when the accusers stood up, they brought none accusation of such things as I supposed:

19 But had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.

Nunc Dimittis

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace : according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen : thy salvation;
Which thou hast prepared : before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles : and to be the glory of thy people Israel.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end.

(Setting by Thomas Weelkes, 1576-1623)

Then shall be said the Apostles’ Creed, by the Minister and the people standing.

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried: He descended into hell; The third day he rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost; The holy Catholick Church; The Communion of Saints; The Forgiveness of sins; The Resurrection of the body, And the Life everlasting.

Minister. The Lord be with you.
Answer. And with thy spirit.
Minister. Let us pray.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Answer. Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. Amen.

Minister. O Lord, shew thy mercy upon us.
Answer. And grant us thy salvation.
Minister. O Lord, save the Queen.
Answer. And mercifully hear us when we call upon thee.
Minister. Endue thy Ministers with righteousness.
Answer. And make thy chosen people joyful.
Minister. O Lord, save thy people.
Answer. And bless thine inheritance.
Minister. Give peace in our time, O Lord.
Answer. Because there is none other that fighteth for us, but only thou, O God.
Minister. O God, make clean our hearts within us.
Answer. And take not thy Holy Spirit from us.

Then shall follow three Collects:

ALMIGHTY GOD, the light of the faithful and shepherd of souls, who set your servant George Bell to be a bishop in the Church, to feed your sheep by the word of Christ and to guide them by good example: give us grace to keep the faith of the Church and to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

O God, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed: Give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give; that both our hearts may be set to obey thy commandments, and also that by thee we being defended from the fear of our enemies may pass our time in rest and quietness; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Anthem. Rejoice in the Lord alway (Henry Purcell, 1659-95)

Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say rejoice.
Let your moderation be known unto all men; the Lord is at hand.
Be careful for nothing, but in ev’ry thing by pray’r
and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God;
and the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say rejoice.

(Philippians 4: 4-7)

A Sermon of 18 June 1939, preached by Bishop Bell to the University of Oxford; read by the Revd Dr Keith Clements.

THERE is a story told of Martin Luther that one day when he was in the midst of a most melancholy fit and had shut himself up in his room for a long while, his wife appeared before him in heavy mourning. Luther was much surprised and asked why she wore such deep black, for a dress so sombre must mean the death of a very near kinsman. ‘Who,’ he asked her, ‘has died?’ And his wife replied, ‘God is dead; I am in mourning for God.’ Martin Luther took her words to heart, left his chamber, and returned to his work, acknowledging the justice of this rebuke for his want of faith in a living God.

It seems to me that this story of Martin Luther is a parable for to-day. The world is now in a most melancholy fit, a most sombre condition. Its whole aspect seems to declare, ‘God is dead.’ If only it could recover faith in a living God, would not its sadness also be gone? I propose therefore … to set before you certain elements in the contemporary situation round which men’s minds are constantly revolving, and ask whether it is not perhaps the silent assumption that God is dead which has something to do with the impasse, or the pessimism. I should like to say something first about the international conflict in which we are perforce and anxiously engaged. Next I should like to say something on the internal life of the individual nation. And I wish to end with a word about the single citizen.

The whole international situation is one of conflict. The front of the Peace Powers! The front of the Axis Powers! Russia and the Baltic States! The Partition of Palestine! Britain and Tientsin. Why must there be such disastrous division of country against country? The great barrier which has always stood in the way of a full partnership of nations has been the ‘collective egoism’ of each nation. Many attempts have been made to pass over this barrier. And, with the development of communications, and of economic and commercial contacts, between the different nations, from one point of view, large portions of the earth have assumed the character of a neighbourhood. But the walls of partition have not been broken down. The legal structure of the world of nations has remained unchanged. It is the sovereign state, says an eminent contemporary jurist, that is the universal form of political life at the present time: and its will to a separate existence has been greatly intensified by the nationalist fever with which mankind has gone wild. The effects of this insistence on the sovereignty of the State are flagrant enough. They force themselves upon our view, in the international conflict. Where can the remedy be found?

There are those who believe it can only be discovered in the political field. Many modern thinkers and writers are dazzled by the thought of what might be done by a union now of all the democratic nations. But, desirable as that union may be, it will prove but a temporary and deceitful medicine, unless it is built on something that goes deeper than a legal system. A common doctrine of life, a common view of right and wrong, must be invoked. No association of nations can really hold together, or stand the strain to which it is bound to be put in stormy weather, unless it accepts certain common, concrete convictions as to what is right and just. In spite of much modern practice, self-interest can never be a satisfactory foundation for a permanent alliance of nations. There must be an agreement about common moral principles, sovereign principles, by which each individual nation will be bound. The solution of the international conflict will not be found, if it is sought only in the political realm. There must be the common ethos. And this common ethos means common principles, a common purpose, a common allegiance to the sovereign claims of Justice, and, since justice by itself is not enough, a common reverence for that which Christians call Love, which seeketh not her own.

