Keeping up with the Joneses

By Simon Barrow
February 17, 2008

There would seem to be a contradiction in Bishop of Liverpool James Jones speaking up bravely for lesbian and gay people pastorally in a new book, and then defending the very privilege which enables his church to discriminate against them in law.

That might be one reaction to Jones' stalwart defence of Establishment and 26 unelected Anglican bishops in the House of Lords on BBC Radio 4 today.

Ekklesia's Jonathan Bartley pointed out that Establishment is no arcane matter, because the Church has indeed used these seats to try to thwart equalities legislation or to seek opt-outs from it.

By contrast, Ekklesia suggests that the Church's special status under the Crown is unfair and unsustainable in a multi-conviction society, and that from a specifically Christian perspective it is out of keeping with the Gospel of Jesus' identification with those at the margins, rather than the rich and powerful.

From our point of view, the issue about Christian integrity and the nature of how the Gospel message is modelled (or not) by the way the church seeks to live and form itself in the world, is a crucial one.

In the Guardian recently, I lauded Bishop Jones (who I used to know when we both worked in Southwark Diocese during the 1990s) for his courageous chapter in a new DLT book, 'Fallible Church' - in which he called on Evangelicals to reconsider their style of speech and their biblical issue on the question of homosexuality.

But there are many who will say that fine words need to be matched by action in the wider community, and that this is not happening at the moment. Jones talked lavishly of the Church "speaking for others" this morning, but the danger is that it is not hearing their voices in the process.

Jesus rejected established models of power and patronage when tempted by them in the wilderness. We remember that at Lent, as we seek reformation in our lives.

Why is truth not sanctioned by worldly princes good enough for Jesus, but not sufficient for the Church of England? It's a tough question, but one worth asking.

'Giving up Establishment for Lent' -


Comment from Jonathan Bartley:

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