george bell justin welby
Church of England

How Bishop George Bell became a victim of Church of England ‘spin’ and a narrative of ‘decisive leadership’

This is a guest post by The Very Rev’d Professor Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford.


Some may begin to wonder how exactly the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team (NST) has operated in the case of Bishop George Bell. No living witnesses from the late 1940s or early 1950s were contacted by the team. Such people – relatives of Bell, neighbours and employees – could easily have corroborated or challenged “Carol’s” testimony. Bell’s own diaries (accessible, and in the public domain) appear not to have been consulted, and which reveal him to have been away on church business – including overseas tours – for some of the alleged periods of abuse. Bell’s biographer, Andrew Chandler – a historian of prodigious reputation – was never contacted by the Church of England’s NST. As Dr. Chandler notes, because George Bell was such a towering ecclesiastical, political and cultural figure, he was “the most closely observed bishop of the twentieth century”, with almost every detail of his life written about, scrutinised and noted. But Chandler didn’t receive so much as a phone call from the Church of England’s NST.

Despite these glaring gaps in basic investigative practice, the Bishop of Durham, who presided over the Church of England’s safeguarding until July 2016, consistently went on record assuring us that the process of inquiry into George Bell was ‘robust’, ‘thorough’ and ‘lengthy’. So what has happened here? How can a few senior executives and managers running a process as important as safeguarding, and backed to the hilt by a senior bishop, manage to preside over such a debacle?

You only have to look to the wider culture of the Church of England (and, indeed, of comparable and voluntary and vocational institutions) to see that this problem is endemic and extensive. The whole of the reform of the Church of England’s theological education is currently in the hands of an ex-banker, who has had a successful business career, but knows absolutely nothing about theology, theological education, or spiritual formation for ministry. He is backed to the hilt by a senior bishop, who acts as little more than an acolyte for the introduction of implementation of business principles into a rich body of expertise and practice that has worked extremely well for many decades, training outstanding ministers.

Somehow, though, business minds are allowed to opine that soft, voluntary and vocational ‘institutions’ are flabby and inefficient, and ripe for reform. What they need now is organisational scrutiny and business leadership. At the heart of this is a sense that measurable growth and rational organisation are relatively easy to introduce and reify within our institutions. But some commentators are less sure.

David Hare, in his play The Power of Yes (2009), has an imaginary conversation between a pro-organisation banker and someone working in public service, who works in an institution. The character speaking puts it like this:

…people say, ‘Oh get some private-sector people into the schools, that’ll sort them out.’ Actually I doubt if there are many jobs in finance as hard as teaching a class of fourteen year old boys in a tough school. Because business is in some way quite simple, it has clearly defined aims. The aim is to make money. So you have a measure against which to judge all the subsidiary actions which add up to the overall result. Managing a hospital is rather more complex. Because it’s very hard to know what your objective is. There’s no money-metric to help make the choice between better cancer care or having a better A&E. It’s a judgement call. And running a hospital is an endless series of judgement calls where the criteria and objectives are very far from clear. So don’t tell me that’s easier than making money.

Some years ago, I was present at a meeting when the then most senior executive-manager in the Church of England told a gathering of our most senior theological educators that “our days for doing theologies of education or for theological formation in training, or for church leadership, were over”. What he meant to suggest was this: that in the entire reconstruction of seminary or theological education, now imminent, there would be no theological thinking to reflect on the content or process of the new world being ushered in, or to construct the foundation upon which this new world would rest. All the decisions to be made were pragmatic, organisational and financial. Theology had no need to involve itself with the resulting reconstruction. The decisions would be made by executive-managers and strategists, and not by theologians.

It is hard to know where to begin critiquing such an approach. Here, therefore, the church might as well be a supermarket chain or car-plant; the only difference being that we are ‘selling’ God and trying to increase our customer-base through our outlets (i.e., churches). But such a viewpoint is little more than a form of idolatry. Now, the executive-manager proposing to exclude theology was no idolater, to be sure. But he was proposing a production plant and line – shaped and governed by salvific executive-management – and then placing it at the heart of our life and worship, in order to grow the number of consumers. And that is idolatry. In the Church of England, there is now a palpable sense of alienation within our polity. The Spectator magazine has reported on the ‘reformers versus opponents’ contest that underlies the growing ‘sense of exile’ many now feel inside the church:

A new mood has taken hold of Lambeth Palace. Officials call it urgency; critics say it is panic. The Church of England, the thinking goes, is about to shrink rapidly, even vanish in some areas, unless urgent action is taken. This action, laid out in a flurry of high-level reports, amounts to the biggest institutional shake-up since the 1990s. Red tape is to be cut, processes streamlined, resources optimised. Targets have been set. The Church is ill — and business management is going to cure it… Provoking more anxiety, though, is the emphasis on growth in numbers. Half of the central fund distributed to help poorer dioceses is to be diverted to support thriving projects. The previous system was thought to ‘subsidise decline’. The new approach, to be brought in over ten years, is meant to ‘incentivise…church growth and innovation and flexibility. (M. Greaves, ‘God’s management consultants: the Church of England turns to bankers for salvation’, p.18, 18 July 2015).

Most denominations are not alert to the dangers of uncritically inculcating management and business-think into their systems and structures. To an organisation that is panicking, or to an institution that believes itself to be in decline, the rewards of incorporating secular managerialism can appear tantalising.

So, appropriately enough, we return to the incorporation of managerialism in the Church of England, and its increasing reliance on numbers (‘ecclesionomics’) and growing faith in the power of organisational and administrative directives (‘ecclesiocracy’). To be sure, the Church of England is a complex and demanding institution, and good management at all levels will always be important. So what is at issue here? It probably lies in understanding the nature of the body that is the church, and appreciating that it needs a kind of leadership that may be less obvious to the secular, commercial, corporate sectors one usually finds in business.

Governance and accountability are an issue here, since (as Rollo May opined), structure is an expression of value. How the church is shaped and re-shaped reveals what its leaders (currently) value. A homogenous, pasteurised polity, in which all leaders are compliant and ‘on message’, will reveal a tight structure that resists diversity and an investment in celebrating a wide range of theological viewpoints. Of course, it is important to grasp here that the church is not simply an organisation struggling to cope with the complexity of cultural change. It is, rather, an institution. The distinction is a vital one to comprehend if one is to address the kind of archiepiscopal leadership that might be required. Here, the contrasts between organisations and institutions, usefully characterised in the early work of Philip Selznick, might be helpful in understanding the nature of the church (Selznick, Leadership in Administration, 1957).

Selznick argues that organisations primarily exist for utilitarian purposes, and when they are fulfilled, the organisation may become expendable. Institutions, in contrast, are ‘natural communities’ with historic roots that are embedded in the very fabric of society. They incorporate various groups that may contest with each other over the very nature of the institution and its values. Following Selznick, a church is much more like an institution, thereby requiring a particular kind of moral leadership from its ordained leaders (including character, compassion and wisdom), rather than (mere) management.

For Selznick, the very term ‘organisation’ suggests a certain rudimentary bareness; a kind of lean, no-nonsense system of consciously co-ordinated activities. It refers to an expendable and rational instrument engineered to do a job. An institution, on the other hand, is more of a natural product of the prevailing social needs and pressures – effectively a responsive, adaptive organism. This distinction, claims Selznick, is a matter of analysis, rather than of direct description. It does not mean that any given enterprise must be either one or the other.

