Thursday, 01 Febuary, 2018
Church House, Westminster
Joanna Bogle: Introducing our speaker, I’m going to outline something of the unusual circumstances that have brought us together this morning. The Church of England recently paid out a considerable sum of money to an anonymous person who announced that some half a century earlier, Bishop Bell of Chichester had criminally violated her. She said that she sometimes stayed at the Bishop’s Palace as a child and that he volunteered frequently to read to her and would then violate her sexually.
As the storm erupted following the lady’s story, the Church of England called an experienced and distinguished lawyer to carry out a full investigation to discover whether and how the church had paid out money while failing to ascertain some fuller facts about the alleged incident. Lord Carlile’s report was devastating, revealing that important information had not been obtained, contacts not followed up, areas of investigation ignored.
Following the report a number of distinguished men and women in the church and ecumenical world, and separately a group of distinguished historians, have each written to the Archbishop of Canterbury begging him to reconsider his statement that continued to assume Bishop Bell’s guilt.
Well, truth, and the ability to discuss it with courtesy and allow discussion without feeling that personal integrity is being abused, is essential in tackling what has now become a rather urgent matter of allowing due justice to Bishop Bell. We have a number of clergymen present. I don’t know who is the senior. I suggest we all place ourselves in the presence of God and say the Lord’s Prayer together with its concluding doxology.
(Lord’s Prayer recited)
I now invite Dr. Gomes to address us.
Rev’d Jules Gomes: It is a huge privilege for me address this gathering here, this conference this morning, and I want to say a very big thank you, particularly to Richard Symonds, the man behind this conference, and to Joanna and Sandra for their support, their wisdom, and their quite remarkable abilities in putting together what we have this morning.
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