Tag Archives: William Nye Secretary-General of the Archbishops’ Council and of the General Synod of the Church of England

April 14 2019 – Church of England Governance Structures


Leadership and Governance

The Church is led by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and 106 other bishops. They provide guidance and direction to the churches across the country and make decisions on the Church in society. The General Synod is an assembly of bishops, clergy and laity, and creates the laws of the Church. The seven National Church Institutions work together to support the mission and ministries of the Church.
Archbishops of York and Canterbury face each out outside cathedral


The Archbishop of Canterbury is responsible for churches in the southern two-thirds of England. He also fills a unique position in the world-wide Anglican Church as spiritual leader. The Archbishop of York is the senior bishop responsible for churches in the northern third of England. Together they lead the vision and direction of the Church of England.

Each of our 42 dioceses has a lead bishop known as a diocesan bishop. Most are supported by other (suffragan or area) bishops. All diocesan bishops are members of the House of Bishops, along with a small number other elected bishops. The House of Bishops is one of the three houses of the General Synod. The General Synod is an assembly of bishops, clergy and laity, which meets at least twice a year to debate and decide the Church’s laws and discuss matters of public interest.

Our two archbishops and 24 other bishops sit in the House of Lords, making a major contribution to Parliament’s work. They are known as Lords Spiritual.

Her Majesty the Queen is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. The Queen appoints archbishops, bishops and deans of cathedrals on the advice of the Prime Minister.

There are seven national administrative bodies that work together to support the mission and ministries of the Church. These are called National Church Institutions (NCIs).

Each has a role to play in helping the day-to-day work of churches across England. They serve as the Church’s central office, managing finance, education, communications, and more, to keep the Church of England growing.

They work with parishes, dioceses (regional offices), schools, other ministries and our partners at a national and international level.

The seven NCIs are:

  • The Archbishops’ Council
    Leadership, strategy and executive responsibility (see below)
  • Lambeth Palace
    The office and home of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
  • Bishopthorpe Palace
    The office and home of the Archbishop of York.
  • The Church Commissioners
    Manages the national Church’s investment fund and provides money to support the Church’s work.
  • The Church of England Pensions Board
    Provides retirement services for those who have served or worked for the Church.
  • National Society for Promoting Religious Education
    Our education department.
  • The Church of England Central Services
    HR, Finance & Resources, IT, Legal, Communications, and Record Centre.

The NCIs are separate legal entities, but they are a common employer. The present arrangements were established under the National Institutions Measure 1998.

The Archbishops’ Council was established in 1999. The Council is a charity, set up in law to co-ordinate, promote, aid and further the work and mission of the Church of England. It does this by providing national support to the Church in dioceses and locally, working closely with the House of Bishops and other bodies of the Church. The Archbishops’ Council is one of the seven National Church Institutions.

Our objectives

The Archbishops’ Council has nine objectives.

To bring more of the people of England to the faith of Christ through the Church of England

To strengthen the Christian faith and life of all who worship God in the Church of England

To ensure there are sufficient ordained and lay ministers of the required gifts and qualities who are effectively deployed to enable the Church of England to fulfil its mission, and to support those ministers in their calling, development, ministry and retirement

Common good
To contribute to transforming our society and communities more closely to reflect the Kingdom of God through loving acts of neighbourliness and service to all

To promote high quality Christian education in Church of England schools and voluntary education settings, and through our Church contribution to other schools, colleges, further and higher education institutions

Resources for the Church
To help dioceses and cathedrals to be most effective in their mission, by providing cost-effective national and specialist services and advice

To ensure all children and vulnerable adults are safe in the Church

To operate the national governance arrangements of the Church of England as cost-effectively as possible in pursuit of the Church’s mission

A Church for all people
To be a Church that can provide a home for all people in England
The Archbishops’ Council plans for 2017.