While an extreme case may closely approach either an ‘ideal’ organisation or an ‘ideal’ institution, most living associations resist such easy classifications. They are complex mixtures of both designed and responsive behaviours. But assuming the Church of England is more akin to an institution than an organisation; this of course requires an extensive investment of time. There can be no quick-fixes in the church. Those conversations that are moral and theological need to engage with the reality of complex institutional life.

Thus, and according to Selznick, organisations tend to use ‘tools’ or means as they reach for definite goals; and their leaders deliver on this, in target and performance-related ways. The institutional leader, in contrast, is primarily an expert in the promotion and protection of values. And in one sense, this distinction between organisations and institutions can act as a helpful aid in reflecting upon and discerning the contrasting attitudes in the wider church.

Put bluntly, is the Church of England an inefficient, tangled and complex body that needs to be re-shaped organisationally? Or is it an institution in which its tangled and complex structures are, in fact, part of its very identity and value? Indeed, something like a family, perhaps, or even a ‘household of faith’ if one wanted to be more biblical about this – so not easy to organise, and not always obvious where membership begins and ends, and who belongs? It is neither fully one nor the other, of course.

So the wider culture in which the Church of England’s manifest failures and shortcomings in the Bell case can now be seen in a much clearer light. The problem is caused, to some extent, by the Church of England’s heavy over-dependence on the expertise of executive managers from secular or commercial contexts. Similar recent attempts by universities and hospitals to use ‘business models’ (and executive managers) from the private sector to lead such institutions have mostly ended unhappily – if not disastrously.  Sometimes the best people to run hospitals are actually doctors, or those with medical training. The best people to run universities or colleges are often (but not always) academics.

The more the church is treated as an organisation, the more its mission becomes focused on mechanistic techniques designed to maximise efficiency and to reify productivity. The church moves to being mechanistically driven; to becoming a managed machine, with its managers judging their performance by measurably-related metrics.  Invariably, the clergy and the congregations are made to collude with this – largely through the imposition of codes of compliance. This can rob clergy and parishes of their distinctive local autonomy, and can also override the value of local knowledge. It turns partnerships and soft forms of association rooted in trust into hard forms of organisation and corporation.

As two recent commentators note:

‘Professionals…value autonomy…[yet] there are many examples of professionals surrendering their autonomy in the face of managerial change agendas.  It has happened in health care, as management systems have been imported from automobile manufacturing, to control the workflow of doctors. It has happened in the law as traditional partnerships have becomes corporations.  Now even priests are being sent on management training courses in business schools…’ (Alvesson & Spicer, ‘(Un)Conditional Surrender?  Why Do Professionals Willingly Comply with Managerialism?’, Journal of Organisational Change Management, vol. 29, no.1., 2016, pp.29-45).

The problem the Church of England now has is that the executive managers who run these new organisational and business-orientated processes – all of which are backed up by secular reasoning that does not easily correlate with complex ecclesial institutional life – are endorsed by senior bishops who simply act as acolytes for the reforms.  The bishops collude with this, and one wonders why: weakness, fear, the lack of ecclesial comprehension and theological nous all seem to be potential factors.

The wider culture of the Church of England has promoted and prioritised executive managers and their processes over and against institutional patterns of vocational practice and the values of the institution. Time and again, managers and executives are found to be bullying clergy and congregations, telling them how they now need to be dominated by new management-led organisational paradigms. Some of this is right, appropriate and useful.  Some of it is not, and simply fails to understand the nature of the church and its ministry. And some of the managerial, executive and organisational paradigms and personnel being imposed are of very poor quality.

We see these problems in the proposed reforms of theological education, and in the proposed reorganisation of canon law. The same pattern is there each time: a failure of the managers driving the culture of change to consult with academics and theologians, and those with wider expertise who would challenge the authority and expertise of those managers. The reformers lack ecclesial comprehension: they don’t understand the nature of the body they seek to discipline, control and improve. Yet their power is unchecked.

We obviously cannot know what happened to “Carol” over 60 years ago, and we now may never know. We are obviously concerned for her, and her sense of what has befallen her. But the debacle over the Bell case was an accident waiting to happen. There clearly are serious cases – historic and current – that the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team needs to pursue. But equally, there are already too many instances of accused individuals and alleged abusers being judged and treated harshly – assumed to be guilty until proved innocent – only for us discover later that no charges are to be brought. The shadows that hang over these other victims, and the stigmatisation they endure, should not be overlooked.

The Church of England’s NST and the bishop now presiding over it need to consider their positions carefully. So, too, do senior staff in Lambeth Palace and the Church of England’s Media Centre, who self-propelled the ‘story’ of George Bell back in October 2015, attempting to ‘spin’ it as a narrative of ‘decisive leadership’. A thorough investigation into this case, and how it was handled – of the sort being conducted by Lord Carlile – would go some way into restoring broken trust, ensuring that there was accountability and fairness in future practices – for both victims and the accused – in a church and world that surely deserves better. But the Carlile Report is being ‘finalised’ by Lambeth Palace, and they have been doing so now for over a month. We don’t yet know what his findings are, but it is to be hoped that his investigation also examined how the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team might be audited in future, because we simply cannot afford a failure of process on this scale again. It must be hoped that the leadership of the Church of England will now find the humility and grace to recognise its failings in the Bell case, and resolve to do better.

The root of all evil is the abuse of power.  We now have a great many questions to ask of those in power.  Those who have used their power to abuse children, and those who have covered up such sins, cannot be allowed to hide. All must live in the light of justice and scrutiny. But equally, those with the powers to investigate such abuses must also become fairer and more transparent in their dealings with alleged and actual instances of abuse. There are now too many examples of the highest principles of natural justice, and those who turn out to be falsely accused, being sacrificed to lengthy, unfair and intrusive processes justified on grounds of repulsion and expediency.

On Bishop George Bell’s birthday (February 4th) I slipped next door to our Cathedral – where Bell had worshipped as an undergraduate and as a Junior Fellow – just before Evensong. I lit a single candle, leaving it on the altar that is dedicated to Bell and his tireless work for reconciliation and peace-making. And I prayed for three groups of people: the victims of sexual abuse, and those perpetrate such abuse; the victims of false accusation and those who perpetrate such falsehoods; and for all those engaged in the work of healing and justice in this most painful of pastoral and legal arenas. George Bell would, I think, have approved of the gesture. Much of his life was spent speaking out against reprisals. He spent his lifetime working for reconciliation and concord. Such peace can come, if those in power will work ever-more earnestly for justice and truth – and against all abuse.

  • Dominic Stockford

    I share Peter Hitchen’s dismay at the way this man has been treated, not only by the ‘accuser’ but also by the CofE and the media. It smacks of stories from a week or so ago and our commenter who was one of the unprotected abused.

    What I want to know, along with PH, is why the report, which was apparently concluded in October, has not been released. If there is real clear, indubitable evidence of what the CofE effectively claim Bp Bell did, then out with it. If there isn’t, then tell us, and repent of the way he has been treated.

  • magnolia

    Excellent. Strategy is a slippery concept, all too frequently not held up to proper Christian ethical accountability, in my -sometimes painful – experience. People are people and not chess pieces. Churches are places for growing spirituality and worship, not primarily venues to attract numbers, even if it has to come down to coffee and cake and a two minute prayer to please sufficient of the reluctant.

    Nor is a version of “wow, Lord, you have done lots for ME ME ME” in the latest set of fashionably vapid cliches and sung in an inaccurate mock American accent honouring to God, with inordinately sexual body language thrown in, while quietly ditching rich and textured masterpieces like “Glorious things…”

    All these are part of the same order bound to fail…

    The church should be run from Oxford, which is where every renewal of the Anglican church has ever really come from, and which values thought and quality and words not just the latest fashionable churchspeak.

