Tuesday, 5 February 2008

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…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 8:16am GMT | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Church of England
Comments

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.

Posted by: Tim on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 9:05am GMT

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.

Posted by: Fulwood ferret on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 9:08am GMT

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.

Posted by: poppy tupper on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 9:36am GMT

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

Posted by: David Hey on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 9:57am GMT

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!

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 10:08am GMT

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.

Posted by: L Roberts on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 10:23am GMT

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 relationships (including me)

Posted by: Merseymike on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 10:25am GMT

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 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."

http://www.liverpool.anglican.org/people/bishops/jamesspeeches/0509%20_Diocesan_Synod.htm

Posted by: MJ on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 10:33am GMT

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.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 10:45am GMT

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 a covenant with one another sealing their friendship before God."

http://www.liverpool.anglican.org/people/bishops/jamesspeeches/0509%20_Diocesan_Synod.htm

Pretty unequivocal statement, which confirms the Guardian report. Amazing it passed unnoticed at the time.

Thanks to Robroy,posting at Stand Firm, for this one.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 11:27am GMT

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?

Posted by: William of the Wirral on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 11:29am GMT

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 so at the time were wrong.

I don't know enough about Jones' views to say whether he has changed his opinions on anything. His emphasis on the 'four points', placing the Bible alongside conscience and unity in the (Anglican) church does suggest that he is less conservative an evangelical than some.

Posted by: Phil Craig on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 11:56am GMT

"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!!!

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 12:00pm GMT

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?

Posted by: Phil Craig on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 12:03pm GMT

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

Posted by: Merseymike on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 12:37pm GMT

"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 policy advocating dangerous "reparative therapies" that are discredited by the scientific community and that drive some of us to suicide. They accuse our supporters of being faithless heathens who are persecuting THEM and scheming to destroy the Church. They have been the source of untold poison and vitriol directed at us and our supporters. They cannot even be in communion with those who are consecrated a gay bishop on the other side of the planet from them and accuse TEC of forcing her position on everyone else, which TEC has not done, so great is their hatred of us. They have shown no inclination at all to behave towards us with anything approaching Christian agape. When confronted with this, they deny and defend their behaviour. This is the first time an Evangelical has, AFAIK, actually even suggested this kind of behaviour might be in any way inappropriate. I can't imagine anyone NOT being surprised, gladdened, even shaken by this. I know I am. It's the mirror image of what I felt the day the Dromantine statement came out. Glory be to God!

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 1:35pm GMT

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.

Posted by: David Keen on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 1:49pm GMT

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 the media line (reinforced by Reform, etc) that there are only two possible positions (no innuendo intended, folks).

Posted by: Fulwood ferret on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 2:26pm GMT

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.

Posted by: Merseymike on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 2:35pm GMT

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 be to pay it lip service & then ignore it).

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 2:35pm GMT

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.

Posted by: poppy tupper on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 3:12pm GMT

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 puzzle has been his upholding of Richard Turnbull and all the sackings, rather than some sudden change of view and how he can continue to uphold the situation in that college.

Posted by: Pluralist on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 3:16pm GMT

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 am sorry too for adding to the pain and distress of Dr. John and his partner. I regret too that this particular controversy narrowed rather than enlarged the space for healthy debate within the church."

The second is a mind-wrenching phrase a little lower in the article: "we need to have and protect the space for genuine dialogue in the spirit of Lambeth 1:10." That would demand the participants attempt to exorcise each other, rather than admitting their own sins.

If anyone thinks this is an overstatement, consider the excitement generated by the Bishop's remarks, purely because they aren't made in the spirit of Lambeth 1:10.

Posted by: Andrew Brown on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 3:32pm GMT

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 to Scriptures as the source of moral guidance, then it is indisputable that it is the same sex relationships quoted that are examples of loving and truth - whilst many of the marriages are, at best, morally ambiguous.

Where that awareness leads you is an open question, but to acknowledge it is at least a good start in producing useful debate and Bible study.

Simon Dawson

Posted by: Simon Dawson on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 3:51pm GMT

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)

Posted by: L Roberts on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 3:52pm GMT

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 !

Posted by: L Roberts on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 3:58pm GMT

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.

Posted by: David on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 4:13pm GMT

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.

Posted by: poppy tupper on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 4:13pm GMT

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 different grounds that they close down space, when space is needed.