Safeguarding: to ensure
all children and vulnerable
adults are safe in the Church,
by continuing to build
infrastructure and processes
for the National Safeguarding
Function to promote a safer
Church at all levels, including
the development of policies
and practice guidance, longterm audit processes, training,
high-level casework handling,
survivor engagement and
responding to the Independent
Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse



Archbishops’ Council


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Archbishops’ Council is a part of the governance structures of the Church of England. Its headquarters are at Church House, Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3AZ.

The Council was created in 1999 to provide a central executive body to co-ordinate and lead the work of the Church. This was a partial implementation of the recommendations of the report “Working Together as One Body” produced by Michael Turnbull (then Bishop of Durham) in 1994.

Objectives and Objects

The Council describes its objectives as:

  • enhancing the Church’s mission by:
    • promoting spiritual and numerical growth,
    • enabling and supporting the worshipping Church and encouraging and promoting new ways of being Church, and
    • engaging with issues of social justice and environmental stewardship
    • sustaining and advance the Church’s work in education, lifelong learning and discipleship;
  • enabling the Church to select, train and resource the right people, both ordained and lay, to carry out public ministry and encouraging lay people in their vocation to the world; and
  • encouraging the maintenance and development of the inherited fabric of Church buildings for worship and service to the community.

And its objects as:

  • giving a clear strategic sense of direction to the national work of the Church of England, within an overall vision set by the House of Bishops and informed by an understanding of the Church’s opportunities, needs and resources;
  • encouraging and resourcing the Church in parishes and dioceses;
  • promoting close collaborative working between the Church’s national bodies, including through the management of a number of common services (Communications, Human Resources, IT etc.);
  • supporting the Archbishops with their diverse ministries and responsibilities; and engaging confidently with Government and other bodies.

Legal Status and Membership

The Archbishops’ Council was established by the National Institutions Measure passed by the General Synod of the Church of England in 1998.[1] It has its own legal identity and is, in addition, a charity.

The Council is made up of:

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are the joint Presidents of the Council, but the Archbishop of Canterbury normally chairs its meetings.

The Council is one of the “National Church Institutions”;[3] the others include the Church Commissioners, the Church of England Pensions Board and the General Synod.

Committees and Staff

The work of the Council is assisted by a number of committees:

  • Mission and Public Affairs Council (including the Hospital Chaplaincies Council)
  • Board of Education
  • Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns
  • Council for Christian Unity
  • Central Council for the Care of Churches
  • Committees of the Ministry Division
    • Committee for Ministry of and among Deaf and Disabled People
    • Deployment, Recruitment and Conditions of Service Committee
    • Theological Education and Training Committee
    • Vocation, Recruitment and Selection Committee
  • Finance Committee
  • Audit Committee

In 2006, the Council employed about 250 staff. The senior posts include:

  • Secretary-General to the Council and the General Synod

  • Chief Education Officer
  • Director of Mission & Public Affairs
  • Head of Cathedral and Church Buildings
  • Director of Ministry
  • Director of Human Resources
  • Head of Legal Office and Chief Legal Adviser to the General Synod
  • Clerk to the Synod and Director of Central Secretariat


The members of the Council are also members and directors of the Central Board of Finance of the Church of England. Technically, the Board of Finance is a separate legal entity, however all major decisions are taken by members of the Council in their capacity as the directors of the Board.

In 2006, the Council had a budget of approximately £61 million, principally derived from the Church Commissioners (about £32 million) and contributions from each of the dioceses(£24.5 million).

