Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Archbishop's statement on Bishop Bell: media coverage

BBC Bishop George Bell not to be cleared over ‘abuse’

Guardian Archbishop refuses to retract George Bell statement

Telegraph Justin Welby under fire over refusal to say sorry over ‘trashing’ of Bishop George Bell’s name

Church Times Welby declines to lift the cloud hanging over Bishop Bell

Christian Today Archbishop of Canterbury stands by statement saying there is a ‘significant cloud’ over Bishop George Bell’s name

Press Association via Daily Mail Archbishop of Canterbury refuses to clear late Bishop Bell of child sexual abuse

Premier Radio Justin Welby: ‘I cannot with integrity rescind my statement’ on Bishop George Bell

Peter Hitchens What Does the Archbishop Think He is Doing?. This is a lengthy and detailed rebuttal of Welby’s statement which needs to be read in full. Here’s an extract:

…Mr Welby, in his very thin responses to the Carlile report, has never really addressed this. He has said that the report didn’t rule on Bell’s guilt or innocence, an almost childishly absurd response, since Mr Welby had told Lord Carlile in his terms of reference that he could not rule on this. In any case, Lord Carlile has repeatedly said since, in response to media questions, that no court would have convicted George Bell on the evidence which has been produced against him. It is clear that had Lord Carlile been asked to rule on George Bell’s guilt or innocence, he would have pronounced him ‘not guilty’. So what, precisely is the evidence on which the Archbishop of Canterbury, supposedly spiritual leader of millions, guardian of the foundations of truth and justice, maintains that there is still a ‘cloud’ over George Bell’s name? Does he have second sight? Does he know something he is not telling us? If so (though I cannot see how this can be so) , why will he not say what it is? If not, why is he of all people exempted from the good rule, surely Biblical in origin, that if you cannot prove that a man is guilty, he is innocent and you shouldn’t go round saying that he is guilty just because in some way it suits you to say so. Some miserable rumour-monger in a pub might be entitled to drone that there is ‘no smoke without fire’, but not the inheritor of the See of Saint Augustine, I think. I doubt Mr Welby is familiar with the catechism in his own Church’s Book of Common Prayer, it having fallen rather out of use since that Church became happy and clappy. But I am sure the Lambeth library can find him a copy, and point him to the passage in which the candidate for confirmation is asked ‘What is thy duty towards thy neighbour’? I commend it to him…

Separately, a Question was asked in the House of Lords yesterday about this matter, and the full Hansard record of what was said, by Lord Lexden, Lord Cormack, and others can be read here.

Lord Lexden asked:

I urge my noble friend to study a recent report by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, into the way in which a group within the Church of England investigated a single uncorroborated allegation of child sex abuse against one of the greatest of all Anglican bishops and a prominent Member of your Lordships’ House, George Bell, who died 60 years ago. While the noble Lord was precluded from reviewing the Church’s decision to condemn Bishop Bell, it is clear from his report that the case against that truly remarkable man has not been proved, to the consternation of a number of Members of this House including my noble friend Lord Cormack. I ask my noble friend to consider the recommendation from the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, that,“alleged perpetrators, living or dead, should not be identified publicly unless or until the Core Group has … made adverse findings of fact, and … it has also been decided that making the identity public is required in the public interest”.

Should there not be a legal requirement in all cases to ensure that that is met before anyone, alive or dead, is named publicly? Does my noble friend agree that institutions of both Church and state must uphold the cardinal principle that an individual is innocent until proved guilty?

And Lord Cormack said:

My Lords, I urge my noble friend to think again on this. It is a deeply shocking case. The reputation of a great man has been traduced, and many of us who are Anglicans are deeply ashamed ​of the way that the Anglican Church has behaved. This can surely be a spur to the Government to review the law to try to protect the anonymity of people who are accused of something years—decades—after their death with one uncorroborated alleged witness. Please will she take this on board and talk to the Secretary of State about it?

The Bishop of Peterborough said:

My Lords, this has been a very difficult case, but Bishop Bell is not the only person whose reputation has been severely damaged by such accusations—some are dead and some still alive. I urge the Minister and the Government to take very seriously the call for a major review of anonymity. In all cases where the complainant has a right to be anonymous, there seems to be a case for the respondent also to be anonymous, and in cases until there is overwhelming evidence to suggest guilt, it seems reasonable for people’s reputations not to be damaged in this public way.

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Monday, 22 January 2018

Statement from Archbishop of Canterbury following letter from historians regarding the Bishop George Bell case

We noted here more criticism of response to Carlile report, including a letter from seven academic historians criticising the Archbishop of Canterbury’s comments in response to the Carlile report. The Archbishop has now released this statement in reply.

