From Wuppertal 1934 to Chichester 2019

140201 Abschied Frayling15 mittelCoburg Conference – George Bell House – Chichester – February 2014 – Dean Nicholas Frayling (far left) – Canon Tim Schofield (far right) – Dr Dorothea Greiner (third from right)

The end of May 2019 will mark the 85th anniversary of the Barmen Declaration, which expressed the commitment of a small but determined group of Lutheran pastors to oppose the rise of Hitler and the National Socialists. Meeting in the Gemarke Church, Wuppertal-Barmen, more than 130 delegates including pastors, committed Christians and theologians, issued a six-part declaration opposing mainstream German Christian acceptance of national socialism. A full account of the historic 1934 Barmen Declaration can be found on the website of the Lutheran evangelist EKD church.

Half a century later, in October 1984, an ecumenical conference in Chichester brought together German church leaders from both the FRG and GDR. Alongside Anglican theologians, they gathered to discuss practical aspects of rapprochement and Christian unity. The event also celebrated the lives and work of Bishop George Bell and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The latter had been ministering to German-speaking congregations in London at the time of the Barmen Declaration, before returning to Germany in 1935.

The 1984 Chichester conference prepared the way for the first of the Coburg conferences in 1985, which has since been established as a rolling biennial series of ecumenical conferences hosted in rotation by three German churches and the diocese of Chichester. A process that started in the wake of the 500th anniversary celebrations of Martin Luther’s birth, generated both ecumenical conferences and the 1987 Meissen Statement, a six-article road map for Christian unity.

The first article opens with the words: “God’s plan … is to reconcile all things in Christ…” and the second article discusses the nature of communion. The third article is a call for unity: “…to fulfil its mission the Church itself must be united.” The fourth article talks about communion as a shared act of faith, while the fifth article records a number of points of agreement and the sixth sets out the next steps for mutual acknowledgement.

The final paragraph concludes with the words: “We know that beyond this commitment lies a move from recognition to the reconciliation of churches and ministries within the wider fellowship of the universal Church.”

This autumn will see Chichester hosting the next Coburg conference.  At the time of writing, Chichester cathedral’s European ecumenical committee had this to say about the Coburg conferences:

“The first ecumenical conference held in Chichester in 1984 to celebrate Bishop George Bell proved so valuable that the regular ‘Coburg conferences’ were born. Held every other year, delegates from the Diocese of Chichester, the Evangelical Kirchenkreis Bayreuth, the Lutheran church in Berlin-Brandenburg, and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Bamberg meet for discussions, lectures and workshops on a variety of topics and current issues. It is an opportunity to share and solve problems together and exchange news of parish links. A very strong bond of support, fellowship and understanding has developed.”

In his 2018 Easter sermon, Bishop Martin Warner talked of his conference trip to Germany in 2017, when the Lutherans were celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran reformation. His visit was preceded by (Re)imagining Europe, a conference held in Rome and organised by churches across the EU. Bishop Martin observed: “They were drawing from a vision that was formed at the very moment when Europe was descending into the second world war, indeed when Bishop George Bell was seeking to support Christians who were separated from us by that conflict, but not in faith.”

The 2019 Chichester leg of the Coburg Conferences programme will open on October 10 and run until October 14.

Here is more information when the Conference was last held in Chichester in 2011.

Bishop Bell and the nuclear threat

True to form, Bishop George Bell was as strongly opposed to nuclear weapons as he was to any other form of targeting civilians. It was just never accorded the same prominence as his views on the bombing of Dresden, which ruffled establishment feathers longer and harder. Peter Walker, later to become the Bishop of Ely, knew Bell at the time and later wrote an account of Bishop Bell’s views on the subject, which appeared in 1986. Click the image to download a copy. (9MB)

Letter from Peter Mullen for February 4

Resign, Bishop Warner! Resign Archbishop Welby!

On Thursday 24th January, after an epic of prevarification and sheer evasiveness, the Church of England published the findings of its enquiry into the case of Bishop George Bell who was Bishop of Chichester during the Second World War. The chairman of the Bell Group, made up of the family, friends and supporters of the bishop, has written to ask for my prayers and for my views on how the Group should proceed. Gladly, but first, for those many people who will be unfamiliar with the details of this scandal, I will set out the facts…

Bishop George Bell (1883-1958), Bishop of Chichester, has been judged and condemned without any case brought for his defence. An elderly woman came forward in 1995 and claimed that Bishop Bell had sexually abused her fifty years earlier. The authorities took no action. The woman complained again in 2013, by which time Bishop Bell had been dead for fifty-five years. The police concluded that there was sufficient evidence to justify their questioning Bishop Bell, had he been still alive. Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester, discussed the matter with Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury and in 2015 the Church of England offered a formal apology to Bishop Bell’s accuser, paid her an undisclosed sum in compensation – later revealed to have been £31,000 – and allowed her to remain anonymous. The Church authorities ordered that memorials to Bishop Bell be removed and institutions – such as the Bishop Bell School, Eastbourne – should change their names. So this highly-regarded wartime bishop was effectually condemned to the status of a non-person.

Unsurprisingly, there was outrage. On 13th November 2015, Judge Alan Pardoe QC described the way the allegations against Bishop Bell had been handled as “slipshod and muddled.” Judge Pardoe’s criticisms were followed by further censure from a group of historians and theologians led by Jeremy Morris, Master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge.

The Bishop of Chichester replied with insouciance and a volley of jargon to these criticisms: “The Church is seeking to move on from a culture in which manipulation of power meant that victims were too afraid to make allegations, or allegations were easily dismissed. We must provide safeguards of truth and justice for all, victim and accused alike.”

But there were no “safeguards of truth and justice” for Bishop Bell who was condemned without a hearing.

The outrage did not subside and a committee of senior church people, distinguished lawyers and members of both the Lords and the Commons calling itself The George Bell Group was formed. On 20th March 2016, this group published a review in which they challenged the Church’s evidence against Bishop Bell and attacked it for failing to find or interview a key witness or examine Bell’s own extensive personal archive.

On 30th June 2016, the case formed a large part of a debate in the House of Lords on historical child sex abuse.

On 28th June 2016, the Church of England announced that it would hold an independent review of the procedure used. On 22nd November 2016 it announced that Lord Carlile QC would chair this review.

Meanwhile, the George Bell Group declared: “In view of the evidence that we have gathered and examined, we have concluded that the allegation made against Bishop Bell cannot be upheld in terms of actual evidence or historical probability.”

Lord Carlile’s report was eventually handed to the Church authorities and they kicked it into the long grass.

So much for Bishop Martin Warner’s vaunted “…safeguards of truth and justice for all, victim and accused alike.” All along, the only interests being safeguarded here were those of the Bishop of Chichester and the Archbishop of Canterbury. We know very well why these authorities leapt so precipitately to condemn Bishop Bell out of hand: it was because they had previously had to admit to the existence of so many perpetrators of sexual abuse among the senior clergy – especially in the Diocese of Chichester. Warner and Welby, to salvage what remained of their reputations, wanted desperately to appear to be doing something.