Spending in that year included grants to the dioceses (£31 million), training clergy (both funding for colleges and allowances for individuals in residential training – £10 million), grants to organisation such as Churches Together, the Church Urban Fund and the World Council of Churches (£2.2 million), and housing assistance for retired clergy (£2.8 million).[4]

Notable members

  • William Fittall, Secretary-General from 2002 to 2015
  • Philip Fletcher, 2007 to 2016
  • David Lammy, 1999 to 2002[5]
  • Jayne Ozanne, 1999 to 2004
  • Mark Russell, CEO of the Church Army, 2005 to 2011 and since 2015
  • Glyn Webster, current
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glyn_Webster
  • Safeguarding controversy and CDM complaint

    In May 2016 Webster was one of six bishops accused of misconduct by somebody who claimed to be a survivor of child sex abuse. He was cited in the Guardian and Church Times along with Bishops

  • Peter Burrows,
  • Safeguarding controversy and CDM complaint

    A survivor of child sex abuse made a formal complaint in May 2016 under the Clergy Disciplinary Measure procedure against Burrows and five other bishops (Steven CroftMartyn SnowGlyn WebsterRoy WilliamsonJohn Sentamu) for failing to act on his allegations. The survivor said he first told Burrows in 2012 about his abuse by a serving priest. All five bishops dismissed the complaint owing to the one-year time limit imposed by the CDM process.[4][5]

  • Steven Croft,
  • Protest at his enthronement

    Protest Brochure

    Two survivors of clerical child sexual abuse staged a peaceful protest outside Croft’s inauguration as Bishop of Oxford on 30 September 2016.[18] One of them claimed he had told Croft three times in 2012 and 2013 when Croft was formerly Bishop of Sheffield of his rape by a serving priest, but the bishop and other senior figures had failed to respond or take action despite the abuser still being alive. The cover of the protest brochure handed out to the public pictured all six bishops[19] who the survivor claimed had failed to respond, including John SentamuArchbishop of York.[20] The survivor commented to the Church Times that he was angry that the C of E had the “nerve” to enthrone bishops after safeguarding complaints had been made against them. He went on to say

    This is absolute proof that the Church of England does not truly recognise the profound and long-lasting impact such abuse has on survivors at all.[21]

    The protest was shown on ITV[22] and the BBC.[23] Croft met with one of the survivors in front of the news cameras.

    Police Investigation

    In 2018 it was reported in media that Croft was being investigated by South Yorkshire Police, alongside Archbishop Sentamu, Bishop Martyn Snow and Bishop Peter Burrows, for failure to respond properly to a report of clerical child abuse. The priest against whom the allegation was made went on to commit suicide the day before he was due in court in June 2017.[24][25][26] The Archbishop of York’s office said:

    The diocese of York insists that Sentamu did not fail to act on any disclosures because that responsibility lay with Ineson’s local bishop, Steven Croft, who was at the time bishop of Sheffield.[27]

    Guardian editorial contrasted Sentamu’s response to a statement from Archbishop Welby at IICSA, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, in which Justin Welby stated

    It is not an acceptable human response, let alone a leadership response to say “I have heard about a problem, but … it was someone else’s job to report it”.[28]

    Matt Ineson, the victim of the alleged abuse, has called for the resignations of Sentamu and Croft.[29] In May 2018, Archbishop Welby declined to discipline Croft, and said he “will take no further action” other than ensuring that Dr Croft received further safeguarding training and understood his responsibilities as a diocesan bishop.[30]

  • Martyn Snow,
  • Safeguarding controversy

    In May 2016 Snow was one of six bishops cited in the Guardian and Church Times as subject of Clergy Disciplinary Measure complaints owing to their alleged inaction on a survivor’s disclosure.[16][17] The bishops contested the complaints.[18] All six bishops were pictured on a protest brochure which the survivor handed out at Steven Croft‘s enthronement as bishop of Oxford later that year.[19][20] In 2018, Snow was reported in the media to be one of several bishops being investigated for failure to act on this safeguarding disclosure. The priest against whom the allegations were made, killed himself the day before due to appear in court.[21][22][23]

  • Roy Williamson and Archbishop of York,
  • John Sentamu as subject of Clergy Disciplinary Measure complaints owing to their inaction on the survivor’s disclosure.[5][6]
  • Safeguarding clergy disciplinary measure complaint and police investigation

