Bishop Bell, the ‘Rebel Priest’ and a catalogue of lies

Bishop George Bell, Bishop of Chicester (1883–1958)

By David W. Virtue, DD, January 30, 2018

A vicar falsely accused by the Church of England and cleared of most of the accusations by a disciplinary tribunal is to deliver the keynote address at a conference organised to restore the good name and legacy of Bishop George Bell on Thursday at Church House, Westminster, the headquarters of the Church of England.

The Rev’d Dr Jules Gomes is an outspoken defender of Bishop Bell, who was posthumously accused of child abuse but exonerated by the Lord Carlile Review, which found that the Church of England’s processes were deficient and failed to give proper consideration to the rights of the accused.

However, Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, went on to claim that ‘a significant cloud is left over [Bishop Bell’s] name’ and refused to apologise even after seven distinguished British historians wrote an open letter affirming there was no evidence that Bishop Bell had ever committed such an act.

One of Dr Gomes’ qualifications for defending George Bell is his own experience of the corruption of the Church of England’s operation of trial by tribunal.

In 2015, a Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) was brought against Dr Gomes, a hugely successful preacher and pastor on the Isle of Man, after he filed a Petition of Doleance in Tynwald, the island’s national parliament. The petition called for greater protection from bullying and harassment for clergy, who are not regarded as ‘employees’ by law in the British Isles.

The Archdeacon of Man, Andie Brown, accused Dr Gomes of misconduct by bringing up a wide range of allegations against him. One of these accusations was made by Bishop Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark, who claimed that Dr Gomes was ‘excessively opposed to Freemasonry’ during his tenure as Chaplain to the Old Royal Naval College.

Bishop Chessun also falsely reported an incident involving a freemason in the Naval Chapel which was covered in the local press and caused quite a problem in the small community of Greenwich. VOL has investigated this claim by checking the news reports in the media and found it to be completely false.

Andie Brown went on to accuse Dr Gomes of falsifying his job application by using the title ‘Honorary Curate’ while a doctoral student at the University of Cambridge. VOL investigated this claim and found that Dr Gomes was given a letter of recommendation by the Rev’d Dr John Binns, Rector of Great St Mary’s Church, Cambridge, which clearly named him as an ‘honorary’ member of staff. Dr Binns’s letter also said that Gomes was ‘an effective preacher, who speaks with scholarship and conviction’.

An Anglican canon lawyer told VOL that the term ‘Honorary Curate’ is ‘essentially meaningless’ and that ‘curate’ is a common term which many conservative clergy use to refer to their office, following the Book of Common Prayer (1662), where the prayer of intercession refers to ‘bishops and curates’.

The CDM also accused Dr Gomes of falsely claiming that he had written news reports as Asia Correspondent for Open Doors and had served as one of the chaplains to the Oakington Reception Centre for refugees while a doctoral student. VOL examined government documents that proved Dr Gomes had been a chaplain paid by GS4, the security company which ran the detention centre.

A letter from Dr Ron Boyd-Macmillan, Head of Strategy and Research, Open Doors, which was submitted to the tribunal, clarified that Dr Gomes was a ‘Special Correspondent for Compass Direct’. He ‘contributed outstanding articles tracking the rise and impact of Hindu extremism upon the church during this time. We arranged for him to have the pen-name, Abhijeet Prabhu, in order to protect his identity, or he would be subject to reprisal on his return to India,’ Mr Boyd-Macmillan wrote.

The Rev’d Dr Jules Gomes at Peel Cathedral, Isle of Man

A number of similar charges were found to be spurious and dismissed by the tribunal, sitting in the Isle of Man. Dr Gomes was also accused of shouting at his church cleaner, a mentally disturbed woman who was on medication. However, documents submitted by witnesses to the incident tell a different story. One, Mrs Joan Mellin, gave a statement saying that it was the cleaner who was actually shouting at Dr Gomes.

A member of the congregation, Ms Jillian Carran, gave a statement describing how the cleaner picked a fight with her and then accused her of trying to kill her by running her down with her car. The witness statements clearly demonstrate that it was the word of a mentally disturbed person against Dr Gomes.

