Last Thursday our very own ‘Rebel Priest’, the Rev Dr Jules Gomes, delivered the keynote speech on behalf of the George Bell Group at Church House. It was an impassioned plea for justice for the still-impugned Bishop Bell. But more than that, it was a plea for bridge-building with a Church of England that has entrapped itself in the morally relative world of victim politics and orthodoxies. This, Jules argued, citing biblical, philosophical and legal sources, has been at the expense of truth, right and justice. ‘Right’, not the modern ‘rights’ culture, must guide the Church and Christian faith.

You can listen to his full address here. An edited version is posted below.


By Rev Jules Gomes

The human compulsion to build bridges is deep-rooted; it is archetypal. Jacob in Genesis dreams of a ladder bridging earth to heaven. This archetypal story is immortalised by William Blake’s painting and by Francis Thompson’s poem situating Jacob’s ladder in London.

Paradoxically, bridge building is fiercely contested. The compulsion to blow up bridges is also deep-rooted in human nature. The monumental clash between these conflicting compulsions is what makes Sir David Lean’s World War II movie The Bridge on the River Kwai one of most gripping of the 20th century.

In the movie, Colonel Nicholson is fixated upon building the bridge linking Bangkok to Burma, convincing himself that the bridge is a monument to British character. Unknown to him, the Allies have sent a mission to blow up the bridge. Ultimately, Nicholson, who has successfully built the bridge, is trying to prevent the Allied commandos from blowing it up. He is shot and stumbles over to the detonator plunger and falls on it, just in time to blow up the bridge and send the enemy train hurtling into the river. Major Clipton, the British medical officer who has witnessed the carnage unfold from his vantage point on the hill, says as he shakes his head incredulously: ‘Madness! Madness!’

To build, or not to build, that is the question we are posing at the George Bell Rebuilding Bridges Conference.

Order and chaos are the constituent elements of this world. According to Jordan Peterson, ‘Order is where the people around you act according to well-understood social norms, and remain predictable and cooperative. It’s the world of social structure, explored territory, and familiarity.’ If the hierarchy of the Church of England had conducted its investigation into Bishop Bell on the principles of order, we would not be battling to clear the slander against his reputation. We are here because order has been overwhelmed by chaos.

The opening verses of the Bible present us with the picture of an ocean of chaos. The Hebrew text paints for us pictures of mythological sea monsters of chaos intent on devouring God’s creation. God subdues and defeats the monsters of chaos through the logos, God’s Word. Chaos is also marked by ‘darkness over the face of the deep’. God’s first act is to dispel darkness by creating light. Light is God’s first bridge-building act.

Over the last two years, the Bishop Bell group has been fighting this battle between chaos and logos. Finally, logos has triumphed. Hundreds of thousands of words written and spoken by dozens of historians, lawyers, clergy, columnists, churchgoers and choristers have prevailed. The Lord Carlile Review, a leading manifestation of ‘order’, even though restricted in its brief, has found a subtle way to pronounce Bishop Bell ‘not guilty’.

But the bridge over troubled waters is yet to be built. Justin Welby doubts the logos and rejects the light and clarity of order. He returns to the darkness and disorder of chaos in his insistence that a ‘significant cloud’ still hangs over Bishop Bell’s character.

Thus we may not be able to build this bridge with Welby, even though we are desirous of so doing. Our chief task, then, is to build the bridge between present and past. We build our most strategic bridge with history. History held Bishop Bell in the highest honour. The present zeitgeist blew the bridge of historical record to smithereens. It adopted a scorched earth policy and obliterated Bell’s name from institutions that had sought to etch his memory in stone.

Structurally speaking, the most important part of a bridge is the beams that support it. Our bridge with history should be built on the twin beams of truth and justice. The torrential waters of the River Chaos threaten both beams.

We live in a post-modern and post-truth age. Postmodernism dismantles truth as relative and perspectival. Philosopher Richard Rorty unapologetically proclaims, ‘There is no truth. We should give up the search for truth and be content with interpretations.’

