Bishop George Bell: Allegations are strongly contested

Aktuelle Meldung vom: 20.08.2016


In October 2015 the Church of England announced that it had made a financial settlement with a claimant who had alleged child sexual abuse against her in the late 1940s/early 1950s by George Bell, bishop of Chichester, who died in 1958. Bell is famous as the closest British friend of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as an outspoken and prophetic figure for peace and justice, a stalwart supporter of the Confessing Church and the German resistance to Hitler, and a pioneer in the modern ecumenical movement. It goes without saying that those who know the Bonhoeffer story regard Bell as a crucial figure in that story too. It was with Bell that Bonhoeffer met in Sweden in 1942 with information on the German resistance to be passed to the British government, and Bonhoeffer’s last recorded word before being taken away to Flossenbürg execution camp was a message of friendship and hope to Bell, via an English fellow-prisoner.

The allegation that Bell was a paedophile (which the Church of England leadership appears to have accepted) together with the procedure employed in its investigation, has been strongly contested by a group of senior lawyers, politicians, church figures, journalists and academics (The George Bell Group) including  UK Bonhoeffer scholar and IBS board emeritus member Keith Clements. The Group has produced a detailed report seriously questioning, on legal and historical grounds, the Church's handling of the case and the reliability of the evidence as it has emerged thus far. At the recent 12th International Bonhoeffer Congress in Basel Clements spoke to an informal gathering of participants on the issue many of whom expressed interest in having further information and the possibility of expressing support for a new enquiry into the case.

The press statement of the George Bell Group can be found on the website:  where a link can also be found to the full report produced by the group. A letter has gone from the group to the Archbishop of Canterbury requesting a full and independent enquiry into the case. Thus far no satisfactory response has been received.
In addition, Mr Richard Symonds of Chichester who organised a vigil outside Chichester Cathedral "Justice 4 Bell" has set up an online petition to be sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury also asking for an independent and full investigation of the case. Those concerned can find and sign the petition online on
Signing it of course does not commit anyone to making a judgment beyond asking for this investigation in the interests of justice, for the reputation of one who himself fought for justice on behalf of so many in his time.

Rev Dr. Keith Clements


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Bonhoeffer heute