Thinking Anglicans

Bishop apologises to Dean

Updated again Thursday morning

Riazat Butt in the Guardian reports that Bishop of Liverpool apologises for opposing gay cleric:

One of the country’s most senior bishops has argued that the Bible sanctions same-sex relationships, using the bonds between Jesus and John the disciple, and David and Jonathan as examples.

The Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Rev James Jones, a conservative evangelical, expressed the views in a book, A Fallible Church, in which he apologised for objecting to the appointment of the gay cleric Dr Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading. He was one of nine bishops to sign a public letter criticising the proposed consecration.

The bishop also apologised for his conduct and its effect on John, who eventually withdrew his acceptance of the post after bowing to pressure…

Information on the book in which this chapter appears is available here, and also here.

Update The Bishop of Liverpool’s chapter in the book is now online at the Liverpool diocesan website: Making Space for Truth and Grace

Wednesday update

Further press reports:

Liverpool Daily Post Bishop’s rethink over gay relations

Liverpool Echo Bishop is sorry for gay cleric objection

Daily Mail Bishop quotes Jesus as he backs same-sex relationships

Thursday update
Ekklesia has by far the best report so far on this matter: Leading Evangelical bishop calls for fresh approach to sexuality row:

The Anglican Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev James Jones, has called for a change of heart among Evangelicals and others in the often bitter argument about sexuality, Scripture and authority.

But Bishop Jones has not, as reports in The Guardian and the Daily Mail newspapers have suggested, directly sanctioned same-sex relationships. In a lecture delivered at the end of 2007 and published in a new book designed to build-bridges in the run-up to the Lambeth Conference, he nevertheless points out that it is possible on the basis of the Bible to recognise that people of the same gender can have deeply involved emotional and physical friendships.

The bishop, who is a senior figure on the Evangelical wing of the Church, also forthrightly apologises for the form of action he took in opposing the appointment of Canon Jeffrey John, who declared himself to be in a non-sexual gay partnership, as Bishop of Reading. He expresses sorrow and regret over its hurtful impact, but he does not state that his reasons for doing so at the time were wrong…

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Tim
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Tim

What a humbling statement from the bishop of Liverpool. It takes a lot of courage to admit faults, especially in public. Im sure Jeffrey John appreciates and will be moved by such a gesture.

Fulwood ferret
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Fulwood ferret

Has anyone seen or read the extract on which the Guardian story is based? Has James Jones genuinely changed his views? If so this is very big news indeed.

poppy tupper
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poppy tupper

i’m in no way surprised by this. james jones is one of the most thoughtful and complex evangelicals. like all bishops, he suffers from the selective information he’s allowed to have by clergy who think more about winning his approval than about telling the truth, so he has to work harder to find out the truth than ordinary clergy do. but his humanity and his honesty mostly win out. time now for him to take wycliffe hall by the throat and stop the regime there hurting more people.

David Hey
Guest
David Hey

So has James+ defected from the CE camp? There is much ambiguity here. What does he mean by bonds and relationship? Were the relationships he refers to in the bible in any sense erotic?

David

Martin Reynolds
Guest

This is remarkable on many fronts.

This time last year I was in Liverpool hearing reports from clerics that Jones was pressing clergy with civil partners to leave the diocese. Perhaps that still continues…?

Jones does remain firmly convinced that Richard Harries mistimed this and that JJ’s choice was premature, but the reported Biblical stuff …… Hmmm ……..just amazing.

Good scoop for Riazat Butt! Contributors to the book of essays only got their copies yesterday!

L Roberts
Guest
L Roberts

A moving sign of the work of the Spirit.

Yes, wonderful to hear of, and what courage it takes.

I hope the homophobic Merseyside Police Force will take note.

No need for talk of ‘defection’ and ‘camp’ (David Hey) surely. Jones is still a Conservative Evangelical– good to hear him finding new light and truth in ‘God’s holy word.’

