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Bishop Wallace Benn to retire at end of month

19 October 2012

BBC

THE Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Revd Wallace Benn, announced yesterday that he will retire at the end of the month. Charges against him under the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) remain unresolved ( News, 18 November 2011).

The interim report of the Archbishop of Canterbury's commissaries, published last month, said that "dysfunctionality" in Chichester diocese was preventing adequate child safeguarding ( News, 7 September). It did not single out Bishop Benn for particular blame, however.

In a letter to the diocese of Chichester yesterday, Bishop Benn said that he had "hoped to retire at the end of August but had to address a few unresolved issues. I can now tell you that I intend to retire at the end of October."

He continued: "I had hoped that there would be some resolution to the CDM procedure before I retired but there is no news yet and I will be in contact again. These have been difficult days, not only for me, but also for many people, including survivors [of abuse], compounded by inaccurate reporting and false allegations."

Last month, Bishop Benn's solicitors said that the BBC relayed "factual inaccuracies" when it reported that public officials in Sussex demanded, in May, the suspension of Bishop Benn, because they had "no confidence" in his "judgement and conduct" ( News, 14 September).

The Archbishop of Canterbury said in a statement yesterday: "Those in senior leadership in the diocese, including Bishop Wallace Benn, . . . have already acknowledged a shared responsibility and made unreserved apologies to those who have suffered because of past errors, and no one member of the senior team carries sole responsibility. They have been clear about mistakes made in the past and the need to change attitudes and practices in the diocese so as to guarantee that churches offer as safe an environment for children as humanly possible. . .

"The commitment of the bishops, the senior team and the diocesan staff to continue with the urgent work of improvement is already crystal clear and the final stage of the Archbishop's Visitation will aim at securing still more firmly the advances that have been made in the recent past."

The Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, said in a letter to the diocese of Chichester that "the most recent" part of Bishop Benn's ministry had "fallen during a profoundly disturbing time".

Dr Warner continued: "It is vital that we all grapple with the extent and impact of past failures and wrongdoing and the terrible damage that has been done to people's lives. We are only beginning to appreciate the extent of the safeguarding issues Bishop Wallace faced in East Sussex when he arrived in 1997 together with the systemic weaknesses in Church safeguarding procedures.

"With the rest of us, Bishop Wallace has welcomed and supported the resolve to implement the recommendations in the interim report. His retirement challenges us to appoint a successor who will continue the commitment to an improved culture of confidence and competence in the care and safety of our children, young people and vulnerable adults."

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