Thursday, 01 Febuary, 2018
Church House, Westminster
Joanna: Now we have an opportunity for discussion, questions and answers. A number of people have indicated there are things they want to raise. Who wants to start?
Vasanthi Gnanadoss: My name is Vasanthi Gnanadoss, a former member of General Synod. I have been disappointed that until very recently, none of the other Church of England Bishops had expressed any concern about Justin Welby’s remarks following the publication of Lord Carlile’s report. In the past week or so, one Bishop spoke in the House of Lords in a way that the press called breaking ranks.’ Another has differed from Justin Welby in an email to Richard.
Would the Bishop Bell Society consider writing to all members of the House of Bishops seeking their personal view? In the House of Lords on 30 June, 2016, the Bishop of Chelmsford, as the duty Bishop, spoke as if Bishop Bell was guilty of the actions that had been alleged. This is of course on record in Hansard.
Now that Lord Carlile’s report has shown that there is no case against Bishop Bell, it is important that there be another occasion when the record is set right in the House of Lords. This should include a clear reference to Lord Carlile’s report, which should be placed in the House of Lords library. Otherwise, someone researching this in the future would get quite the wrong impression. How might this correction of the record be achieved? Thank you.
Joanna: Anyone like to comment on that? I have a couple of things to say, would someone else like to chip in first?
Lord Dear: I sit as a cross‑bench peer and have been in the House of Lords for the past 12 years and I was a police officer for much of my early career. It is possible to raise a debate, which is I think what the last speaker has said, but with some difficulty because there is a great demand for topics for debate in the House of Lords, most of them are political, many of them preoccupied with Brexit, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that.
But if one could engineer a debate, as has been suggested, then I think it could be fully debated for probably an hour. There are enough of us in the House of Lords to feel the same way as obviously we do and perhaps most people here and it would be in effect a re-run of what has been said to date, and I can help you with some of that as a member of the Bishop Bell Group, if you wish. The major problem is getting the time and getting past party whips who are preoccupied with current problems.
Joanna: Thank you very much.
Martin Sewell: I am Martin, member of General Synod at the moment, and I have probably been a thorn in the side of Church House and Lambeth Palace because one of my claims to contributions is that I was [inaudible] lawyer for many years and it is clear to me, and I don’t think it can be in doubt because Carlisle has done it brilliantly, that there have been very serious errors in this.
Some of you will know that we had thought that there would be a motion brought to Synod which couldn’t be debated in February, but perhaps for July. I have seen the text of it and had it been approved and had not recent events occurred, I would have read it to you. But I think first of all it had its block through the legal process, there was nothing untoward about that, I can tell you about it another time, but it hadn’t got there.
Now we have got these present the new allegations, David Lamming, who is the principle driver of that motion, has taken this theme that this would not be a prudent time to press on with it, not least because the chances of getting the requisite signatures would be very low for wholly understandable reasons, so that is a piece of information I give you.
I found your talk, Jules, fascinating and thank you for the theological part. There are a couple of things I will take issue with and one I’m sure we come from similar perspectives, first of all a correction is that Lord Carlile did not say that Bishop Bell was innocent, he couldn’t say that, he specifically says that.
Rev’d Dr Jules Gomes: He did find a way around it to indicate.
Martin Sewell: I wrote about that, I don’t know if you have seen it. Shall I deal with that point? What he did do, the only part of any of the reports that he quoted extensively is Professor Madden’s report where he brings to the table the possibility of retrospective re‑attribution, or false memory. Nobody asking about that, that was a fundamental question I would have expected, in fact I can tell you that when I made my submissions to Lord Carlile I said, talk about false memories, so it was known from there, they didn’t do that.
What he did was is to say: Here is what the experts said and you can almost imagine him pointing in the direction that they needed to go. So you had Madden doing the same, you had Carlile doing the same and they are gesticulating the direction of travel that they clearly expected. That is my interpretation. I think we have probably got that bit sorted out.