    • Fine except the Oxford bit. Your stole – or whatever Anglos wear -is showing.

      • magnolia

        Stole? Don’t possess such a thing. I am a layperson, thanks, and not very excitable either way about ecclesiastical dress though I prefer the plainer to the dressier.

  • Martin

    Of course the model for organising and safeguarding in Christ’s Church has already been laid down for us by God in the Bible:

    The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

    Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
    (I Timothy 3:1-13 [ESV])

    This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
    (Titus 1:5-9 [ESV])

    In the second passage we should note that Paul speaks of overseers, or elders in every town. Paul does not speak of an overseer in a town and an overseer for that overseer. Thus we have every local church, or congregation of God’s people, having chosen from among their number a group of elders to govern that local church. They have no authority outside their local church. They have responsibility for the spiritual health of that church.

    Equally we see appointed a groups of servants who will look after the physical needs as the elders look after the spiritual needs.

    I see no evidence of the vast array of staff that the CoE employs in the Bible. There is no hierarchy mentioned, the local church is responsible to Christ alone and no one else.

    The hierarchy of the CoE was invented by men to give rank and power to men, it is unspiritual and the source of all sorts of evil. The idea that managers are needed is clearly contradicted by Scripture and thoroughly worldly in nature. It is time to start demolishing this edifice and reinstating what God requires. If that means some churches cease to exist, that is what should happen.

    • Ray Sunshine

      In the second passage we should note that Paul speaks of overseers, or elders in every town. Paul does not speak of an overseer in a town and an overseer for that overseer.

      What is Titus’s position, then? He is the one who’s been given the job of appointing local elders (or overseers) in every town in Crete.

      • Martin


        The overseers are chosen by the local church, Titus is there to see that it happens.

        • Ray Sunshine

          That’s not exactly what it says in the Bible, is it? I agree that it’s reasonable to assume—even though Paul doesn’t say it—that each community will be invited to choose its own overseers. But the men they choose won’t be appointed to the post of overseer until Titus says so. That’s the responsibility that Paul is giving him. Paul hasn’t authorised him to delegate this responsibility to the local communities. If Titus did that off his own bat, he might even be considered guilty of neglecting his duty.

          • Martin


            Certainly Titus would not be able to say who met the criteria and it doesn’t sem that Titus has ant other authority from Paul that to ensure things are set in order.

          • Ray Sunshine

            Read Paul’s words again.

            This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—

            You claim that Titus would not be able to say who met the criteria, in other words that it would be beyond Titus’s powers to obey the clear instruction that Paul is giving him here. Was Paul wrong to give Titus an order that he could not possibly obey?

          • Martin


            The members of the congregations would be the ones to identify those who met the criteria. Titus would be able to enlist them.

          • Ray Sunshine

            To enlist them in what capacity? To propose candidates for the position of elder or overseer? Yes, why not. It would then be Titus’s responsibility to appoint the candidates he found suitable and, of course, to reject the ones he didn’t.Titus would then be faithfully carrying out Paul’s instructions.

          • Martin


            It is the congregation who must accept them, Titus will leave.

  • Inspector General

    Yours is a good read, Percy. Well done sir!

    Gentlemen, one believes we have found the right individual who should head up the National Safeguarding Team. If he is so available, that is.

    Cantuar – see to it, will you…

    • He’ll get the Pink News vote too, Inspector. And Jeremy Corbyn’s.

      • Inspector General

        We can’t make use of his weaknesses Jack, only his strengths in other areas…

        • What strengths?

          • Inspector General

            True leaders of men don’t complain about their staff, Jack. What they do is to deploy them where they will add to, not subtract. Of course, this might seem to the outsider a case of ensuring they are placed somewhere where they can do least harm, but that is the leaders prerogative, and that’s that.

  • Excellent insight.

  • Ray Sunshine

    Prof. Percy says at one point, “We don’t yet know what his [Carlile’s] findings are,” but then with hardly a pause to take breath he goes on, “We simply cannot afford a failure of process on this scale again. It must be hoped that the leadership of the Church of England will now find the humility and grace to recognise its failings in the Bell case.”

    “Failure of process … its failings in the Bell case” … It rather looks as though, despite his disclaimer, Prof. Percy does already know what Carlile’s findings are.

  • Ray Sunshine

    Congratulations on the illustration, Your Grace! One might almost suspect that it was the handiwork of the same artist whose signature appears on the portrait of Mrs Proudie.

  • Anton

    Poor Church of England. Caught between the Scylla of liberal theology represented by Martyn Percy, who thinks that theology is an academic subject and that the liberals have it right (check him on gay issues), and the Charybdis of vapid managementspeak.

    If God renews the CoE he will do it from the grassroots, and both of these phenomena will wither.

  • Dreadnaught

    I have no dog in this fight, but having read the original account in the Argus and noted that the police believed the story, I am a little concerned that the emphasis to protect the record of the said Bishop and jump on the CoE for also accepting the woman’s story.

    Closing ranks over the perpetrator is exactly how Savile got away with it for so long. ‘Carol’ wanted to be believed to preserve her self respect and nothing else. She sounds completely plausible and the name changing of buildings etc associated with Bell is just: just for her and the reputation of the CoE if it is to continue to be in any way relevant. No one would have believed a child in those days. It certainly wouldn’t have been taken up by the CPS.
    In my opinion what has been done has been done and life has moved on. It’s more important and germane that enough of a lesson has been learned to ensure the safety of children is paramount in matter of the CoE in perpetuity.

    • Martin Sewell

      The difficulty lies in the significant lack of transparency surrounding the evidence and the processes by which that evidence was evaluated. The extraordinary lack of curiosity as to whether there was a case for the defence is hugely problematic.

      As Dr Percy highlights, you can reach only one conclusion if you assiduously ignore every piece of evidence that might challenge the complaint.

      The Carlile report will answer many of the questions we all have, so the sooner it is released, the better.

      • If there is a “significant lack of transparency surrounding the evidence and the processes by which that evidence was evaluated”, how do you know at this stage there was an “extraordinary lack of curiosity as to whether there was a case for the defence”?

        Do you know something we don’t?

        • Martin Sewell

          Oh that’s very easy.

          The Church issued its conclusion, it declared that no questions would be answered and thereafter third parties did the work and highlighted what had not been done.

          Not talking to Bp Bell’s biographer, not undertaking a study of the archived diaries, and above all, not interviewing the only then living witness from the Bishop’s household are very basic errors.

          • carl jacobs

            The CoE deliberately threw George Bell under the bus because he was dead. It sacrificed his reputation to protect the institutional reputation of the CoE. It wanted the story buried, and George Bell’s grave was a convenient place to bury it.

          • Are you saying it was an orchestrated, deliberate and wilful decision to conduct a less than adequate enquiry for PR reasons? That’s quite an accusation.

          • Ray Sunshine

            But isn’t that exactly what Martyn Percy is telling us here today, albeit in a more cautious and roundabout way, using scare quotes and rhetorical questions (like this one)?

          • Martin Sewell

            Carl may well be right ( lawyerly caution here!)

            I can tell you that I was curious about the poor legal advice given the Church ( about which, more anon) and specifically asked about the view of the insurers lawyers. We learnt that the case was not settled under insurance but half was paid by the Church Commissioners and half by a private individual. We confirmed that a valid insurance was in place.

            The settlement figure was low.

            Now why would a complainant settle low? – A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

            Why might an institution assemble such a mechanism by passing a valid insurance?