Statement from Archbishop of Canterbury following letter from historians regarding the Bishop George Bell case
Monday 22nd January 2018

Archbishop Justin Welby said today:

Following a letter sent to Lambeth Palace and also to the Telegraphnewspaper by a group of academics, I felt it important to send a considered, personal response and this statement reflects the essence of my reply.

“I cannot with integrity rescind my statement made after the publication of Lord Carlile’s review into how the Church handled the Bishop Bell case. I affirmed the extraordinary courage and achievement of Bishop Bell both before the war and during its course, while noting the Church has a duty to take seriously the allegation made against him.

“Our history over the last 70 years has revealed that the Church covered up, ignored or denied the reality of abuse on major occasions. I need only refer to the issues relating to Peter Ball to show an example. As a result, the Church is rightly facing intense and concentrated scrutiny (focussed in part on the Diocese of Chichester) through the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). Our first hearing is in March.

“The Diocese of Chichester was given legal advice to make a settlement based on the civil standard of proof, the balance of probability. It was not alleged that Bishop Bell was found to have abused on the criminal standard of proof, beyond reasonable doubt. The two standards should not be confused. It should be remembered that Carol, who brought the allegation, was sent away in 1995, and we have since apologised for this lamentable failure; a failure highlighted by Lord Carlile.

“I wrote my response with the support of both Bishop Peter Hancock, the lead bishop for safeguarding, and Bishop Martin Warner, the Bishop of Chichester. We are clear that we accept all but part of one of the recommendations Lord Carlile makes and we are extremely grateful to him for what he has done and the help he has given the Church.

“He indicates that in his judgement, a better way to have handled the allegation would have been for the Church to offer money on condition of confidentiality. We disagree with this suggestion. The confidentiality would have been exposed through the IICSA process, and the first question we would have faced, both about Bishop Bell and more widely, would have been ‘so what else are you concealing?’. The letter from the historiansdoes not take into account any of these realities, nor the past failures of the Church. But we will go on considering how we can make our processes better and more robust, as pointed out by Lord Carlile.

“As in the case of Peter Ball, and others, it is often suggested that what is being alleged could not have been true, because the person writing knew the alleged abuser and is absolutely certain that it was impossible for them to have done what is alleged. As with Peter Ball this sometimes turns out to be untrue, not through their own fault or deceit, but because abuse is often kept very secret. The experience of discovering feet of clay in more than one person I held in profound respect has been personally tragic. But as I said strongly in my original statement, the complaint about Bishop Bell does not diminish the importance of his great achievements and he is one of the great Anglican heroes of the 20th Century.”

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Sunday, 21 January 2018

Bishops decline to request any new Transgender liturgy


Jonathan Petre reports for the Mail on Sunday that: Church of England bishops throw out Synod demand for prayer celebrating a transgender person’s change of sex.

Church of England bishops have blocked the introduction of a new prayer celebrating a transgender person’s change of sex.

The House of Bishops was strongly urged to draw up the ‘baptism-style’ services for sex-change Christians by the Church’s ‘Parliament’, the General Synod, last summer.

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, was among senior figures who implored Synod members to vote for a motion asking the bishops to consider new official liturgies designed to welcome a transgender person under their new name.

The Reverend Chris Newlands, who proposed the motion, said it was ‘a wonderful opportunity to create a liturgy which speaks powerfully to the particularities of trans people, and make a significant contribution to their well-being and support’.

But The Mail on Sunday has learned that the bishops rejected the move at a private meeting at Lambeth Palace last month.

One senior member of the Synod said: ‘I am surprised that they have decided that new liturgies weren’t necessary given the force of the arguments and the feeling of Synod. You need to be able to respond to people’s life events.

The Reverend Christina Beardsley, a transgender woman and a Church of England chaplain who attended the Synod debate, said she was ‘very disappointed’.

Dr Beardsley, a member of the transgender group the Sibyls, said many Christians would be hurt by the decision, which showed that the bishops ‘don’t seem to be engaging with transgender people’…

The Church of England has today issued a news item: Welcoming Transgender People – an update

Following the debate and vote at General Synod in July 2017 on Welcoming Transgender People, the House of Bishops has prayerfully considered whether a new nationally commended service might be prepared to mark a gender transition.

The Bishops are inviting clergy to use the existing rite Affirmation of Baptismal Faith. New guidance is also being prepared on the use of the service.

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, said: “The Church of England welcomes transgender people and wholeheartedly wishes for them to be included in the life of the Church.

“On the matter of whether a new service is needed, the House of Bishops has decided that the current service that is used to affirm baptism can be adapted.

“Clergy always have the discretion to compose and say prayers with people as they see fit.”

A paper discussing the decision will be published before the February session of Synod.

The service can be found here, under the full heading: ‘Affirmation of Baptismal Faith within a Celebration of Holy Communion’.


