Thinking Anglicans

Updates on the case of Bishop George Bell

We last reported on this matter on 24 January, when the Briden report was published. There have been some further developments:

The Church Times reported on 1 February: Welby welcomes plan for George Bell statue hours after apologising for Church’s handling of the case.

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has welcomed plans for a statue of the late Bishop of Chichester, George Bell, to be completed and installed in Canterbury Cathedral, hours after apologising for the Church’s botched handling of an allegation of sexual abuse against the Bishop.

Plans for the statue were halted in 2015, after a woman known as “Carol” alleged that Bishop Bell, a former Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, had sexually abused her in the 1940s, when she was nine…

And on 8 February: George Bell ‘should not have been named’ in Church’s settlement of sex abuse allegation.

THE blackening of George Bell‘s name would not have happened had there been a confidentiality clause governing the payment made to “Carol”, who accused him of sexual abuse, the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, said on Monday.

Dr Warner was addressing supporters of Bishop Bell at the Rebuilding Bridges conference, held at 4 Canon Lane, Chichester, to which supporters wish to see the name “George Bell House” restored…

The resolutions which the Bell Society has promoted for some time are these:

  1. Archbishop Justin Welby to apologise for his “significant cloud” remark concerning Bishop Bell
  2. Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, to invite Barbara Whitley, Bishop Bell’s niece, for a face-to-face meeting. 
(She has already requested such a meeting.)
  3. Chichester Cathedral’s Dean and Chapter to restore the name of 4 Canon Lane  to George Bell House
  4. Chichester Cathedral’s Chancellor and Canon Librarian, the Rev’d Dr Anthony Cane, to permit the reinstatement of Bishop Bell’s portrait and plaque
  5. Chichester Cathedral’s Dean, the Very Rev’d Stephen Waine, to correct page 37 of the Cathedral Guide: Society and Faith
  6. The General Synod to undertake a Full Debate at the earliest opportunity, regarding the serious implications arising from Lord Carlile’s Report

It will be interesting to see if Questions asked at General Synod next week produce any further answers.

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Richard W. Symonds
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Here is the discussion relating to the Bell Society Resolutions which took place at the ‘Rebuilding Bridges’ conference in Chichester two weeks ago (Feb 4):

http://rebuildingbridges.org.uk/2019/02/05/03-the-resolutions/

Lord Carlile’s Statement relating to Bishop Bell’s innocence was also read out at the conference – which many regarded as a ‘show-stopper’. The possibility of lodging a Clergy Disciplinary Measure [CDM] against Archbishop Welby and Bishop Warner – following Lord Carlile’s Statement – was discussed after the conference.

David Lamming
Guest
David Lamming

Simon comments, “It will be interesting to see if Questions asked at General Synod next week produce any further answers.” Those questions include this from me, to the Chair of the House of Bishops: “Has the House of Bishops considered encouraging the Archbishop of Canterbury to revisit the judgement he expressed on 15 December 2017 (on publication of the Carlile Review) that ‘a significant cloud is left over [Bishop Bell’s] name’, particularly in view of the Briden Report dated 17 January 2019 and the recent statement by Lord Carlile that ‘The Church should now accept that my recommendations should be… Read more »

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

This is the same Bishop Warner who said, in February 2016, “The presence of strident voices in the public arena which have sought to undermine the survivor’s claims has added in this case to the suffering of the survivor and her family.” I’ve not seen him explicitly retract this appalling statement.

So, if he hasn’t, does he now consider himself a “strident voice,” or does he believe that someone he considers a child abuser should be masked by a cloak of secrecy? Which is it?

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Yes, the Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner chose to misrepresent the “strident voices”. Most of those voices were sympathetic towards ‘Carol’ as it seemed clear she was abused by someone in authority at Chichester. But it became very clear that someone was not Bishop Bell. Any stridency of voice was directed at a powerful Church cabal (including ++Welby & +Warner] which was refusing to believe any possibility of mistaken identity. The conclusions of both the Carlile and Briden investigations make it abundantly clear that Bishop Bell should be declared innocent – Lord Alex Carlile QC has explicitly stated that in… Read more »

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Absolutely. The sensitivity shown towards the complainant (including saying that she was rightly compensated for the church’s bungled response in the ’90s) is what makes the statement so egregious.

The continued tap-dancing — I note the refusal to restore Bell’s name to the buildings from which it was airbrushed — just compounds the errors that began with the initial, bizarre statement that, which its absurd references to arrest and bail, painted a image of guilt so strong it could’ve taken the form of a court sketch.