In its handling of the Bell enquiry, the Church of England has revealed its first postmodern and post-truth archbishop for whom there is no truth, only interpretations, for whom the only virtue is openness, and for whom personal experiences are more influential than objective facts in shaping public opinion.

The second beam that will support our bridge across the River Chaos is justice. The philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre in his book Whose Justice? Which Rationality? speaks of ‘different and incompatible conceptions of justice’ and of ‘conflicting conceptions of justice’.

Is this what is being played out in the drama of Bishop Bell? There is one school that defines justice as that which is ‘right’, and another that defines justice as ‘rights’. ‘Rights’ are the obligations society is said to have towards certain social groups and it is the status of a person in the organised hierarchy of such groups that decides what is ‘right’ according to the ‘rights’ accorded to that group. In other words, justice is now re-defined as the ‘rights’ of a victim; these rights may even trump what is ‘right’, because postmodernism defines all claims to ‘truth’ and what is ‘right’ as claims to ‘power’.

In this radical re-conceptualisation of justice, those who claim to have suffered qualify by default for privileged status. They are right because they have the right to be right irrespective of what is objectively right. This, of course, is not to dismiss Bishop Bell’s accuser ‘Carol’ and her claims, it is simply to argue that the Church of England has moved considerably in its conception of justice. It is a very different conception from those who conceive of justice as ‘right’ because it is part of the right order of the logos and its features are truth and light.

The problem with grounding this beam of justice so as to build our bridge is that it is constantly threatened by chaos. In his Republic, Plato seems to think that people are pushed into the path of justice only by coercion and force of law. People choose to act in their own interest given the opportunity to commit injustice, because that is what nature deems good. Of course, Plato ultimately argues that humans submit freely to justice and law because there are rewards for those who restrain themselves in the face of temptation and make amends in the case of transgression.

But making amends requires great courage and it is ‘courage’ which Aristotle called the greatest of all virtues, because without courage it is impossible to practise any of the virtues. It is courage which will drive the building of our bridge across the River Chaos. Will Archbishop Welby have that courage?

As a tribute to Bishop George Bell I can do no better than conclude with these words from Romans 8: ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’

55 COMMENTS

  1. Very interesting piece indeed. I feel that both truth and justice have never been so undermined in the west. Politicians and the MSM are to blame.
    The establishment uses all its tools to squash any for of critique of its institutions. This is the ‘tyranny of the technocrats’ The infallibility of public servants.
    This week we see an elected MP was made to give a grovelling apology after he was accused of undermining the integrity of the civil service.
    Previously we have seen the establishment round on a newspaper over its criticism of judges
    In the USA the MSM position over the ‘memo’ is how dare an elected politician sully the great reputation of the FBI and the Department of Justice?. Sorry who is in charge?
    The Church of England is only following the same template. The institution is not there to serve the people. The people there to serve the institution.

      • Fortunately, the CofE has been found out and is losing power. In fact, it has been losing power for centuries.

        • But whatever power they think they have they are still using it to build stumbling blocks for the faithful Anglicans… deluding them into thinking that they are really doing God by not holding onto the Bible! CofE needs to be disestablished to stop the faithful Anglicans from being deluded.

          • I agree with their continued negative influence, as revealed by so many signs (including the views here of telemachus). However, disestablishment should have occurred centuries ago. Now I think it would be too late. The CofE would simply be another Episcopal Church, which it is rapidly becoming as we speak. Its recent history will be like quicksand (for example, women bishops). A totally separate church is now required… the foundation of which the FCE and AMiE are attempting to build.

          • … and the Ordinariate, which is preserving the best of the Anglican traditions, including some of Catholic origin that were done away with in the English Catholic Church between the 18th and 20th Centuries …

  2. Welby is a creature of the subversive leftist agenda. All that matters to him is pursuing that by any means whilst masquerading as a Christian Archbishop. He won’t recant over this. Leftists never do, even when faced with overwhelming evidence. They just dodge sideways and continue.