I hope these words will also be of some small, belated support to Jeffrey & Grant.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

I haven’t read the piece concerned. I have worked with JJ in the past. He is a complex person and I think this reflects some of what I know about his attitudes. I think he has accepted that loving relationships between people of the same sex can be good. I think he may still have a problem with the erotic element – but he needs to explain himself if that it the case. I do know that he very firmly thinks that this is not a first-order issue and I know he has administered Communion to openly gay laity in… Read more »

MJ
Guest
MJ

David Hey: “What does he mean by bonds and relationship? Were the relationships he refers to in the bible in any sense erotic?” As someone on SF pointed out, in an address on Human Sexuality to his Diocesan Synod in 2005 +Jones stated: “[W]hat do the Bible and the Christian tradition have to say about the nature of same gender friendship. The Bible gives us at least two major examples, firstly that of David and Jonathan, secondly that of Jesus and the beloved. The relationship that David and Jonathan had was emotional, spiritual, physical and covenantal. They clearly had a… Read more »

Lapinbizarre
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Lapinbizarre

My initial, groggy reaction – it’s 5:30 in the morning here and coffee is in the future – was to reflexively jump start that part of the brain that would tell me if it’s All Fools’ Day. But it’s Shrove Tuesday, isn’t it? Amazing development. If as reported a fine act by a bishop who has been criticized a lot recently.

Lapinbizarre
Guest
Lapinbizarre

In September 2005 the Bishop of Liverpool gave an address to the diocesan synod that includes the following passage: “Firstly, what do the Bible and the Christian tradition have to say about the nature of same gender friendship. The Bible gives us at least two major examples, firstly that of David and Jonathan, secondly that of Jesus and the beloved. The relationship that David and Jonathan had was emotional, spiritual, physical and covenantal. They clearly had a mutual dependency, they were committed to each other within their commitment to God, they embraced and kissed each other and they entered into… Read more »

William of the Wirral
Guest
William of the Wirral

This is such good news. Let us hope that he doesn’t backtrack under pressure from the GAFCON and Reform hardliners he seems to have been cultivating lately. So will he please do something about Wycliffe Hall, now?

Phil Craig
Guest
Phil Craig

Jones’ article is nuanced. The Guardian story has placed far too strong an emphasis in its angle…though as a journalist, I would be tempted to do the same. Jones does not sanction “same-sex relationships”–or at least, not in the way we all imagine the article to mean (sexually). He just points out that it’s possible, as evidenced in the Bible, for people of the same sex to have deeply involved relationships. And in his apology over Jeffrey John, he clearly regrets how he went about it and its hurtful impact, but he does not state that his reasons for doing… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest

“I worry about the Windsor proposals not because I doubt the courage and integrity of those who are working on them but because I fear that they will take us in the direction of narrowing the space and of closing down the debate on this and any future issue where Christians find themselves in conversation with their culture on some new moral development or dilemma. The result is that energy is sapped by internal definitions rather than released into engaging with the world so loved of God.”

How my soul sings with his in this reaction to Windsor!!!

Phil Craig
Guest
Phil Craig

Since posting my comment just now I am reading through others’ thoughts, and I’m surprised at how revolutionary people think this is.

I have been attending a full-on conservative evangelical church for years and the stories of David and Jonathan/Jesus and ‘the beloved’ are hardly glossed over or ignored: they’re clear examples of how deep and fulfilling relationships–perhaps friendships is a more appropriate term?–can be. What Jones said at the 2005 synod is/was nothing new, surely?

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Off topic, but please don’t believe everything you read in the paper about the Merseyside Police, LR. There have been isolated problems which are being dealt with in full co-operation with local gay and lesbian people.

But overall, there has been great improvement over the years in terms of their practices and policies.l

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“I’m surprised at how revolutionary people think this is.” Perhaps then you haven’t been listening, not only to your fellow Anglicans, but to the world around you. On the BBC in the last couple of years a comment was made about Christians being “the natural enemies of gay people”, and it passed without comment. Conservative Evangelicals have led the charge against us. They are led by a man who has called us less than animals, a cancer on the body of Christ, and wants to jail us just for being what we are. They have made lies and propaganda into… Read more »

David Keen
Guest

Phil Craig: spot on. Jones is not citing Jesus and John, David and Jonathan as examples of gay relationships. Riazad Butt has (intentionally, or is it just laziness?) got it wrong.