OneFaithOneBody responded to this statement on Sunday evening: Into the long grass - again

Campaign group accuses bishops of ‘kicking trans people into the long grass’

The leading LGBT Christian campaigning group, OneBodyOneFaith has accused the Bishops of the Church of England of ‘kicking trans people into the long grass’ following their decision not to commend special services of welcome following gender transition and naming, despite General Synod passing a Motion in July which called for them to consider such a move. The news was leaked to the Daily Mail and had Church House officials scurrying to issue a clarifying statement today, Sunday 21 January.

Tracey Byrne, CEO and a General Synod member said, ‘This feels like kicking trans people into the long grass – just like the wider LGBT communities were kicked into the long grass by the bishops’ woeful report last February. More fine words about welcome - but denying trans people the services and pastoral support they themselves have told us would actually make a real difference.’

She went on to say, ‘It’s no particular surprise that the bishops have fallen so short of the mark, given their failure to consult with or listen to trans people’s experiences, but that’s no excuse. Officially authorised services would have sent a strong message from the very top of the institution that trans people really matter; that was the message at July synod. Sadly once again the bishops have failed to step up to the challenge set them by General Synod, the Church’s own governing body.’

Canon Peter Leonard, Chair of OneBody and also a General Synod member, said that he already knew of many positive examples of clergy devising beautiful and moving services for trans people, and that he felt it likely they would continue to do so, but that such a situation could not be allowed to remain the church’s official position. He said, ‘All those of us who want to see a church which reflects the radical inclusion of Jesus will stand alongside our trans sisters and brothers who are once more being let down by the church of which we’re a part. Our message to the bishops is simple, as it was last February; we’ll work with you, but we won’t wait for you. This latest move demonstrates once more that they are out of step not just with the mind of Synod, but with the broader church and society too’ He said OneBody would be working with its partners and allies on General Synod and in the wider church to continue to press for change, and to ensure that the voices of those who had most to add to the debate – trans people themselves - did not continue to be relegated to the sidelines.

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Saturday, 20 January 2018

Discerning in Obedience: the Crown Nominations Commission

On the afternoon of Thursday 8 February, the synod will hear a presentation about GS Misc 1171 and this will be followed by a “Take Note” debate. An hour and a half has been allocated for these items:
Discerning in Obedience: A theological review of the Crown Nominations Commission.

This is the report of the theological review group set up in Autumn 2016 under the chairmanship of Professor Oliver O’Donovan, and which concluded its work in Autumn 2017. An interim report of its work was delivered at the July 2017 meeting of synod.

The report itself is 40 pages long and should undoubtedly be read in full. It is of a quality far superior to all recent Church of England reports.

The full membership of the group was:
- The Revd Professor Sarah Coakley - Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity, University of Cambridge;
- Professor Tom Greggs - Marischal Professor of Divinity, University of Aberdeen;
- The Most Reverend Josiah Idowu-Fearon - Secretary General of the Anglican Communion;
- The Revd Professor Morwenna Ludlow - Professor of Christian History and Theology, University of Exeter;
- The Revd Professor Oliver O’Donovan FBA (chair) - Emeritus Professor of Christian Ethics, University of Edinburgh, Honorary Professor of Divinity, University of St Andrews;
- Father Thomas Seville CR - Faith and Order Commission;
- The Revd Dr Jennifer Strawbridge - Associate Professor of New Testament Studies, University of Oxford;
- The Revd Canon Dr James Walters - Chaplain and Senior Lecturer, London School of Economics

There is another document which has been published to accompany this debate, GS 2080, with the same title. This sets out the background to the report, and lists a series of proposed actions by which the recommendations should be progressed. (This section is copied below the fold.) It is then followed by an annex of 11 pages of tables which list out, not only all the recommendations of this report, but also all the CNC-related recommendations of the report by Sir Philip Mawer, the Independent Reviewer, on the Review of Nomination to the See of Sheffield and Related Concerns.

Progressing the reflections and recommendations
11. It is proposed to progress work through a number of existing bodies. In addition, the Archbishops will, in consultation with the Appointments Committee, establish a small oversight group to monitor the progress on the discussion and implementation of recommendations. This group will report back to General Synod, starting in July. This structure will allow improvements to current processes to progress whilst proposals requiring wider consideration can be addressed over a longer timescale. In addition, the theological reflections set out in the report will provide the underpinning for the longer-term work.

12. Archbishops and Central Members to

  • Review proposals about changes to the culture and operation of the CNC and Vacancy in See Process not requiring Standing Order changes and which can be introduced on an ongoing basis. This will enable the introduction of some of the recommendations over the next few months - indeed some are already in place; and
  • Report to General Synod in July 2017 following the meeting of central members in March 2017. [presumably typographical errors: should be in 2018]

13. The Secretary General of the Archbishops Council to be invited to

  • Liaise with the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion and the Diocese of Canterbury in relation to exploring proposals in relation to the nomination to the See of Canterbury following which the Archbishops Council to develop recommendations for consideration by General Synod for this See (and also for the See of Dover) and to report back to General Synod when this work is completed.