The cause of the melancholy fit into which the nations have sunk, is the want of common spiritual ethos, and behind that, the want of faith in a living God. The conflict of the nations is evidence of the death of God, so far as they are concerned. Is it not time, then, that those in any nation who do believe in God should not only point to the cause of our tragedy, but say boldly that the way of recovery is through the acknowledgment of the sovereignty of justice and love? Is it not time that they should declare that, whatever it costs the individual nation, they regard their own nation as one of a family of nations, with duties to the whole family, and with sacrifices to make for the sake of the other members? And when you ask: Where is this common ethos to be found? I would answer that it is the Christian ethos; bound up with the principles which the New Testament contains. The Christian States of Europe did at one time find a common measure of agreement upon the basis of the common acceptance of the Christian faith. And later, when non-Christian States had intercourse with Christian, the non-Christian States were required to accept the Christian law in their external relations. But now … the Christian basis of the law of nations has been undermined from within by the Christian States themselves. The rights of the individual, the rights of the family, and the obligation of good faith, have been denied, through the deliberate acceptance of a doctrine of State idolatry. It is only through the deliberate adoption of the Christian doctrine, as imbedded in the New Testament, that the rights of the individual, the rights of the family, and the obligation of good faith, can be restored. It is only through an agreement on a common ethos, based on Christian principles, that the nations can be brought to live in co-operation and harmony, and a sound international order be created.

I have spoken so far of the effects of nationalism in the international field. But if the collective egoism of each nation has disastrous consequences there, it is hardly likely that the internal life of the individual nation will suffer no harm. Indeed it is easy to see the havoc which the ‘collective egoism’ has wrought.

Let us look at it from two angles: There is first the more or less simple form of idolatry which exalts the nation to be the object of man’s worship. Often enough this idolatry of the nation comes about as a revolt against excessive depression. The nationalism rampant, for example, in Italy, Turkey or Germany, follows a period of bitter disappointment, disillusionment or defeat … But the trouble begins when the country becomes an end in itself, and when men refuse to recognise any authority higher than the nation. What the present day rulers of the particular nation lay down as the best interests of the nation is taken as decisive: and what ‘helps the people,’ that is, what in the judgment of those rulers ‘helps the people,’ is right. Hence comes persecution, race hatred, contempt for human life, disregard of the individual personality, denial of the rights of the family, and the degradation of justice, mercy and truth. There is no God but the nation; and the voice and action of the Leader of the nation are the voice and action of God.

It is not difficult, I think, to see how this form of collective egoism involves the death of God. But there is another, subtler form, more common in democracies, which brings a similar destruction. We must not suppose, because we do not live in a Fascist or a Communist State, that we are free. In countries where a Parliament governs, the University teacher, the scientist, the politician, may enjoy a greater liberty. But the average man and woman, and still more the average boy and girl, are no more their own masters under a parliamentary government than they are under a dictatorship. As the Roman Catholic thinker Christopher Dawson has shrewdly said:

Their minds are moulded and their opinions are formed insensibly by the mass suggestion and mass propaganda of the press, the radio and the cinema. And the only difference is that the Fascist and Communist States attempt to direct this propaganda in accordance with their respective ideologies, whereas in the democracies it is a soulless force which is inspired purely by the motive of profit.’

In such a state of dissolution it is not so much the voice and will of the leader, as the voice and will of the herd, that become the voice and will of God. Yet the deification of the herd, no less than the deification of the leader, means the death of God.

What is the remedy? It is not to be found in the political field, though its results must affect politics. Here again a Christian doctrine of life must be invoked: The real remedy means a deliberate acknowledgment of God as Sovereign above the State, above the nation. It means a confession that God alone is the true and supreme lord of the world; that all things whatsoever must be subject to Him and must serve Him; so that whoever possess the right of government, have it from no other source but from God, the supreme reality. It means that whatever be the form of Government, rulers must be mindful of God as the supreme ruler, and must set Him before themselves as an example and a law in their administration. It means accordingly that not only rulers, but all public institutions, universities, schools, industries, trade-unions, arts and sciences, the leaders and directors of all manner of occupations, entertainments, and professions, must proceed in accordance with the principle, Dominus illuminatio mea, – the Lord is my light. And when the Lord is really accepted as my light, and God is really acknowledged as the living God, the melancholy fit, in which the world has sunk, will disappear.