Thus the name of the safely-dead Bishop George Bell was tarnished because the Church’s highest authorities sought to cover their own backs.

Let us be in no doubt as to the seriousness of the Church’s misconduct so eloquently criticised in Lord Carlile’s report. He said that Bell had been “hung out to dry,” he added that the Church’s procedures were “deficient, inappropriate and impermissible”; “obvious lines of enquiry were not followed” and there was “a rush to judgement.”

In the light of this scandalously incompetent behaviour, the least that might have been expected from the Archbishop of Canterbury was a profuse apology to Bishop Bell’s descendants, family, friends and numerous supporters for the distress his decisions have caused them. Was there such and apology? There was not. Instead Justin Welby persisted in his mood of arrogant vindictiveness, saying, “A significant cloud is left over George Bell’s 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…”

This is outrageous. True, Bishop Bell was “accused of great wickedness” – but he was not found guilty of any wrongdoing. And there is no “significant cloud” over his name. There is, however, certainly a very dark cloud over Welby’s name after his lamentable performance in this matter.
Lord Carlile didn’t mince his words: “The Church operated a kangaroo court.” He added that the church authorities have “besmirched.” Bishop Bell’s name. Sussex police have repeated their judgement that there is “no evidence” against him.

Welby has described the church’s enquiry as “Very, very painful.” For him yes, as indeed it ought to have been owing to his disgraceful and dishonourable conduct of this issue from the start. So to answer the question put to me this morning by the Bell Group, “How should we proceed?” There is only one answer and it is clear: the Bell Group should call for Warner and Welby to resign – as indeed they ought to have done once Lord Carlile’s report had been published.

Letter from Anne Dawson for February 4, 2019

Keep Rebuilding Bridges 4th February 2019 Chichester

Rebuilding a bridge is a delicate, and at times hazardous, undertaking. Repairing a bridge over troubled waters is not a task for the faint hearted. The issues around Bishop Bell are complex, but the intention of the church authorities is straightforward, to come out appearing in the best possible light. On a trajectory intending to reverse the decades of harm the C of E inflicted by indifference and denial concerning sexual abuse, the result is that the balance is tilted too far towards favouring claimants. The policy of the NST that allegations will be believed and accepted without evidence, has had catastrophic consequences.

The sequence of decisions leading to settling ‘Carol’s’ claim has entrenched the NST in a position from which it is difficult to back track. It is tragic to have reached this point, which could have been avoided, by a more fair-minded approach from the NST.

Memories of a child reported after a time lapse of over four decades are NOT facts. However, I think that ‘Carol’s’ uncorroborated memories have a kernel of truth in them. Believing her account in its entirety is unsafe, as there is too great margin of error to uphold such a serious matter as destroying the reputation of Bishop Bell.

Reconstruction of childhood events over a long passage of time are viewed through the lense of subsequent life experiences. Carol, or anyone looking back on their childhood many decades ago, has ‘anchor points’ for memory reconstruction that are highly subjective. Working with children for many years, I have seen children easily get confused about the  hierarchy of who is in charge. It is common error to ascribe the lead person associated with a place or institution with other adults. What I mean is, Carol may have thought a man was a bishop because she came across him in the bishop’s house. With this hypothesis, a random cleric would not even have deliberately feigned to be Bishop Bell but have assumed that character in the mind of Carol. This theory maintains Carol’s credibility and her personal truth as she understands it.

Having raised this with hypothesis with Richard, he put me in touch with Geoffrey Boys whose account is compelling, concerning mistaken identity. Mr Boys has given evidence to the Core Group which I understand is in the Briden report, if he wishes to share it.

The NST maintain they place a high priority on transparency but do not conduct themselves with transparency. The following statement by Colin Perkins demonstrates this.

From my point of view, from the perspective you just described, that would have
effectively been saying, “We are not accepting your claim. We are not going to apologise. We are going to perhaps provide some monetary settlement and we are
going to require you to sign a non-disclosure agreement”. That is exactly the opposite of where I think the church should be on this issue

IICSA Transcript – March 16 Page 30

There was a simple solution by stating, ‘we have heard the claimant’s story and believe she has suffered abuse. We admit admission of liability and apologise, but we cannot determine the identity of the abuser. We have made a settlement on this basis and wish to maintain the reputation of Bishop Bell. We have nothing to hide.’ The NST just needed to come clean about saying as it is; there are no facts, but they compensated Carol because they believe she was abused, albeit without proof of by whom.

The historian, Herodotus, 2,500 years ago, observed that of all rites performed by humans, those concerning the dead are most sacrosanct. This holds true for all people throughout all ages. I was shocked that Archbishop Welby, as head of our national church, has it within him to hurt Bishop Bell’s legacy so grievously (statement dated 22.1.2018.) A person’s worth does not diminish by death, unless you are the Archbishop of Canterbury and you feel empowered to say what you like about the dead. Defaming George Bell without evidence reverses the universal value in all cultures and faiths, of honouring forefathers, which is one of the defining features of humanity

Archbishop Welby:

I think the greatest tragedy of all these cases is that people have trusted, very often, those who were locally, in diocesan terms, or nationally Titanic figures, and have then found that they were not worthy of their trust. The fact that someone is a titanic figure doesn’t tell you anything at all, except that they have done remarkable things in one area. It doesn’t tell you about the rest of their lives. And it is not something that we can take into account”

IICSA Transcript – Wednesday March 21

The Archbishop is entitled to his opinion, even if it controversial and incongruent with many within the church. But his words are not backed by investigating the facts. IF the Archbishop had invited he historian, Andrew Chandler, (author of Bell’s biography 2016) to the Core Group and IF there was legal representation of Bishop Bell’s family (whom the Core Group failed to trace,) then the Archbishop could claim some validity to his statement. However, the lack of representation on behalf of the George Bell’s reputation and his niece Mrs Barbara Whitley, demonstrates that Archbishop Welby has no authentic understanding of the man he demolishes. His rigorous dismissal of the collective wisdom of the scholars and theologians who have written open letters to the Archbishop (letters 16/17/24.1.2018) suggest reckless defamation. I am reluctant to criticise the Archbishop, but he has sidestepped fully examining George Bell’s life.

In conclusion I do want to be angry or sad but celebrate the life of Bishop Bell, despite the efforts of Archbishop Welby and the NST to destroy his legacy. The case of Cliff Richard displays how disproportionally empowering claimants has caused deep trauma. Thankfully Sir Cliff has been fully cleared of abuse, but the toll on his physical and mental health has been very high. The Archbishop’s statements about George Bell are spoken with the authority of his role, but entitlement does not equate with truth and justice.

