No one should have been surprised that Bishop James Jones has changed his mind about gay relationships. He has been tobogganing down the slippery slope of moral relativism for some time. The seeds of his recent address to the Liverpool Diocesan Synod are to be found in an essay, Making Space for truth and Grace, in a collection, A Fallible Church, edited – let the reader understand – by Kenneth Stephenson.
The logic ofJones’s position is hard to grasp. In Making Space he talks of two ‘authoritative’ biblical ‘emphases’, one on the uniqueness and privileged status of marriage; the other on examples of love
between two people of the same gender (he cites Jesus and the beloved disciple; David and Jonathan). These ‘emphases’ he takes to have equal weight.
This slovenly exegesis, which effectively ignores the specific prohibitions of the Old Testament and the sweeping condemnations of Paul, is based upon slender and improbable conjecture. What evidence is there that either Jesus and the disciple, or David and Jonathan, ‘loved each other fully’, to adopt Jones’s coy expression? And why should anyone, heterosexual or homosexual, adopt Jones’s axiom that to love ‘fully’ is to enjoy penetrative sex?
In his Synod address Bishop Jones made much of the agreement to differ, between pacifists and upholders of the Just War, on the meaning of the sixth Commandment. It is certainly true that Christians have differed in their attitude to war. But the simple fact is that the majority has tolerated pacifism precisely because pacifists are committed to doing nothing. Homosexual campaigners are the opposite: they are activists who are demanding supposed rights, many of which are deliberately intended to undermine the uniqueness and privileged status of marriage, which Jones claims to uphold.
One wonders where this principle of embracing differing opinions might lead, applied to other commandments.
Anglicans seem to have made a good start with the seventh, and it could plausibly be argued that attempts in the United States to elect a Buddhist bishop have rendered the first and the second somewhat more inclusive. But where does that leave the rest? We should be told.
I get really excited at the possibility of offering my considerable experience, gifts and skills to the Diocese of Los Angeles.’ The lack of reticence may jar in an English ear, but there is little doubt that Canon Mary Glasspool is not wrong in her self-appreciation. She has had a distinguished career as a cleric in the Episcopal Church of America, with proven parish experience, and currently a diocesan post of administrative and pastoral responsibility.
In career terms, Canon Glasspool is more than ready for advancement to the episcopate. As she herself says, ‘Functionally, I do many of the ministries our bishops do without having been elected… I bring organizational and administrative skills from my experience as ‘chief of staff’ of the Diocesan Staff of Maryland, and have at times been referred to as the ‘glue’ that holds our team together.’
If the episcopacy is to be understood ‘functionally’, there is little doubt that Canon Glasspool is an excellent candidate. She is a woman of evident competence who would have risen to the top of her profession whatever it might have been. In so far as many episcopal duties are indeed functional, we wish her well.
This, of course, is not how the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church has ever understood the office of bishop.
Most of the Anglican Communion will not in conscience accept her as a bishop, let alone the rest of the Christian Church, because of both her gender and her partnered lesbian lifestyle. But she has received the necessary votes from the bishops of the Episcopal Church, and if they are determined to continue their errant path, there seems little to be gained if they walk that path slowly. Two partnered gay bishops are not obviously worse than one.
If the Americans are not going to return to the status quo ante, there seems little purpose in delaying the agony and uncertainty. What is wrong will not be less so for being done slowly. ND