The one thing I think, if you are building bridges, and here I draw on my jurisprudence, you were saying there is right and there is the rights culture and you rather impugned Justin Welby as being a post‑modernist. I think that is unfair. The worst case is, the most complex cases are where everyone has a point. And there is no doubt that Justin Welby has a point when he says: I want to treat victims better than they did in the past.
The trouble is, he is treating the accused worse than in the past and that is a legitimate point. But I don’t think it is fair to him to chacterise him as a post‑truth, post‑modernist, that is not right. I have heard Archbishop Justin Welby speak passionately about his love for the Lord Jesus Christ, and anything we say must not suggest that he has given over to post‑modernism because he hasn’t, he is on the horns of a dilemma. I was asked: Are you saying he is incompetent by a journalist and my answer was, why would I expect the Archbishop of Canterbury to be competent in the field of safeguarding law? That is the problem. He hasn’t grasped how we do things properly. But he is passionate that we should not repeat the errors of the past.
Final point to make is, he has attached his, he has put his drive behind the notion of transparency. Well that is fine. I agree. But what we need is to see how the process unfolds with transparency, so it can be tracked. There is no reason why he can’t tell us how long it is likely to take. No reason why they can’t tell us what sort of experts we will go to, why they can’t tell us the sex of the victim, how many times the allegation was. All of this can be put in the public sphere exactly as Lord Carlile has done, and if the church fails to do that, it will cause immense frustration and the building bridges doesn’t need frustration on either side.
Joanna: I know Jules is about to comment. May I interject here, reference has been made, you will probably all know, to the latest news, and in today’s Daily Telegraph. [The] Church faces criticism over new Bishop Bell allegations. It has been announced by the Church of England that a further allegation has been made against Bishop Bell and that the Church of England safeguarding team is in contact with the Sussex police. Further to the Carlile report, there are questions to be asked about this.
The first and most obvious of which was that the Carlile report specifically said that if another, if an allegation was made the person involved should not necessarily be named. So, suddenly they are naming somebody.
Second, I’m completely baffled as to why the Sussex police should remotely be involved in this. It seems stupid, there is nothing for them to do, for if, and I don’t think they should have released the information, but if the person concerned is Bishop Bell and as I have indicated, they should not have said so, he is dead, there is nothing for the police to do. I don’t want to sound flippant, but this is getting silly, why don’t we look again at the prisoners in the tower?
I am very concerned and it is all very obvious that it is helpful to announce this a couple of weeks before a major Synod debate. I understand the information was available a couple of weeks ago but I find it odd that the next chapter that has been written, even as we speak, in this sad list of events, is something which is contrary to the recommendations of the Carlile report. There were, are, a great many other clergymen in the cathedral city of Chichester in addition to the Bishop. It is of course possible that any false memory could include the involvement of a person who is not the Bishop, for example. This would be another reason for not mentioning the name of the specific person.
I share the concern expressed by number of commentators including a distinguished historian, a biographer of Bell in today’s newspaper, I can’t see why a statement for naming Bell was made yesterday other than to try to muddy the waters of what is clearly a debate that is necessary. And I am genuinely puzzled about the police. I asked this because I cannot see why there is any remote involvement with the Sussex police. There is no point in doing so. So I suspect it is because I know this is a journalist, the words leap at you disagreeably from the headline. It seems very wrong.
Very grateful, to you Lord Dear for the information about the House of Lords and thank you to you for your two specific suggestions. One is writing to all members of the House of Bishops asking their views and then correcting the Hansard report. One possibility, perhaps Lord Dear could give more information, if at some point, probably some distance from now, because it may turn out to be longer than we wish, it would be relevant and useful to have meeting in the House of Lords, a meeting such as this.
Lord Dear: That would not be difficult.
Joanna: It wouldn’t, would it, and it might be an opportunity for members of the House of Lords who were unable to speak in the debate. It wouldn’t appear in Hansard in the same way but it would have greater status than anything else.
Lord Dear: As a steer, if the meeting were just before the debate, assuming one got one before the debate took place, that would be both tactical and appropriate.