Anne Dawson, 19th January.2019

Address given by Vasantha Gnanadoss

I am Vasantha Gnanadoss. I begin by referring to the review by Lord Carlile of the process followed by the Church of England in its response to the allegation against Bishop George Bell. In his report, Lord Carlile concludes that there had been a rush to judgment in accepting the allegation without proper assessment of the evidence and in taking action which implied that Bishop Bell was guilty. This rush to judgment is in line with a pattern which the Archbishop Cranmer website has criticised. An article on that website points out that while the Church of England is becoming a safer place for children, it has become hell for those wrongly accused of abuse. In a comment article appended to Lord Carlile’s report as Appendix C, Charles Moore has written earlier: The key legal principle, the presumption of innocence is being set aside. I note the description of the Church’s response as a rush to judgment, particularly because of other incidents in recent years. In several cases, Church actions or pronouncements have been followed by media reports that the Church has been implicated in things it has criticised.
Some five years ago, the Church of England criticised Wonga, and then the media reported that the Church had invested in Wonga. The Church criticised organisations that do not pay the minimum wage, and the media found out that there were instances where some parts of the Church of England were not paying the minimum wage. The Church of England recently criticised Amazon and the media found out of the Church’s investment. The Church of England has criticised zero hours working contracts and the media found that the church uses zero hours contracts. This is incompetence.
The Church of England has been critical of people who put money overseas to avoid taxation, yet it commissioned Lord Greene to review the training of Ordinance. Lord Greene has come under investigation as a former head of HSBC amid claims that the bank’s Swiss arm facilitated tax dodging whilst he was in charge. The appointment of Lord Greene is an example of authoritarianism. This was not put to General Synod for debate, and many, many heads of theological colleges criticised the appointment because if it was a business-based attitude. They were ignored.
Another example of this authoritarianism is that the Bishop of Oxford made a decision based on his own experience and this was overruled by the Church of England. So rushing to judgment has been a repeated feature in recent times.
Another issue for the Church is that of consistency. In the case of the allegation against Bishop Bell the Church in 2013 has done all it could do to meet the accuser’s wishes, mindful, no doubt, of the failures to take adequate action in earlier years. Lord Carlile used a metaphor from sailing when he calls this “Oversteering.” By contrast the church has made very little response to those who suffered from John Smyth’s abusive behaviour. An open letter in February last year from one of the victims, endorsed by 7 others, makes it clear that there had not been a meeting to hear their concerns, let alone any acceptance of those concerns. Running through all these examples is a failure of the church in recent years to learn from its mistakes. This failure was evident again when in late January this year just before our meeting on 1 February, the church announced that a second person had made allegations against Bishop Bell. The timing of this announcement arrived aroused suspicion because coming as it did shortly before the February session of the General Synod, the announcement could be used to avoid answering any questions about the Bishop Bell case.
When it came to an investigation of the second complaint, the Church failed to learn from Lord Carlile’s review. Lord Carlile had said that the earlier process was deficient in a number of respects. He went on to say that the most significant deficiency was that it failed to follow a process that was fair and equitable to both sides. Yet Bishop Bell’s niece was not allowed her own choice of a person to represent her interests in the second investigation. This is where rebuilding should begin.
Mindful of the publication of the second Bishop 2 Bell report, Bishop Bell’s niece should have been allowed to choose her own representative. This would have facilitated a fair and equitable process and the Church could then hold its head high and accept the outcome of the investigation with confidence. Lord Carlile, when he was asked about Archbishop Justin’s response to his report, he said the Archbishop had been less than adroit , and that is quite a serious sentence from somebody of Lord Carlile’s standing.
What actions could we take to help the rebuilding forward? Well, as Sandra said, we are deferring passing the resolutions today, but could we find a way for all of Bishop Bell’s supporters to give their backing to the resolutions? The resolutions could be the basis for an article in the Church Times. Stronger actions may be possible. Is there a parliamentary or legal committee which could question the Archbishop of Canterbury about the miscarriage of justice? Could there be a Private Members Bill about the standard of evidence needed before alleged perpetrators living or dead or identified publically? Could a motion be put through General Synod to ensure that the Church’s safeguarding policies and procedures are amended to take account of the possibility that innocent people have been falsely accused? I hope there are people here today who can advise us where stronger action may be possible, and advise us who could set such actions in motion.
Just an aside, I have noticed today a letter in the Church Times about safeguarding. Again, it does not mention the wrongly accused. I hope to respond to that letter. If any of us want to write a response to the letter in the Church Times today ideally we would have to send in a letter to Church Times by Monday and if you want to know the content of today’s Church Times letter, Richard has it on his phone and that could be read out by somebody. Thank you. (applause).

