Bishop of Liverpool apologizes for opposing gay priest

The Guardian, UK reports Bishop James Jones apologizes for his role in objecting to the appointment of gay cleric Jeffrey Johns as a bishop. His essay published today also is a plea for making space to hold the conversations with gays and lesbians around issues of homosexuality requested by the last Lambeth Conference. Riazat Butt writing for The Guardian says:

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.

Jones said: ‘I deeply regret this episode in our common life. 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 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.’

He called for Anglicans to ‘acknowledge the authoritative biblical examples of love between two people of the same gender most notably in the relationship of Jesus and his beloved [John] and David and Jonathan’.

He believes these cross-cultural discussions take place best between those who have already established working relationships. Describing the Anglican Communion relationships like a plate of spaghetti rather than an organizational chart in his essay he writes:

It is better to deal with difficult ethical and doctrinal questions – in this case, sexuality – in a conversation between people who already know, trust and respect each other than through megaphone diplomacy between strangers across the oceans. The historic partnerships within the Anglican Communion can offer a different context for the debate about homosexuality where there can be a genuine dialogue between people whose mutual trust and affection protect them from jumping too soon to conclusions and keep them in conversation because a long time ago they learned to think the best and not the worst of each other.

Urging others to engage one another and refrain from lobbing sound bytes at one another Bishop Jones writes:

The description in John’s Gospel of Jesus “full of grace and truth” presents us with a person who created space around himself for others to “see the Kingdom of God”. He was neither truthless in his grace, nor graceless in his truth. I fear that in our debates with each other and with the world especially on the subject of homosexuality we have come over as graceless.

The bishop’s change of heart has come through conversation with Anglican partnerships in the United States and Africa and through a report The Theology of Friendship. This report looks at same-sex relationships in the Bible such as David and Jonathan and Jesus and John. It delves into the Hebrew and Greek words used to describe these relationships and their intimacy. Jones writes:

The Theology of Friendship Report took me in particular to the relationship between David and Jonathan. Their friendship was emotional, spiritual and even physical. Jonathan loved David “as his own soul”. David found Jonathan’s love for him, “passing the love of women”. There was between them a deep emotional bond that left David grief-stricken when Jonathan died. But not only were they emotionally bound to each other they expressed their love physically. Jonathan stripped off his clothes and dressed David in his own robe and armour. With the candour of the Eastern World that exposes the reserve of Western culture they kissed each other and wept openly with each other. The fact that they were both married did not inhibit them in emotional and physical displays of love for each other. This intimate relationship was sealed before God. It was not just a spiritual bond it became covenantal for “Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul” (1 Samuel 18:3). Here is the Bible bearing witness to love between two people of the same gender.

Read the entire essay here.

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