  3. Thank you. What I take away is that ‘rights’ permit selective rather than equal application of the law; that the concept of protected groups creates in effect ‘court favourites’ who are judged on a different basis from the majority.

    • That’s why the figure of Lady Justice is usually wearing a blindfold – justice should be applied to all, fairly (although not the one on the Old Bailey).

  4. Dr Gomes

    Off topic: I have studied your case carefully (via Ashenden inter alia).

    For the first time since studying Solzhenitsyn, you are a Christian I admire.

    Thank you, for standing your ground.

    Bravo!

  5. Welby is a man of his time which is Rortyan whether we like it or not because in many respects, Rorty was right. We can know the objective truth about some things but not all things and from there it is easy to slide to the relativist claim that there is no one truth abut anything. The French say of someone that he has “sa verité”. Having your personal truth denies the possibility of objective truth. How was Welby to deal with Carol’s allegation? Bell is dead, it happened 70 years ago and there is no corroboration, paedophilia is a fashionable cause, there is great pressure to “believe the victim” who is still alive. What best serves the longer term temporal interests of the church – to stand behind Bell or sacrifice him to political correctness and hope to return the affair to oblivion as the news cycle moves on? Welby did what any of our great contemporary office holders would do; he chose the answer that would best satisfy those who would criticise him loudest.

    • He forgot his mission. He is not there to serve the temporal church, he is there to Serve God, and his eternal truths. Yes, he is a man of his time, but his time is not a Christian one, as in the early days, we have again become a minority, not yet in our countries persecuted, but depend upon it, if courses are not changed our descendants will be.

      • Sorry, but the persecution of Christians in the West is not merely some eventuality in the future, it’s already started — in a limited manner so far, especially when compared to the horrors endured by other brethren in the Soviet Union recently, and presently in the Middle East, North Korea, and parts of Africa today, and elsewhere, but when people are losing their jobs, careers, and businesses for being Christians, then you cannot say that there’s no persecution.

  6. Interesting to recall that the term Pontiff for the occupants of the Vatican means bridge builder between Heaven and earth, especially when successive walls of beaurocracy have isolated them from their flock.
    Has Archbishop Welby any use for those describing themselves as Christian if they deny his injunction to them to embrace Islam as their religious future?

  7. I am quite frankly astonished at the approbium being heaped on Welby, one of the most caring Archbishops of the last 2 centuries over the Bishop Bell issue, particularly since he is still under investigation.

    Those who have posted against Welby should reflect on their motives

    “A new allegation has been made against the late Bishop George Bell who was accused after his death of abusing a young girl, the BBC understands.

    A statement issued by the Church said: “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.”

    The statement said the fresh information was received following the publication of last year’s Carlile Review.”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-sussex-42890831

    • For you, one side, yours, considers what it is true, the other side must “reflect on their motives”. That is tricky language. The motive must be to establish the truth as far as possible and to respond with justice, and this Welby has failed to do.

      • The very reason that people are currently lambasting Welby over Bell is that he would not accede to close the issue pending the full truth
        We must await the further inquiry

        • We will never have the “full truth”. So let’s just open dossiers on everyone who has ever lived and wait for the full truth about their lives to emerge before saying they did not sexually assault anyone.
          Strewth …

          • I sympathize with the feelings. I agree that we will never have the “full truth” about this allegation, but then we never have the “full truth” about anything. Only God knows it all.

            However, every court of law case and every scientific enterprise has a level of factual evidence (proof) which is required before any determination or judgment can be made. One person’s stated (decades old) memories without any corroboration does not come close to that acceptable level.

    • Have you not been listening to the news or reading them at least? Have you not realised that Justin Welby has led the whole of CofE down the path of apostasy and heresy and is actually signing the death certificate of CofE? You are either ignorant or pretending to be deaf, blind and dumb if see you Justin Welby as one of the most caring ABCs. He has created such moral chaos that even sceptics like Jeremy Paxman are sick of his ways.