14. The Appointments Committee to be invited to set up a working group to

  • Review the process for election of Central Members to the Crown Nominations Commission and diocesan representatives to the Vacancy in See Committee to report to General Synod in 2019.

15. The House of Bishops, through the Development and Appointments Group, to be invited to

  • Reflect on the nature of episcopacy in the light of Section 3 of the report “Discerning in Obedience: A Theological Review of the Crown Nominations Commission”, learning from the Leadership Programmes they have participated in and aspirations as set out in nominations processes; and
  • Reflect on the purpose, nature and management of the Strategic Development Programme and Episcopal Lists.

16. The Standing Orders Committee to be invited to

  • Consider the proposed changes to Standing Orders following consultation with the central members of the Crown Nominations Commission. Changes would be progressed and discussed through General Synod in the normal way.
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Opinion - 20 January 2018

Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Can the C of E learn a lesson or two from Tim Farron
Speaking of inclusivity and disagreement

David Walker Via Media.News A Changing View From Across the Pond…

Three related Church Times articles
Why I left church in my teens - A poll of parents has suggested that 14 is the average age when their children stopped going to church. Five people reflect on why they left as teenagers
Becca Dean It’s time to start listening - The insights of the young and frustration that they voice are gifts to be received
Hannah Barr What I wish the Church knew about young people - It’s hard to be a young person. What each needs to be shown is grace

Clifford Longley The Tablet Is it time for the bishops to make a ‘bonfire of their vanities’?

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 20 January 2018 at 11:00am GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Friday, 19 January 2018

General Synod agenda - press reports

Updated Saturday night

Like the official press release, press reports on the agenda for next month’s meeting of the Church of England General Synod concentrate on one item.

Olivia Rudgard The Telegraph Church of England set to lobby Government over rising Down’s Syndrome abortions

Harriet Sherwood The Guardian Down’s syndrome test could see condition disappear, C of E warns

Madeleine Davies Church Times C of E report seeks neutral approach to new Down’s test
More heavyweights wanted on the Bishops’ bench

Harry Farley Christian Today CofE to consider call for women pregnant with Down’s syndrome babies to get ‘unbiased’ information
Church of England braced for ‘controversial’ next step in ending 200-year split with Methodists

Cara Bentley Premier Valuing people with Down’s Syndrome on Church of England’s General Synod agenda

Anglican Communion News Service Anglican Communion primates invited to Church of England’s General Synod


Olivia Rudgard The Telegraph Church of England braced for ‘controversial’ vote on using Methodist ministers

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General Synod papers published

The Church of England has issued the press release below about papers for next month’s meeting of General Synod.

See my previous article for my list of papers.

General Synod papers released

People with Down’s Syndrome should be welcomed, celebrated and treated with dignity and respect, members of the Church of England’s General Synod will hear next month.

A motion affirming the dignity and humanity of people born with Down’s Syndrome is to be discussed by the General Synod at its February sessions in London. It comes as a new form of prenatal screening, Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT), is set to be rolled out in the NHS to women deemed to be at ‘high-risk’ of having a child with Down’s syndrome.

The motion welcomes medical advances and calls for the Government and health professionals to ensure that women who have been told that their unborn child has Down’s Syndrome are given comprehensive, unbiased information on the condition.

A background paper, Valuing People with Down’s Syndrome, produced by the Church of England’s Mission and Public Affairs Council is among documents released today.

With the UK throwing away £13bn of food every year food waste is another social issue to be debated by the General Synod.

Other subjects on the agenda include a presentation on safeguarding, the development of new monastic communities, and proposals for bringing the Church of England and the Methodist Church into communion with one another and enabling interchangeability of ministries.

For the first time, the General Synod will welcome a group of representatives from other Anglican Communion provinces.

Archbishop Moon Hing of South East Asia, Archbishop Humphrey of Pakistan, Archbishop Thabo, from South Africa and Archbishop Winston Halapua, Bishop of Polynesia and Primate (Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia) will attend the February sessions.

The General Synod will meet at Church House Westminster from Thursday February 8 to Saturday February 10.

A full set of papers from the first circulation is available on the Church of England website.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 19 January 2018 at 10:48am GMT | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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February General Synod - online papers

The first batch of papers for next month’s meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod are now available online. The remaining papers will be issued on 26 January and I will add links when these become available.

zip file of all first circulation papers

Papers in numerical order with a note of the day scheduled for their consideration are listed below the fold.
Synod meets from Thursday 8 to Saturday 10 February 2018.


