Bishops try to blow up bridge, as George Bell Conference tries to build bridge
By David W. Virtue, DD
EXCLUSIVE 2 February 2018
The Rebuilding Bridges Conference at the Church of England’s headquarters was a resounding success, despite the desperate attempts of two senior bishops to ban the keynote speaker and another senior bishop’s last-minute announcement that fresh information had emerged concerning Bishop George Bell.
Around forty people including a member of the House of Lords, an Indian priest who had been ordained by Bishop Bell, writers, historians, lawyers, journalists, and academics gathered to hear the keynote speaker Rev’d Dr Jules Gomes deliver an erudite and impassioned address at Church House on 1 February.
Dr Gomes’ keynote address ‘The Bridge on the River Chaos’ called for building a bridge with historical memory using the twin beams of truth and justice. Describing ‘chaos’ as the sea monsters in the creation account of Genesis who threaten to destroy God’s creation, Gomes called for the ‘logos’ to combat the ‘chaos’. Gomes described ‘truth’ and ‘justice’ as features of the ‘logos’ and talked about how the ‘logos’ ultimately became flesh in Christ, who died to build God’s bridge with sinners.
‘The human compulsion to build bridges is so deep-rooted; it can be classed as archetypal,’ Gomes said. ‘Paradoxically, bridge building is fiercely contested. Not everyone wants to build bridges. The compulsion to build barriers and to blow up existing bridges is also deep-rooted in human nature,’ he added.
Earlier in the week, Bishop of Gloucester Rachel Treweek and Bishop of Newcastle Christine Hardman had launched an attack Dr Gomes and written to the organisers asking them to ban him from speaking, citing Dr Gomes’ ‘extreme views’ on Islam and the ordination of women as the reasons for which he should be banned.
Dismissing the ‘ad hominem’ attacks against Dr Gomes, the organisers refused to withdraw their invitation. Joanna Bogle, author, historian and theologian and one of the organisers told VOL: ‘I am sorry Mrs Treweek did not come to our meeting: as chairman I would have been glad to welcome her. The issue is Bishop George Bell. Mrs Treweek’s opinions on Dr Gomes are honestly not part of this: what is needed is a real building of bridges so that Bishop Bell’s true place in history is established. I would be happy to meet Mrs Treweek to talk about this if she would find it helpful.’
After the conference Treweek continued her personal attacks on Dr Gomes by releasing a press statement complaining that it was ‘outrageous that he (Gomes) has been allowed to speak at Church House.’
Meanwhile, on the eve of the conference, the Church of England released a statement claiming that ‘The Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team has received fresh information concerning Bishop George Bell. Sussex Police have been informed and we will work collaboratively with them.’ However, it went on to insist that, ‘As this is a confidential matter we will not be able to say any more about this until inquiries have concluded.’
Bishop Peter Hancock, the Church of England’s lead Safeguarding bishop said: ‘Due to the confidential nature of this new information I regret I cannot disclose any further detail until the investigations have been concluded.’
A number of commentators in the media questioned and even mocked the timing of the release. In his podcast, Bishop Dr Gavin Ashenden referred to the entire machinations of the women bishops, the attacks on Dr Gomes, and the press release as part of the ‘dirty tricks’ employed by the Church of England.
In a blog dripping with irony, the columnist Archbishop Cranmer noted: ‘There is nothing suspicious about the timing of these announcements at all. Nothing at all. No, absolutely nothing at all…. It’s all conveniently confidential and quasi-sub judice.’
Even Lord Carlile denounced the Church of England’s press release as ‘unwise, unnecessary and foolish’. Professor Andrew Chandler, George Bell’s biographer and spokesman for the George Bell Group, said, ‘This is shameful. The issuing of this press release shows the only way the Church can justify itself is at George Bell’s expense.’
Meanwhile, at the Rebuilding Bridges conference, six resolutions were passed by a majority vote. The resolutions included a call to Justin Welby to apologise for stating that a ‘significant cloud’ hung over Bishop Bell’s name, for Bishop Bell’s name to be restored to institutions which were named after him and for General Synod to undertake a full debate regarding the serious implications arising from Lord Carlile’s report.
In the debate following the keynote address, Kathy Gyngell, co-editor of The Conservative Woman said, ‘Bell is an exemplar of the far bigger battle for justice that is going on — a veritable culture war in which rights are defeating right in the mistaken belief that so called social justice deals justice for the victim. It encourages grievance and discourages that most fundamental Christian principle of forgiveness. The terrible thing is that the Church has fallen foul of this.’
In his speech, Dr Gomes had pointed out how the Church of England had re-defined justice ‘as the “rights” of a victim’ rather than what is objectively ‘right’. Gomes described Justin Welby as the Church of England’s first ‘postmodern and post-truth Archbishop of Canterbury’ who had fallen prey to the ‘zeitgeist’ of ‘expedience, pragmatism and the canonical authority of collective victimhood’.
Dr Gomes ended his keynote address calling for courage in building bridges. ‘Making amends require great courage and it is courage which Aristotle called the greatest of all virtues, because without courage it is impossible to practice any of the virtues,’ he said.
(Originally published on http://virtueonline.org/uk-bishops-try-blow-bridge-george-bell-conference-tries-build-bridge)
(The audio recording of Dr Gomes’ keynote address ‘Bridge on the River Chaos’ is available at https://www.mixcloud.com/jules-gomes/the-bridge-on-the-river-chaos-keynote-address-at-bishop-bell-conference/)