            The only theory I have heard is to make a “political point ” as Carl suggests. This was Diocese that had had a recent spate of scandals; throwing a long dead Saint under the bus might just demonstrate a robust new regime.

            Of course there may be another explanation but I have yet to hear a better one

          • Ray Sunshine

            Is that the only possible explanation, Martin? I can think of another hypothesis. Perhaps the insurance company, or their lawyers, said they couldn’t make a third party indemnity payout in the absence of a full legal procedure to establish guilt beyond any reasonable doubt, and the Church didn’t want that – either because it didn’t want the publicity, or because it reckoned the cash cost would be greater in the end.

            There’s something prima facie a bit fishy, isn’t there, about having an insurance policy and then opting to settle the bill out of your own pocket instead?

            Incidentally, would it be safe to assume that the insurer in the Carol v. Bishop Bell case was the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (EIG), the subject of a recent Cranmer post focusing on the Gilo case?


          • Martin Sewell

            I don’t know the insurer but it is more likely than not EIG. I make no criticism of them without evidence.

            Generally if you put a case to insurers, they take over the running of the case and “call the shots”. If they decline liability it is still your choice to make a payment. I am not however sure it was ever put to the insurers. They would decide liability on the ” balance of probabilities’.

            To be fair and accurate, the Diocese said their lawyers were satisfied that the case would succeed if litigated but the mystery of the non reliance on the valid insurance policy remains.

            If Lord Carlile does not answer the question we shall pursue the point.

          • Ray Sunshine

            If Lord Carlile does not answer the question …

            Yes, I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see. That brings us back to the business of what they laughingly call “finalisation”.

          • “we shall pursue the point”

            Who’s “we”? Are you a member of the George Bell Group like Martyn Percy?

          • Martin Sewell

            No, I talk to a wide range of people including the Bell Group but also survivors. My primary interest is fair and transparent process for all – complainants and accused alike.

            The “we” I refer to is a small group of like minded folk at General Synod

          • Is that group pushing for an independent body to investigate claims, assess them and then award damages?

            One hopes Jayne Ozzane is not a compatriot as from her letter to the Guardian one understands she wants membership of such a group to be restricted to women. Plus, she doesn’t seem over keen on due process.

          • Martin Sewell

            Nothing so formal. I talk and work with anyone on a case by case basis.

          • So not “a small group of like minded folk at General Synod”?

          • Anton

            A group of men could self-identify as women for the purpose.

          • “Now why would a complainant settle low? – A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

            There’s lots of reasons.

            Are you suggesting she too was poorly served by her lawyers? For some people £15k is an awful lot of money. Or she may not have been after cash and just wanted an acknowledgment or an apology.

          • Dreadnaught

            The acceptance of a low settlement for me confirms that
            the principle at issue was not motivated by a compensation claim but by something that money can’t by – the integrity and emotional pain of a lifetime borne by the abused child, now woman.

          • Martin Sewell

            I agree that is possible, but the insurance point remains a significant puzzle.

          • Dreadnaught

            I would say its the only logical position to accept in the circumstances of all parties involved.

          • He’s on the George Bell Group pressure group so one expects him to cast the Church in a bad light.

          • carl jacobs

            I’m saying the CoE knew an investigation would produce no conclusive result. An unresolvable accusation that remained in the public domain was the worst possible outcome – especially given the current climate where an accusation against a church is sufficient to establish guilt. Pursuing an investigation would guarantee the problem would never go away. So to make the problem go away, they decided to presume George Bell was guilty. You can’t liable the dead. Only his family would be affected, and they wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.

            That beyond any reasonable doubt is what I think happened.

          • The Diocese claims it commissioned expert independent reports and none of those reports found any reason to doubt the veracity of the claim. It has also stated their lawyers were satisfied that the case would succeed if litigated.

          • carl jacobs

            I’m sure it did. And I imagine the seance was considered a very effective means of investigation. No doubt the CoE has a Medium hanging around somewhere who facilitated it.

          • Just to improve your mood, Jack has discovered the claimants lawyers received £15k and the Church legal fees were £18k.

          • Martin Sewell

            See below Carl

          • But you don’t know the details of the process followed, do you? Or do you? The sources you site would hardly constitute robust evidence. You think his biographer and house keeper could really add anything more than character references? Given your background, You should know how sex abusers work.

          • Martin Sewell

            I have followed the case as closely as any outsider can, and been in touch with others of similar concern.

            It is not his housekeeper I am referring to. Bp Bell had a chaplain who died recently. He was a man of very considerable character. I understand that the role was a cross between P/A and butler ( Bell was an Edwardian). No allegation of complicity was ever made against him (for the avoidance of doubt)

            The chaplain was interviewed by Lord Carlile just before he died.

            I understand no child could have been present in the premises without it being very obvious to him. He was clear no child was present as alleged.

            Moreover, few appreciate that the Bishop’s Palace had been physically divided at the time and the room identified as the site of the abuse was inaccessible to Bell. That portion had been sublet to a theological college, raising the real possibility of mistaken identity by another cleric. The record shows they were not happy neighbours so the notion of the Bishop sneaking onto hostile territory to abuse a child looks rather far fetched.

          • Let’s wait for the results of the enquiry.

            There may well have been flaws in the investigation and it’s possible George Bell reputation has been unfairly damaged but there’s something unsavoury about the great and the good of the establishment – “lawyers, academics, politicians and senior Church figures” – clubbing together to raise the issue in the House of Lords and releasing a report that amounts to a defence brief, undermining the credibility of a woman claiming to have been abused by a bishop.

            As Bishop Warner stated, the church was seeking “to move on from a culture in which manipulation of power meant that victims were too afraid to make allegations, or allegations were easily dismissed.” He also acknowledged “we must provide safeguards of truth and justice for all, victim and accused alike.”

            The Church of England statement in October 2015 said: “The settlement followed a thorough pre-litigation process during which further investigations into the claim took place including the commissioning of expert independent reports. None of those reports found any reason to doubt the veracity of the claim.”

            If the enquiry into George Bell proves this wrong and the process was as shoddy as is suggested, it will have served to set back the protection of children in the future and the cause of those coming forward with allegations of historic abuse.

          • carl jacobs

            Nothing will be established. You will have an accusation that can be neither tested nor corroborated on one side. You will have a bunch of circumstantial evidence that tends to indicate innocence on the other. The investigation will go nowhere because too many principles are dead and too much time has elapsed.

            There is so much of “An accusation has been made so someone must be guilty” about your posts, Jack. That attitude is why the CoE did what it did. They were going to be judged guilty one way or the other so they found a convenient scapegoat – one who happened to be dead and so couldn’t fight back.

            This accusation should never have seen the light of day.

          • And you recently accused Jack of making categorical statements!

          • carl jacobs

            How do you propose to do that? You frequetly mention how difficult it is to make a child abuse cases. How are you going to try to make the case 70 years after the fact on the basis of the victim’s testimony when all the other principle witnesses are dead? Unless you have pictures or a signed confession this investigation is going nowhere.

            But if it gets to court … Then you have a living person who claims to be a victim telling a sad story without any possibility of testing the credibility of that story. The alleged perpetrator is dead. His witnesses are dead. Who could the defend and call it his defense? Who in contrast would receive sympathy? And all this in an environment where 1) people are predisposed to believe accusations against churches and 2) many people are ideologically hostile to churches. The expectation of legal defeat doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with truth or justice.

            She has made an unsubstantiated and unsubstantiatable allegation. When that became clear, the CoE should have refused further action. Ah, but that wouldn’t have been the end of it. Then it becomes a PR matter and the CoE would have been killed in the Court of Public Opinion. At which point a lawyer is going to say “Make this go away. Find a fall guy and make this go away.”