    Protest brochure

    In May 2016 Sentamu was one of six bishops accused of procedural misconduct by a victim of child sex abuse (the accusation was to do with how the complaint was handled; none of the six were involved in the abuse). Sentamu was named in the Guardian[59] and Church Times[60] alongside Peter BurrowsSteven CroftMartyn SnowGlyn Webster and Roy Williamson, as subject of Clergy Disciplinary Measure complaints owing to their inaction on the survivor’s disclosure. The bishops contested the complaints because they were made after the church’s required one-year limit. Sentamu had acknowledged receipt of a letter from the survivor with an assurance of “prayers through this testing time”. But according to the Guardian report, no action was taken against the alleged abuser nor support offered to the survivor by the church. A spokesperson for the archbishop said that Sentamu had simply acknowledged a copy of a letter addressed to another bishop. “The original recipient of the letter had a duty to respond and not the archbishop”, the spokesperson said. All six bishops appeared on a protest brochure which the survivor handed out at Steven Croft’s enthronement as Bishop of Oxford.[61] In April 2018 it was reported that Archbishop Sentamu and four other bishops were under investigation by South Yorkshire Police for failure to respond properly to a report of clerical child abuse. A memo from June 2013, seen by The Times and other media revealed that Sentamu had received the allegation but recommended that ‘no action’ be taken. The priest against whom the allegation was made went on to commit suicide the day before he was due in court in June 2017.[62][63][64] The Archbishop of York’s office said:

    The diocese of York insists that Sentamu did not fail to act on any disclosures because that responsibility lay with Ineson’s local bishop, Steven Croft, who was at the time bishop of Sheffield.[65]

    Guardian editorial contrasted Archbishop Sentamu’s response to a statement from Archbishop Welby at IICSA, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, in which Justin Welby stated

    It is not an acceptable human response, let alone a leadership response to say “I have heard about a problem, but … it was someone else’s job to report it”.[66]

    Matt Ineson, the victim and survivor at the heart of the case, has called for the resignations of Archbishop Sentamu and Bishop Steven Croft.[67]

  • The bishops contested the complaints because they were made after the church’s required one-year limit.[7] All six bishops were pictured on a protest brochure which the survivor handed out at Steven Croft’s enthronement as Bishop of Oxford later that year.[8][9]



  1. ^ National Institutions Measure 1998 Archived December 5, 2008, at the Wayback Machine on the Office of Public Sector Information website – retrieved 6 May 2008
  2. ^ Members of the Archbishops’ Council – retrieved on 19 October 2011
  3. ^ “National Church Institutions – The Church of England”http://www.churchofengland.org.
  4. ^ Annual Report 2006 Annual Report and Finance Statements 31 December 2006 – retrieved 6 May 2008
  5. ^ “LAMMY, Rt Hon. David (Lindon)”Who’s Who 2017. Oxford University Press. November 2016. Retrieved 17 March 2017Archbishops’ Council, 1999–2002

December 20 2017 – “Why the Church’s response to the George Bell inquiry is so shocking” – The Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy – Dean of Christ Church, Oxford [Christian Today]


Martyn Percy: Why the Church’s response to the George Bell inquiry is so shocking

‘If one imagines for a moment that Bishop Bell were one’s own father, the point is clearly made. If a system is not good enough for our own fathers, then it is not good enough for anyone.’ (paragraph 46, p. 12, Bishop George Bell Independent Review).

The long-awaited Independent Review of the Bishop George Bell Case, conducted by Lord Carlile of Berriew CBE, QC was published on December 15. As one of the campaigners for transparency in this case – namely for the Church of England to disclose exactly how it reached its decisions in relation to a single complaint of sexual abuse made against Bell, decades after his death – Alex Carlile’s Review is a fulsome vindication of the need for a complete overhaul of the practice of the Church. The report shows that justice was not served – either to Bishop Bell, or to the woman known as ‘Carol’. The report shows – damningly, alas – that the entire process by the Church of England was conducted through the lens of reputational management. Appropriate legal expertise was not used. Assumptions were made: guilty unless proven innocent. Dreadful and egregious errors of procedure were made, revealing a culture of shoddy amateurism. When challenged on this, the evolving debacle was further compounded by assertions that a ‘proper’ process and ‘robust’ investigation had been undertaken. They hadn’t. Not remotely.

