The Bishop of Lincoln has been suspended from office amid a police investigation into the handling of safeguarding issues at the Lincoln Diocese.
He faces allegations that he did not adequately safeguard children and vulnerable people, but peers clarified he is not accused of committing abuse.
The Archbishop of Canterbury said in a statement: “Following information provided by the police, I have suspended the Bishop of Lincoln Christopher Lowson from office, having obtained the consent of the Bishops of Birmingham and Worcester (the two longest serving bishops in the Province of Canterbury).
“If these matters are found to be proven I consider that the bishop would present a significant risk of harm by not adequately safeguarding children and vulnerable people.
“I would like to make it absolutely clear that there has been no allegation that Bishop Christopher has committed abuse of a child or vulnerable adult.
“The Bishop of Grimsby, David Court, will take on episcopal leadership of the diocese. It should be noted that suspension is a neutral act and nothing further can be said at this stage while matters are investigated.
“I ask for prayers for all affected by this matter.”
Commenting today the Bishop of Lincoln said:
“I am bewildered by the suspension and will fully cooperate in this matter.
“For the sake of the diocese and the wider Church I would like this to be investigated as quickly as possible to bring the matter to a swift conclusion.”
Lincolnshire Police said in a statement: “We are aware of the decision today of the Archbishop of Canterbury to suspend the Bishop of Lincoln from office and it would not be appropriate for us to comment on that decision.
“The first phase of the Lincolnshire Police Operation Redstone investigation into historic sex abuse cases involving contact resulted in three men being convicted.
“Phase 2 of the investigation is continuing into wider safeguarding issues and management decisions within the Diocese. Because it is a live investigation and we do not want to jeopardise the outcome, we do not intend to make any further comment.
“We are committed to ensuring the safeguarding of victims and continue to work with the full co-operation of the Lincoln Diocese.
“There is an absolute multi-agency commitment to a transparent, survivor–focussed and diligent investigation of every matter raised with the team.
“Anyone wanting to make contact in complete confidence can do so to the Diocese Safeguarding Adviser, Debbie Johnson who can be contacted on 01522 504081.”
The Right Reverend Christopher Lawson’s suspension comes after two key Lincoln Cathedral figures ‘stepped back’ last month.
As previously reported, both the Dean of Lincoln Christine Wilson and Chancellor Paul Overend’s absences were linked to safeguarding issues.
It also comes during an ongoing police investigation codenamed Operation Redstone, though it has not yet been confirmed if recent investigations fall into the Lincolnshire Police investigation.
Operation Redstone previously uncovered shocking abuse at the hands of Diocese of Lincoln clergy and staff.
Three men have been convicted by Lincolnshire Police, Roy Griffiths, John Bailey and Stephen Crabtree.
Investigations found decades of allegations had been ignored by Lincoln bishops. Victims spoke out the first time in a BBC Panorama documentary last month.