          • Jack acknowledges the difficulties but are you proposing that those coming forward with allegations of historical abuse should be ignored? What time frame would put in place? Would you require the alleged perpetrator to still be living? What corroboration would you demand?

          • carl jacobs

            There has to at least be a good faith basis to perform an investigation. Something besides “This happened to me 70 years ago”. People lie. They conflate. They invent. They imagine. They mix things up. An accusation by itself is nothing.

            What constitutes “legal sufficiency”? I don’t know. Ask a prosecutor. But I can guess what a prosecutor would have done with a 70 year-old accusation against a dead man if that dead man didn’t happen to be a prominent public figure who could open up access to deep pockets.

          • Okay, so not 70 years. What time limit do you suggest? And we’re talking about civil action for damages, not prosecution.
            People also tell the truth. As for deep pockets, she settled for £15k. Hardly a fortune.

          • carl jacobs

            It’s a fair question about corroboration, Jack, but it’s not a question that applies to this case. Whatever that answer would be, we both know the answer would be “More than none”. This case could not meet even that minimal standard.

          • Boxfordblogger2012

            Perhaps your last point hits the nail on the head. If Alex Carlile’s report condemns the process that led to the settlement with ‘Carol’, it must follow that the decision to settle with her and pay damages (and costs) is flawed. That would be hugely embarrassing, both for the National Safeguarding Team and for the Diocese of Chichester and its current bishop. This may be the reason why publication of the report is being delayed: so that the C of E can put the appropriate ‘spin’ on the conclusions and recommendations. As for the involvement or otherwise of insurers, Bishop Martin Warner wrote this to me in an e-mail dated 29 July 2016:

            “No relevant insurance was held in respect of this claim, so no insurers were involved in the case and no requests were made to any insurer. As Sir Andreas [Whittam Smith] said in his reply to the [General] Synod, the costs and damages were paid by the [Church] Commissioners and a private individual who wishes to remain anonymous. The claim was made against me in my corporate capacity.”

            [The total payment in respect of Carol’s claim was £49,800, funded as to £29,800 by the Church Commissioners and £20,000 by the private individual. The breakdown was: Damages £16,500 (not £15,000 as widely reported); Claimant’s legal costs: £15,000; Diocese of Chichester’s costs: £18,000. Source: answer by Sir Andreas Whittam Smith to a question from me at General Synod in July 2016.]

            In the light of Bishop Warner’s e-mail of 29 July, I replied on 2 August 2016, saying that I was interested to learn that no insurer was involved. I asked: “Does/did the Diocese of Chichester (or you as Bishop in your corporate capacity) have no cover in respect of this kind of claim?” Intriguingly, the Bishop responded on 9 August 2016 with this single sentence: “We do have cover in respect of this kind of claim and, as one might expect, the terms of the cover that is available are kept under review by our insurers.” This begs the question whether the Diocese had the appropriate cover at a time that would have applied to Carol’s claim and, if ‘yes’, why no request was made for the insurers to handle the case. We must wait to see whether the Carlile report will answer these questions.

          • What’s truly astonishing about this breakdown is the amount of money paid in legal fees compared to the amount awarded the clamant.

            Damages £16,500 (not £15,000 as widely reported); Claimant’s legal costs: £15,000; Diocese of Chichester’s costs: £18,000. Source: answer by Sir Andreas Whittam Smith to a question from me at General Synod in July 2016.]

            It would appear Bishop Martin Warner confirmed to you: “No relevant insurance was held in respect of this claim, so no insurers were involved in the case and no requests were made to any insurer.”

            Are you suggesting he was being less than truthful?

      • Ray Sunshine

        Martin, you told us last week, “We have recently had the Carlile Report into the Church of England’s handling of the allegation against Bishop George Bell lodged with Lambeth Palace. That was a month ago, on 7th October… Unfortunately, the church has not yet released that report, telling me that it is being ‘finalised’. One wonders quite what processes this implies, and who exactly is ‘finalising’ this for the independent reviewer.”

        Today Martyn Percy is repeating your complaint, almost word for word, down to the same scare quotes round “finalising”. What the hell is going on in Lambeth Palace? What is the stumbling block they’ve run up against? Are the episcopocracy planning a Zimbabwean palace coup against Welby? Is Welby about to unleash a purge of the Old Bolsheviks? I think we should be told.

        • The vultures are circling. Maybe a coup is being organised.

    • Ray Sunshine

  • The CofE has much in common with the NHS, over-management.
    The NHS managers would feel quite happy pushing paper and issuing directives, patients are just a nuisance getting in the way of orderly procedures by becoming ill at inconvenient times.
    The CofE is very similar, those at the top are keen on complying with all the latest trendy business ideas, sending out instructions to their branch offices and trying to reach agreements with other companies (aka religions). They are not trying to expand their business (preaching) nor are they are not offering the customers (aka the congregations) what they want, which is good, old-fashioned Christianity.

  • bluedog

    One can see the need for an Anglican via media between the attributes of an institution and those of an organisation. Dr Percy makes a compelling case, but avoids confronting the problem of the CoE’s declining membership. Does he, Dr Percy, recognise that just 50,000 baptisms a year in a country that sees 250,000 marriages a year is symptomatic of decline? The numbers of chiefs in the CoE seems static, while the numbers of Indians is in free fall. The solution, Dr P?

    • It would appear that Percy’s “solution” is to make the church “relevant” by accepting homosexuality, women’s ordination and the exclusion of “fundamentalists” like Bishop North, aligned with a left-wing party of modern, progressive socialism.

      • bluedog

        Indeed. In which case Dr Percy is himself submitting to, and a willing party to, a form of organisational group-think, that of the Progressive Left Inc.

        • Yep, but he’s not a banker. Well, not of the financial type anyways.

  • Is this really about Bishop George Bell? Jack doesn’t believe so.

    To Jack it seems no more than a thinly veiled attack on the Archbishop of Canterbury. Fair enough, the Church of England is an ecclesiastical community that can and should be criticised for its failures to teach the Gospel message.

    “The whole of the reform of the Church of England’s theological education is currently in the hands of an ex-banker, who has had a successful business career, but knows absolutely nothing about theology, theological education, or spiritual formation for ministry.”

    So, Percy attributes these failures to leadership and an absence of theological robustness. He criticises Justin Welby’s credentials to lead the Church of England ….

    Let’s look at his.

    According to Wiki, Percy was ordained in the Church of England as a deacon in 1990 and as a priest in 1991. He served as a curate at St Andrew’s, Bedford (1990–94), and was then appointed Chaplain and Director of Studies, Christ’s College, Cambridge.

    That’s less than 4 years in active ministry and he’s been an academic ever since. He does have a background in media and consumer affairs though having been the Director and Council member of the Advertising Standards Authority and was also a member of the Independent Complaints Panel for the Portman Group, the self-regulating body for the alcoholic drinks industry. He has served as Commissioner for the Direct Marketing Authority (2008–2014), and currently serves as an Advisor to the British Board of Film Classification. Not forgetting his election to the Chair of the Cuddesdon and Denton Parish Council from 2007–2014.

    As for his “theology”, Percy wants the Anglican communion to embrace the diversity of beliefs that exists, rather than allowing such divisions to result in separation, describing Anglicanism as an “archipelago – a connection of provincial islands that shares doctrinal, liturgical and cultural aspects”. His argues for the “middle ground” between evangelical and catholic positions, and appeals to the Anglican tradition of respecting differences.

