Friday, 14 October 2005

James Jones and Human Sexuality

Hidden away on the Liverpool Diocesan website is the Bishop of Liverpool’s presidential address to his diocesan synod last month. He writes about his current position on the issue of human sexuality. His conciliatory views may surprise some.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 14 October 2005 at 2:53pm BST
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Cool, he's onto something. I see where he comes from in trying to transcend the permissive-versus-traditionalist aggression, and it's definitely too easy to fall too far into one side or another. I'll await his further spiel with interest, I think.

Posted by: Tim on Friday, 14 October 2005 at 3:47pm BST

Its interesting stuff. I must come clean - I was a member of the Theology of Friendship group and it was an valuable experience.

It appears clear to me that JJ is looking towards the development of a place where we can all live alongside one another. As far as the CofE is concerned, i think thats a possibility, as i think there are few here who regard the gay issue as one of 'first order'.

But I can't see that as the case with the wider Communion.

Posted by: Merseymike on Friday, 14 October 2005 at 4:55pm BST

I just returned from our diocesan fall clergy conference, where we (finally) began dialogue on sexuality. Though we had a very wide spectrum of opinion (except for the absence of the retired bishop who is a member of Essentials), but we were able to listen to one another with respect, and one of my conservative evangelical colleagues was able to embrace me afterwards, despite our differences in opinion.

We need more of this respectful dialogue, as Bishop Jones urges, and less of the vitriol that comes from groups like Essentials.

Posted by: Jim Pratt on Friday, 14 October 2005 at 5:13pm BST

I found this both interesting and encouraging. I am presently reading Eugene Rogers' book on the theology of human sexuality -- it's an older book but new to me and I think it has valuable points to raise. I am bringing it up in this context because Dr Rogers is also concerned that we de-polarise the debate and find a ground for discussion on which we respect one another as fellow Christians. It seems that a lot of people who try to lead the discussion in this kind of direction are being ignored by the loudest voices, but I keep hoping that some people are listening to them, and to what Archbp Eames had to say about reconciliation.

Posted by: Dr Abigail Ann Young on Friday, 14 October 2005 at 5:18pm BST

Jim Pratt wrote ".. less of the vitriol that comes from groups like Essentials."

Dear Jim, you could have tried to be even handed.

I agree that conservatives sometimes spit emotional vitriol, but they are not the only ones, and maybe sometimes passion is justified. (I don't think it is reasonable to demand cool dispassionate debate when more conservatives loosie their jobs and church property in liberal North and South American provinces!).

And you should look at some of the stuff spat out by folk like Exclusive Church and WATCH (on women's issues) too..

Posted by: Dave on Friday, 14 October 2005 at 8:00pm BST

I found much helpful material here. Have we reached the point where this is surprising? I hope not.

Posted by: Kendall Harmon on Saturday, 15 October 2005 at 2:24am BST

"Have we reached the point where this is surprising?" KH

No, I think we're all (mostly) exhausted and have "bottomed out" from the meanspirted/feardriven and angry, hatefilled and deceitful behavior witnessed in ourselves and others (no matter how righteously delivered/twisted).

It's self-revealing isn't it?

Does everyone need to repent?

Posted by: Leonardo Ricardo on Saturday, 15 October 2005 at 1:50pm BST

... conservatives sometimes spit emotional vitriol, but they are not the only ones, and maybe sometimes passion is justified. (I don't think it is reasonable to demand cool dispassionate debate when more conservatives lose their jobs and church property in liberal North and South American provinces!)"-- Dave

Pray tell us, Steve, where this bloodbath of conservatives taking place in North America? Six parishes in our oldest diocese? A few in California? Show me the blood, Steve.

It certainly isn't happening in Brooklyn, NY

Posted by: Kurt on Saturday, 15 October 2005 at 2:46pm BST

Please keep comments related to the content of Bishop Jones' remarks. Thanks.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 15 October 2005 at 5:10pm BST

"We need to recognise that on the one side there are those who genuinely believe that there is an issue of justice and of human rights and who in all good conscience believe that gay relationships are compatible with a relationship with Jesus Christ"

+James Jones might think he's accurately representing *my* position here---but he isn't.