The Archdeacon even accused Dr Gomes of falsely using the title ‘lecturer’ to describe his additional responsibilities while teaching in the Diocesan Theological School in the Diocese of Southwark. VOL has seen documents from the University of Bangor, to which the school was affiliated, that clearly recognise Dr Gomes as a qualified lecturer. Dr Gomes has two post-graduate degrees as well as an earned doctorate from the University of Cambridge.

Meanwhile, sources have told VOL that apart from the Petition of Doleance, which would have triggered a select committee against Bishop Robert Paterson, former Bishop of Sodor and Man, other reasons that led to Dr Gomes’s ‘fake trial’ were his conservative positions on Islam, homosexuality, and the ordination of women as well as his remarkable success in ministry on the Isle of Man.

VOL obtained an email from a senior lawyer in the Church of England which said that this was a ‘“trawl” to find things to complain about’ and noted that ‘almost the entirety of this complaint is hearsay’. He went on to write: ‘I suspect that the material from Southwark was improperly obtained.’

When Dr Gomes took over the tiny Isle of Man church of St Mary’s on the Harbour, there were only about two dozen ageing parishioners and no children. Within few months, the congregation had increased to more than a hundred adults and 20 children. Dr Gomes also launched a series of academic lectures on the Bible on the island, which drew more than a hundred people week after week.

Since his resignation from the Church of England, Dr Gomes has planted an independent Anglican Church on the Isle of Man and writes the ‘Rebel Priest’ column for The Conservative Woman as well as writing on his own website. Dr Gomes is also one of two ministers on the Isle of Man to have had the courage to speak out against the Abortion Reform Bill 2018, while the island’s other 92 churches have remained silent.

Despite the evidence in his favour, Dr Gomes was found guilty of shouting at his church cleaner and barred from ministry in the Church of England for ten years, even though he had already resigned from the church. The cash-strapped diocese of Sodor and Man reportedly spent more than £20,000 on the trial, which Dr Gomes refused to attend, claiming that since he was ordained by the Church of North India, the Church of England had no jurisdiction over him.

Bishop Dr Gavin Ashenden told VOL, ‘I have known Jules Gomes since his trouble with the tribunal brought against him by the Diocese of Sodor and Man, and became a friend and supporter of his once I had examined the tribunal’s methodology and findings. My judgement after reading the documentation, (I was trained originally in the law,) was that Jules had been on the receiving end of a serious abuse of process and miscarriage of justice.’

‘If the situation is as I have described, and my judgement is correct, then he is well qualified to speak on behalf of George Bell, as he is yet one more example of abuse of process and miscarriage of justice that the Church of England has engineered of late. This would include the cover up in Jersey in 2015 after the Bishop of Winchester’s refusal to publish the Dame Heather Steele report which exposed his own limitations and misdemeanours, despite his categorical promise to do so.’

‘In Dr Gomes’ case it is not hard to harbour the strong suspicion that malice alongside egregious self-interest motivated those who took proceedings against him. The motivation that Lord Carlile exposed in the disastrous assault on George Bell’s reputation by Archbishop Justin Welby and others, is more complex but no less reprehensible,’ said Bishop Gavin.

‘Unless the Anglican Church in the British Isles sets its own house in order, and apologises and recants where, in the judgement of impartial observers, it has lamentably let down those it ought to have protected, its voice cannot be heard in the public sphere with any hope of retaining integrity,’ he added.

(Originally published in Virtue Online

Virtue Online lists below some of the original documents obtained in this investigation, which totally debunk the false accusations against Gomes. All the documents below were submitted as evidence to the Tribunal.

Letter from GSL (Security Contractor) confirming Dr Jules Gomes worked as Chaplain for the Oakington Detention Centre in Cambridgeshire
Letter from Ronald Boyd-MacMillan confirming Dr Gomes wrote for Compass Direct
Letter from the Rev’d Dr John Binns, Vicar of Great St Mary’s, Cambridge, confirming that Gomes was an ‘honorary member of staff’ while a doctoral student at Cambridge
Letter from the former Principal of the Southwark OLM Scheme confirming that Dr Gomes lectured in the following modules
Letter from Rev Judith Roberts confirming that Dr Gomes was a Lecturer on the Southwark OLM Course
Witness statement from a member of the congregation