Jones makes a lot of good points that often get missed in this whole debate: the cultural context for Africans, how poor we are in Western culture at handling expressions of friendship and physical affection, etc. It’s nice to read a piece in this debate by someone who isn’t spitting bullets at someone else.

Fulwood ferret
Guest
Fulwood ferret

Having read James Jones’s essay, I don’t think it’s as radical as the Guardian makes out, but I do think it’s unbelievably refreshing from a bishop who has taken a very public line in the past which has been generally perceived as anti-gay. What’s particularly inspiring is the apology to Jeffrey John. I’m looking forward to the light dawning across the rest of the evangelical community. Phil Craig and David Keen are right in their observations, and James Jones makes some very important points about the way the debate has been caricatured by the media. Sadly, too many Christians accept… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

But this is, nevertheless, a major shift from JJ, which actually says quite clearly that we can live with difference of view. I think this is what he has come to accept.

Prior Aelred
Guest

I have always had tremendous respect for Bishop Jones, which is why I was taken aback to see him allowing his name to be used in the scapegoating of Jeffrey John (one can legitimately be opposed to a certain action on the basis that it is premature, but sadly, this frequently has been used to justify social injustice) — nevertheless, I can’t help wondering who put what in his tea! And of course the Windsor Report is a classic example of a troubled institution choosing the security of slow suicide through increased centralization. The best (& most “Anglican” action would… Read more »

poppy tupper
Guest
poppy tupper

prior aelred,
if only you were right. i’m afraid the days are long gone when we could accept a report and then quietly let it rot on a shelf. they want legislation and they want use it to act against those who disagree with them, which is why we must resist a covenant at all costs.

Pluralist
Guest

I’m still scratching my head in trying to equate this with goings on around Wycliffe Hall. There is a sort of cynic demon in me that I am currently bashing with a hammer, that is shouting at how this is all institutional shifting around Lambeth 2008 and the potential of exhausted Archbishop along with perceived failure of the Lambeth, Covenant and schism. After all, the Bishop of Rochester has sailed into the horizon. But then James Jones was never a member of the Christian Taliban anyway, so there ought to be less surprise in this than there is, and the… Read more »

Andrew Brown
Guest

I note two things from his statement. One is that his actual regrets are not for the fact of his opposition to JJ but its manner: “I regret too having objected publicly without first having consulted with the Archbishops of York and Canterbury and subsequently apologised to them and to colleagues in a private meeting of the House of Bishops. I still believe that it was unwise to try to take us to a place that evidently did not command the broad support of the Church of England but I am sorry for the way I opposed it and I… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Guest

Getting away from current Church politics – I think the Bishop of Liverpool finally acknowledges one fundamental truth – which I commented on in a recent posting on TA: http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/002884.html#comments “It always seemed to me that most of the biblical “heroes” were either polygamous or adulterous. And many biblical examples of true love were within same gender relationships. Yet we end up with marriage between one man and one woman being the only possible acceptable arrangement within orthodox Christianity. I am still not sure which biblical texts are used to justify that.” If your theology requires you to give primacy… Read more »

L Roberts
Guest
L Roberts

Thanks you Forde Elms for putting it on record what James Jones’ words are a departure from.

It needed saying here– thoughas you say what planet have some geen tripping on ?

I’ve been predicting for years that this is the future. Such a shame it has been so slow and painful (for lgbt people)

L Roberts
Guest
L Roberts

In many ways the most significant and radical thing Jones said, is that if we will create space for listening and being, the spirit of Christ will take us somewhere new and beyond our (current) imagining.

