October 3: George Kennedy Allen Bell, Bishop of Chichester, and Ecumenist, 1958

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

Portrait of George Bell as Dean of Canterbury Cathedral by Philip Alexius de Laszio, 1931, the Deanery at Canterbury

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.

George Kennedy Allen Bell." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2010. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 30 Sep. 2010 .

Collects

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.

Psalm 46:4-11

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

http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/barmen.htm

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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11 Responses to October 3: George Kennedy Allen Bell, Bishop of Chichester, and Ecumenist, 1958

  1. Michael Hartney says:

    Collect: I suggest the addition of the adjective ‘heavenly’, to read ‘ … that at length we may enter your heavenly country ..’ Otherwise, we probably will need Homeland Security identification papers. 

    Readings. Psalm: Why not include the whole Psalm? – it is only 4 more verses.
    NT Reading: Why not include verse 19 and finish the chapter?
    Foreshortening Psalms and readings allays seems curious to me.

    Bio. 2nd paragraph: I suggest adding the country to read: ‘Born in Hampshire, England, in 1883 …’ There are Hampshires here in the USA, both towns and counties.
    He need a ‘He died in 1958.’ statement.

  2. (The Rev.) Brian McHugh says:

    I wonder: is it really necessary to provide Collects in ELizabethan English???

  3. (The Rev.) Brian McHugh says:

    Also: I personally appreciate that Bell’s inclusion raises the very contemporary issue of how we need to maintain that it is our moral duty to insist that it is “matriotic” to hold up a mirror to such things as egregious carpet-bombing, and that to do so is to serve our country well.

  4. John LaVoe says:

    “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.”

    COMMENT: Is the importance in the fact that “people presume,” (which seems unworthy of inclusion), or that he wasn’t chosen for Archbishop of Canterbury, or that he invoked Christian conscience against carpet bombing (i.e., targeting specifically civilian populations)? I hope we feel the last of these is most important, in which case these two sentences could be consolidated to read, “Bell was a staunch critic of indiscriminate bombing of German cities during the war, and of the cold war and the nuclear arms race In the post-war era.”

    In the collect, the words “in you” in the phrase, “but fullness of joy in you” strikes me as infelicitous, unnecessary, and would be better omitted, especially as they are followed by a trinitarian doxology.

  5. William H. Petersen says:

    A truly great figure on a world scale and worthy of being among those we honor in commemoration! Well done bio.

  6. Nigel Renton says:

    We know his birthplace: I recommend adding “on Hayling Island” before “in Hampshire” in line 1 of the second paragraph?

    In line 2 of the third paragraph, substitute ‘other “non-Aryan”‘ for ‘non-Aryan’. This avoids buying into Hitler’s racism, well explained in these words from Wikipedia:
    While originally meant simply as a neutral ethno-linguistic classification, (Aryan) was later used for ideologically motivated racism in Nazi and neo-Nazi doctrine and hence also in other currents such as white supremacism.

    The use of “other” here clarifies that Jews were also considered “non-Aryan” by Hitler’s regime. The quotation marks indicate disavowal of acceptance of the Nazi terminology.

    In line 5 of the third paragraph, add after “Declaration” “(1934), largely written by Karl Barth”.

    Lines 8&9 of the third paragraph include the words “cost him the See”. For the general reader, I suggest “prevented him from being appointed Archbishop”.

  7. The collect is trying to bring in too many ideas, and sounds cluttered. The part after the colon could be simplified to something like ‘may we also stand fast for the teaching of Your Son, Jesus Christ’ etc.

  8. Leonel L. Mitchell says:

    The controversy about Bell was largely in the UK. His ecumenical and humanitarian work are worthty of praise and emulation and he should certainly be on the calendar. Since he is sharing a day with John Mott, shouldn’t serious consideration be given to combining te commerorations so one doesn’t have to choose between them.

  9. Gregory Howe says:

    I think both of these have been said before, but…any psalm or lection can be lengthened at the discretion of the presider, and neither the Calendar Comm. nor the SCLM presumed to drop Rite I forms, having no such charge from General Convention. Greg Howe

  10. Pingback: Church of England statement on the Rt Revd George Bell (1883-1958) | Episcopal Cafe

  11. Ruth Meyers says:

    On October 22, 2015, the Church of England released a statement about George Bell:
    “The Bishop of Chichester has issued a formal apology following the settlement of a legal civil claim regarding sexual abuse against the Right Reverend George Bell, who was Bishop of Chichester from 1929 until his death on 3rd October 1958.” The full statement is at https://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2015/10/statement-on-the-rt-revd-george-bell-%281883-1958%29.aspx

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