The only remedy is the Christian doctrine. But the application of the remedy requires far greater energy, far greater concentration of thought and policy than it is receiving to-day … Yet Christian doctrine is the most important study of all. It is more important than science, more important than the classics, or ancient or modern history, more important than economics or languages, though none will question the value of these studies. The study of Christianity is a priceless study: for without it all other studies lack the chief equipment in training for life. Without it, you have no sure basis for a common ethos to govern the relations of nations with one another. Without it, you have no sure authority by which to defeat the idolatry of the State. Without it, you have no sure conviction with which to resist the command of the leader or the lowing of the herd. The Christian doctrine is the doctrine which will make men free. It is the doctrine ‘of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.’


Eternal Ruler of the ceaseless round
Of circling planets singing on their way,
Guide of the nations from the night profound
Into the glory of the perfect day,
Rule in our hearts, that we may ever be
Guided and strengthened and upheld by thee.

We are of thee, the children of thy love,
The brothers of thy well belovèd Son;
Descend, O Holy Spirit, like a dove
Into our hearts, that we may be as one;
As one with thee, to whom we ever tend;
As one with him our Brother and our Friend.

We would be one in hatred of all wrong,
One in our love of all things sweet and fair;
One with the joy that breaketh into song,
One with the grief that trembleth into prayer,
One in the power that makes thy children free
To follow truth, and thus to follow thee.

O clothe us with thy heavenly armour, Lord,
Thy trusty shield, thy sword of love divine;
Our inspiration be thy constant word;
We ask no victories that are not thine;
Give or withhold, let pain or pleasure be,
Enough to know that we are serving thee.

John W. Chadwick, 1840-1904

Orlando Gibbons, 1583-1625

Let us pray –

(Led by The Rt Revd Nicholas Reade and Sr Frances Dominica)

A Prayer of the Coptic Church (English version, 1931)

O God of knowledge and giver of wisdom, who dost bring to light things hidden in darkness and givest utterance to them that proclaim the Gospel with great power, be pleased to give us and to all thy people a right mind and a good understanding, that we may learn and know how profitable are thine holy teachings. And as thine apostle Paul was made like to thee and a deliverer of thy doctrine, so make us like him in word and work, that we may praise thy holy name and ever glory in thy cross. Amen.

A Prayer from the Gelasian Sacramentary (English version, 1857)

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light, look favourably on thy whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; and by the tranquil operation of thy perpetual providence, carry out the work of man’s salvation; that things which were cast down may be raised up, and that all things may return unto unity through him by whom all things were made, even thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Prayer from the English Primer (1585)

Be merciful, O Father of all mercies, to thy Church universal dispersed throughout the whole world; and grant that all they that confess thy holy name may agree in the truth of thy holy word, and live in godly concord and unity. And especially be merciful to such as are under persecution for the testimony of their conscience, and profession of the Gospel of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

A Prayer of Archbishop William Temple (1940)

Oh God, the King of righteousness, lead us, we pray thee, in the ways of justice and peace; inspire us to break down all oppression and wrong, to gain for every man his due reward, and from every man his due service; that each may live for all, and all may care for each, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

2 Corinthians 13.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all evermore. Amen.


Christ is the King, O friends, rejoice!
brothers and sisters, with one voice
Make all men know he is your choice:

The first Apostles round them drew
Thousands of faithful men and true,
Sharing a faith for ever new:

Then magnify the Lord and raise
Anthems of joy and holy praise
For Christ’s brave saints of ancient days:

O Christian women, Christian men,
All the world over, seek again
The way disciples followed then:

Christ through all ages is the same;
Place the same hope in his great name,
With the same faith his word proclaim:

Let love’s unconquerable might
Your scattered companies unite
In service to the Lord of light.

So shall God’s will on earth be done,
new lamps be lit, new tasks begun,
and the whole church at last be one.

George Kennedy Allen Bell, 1883-1958.

Vulpius’s Gesangbuch, 1909.

The Blessing.

Go forth into the world in peace; be of good courage; hold fast that which is good; render to no one evil for evil; strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak; help the afflicted; honour everyone; love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

Organ Voluntary.

Prelude and Fugue in D Major BWV 532 by J.S. Bach (1685-1750).

Bishop Bell – The Continuing Campaign for Justice – Peter Hitchens


01 October 2016 3:45 PM

The Continuing Campaign for Justice for the late Bishop George Bell

It’s almost a year now since an allegation of child abuse against the late Bishop George Bell was publicised by the Church of England and the Sussex Police, ably abetted by three national newspapers, two local newspapers and the BBC.