Note that the first part of this statement ("justice and human rights") is essentially *secular*. At best then, he conceives of "gay relationships [that] are compatible with a relationship with Jesus Christ." "Compatible with": something "along side of" "in addition to" "buy one, get one free" (or even merely "not mutually-exclusive of"?)

But what of the belief that some persons, made in the Image of God, are actually *called by God* to this manner of life? (covenanted same-sex *marital love*)

Seeing this as but a secular issue, +Jones can say "let us in the Church have more (non-polarized) dialogue": more and more and more . . . for years. For decades. For-ever.

But what of *pastoral needs*?

There's a reason that opposite-sex couples seek a blessing of their marriage covenant (and it's not primarily so that any children they might have won't be b*st*rds).

It's that they believe they are *called* to a life together---faithful, life-long monogamy---which they don't have a *prayer* of being able to (mutually) accomplish, without the pronouncement of God's blessing, and the *SUPPORT* of God's People!

[For my money, the *most important* words in the marriage liturgy, are "Will all of you witnessing these promises do all in your power to uphold these two persons in their marriage?" "We will." (BCP, ECUSA, p. 425)]

Same-sex couples---Christians---perceive *exactly* the same call, and NEED exactly the same blessing/support.

Will Bishop Jones fulfill *his* calling and minister to these couples? Or will he say "Come back when we're done talking . . . in a generation or three"?

To whom much is given, from them much is expected: woe to apostles who bring only their blather, to those whom they should SERVE!

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Sunday, 16 October 2005 at 4:21am BST

In the Canadian church, the only vitriol is coming from Essentials and their allies. Integrity and others advocating the other side are remaining quite reasoned and calm. But I do recognize that this is not the case in other parts of the Communion.

You are absolutely right about the bishop's comments on justice and human rights. But unfortunately, he gets this from groups like Integrity, that have sometimes advocated same-sex marriage/blessings as matters of equality, and not of grace.

As to your point about gay relationships as compatible with a relationship with Jesus Christ, it is certainly the issue with regards to Bishop Robinson's consecration. And, while it is not the ultimate issue in same-sex marriage/blessings, it is a necessary step along the way, and something we need to talk about first, before we can talk about affirming and blessing same-sex relationships.

Bishop Jones may not have gone as far as you would like, but what is needed, very sorely, is dialogue and mutual understanding, and his remarks go a long way toward that.

Posted by: Jim Pratt on Sunday, 16 October 2005 at 4:44pm BST

I agree with you, JC, but believe me, this is considerable progress with regard to JJ, who has been thought of as the UK's most conservative Bishop on this issue, with some even thinking he might be temperamentally likely to side with those looking to break away.

Posted by: Merseymike on Sunday, 16 October 2005 at 5:46pm BST

Dear Merseymike, As you were on Bp Jones's Theology of Friendship group, exploring this issue with people from a broad range of perspectives, I'm itching to ask how you got on with the conservatives?!

Posted by: Dave on Tuesday, 18 October 2005 at 12:55am BST

It was an interesting experience. None of us changed our perspective - well, maybe one did - and strangely enough I think the two most clearly liberal/conservative members, although disagreeing most profoundly, also were more agreed as to the impossibility of finding a meeting point which wouldn't fatally compromise what we believed.

I'm always happy to talk to anyone and to work constructively, but sometimes I think we need to know when we have reached the end of the road.

Posted by: Merseymike on Tuesday, 18 October 2005 at 6:54pm BST

Dear Merseymike, It sounds like on the Theology of Friendship group there was some mutual respect even in irreconcilable disagreement.

So do you think that the term "homophobe" could be reserved for people filled with irrational hate and fear, rather than just anyone who just thinks same-sex sex is [along with many other sexual behaviours] sinful ? ?

Posted by: Dave on Tuesday, 18 October 2005 at 11:04pm BST

Dear Dave,

It seems to me that someone must have called you a homophobe, and that you resent this.

Can you tell us more about it, so that we may understand the reason for your resentment?