      • Welby is a charismatic great communicator who once again is able to put the message of Christ to not just the people but those in power
        He is making the Church relevant to our unequal society
        There are folks alive today in Britain as a result of his message and ministry

        • Wow. What denial. I have never heard one word from the man that could possibly describe him as a “charismatic great communicator.” He does not preach Christ crucified and resurrected, he does not preach repentance for sexual sin and amendment of life, and he himself does not repent for publicly supporting heresies that are clearly refuted by the scriptures. Telemachus, you must agree with these heresies is all I can figure. Or maybe you are a blood relation.

        • He is making the Church relevant to our unequal society

          It is not the vocation of a clergyman to become a Social Justice Warrior.

        • Charismatic great communicator? Have you listened to his sermons? Full of fluff and no stuff. He can’t exegete his way out of a paper bag!

    • The motives of Gomes and those supporting him are to speak truth and warn people of the dangers of trusting this hired hand Welby — who is no shepherd. See Ezekiel 33. Gomes is one called by God to be a “watcher at the gate.”

    • I am quite frankly astonished that you live in cloud cuckoo-land and so naively trust this wolf in sheep’s clothing called Wolf Welby. On second thoughts, however, I am not so surprised because you seem to accept anything and everything without looking for evidence.

  8. Amen to your last paragraph.

    For the rest, Good on you, and the rest fighting this battle. It is time for truth and history to prevail, and I’m noticing something here, like the White Rose that we spoke of last week, we are seeing many Christians from many denominations rally around to support the Bishop. But what is noteworthy is that those rallying are actual, authentic Christians who know that right and wrong exists, and that God and the logos do, as well. What that makes Welby, well it wouldn’t be overly Christian for me to determine, but there is a just judge, whose judgement is not subject to appeal, I doubt the archbishop will enjoy that day.

  9. Dr. Jules has so convincingly pointed out the structure of such a bridge and the theological foundation that needs to undergird such an effort of reconciliation. You can not build bridges with people who promote moral chaos and deny any moral foundation or rather are post-modernist where there are no absolutes. I admire the efforts of the group that organised such a conference but pity that they want to stand on the moral foundation of the Word of God and CofE continues to spout hatred and abuse and lies even against a dead man like Bishop George Bell. What annoys me hugely is that CofE wants to rewrite history by destroying the name of a renowned servant of God and leave no role models for our posterity. They are also rewriting the age old, time tested, handed down doctrines of Christian faith.. they are misleading those who are ignorant sheep who are following them blindly in these CofE churches. So very Leftist in their agenda! Destroy, destroy, destroy that is their agenda. How interesting that they found ‘fresh information’ about George Bell on the eve of the conference where Dr. Gomes was the keynote speaker!

  10. George Bell was an important figure to me when I became a Christian some years ago, partly because he was morally consistent on the area bombing of Germany and also because he had strong links with the Confessing Church, something which interests me for a range of reasons.

    The problem with these accusations is that you are never, ever going to establish the truth of them. All someone has to do is to say that X, handily dead for some years, did Y or Z. Proof is incredibly hard to obtain even if both the protagonists are living, but in these cases, it is utterly impossible. The person could be telling the truth, could be mentally ill or want compensation. We have very little way of knowing.

    As a result, I don’t know who to believe and my previous respect for Bell now looks hugely problematic. I’m left wondering whether the man I thought that was coming close to understand was guilty of horrific crimes.

  11. Rev Dr Gomes is right.

    There is no justice when a person is convicted by church and media on the basis of only one person’s questionable testimony regarding events occurring many decades ago.

    There were a number of reasons why the Hebrews required the testimony of at least two witnesses for a conviction. As a psychologist, I am well acquainted with the normal deteriorating of memory over time and the automatic tendency we all have to make up the difference with imagination (especially noted among the elderly). And of course, it is not unusual for people to purposely lie for their own selfish reasons, as indicated by one of Ten Commandments– “Thou shalt not bear false witness…”. Defamation of character can even lead to a lawsuit, but it will never happen in this case because we simply will never know the truth about the allegations this side of heaven.