    This “theology”, focussing on “central Gospel themes”, leads Percy to question whether homosexuality is sinful and unnatural and believes the church’s position has alienated an increasingly progressive country, particularly the younger generation. He also believes Justin Welby should formally apologise for the church’s role in introducing homophobic teachings to cultures across the British Empire during the 19th century and for the failings of the Anglican Communion in its treatment of LGBTQ people.

    He believes Brexit represents a national “failure of liberal values” and wants a new centre-left party that is “authentically rooted in modern, progressive socialism, and equally true to modern, progressive, democratic liberal values”.

    In November 2012, he described opponents to women bishops as maintaining a “conceit of modern times” by their fundamentalist rejection of diversity calling for a “new future.” In February 2017, he called on Bishop Philip North either decline his nomination to the Diocese of Sheffield, or renounce the views of The Society, a conservative Anglo-catholic body which does not recognize or receive the ministry of ordained women, or men ordained by women bishops). Percy has stated that “mutual flourishing does not mean that you accord equal status to discriminatory views”.

    • carl jacobs

      Is this really about Bishop George Bell? Jack doesn’t believe so.

      I’m glad someone else had that same thought and was willing to express it.

      • Great minds, Carl. Now about the Pope ………

        • carl jacobs

          He and Percy seem to have a lot in common. Perhaps the Pope could learn something from Percy’s struggles to bring modernity into theology. And Percy might learn some things as well. Perhaps they should collaborate?

    • Brian

      Of course Percy doesn’t care greatly about George Bell or his reputation – this is just a platform to attack his real target. I’m surprised His Grace didn’t see this coming.

      • Boxfordblogger2012

        Whatever one’s views of Martyn Percy’s theology or ecclesiastical ‘politics’ (or on the nomination of Philip North to be Bishop of Sheffield), I think this particular criticism is misplaced. There is an altar and cross commemorating Bishop George Bell in Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, so Percy, as Dean, has a particular interest in the statement by the C of E in October 2015 that announced the settlement with ‘Carol’ that has had the effect of ‘trashing’ Bell’s reputation.

        • Then why didn’t he stick to the George Bell issue instead of using this as a platform for an attack on Archbishop Welby?

  • carl jacobs

    Uh oh. Martyn Percy is talking about “reform” again. Hide the women and children.

    Honestly this sounded to me like nothing so much as an academic complaining about “neoliberals” infiltrating into the Academy. It seems the church is supposed to be run by theologians – and not just any theologians of course but theologians like Martyn Percy. That way you will get “diversity and an investment in celebrating a wide range of theological viewpoints” – except of course for those pre-modern types who reject WO and other theological discoveries of the modern era. That’s a diversity too far.

    Just stop giving them money. That’s all you have to do. You don’t have to engage with all these words. You don’t have to bother with theologians who are invested in the task of re-creating theology in their own image. Just stop giving them money. The problem will fix itself if you stop giving them money.

    • How about stopping giving them money, Carl?

      • carl jacobs

        I think it might work.

    • Anton


      • carl jacobs

        Women’s Ordination.

    • “Hide the women and children.”

      How sexist and patriarchal of you. That’s his target audience, along with homosexuals and presumably also transsexuals.

      • carl jacobs

        Well, that’s who the barbarians were coming for. “Kill the men. Take the women as concubines. Sell the children as slaves.” Could you possibly develop a better metaphor for modern theology?

        • You’re being transphobic, Carl. Nowadays the men will probably be taken as concubines too.

          • carl jacobs

            Barbarians are pre-modern. They use weapons and stuff.

          • Nasty brutish men. That was before we all became feminists.

  • Manfarang

    Reform church-state relations and maybe the Church of England will renew itself.

  • Father David

    I wonder what Bishop Bell is reading, maybe he’s posthumously reading Lord Carlisle’ report which is currently being “finalised” and continues to be embargoed.
    I note that Justin Welby looks on quizzically from the framed portrait but who has he replaced? Who has been airbrushed out of the original black and white photograph?
    I can’t imagine why it is taking so long to release this long awaited and much anticipated report. I note that the ABC is off to Moscow next week and wonder if that will further delay the report’s publication? With tongue in cheek I previously suggested that it might be made public on Christmas Eve but that prediction is looking increasingly more likely. The clock is ticking!

    • Boxfordblogger2012

      I understand that Graham Tilby, head of the C of E National Safeguarding Team, is currently in New Zealand.

      • Chefofsinners

        It’s reminiscent of Jonah heading for Tarshish.

        • Father David

          But Jonah eventually reached Nineveh.
          “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” (Jonah 3: 2)

          • Chefofsinners

            Yes, well, let us pray that God miraculously brings Mr Tilby back to England to do his actual job.

  • Imagine that the Church of England had employed an executive manager from the ‘secular or commercial’ world in the 1940s. Imagine that the church’s theologians had asked him whether Christianity should retain its virtual monopoly or whether Britain should allow all the world’s religions, at least one of which was a known enemy of Christianity, to settle and flourish here, with the church abetting the invasion by preaching the joy of diversity and the sin of racism. Imagine the manager’s difficulty in keeping to himself the thought that he was working for a bunch of halfwits.

    • Anton

      About the one that is a known enemy of Christianity, Yes indeed, but secularism is an enemy of Christianity too. It is not neutral. Look at Mao and Stalin for the natural destination of secularism.

      • @ Anton—A piece from 1941 puts the Soviet persecution into perspective. From chapter 15 of Solzhenitsyn’s Two Hundred Years Together:

        S Bulgakov, who followed closely what happened to Orthodoxy under the Bolsheviks, wrote in 1941: ‘In the USSR, the persecution of Christians surpassed in violence and amplitude all previous persecutions known throughout History. Of course, we should not blame everything on the Jews, but we should not downplay their influence…Were manifested in Bolshevism, above all, the force of will and the energy of Judaism…The part played by the Jews in Bolshevism is, alas, disproportionately great.’

        Apologies in advance for any eye strain; my entreaty to the webmaster has gone unheeded.

        • Anton

          Nothing happened in Soviet Russia which gentile Stalin did not okay. And communist China was completely Judenfrei.

          • @ Anton—So the Jews were merely following orders. Solzhenitsyn has heard Jews make exactly that argument and is not impressed:

            ‘[Jews] offer us the following interpretation: “This is a question about the victims of the Soviet dictatorship; [Jews] were used by it and then mercilessly discarded when their services became redundant.”

            ‘What a great argument! So for twenty years these powerful Jews were really used? Yet weren’t they themselves the zealous cogs in the mechanism of that very dictatorship right up to the very time when their “services became redundant”? Did not they make the great contribution to the destruction of religion and culture, the intelligentsia, and the multi-million peasantry?’

          • Anton

            We’ve discussed that before. My point from which you diverted is that secularism is an enemy of Christianity, and you have made no comment whatsoever about Mao under whom even more people than Stalin were killed. Don’t tell me his father was a Jew?

          • @ Anton—We’ve discussed that before
            Unlikely, as I have never before quoted that passage.

            Mao under whom even more people than Stalin were killed
            I thought we were talking about secularism as an enemy of Christianity. Why move the goalposts to include ‘people’?

          • Anton

            Mao was an apostle of communism, which is the most virulent form of secularism yet devised.

            What we’ve discussed before is the role of Jews in Soviet Russia and Solzhenitsyn on them. I remember it distinctly.

          • Andrew

            I don’t read this blog on a regular basis, but understand that “Archbishop Cranmer” seeks a broad readership within the Church of England and the English middle class. While I don’t question the gravity of the Soviet persecution of my faith, Christianity, this thread contains so much unqualified anti-semitism (of a “common sense innit?” nature), that it either needs moderating out of existence, or broadening into a full article on Jewish history in the Soviet lands. Does his Grace want to commission the latter, or will he delete this thread?