GS 2029D Amending Canon No. 36 (Enactment) [Friday]
GS 2029DD Amending Canon No. 37 (Enactment) [Friday]

GS 2046A Draft Ecumenical Relations Measure (Revision) [Friday]
GS 2046Y Report by the Revision Committee [Friday]

GS 2047A Draft Amending Canon No. 38 (Revision) [Friday]
GS 2047Y Report by the Revision Committee [Friday]

GS 2064A Draft Church of England Miscellaneous Provisions Measure (Revision) [Friday]
GS 2064Y Report by the Revision Committee [Friday]

GS 2077A and GS 2077B Food Wastage [Friday]

GS 2078 Agenda

GS 2079 Guide to the February 2018 group of sessions (Report by the Business Committee) [Thursday]

GS 2080 Discerning in Obedience [Thursday]
[see also GS Misc 1171 below]

GS 2081 Companion Links and the Anglican Communion [Friday]

GS 2082 Appointment of the Chair of the Appointments Committee [Friday]

GS 2083 Church Property Measure (First Consideration) [Friday]
GS 2083x Explanatory Memorandum [Friday]
Table of Origins
Table of Destinations

GS 2084 Pensions Measure (First Consideration) [Friday]
GS 2084x Explanatory Memorandum [Friday]
Table of Origins
Table of Destinations

GS 2085 See of Richmond Petition for change of name to See of Kirkstall [Friday]

GS 2086 Mission and Ministry in Covenant [Friday]

GS 2087 Religious Communities [Saturday]

GS 2088 Valuing People with Down’s syndrome [Saturday]

GS 2089A and GS 2089B Long Term Sustainability of the National Health Service [contingency business]

Other papers

GS Misc 1171 Discerning in Obedience [Thursday]

GS Misc 1172 and GS Misc 1173 Safeguarding

GS Misc 1174 Digital Evangelism [Saturday]

GS Misc 1175 Code of Conduct

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 19 January 2018 at 10:35am GMT | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 18 January 2018

Bishop Bell: more criticism of response to Carlile report

Updated Saturday

First, Dr Irene Lancaster wrote in Christian Today Bishop George Bell was a hero who saved Jewish children. It is time his reputation was restored.

Then, Bishop Peter Hancock replied to this with Why the Church insisted on transparency with the George Bell case.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph reports that a letter has been sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury from seven academic historians criticising his comments in response to the Carlile report: Archbishop’s claims against Bishop George Bell ‘irresponsible and dangerous’.

The full text of the letter is copied below the fold.

Earlier criticism was reported here, here, and here. and there is another item not previously linked.


A further letter has been published in The Times:

Sir, As individuals much involved in the international ecumenical movement for Christian unity, we have written to the Archbishop of Canterbury welcoming the review by Lord Carlile of Berriew of the investigation by the Church of England into allegations of child sexual abuse by the late Bishop George Bell. We believe that in the light of the review Bell’s reputation should now be fully and unreservedly acknowledged and restored by the church.

Bell was a tireless worker for Christian unity and international peace and reconciliation. He belongs as a prophetic figure within the ecumenical movement just as much as he belongs as a bishop in his own church. The way in which the allegations against him were dealt with has shocked people well beyond both the Anglican communion and Britain. There has been a miscarriage of justice for one who himself fought so earnestly for the victims of injustice.

We with many others of different churches all over the world will now expect that the Church of England will acknowledge its responsibility to that wider community of which it is part and renew the respect due to George Bell, to the benefit of Christians everywhere and all who believe in justice and humanity.

Revd Dr Keith Clements, former General Secretary, Conference of European Churches;
Professor Jaakko Rusama, Lutheran Co-Moderator, International Anglican-Lutheran Society;
Professor John Briggs, former member, Executive Committee, World Council of Churches;
Dr Ferdinand Schlingensiepen, Pastor Emeritus, Evangelical Church of Germany, Dusseldorf;
Revd Canon Dr David Thompson, Emeritus Professor of Modern Church History, University of Cambridge;
Dr Guy Carter, Roman Catholic theologian and writer, York, Pennsylvania;
Bob Fy]e, General Secretary, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland;
David Carter, former secretary, Theology and Unity Group, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland;
John W de Gruchy, Emeritus Professor of Christian Studies, University of Cape Town;
Revd John W Matthews, Senior Pastor, Grace Lutheran Church, Apple Valley, Minnesota;
Dr Jacob Phillips, Theology and Religious Studies Programme Director, St Mary’s University, Twickenham

Both letters are reported on in the Church Times Welby is urged to withdraw George Bell ‘cloud’ statement after Carlile report:

THE Archbishop of Canterbury faces gathering international opposition and criticism over his response to the Carlile review of the Bishop Bell affair.