  12. ‘There is no truth. We should give up the search for truth and be content with interpretations.’

    So how does Rorty know this to be true? Discuss.

      • Chuckle. So right. Relativism is ultimately subjective and is powerless to prove any point. It is based on the patent fallacy that everyone’s interpretation (assessment of reality) is equally valid. Pontius Pilate had a really difficult time making a decision because he did not believe in absolute truth.

        • It was meant that way, but yeah. If 2+2 /= 4, well everything I’ve done in my life is a lie that should have killed me. Objective truth exists. You know in all of the Passion story, Pilate is the only one I have any sympathy for. He got caught between a rock and a hard place, and way out of his depth. You may be right, I’ve often thought that his main objective was to save his own skin.

          • Yes, Pilate wanted to avoid a riot — which would have made him look really bad to Caesar, and thus risk his job if not his life.

        • yes

          But really, there’s a qualitative difference between the three sources of truth as such.

          I) God — God is Truth, and Christ certainly could have answered Pilate’s “Quid est veritas ?” with : “Ego Sum” — but I think the Lord knew that Pilate’s hand was being forced, and indeed overtly suggested as much to him during the interrogation, and so He was more gentle with Pilate than He could have been.

          But more to the main point, the truths in our material reality are both transcended by and caused by the Divine Truth from God, and even though this Truth in its transcendent, nature includes certain immaterial and therefore unobservable realities, as well as some material realities of things that once were but no longer are, and those which have yet to come into being, and even though this degree of Truth is accessible to us only from the Will of God in Revelation.

          Of course, all of this goes both ways, meaning that no material realities exist that diverge from the Ultimate Divine Truth, so that :

          II) Material Reality — all that exists is real. This is the domain of reality, at all of its levels, whether it be observed or unobserved, and regardless of whether our understanding of it be derived from personal perceptions and experience or from some formal scientific disciplines.

          Truth here is most typically found in the immediacy of perception and experience, and so most often it is both personal and individual. The problem here of course is in individual interpretation, which has the potential of being either mistaken or erroneous ; or the opposite potential of being rejected or disbelieved by others who might lack that same immediate perception.

          Which leads to the problem in hand of :

          III) Generally accepted truth. And this, contrary to some people’s somewhat naïve claims, is a product not of “science” but of Language.

          Truth at this level, and so at the level of all philosophical and scientific discourse, is a certain form of pertinence in speech or writing. “Form” because the means of expression must coincide with what the truth requires ; “pertinence” because the contents expressed must be derived from and descriptive of that truth. But there is necessarily a limitation intrinsic to this, which is that any particular “pertinence” of a truth can only be established either strictly individually (in the case of truths known only to one person) or collectively (through the general acceptance of some statement as being pertinent and true — but such acceptance is not automatic, and there are furthermore some who seek to deliberately distort their words away from the truth, and who therefore vitiate the very nature of our seeking after and understanding of these general truths).

          Hence all of the problems to establish what the truth is, as such — Quid est Veritas ?

          And the fundamental, inescapable, problem that reality ; facts ; and truth are not just simply one and the same thing — except in God.

          The Truth is One ; but our understanding of it has been fractured by the brokenness of our own human condition.

          • Yes, or, as I like to say, all truth is God’s truth.

            “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
            and do not lean on your own understanding.
            In all your ways acknowledge him,
            and he will make straight your paths.”

            If we are to accept Proverbs 3:5-6, then all our personal and corporate interpretations of reality are to some extent be tainted by the Fall. “… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

            Humility is always appropriate. Even science is always being updated by new discoveries and better theoretical interpretations of the evidence.

