George Kennedy Allen Bell, son of an Anglican priest, was born on February 4, 1883 on Hayling Island in Hampshire County. Following his ordination in 1907, he first served as a parish priest in the slums of Leeds. After a period as a chaplain in Oxford, he became the Archbishop of Canterbury’s private secretary in 1914 and Dean of Canterbury Cathedral in 1924. He was Bishop of Chichester from 1929 until his retirement in 1957. He died on October 3, 1958.
George Bell played an important role in the ecumenical movement and ecumenism drove his life: As a student, he came into contact with the World Student Christian Federation and attended the meeting of the International Committee of the World Alliance for Promoting International Friendship through the Churches in Oud Wassenaar, Netherlands in 1919 where he became friends with the German delegate Adolf Deissmann. This led to his active involvement in the Life and Work Movement, of which he became president in 1932. When the Life and Work Movement and Faith and Order Movement were merged into the World Council of Churches in 1948, Bell became the first president of its Central Committee.
Bell’s ecumenical work brought him into contact with the Confessing Church in Germany. He was close friends with Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his brother-in-law Gerhard Leibholz and busily worked intervening among church leaders and German and British politicians. Bell was unafraid to advocate even unpopular views. He was additionally involved in refugee work, especially for members of the Confessing Church who had fled to England. After the war, Bell actively supported Germany’s reconstruction and a united Europe.