His opening, locating dialogue about contentious issues in relationships and friendships which have become strong on different grounds, bears reflection in relation to the kind of contentious community of commentators we are on the TA blog.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 4:32pm GMT

"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 evangelistic tools. Nice to see at least one conservative Evangelical thinks the same way.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 5:01pm GMT

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 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.

Posted by: Merseymike on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 5:06pm GMT

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

Posted by: poppy tupper on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 5:09pm GMT

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.

Posted by: dr.primrose on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 6:33pm GMT

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 than this? [Well, unlike D&J, w/ the bog-standard "forsaking all others" clause, of course! ;-/]

Your protestations say more to me about what YOU BELIEVE about gay relationships (all mindless flesh-friction and bodily fluids?), than about WHO WE ARE, and how we form our *Christ-grounded* relationships.

We just want to "marry our friends", as heterosexuals have done (w/ the blessing of Church, as well as State). No more, and No Less! Come, Lord Christ! :-D

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 7:43pm GMT

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 bible. Yet, the word righteousness comes up 232 times, (74 NT, 158 OT; 58 from Psalms, 45 in Isaiah and 28 in Romans).

One of the opening comments by Jones was that "The driving force behind me initiating a tripartite conversation on sexuality was the idea that the debate about contentious subjects is best located in already established relationships."

What Jones might have since come to appreciate is that enabled power brokering lobbyists to attempt to "gain control" over the communion. It was a decision that said that the spaghetti was to determine the content of the spilled bowl. It failed to recognize that spaghetti is barely palatable unless it is covered and suffused with sauce.

Just so in our Communion. While there might be the formal bonds within and between dioceses and parishes, there are also the informal bonds of affection that may or may not relate to the organizational structures. There are the relationships of friendship and kinship between various Anglican members, and into the broader community beyond.

Anglicanism does not and has never existed in isolation from the communities in which abodes. For goodness sake, Anglicanism was formed to stop bloodbaths.

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 don't even exist in the bible. They are choosing to cling to violence, tyranny and accusations and will pursue conquest despite the casualties. In this they fundamentally refute the very righteousness on which this Communion was formed.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 7:57pm GMT

"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 appointment came from 517 clergy and 1,028 laity, including 38 MPs and five peers. There were also supportive messages from one archbishop (Ndungane of Cape Town), 16 diocesan bishops, nine suffragans, eight deans, five archdeacons, 15 university chaplains, 16 professors of theology and 14 area deans."
(A Church At War, 169)

Bates documents similar trends in his chapter on +Rowan's appointment in the same book. It's worth recalling that a valid statistical sample for opinion polling - which is extrapolated to the population as a whole - is significantly less than 3,000. I would suggest that, based on the trends of the correspondence documented here, this translated to broad support within the Church of England for the appointment of Jeffrey John to Reading. Also, if we're going to include social context, then I'd suggest that if anything the pressures within British society are towards acceptance and equality for gay people, not the continuing vilification we see so proudly displayed by "churchmen".

Posted by: kieran crichton on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 11:12pm GMT

Cheryl
thank you for your beautiful post.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 11:13pm GMT

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.

Posted by: Neil on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 11:41pm GMT

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?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 5 February 2008 at 11:43pm GMT

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

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Wednesday, 6 February 2008 at 12:53am GMT

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.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Wednesday, 6 February 2008 at 7:20am GMT

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.

Posted by: Neil on Wednesday, 6 February 2008 at 8:31am GMT

Cheryl,

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

Posted by: Peter Ould on Wednesday, 6 February 2008 at 8:51am GMT

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 become, he might well be on the right track!

However, there's one niggling question at the back of my mind. It's a truism that when one person speaks out in this way, at least four others probably inwardly agree. I'd be interested to know who else among the bishops of his stripe are walking a similar path, and how they're traveling.

Posted by: kieran crichton on Wednesday, 6 February 2008 at 11:21am GMT

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 ?

Posted by: L Roberts on Wednesday, 6 February 2008 at 11:39am GMT

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?

I can also imagine the same two trenches veterans recoiling in horror (the horror of being utterly misunderstood, and -worse- the horror caused by the degradation of something pure, presumably by those who have never encountered the pure thing and/or do not want anyone else to have encountered it either) if the slightest link was made between their love and homosexual 'intercourse'.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 6 February 2008 at 12:59pm GMT

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; but thanks for your reasonable style' and so on.