Bishop George Bell
Courtesy of Jimmy James Bishop George Bell was the former Bishop of Chichester and considered a hero for his opposition to indiscriminate Allied bombing of Germany

It is crystal clear from reading the report that the accusations were badly handled from the beginning, and that once the accusations were in the hands of the ‘Core Group’, members not only lacked commitment to prioritise their participation but lamentably failed in their duty to determine the facts. The whole process administered by the Church of England then descended into a tragic, incompetent farce. In all this, some are continuing to insist that Bishop Bell was, in all probability, guilty – when in the end, there is still only the testimony of one person, with no corroboration.

Yet it is clear, reading between the lines of Lord Carlile’s report, that in investigating how the Church handled the allegations they discovered enough to challenge their veracity. In what follows, therefore, I highlight ten key findings from Lord Carlile’s Independent Review, and suggest that the Church of England resolves to address these as a matter of urgency. [Martin Sewell also analyses the Independent Review here – Ed]

Martyn Percy
Martyn Percy is the Dean of Christ Church Oxford and a respected theologian in the Church of England.

‘It follows that, even when the alleged perpetrators have died, there should be methodical and sufficient investigations into accusations levelled against them….I have concluded that the Church of England failed to institute or follow a procedure which respected the rights of both sides. The Church…has in effect oversteered in this case. In other words, there was a rush to judgement…’ (para. 17-18, p.5). The Church of England acted rashly and hastily, and it needs to correct this knee-jerk reaction in future, if justice is to be served. In the case of Bell, injustice has been manifestly perpetrated.