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Wednesday, 19 October 2005 at 10:30am BST

No, Dave. The actual colloquial meaning of the term is someone who is anti-gay, not the narrow psychological definition you refer to - its a bit like saying that gay still primarily means happy and frolicsome!. Language is dynamic, and homophobia is now used in the way I explain - get used to it!

Personally, I tend to use the word anti-gay. That is the term I prefer to use and usually do, but I consider that the conservative position is homophobic, according to the colloquial definition, as it does not treat gay people and their relationships as the moral equivalent of those of straight people. Simple as that. Hence, Christian tradition is itself institutionally homophobic. Which is why it needs to change.

Posted by: Merseymike on Wednesday, 19 October 2005 at 6:03pm BST

Since this thread now seems to be about unpacking homophobia, can I offer my input?

I believe that "homophobia" is an almost inspiringly *apt* description. I agree, MM, that what we're talking about is "anti-gay" attitudes (and particularly behavior), but that the "anti" in question (dislike/contempt/hatred: all of which are usually denied by the homophobe) DOES, in fact, arise from FEAR.

. . . just, however, not *merely* a fear---internalized by the homophobe---of homosexuality/homosexuals/homosexual acts, usually between males [rare is the homophobe who completely without these kind of infection/subversion/coercion/*seduction* fears, however!].

No, the fear which is even more controlling (in a religious context), is FEAR OF A LOSS OF SALVATION. That is, the Christian homophobe thinks "if I come to the conclusion that 'gay is OK', and I'm wrong about that, God will send me to hell for it."

Seen in this light, this kind of fear-based belief system is very understandable.

. . . but---as *I* understand Scripture, Tradition and Reason---NOT anything remotely like *faith in Jesus Christ*.

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Wednesday, 19 October 2005 at 8:40pm BST

Dear Merseymike, *homophobe* and *anti-gay* are both deceptive since conservatives have VERY strict ideals. We aren't against everyone who doesn't live up to them (which would include ourselves!). But we do repent of all forms of sin (theoretically)

Dear Göran, see Merseymikes explanation - it's all part of the politicking in the UK. A misuse of adjectives to undermine someone else's credibility... very Angli-Saxon PC politicking.

Dear JCF, See my commments above. I would add that the term "pervert" has a dictionary definition, but you would get very upset if conservatives were throwing it around on this forum!

As for fearing God... *Someone* told us to do that, rather than fear man !

Posted by: Dave on Wednesday, 19 October 2005 at 10:23pm BST

Dave, et al.

Your might find an interesting entry on "unpacking homophobia" on Fr. Jake's blog at:

Linzey: "The Church is Homophobic"

which contains much discussion of an essay by Andrew Linzey, a member of the Faculty of Theology in the University of Oxford, and Senior Research Fellow of Blackfriars Hall, Oxford which was included in the recent book "Gays And the Future of Anglicanism" (Linzey & Kirker, ed.)

Posted by: David Huff on Friday, 21 October 2005 at 4:07pm BST

Dear David

That's a very good example of what I mean. Redefining homophobia to catch anyone who isn't approving and supportive of homosexual relationships makes it almost meaningless... You could *try* to, make a distinction between the people who, though loving, do not approve - and those criminals who hunt and kill gays.. But truth and politics are very uncomfortable bed-fellows!

While we're into unpacking Linzey et al, here's my pennyworth about the extract FrJake quotes: "The strangeness of this situation should not go unremarked. As reported, Jesus said nothing about gay sex. [Dave: But Apostles did] "There are no Anglican creedal statements on sex, let alone same-sex. [Dave: Nor on Theft!] The great ecumenical statements of Nicea and Chalcedon make no references to sexual behavior. [Dave: ditto!] Even the comprehensive Thirty Nine Articles do not touch on homosexuality. [Dave: ditto!] Likewise, the Book of Common Prayer."

Dave: The point is that these are theological statements, not discussions of Christian morality... But you would have been hard pressed to find anyone who thought that homosexual sexuality wasn't sinful among those involved in the councils or the writing of the BCP / 39 Articles !

Posted by: Dave on Saturday, 22 October 2005 at 3:43pm BST
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