It is through dishonesty that this very rarely happens. The message is so often (illogically) 'your style seems to me to be negative, and therefore your substance is also wrong.' This is not merely a non sequitur, it is also one that proves the dishonesty of the speaker, since they cannot but know that it is a non sequitur. And it provides a convenient way of avoiding grappling with the issues of substance.

Out of style and substance, which is more important? Style is as important as you like: very important. But substance is always by definition going to be the more important of the two.

It is also a good thing for a human being to be feeling and/or sensitive (in a positive way). One of the ways we communicate effectively is by use of appropriate tones of voice, inflections and so on. Tones are not always correctly picked up on the internet; inflections are impossible to convey on the internet. But in all events they must be appropriate to the matter in hand. If something is important, use a tone, and language, that signifies that it is. (A bit like an accent, or a forte, in music.) If it is a flippant matter, speak flippantly about it. Then communication will be the more precise.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 6 February 2008 at 1:09pm GMT

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?

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 6 February 2008 at 1:14pm GMT

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

Posted by: L Roberts on Wednesday, 6 February 2008 at 2:46pm GMT

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 don't even exist in the bible.

Would you say it was wrong to tear the Communion apart if say, the Church in Brazil said child sexual abuse was acceptable? Using Cheryl's reasoning the argument seems to be "yes, it would be wrong to split" and so we'd have to stay in Communion with those morally neutral (because the Bible says nothing about paedophilia) child abusers and perhaps even affirm them.

See the problem?

Posted by: Peter Ould on Wednesday, 6 February 2008 at 3:21pm GMT

Bishop Jones could well have launched discussion around which a nucleus of relatively conservative bishops out of sympathy with the "Lambeth 1.10" bandwagon and the the Akinola/Minns/Sugden dog and pony show can form in advance of the Lambeth Conference. Such a group could be a significant factor in the sexuality conflict.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Wednesday, 6 February 2008 at 3:27pm GMT

Statistically, the proportion of positive to negative communications is not a reliable measure of the relative support because, as Erica says, the sample is self-selecting rather than random.

That said, I suggest the proportions of this self-selecting sample are far more striking than if we saw these same proportions in a random sample.

Traditionally, those who are offended are more likely to make their views known than those who are supportive. By analogy, many businesses offer up varying statistics from various sources about how an unsatisfied customer will tell several times more people about their bad experience as compared to a satisfied customer. (The last version I recall seeing suggested that an unsatisfied customer will tell seven times as many people as a satisfied customer.)

In light of that tendency, the fact that two-thirds of the correspondence received was supportive of Jeffrey John's appointment to Reading, it seems likely that the opposition represented an even smaller proportion of the Anglican population.

That said, it is not statistically or scientifically verifiable.

Posted by: Malcolm+ on Wednesday, 6 February 2008 at 3:50pm GMT

Ah Christopher S, again the accusations that same sex activities are impure in some sense in which married heterosexual relations are not? Please do say more - probably in other blogs or church life forums? - as thanks to various helpful empirical considerations, this is less and less and less clear. Then too, we have the up close and personal knowledge of the committed gay male and lesbian couples which flourish among us, even in our local parishes when we permit them to do so, honestly and generously. What sort of kind word is this, spoken to the children of COLAGE? Just Google, friends.

And, what about the increasing stretched gap between the clear ethical nature of such same sex family affairs, committed - gapping more and more from special traditional pieties that like to talk about their own very pure purity and very holy holiness?

What do you think is going on, besides the rest of us just going to hell in hand baskets because we have an orgasm?

What would be the markers, if any, through which we could weigh fairly that these old accusations of impurity and innate disorder and immorality against queer neighbors were, actually, clearly, false witness? Could that ever occur at all? If I live an alternatively ethical queer life following Jesus of Nazareth as Risen Lord, and this is the work of the evil one, then the evil one is a house divided against itself, just as Jesus in the NT says to his audience of doubters and nay-sayers - who at that point if I remember it correctly, were terribly upset that Jesus healed and forgave sins, ate with sinners, and touched outcasts or at least did not punish outcasts for surreptitiously touching the hem of his robe. Have you entirely no sense of caution or restraint, that you could possibly be unfair or mistaken in so constantly trying to tarnish the person, relationships, and daily lives of any and all queer neighbors? That, evidence to the contrary growing growing growing, you are simply nothing but absolutely right? Alas. Lord have mercy.