  1. ‘…in this case the Church adopted a procedure more akin to the second extreme: that is to say, when faced with a serious and apparently credible allegation, the truth of what Carol was saying was implicitly accepted without serious investigation or enquiry. I have concluded that this was an inappropriate and impermissible approach and one which should not be followed in the future…in my view, the Church concluded that the needs of a living complainant who, if truthful, was a victim of very serious criminal offences were of considerably more importance than the damage done by a possibly false allegation to a person who was no longer alive…’ (para. 43-44, p. 12). The Church of England essentially assumed Bishop George Bell was ‘guilty until proven innocent’. The Church of England needs to ask how it protects those who are the victims of false allegations.
  2. ‘Importantly, the Church should not put its own reputation before that of the dead…the complainant is not a “survivor”…’ (para. 52, p. 13/14). The ‘Core Group’ made dreadful assumptions. Namely, that no-one who had worked with Bell was still alive. They did not contact Bell’s relatives (even though George and Henrietta had no children of their own). The ‘Core Group’ put the reputational risk to the Church as a higher priority than serving justice, and getting to the truth of the matter. The complainant is repeatedly referred to by the Church as a ‘victim’ or ‘survivor’ – but no facts or testimony have come to light, other than the claims made by the complainant – that would corroborate the appropriate use of such pejorative labels.
  3. In paragraph 138, p. 32 we are told there was no real police enquiry into the case. Yet the Church of England had tried to ‘spin’ this, to suggest that any enquiry would have found Bell guilty.
  4. ‘…despite mention of the importance of ensuring that the deceased accused person received a fair hearing, absolutely nothing was done to ensure that his living relatives were informed of the allegations, let alone asked for or offered guidance. Nor were any steps taken to ensure that Bishop Bell’s interests were considered actively by an individual nominated for the purpose. I regret that Bishop Bell’s reputation, and the need for a rigorous factual analysis of the case against him, were swept up by a tide focused on settling Carol’s claim[s] and the perceived imperative of public [reputation]…’ (para. 142, p.33). The Church of England, in other words, only listened to the complainant, and took those accusations at face value. No system of justice in the entire world could ever regard this as fair, decent or true. The process run by the Church of England has more in common with a trial scene from Alice in Wonderland. No system of defence or justice for Bell was designed or enacted (para. 155).
  5. Paragraph 178, pages 46-48. Professor Maden, an expert on ‘false memory syndrome’, comments extensively on the case. He closes his remarks by stating that ‘I have no doubt that [the complainant] is sincere in her beliefs. Nevertheless it remains my view that the possibility of false memories in this case cannot be excluded. The facts are for the Court to determine. I do not believe that psychiatric or other expert evidence is likely to be of further assistance in establishing whether or not these allegations are true…’. Some members of the ‘Core Group’ did not read the whole of Professor Maden’s report, so ‘a fuller evidential investigation’ that might have been called for to test the complainant’s claim never occurred. The ‘Core Group’ even failed to contact the complainant’s wider family (whom ‘Carol’ said she was close to), and who could have perhaps provided corroborating or dissenting testimony.
  6. Two completely credible witnesses came forward. A woman identified as ‘Pauline’ and Canon Adrian Carey (paras. 214-228, pages 54-56). Neither corroborates Carol’s testimony. Neither can recall such a young girl being present with the regularity and frequency ‘Carol’ claims. Carey, Bell’s Chaplain, lived in the Bishop’s Palace with Henrietta and George Bell. Pauline, a child who lived in the palace and played in the gardens during the same years that ‘Carol’ claims that her abuse took place, does not recall any child like ‘Carol’: ‘Pauline and her mother lived in the palace itself. They shared a bedroom on an upper floor, and they had a sitting room of their own. Pauline went to school locally, to an Infants’ School then a Primary School. She passed the 11 Plus. At that point her mother obtained a job in another household and they left the palace. She remembers and named correctly other staff working in the palace and living there or in the grounds. She remembered the name of [the person Carol visited]. However, she did not recall Carol. This does not mean that Carol was not there from time to time: however, if Pauline is correct it would suggest that [Carol’s] visits were not so frequent as to have made her a significant presence…’.
  7. Despite the lack of evidence against Bell – remember, still just one complainant, and the ‘Core Team’ having failed to take account of relevant expertise (i.e., legal, psychiatric, historians, Bell’s biographer, etc.), or contacted living witnesses to test the claims made by ‘Carol’ see paras. 248-252, p. 64) – nonetheless, ‘Carol, and the wider public, were left in no doubt whatsoever that it was accepted that Bishop Bell was guilty of what was alleged against him. The statement provided the following conclusions: (i) The allegations had been investigated, and a proper process followed. (ii) The allegations had been proved; therefore (iii) There was no doubt that Bishop Bell had abused Carol…’. (para. 237, page 61). Lord Carlile later adds: ‘I regret that the Core Group failed to carry out sufficient investigation into the facts’ (para. 244, p.63).
  8. The ‘Core Group’ that investigated the case against Bishop Bell was found to have been ‘set up in an unmethodical and unplanned way, with neither terms of reference nor any clear direction as to how it would operate. As a result, it became a confused and unstructured process, as several members confirmed. Some members explicitly made it clear to me that they had no coherent notion of their roles or what was expected of them. There was no consideration of the need for consistency of attendance or membership. The members did not all see the same documents, nor all the documents relevant to their task. There was no organised or valuable inquiry or investigation into the merits of the allegations, and the standpoint of Bishop Bell was never given parity or proportionality. Indeed, the clear impression left is that the process was predicated on his guilt of what Carol alleged…’. (para. 254, p. 65). You can only read this as a vote of total ‘non-confidence’ in the Core Group. It is not so much a case of what few things they got wrong, as discovering that they got almost nothing right. This was a complete failure of process.
  9. So Lord Carlile concludes: ‘in my judgement the decision to settle the case in the form and manner followed was indefensibly wrong’ (para. 258, p. 66).
    Bishop George Bell
    Pic courtesy of Jimmy James Bishop George Bell