Address given by Dr Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson

I won’t be very long. Good afternoon and thank you specially to Richard for giving me the slot and indeed for organising this meeting. Thank you to everybody who contributed to the discussion, we certainly had a great deal to think about and I’m sure we will go away and chew it all over, and hopefully begin maybe to start coming to some form of ideas in our own minds as to where we have got to, and how to move things forward.
I would like to pick up on the words that David actually used in his talk just now, resolution and healing. In one sense, you are right, there hasn’t been a lot said about it today; but on the other hand, that is the reason for today. It has been implied if not actually spoken out loud. That gives me a very good starting point for what I have to say this afternoon, which will be brief and not academic. I am not a theologian and I’m not a member of the clergy, I’m not even a member of the Church of England, for which I’m sure the Church of England is extremely thankful!
My starting point really is a wrist band that doesn’t exist with these words on it but which does exist with other words on it, we will all have seen them. It says: What would Jesus do? My question is: What would George Bell be doing in this situation? I actually started thinking about this more than 3 years ago, more than a couple of months before that devastating announcement that emanated from the diocese of Chichester in October†2015.
I started thinking about it during the summer, the preceding summer when the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean was hitting the news big time, you remember the pictures, the little boy washed up on the beach, the boatloads of people drowning in the Mediterranean, the politics of countries saying, “Not my problem, not my responsibility, let the EU sort it.” Well then, let Germany sort it, well, here we are and it is still not sorted.
I was waiting, I suppose, for some statement from the church, and I do mean the Church of England in this case, I was waiting for some statement from the powers that be at Lambeth to give some indication as to how the Church in this country might address that situation while our own government was vaccillating and driveling on about whether to take a thousand people or 20,000 people, the Church as a whole, as an institution was being very silent.
At that point I wrote to a friend of mine who despite the fact that he is very young was very senior in the hierarchy of my own home diocese of Sheffield and has latterly moved on elsewhere, and I said, “Where is the George Bell among you?” A well educated young man had never heard of him. And I began to think what can be done to further George Bell’s work in the present day and in the present crisis, humanitarian crisis, that is facing so many hundreds of thousands of people in the world today.
Then came the statement from the diocese of Chichester in October†2015 and to begin with I thought it was a misprint. I read that in the Church Times and I thought they are not talking about George Bell, they must mean Peter Ball and have got the two names confused. Anyway it became clear that that was not the case, and in the following winter I got in touch with Andrew Chandler and one way and another gradually became more involved in open campaigning, became a member of the George Bell group, started attending meetings, started attending events in Chichester, and became much more engaged in the pursuit of justice for George Bell.
Let me backtrack for a minute. For those of you who don’t know, my father was Franz Hildebrant, he was a very, very close friend of two men who have featured largely in today’s discussions, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whom he knew long before he knew George Bell because they were students together in Germany, and it was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who introduced my father to George Bell in 1933 when my father was spending a year working with Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Forest Hill in London.
The three of them obviously talked a great deal about the situation in Germany and Bell referred to Dietrich Bonhoeffer and my father as his 2 boys. It was that close a relationship. They were the sons that he himself had not had. When in 1937 my father, who had returned to Germany in the meantime, came back to this country as a refugee, he came back for two reasons: First of all, he was by then openly and avowedly a member of the “Confessing church” which was set up in 1934.
But secondly, and perhaps even more dangerously, he was half Jewish. My paternal grandmother was Jewish, she was a non-practising Jew but to the Nazis that didn’t make any difference whatever. So my father came to this country having fled persecution in Germany, he was imprisoned by the Gestapo, he narrowly missed getting rounded up by the SS and taken off to a concentration camp. And the first person he went to see when he got to safety in this country was George Bell, who became his mentor in addition to being his friend. He advised him on many things, gave him practical help.
It was because of the situation that faced many Pastors in Germany like my father, who were of non Aryan descent that George Bell became aware that he needed to help many more people and he personally sponsored 40 such Pastors to come to this country and for some time he had some living in his Bishop’s Palace in Chichester. As you know he then got involved in kindertransport hosting children when they came to the country, he became very active in helping internees, again including my father in the Isle of Man, because after Dunkirk, as you probably know, many people were rounded up as enemy aliens of this country and sent off to “a place where they couldn’t do any harm , like the Isle of Man. Through the good offices of George Bell my father and others obtained early release, Bell persuaded the authorities that my father was infinitely more use ministering to the German congregation in Cambridge than he was making a nuisance of himself in the Isle of Man. Hence my interest in George Bell’s work with refugees.
So the two things began to come together in my mind and as the events of the last year didn’t exactly go the way we hoped they would with the publication of the Carlile report and we hoped the acceptance of that report by the church authorities, and the issuing of an apology and the beginning of restitution restoring Bell’s name to various institutions and places in Chichester and elsewhere, when none of that happened and when the Church clearly began to stall for a time about delivering this apology, which I think everybody feels must come in some form or another, I began to think how can we move it forward? What can be done that would be positive? What would George Bell himself be doing? He wouldn’t be sitting back waiting for the church to do nothing, that’s for sure, any more than he sat back and waited for the authorities to act in the 1940s.
On the contrary, he got on with his work. In his time he was called a name which is almost equivalent, almost as bad in those days as being a paedophile now, he was called a Nazi lover. He was called a Nazi lover because he opposed the bombing of German cities like Dresden but it didn’t stop him continuing to work with German refugees. He was one of the very few people who spoke up and said not all Germans are Nazis. And he began to bring about the beginnings of the reconciliation which took place very, very slowly in post war years, but it was a cultural change, if you like for those days, which was badly needed because many people in this country persisted in thinking that all Germans were Nazis.
In the Church of Scotland book shop in Edinburgh in the 1970s, someone turned round to my father on hearing his German accent which he retained all his life and you could cut with a knife and called him a Nazi. The Church of Scotland book shop. In Edinburgh. So old feelings die hard and we needn’t expect that everybody is going to accept an apology if and when it ever comes from Lambeth.
In the spring of this year, at the instigation of Marilyn Billingham, who is from Chichester, I went with her to the annual general meeting of a group in Chichester called Sanctuary in Chichester, a new organisation set up just a few years ago to help refugees and asylum seekers in the area. Subsequently, I started corresponding with the chair of that organisation, Roger Pask, very cautiously to begin with because I didn’t know where he stood in all this, I didn’t know if he was a member of the Church of England, if he was closely related to someone in the diocese, I didn’t know how he felt about Bell’s situation. And I was delighted to get the warm and enthusiastic communication back from him saying “Let’s get together and think this out.”
There has been more correspondence and a couple of meetings, and we finally, with the consent of the committee of Sanctuary in Chichester, which has approved this leaflet, have put together this declaration of intent. It is nothing more than a declaration of intent at the moment, but we are hoping that within the next few months Sanctuary in Chichester will have received its status as a registered charity, at which point we propose to launch a fund to plan and develop and build, if new building is necessary, or open a centre for asylum seekers and refugees in Chichester which will embrace a lot of the individual bits and pieces of work that this group are already doing.
They provide drop in facilities, they provide English language courses, they provide help for people who are in this country and just don’t know basically what to do and how to turn for help. These are very, very early days. But I persuaded the Committee that I should speak about it today, I mentioned it briefly on Wednesday at the George Bell group and gave out these flyers to people who were at that service. It was far too good an opportunity this week to let it pass by, because let’s face it, it could be some months before these groups meet again in whatever venue takes place. And time goes by and people’s lives are at stake here. This is about furthering the work and the memory of George Bell with regard to refugees yes, but it is primarily about saving lives and helping the people whom George Bell himself gave so much to save and to help.
So, I would like you to take this away with you, think about it and if you are interested, I’m not saying if you are thinking of giving us £50,000 today, you don’t have to tell me that right now, even if you want to give me £5, don’t do it today. I would like you to go away and think about it, think prayerfully in what way or ways you may be able to help and support this project. I believe, it is urgent, and I believe it is what George Bell himself would be doing. He would not be sitting down under a terrible burden that the Church has put on him, he would be moving forward and if we really want to honour his name, and his memory, I believe this is one way to do it. I believe that would be part of healing, I also do believe it could be part of a possible resolution to the gulf that has appeared between people like ourselves and the authorities in both Lambeth and Chichester because, even if they don’t apologise and they may not, they could support this venture with some money and that would be one way of saying they are sorry. They might even have a suitable building or premises that could be used for such a project. Hope springs eternal but it is more possible than pigs might fly! So thank you very much.