Two letters — one from seven academic historians, and another from 11 correspondents associated with the wider Church internationally and ecumenically — have been sent to the Archbishop. A third, from a group of theologians, is understood to be in preparation…

Dear Archbishop,

We are writing to you following the publication of Lord Carlile’s independent review of the case of Bishop George Bell and the public statement which you have issued in consequence. We wish to express our profound dismay with the position you have taken. We are all academic historians of the twentieth-century who have, over many years of university research, made our considered assessments of Bishop George Bell. Our many publications will speak for themselves. Lecturing students of history and teaching them the various crafts and responsibilities of credible historical analysis and interpretation has been central in our careers.

We regard George Bell as a significant historical figure and our assessment of his life and career has been an important aspect of our academic work. On this basis we suggest that our collective view on these matters constitutes a genuine and very pertinent authority. In your public statement of 15 December 2017, the authority of your position was used to perpetuate a single allegation made against Bishop Bell, and you did so in face of the independent review which the Church itself commissioned. We believe that your statement offends the most basic values and principles of historical understanding, ones which should be maintained firmly by those in positions of public authority across society. They must never be ignored or abused. You have insisted that a ‘significant cloud’ still hangs over Bishop Bell. It deepens the impression deliberately conveyed by previous Church statements by adding, purposefully: “No human being is entirely good or bad. Bishop Bell was in many ways a hero. He is also accused of great wickedness.” On what ground does such a statement now stand? In the past you have insisted that the Church’s view was based on an investigation that was ‘very thorough’.

But Lord Carlile has plainly, and utterly, devastated this claim. Historians and lawyers both attach great importance to the presumption of innocence. Your comment seems to imply that a case against Bell has actually been established. It has not. History cannot be made out of allegations. It is the study of sources. Lord Carlile’s review sets out the material of the allegation for everyone to assess for themselves, and he invites them to do so. There is nothing in it that connects in any way with what is firmly known about Bishop Bell. The allegation is not only wholly uncorroborated but is contradicted by all the considerable, and available, circumstantial material which any historian would consider credible. Furthermore, even on its own terms we find it to depend wholly on scenarios which simply could not have occurred, given what is firmly known and authoritatively established. There is no credible representation of personalities, relationships, patterns or locations which is remotely recognisable. Far from enhancing the allegation, the insistence on vivid quotations undermines critically a testimony in which the experiences of infancy are ‘recollected’, not immediately but at a distance of many decades. Even a modest historical sensitivity would have established the basic implausibility of such a testimony.

The material supporting this allegation does not in our view constitute a credible basis for the writing of history and it flies in the face of our customary critical method. It represents something quite different, an unhistorical, indeed anti-historical, testimony, explicable, perhaps, but in different terms. We cannot understand how such an unsupported, indeed insupportable, allegation can be upheld by a responsible public authority. Quite simply, it is indefensible. You have written that Lord Carlile’s review does not pronounce whether Bishop Bell was guilty or not. Yet the Terms of Reference by which Lord Carlile was invited to work by the Church itself deliberately excluded this. Now we do not believe that your office in itself gives you the authority to pronounce on the reputation of Bishop Bell in the manner you have done.

We are prepared, in this letter, to claim that authority. We state our position bluntly. There is no credible evidence at all that Bishop Bell was a paedophile. We state this after reviewing all that is known about his character and behaviour over many years. This letter is not the place to set that assessment out in detail but in the further consideration which must now be surely given we would be very willing to set it out clearly. We note, and emphasize, that there was never so much as a whisper of such an allegation in his lifetime. It is the testing of accusations which shows the integrity of a society, not the making of them. It is in no way to impugn the sincerity of the complainant, or to resist the claims of compassion, to say that the allegation seems to us self- evidently mistaken. We believe that the historical figure of George Bell is safe in the hands of historians even though, very sadly, it would appear to have been impugned from within his own Church of England. There is today no cloud at all over Bishop Bell. Nobody employing credible critical method could think otherwise.

Two of us are biographers of former Archbishops of Canterbury and we all acknowledge the many difficulties and pressures which any archbishop must face, not least in a position which Archbishop Lang once called ‘incredible, indefensible and inevitable’. None of us may be considered natural critics of an Archbishop of Canterbury. But we must also draw a firm line. The statement of 15 December 2017 seems to us both irresponsible and dangerous. We therefore urge you, in all sincerity, to repudiate what you have said before more damage is done and thus to restore the esteem in which the high, historic office to which you have been called has been held.

Professor Charmian Brinson
Professor Andrew Chandler
Professor John Charmley
Professor Michael J. Hughes
Professor Sir Ian Kershaw
Professor Jeremy Noakes
Professor Keith Robbins

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New ideas to secure England’s cathedrals for the future

Press release from the Church of England

The draft report referred to below is available for download here.

