THE Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Revd Wallace Benn, has announced
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 on Thursday of last
week, 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.
"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."
The Archbishop of Canterbury said in a
statement on Thursday of last week: "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 Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, said in a letter to his diocese that "the most recent"
part of Bishop Benn's ministry had "fallen during a profoundly
Dr Warner wrote: "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."
Dr Warner said that Bishop Benn's 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".