Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Busy, busy....but some passing thoughts on Bishop James Jones

Merseymike's world appears to consist largely of marking exam scripts....

But, a couple of thoughts. Bishop James Jones of Liverpool has published an essay in which he offers apology to Jeffrey John for the way in which he opposed his being chosen as Bishop of reading. The essay also looks more widely at the issues surrounding biblical notions of same-sex friendship and the attitude of the Anglican church.
I wasn't surprised to read the article (its at http://www.liverpool.anglican.org/people/bishops/jamesspeeches/0712_Lambeth_essay.htm if you want to read it for yourself).

I think that there has been some hyperbole from both sides of the argument. Conservatives appear to be either keen to portray Bishop James as having abandoned their position, or wish to minimise the step he has taken in revising his perceived position. Liberals and the report in the Guardian are over-egging the pudding in the other direction.

I think that the situation and the views of JJ are more nuanced. I haven't met him for a while since I ceased active involvement with Changing Attitude, and then the Church, but I have met him on a number of occasions, and it is no secret that I served on the Theology of Friendship Group which he refers to in the article. I think the following observations are fair.

First, that his position has certainly softened in terms of what he thought and said when I first had contact with him
Second, that I think he is carefully saying what he can find in the Biblical account without necessarily imputing that which cannot be fairly imputed, given the reality of social construction. David and Jonathan loved one another and they may have had sexual contact - but that doesn't make them 'gay' in a Western sense. No-one in the Bible can have that label simply because it is a term with all sorts of social and cultural meanings.
Third, i think he may still have issues around same-sex sexual expression but that he isn't willing to see this being a matter which brings division
Fourth, that he clearly thinks that the Windsor process os flawed because it suggests that there may be a 'conclusion' reached. This, I think, is his most profound shift. I know that he doesn't regard the issue as first-order, which does separate him from conservative evangelicals. But I think - and I may be wrong - that he is saying that he is now more able to live with difference and diversity and that this is necessary to keep the issue open and allow continued dialogue. Unless he was open to the possibility of embracing change, then he wouldn't be suggesting this as a way forward. That doesn't mean that he necessarily fully embraces it himself, though.
Not yet, anyway. But he has moved.


Anonymous said...

It's a positive sign. He's acknowledged that same-sex relationships can be genuinely loving and godly, and that means a lot. And he's afforded gays and lesbians a place at the table, something many of the fundamentalists won't do. I'm not generally a +Jones fan, but I welcome this.

Btw, Mike, I'd be interested in chatting to you. You seem to be quite familiar with the diocese, and also indicated in this post that you've now left the Church. As I am in the same diocese, and most likely encounter the sames issues you did, I'd be eager to get to know you. My email is davidlrattigan at gmail dot com.

Me said...

thanks Mike for this comment. It speaks out of my heart. As a quite fresh asset to Liverpool but very much interested in what is going on around and inside the issues concerning church and homosexuality I struggle often with my lesbianism and a thorough journey back towards my lost christian faith.