          • i) Please see ‘About’ – ‘Commenting Policy’; ii) There is no money to commission anything; iii) Please see ‘Parish Notice’ – ‘Closing the Blog Comment Facility’. Bless you.

          • Andrew

            Thanks. I apologise for over-reacting. i & ii) Anton has countered the remarks that offended me; iii) your core message to the Parish doesn’t apply (Vicar)!! However, your blessing is efficacious.

  • Don Benson

    You need precious little insight to discern that this is all about church politics – nothing more. And, quite frankly, the Church of England is in such a mess over the most basic issues of belief that disputes between the old privileged establishment and zealots for good management amount to fiddling while Rome burns.

    I live in a diocese where the bishop has moved on and we are told that no replacement will take up office for at least 2 years. Any institution / organisation with that degree of inertia deserves to fail: so that’s one nil to the managers. On the other hand, unless we have clergy in place, well educated in theology and (even more importantly) with unshakeable faith, determined and allowed to serve with the particular set of gifts God has given them, all the organisation in the world will not deliver the true spiritual fruit we want to see: so that’s one all to the theologians and the managers.

    In truth, of course, you need both if you’re the CofE. But we all know that there are plenty of CofE clergy who have hitherto seen the CofE as merely ‘the best boat from which to fish.’ For them the ‘institution’, with its ivory towers and sycophancy to the establishment of the state, is not their first loyalty even though they contribute massively to its survival. Once they go, it’s all over.

    • Father David

      Currently the dioceses of London, Bristol, Truro and Derby are vacant or soon will be. Plenty of scope there for at least one diocese to be filled by a first-rate theologian in order to add some academic gravitas and a bit of a balance to all the current diocesan managers.

      • Anton

        Who needs a theologian? How about a believer who knows his Bible and loves his God?

        • Father David

          Who needs a theologian? The Church of England’s Bench of Bishops does – that’s who!
          I note that you use the word “his” twice

          • layreader

            Bishop Philip North should be a shoo-in for one of those vacancies.

          • Father David

            That would be wonderful and the diocese which he is appointed to would be most fortunate.

          • bluedog

            One wonders how the Supreme-Governor-in-waiting is going to react to the progressive agenda in the CoE. Like his mother, he has to date conducted himself with masterly inactivity, but will this last? Will we see progressive theological edifices of glass and steel declared to be ‘monstrous carbuncles’ and torn down to be replaced with a Poundbury style of worship?

          • Father David

            I have been to Poundbury and found it to be soulless.
            One good thing in Prince Charles’ favour when he eventually becomes Defender of the Faith (“Long may she reign”) is that he favours the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

          • Anton

            Long live our noble Queen!

            I do hope she is able to lay the wreath herself at the Cenotaph for the 100th anniversary of the ending of World War 1 in a year’s time.

          • bluedog

            It would be good if she could.

          • Chefofsinners

            His his his his his his his his his his his his his…

          • Her her her her her her her her her her her her her her her her her her her ………….

          • bluedog

            Both wrong. Its the transgender ‘xie’ in these progressive times. Remember that the progressives, who deride creationism and proclaim the supremacy of evolution, have gone against all the evidence and declared that gender does not exist.

          • Are you sure that’s the appropriate term? It’s not how the Urban dictionary defines “Xie”.
            Isn’t it “Mx” or “Ind”?

          • bluedog
          • Ah, Jack zies the point.

          • Chefofsinners

            har har har…

          • he he he …

          • Royinsouthwest

            ho ho ho ho (even though it is not Christmas yet).

          • Father David

            Reminds me of naught more that the lyrics of Noel Coward’s “Mad dogs and Englishmen”
            “It seems such a shame when the English claim the earth
            They give rise to such hilarity and mirth
            Ha ha ha ha, hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo, hee hee hee hee ……”

          • Chefofsinners

            Hear, hear.

          • Anton

            I’m the laughing gnome and you can’t catch me!

          • Father David

            Chefofsinners – You do a mean impression of a pressure cooker about to explode!

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            Ah…a devotee of h/er and sh/e…and what do lesbians wished to be called this week?

          • Chefofsinners


          • Anton

            The idea that Christian theology is an academic subject is a very serious heresy.

          • Father David

            We are all Theologians now!

            God Bless Theology – The Queen of Sciences.

          • Anton

            Do you believe that theology brings the church to progressively deeper and deeper truths, ie to vital matters that were wholly unknown to previous generations of Christians, being believers who were greatly impoverished in their Christian faith compared to us? Some would consider that gnosticism.

          • Father David

            The same yesterday, today and forever – As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be word without end. Amen.
            We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
            And wither and perish – but nought changeth thee.

          • Anton

            Nice. But not an answer to my question!

  • layreader

    Martyn Percy seems desperate for the headlines these days. Not usually seen to be a good idea to be touting around when the See of London is up for grabs. Bang have gone his chances. Elsewhere, he has criticised Anglican management culture for leading to record amounts of stress in younger clergy – a phenomenon not seen in the C of E for a very long time. At least not in earlier generations, whose long-lividness (I’m afraid the spell-checker doesn’t let me correct that last word) gives the Pensions Board all sorts of headaches. But Anglican management culture is his real target, George Bell and his posthumous tormentors are but a side-issue.
    So, in that respect, Percy is doing what liberals of a certain age have always done since Joan Baez sang ‘we shall not be moved’ – sitting on the sidelines and sniping. Thus we get criticism of a report on theological education ‘by a banker’. Oh dear, could this be the Rev Sir Stephen Green, Baron Green of Hurstpierpoint, a man with so many titles he doesn’t know what order to put them in? And, more to the point, a Conservative politician. You’re letting your prejudices show, Martyn. Had the name been Broadbent (Labour politician and Bishop), we might have been spared this harangue. And I wouldn’t mind any of this criticism if the good Dean had any alternative suggestions, as liberals usually don’t. So consider some of the messages of management culture…..
    Is the product selling? Obviously not, as numbers continue to decline. So we need new products, better ones, cheaper ones. So we do that, and still decline occurs. Still not got the product right, then? That appears to me to be the obvious conclusion, and all the tinkering around with education and ministry still ignores the fact that the world is really not interested. In addition, a completely bonkers General Synod still hasn’t got the message either.
    So consider the places where there is actually growth in the C of E. Normal management practice – look at where are we doing something right and persuade the others to follow suit. Biblical, scripturally faithful, prophetic churches – that’s where the growth is, and not in the chapel of Christ Church Oxford.

    • Father David

      Lay reader, a recent report shews that the growth is greatest in our cathedrals and hey-presto Christ Church, Oxford just happens to be one of our many cathedrals.
      Is there such a word as “lividness”? Or should your spell check have suggested “longevity” as to be livid means to be extremely angry or furious rather than being full of years?

      • Lividity perhaps – one of the signs of death not usually not observable by the human eye until some time after.

        • layreader

          His Grace appears to think there is such a word as lividness because his spellchecker doesn’t let me spell it with one i and 2 e’s. One the other hand, lividness is apparently what our younger clergy are suffering from. As for the growth in cathedral congregations – does anyone know whether Christ Church, Oxford attracts more on a Sunday morning than St Ebbe’s, Oxford?

      • Chefofsinners

        I am liking longlividness. It perfectly expresses my feelings about Martyn Percy.