Posted by: drdanfee on Wednesday, 6 February 2008 at 4:10pm GMT

Let's look at some other words that don't exist in the bible:

homosexual
transexual
gay (in the sexual sense)
lesbian
testosterone female
hermaphrodite

There is a word that does exist in the bible "eunuch". But we've been told we're not allowed to use that word to offer succour and grace to GLBTs because God didn't specifically use their labels.

So yet again we see inconsistent application of the bible. We are being told to restrain from love and tolerate vilification and abuse of 2-5% of the human population because specific labels do not occur.

But on the other hand we are being told we have to continue tolerating vilification and abuse despite specific labels not occurring.

I really don't mind which way the conservatives play, but they really should try and play consistently. Otherwise they look like cheats who can't play by the rules.

In the meantime, I'm going to keep playing by the bible and offering refuge and succour to "afflicted" GLBTs e.g. Isaiah 4:5-6 "Then the LORD will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over all the glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain."

Micah 4:6-8 "“In that day,” declares the LORD, “I will gather the lame; I will assemble the exiles and those I have brought to grief. I will make the lame a remnant, those driven away a strong nation. The LORD will rule over them in Mount Zion from that day and forever. As for you, O watchtower of the flock, O stronghold of the Daughter of Zion, the former dominion will be restored."

Remember 2 Kings 9:30-37. It was eunuchs who obeyed God's annointed and threw Jezebel's body from her ivory tower.

Isaiah 56:1-8 Any eunuch who acknowledges God, honors the Sabbath and refrains from Baal paradigms is no longer a dry tree and are covered by God's covenant of peace, made possible through the High Priest.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Wednesday, 6 February 2008 at 8:11pm GMT

L Roberts,

I don't think God slipped up in the Bible. Can't imagine where you got that idea from.

Peter Ould.

I said nothing of the sort -- I understood you to have given up on the Bible yourself, because it does not say what you would have it to.

I take you have no intnention of entering James Jones' space ?

Posted by: L Roberts on Wednesday, 6 February 2008 at 8:27pm GMT

"the horror caused by the degradation of something pure, presumably by those who have never encountered the pure thing and/or do not want anyone else to have encountered it either) if the slightest link was made between their love and homosexual 'intercourse'"

The only impure thing here, Christopher S, is the impurity that YOU bring to it.

This being Ash Wednesday and all, might I *suggest* you consider giving up such impurity this Lent?

Lord grant us ALL a spirit of true repentance---Lord have mercy!

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 6 February 2008 at 8:41pm GMT

Peter Ould wrote: "Would you say it was wrong to tear the Communion apart if say, the Church in Brazil said child sexual abuse was acceptable?"

They don't.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Wednesday, 6 February 2008 at 8:56pm GMT

Christopher Shell wrote: "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?"

Need to be done responsibly, though...

In awe and trembling.

By mature and responsible persons.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Wednesday, 6 February 2008 at 8:59pm GMT

Dean John,

Remember the Scriptural warning, " Beware of those who wink at you, for inwardly they plot your destruction."

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Wednesday, 6 February 2008 at 9:05pm GMT

Well, having noticed that I have been quoted in the Daily Mail...I simply feel defiled.

Posted by: Merseymike on Wednesday, 6 February 2008 at 11:57pm GMT

Peter Ould, in pouncing on Cheryl's logic you seem to have committed some logical errors yourself -- misleading analogies and begging the question, for instance.

But you should ask yourself if this kind of rationalistic approach can ever do justice to scriptural hermeneutics (it forces you for example to say that if the Bible contains errors of any kind "God slipped up) or to human issues (it gets you into the brutal position of equiparating loving same-sex relationships with child sexual abuse and nuclear holocaust, whereas a more phenomenological and dialogal approach might end up equiparating them with recognized virtuous things, as the Bishop has realized).

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Thursday, 7 February 2008 at 4:29am GMT

Christopher Shell's logic is also dubious: "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?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?"

His implication is that the primitive texts threatening death to sodomites are the most closely overlapping with the current concerns of gay people. In reality the most closely overlapping are the doctrine of the primacy of love and the doctrine of respect for the god-given dignity of all humans beings and for their freedom, without discrimination. The latter words may not be in the Bible but they are close to the heart of the NT.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Thursday, 7 February 2008 at 4:37am GMT

Can I PLEASE share another example of CS's dubious logic. A direct quote from him "Any so-called victory is is won by force of logic, internal consistency of arguments, failure to contradict oneself, and so on. Not a punch thrown in anger. The principle being: play the ball and not the man."