Joanna: That would be something useful. I think a letter is useful, we must of course take into account these latest development: And it is certainly, I’m very interested because I have noted it down, in the interests of transparency, any new thing, how long will the process take, the sex of the alleged victim, complainant, and so forth would be relevant.
Again, I am very concerned, I don’t think I am alone in this, there is a genuine concern about the language used by the Church of England in all of this. The very basic law that you are taught as a journalist when you first do court reporting is that nobody is a criminal. The alleged, the defendant, the witness, it was alleged that he pointed a gun. It is alleged that she placed the items in her purse without paying. And I can remember this because a very early form of training as a journalist was how to write the necessary sentence. It isn’t particularly difficult but you have to write it in what initially feels a convoluted way. It was alleged that he…… I learned it in a morning, an essential law for journalists which one has to study made it clear how to do it and we did it. And I did that as a teenage reporter.
Alan: My name is Alan, just on a point of fact about what happened yesterday, as far as I understand there appeared on the Church of England website the statement that fresh information had come to the safeguarding, it didn’t say there was an allegation. Now the press is telling us there is an allegation, whether the press, perhaps I would share with Joanna as a journalist, where they have a way of finding out but they may be jumping to conclusions which may be very convenient for the Archbishop and others that the conclusion is jumped to. But the wording is careful: “There was fresh information,” it may be there was almost nothing.
Really it changes almost nothing at this moment. What has happened to this point remains the same, that it should not have been left there. So I feel in some ways not to get too excited at the moment about the new thing, it is insufficient to delay what is happening in Synod.
Joanna: Which is I presume the object.
Cathy, Conservative Woman: Thank you so much, Jules, that was an amazingly broad perspective on this and I think I would like to say it is very important that it is put in the current cultural context, and what I very much appreciate about your talk was that it wasn’t just a matter of this case, which is really a dramatic example of what you described as the battle for justice.
I think this is terribly important because if you look, this battle for justice is now raging in this country and it began mainly with the Equalities Act which is a very different form of law as it was instituted from the tradition of Common Law that has come in this country, and I do think it is impossible, I do think it is important, personally, to put this case in this context.
It maybe, given the history of this, the type of proof now, the corroboration or the non corroboration, will never be known, but this is an insult to the type of justice and tradition we have and the battle now is and the battle between right and rights, what is happening in this which is so grotesque is the exploitation of victimhood and it is the exploitation of victims and it doesn’t further their rights and this is an absolute myth that somehow what has happened at the moment is improving the justice – in your sense and our sense – for victims and I think we must be very careful not to fall into the trap.
It is not that people are malign, but a cultural change has happened, and there is, what happens when everybody around you is saying a certain sort of relativist thing, we are forced into thinking that is the moral right and that is a trap the journalists have fallen into. So all I can say is for you to continue to write and explain and even YouTube the broader points about the battle for justice. Thank you.
Jules: The bit about post modernism and Justin Welby, first of all it is such pleasure to see you in the flesh here, Martin, the work [word?] has been made flesh in your case because I have followed you very closely, you have the same surname as my tutor at Cambridge University and so I followed all, I have read everything you have written on the Bishop Bell case and I’m extremely grateful to you for setting it out so clearly, your fine legal mind, your argument, and particularly helping non specialists like me to understand the safeguarding nuances intricacies of this complex case.
Martin Sewell: It is not a complex case, that is what is so damnable about it.
Jules: I will take your word for it. I disagree with Justin and post‑modernism. Permit me to use my own experience here. I have worked very closely with Archbishop Justin Welby. He was my Dean at Liverpool Cathedral for 2 years. I have lived next to him, worked with him night and day, there is absolutely no doubt that he loves the Lord Jesus Christ, that he seeks to be a passionate disciple of the Lord Jesus. However, the two are not mutually incompatible in some sense. I have written about 25 articles on, published about 25 columns on Archbishop Justin Welby and demonstrated time and time and time again, not from [t]his – more what he has actually said and what is in print, that post modernism is one of his, perhaps it is unconscious, the template from which he operates. I hate to say this at the moment, because I thought it would remain a nice secret, the whole business of good disagreement, and I have read considerable literature on that and compared it to the Frankfurt school, particularly the writings of Jurgen Habermas, and the whole thing has been plagiarised from him, there very respectfully I would disagree. I would also add my own case, though I don’t won’t to dwell on it at all, it has shocked me utterly that facts, and I have put this on the website only yesterday, I have put original documents, very simple example, did I work as chaplain to the Oakington Detention Centre? GS4 paid me and told me my wages have gone up to something in an hour and yet the Church of England has chosen to make false accusations completely ignoring this evidence.