No wonder That has passed without comment here (so far)…

That is the true spirit of evangelicalsim it strikes me, and of the line of evangelcail bishops in Liverpool, starting with the first- JC Ryle.

btw

Even The Brethren on Merseyside are accepting loving relationships between people who happen to share the same gender !

It’s the future !

David
Guest

My first slightly flippant thought was that I wonder what Richard Turnbull will make of this.

It’s an interesting article, but I’d back up what others have said. He regrets how his opposition to Dr John’s appointment took place but he doesn’t go further than that. This isn’t a categorical 180 degree turn in view.

It reminded me of TEC’s apology to the Communion way back when. Sorry for causing hurt, but not sorry for what they did.

It does however suggest a way forward with ‘space’ to live with different views and that’s very much welcome and positive.

poppy tupper
Guest
poppy tupper

do you think he hopes this will get him drummed out of the brownies and thrown off the council of wycliffe hall?

just a thought.

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

I read a couple of things in James Jones piece which seem to have passed others by. First, he resists the reduction of identity to sex, and the leap to the sex/sexuality question to judge whether what is said is OK or not. And that is surely right – it may be important, but it isn’t the main thing in the end. So he deliberately doesn’t answer the sex question. Second, and much more interestingly, he criticises the Windsor proposals, not on the usual CE grounds that they don’t go far enough and aren’t sufficiently explicit, but on the radically… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“It reminded me of TEC’s apology to the Communion way back when. Sorry for causing hurt, but not sorry for what they did.” Indeed it is, and what’s wrong with that? He still thinks homosexual relationships are wrong but regrets the hurtful way he went about saying that. I fail to see how that is a bad thing. But then, I have been arguing for the past year and a half that the issue with conservative Evangelicals is not their position, but their apparent inability to perceive that insult, derision, deceit, and lies are not actually all that appropriate as… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Mark: I think thats an insightful appraisal. I have just published this on my blog – any thoughts? 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… Read more »

poppy tupper
Guest
poppy tupper

i see james jones gets the thumbs down from john richardson. so, he must be doing something right in this essay.

dr.primrose
Guest
dr.primrose

In the text from the book, Jones says he apologized to Canterbury, to York, and “in a private meeting” to other bishops. He also says that he is “sorry too for adding to the pain and distress of Dr. John and his partner.”

Has he apologized personally to John and his partner? If not, that would seem to be more in order than apologizing to various bishops to whom he did not cause pain and distress.

JCF
Guest
JCF

To Phil Craig (and others who believe this is “no news”): I recall in the 1970s and ’80s, probably the most popular words on the front of a wedding invite were “Today I Will Marry My Friend”. When +Liverpool says “The relationship that David and Jonathan had was emotional, spiritual, physical and covenantal. They clearly had a mutual dependency, they were committed to each other within their commitment to God, they embraced and kissed each other and they entered into a covenant with one another sealing their friendship before God.” …what makes you think that same-sex couples want anything OTHER… Read more »

Cheryl Va. Clough
Guest

Mark and Simon and others have picked up on James Jones’ attempts to separate bonds of affection from sexuality per se. His biblical insights to God recognizing and condoning the covenants of Jonathon to David and granting of filial ties of John to Jesus’ family by Jesus are excellent. There is, of course, another excellent example, and that is a Jewish community granting Ruth full daughter status to Naomi. To emphasis and reward this distinguishment between sexual morality and righteousness. I just did a bible search. Neither the word morality nor the word sexuality exists in my version of the… Read more »

kieran crichton
Guest
kieran crichton

“I still believe it was unwise to try to take us to a place that evidently did not command the broad support of the Church of England” Well, is it really that simple? Here’s a little comment from Stephen Bates’ account of the Jeffrey John debacle: “The Bishop of Oxford was receiving hate mail (and the now seemingly obligatory dog excrement). Eventually his office would receive more than 3,000 communications about the appointment, two-thirds of them supportive. By the end of the first week of July, 2,334 letters had been received, 789 negative and 1,545 positive. Support for Jeffrey John’s… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Cheryl
thank you for your beautiful post.