See this thread http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/002658.html and his posting of 3 October 2007 at 1:12pm BST

You see, what the thread we are in now shows that they that although they call upon the force of logic, internal consistency in arguments, claiming that they don’t contradict themselves and so on. But in reality they ignore logic where their passion is aroused, are often internally inconsistent in both their arguments and their methodology and frequently contradict themselves.

By the way, did you know that the word favouritism does exist in the bible?

For example: Leviticus 19:14-18 “‘Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the LORD. Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. Do not go about spreading slander among your people. “ ‘Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the LORD. ‘Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”

Acts 10:34-35 “Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” See also Romans 2:11 or Ephesians 6:9 or Colossians 3:25

1 Timothy 5:21 “I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.”

James 2:1 “…believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.”

Listen to the wails of the opportunistic shepherds. Malachi 2:9 “I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.”

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Thursday, 7 February 2008 at 8:05am GMT

"substance is always by definition going to be the more important of the two."

Christopher,
I have never argued against the conservative position. I am not a theologian and not qualified to do so. I CAN comment on their behaviour. But I disagree with this statement. We communicate with more than words. Cons claim to be defending the Gospel, but they don't obey its precepts. In itself, this discredits the Gospel, the form negates the substance. So what does that say? Maybe they don't understand what the Gospel is, in which case they have no authority. Or maybe they feel the ends justify the means, and it is perfectly acceptable to abandon the Gospel in order to force compliance. Or maybe they are motivated by something other than zeal for the Gospel. Something so horrible that they are willing, perhaps even sadly, to abandon the Gospel in order to oppose it. What could be so horrifying? Oh, wait:

"the horror caused by the degradation of something pure"

Thanks. Do you not see how this statements reveals your motivations? For you, a friendship between two men can be something pure. But, what you so helpfully put into quotation marks as homosexual 'intercourse' would degrade that purity. You reveal very clearly what motivates you here. You can use the Gospel, or Cameron (who is motivated pretty much by the same fear) or anyone else you want. And you didn't gave something away in this thread, this has been obvious for ages. So, you see, how one speaks is often as important as what one says, since the how can often reveal the why.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 7 February 2008 at 12:35pm GMT

Ford: I think both Christopher and Peter are victims of the 'Yuk Factor'.

This often occurs amongst men who either can't handle the idea of gay sex either because it doesn't appeal to them and sends them 'all funny' , or because they actually love the idea but have to maintain the pretence of conversion to heterosexuality.

It means that any pretence at rationalism from such quarters should be treated with the utmost scepticism!

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 7 February 2008 at 4:19pm GMT

Mike, I tend to agree, though I think the issue is more complicated than gay men desperately pretending to be straight. A boy sexually abused by a male pedophile, for instance, could be socialized to interact with men sexually while not actually being gay. Once such a person has had therapy for the damage caused by the abuse, he may find out he isn't gay at all. A gay person so abused may be revolted by his homosexuality since it is linked with the person who abused him, thus have to fight desperately not to be seen to be gay, and on and on. But, yeah, the "yuk" factor is a big part. I read Peter's blog, very interesting, and he is obviously sincere. I do not claim that any of the possibilities I mentioned apply to him. I will not presume to "psychoanalyze" him, I'm not qualified to do so and even then it would be insulting. His life is his life and doesn't deserve my judgement. I'm glad he's happy and has found healing. All I can say is that his experience is not mine.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 7 February 2008 at 5:55pm GMT

To reiterate -- I question the heading on this thread -- according to someone who spoke to Dean Jeffrey John a few days ago, up to that point Bishop James Jones had never apologized to HIM (as the topic heading indicates). The bishop has apologized all over the place ABOUT the dean but not TO him -- this is again typical of the "talking about" rather than "talking to" problem that the C of E has with openly gay people.

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Thursday, 7 February 2008 at 8:49pm GMT

"-worse- the horror caused by the degradation of something pure"

Explain that to me, please.
As soon as a deep and loving friendship is expressed sexually it is automatically a horrible degradation of something pure?
Does your wife know you feel like that about her?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 9 February 2008 at 7:33am GMT

A few points:

Ford - of course we communicate with more than words (who denies that?). There are words, inflections, tones of voice, gestures, body language in general - as I think I mentioned earlier. The less verbal aspects of communication actually tend to communicate more strongly to the hearer. That, of course, says more about the hearer than about the speaker's intentions. Very regularly, in the speaker's intentions, the actual words will be paramount. Intrinsically, because they are substance not style, the actual words are always likely to be of paramount importance. But in any case, one can always discuss the actual words and the tone separately, so there is no problem and never has been. The problem arises when people illegitimately confuse the two.

