Feast of George Kennedy Allen Bell (October 3)   Leave a comment

Above:  George Kennedy Allen Bell

Image in the Public Domain

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GEORGE KENNEDY ALLEN BELL (FEBRUARY 4, 1883-OCTOBER 3, 1958)

Anglican Bishop of Chichester

George Kennedy Allen Bell, the son of a priest of the Church of England, entered the world on Hayling Island, Hampshire, on February 4, 1883.  He, like his father, became a deacon (1907) then a priest (1908). Bell worked among the industrial workers of Leeds from 1907 to 1910.  Then he became an academic tutor and student minister at Christ Church, Oxford, where he remained until 1914.

In 1914 Bell became chaplain to Archbishop of Canterbury Randall Davidson.  In this capacity Bell became active in ecumenism.  During World War I he worked with Swedish Lutheran Bishop Nathan Soderblom, a close friend, for exchanges of prisoners of war.  During the 1920s Bell became involved deeply in the Life and Work movement, which related Christian faith to society, politics, and economics.   This movement was a precursor to the World Council of Churches, formed in 1948.

From 1925 to 1929 Bell was Dean of Canterbury.  He started the Canterbury Festival, which encouraged music, poetry, and drama.

Perhaps Bell made his greatest contributions to human society as Bishop of Chichester (1929-1958).  During the Great Depression he allied himself with struggling workers.  And when Adolf Hitler won the support of much of German Christianity, Bell supported the dissident (non-Nazi) faction, the Confessing Church.  The Bishop even passed useful intelligence to German resistance leaders (often also leaders of the Confessing Church) during World War II.

Bishop Bell sought justice for human beings, regardless of politics or the relative popularity of his opinions.  So he helped refugees, displaced persons, interned Germans, and British conscientious objectors.  And he condemned the Churchill government’s policy of area bombing.  Bell said and wrote repeatedly that the bombing of unarmed civilians was immoral.  This displeased the Prime Minister, who selected the new Archbishop of Canterbury in 1944, after William Temple died.  Churchill did not choose Bell.

After World War II Bell’s moral sensibility continued to contradict government policies.  He opposed the nuclear arms race and advocated nuclear disarmament during the Cold War.

Bell’s ecumenical engagement remained a recurring theme until he died.  One of his dear friends was Cardinal Giovanni Montini, who became Pope Paul VI in 1963.  Also, Bell supported the 1947 creation of the Church of South India.  In addition, he served as joint chairman of Anglican-Methodist Conversations, begun in 1955.  The 1968 final report proposed a union of the Church of England and the Methodist Church of Great Britain.  This has not happened.

Furthermore, Bell wrote the hymn, “Christ is the King! O Friends Upraise,” which is #614 in The Hymnal 1982.

KRT

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Christ is the King! O Friends Upraise

1. Christ is the King! O friends upraise

anthems of joy and holy praise

for brave saints of ancient days,

who with a faith forever new

followed the King,

and round him drew

thousands of servants brave and true.

2. O Christian women, Christian men,

all the world over, seek again

the Way disciples followed then.

Christ through all ages is the same:

place the same hope in this great Name,

with the same faith his word proclaim.

3. Let Love’s unconquerable might

your scattered companies unite

in service to the Lord of light:

so shall God’s will on earth be done,

new lamps be lit, new tasks begun,

and the whole Church at last be one.

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God of peace, you sustained your bishop George Kennedy Allen 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.

Amos 7:10-15

Psalm 46:4-11

Revelation 11:15-18

Mark 13:1-13

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 619

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