Neil
Guest
Neil

Kieran – you are SO right. And there was such a sense of hope (from outside as well as within the church…atheists included) surrounding the changes that Rowan’s appointment might bring as well. More important is that the scandal (in St. Paul’s terms) in the church is not about gay clergy, but about the disgrace of narrow minded bigots. It is seriously impeding the gospel and making the church irrelevant in the eyes of most people.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Kieran
while I agree with your sentiments and hope they express the truth of where most of our fellow Christians are, I would nevertheless like to ask how valid the statistical analysis you give is, bearing in mind that, by being letter/email writers, the quoted sample is self selective rather than random?

Prior Aelred
Guest

My understanding is that Bishop Jones has never actually apologized to Dean John, which is lamentable.

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Cheryl wrote: “They are going to tear apart a communion on the basis of two words that don’t even exist in the bible.”

This is the important insight about this on-going unpleasantness.

“two words that don’t even exist in the bible…”

Never did, never shall.

Neil
Guest
Neil

I hope that JJ of Liverpool will now be in the vanguard of those clamouring for JJ of St Albans to get a mitre and a diocese? After all, he says he is celibate, and the matter should be beyond controversy.

Peter Ould
Guest

Cheryl,

Are you seriously suggesting that because a word doesn’t appear in the bible that that means it is morally neutral?

kieran crichton
Guest
kieran crichton

Erika – thanks for your point about self selecting samples. I’d still say that given the quantity of communications received – in excess of 3,000 items – it could still be extrapolated in the same way as opinion polling. It covers just about every level of participation in the Church of England, and therefore representative of a wide range of people across the Church. I think +Liverpool has done everyone a service with his writing, in spite of numerous details that can clearly be faulted. If he can transform himself into the sort of comprehensive hate figure that +Rowan has… Read more »

L Roberts
Guest
L Roberts

No PO I understand Cheryl to be saying that words that do not occur in the Bible are thereby non-Biblical. There is no one here more Bible based than she.

You aren’t suggesting that God slipped up when he wrote it —- are you ?

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

This is all unexceptionable, but what is new? All Christians I have ever known have strongly commended the love of David and Jonathan, Jesus and John. To be able to love fully and freely is a sign of true humanity and maturity. Friendship is one of the great win-win situations in life, and currently in my view very much undervalued. Supposing that two trenches veterans, for example, testified that their love in some respects surpassed that of woman (because of what they had been through together etc etc) who would we be, even as rabid heterosexuals, to say them nay?… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Hi Ford- You say that ‘the problem with conservative evangelicals is not their position, but their inability to see that insult [etc] are not appropriate as evangelistic tools’. I agree with you that one’s position (a matter of substance) is a separate question from one’s tone (something impossible to perceive on the internet anyway, but in any case a matter of style rather than substance). If we have honesty and integrity we will therefore treat them as two separate questions: e.g. ‘I agree with your position but lament your style’. Or, ‘I disagree/semi-agree with your position for the following reasons;… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Hi Cheryl-

How many English words appear in the Bible?

Where a word or concept does not appear in the Bible, are we justified or unjustified in seeking the biblical view on it by studying the biblical view on the most closely overlapping concepts?

L Roberts
Guest
L Roberts

Christopher Shell’s posts are somewhat like omnibuses today !

But I could not myself call them transports of delight -alas.

I find his notion of ‘purity’ strange and as applied above somewhat offensive.

‘… heaven of such imperfection made ! ….’

RS Thomas

Peter Ould
Guest

L Roberts, I don’t think God slipped up in the Bible. Can’t imagine where you got that idea from. But let’s take Cheryl’s argument a bit further. Here’s a few english words that don’t appear in the Bible. Are we suggesting that since they don’t they are morally neutral terms? paedophilia heroin nuclear holocaust Remember, this is the crux of Cheryl’s argument: It is an irony now to see some wailing and threatening to tear the communion apart because of some souls’ morality and/or sexuality. They are going to tear apart a communion on the basis of two words that… Read more »