So what shocks me more and more, day after day, is the fact that facts are simply trashed, and feelings, the need to justify a particular victim just trumps facts almost entirely, and it sends shivers down my spine because I come from India where as a journalist in India I saw the most abominable corruption in the Anglican church there and in society and fought against it.
Now I see corruption in places, in corridors of power here of a completely different kind and it scandalises me to the core, because there are two different world views operating here. And to think that our world view, which is based on justice and truth is now sliding completely is something that I deeply lament, but thank you.
Olivia: My name is Olivia and I am correspondent at the Daily Telegraph. Thank you for letting me come. I wondered whether it is possible to get a sense from people in the room about the future position of the current Archbishop, whether or not you think it is a serious enough situation, whether he has acted in a serious enough way that it could potentially lead to him stepping down, or whether anyone here would want it to happen.
Joanna: I dare say people have views but this is about Bishop Bell and I am not prepared to have a discussion about the future of the Archbishop of Canterbury. I understand your desire for that, I absolutely understand that, but actually this is a meeting to discuss the Bishop Bell case. You may write what has been said about Dr. Welby, but we are not going to have a discussion on his future, it is quite beyond the competence of this meeting and certainly of its chairman.
Edmond Philmore: I’m a lay reader, my name is Edmond Philmore and I’m concerned about a current case where a clergyman who shall be nameless has been under suspension for a very long time and it looks as though that is going on and on. And I really want to say today, it is just not, I absolutely agree with you, this is not about the future of the Archbishop of Canterbury, it is about justice, and what you are fighting for is defending Bishop Bell’s name, it is vitally important to the future of people. I have seen this person, I know his wife and family, and they are utterly distraught and demoralised by their inability to clear his name and we can’t do anything about that directly, because it is sub judice, but fighting for the reinstatement of Bishop Bell’s name is vitally important as a matter of principle that goes far beyond personalities and so on. Thank you.
Joanna: That is very helpful and I entirely agree. I would like to pick up the point about it not being a complex case. In one sense it is complex, years have elapsed, but I would like to add to this because this was my initial interest – I am an historian and most of my historical work has been the nineteenth and twentieth century and one of the interesting things is that with any major public figure of the 20th century, there is an enormous amount of, quite fantastic amount of paperwork available, because although a great deal was being done by telephone in the 1940s and 50s, a great deal more was done by letter.
The point I felt when all this story began to emerge was it is extremely easy, no, it is difficult but possible and very interesting to find out when Dr. Bell was in England and when he was in Germany, for example. When he was in Chichester and when he was out doing confirmations in some Sussex village, when he was in Chichester or London, because letters were written and train tickets were bought, and so on. And although a certain amount was done on my telephone this would tend to be annotated. I am speaking as one who has written up complex things about the Second World War but you can find out from a Royal Air Force squadron log which pilot crashed and you can find out from the Bishop’s diary whether he was at the Palace that day or somewhere else, so it is possible to discover what years and dates and even – up to a point – days things were happening. It is fiddly work and it is to that extent complex. It is quite satisfying, it is the work of an historian.
It is also very possible to discover about false memories also about good things actually, people surprisingly will be there hauling people out from the rubble of the blitz when in fact they were not, it was a later bombing, not the blitz itself, I am giving silly, not poignant examples I recall. 1940 is a more emotive word than 1944, for example and it seems no effort was made at all to contact the Bishop’s papers which would be substantial and interesting and to some extent full of domestic, in the general sense of that word, and relevant material.
And although it is unfair to tax a very elderly person who might be rather confused about dates and times, it is awfully important, it really is. So it seems to me you are right, in one sense it was not a complex case. Above all you have to keep, when writing about it, the facts clear. Something is alleged or it did happen. Bishop Bell did champion the German opposition of Hitler, he did not, for example, no one is alleging he did, for example, go on 20 July 1944 to Germany and help Colonel Stauffenburg plant a bomb.
After the Second World War he spent a great deal of time in Germany building bridges and indeed we owe something of our modern strong relationship with west Germany and so on to his noble work, so it seems to me a lot of work wasn’t done. It was complex in one sense, fiddly perhaps, but in another way rather interesting since we have had a couple of sound bites, one extremely good of Bell, one realised the possibilities that exist.
As I know only too well and perhaps others in the room do too, ploughing your way through detailed archives can be dazzling, you get eye glaze, but if what is at stake is true, it really is important. This is particularly important, in the case of Bell, who was in Bishop’s House at any time with reasonable accuracy. It is not difficult. It is tricky, but not difficult in the sense of translating a very ancient document or, for example, finding out who was in the Bishop’s palace in 1459.
Modern life, it is incidentally for what it is worth, going to be much harder for those who come after us because of wretched emails! It is really annoying. The handwritten letter is helpful, the carbon copy filed and annotated, tickets bought, Bishops despatched to Stuttgart, well, you are right, to that extent it is not a complex case. I am also concerned that people who knew quite a lot about Bell were clearly not consulted and it includes his niece. That seems to me relevant.
[From the floor]: And his chaplain…
Joanna: …and his chaplain.
[From the floor]: Who was effectively the Pretorian Guard and knew every movement.
Joanna: This is what I was saying. As I said, my own experience from writing biographies is that you can place precisely this. And it is tricky, fiddly work but not difficult in the marathon sense, it is actually the stuff of the research you are doing and in its own way very satisfying when you produce something readable and interesting and relevant. I’m particularly interested in the comment that it was not to that extent a complex case. I am concerned about the new allegations for the same reason and your point about openness, how long it will take, seems to me very relevant to ask, and the case you mentioned the same, justice delayed is justice denied, isn’t that another tenet. And I think openness is very important. And I am absolutely unconvinced of any need to refer to Bishop Bell if new allegations to refer to him. I would have thought it important that his name is not mentioned, precisely in order that things can be looked appropriately. It would be better if people said further investigation about some historic cases would allow research to be done without prejudice in the first instance.
[unattributed]: Can I add on this business of delay: One of the curious, it is not curious but many people won’t realise, is that because I have argued very strongly for good process in the case of Bell, a number of victims of the church, if you like, have been in touch with me and I have received confidences and all sorts of stories and some of which I have brought to the church, and what is fascinating is that they actually say the same things. They say the delay is appalling. One of the worst things that I have heard is one or two of them have said it wasn’t the abuse that lost me my faith, it was how the church responded to the abuse that lost me my faith so this is, although we argue or criticise for the delay, it is not just for Bell, it is for the living people today.
Jules: If I may add to that, if my memory of Franz Kafka’s [book], The Trial, is correct, when you are accused of something, very often you are not even told what the accusations are and for example, when I asked if someone makes a complaint against you, can you show me the complaint, what the person has actually said, I was threatened with a clergy discipline measure if I did not co‑operate. It is absolutely ridiculous because it is a natural principle of justice. You are told who your accuser is and what precisely the complaint is.
[unattributed]: If you want Kafka, I can go beyond that: I have heard through a colleague, personal colleague, of a complaint where somebody allegedly misused social media. And many, many, many, weeks afterwards, they would not even tell him which of the social media communications was the offending one. Now, it is impossible to say that was a confidential communication because it had been put out through social media to the world, and he was the origin of it. So, why it could not have been identified makes no sense at all. This is a measure of the confusion that is on the ground.