    Since the publication of the Carlile Report, the Archbishop, Church of England National Safeguarding Team and the Bishop of Chichester have all been defensive. They recognise that there are criticisms. But they continue to speak and behave as though they got the right result – merely via a flawed methodology. I am reminded of the quote from Alan Partridge: ‘You know, a lot of people forget that for the first three days, the cruise on The Titanic was a really enjoyable experience.’

On the October 21, 2015, I had been rung by the then Secretary-General of the Archbishops’ Council and of the General Synod of the Church of England, Sir William Fittall. It was Fittall who told me, over the phone, that a ‘thorough investigation’ had implicated Bishop George Bell in an historic sex-abuse case, and that the Church had ‘paid compensation to the victim’. Fittall added that he was tipping me off, as he knew we had an altar in the Cathedral dedicated to Bell, and that Bell was a distinguished former member of Christ Church.

Fittall asked what we would do, in the light of the forthcoming media announcements. I explained that Christ Church is an academic institution, and we tend to make decisions based on evidence, having first weighed and considered its quality. Fittall replied that the evidence was ‘compelling and convincing’, and that the investigation into George Bell has been ‘lengthy, professional and robust’. I asked for details, as I said I could not possibly make a judgement without sight of such evidence. I was told that such evidence could not be released. So, Christ Church kept faith with Bell, and the altar, named after him, remains in exactly the same spot it has occupied for over fifteen years, when it was first carved.

What we now learn from Independent Review of the Bishop George Bell Case is that evidence against Bell is, at best, flimsy. Charles Moore, writing in the Daily Telegraph, (December 16, 2017) notes that the Church of England:

…would only be reverting to the principle upon which justice is based – that a person is innocent unless proved guilty. It says it accepts the report’s finding that its procedures were wrong. In morality and logic, it must concede that its decision to destroy Bell was wrong too. This, I had expected, was what Archbishop Welby would now do. He is a brave man and I know, from conversations with him, that he is deeply anguished both by child abuse and by false accusations of child abuse. He tries harder than most princes of the Church to get alongside those who suffer.

Yet this is what he said on Friday. After acknowledging the failure of Church procedures, the Archbishop spoke of Bell’s ‘great achievement’ as a defender of the persecuted and added: ‘We realise that a significant cloud is left over his name … 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. Whatever is thought about the accusations, the whole person and the whole life should be kept in mind.’

I’m afraid this is a shocking answer. The Archbishop must know that what people now think about the accusations depends very much on him. His own report tells him they were believed on grossly inadequate grounds. Does he cling to that belief or not? He invites us to balance the good and evil deeds of men; but there is no balance here. The good Bell did is proved. The evil is an uncorroborated accusation believed by the religious authorities because it makes their life easier. We have been here before – in the life of Jesus, and in the reason for his unjust death.

Bishop George Bell was one of the towering figures of twentieth century Anglicanism. He was a saintly man, of prodigious theological calibre. He befriended the Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemöller other leaders of the German Confessing Church. Bonhoeffer’s last letter, before he was executed by the Nazis in 1945, was to Bell. Niemöller sought out Bell as soon as the Second World War ended. And it was Niemöller, you may recall, who is remembered for this quotation:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

But many of us did speak out for Bell – because of the pitiable processes and procedures he has been subjected to. This must now be fully overturned by the Church of England, and Bell’s name and reputation fully restored. No member of the ‘Core Team’ investigating Bell would ever allow their own deceased father to be treated like this. For a Father in God such as Bishop George Bell to be subjected to such reputational traducing, long after his death, requires an unambiguous capitulation on the part those who bear responsibility for this.

The Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy, is Dean of Christ Church, Oxford.