Whatever legal process is necessary to correct this, I say go for it.

peterpi -- Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi -- Peter Gross

I’m a total outsider, so perhaps I have no standing, but my comment and questions are more general in nature. My understanding is: A woman named “Carol” came forward with allegations that Bishop Bell had sexually abused her in the 1940s. Apparently, a settlement was reached with Carol, and that settlement was subsequently made public. As a result of “Carol’s” allegations, certain negative actions were taken regarding Bishop Bell, such as deleting his name from buildings, the Archbishop of Canterbury making certain negative remarks, and more. Now, Bishop Bell’s supporters want all those negative actions reversed or erased, Bishop Bell’s… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“I’m a total outsider, so perhaps I have no standing” Mr Gross, you have much the same “standing” as the child in ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’. “And, from what I can tell, ‘Carol’s’ allegations have been left open” No, the allegations of ‘Carol’ have now been ‘closed’ by the recent Statement of Lord Carlile of Berriew CBE, QC: “I hope that this event [‘Rebuilding Bridges’ Chichester Feb 4] will add to the clamour for the Church to admit the awful mistakes it has made in dealing with unsubstantiated allegations against Bishop Bell. His name should never have been publicised before… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

The only ‘significant cloud’ existing in this case is the one inside, and over, the head of Archbishop Welby.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

For “Dr Warren” read “Dr Warner” [Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester]

ED: typo fixed in original comment.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

The Church has pastoral responsibilities, primarily to the living survivor of abuse, but also a duty to the deceased person who may, or may not, have been guilty of the abuse. It’s a very fine and difficult balancing act. The aim, surely, should be to try to do justice as far as possible to both. But when something becomes a claim, whether or not people like it (this is an area where some clergy have difficulty in realising or accepting the fact), it becomes potentially a matter for the Civil courts and the claim will be investigated, tested and decided,… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

‘Carol’ should of course be “left in peace” – even though she herself has shown little inclination to do so – but Archbishop Welby and Bishop Warner cannot be allowed to do so.

They are preachers who understand the power of words, and leaders who understand the necessity of speaking the truth clearly.

They both need to unequivocally apologise for their weasel words regarding Bishop Bell.

There’s simply too much at stake for this matter to be ignored.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Yes, this has, for me, always been about the principle, not the person. I’ve no wish to disturb the complainant’s peace: focus is rightly on the bishops who refuse to climb down from the fence and accept the recommendations of their own hand-picked judges. If it’s allowed to slide, it has implications far beyond this case.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“A person can be authentically telling the truth as they perceive it, whilst being factually wrong. The case is not two dimensional – conflating distant traumatic memories of abuse with the identity of the alleged perpetrator are separate issues. There can be some resolution by affirming ‘Carol’ compassionately but acknowledging the margin for error in a young child’s mind, retold more than half a century later. The NST don’t need to bring Carol back into the situation at all. They just need to admit there is no evidence and the identity of her abuser is unknown. Lord Carlile has clearly… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

As I understand it, Lord Carlile was asked to review the process not all of the evidence. Consequently he was capable of forming a view that the process was flawed but incapable of determing whether the allegations were true. I don’t often, these days, agree with the Archbishop of Canterbury but I think he has struck the right balance: the process was deficient but it is impossible to “clear” Bishop Bell.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

So Kate, if I accused you of sexually abusing a member of your family without a shred of evidence it was you, and after two investigations it was clearly shown there was not a shred of evidence it was you, it would still be impossible to “clear” your name?

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Carlile’s narrow terms of reference are a cynical technicality imposed by a church that have no bearing on the judge’s ability to assess the accusation against Bell. Having seen the evidence, he’s more than capable of determining Bell’s guilt or innocence: in his report, Carlile concluded there was insufficient evidence to even press charges (a very low burden); and he’s now come out and said that he considers Bell to be innocent. He wouldn’t make that statement unless he was very sure of his position.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

General Synod 2019 – Church House Westminster Wednesday Feb 20 – 17.45-19.00 – Questions – David Lamming “Has the House of Bishops considered encouraging the Archbishop of Canterbury to revisit the judgement he expressed on 15 December 2017 (on publication of the Carlile Review) that ‘a significant cloud is left over [Bishop Bell’s] name’, particularly in view of the Briden Report dated 17 January 2019 and the recent statement by Lord Carlile that ‘The Church should now accept that my recommendations should be accepted in full, and that after due process, however delayed, George Bell should be declared by the… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

This is astonishing. In answer to David Lamming’s written question regarding Bishop Bell (Q 93), the Bishop to the Armed Forces – Tim Thornton – replies on behalf of Archbishop Welby: “The legitimate quest for certainty in connection with allegations made against the late Bishop George Bell has been defeated by the nature of the case and the passage of time. Bishop Bell cannot be proven guilty, nor can it be safely claimed that the original complainant, ‘Carol’, has been discredited. There is an uncertainty which cannot be resolved” This is word-for-word what the Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner said… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

This has become baffling beyond words.