Jules: There is also the sad collaboration, and here I’m speculating but on the basis of very good evidence, and thank God, The Telegraph seems to have been an exception to this, between the press boys of Lambeth Palace and between certain elements of shall we say the more scurrilous press, that when a judgment is made it is immediately released with the intention to defame the person, and it can get to be quite complex, what is released are the juicy bits that the press boys of Lambeth know that the secular press are going to run after and that completely destroys and defames the character of the person who has been accused and perhaps convicted and makes it difficult in this world where you can Google something about anybody and find how to clear your name….
Joanna: Thank you for your contribution.
Ivor Smith Cameron: My name is Ivor Smith Cameron and what I have to say may not be of much significance, but Mr George Bell was deeply significant in my life. He ordained me deacon in December 1954. In the parish church of Saint Georges Whyke in Chichester. He ordained me priest the following year in his cathedral. I knew him reasonably well, I was often in his home in Chichester Palace. His wife Henrietta, whom he called “Hetty” and he, were very kind hosts to me and on many occasions I was in and out of his home often. He was part of our church life on many occasions and for many events, confirmations and so on.
Never, ever, have I ever had the slightest whiff of anything other than being in the presence of a great man, a great humanist. I myself, a product of the Churches House India, was very much valued by him because of my connection. Members of the church of south India, and I remember well the moderator of the church of south India at that time, Bishop Michael Horitt, was often at the palace, and very often Bishop Bell would invite many of us with connections with the church of south India to a meal.
I deeply regret this traducing of a great man and I wish to add my own support to those who are trying now to remove and obliterate such an attempt. Thank you.
Christopher Hoare: My name is Christopher Hoare. I come from Chichester. I hesitate to enter the debate because it has been so big so far, but I wanted move it to Chichester. I gather the Registrar of the diocese is here to report back but we haven’t spoken about the vicious way in which the Dean and chapter obliterated all memorabilia of George Bell as soon as the announcement was made. We haven’t spoken about George Bell House. Dave Hopkins can’t be here but he was a trustee, there were only four left by the time he gave their last, just under a million pounds for the construction of George Bell House as it is now, and they would be turning in their grave if they thought the visitor who visited them regularly every single week when he was in England, and they loved him, if they thought it was called 4 Cannon Lane. I have actually changed my will: I left a legacy to the diocese, which has been removed until such time in my lifetime that 4 Cannon Lane will become George Bell House and they[‘ll] have to be quick because I’m 86, but I was hoping that we would also possibly try and get the Dean and Chapter of Chichester to apologise and restore so much of the memorabilia which was destroyed when the announcement was originally made. Thank you.
Joanna: We will come to the resolutions, it seems to be an appropriate guide in, it sounds perfectly dreadful but before anyone else leaves, would you mind if we have a collection. I know this sounds awful, but we have had to hire the room and it would be handy if we could have a collection. I thought we could use my make‑up bag. So if people would be kind, could we possibly have collection before everyone goes, otherwise it will be frightfully embarrassing. I don’t know what they make you do at Church House if you don’t pay, but they might make us stay and do the washing up for weeks and weeks, so could people be very kind and put money in the collection thing.
Meanwhile, we will come to the resolutions which are relevant to your helpful intervention. And one more question.
[unattributed]: I’m also from Chichester. We have heard that the Church of England’s announcement yesterday which used the word ‘information’ has been changed overnight to ‘allegation’. But I am concerned last night’s notice from the church said this information will be investigated by the core group. They are apparently going to investigate this new information. That seems to me very dangerous indeed. I don’t know where we make the point about that but it was definitely in last night’s statement that the core group are now involved.
Joanna: I hadn’t noticed the significance.
[unattributed]: It is not in today’s paper but it was in the statement last night.
Joanna: I was aware, it worries me because the core group will single out the criticism in the Carlile report
[unattributed]: And half didn’t attend the meetings anyhow.
Joanna: It was one of those bureaucratic meetings.
[unattributed]: I’m not sure it is the same group, it may be a different group, I don’t know but I think one has to. It could be the core group of the national safeguarding team rather than the core group at Chichester.
[unattributed]: We need to clarify that.
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