Address given by Revd Patsy Kettle

I want to explain why I’m here. My name is Revd Patsy Kettle. I have been in church ministry from 1968 and started in the Chichester diocese. It was nearly 20 years before I was allowed to be a deacon and then I was ordained a priest in 94 and I’m now currently in the Guildford diocese and I have retired a couple of times because of an interregnum in my village.
Again, the main reason I am here is because I have known Richard’s mother and therefore Richard for nearly 50 years and I have stayed in contact with them.
And I can’t remember now how long ago it was that Richard started to talk to me about George Bell. I might have heard his name but if I had, it was very peripheral. But what I detected in Richard, who is a political animal, in the right sense, was that he was sniffing out an injustice. He wasn’t sure of his facts, because he hadn’t looked into it sufficiently, but he sensed that something was amiss. Why should the school not be named after him any more? Why should the streets be changed and so on, and it was really a bit of a hunch.
Then Peter Hitchens picked it up which was I think Godsend. Because he had a journalistic flair and a wide respected readership. And word got out. And then others of you, eminent people, joined and then there was Lord Carlile himself, so the whole thing from a very, if I can put it like this, humble beginning, someone who didn’t know a lot has actually become a very important force and it has already been said here, but we should all be really grateful to Richard that he sniffed it out in the beginning.
So that is why I’m here. And being an Anglican priest, obviously I am concerned with my church that I love.
Now, the whole safeguarding thing, as the Bishop has indicated has so changed everything and a couple of times my present incumbent has called me aside and said “Patsy, you can’t do that now, “Patsy, every visit you make you have to document. “Oh but I only..”. It has to be documented.”
And I was saying at lunchtime, I was officer of the clergy widows but because of data protection I am not allowed to know of any widows who are coming into the diocese. How can I welcome them? How can I send Christmas cards to them? How can I visit them? I don’t know how many letters I wrote to the pensions board† can’t do anything about it. It is my own Bishop.
Where retired clergy are concerned on their own or not, there is more of a grapevine, but to follow the widows is impossible and the jobs gone and that applies to other diocese as well. Data protection is stopping pastoral care. Now where sexual abuse is concerned, in my younger days, 30, 40 years ago, when one heard, well one didn’t actually hear of this sort of thing that we hear about today, but on the rare occasions you did, my understanding then was if this was a man of God (and it was always men), if this was a man of God who was truly repenting, then you could take that seriously, you could believe him, maybe he should change jobs, but I had no understanding of the perversity and the power and the deviousness that addictions lead to.
I thought the Christian repentance and a new person in Christ and grace could mean a change in a person. So if today I was told of someone who was guilty of and of course more recently since of some sort of sexual abuse, I would treat it so differently from the way I would have done then, when I had, not a young man, now a man in his 50s, come to talk to me about John Smyth, I said to him, “I have got to take this to our safeguarding officer of the diocese. Either stop talking or can I do that?”
I wouldn’t have known that 10 years ago. So the way it is dealt with is different and those priests who in bygone days didn’t deal with it in a way that now would seem to be right, they weren’t doing anything that was perverse, they weren’t trying to distort justice in any way. They were doing what they were doing in the light of the knowledge they had then with a certain innocence, a certain, they were naive, and therefore they let things go which now they wouldn’t, but they didn’t know. We were all children of our time.
Now, I think for me, the biggest thing about the George Bell case is what it is doing to present clergy. George Bell died some years ago. To many people out there they haven’t heard of him. If something is said about him, oh, okay, so what? But today there are clergy who are being accused of some sort of abuse and they have no redress for it because of the attitude of the church currently.
I actually feel sorry for Justin Welby, I like him and I respect him and I think for him to have this barrage of what clergy in the past have done must have been absolutely horrific. He must have had so many sleepless nights when he thought of what his church had done to innocent people and covered it up. And he was going to put that right, he was going to show that everything he got he was going put a different emphasis. We as a church, this matters! We will not cover up clergy any more! In the midst of all that, the George Bell pops up, someone called Carol says: This man did this to me. To be true to what was in his head then, this is how I see it, oh, right, let’s put it right for her. We didn’t put it right for ‘n’ others, let’s put it right for her. Quick, far too quick. Wrong, for acting on the spur of the moment because of the climate of opinion. And then of course it has come up to bite him and Lord Carlile said what he said, and I sincerely hope and pray that Justin Welby will actually have the grace to say there is no cloud, because we know all of us know now that where there is a case of abuse it is never one, and in the early days of Richard when we had our chats about everything, I said I am going along with your theory because publicity is getting out a little bit and no one has come out of the woodwork. If there is abuse there is not just one, which is why Cliff Richard has been able to say: I am innocent; which is why Jimmy Saville was not innocent.
No one has come out, although there was the opportunity, they tried to say there is something. So, because of the present climate, a clergyman accused doesn’t know where to go, he goes to his Bishop. The Bishop, well the climate of opinion is we believe the called victim, and I agree with the report and Carlile, ‘victim’ is the wrong word, it is claimant.
And therefore, oh well, I don’t know if I can help you because actually you may be guilty. All those were guilty and they covered it up, I don’t know that I can cover you up, I will go to my safeguarding officer. Oh, not sure about this. And there are people out there who are without a ministry, without a salary because of being falsely accused. And there is no one at the moment to take it up.
Now this is what concerns me, and our friend here is a key person. The reason I think you are a key person is because you are not within the Church, but you are hearing from people who are within the Church who are saying this is happening to me. And I think for you to somehow get this out there, so that our Bishops hear it, because the pendulum has swung so far, those that we were covering wrongly we are now not covering when they should be. And that is where I think this whole George Bell is absolutely key. If this can be put right, then it gives the opportunity for our Bishop, safeguarding officers and the like to put it right for those that come to them. At the moment they are floundering, they don’t know how to deal with it, because there is no clear lead. It has gone the wrong way, well it has gone too far. That is the main thing I wanted to say.

Response to Bishop Gavin Ashenden from AD

It seems that the conference shows there is energy and determination for justice.
I quote Bishop Ashenden:
If George Bell were really guilty of sexually interfering with a young girl behind the scenes in the Palace in Chichester, it would require him to have a split in his personality that would verge on the schizophrenic.
This is the exact point I have raised more than once. It is about the forensic analysis of Bishop Bell’s psychiatric profile.
Re point 160 of the Carlile Report where Carol’s psychiatric profile was examined by Dr Freedman.
Dr Freedman clearly fully followed the instructions she received, to provide an assessment of the damage suffered by Carol on the basis that her allegations were entirely true
The underlining is mine, to emphasise core group’s assumption of the allegations as true in instructing and directing the expert opinion. This diviates from the advice of the consulting lawyer
Paula Jefferson advised that it would not be sensible to accept Carol’s evidence without questioning it through an independent expert. Point 158
The core group (Ms Emmott) did not do this. [That is] she did instruct to Dr Freedman to report in a neutral context but requested Carol’s allegations were as accepted as the framework of the psychiatric report on Carol.
This reinforces the lack of parity in process in using a an expert to give one side (Carol’s) without equally asking an expert opinion to examine archival evidence of personality disorder from everything recorded  about or written by Bell. Is it possible to ask for an independent psychiatric assessment on a deceased person from the all records and sources available?
I will support  Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson’s project


Address by Revd Canon David Jasper

Truth and the Church.