But one can see that if mistaken identity were pursued that would open a fresh can of worms about allegations now being made against another deceased person.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

There is nothing “baffling” about this case. The facts are clear. A full apology is called for. The “fresh can of worms” is another issue entirely.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Mr Symonds: Why is it that when anyone tries to make a reasoned and balanced comment about this tragic saga, there is a vehement contradictory response from you? I was referring to the Church’s stance as baffling. I have a pretty clear view of the ‘case’, and made a submission to Lord Carlile which, in the event, he did not use, but replied very swiftly and courteously that others had already made the same point which – as it happens – was about possible mistaken identity. It’s worth emphasising (for the benefit of other readers) that contacting Lord Carlile was… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Mr Wateridge: my response to you [“vehement”?!) was such because you sounded like an apologist for the Archbishop, the Bishop of Chichester and the Bishop to the Armed Forces eg you accept that the process was flawed, but you do not accept Bell should be declared innocent in law.

The principle of the Presumption of Innocence must be upheld at all costs. If the principle of the Presumption of Guilt overcomes the Presumption of Innocence, none of us are safe.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Mr Symonds: You jump to conclusions too readily and sometimes wrongly. You had no basis whatsoever to assume that I am an apologist for the Archbishop. In fact I find it extraordinary that you could even consider saying that. “Baffling beyond words” doesn’t imply anything of the kind.

Sadly, as on the previous thread, I have to withdraw from further discussion here. I can accept vigorous debate when it is justified, but not unwarranted discourtesy.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Mr Wateridge, I am sorry if I showed you “unwarranted discourtesy” such that you feel you have to withdraw – it was never meant.

But you were not clear – your words were ambiguous thus creating misunderstanding.

On this issue, it is critical to be clear.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Says the Bishop to the Armed Forces Tim Thornton representing the Archbishop (in answering David Lamming’s Q93): “The House asks those who hold opposing views on this matter to recognize the strength of each other’s commitment to justice [Bishop Bell – Ed] and compassion [‘Carol’ – Ed]”. This seemingly innocuous remark is preposterous and divisive, insulting the intelligence of anyone who can think for themselves – and clearly. These weasel words by this Bishop – the exact same used by Bishop Warner – attempt to create two opposing ‘camps’ – one concerned with justice (Bishop Bell), the other concerned with… Read more »

Nick Flint
Guest
Nick Flint

I watched Synod live last night under the impression this question was going to be put, but it seems as though it was timed out. Does this mean it won’t be asked during this session of Synod? Further delays can only increase the harm. George Carey has put his finger on something with his reference to Martin Warner’s linguistic gymnastics. I am reminded of Martin’s remark that the way clergy appointments are conducted by him were ‘not illegal’.The bishop has the obedience of his clergy ‘in all things lawful and honest’. May that which is ‘not illegal’ yet be dishonest?… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

My guess is the ‘Bell’ questions were timed-out by a kind of ‘synodic filibustering’, but I might be wrong. I hope I am.

Let’s hope David Lamming reaches 100 signatures with his ‘Bishop Bell’ Private Members Motion (PMM).

It’s difficult not to be cynical – whatever ++Welby said about cynicism

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Agreed. The miasma of perpetual suspicion the church is attempting to leave hanging around Bell is disturbing in the extreme, and reinforces my point that this bungled investigation has implications that extend far beyond its immediate target.

They’re in effect demanding that his innocence be proved, a direct attack on its presumption. This can’t be allowed to rest.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“Bishop Bell cannot be proven guilty”, says the Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner and the Bishop to the Armed Forces Tim Thornton. As James Byron says: ‘They’re in effect demanding that his innocence be proved, a direct attack on its presumption. This can’t be allowed to rest”. And as the former Archbishop Lord Carey says: “‘…cannot be proven guilty’…is a very odd way to express the position that the Carlile and Briden Reports leave us in. If he cannot be proven guilty he is ‘de facto’ innocent”

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

If there’s reason to suspect another deceased person, by all means, investigate them. This is quite separate from clearing Bell’s name.