New ideas to secure England’s cathedrals for the future

England’s historic cathedrals are one of the real success stories of the Church in the 21st Century, but should make changes to secure them for the future, a report published today finds.

The paper from the Church of England’s Cathedrals Working Group sets out new ideas on how cathedrals could be governed and funded.

The proposals, emerging from seven months of meetings and discussions, aim to recognise and enhance the vital role that cathedrals play while building a robust framework for the future.

A consultation on the recommendations opens today, seeking views from interested groups.

They range from recommendations on how the structure of Chapter – a cathedral’s traditional governing body – could be reformed to new financial auditing processes.

The Working Group was set up by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York after a small number of cathedrals highlighted challenges in governance and management.

The working group consulted with people from all parts of the cathedral sector and elsewhere, including charities and wider civil society, to develop the proposals.

At the heart of the recommendations is the retention of Chapter as the governing body of a cathedral, but with a clearer emphasis on its governance role. There would be a separate management function provided by a Senior Executive Team who will oversee day- to-day cathedral operations.

The report also makes proposals on key areas of leadership, financial control, safeguarding, oversight of building projects and stresses the urgency of opening a dialogue with Government about state funding for cathedrals.

Adrian Newman, Bishop of Stepney and Chair of the Cathedrals Working Group, said: “Cathedrals buck the trends of numerical decline, exert a growing influence in civil society, and demonstrate an effective way of engaging with contemporary culture.

“They are inspirational in their impact on our national life and on the lives of millions of worshippers and visitors each year.

“We hope that the recommendations in our report will encourage a much closer collaboration between cathedral and diocese, dean and bishop and point towards good practice in a cathedral’s wider relationships with the diocese and the national church. The mutuality of these relationships is vital.

“In proposing changes to governance structures and aspects of cathedral operations, we do not wish to inhibit the entrepreneurial flair that has characterised so much that is good about the world of cathedrals nor impose unnecessary red tape.

“However, we are committed to ensure that cathedrals do not get into situations which prevent them from thriving in their role as pioneers in mission and ministry.

“England’s cathedrals are an immense gift to Church and nation, and we hope that our report can help to form a better understanding of how this gift can be nurtured and protected, celebrated and safeguarded long in to the future.”

Adrian Dorber, chair of the Association of English Cathedrals, and Dean of Lichfield, said: “Cathedrals are the nation’s treasures – from protecting invaluable heritage such as Magna Carta and ancient shrines to supporting social enterprises helping the homeless and the vulnerable and offering inspirational daily worship to lift the spirits and providing a place for the nation to come to be healed at times of mourning or national crisis.

“Surely no-one would argue with a fresh look at the way we are run and financed, so we are excited about where this report may take us and look forward to the responses the consultation may bring and the final report.

“Our cathedrals have been here for hundreds of years, vibrant seats of mission, of learning, of heritage and of love, let’s ensure they are here for hundreds more.”

Notes for editors:

  • There are 42 Anglican cathedrals in England. More information here.
  • A review by the Faith Minister, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, published last month found that cathedrals play a crucial role in communities.
    It highlighted figures showing that cathedrals draw in an estimated £220 million per year in spending to local economies per year and provide more than 5,500 local jobs. Full details here.
  • The latest statistics on cathedrals show average weekday attendances were up, and visitor numbers exceeded 10 million in the past year, 16,500 people attended Fresh Expression services and 310,000 young people came to cathedrals through special educational visits, both of which were significant increases on previous years.
    Cathedrals continued to be centres of civic life, with 1.2 million people reported at 6,000 civic services and events throughout the year.
    More details here.
Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 18 January 2018 at 10:12am GMT | Comments (13) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Opinion - 13 January 2018

Jeremy Morris ViaMedia.News A Theology of Reception that Pays Attention to People…

Ali Campbell Church Times Home is where the faith is; so focus on the family
The reason why there are so few young people in the pews is clear — but is the Church listening?

David Voas Church Times A lost generation
Many congregations have fewer than five under-16s. The Church has failed to retain the children and grandchildren of its members, says

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 13 January 2018 at 11:00am GMT | Comments (52) | TrackBack
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Friday, 12 January 2018

Bishop of Ramsbury Announces Retirement

The Diocese of Salisbury has announced that the Suffragan Bishop of Ramsbury, the Rt Revd Dr Edward Condry, will be retiring at the end of April.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 12 January 2018 at 12:34pm GMT | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | News

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Opinion - 10 January 2018

Richard Peers Quodcumque God made it grow: panickers, deniers and the future of the Church

James Alexander Cameron Stained Glass Attitudes Bad art in cathedrals

Jonathan Draper Afterthoughts Official: Steve Chalke is the Anti-Christ!

Archdruid Eileen Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley The Bible is a Library

Julianne Simpson John Rylands Library Special Collections Blog What price would you pay?