The resulting headlines, in which it was stated as fact that Bishop Bell ( who died in 1958) had been a paedophile more than 60 years ago, are still on the record, though the BBC has commendably pulled back from its initial certainty and the newspapers involved, in their various ways, have mostly learned to be a little more cautious about presuming the Bishop’s guilt.

For what we now know is this. The complainant, who remains anonymous, made her allegation many years after the alleged events and many years after the death of the Bishop.

Her claim was uncorroborated. No other similar claims have been made by anyone else.

A living witness who worked and lived with George Bell and his wife at the time of the alleged crimes (but who was neither found nor consulted by the Church of England, though it must have had records showing that he had been Bishop Bell’s chaplain, and he could easily be traced through Crockford’s Clerical Directory) strongly disputes the accusation and regards it as impossible. Others, familiar with the buildings involved, have identified apparent inconsistencies in the accounts given by the accuser in an interview she provided to one local newspaper.

No details have been given of the procedure by which the Church (wholly in private) decided to accept that Bishop Bell was guilty. Indeed, from public statements made by the Bishop of Durham it is not even clear that the Church did accept his guilt, though the Church, after the Bishop of Durham’s remarks in the House of Lords were widely publicised, tried to say that he had not meant what he had said.

There is as yet no evidence that the Church asked anyone to defend Bishop Bell at this secret hearing, or that it even considered such a defence necessary. The C of E described the payment it made as a civil settlement (to distinguish it from a criminal case in which the burden of proof is greater and the presumption of innocence is explicit).

But civil causes also require the court to hear both parties in any dispute, and require the plaintiff to prove his case, while being opposed by the defendant’s advocate. No such thing happened. There has been no civil case and no criminal case either, just a marsupial committee meeting, in which guilt appears to have been presumed. The law does not provide any way of protecting a man’s reputation once he is dead. But morals seem to me to demand that we are careful about such things, and I’ve been astonished to see reputable media, and the Independent Press Standards Organisation, totally unmoved by the idea that a dead man is entitled to the presumption of innocence. Nobody was demanding money or any other costly reparation from them – only an admission that they’d treated allegation as fact and that this was wrong.

The C of E’s amazing statement that it ‘found no reason to doubt’ the claims was a demonstration that it does not understand English law. So was its use of the police and their meaningless declaration that had he been alive, Bishop Bell would have been arrested. There is always a reason to doubt any accusation of wrongdoing until it has been proven. It cannot be considered proven if it has not been tested in an adversarial courtroom in which the defendant has a voice. The trouble is, millions of English people those days don’t understand the law of the land, either.

The C of E has repeatedly stated that it had to publicise the matter because, had it not done so, others would have done. It has never explained who these others are, or why. Given the long delay and the solitary nature of the accusation, it is hard to see what purpose was served by publicising it, save to give the impression of decisive action. But if it had to do so, why could it not have scrupulously said that it was only an allegation, rather than producing a statement so worded that media felt (in my view wrongly) justified in reporting it as a fact?

By dint of much campaigning I and several others have managed to establish that the accusation is just that, an accusation. It may never be proven. It may, equally, never be disproved, and indeed I find it hard to see how we shall ever know for certain either way. But the smear, as I regard it, remains smeared, the memory of George Bell is still defaced, his name has been removed from schools and buildings, and there is no reason to assume that the unpersoning campaign will stop there.

This Monday, 3rd October,  the 58th anniversary of his death, sees the day in the Church calendar on which his life and work are commemorated. No doubt there will be some who will wish to put a stop to this, in the spirit of the Church’s behaviour so far.

Others feel differently. At 4.00 p.m. on Monday there will be a special service in his memory (Prayer Book choral evensong) at the City Church of St Michael’s , Cornhill.

This Sunday, 2nd October,   supporters of Bishop Bell in Chichester itself plan a brief reading of the last act of T.S. Eliot’s ‘Murder in the Cathedral’, in which I hope to take part, at 6.30 p.m. at the Friends’ meeting House in Priory Lane, Chichester. Some of you may know that George Bell (a vigorous promoter of all the arts, unusual for a Churchman of his era) played a great part in encouraging Eliot to write this play, and in arranging for its first performance in the Chapter House of Canterbury Cathedral, where he was Dean. It is a  fitting way of marking the event, and of insisting that hasty judgement, in any age, is a mistake.


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‘The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.’

Found in book of Proverbs, but in this instance the case for the prosecution is little more than unsubstantiated accusation which has not even been subject to cross-examination.

Nothing to base an assumption of guilt on. The fact other clerics have been guilty of child abuse does not mean they all have, and the mentality that assumes they have needs to be resisted.

The bishop has had to face his ultimate Judge, a Judge who does not take false accusations lightly, and will bring them into judgment too.


Dear Mr Hitchens

This is not a comment but a straightforward question about an adjective you use the meaning of which, in the context, I cannot make out.

What is a ‘marsupial’ committee meeting?

Thank you

I agree with your position in this matter and my question is only concerned with comprehension on a lexicographical level.
***PH replies. The best-known marsupial is the kangaroo. Perhaps the contributor has not heard the phrase ‘kangaroo court’ which means an unjust and unfair process.****


I wish I could be there and with you all.
I pray justice will be done in the end and clear Bishop Bell’s name.

“Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” (Prov.31.9)


“The resulting headlines, in which it was stated as fact that Bishop Bell ( who died in 1958) had been a paedophile more than 60 years ago, are still on the record …” –PH

Perhaps the ‘Guardian’ is satisfied with its version, not subscribing to the passé idea that there could be an objectively true version of the past. And after all, some children did suffer sexual abuse. This injustice must be redressed by giving special consideration and indulgence to anyone who may possibly have been.

Naturally the chance to put the boot into the Church can hardly be resisted, even by the Church itself. That a great and good man of that Church has been reduced in memory to a kind of Rector of Stiffkey status is all to the progressive good.

The last time I looked, the Bishop George Bell petition had collected a little over 2,000 signatures. I recall reading here that the ‘Brexit’ remain campaign reckoned that about 30% the electorate were ‘social conservatives’. That would be about 10,000,000 (of those who bothered to vote in the referendum). I infer that the George Bell petition could do with greater publicity.


The fact that many people seem unable to grasp basic concepts such as the presumption of innocence or freedom of speech is indicative of a wider intellectual decline in Western populations which can be seen across the culture particularly in media and politics. The films and TV programs of 40 or 50 years ago generally seem slower,more thoughtful and more literate than their modern faster equivalents which go in for bombardment of images and open attempts to manipulate emotion.I am thinking in particular of charity appeals on television which seek to emotionally blackmail their audiences to extract money from them by showing hear rending imagery.We can presume that the people responsible have no shame in the old understanding of the word.This actually fairly grim news because such periods of cultural decline have happened before in history and generally have a cumulative tumbling down effect which makes them extremely prolonged .The ultimate outcome as Churchill put it will ” be a new dark age made more hideous by the light of a perverted science”.


Speaking as a Fenian,I’ll bend a knee on Monday.My day on Tuesday.

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“On…Love, Truth, TS Eliot and Liberty”…and Chichester – Peter Hitchens – October 3 2016


Peter Hitchens


On Sunday evening I provided a short prologue to a dramatised reading of the final part of T.S. Eliot’s ‘Murder in the Cathedral’ in the Friends’ Meeting House at Chichester, beautifully situated near the lovely old Priory, now the Guildhall,  where William Blake was once put on trial.  The reading was of very high quality, and I found myself riveted both during the rehearsal and the actual performance, by Eliot’s apposite words, full of power and truth.

There was a good and attentive audience, most of whom stayed for a while afterwards to discuss the case of Bishop bell, in whose cause the reading was held. I always gain a special pleasure from voluntary, civic occasions such as this, when individuals band together for a good purpose. Chichester itself is an intensely civilised corner on England since Roman times, every stone and brick, and every tree, lawn and garden evidence of the long and peaceful existence of a prosperous society of free, independent men and women. But none of this will survive forever if we do not resolve to defend it. I regard the George Bell campaign as part of the battle to keep free civilisation alive, because it is entirely about disinterested justice and truth. I visited Bishop bell’[s memorial in the Cathedral early this morning, and found it surrounded by flowers. This contrasts with the occasion  a year ago when I laid a small posy there and wit was swiftly snatched away. At that time the memorial was obscured by a large notice about ‘safeguarding’, which has now gone.

A few feet away lies the lovely ‘Arundel Tomb’ of which Philip Larkin write,  moved by the way that the effigies of a knight and his lady are shown holding each other’s hands in death. ‘What will survive of us is love’, he concluded, reluctantly and conditionally. I think he was righter than he knew or wanted to be. I must now go to the special service (to be held at St Michaels’s Church at Cornhill in the City of London)

to remember Bishop Bell, whose life and work are commemorated today (the 58th anniversary of his death) in the Anglican calendar.