ENGLAND: Evangelicals outraged by Bishop Jones comments

Mar 14th, 2010 | By | Category: Signs of the Times (click on article name)

ENGLAND: Evangelicals outraged by Bishop Jones comments

By Toby Cohen
Church of England Newspaper
March 11, 2010

DISAPPOINTED EVANGELICALS have turned on the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev James Jones, after he called for a new policy on homosexuality in his Presidential address to his Diocesan Synod on Saturday.

Bishop Jones called for the Church to tolerate a range of attitudes to homosexuality, as it does to pacifism. He said: “Just as the church over the last 2000 years has come to allow a variety of ethical conviction about the taking of life and the application of the sixth Commandment so I believe that in this period it is also moving towards allowing a variety of ethical conviction about people of the same gender loving each other fully.

“I believe the day is coming when Christians who equally profoundly disagree about the consonancy of same gender love with the discipleship of Christ will in spite of their disagreement drink openly from the same cup of salvation.”

The prophesied day did not come this week, as leading evangelical figures rushed to criticise the Bishop. On the Fulcrum forum, Dr Andrew Goddard said that the Bishop was attempting to lead the Church down a “destructive path”. He wrote: “This argument is shown to be inadequate in various ways but most basically because an appeal to diversity on one ethical issue cannot justify diversity on a quite different ethical issue.”

Bishop James said: “They are different issues. Yet both relate to areas covered by the 10 Commandments. I think that it is valid to show that diversity of interpretation in one area which has been accepted by the church might give us a precedent to hold a diversity of interpretation in the other.”

The executive secretary of Anglican Mainstream, Canon Dr Chris Sugden, said: “[The Bishop] is picking and choosing his precedents, and the precedent doesn’t work, because with pacifism and the Just War, both sides of that discussion are concerned to limit war. It’s not pacifism as against militarism, which would be the strict parallel. Would he apply the same argumentation to slavery? Would he apply the same argumentation to racism? Would he apply the same argumentation to abortion?”

The Bishop stands accused of undermining all the Church’s ethical positions. In his address he said: “When it comes to making moral judgements about a person’s behaviour we have to hear the human story and form a moral judgement with regard not only to the nature of the action but also to the intent and the consequences.”

Bishop James said: “I understand the charge of moral relativism. However, listening to many people on all sides of the debate I believe that Scripture might yet have more to teach us about the complexity of human relationships.” However, Dr Goddard wrote: “It is particularly alarming that the address offers no engagement with Scripture or Christian tradition or Anglican teaching.”

The Bishop now faces questions as to exactly what action he is suggesting, and whether he will break with Church policy regarding areas such as the ordaining of people in active same-sex relationships. Bishop James said: “I stand by the discipline of the Church as expressed in the House of Bishops’ Issues in Human Sexuality. However as the debate develops, any decisions belong to the General Synod and to the House of Bishops. I simply want us to have a debate that is humane and Christian.”

For some of those encouraged by his address, this did not go far enough. The director of Changing Attitude, the bishops who’ve confronted the experience and reality of diverse human sexualities in their pastoral experience would be more honest and open in conversation in the House of Bishops and in public statements that they make about homosexuality.”

The Bishop explained the critical reaction to his address by saying that “opening up any new area of thinking is inevitably unsettling for many of us”. Dr Sugden said: “What new thinking is the Bishop bringing to the debate? I don’t see any evidence of anything new that he is bringing, and in the lack of that one can only assume that he is bringing a personal opinion. For a bishop to bring a personal opinion without evidence to revise the teaching of the Church is a very questionable approach.”

Mr Coward, said: “Bishop James’ address to the Synod on Saturday seems to have distressed extreme conservative evangelicals much more than previous movements by apparently evangelical bishops towards the centre ground. They seem to be threatened by what he said. “Numbers of evangelical bishops have moved from the more extreme positions to the centre ground but Bishop James represents something more significant for them, as a symbolic figure, and his movement is much more disturbing. I sense that they feel that they are more marginalised and recognise now that they are more isolated in the Church than they had thought.”

Dr Sugden said: “We are naturally disappointed when someone like Bishop Jones who gave such leadership in 2003, for various reasons, maybe personal, has changed his views.”

He admitted that the Bishop’s recanting of his previous conservative stance was indicative of a general migration in that direction within the Church of England, and cited the Greenbelt festival inviting the Bishop of New Hampshire, the Rt Rev Gene Robinson, to speak last summer. Dr Sugden said: “We’re all in the world affected by the way the culture thinks. The way that culture thinks is very powerful, the way the government is thinking and forces within the government are very powerful, and we know that if you want to have a successful career in all sorts of ways you have to conform to this.”

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  1. Did he mean, “A general migration in that direction [i.e.,Sodom and Gomorrah] within the Church of Engand”? Apparently, “the way that culture thinks IS very powerful”! Does “to conform” mean to compromise your beliefs?
    Unfortunately, we see that the underlying problem is that it is about “career” and not about God’s WORD.
    Perhaps they have forgotten one of their first lessons from the Bible: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Gal. 6:7,8).

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