Ian Paul Psephizo How much are clergy worth?

Jeremy Pemberton OneBodyOneFaith Why we are in business, and why we need you

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 10 January 2018 at 10:22am GMT | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion

Monday, 8 January 2018

Priest found guilty of spiritual abuse

Updated Friday

The Church Times reports: Oxfordshire vicar, Tim Davis, guilty of spiritually abusing a teenage boy.

The full text of the tribunal decision is here.

A VICAR in Oxfordshire has been convicted of spiritually abusing a teenage boy, in what is thought to be the first judgment of its kind. The victim was judged to have been put under “unacceptable pressure” during one-to-one Bible-study sessions in his bedroom over a period of 18 months.

The priest, the Revd Timothy Davis, of Christ Church, Abingdon, was found guilty under the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) 2003 of “conduct unbecoming or inappropriate to the office and work of a clerk in holy orders through the abuse of spiritual power and authority” by a five-strong Bishop’s Disciplinary Tribunal for the Oxford diocese, chaired by His Honour the Revd Mark Bishop. Their judgment is dated 28 December and was published by the diocese on Monday.

It is thought to be the first CDM tribunal that has found a case to answer over allegations of the abuse of spiritual power and authority. A penalty has not yet been set…

There are also reports in the Guardian and Telegraph newspapers and on the BBC website:

The Church Times also has this: Two-thirds of Christians in new survey say they have been spiritually abused.

The research report mentioned is available in summary form here.

VIa Media News has Are You Suffering From Spiritual Abuse?

Law & Religion UK reports this here: Clerical abuse of spiritual power and authority. There are links to some relevant policy documents.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 8 January 2018 at 10:35pm GMT | Comments (44) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 6 January 2018

Opinion - 6 January 2018 - Epiphany

From this week’s Church Times
Margaret Barker explores the legends and traditions of the Magi: Unpacking the gifts to the Christ-child
In a society that now functions around the clock, John Cheek looks at churches that are open to people ‘out of hours’: 24-hour parish people
The Corporation’s renewed commitment to religion is welcome — but we will keep asking hard questions, says Jan McFarlane: The BBC has listened; now for action

Charles Clapham pneuma Murder at the Vicarage

David Goodhew The Living Church A theology for Anglican church growth

Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Talking of mission: something old, something new.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 6 January 2018 at 11:09am GMT | Comments (25) | TrackBack
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Friday, 5 January 2018

Unrest in the Diocese of Aberdeen

Updated again Friday

Christian Today reports Scottish Episcopal Church clergy rebel after ‘divisive’ appointment of bishop to conservative diocese.

…A letter to bishops of the Anglican SEC on Friday accused them of fostering ‘disquiet and division’ by nominating Canon Anne Dyer, the first female bishop in the SEC who is also strongly in favour of gay marriage, to be bishop of the largely conservative Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney.

Dyer is now being urged to step down from her promotion with clergy protesting her appointment.

Two senior clergy have already quit over the issue and the letter threatens that ‘others are considering similar action’ in a diocese that is already struggling to fill a number of empty posts across its 41 churches…

To read the letter in full, and see the entire list of signatories, go to the original news article.

…The protest letter, seen by Christian Today, is signed by seven stipendiary priests, half the clergy in the struggling northern diocese, which was the only one of the SEC’s seven dioceses to reject the proposals to change its teaching on marriage, as well as several non-ordained senior churchgoers.

It accuses the bishops of being ‘divisive and also disrespectful’ by failing to appoint someone conservative clergy would agree with…

The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church has responded to this letter, which can now be more comfortably read from this copy.

Bishop Mark Strange’s reply can be read in full here.

…We have been greatly concerned to receive your letter. We regard it as particularly
regrettable that you have chosen to communicate with us by publicly releasing your
letter and press release without any prior indication to us of your intentions and we are
dismayed at the invidious position in which it places Canon Dyer as the Bishop elect of
the diocese. We deplore that you have sought to subvert the outcome of the canonical
process which led to Canon Dyer’s election. Members of the College are unanimous in
supporting Canon Dyer in her acceptance of election and will continue to support her
throughout her consecration and future episcopal ministry in the diocese…

Do read the whole response.

The Church Times reports this as Scottish Primus accuses protesters against next Bishop of Aberdeen & Orkney of ‘subversion’.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 5 January 2018 at 3:40pm GMT | Comments (57) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Scottish Episcopal Church

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Opinion - 3 January 2018

James Alexander Cameron Stained Glass Attitudes How to defuse the parish church crisis

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Letting go into . . .

Martin Sewell Archbishop Cranmer How has the Church of England failed to grasp the core finding of the Carlile Report, that a superficially ‘truthful’ complainant might be an unreliable historian of fact?

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 3 January 2018 at 11:00am GMT | Comments (22) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion