Jones compares the compromise over sexuality with the variety of views within the Church of peace and war.Just as the Church is both consists of pacifists and those who believe it is their duty to serve as soldiers, so also the church should find a way to comprehend a variety of views of human sexuality.Most significantly, he refutes the idea that sexuality is a matter of choice. He says in his address that sexuality is, like ethnicity, a given.
He declares himself “in sympathy” with Lord Alli’s recent amendment to the Equality Bill which will lift the ban on civil partnerships taking place in religious buildings, including churches.
His speech is significant because it comes just weeks before the vote to confirm the lesbian Mary Glasspool as a bishop in the Los Angeles diocese in the US. Canon Glasspool is expected to be consecrated early this summer, a development likely to accentuate the splits in the Anglican Communion unless conservatives can be persuaded to agree to live with difference.
The address also signals a significant shift at the evangelical grass roots of the Church of England towards a more liberal stance on sexuality. It shows the message is at last getting through to Church leaders that the traditionalist stance on homosexuality is out-of-step with secular society to the point where it is seriously damaging the Church’s witness to the wider world.
The address by the Right Reverend James Jones of Liverpool has been released and may be found here.
Here is an excerpt.
The fact that conscripts and pacifists divided along one moral line does not detract from our admiration now nor deflect us from acknowledging now the moral courage of both. We may sympathise with the soldier yet we can salute the pacifist; we may identify fully with the pacifist yet admire the sacrifice of the soldier.
In other words, we can now stand on either side of the moral argument and still be in fellowship despite disagreeing on this the most fundamental ethical issue, the sixth of the Ten Commandments.
I know that especially for those who are gay this is not an exact moral parallel for our sexuality like ethnicity is not a matter of choice. It is a given. In Christian terms a grace. Yet, conceding that important distinction, here is an area of ethical dispute where the church has contained disagreement.
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. Just as Christian pacifists and Christian soldiers profoundly disagree with one another yet in their disagreement continue to drink from the same cup because they share in the one body so too 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.
This is I believe the next chapter to be written in the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. It is the chapter that is already being written in our Partnership in Mission with the Diocese of Virginia and with the Diocese of Akure in Nigeria. At our last Synod we renewed and approved the continuation of our partnership with the Diocese of Akure. In the appendix of the report considered by the Synod was the exchange of letters between me and my brother Bishop Michael Ipinmoye of Akure. I will include them as an enclosure to this address and draw attention to the paragraph where I set out how I see the debate on sexual ethics in the Diocese of Liverpool.
“Furthermore, I was able to explain to you that I thought that the Diocese of Liverpool was on the way to achieving a position similar to the church’s attitude to pacifism in matters of homosexuality. In other words, there will be people of equal sincerity and equal conviction who believe and do not believe that homosexuality within a stable and faithful relationship is consistent with Christian discipleship. Again, I was encouraged that you seemed able to respect this likelihood even though I know that you were at
pains to demonstrate to me that the Church of Nigeria could never countenance something which was against the law of the country. “
The point of significance in this is the response of Bishop Michael. He restates his own position and that of the Diocese of Akure and of the Church of Nigeria and calls on us to continue to reflect on the Biblical material. Having done this he reiterated what he said to me personally in our private meeting that he and the Diocese of Akure wish to continue the Partnership in Mission. This is a partnership between an African Diocese taking a traditional stance on gay relationships and a Church of England Diocese which is moving toward embracing a range of ethical convictions on this issue and which is also in partnership with a Diocese in the Episcopal Church of America.
Trinity Episcopal Church
"Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living." -- Mother Jones
––posted by Bill Lewellis