October 3: George Kennedy Allen Bell, Bishop of Chichester, and Ecumenist, 1958
October 3, 2010 11 Comments
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About this commemoration
George Bell was a major voice in the Church of England during the Second World War and a major ﬁgure on the ecumenical stage during the post-war era.
Born in Hampshire in 1883, Bell trained for ordination at Christ Church, Oxford, and Wells Theological College. Ordained to the priesthood in 1908, he served for several years in inner city Leeds among the poor and disenfranchised, an experience that would shape the remainder of his ministry. He became the chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Randall Davidson, in 1914, becoming Dean of Canterbury in 1924 and Bishop of Chichester in 1929.
During the rise of the Third Reich in Germany, Bell took an active role in securing safe haven in England for Jews and non-Aryans who wanted to escape the terror of the Nazis. He developed a close association with Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church in Germany. He was a signer of the Barmen Declaration, the manifesto of the Confessing Church that stood in opposition to Hitler’s regime. It has been widely presumed that his outspoken condemnation of the indiscriminate bombing of German cities during the war cost him the See of Canterbury after the death of Archbishop William Temple in 1944. In the post-war era, Bell was a staunch critic of the cold war and the nuclear arms race.
Bell’s continuing legacy is surely his stature as an ecumenist. Since his appointment to the See of Chichester, Bell had taken a keen interest in the reunion of the churches and he devoted considerable time to ecumenical projects. After the war, Bell was a tireless advocate for the cause of unity and is to be numbered among the founders of the World Council of Churches in which he held leading ofﬁces. Through his ecumenical commitments, Bell developed a friendship with Giovanni Montini, the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, who was to become Pope Paul VI.
Bell wrote a biography of Archbishop Davidson (1935), and a number of works on Christian unity and ecumenism from an Anglican perspective.
I God of peace, who didst sustain thy bishop George Bell with the courage to proclaim thy truth and justice in the face of disapproval in his own nation: As he taught that we, along with our enemies, are all children of God, may we stand with Christ in his hour of grieving, that at length we may enter thy country where there is no sorrow nor sighing, but fullness of joy in thee; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
II God of peace, you sustained your bishop George Bell with the courage to proclaim your truth and justice in the face of disapproval in his own nation: As he taught that we, along with our enemies, are all children of God, may we stand with Christ in his hour of grieving, that at length we may enter your country where there is no sorrow nor sighing, but fullness of joy in you; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
Lessons: Amos 7:10–15, Revelation 11:15–18, and Mark 13:1–13
Preface of Holy Week
From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
Also of interest
The Barmen Declaration
We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?
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