        • Father David

          Perhaps “longlividness” might well become as popular as the word “selfie” which some might ascribe to the Dean of Christ Church but I NEVER would! I follow the President of the USA in this respect who would NEVER describe the President of North Korea as “short and fat”.
          Apparently the Children’s Word of the Year 2017 is “Trump”.

  • Brian

    Martyn Percy is a jumped-up bore, a sociologist masquerading as a theologian who also pulls in over £80k p.a. and who destroyed the appointment of Philip North to Sheffield.
    He will not be happy until there are gay bishops in homosexual ‘marriages’ up and down the land.
    Percy will only hasten the demise of the Church of England. He is completely incapable of bringing one Muslim, Hindu or pagan Briton to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ – and not at all interested in doing so.
    Like those 19th century clerics who ‘entered the Church’ for social advancement – like Jane Austin’s Mr Collins – Percy only cares to use the Church for his social project. The Gospel really doesn’t interest him that much.

    • CliveM

      Isnt it nice also how he feels entitled to use a miscarriage of process (and potentially justice) to whitter on about his second favourite hobby horse.

      I would like to bet that the real problem with abuse and how the CofE responded to it wasnt as a result of a “management culture”.

  • Chefofsinners

    Martyn dresses in the clothes of the pro-George Bell lobby, appealing to our sympathies. But underneath is the same old wolf. My, my Percy, what a big ego you have.
    The CoE’s problem is not its banker-managers, but it’s liberal theologians. No businessman can sell salt that has lost its savour. Martyn Percy, you are the problem. And your solution is, of course: ‘put me in charge’.

    The effort necessary to ignore this man is one of life’s irritations. For the love of God, Cranmer, why give a platform to these egomaniacal dribblings?

  • not a machine

    Your grace allows an attempt with complex points to be commented upon. My start point is the very reverend Martin Percy seems to weld the demise of Christian belief with the wound of its behaviour towards individuals who are accused or guilty of sexual abuse. The Carlisle report is being prepared and perhaps it would have been better if the very reverend had made comments when published. That aside his article does not offer much beyond a consideration of organisational structures, which is formenting enough of a poor situation on its own. Going from poor thinking to poor policy, is what I suppose any church hierarchy attempts to avoid and yet we find that modernity has changed that more challenging subject we term belief. He perhaps is trying to say church structure enables belief, and has in mind the sort of approach that will bring about the connection to the Christian faith, which church structure is holding back. I have some beefs with church thinking at times, but also believe it will never remove or can remove what the Bible informs and the subsequent question of why it is not composed of many impositions that are to do with a perfect academic analysis. It seems to me to be something of understanding, which do get quite complex, but also the most wonderful moments that are not cheats or frauds in truths in the experience of living. I do not worship the CofE, if it be that those in its structure cannot discern the times, then I am not sure if my grumbling achieves much. I perhaps think about how awful it is to see the faith or over see the decline of faith. I don’t want to see autopsy, none of us will look neat and faithful at that event. Christ came to save sinners, our faith is the continuation of that moment. God sent Christ and that will never be undone.

  • grutchyngfysch

    The opening gambit of this piece is of course absolutely true: as anyone who has ever worked in business will be able to arrest, merely working in the private sector does not instantly guarantee that you are the finest option on offer: something which successive (classic) liberal and Tory governments appear to have struggled with.

    The one – perhaps only – virtue the free market possesses is that it effectively punishes failure to a degree which is roughly the inverse of the extent to which the public sector rewards it. A bad businessman will not be in business long, unless of course he can secure a government bailout to cover the time necessary to parachute onto bigger and brighter things.

    Perhaps one might apply this principle to the realm ecclesiastical by noting that a disestablished Church of England would no doubt be less disposed to entertain bishops who actively work to erode its foundation, unless of course they have a sympathetic government who can help shape the environment for the time necessary before the Almighty provides a drop into hotter and brighter places.

    • Anton

      Actually the principal virtue of the free market is that every transaction in it makes life better for both parties. Economic activity in a free market is not a zero-sum game but something that makes life better for everyone.

      • grutchyngfysch

        I’d disagree with that formulation – but mostly because I think it lacks sufficient nuance to describe the role of differentiated power and inequity within all economies. I would agree with the idea that the fundamental principal is that all actions undertaken by an economy’s participants arise as a result of an actor seeking something more desirable (not necessarily monetarily more valuable) than they currently possess. I think that framework adequately describes all rational actions in any economy: an exchange of capital (including social and labour) for something they desire more than the withholding of that same capital.

        It is more than possible for actors to engage in a transaction which effects a situation where life is not better for one party, both parties, or a third party. Indeed, in certain financial markets in particular, it is a fundamental requirement that there be losers in order for there to be winners. Everyone, of course, assumes they will be a winner.

        Likewise, a desirable condition may very well be intrinsically impossible to achieve for all those who desire it. For example, if we were all made millionaires tomorrow (something I suspect may be desirable to most people), the value of being a millionaire would be immediately and drastically undercut. When it comes to resources, it very often is a zero-sum game (albeit on a pretty large scale), since every resource is by definition finite: even, and perhaps especially, time.

        All of which is a tangent on the original point: which is that “free market” businessmen are often drafted into state-run enterprises on the basis that those who work in the private sector are intrinsically better at running things. This is patently nonsense: there are plenty of businesses (particularly large businesses from whence such gurus usually derive) that are, in the minutiae, chronically inefficient, but sufficiently large that it doesn’t matter on the same scale that such inefficiency would in a smaller enterprise. But nobody usually asks a shopkeeper to come and advise how to run a school: they ask the likes of Mary Portas or Alan Sugar.

        • Anton

          Yes, it depends what you mean by “free”, of course.

  • Chefofsinners

    Congratulations, Martyn Percy. Tonight you have achieved that which was hitherto believed impossible. You have united the blog comments. As I read down, there is not a hint of disunity; indeed the sharpest of enmities have melted into golden bonhomie. United we are, in utter derision of you, your writings and all that you stand for.

    Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
    It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;
    As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.

  • RichardWSymonds

    “Is the Church of England, as an institution, capable of genuine repentance – especially in the case of Bishop Bell?

  • magnolia

    Some commentators have claimed unanimity of rudeness amongst all regular commentators which I wish to dissociate myself from. I agree with Dr Percy on some matters, and disagree on others, and feel no desire to label him or to be ad hominem at times I disagree with him, (at present. at least, not claiming to be angelic!) This is necessary for decent debate, and we are well capable of it. As for his salary, that is deeply and profoundly irrelevant, and for those who support football teams and buy tickets thereby enabling and not questioning the absurdly inflated salaries it is swallowing a camel and straining out a gnat par excellence.

    • Father David

      I too agree with the Dean of Christ Church in his strong defence of Bishop Bell but vehemently disagree with the stance he has taken on Bishop North.

  • Ray Sunshine

    The C of E has issued a press release today (Monday, 20 Nov.) denying rumours that Lambeth Palace officials are blocking publication of the Carlile report. Am I alone in finding this press release surprisingly short, or even, one might add, terse? Here it is, in full, just a single paragraph running to barely 100 words.

    Timing of publication of independent review of the processes used in the Bishop George Bell case


    A spokesperson for the National Safeguarding Team said: “We received the draft of Lord Carlile’s report in October and now, according to the Terms of Reference of the review, are at the stage of responding with feedback from those who contributed. This is quite an intensive process and includes issues over factual accuracy and identification of ‘Carol’. As the review website notes, the final version of the report will then be presented to the National Safeguarding Steering Group before publication. This is the process with all independent reviews, there is a period of a few months between receiving the first draft and final publication.”