Delivered at Church House, Westminster, 5th October 2018

(original version)

Love (agape), says St. Paul to the Corinthians, does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth (aletheia). We live in dangerous times during which the notion of truth in our society is profoundly threatened. Dispensing with truth and living in a so-called post-truth world in a way makes life much easier for you, because then you can say whatever is most convenient for the moment, and simply change it on a whim. Those who seek the truth resolutely may find themselves accused of engaging in a witch hunt. Fake news is easy. But holding to the truth, on the other hand, is hard and costly, as Christ himself, above all, shows us. The truth is rarely easy.
As it happens I am editing a collection of essays at the moment by members of the Scottish Episcopal Church on truth and post-truth. The further we go in this project the more we realize how very difficult it is, our discussions being between theologians, philosophers, scientists, clergy and lawyers. The truth is rarely simple. Certainly there is a positive deluge of books on the market at the moment, almost all rather journalistic in tone, on the death of truth in our time, and I have to say I find most of them pretty unhelpful – shrill, self-justifying, muddled and mostly somewhat obvious. Genuine difficulties, demanding careful and prolonged thought are almost always side-stepped. The complex history of truth in western culture is largely neglected and we do well to remember, as a preliminary exercise in carefulness that philosophers have suggested various ‘theories’ of truth – correspondence theory, coherence theory and so on – while one of the best serious and accessible discussions of truth in recent years is Simon Blackburn’s book from his Glasgow Gifford Lectures, significantly entitled Truth: A Guide for the Perplexed (2005).
Theologians and the church, however, have been strangely silent on the matter, even while that same church has been embroiled in massively public issues regarding behavior towards others in which the question of truth is essential. Indeed, while it is almost certainly the case that the glare of immediate, sound-bite publicity in an over-hasty society that appears to enjoy condemnation is not helpful, nevertheless careful thinking on the matter of truth has not been obviously a part of the church’s core activity in recent years – with some notable individual exceptions. But before we act, and most imperatively when our actions involve the lives and reputations of other people, we must ask the question, without jesting and in all seriousness, put by Pontius Pilate before the silent, condemned figure of Jesus, “What is truth?” And we cannot, like Pilate, then just wash our hands of the matter expecting that to be sufficient. (Another figure from literature here springs to mind, Lady Macbeth and her fruitless attempts at hand-washing after the deed has been done.)
One of the contributors to my book of essays, a distinguished mathematician, begins with the assertion that truth is fixed and eternal. If that is the case – and I do not wish to argue for or against this here – we are nevertheless bound to seek the truth, as we seek Christ, within the complex, nuanced and often highly ambivalent embroilments of daily life. I sat for many years on my university’s student complaints committee, and we were continually required to assess matters of truth in historical contexts going back years in which documentary evidence was patchy at best, and events and conversations were clouded and shaped, with or without malice, by hurt, anger, disappointment, jealousy, and a thousand other feelings, both good and bad, to which we are all prone: all of us. In every case it was a matter of seeking the truth in the midst of life in which we do the best we can, even with the purest of motivations, and often fall short.
This is, of course, to do no more than state the obvious. It is St. Paul who reminds us in his Letter to the Romans (7:15), that “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing that I hate.” But we exist in this way in a world that seems to wish to see things in simple black and white: the guilty and the innocent, the good and the bad. It is not like that. Now, of course, I do not wish in any sense to deny that there is criminal behaviour that must take its consequences, nor the fact that we all need to ask God’s forgiveness for our waywardness every day of our lives, though this is not usually a matter for the law. But before making any accusation that has serious consequences is made, the truth demands that always, and without exception, no stone is left unturned before any even putative conclusion is reached. Setting aside matters of convenience, likes and dislikes, public pressure and even any understandable bias of sympathy for those whose lives may have been damaged, as Christians we have an absolute duty of love and care for all our fellow human beings until, and indeed even beyond, such time as guilt is proven beyond all reasonable doubt.
I am not a lawyer but a theologian but in my long university experience I have often engaged with colleagues in the faculties of law and medicine in the discussion of profound moral issues, often regarding matters of truth. From this experience I would say two things. First – that in the end in the pursuit of truth, certainly, all such disciplines must finally agree. But second, living as we do under God’s grace, the Christian theologian can never abandon the duty of love and care in that pursuit. Inasmuch as we are creatures who live under the necessary forgiveness of God, so forgiveness (which all of know from time to time can be well nigh impossible) must be part of our nature even when the truth of a matter is finally, painstakingly, revealed.
Please allow me to be more personal for a moment. Recently I was the recipient of a deeply hurtful and malicious letter from a former member of my university who suffered a disappointment that he held me, to a degree, responsible for. I have no doubt that the letter was deeply felt though it contained facts that were easily disproved. I mention this because my reaction to it was not simple but complex – a mixture of righteous anger and, more difficult but still oddly present, sympathy that such rage was eating into the being of the writer. Now, of course, this is a relatively trivial matter, in the larger scheme of things, and probably demands a pastoral rather than a judicial response. But still love demands that truth, in all its complexity, must be sustained or there can never be any resolution or healing.
Finally, the demands of truth will, sooner or later and for all of us, require us to admit that we have made mistakes in our attempts to fulfill the law of love and in our attempt to establish the truth. We all know that this can be painful and can very easily be misinterpreted or held against us. The pressures can be enormous and may come from many angles: a sense of humiliation or public disapproval or worse. We can all say, “If only I had not done or said this…..” – but the truth is absolute and must be faced squarely or there is never resolution.
I have never thought that Pontius Pilate was, in the gospel story at least, a particularly bad man. Weak, perhaps, or a pragmatist – his words of condemnation in St. John’s Gospel are self-contradictory and painfully unresolved: “Crucify him; I find no case against him.” One of my most treasured books is by the French writer Roger Caillois simply called Pontius Pilate: A Novel. It is about the cost of power. Pilate was a man who faced constraints in the exercise of Roman imperial power in the context of the zeal of a local population – public pressure with its simple solution, “crucify him.” Condemn. What choice had he in the interplay of politics and conscience, fundamentalism and pragmatism, and so on – such things as are still with us, just as toxic and implacable? At the end of the book we read these words:

“[Pilate] wanted to be at the outcome of his choice, to be able to say All is done, and to have to face only external problems: a riot, the treachery of Caiaphas, the reproaches of Rome. He was suffering from the freedom to take or not to take the final step. He thought he had seen clearly what his duty was, but he dreaded increasingly the hidden yet crushing mortgage….”