            And although Holy Writ is unchangeable as the Word of God written, yet our own interpretations of passages may be all over the map. Even Catholic bishops often do not agree on what particular passages mean. They may say that they adhere to the interpretations provided by tradition and the Magisterium, but in reality they still have their own personal interpretations. Even the traditional doctrines require interpretation; even the best theological interpreters need interpretation. We cannot avoid the reality that all human beings must interpret everything they hear and see and read, and these interpretations are fallible. Jesus Christ told the absolute truth, John called Him the Word of God made flesh. But each of us may hear Him differently; not all of us are His sheep; not all of us will follow Him with 100% faith and commitment.

          • I thought you’d go along with most of that. We are much closer in doctrinal belief than it sometimes seems.

          • Protestant doctrine is harder to pin down, because there’s what – 70,000 sects of it ?

            But sure, I’d agree that most of “mainstream” Protestant doctrine (and virtually ALL of Orthodox doctrine BTW) is really pretty much the same as the Catholic. It’s actually just such extremists as the Mormons or the Jehovah’s Witnesses who go so far into their own blinkered ideology as to pretty much no longer be Christian.

            It’s just when Protestants start claiming stuff like “Catholics are not Bible-believing Christians” or pretending that some valid Scriptural interpretation is the only valid one, or some valid theological theory might somehow be mandatory that they become truly annoying from a Catholic (or even genuinely ecumenical) point of view.

          • Yep. Works both ways. Just switch the words ‘Protestant’ and ‘Catholic’ in your last paragraph and it is just as true.

    • He is a philosopher. Of course Rorty does not know the truth and he proves this by refusing to believe it even exists; his profession is based on ideas, logical arguments, and especially interpretations. It is far, far from the empirical evidence (facts) we get from most scientific research. Philosophers do have fun, however, making deductions based on science, these are only theories… not truth.

      • It’s “philosophy”, not “philoalethy” …

        Nevertheless, nothing that contradicts generally accepted scientific knowledge can belong to the practice of philosophy, not outside the history of philosophy anyway.

        Otherwise :

        the empirical evidence (facts) we get from most scientific research

        It’s a common mistake to get these the wrong way ’round.

        Scientific research includes the study of empirical evidence, which is provided not by the research itself, but by observation, organised or otherwise.

        Also, empirical observations do not constitute “facts” — factuality is only constituted by the combination of analysis and the shared acceptance of some proposal as constituting an accurate and pertinent description of some part of what is real.

        Remember — observations can be false, for multiple possible or potential reasons. Perception is not 100% reliable, so that what is perceived cannot absolutely be equated with factuality (even though in practice, it’s actually quite massively the case that it is so). But observations in lab conditions can be particularly tricky, as there can be an abundance of false positives and false negatives during experiments.

        • I hope you enjoyed that exercise.
          It is REPEATED empirical evidence over time by many scientists that leads to accepted “facts”; likewise the interpretations of those facts are not generally accepted until verified over a long period of time by many scientific thinkers. Technological applications of those theories verify their validity.

          • No, factuality is not restricted to the conclusions of scientific investigations alone ; nor does the simple accumulation of evidence constitute factuality either, as evidenced by the multiplicity of theories derived from such accumulation and yet later still turn out to be wrong.

            Factuality is constituted by simultaneous accuracy and acceptance of some statement ; which is to say that not only is the statement accepted as being truthful, but also that it is in esse accurately descriptive of the real (to the extent that it accurately communicates to others a pertinent impression of that which is independently real).

            It is NOT in other words limited either to or by Science, which is among other things just one manner (among many) of establishing accuracy, acceptance, and pertinence in certain particular domains of thought and activity.

  13. A powerful and insightful address analysing just where the current CoE leadership have gone wrong, at the level of their most basic ideas. Thank you Dr Gomes.

    The claim of “fresh allegations” just days before an enabling Synod motion (tabled by a lay member, and now pulled) is almost pathetically cheap in its timing; media management at all costs.

    Welby’s only virtue is openness ? Let’s see; the test is whether we get “openness” on the substance (or not) of these “fresh allegations”. Personally, I’m not holding my breath.

    As for “Telemachus” and his/her “Most caring archbishop in two centuries” – is this deliberate satire, or merely unintentional ??

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