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Benn resigns under disciplinary cloud

26 October 2012


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 disturbing time".

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".

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