Now, of course, there is a deliberately hidden sub-text to all my words here. We all wish to be able to say “All is done” – but the truth and the deeper love to which it is bound, will never leave us in peace until its demands are met. And there is the mortgage to pay. We live in a world in which profound and mysterious wrongs are perpetrated on human being by other human beings, driven by dark forces within their natures that love and decency abhor. But if, in the process of seeking to right such wrongs, fingers are pointed too hastily, either deliberately or in error, no salve will heal the wounds on either side. And we cannot simply wash our hands of it or balance one wrong with another.
Every time the Eucharist according to the 1982 liturgy of the Scottish Episcopal Church is celebrated, priest and people together say aloud in a confession made to God our Father “that we have sinned in thought, word and deed, and in what we have failed to do.” Everyone, without exception, says these words. But they are prefaced and embraced by a statement made by the celebrant:

  • God is love and we are his children.
  • There is no room for fear in love.
  • We love because he loved us first.

And so I end with the words of St. Paul with which I began: “love – does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.” Such love is our burden and our privilege as Christians. And to seek the truth in all things is ever paramount.

Address by Lord Carey of Clifton

The following words were addressed to those attending the Keep Rebuilding Bridges conference on October 5. Baron Carey of Clifton was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002.

I am delighted to offer a contribution to this Conference on Rebuilding Bridges and thank Richard Symonds for his invitation and for all he has done and continues to do, to clear George Bell’s name. It is good to see in our audience Dr. Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson, the daughter of Bishop Bell’s close friend, Franz Hildebrandt. We look forward to hearing her later.
Now, I am uncomfortably aware that my presence here raises two unrelated questions.
I have been accused many times over the past few years of presiding over a ‘cover-up’ of Bishop Peter Ball’s crimes. Peter Ball misused his office as a bishop to abuse, and indecently assault young people who were exploring vocations into Christian ministry. There was, of course, no cover-up. We now know that the police at the time examined many allegations against Ball and together with prosecutors only charged him with a caution. This decision was very much of its time. But later even after I had left office other people, including police, had an opportunity to look at all the evidence that was in our hands at Lambeth to bring Peter Ball to justice, yet they did not do so until Chichester Diocese passed on its files and Peter Ball was finally brought to justice in 2015. I and my colleagues at the time did make mistakes and rightly my actions are being subjected to public scrutiny – a review by Dame Moira Gibb and the IICSA Inquiry. I have cooperated willingly, openly and honestly with this scrutiny at every stage. I will take every opportunity I can to publicly apologise to the victims of Peter Ball for the mistakes I made in the 1990s which have caused them such pain to this day. I will say no more about this matter because IICSA is still to report on this next year.
The other question is about the role of retired bishops and archbishops. ‘Don’t spit on the deck as you leave’ is usually good advice. But I am not retired from ministry. I am still active in ministry, still a member of the church and by Her Majesty’s invitation a member of the House of Lords. If it is permissible to speak out on public affairs, as I do from time to time, then it is permissible for me to speak out on matters of justice when so few others will.
Over the last 12 months or so I have had a recurring disturbing worry. It is the ‘nightmare’ that in spite of a very happy and faithful marriage to the same woman for nearly 60 years some 50 or so years from the point of my death, rumours will circulate that I was an abuser of others. The rumours will reach such a pitch that the Church to which I had given my life will capitulate, pay out money and believe the falsehoods. Who would defend me?
This could happen to anyone of us – male or female. It became a reality for one of the great giants of Anglicans, namely George Bell who died 70 years ago and whom we honour today. I remember the time when I was Archbishop visiting Morton’s Tower in Lambeth Palace where Bell’s works were stored. I was amazed by the scale of his correspondence and work. It expressed his energy, output and commitment to public affairs. He was never afraid to be unpopular because his commitment was to the gospel of Jesus Christ and its truth. Before ecumenism became a fashionable word he had already embraced a deep commitment to other Christians and Churches. Whilst anti-Jewish hatred continued to change the face of Germany and western Europe, Bell instinctively turned his face against the ugliness of anti-Semitism. I read his correspondence with Dietrich Bonhoeffer and marvelled at their deep friendship and common faith. At a time of understandable patriotism and jingoism on the part of the British people, Bell courageously argued against unacceptable retribution against Germany. Winston Churchill turned against him and, we understand, put paid to any prospect of Bell becoming Archbishop because of his opposition to carpet bombing.
But Bell was more than an energetic, courageous and knowledgeable public figure. He was a man rooted in prayer and worship; a high churchman who loved the order and beauty of liturgy. In his exceptionally busy life he was supported loyally, deeply and lovingly by his wife, Henrietta. She was always alongside him, as were his chaplains who were there to take some of the burden of his high public office.
And then, fifty-seven years after his death, his own diocese which he served faithfully and greatly loved – supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the House of Bishops – made an announcement which was likely to affect Bell’s reputation forever more. The announcement was widely interpreted by press and public alike as an accusation that Bell had sexually abused a child between 1949 and 1953. Strangely, church leaders deny that they have ever said that Bell was guilty of the abuse, but this is surely disingenuous. In the Archbishop of Canterbury’s words, a ‘cloud’ hangs over his name.
In that initial announcement, very few details were given but it was clear that an unspecified sum of money had been given to the complainant. The Church said it had decided to give this compensation on the basis of the ‘balance of probabilities’. But even on this evidential basis, arguments for the defence should have been heard. Previously, no other accusations – or even rumours – had ever been heard against Bell. And on the basis of this one unproven, and probably unprovable allegation, his name was removed from buildings and institutions named after him.
A recent detailed review of the case by Lord Carlile showed that no significant effort had been made by the Church to consider any evidence that might have supported Bell’s innocence. In particular, those investigating did not consult Bell’s biographer, Andrew Chandler, nor the living people who worked with him at that time.
George Bell’s cause was given no legal advocate. Instead, in a process, which I referred to in the House of Lords in 2016 as ‘having the character of a kangaroo court’ it seems as though the ‘victim’ was automatically believed. The normal burden of proof was reversed and it was considered ‘wicked’ to doubt the veracity of the allegations.
Dr Andrew Chandler in his excellent biography of George Bell states: ‘We are asked to invest an entire authority in one testimony and to dismiss all the materials by which we have come to know the historical George Bell as mere figments of reputation.’ Of course, if Bell was guilty, his high reputation should not protect him. But we have not been given the chance to establish fairly whether he was.
In an appendix devoted to the controversy, Chandler notes that Bell’s 368 volume archive contains his personal notebooks and pocket diaries from 1919 to 1957, in which he kept track of all his appointments and engagements. He notes Bell’s “conspicuously high view of the standards required by his office,” and adds that Bell was almost constantly observed, that he participated in many disciplinary processes for clergy, that he maintained what seemed like a happy marriage, and that he worked almost continually in the presence of his wife, secretary, domestic chaplain, or driver.
Chandler interviewed the only member of Bell’s circle who was then still alive, Adrian Carey, his domestic chaplain from the early 1950s. This man “is firm, indeed emphatic, that ‘no child or young teenager ever entered during my two years as Chaplain, except on the day in January chosen for the parish Christmas party which he and Mrs Bell laid on every year for the children of the clergy’”.
Thankfully an outcry came against such a miscarriage of justice and I was delighted in 2016 to be invited to join the George Bell group, led by Andrew Chandler, to fight to clear George Bell’s name.
It was a relief to us all when the Bishop of Chichester asked Lord Carlile of Berriew QC, a well-known independently-minded human rights lawyer, to conduct an independent review which he did thoroughly and authoritatively. His report concluded that the “core group” established by the church to consider the claims “failed to follow a process that was fair and equitable to both sides”.