I have no idea which 'side' - always assuming there are 2 sides, which there aren't - is more polite. I am not counting. I am sure there has been plenty of politeness and plenty of frustration on both sides. But that (when the real thing is to solve questions of truth) is a side issue.

Male cameraderie such as in battles or football teams is very intense. It is -by no coincidence- such groups that have the strongest loathing of homosexual activity. They know that it is the very reverse of, and would destroy, the positive nature of their existing relationship.

The points about the word 'purity' are odd. Purity and innocence are words regularly used of (some!) young people, of nuns/religious etc, of virgins up till and including marriage, and/or of faithful spouses. It would be hard to step outside these parameters without introducing impurity/adulteration and so making the word 'purity' inappropriate. So all I am doing is using the word in its regular sense.

Spirit of Vatican II -
You write: 'his implication is...'. On quite a high proportion of occasions, sentences beginning thus are incorrect. On this occasion your sentence is incorrect (not that it will always be).

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 9 February 2008 at 1:20pm GMT

"It is -by no coincidence- such groups that have the strongest loathing of homosexual activity. They know that it is the very reverse of, and would destroy, the positive nature of their existing relationship."

What nonsense! Gay people are not required to hide their sexuality in several of today's quite functional armies. In antiquity, gay soldiers were not unknown. It seems this is yet another area where you are uninformed, yet expound your stereotypes as truth. Sports teams? Pseudoadolescents who define themselves by their machismo. You really don't know much about gay people, homophobia, or any of the things that affect us, do you? Your defence of the word "purity" is just a disingenuous attempt to cover your tracks, Christopher. Why don't you put aside your Cameron and your Gagnon and go out into the street. Speak to homeless gay kids about why they are homeless and how they are treated. Speak to the straight person beaten because someone thought he was gay. Seek the truth. For God's sake, Christopher, I have never told you your interpretation of the Gospel was wrong. The problem is that you are using it to condemn a stereotype, not the real thing, and I have to ask why. Why is it so necessary for you to hold on to misinformation and stereotypes WRT gay people? Your understanding of Gospel truth is not weakened by an acknowledgement that we are people, not sick, not evil, not child molestors, not disease ridden and doomed to die young, not any of the things you need to believe about us. It is obvious you have little knowledge of gay people.

Your first paragraph is also ill informed, not just from a linguistic point of view. Anyone can tell you that people don't often speak the truth, and that linguistic suprasegmentals (which is what such aspects of speech are called) and discourse structure, by virtue of being more subconscious, often reveal the truth we try to hide with our words.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Saturday, 9 February 2008 at 7:40pm GMT

Hi Ford-

One thing I do know about gay people (certainly, about the minuscule proportion of them that are known to me) is that each one is an individual. That said, I am not likely to gain broader understanding of gayness in general by basing it on so minuscule a sample. (The sample would remain minuscule proportionally even if I devoted my life to working with them.) There is therefore no alternative to recourse to large-scale studies. I always have gone with, and always will go with, the largest-scale and most up-to-date studies, as will (broadly speaking) all honest people (tho' of course other criteria will come into play regarding the means of gathering evidence etc.).

The point about same-gender friendship/buddyship or whatever can be simply summarised: there is no intrinsic overlap with homosexuality, and therefore the topic is irrelevant to homosexuality: however many contingent links there may be from time to time, there are no intrinsic ones. A high proportion of friends would be positive towards friendship and antipathetic (often, highly so) to any portrayal of their friendship in a homosexual light. Some of them might interpret this as the inevitable but still sad result of the hypersexualisation of our culture, so that everything is seen in a sexual light, and also of the diminution of friendship because people are too busy.

David was close to Jonathan; John was close to Jesus. Show me the person who ever doubted it (even in days when homosexuality was taboo), and show me the person who ever frowned on it (even in the days when homosexuality was taboo). There is no intrinsic connection between the topics of homosexuality and friendship: more than that, a great many who venerate the one are doubtful about the benefits of the other.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 13 February 2008 at 12:22pm GMT
Post a comment









Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.