“The church, understandably concerned not to repeat the mistakes of the past, when it had been too slow to recognise that abuse had been perpetrated by clergy and to recognise the pain and damage caused to victims, has in effect over-steered in this case.

“In other words, there was a rush to judgment: the church, feeling it should be both supportive of the complainant and transparent in its dealings, failed to engage in a process which would also give proper consideration to the rights of the bishop. Such rights should not be treated as having been extinguished on death.”

He added: “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.”

Carlile said the purpose of his review was not to determine the truthfulness of the allegations nor to rule on Bell’s guilt or innocence.

He went on, “even when the alleged perpetrators have died, there should be methodical and sufficient investigations into accusations leveled against them”.
In this case, “the truth of what Carol was saying was implicitly accepted without serious investigation or inquiry. I have concluded this was an inappropriate and impermissible approach.”

What then followed was to my mind more damaging to the Church than to George Bell. Instead of this logically leading to the rehabilitation of George Bell’s reputation, the Church compounded the problem further by apologizing for the procedures that had been found wanting by the Carlile review, but nevertheless refused to retract its conclusion that George Bell was in all probability guilty of the abuse.

In the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury a ‘significant cloud’ hangs over his name. The Archbishop bluntly added: ‘he is accused of great wickedness’.

What is deeply unsatisfactory is that no explanation is given and no evidence for these conclusions. If the Carlile report revealed how biased and unjust were the conclusions of the Core Group, how can the Archbishop, the Bishop of Chichester and Bishop of Bath and Wells continue to unblushingly assert that George Bell’s reputation remains under a cloud?

Now, it gives me no pleasure to note that the Archbishop of Canterbury has received harsh criticism from a number of leading historians and theologians and, sadly, his response has been so far unsatisfactory. Those of us still committed to the national Church remain horrified that not more has been done to explain his remark that ‘a cloud remains’. At the very least justice demands it.

Perhaps an explanation lies in a further allegation which has come out of the blue, at the beginning of this year, before the Carlile review could be properly debated in General Synod. But after the first core group debacle, can we really have confidence that the Church can investigate this competently itself?

Regarding the current investigation at least this time we know that George Bell’s niece is to be represented by one of the George Bell Group, Desmond Browne QC, and that Andrew Chandler’s expertise and knowledge of Bell is being utilised. But a gnawing and perhaps understandable suspicion remains that the hierarchy are hoping we will all forget and the ‘can’ will be kicked further down the road. It is a sorry mess: a great man’s name has been traduced, justice has been denied and the good name of George Bell rubbished.

The Archbishop has rightly made mediation and reconciliation a major plank of his ministry, and I hope he will reach out to all those who are dismayed by this treatment of Bell and consider again his judgement of Bishop George Bell.

However, one of the matters I am most dismayed by is the silence over these concerns by the House of Bishops. The Church of England has always been respected for scholarship, theological exploration and independent thought. George Bell stands out as a pre-eminent scholar-bishop of the 20th century who engaged in public debate within the church and nation – frequently disagreeing with his episcopal colleagues.
In my time as Archbishop I served with colleagues of great scholarship and distinction including John Habgood, David Hope, Tom Wright, Mark Santer, Michael Nazzir-Ali, Peter Selby, Richard Harries, David Jenkins, Hugh Montefiore, David Sheppard, Simon Barrington Ward, and John Taylor of St. Alban’s and many others. These were bishops who prized justice and spoke out when they saw injustice. Bishops were prepared to speak out even against their own hierarchy – and they did not always agree with me.
So why the silence from the House of Bishops? Each member must know that he or she is implicated indirectly in this condemnation of Bell. Only one bishop has distanced himself from the Archbishop’s conclusion, but I understand that at least six others disagree with him. Unity, and collegiality are good things but never should they replace what is right and true. ‘Collegiality’ is not to be mistaken for ‘collective cabinet responsibility’ or ‘party discipline’.

So it is right to press the Bishops to declare themselves. Do you share the opinion that a significant cloud hangs over George Bell’s name? Do you agree that he is guilty of great wickedness? Please tell us what you think. At the February Group of General Synod Martin Sewell was told that ‘the House of Bishops is accountable for safeguarding in the Church of England’. If that is the case, why the silence? Is it an honorable thing to be silent on a matter so crucial as this? If the bishops are at one with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s declaration that a ‘cloud hangs’ over George Bell’s reputation and that ‘he is accused of great wickedness’, let them says so in a collective declaration of support for the Archbishop’s view.

It is because we all make mistakes that we need a church that preaches grace, forgiveness, repentance and new life. I see very little of grace in the way that the Church of England has handled allegations against George Bell. Indeed, it is shaming because it is unjust. We know we can do better. That is why this conference talks about rebuilding bridges, and that is why many of us will continue to fight for justice for George Bell.

However, I want to end on a positive note. Rebuilding Bridges is central to the Christian faith and that is what we all want to do. Let me offer three points:
I believe the George Bell case and also the Peter Ball investigation makes the argument for outsourcing investigations in the case of accusations of sexual misconduct. It is not because Archbishops and bishops can’t be trusted to have an important role in safeguarding, rather it is because we are too close to the clergy concerned and very likely to defend instinctively the institution, rather than actively promote an unbiased and independent approach.

Secondly, George Bell was a man of the Church, passionate about its witness and unity. Here we are today with declining numbers of worshippers, with no clear evangelistic programme, and no apparent plan to reach the young. The gap between Church and society is widening all the time. Yes, I know that great work is going on and not all churches are declining. It grieves us all that this major squabble is taking up so much time and energy when our gaze should be directed away from ourselves. The supporters of Bishop George Bell desire wholeheartedly to speak with one voice with the Archbishop and the House of Bishops. Reconciliation would certainly send out a great signal of overcoming a major barrier to our unity, which of course is part of our mission.

A third positive sign is an attractive idea that Dr. Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson is going to offer later and I do not want to steal her thunder in any respect. As I understand it, she is going to suggest a way of continuing Bishop George Bell’s work in the diocese.

Let me close my remarks with George Bell’s own words: words we should all heed, and which should guide our attempts to clear his name: ‘To despair of being able to do anything, or refuse to do anything, is to be guilty of infidelity’.

George Carey